Reading the Defense: Five IDP players to avoid

When we last left our IDP heroes, the subject of sleepers for the upcoming 2015 season was on the table.

Much like their counterparts on the offensive side, there are some IDP options who won't produce up to expectations. Whether it's playing in a new defensive scheme, dealing with injuries or just being pushed out of a gig by a younger player performing at a high level, there's a chance that one of your defensive players is going to leave you wanting more. Of course, our job here is to help you avoid a season filled with ignominy. That's why we've put together a list of five players you might want to avoid this season.

Lawrence Timmons, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Timmons is one of the few defensive holdovers from the team that won Super Bowl XLIII and now plays in a unit that looks drastically different. The retirements of Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor leave holes in a secondary that was already among the league's weakest in 2014. That could force Timmons into coverage even more in 2015 -- something that isn't his strong suit. Throw in a turf toe injury that threatens to sideline him for the start of the season and there are reasons to be wary of this veteran linebacker.

"Ziggy" Ezekiel Ansah, DL, Detroit Lions: Ansah posted decent sack totals during his first two seasons in the NFL. But those came when he played alongside Ndamukong Suh, who bullied interior offensive linemen allowing Ansah to face single coverage. Detroit did swing a trade for Haloti Ngata as an attemtpt to mitigate the loss of Suh. Ngata has been a fine defensive tackle during his career, but at age 31 and entering his 10th season in the NFL, can he be as dominant as Suh was with the Lions? And if not, can Ansah overcome it?

Jason McCourty, DB, Tennessee Titans: McCourty was one of the bright spots in an otherwise dismal Titans secondary. But the veteran corner is dealing with a groin injury that was slow in recovering and forced McCourty to have surgery. The Titans are hopeful that he can return for the season opener but it seems more likely that he won't be available for the first couple weeks. After that, it will be interesting to see how well he can fare while trying to defend some of the league's best wideouts -- especially in a division with T.Y. Hilton and DeAndre Hopkins.

Ryan Mundy, DB, Chicago Bears: After having a career year in his first season with the Bears, circumstances seem to be working against Mundy in 2015. Chicago added veteran safety Antrel Rolle to shore up one of the NFL's worst pass defenses -- something that is sure to cut into Mundy's production. What could cut that production even more is if Mundy can't get on the field consistently. That is becoming more of a possibility with news that rookie safety Adrian Amos has been promoted to the first team.

Antoine Bethea, DB, San Francisco 49ers: With the 49ers suffering so many losses this offseason, there's no way the remaining members of the defense weren't going to be affected. In addition to losing linebackers Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Aldon Smith, San Francisco's top two cornerbacks -- Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver -- both left through free agency. Bethea might be talented, but he can't be everywhere at once. The added burden he'll face trying to fill the gaping holes in the Niners defense will have a major adverse impact on his fantasy production.

Four downs

» While Jason McCourty is struggling with a groin injury, his twin brother, Devin, is facing a struggle of his own. The Patriots defensive back is in the midst of a position change, shifting from safety to cornerback. It's a move that so far hasn't sat well with McCourty. He was originally a corner when the Patriots drafted him in 2010, but has made his name in the NFL from the safety position. While McCourty hopes the move isn't permanent, he could be forced to spend more time there than he would like after New England parted company with a number of defensive backs in the offseason, most notably Darrelle Revis.

» After more than a year and a half since suffering a gruesome leg injury, 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman was back on the field in the team's preseason win over the Dallas Cowboys. The veteran played just three snaps in the game but recorded three tackles. Bowman admitted that it takes him about two hours each day to get his reconstructed knee ready for game or practice action, which means San Francisco will likely take things slowly with his return. When he's at his best, Bowman is one of the NFL's top playmaking linebackers. When -- or if -- he ever returns to that form remains to be seen.

» The Steelers are hoping for big things from rookie pass rusher Bud Dupree and he began to deliver on some of his promise in Sunday's preseason win over the Packers. It hasn't been the greatest start to the preseason for the first-round pick, but the team hopes this can be a springboard to better things. If Dupree can produce, he'll make a nice linebacker duo with last season's first-round pick, Ryan Shazier.

» Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff will miss the first three games of the season after being suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Last season, Ratliff recorded 21 tackles and 6.5 sacks. This season, he was expected to be a big part of Vic Fangio's revamped defense. That will be on hold temporarily. To make matters worse, two of Chicago's first three games are against the Packers and Seahawks -- two teams with power running games. Not exactly the way you'd hope to start if you are a Bears defense that was shredded repeatedly last year.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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