Follow me on Twitter @Jesse_DFW
Value is the name of the game when building a dominant dynasty team through trades and the waiver wire and what better way than to get your guy before he blows up and commands top dollar? It’s fairly common knowledge that the key to fantasy is finding the combination of talent and opportunity. When looking for breakout players it is good to remember that most players make their biggest jump in production in years two and three as it takes time to adjust to the NFL game, and it is no different for defensive ends. Guys like Jason Pierre-Paul, JJ Watt, and Von Miller all showed flashes in year one and blew up in year two. For dynasty, I like to target guys in these years because it gives you a solid 5-7 years of elite production and another 2-3 years of really good production.
Here are my guys to target this year that are primed to have breakout seasons. Some will take more to get than others but all are worth the price with the current scarcity of quality defensive ends.
Chandler Jones: New England Patriots, 23 Years Old, Year 2
Jones is an elite athlete with the ideal size and strength to be a playmaker at DE. After putting on 10 lbs. of muscle this offseason and measuring in at 6’5”, 260 lbs. and 35 ½” arms, Jones possesses the perfect combination of size and length. As a player, Jones excels in short areas and is an explosive violent rusher who can get to the quarterback in many different ways. Jones is also great against the run making him a much more consistent candidate than some other DEs that are strictly edge rushers.
I love Jones because he displayed glimpses of what he could really be. Jones was a terror to begin the 2012 season, notching 6 sacks in his first 8 games, but slowed down after the bye and then was limited in his last 6 games due to injuries. New England is void of decent pass rushers so Jones is in a fantastic situation. Not only will he be a full time starter, New England’s offense will get a lead in a hurry and teams will be playing catch-up, giving Jones plenty of opportunity to pin his ears back and get to the passer. To put it bluntly (if not a little uncomfortably), I love Jones. I see him as a perennial 10-15 sack, 50 plus tackle guy and he could vault himself into top 10 consideration.
Shea McClellin: Chicago Bears, 23 Years old, Year 2
McClellin was a fast riser coming out of Boise State in 2012 and the Bears drafted him in the middle of the first round to be their impact pass rusher on the opposite side of Julius Peppers. McClellin measured in at 6’3”, 260 lbs and displayed nice speed by posting a 4.63 40 yard dash. McClellin won’t blow you away physically, but he is an intelligent, hard-working, relentless football player with enough speed to get around the edge. In addition, McClellin was very productive at Boise State (16.5 sacks and 26 TFL is his final 2 years) and on tape he displays all the necessary tools to be successful in the NFL.
I like McClellin because, despite being very limited last year, he showed me the ability to make plays. He flashed early in 2012 with 2 sacks in his first 3 games but the rest of his season was derailed due to a knee injury and concussion that limited him in the next 14 games and he was only able to finish the season with 2.5 sacks. The downside is Corey Wootton had somewhat of a breakout season with 7 sacks which has created some competition between the two for the starting position this coming year. You would think this would cause me to curb my enthusiasm for McClellin, but as you can tell, my money is on McClellin winning out.
I like that McClellin was a first round draft pick with a ton of talent because he will get the opportunity to shine. Additionally, I am not overly high on Wootton. Yeah he put up 7 sacks last year, but he also was only able to manage 1 sack in his first 2 years, leading me to believe his sack total was more due to McClellin being limited and playing opposite Peppers than it was about pure talent and ability. Personally, I think McClellin has the upside to notch double digit sacks in the same role. When push comes to shove, I side with talent every day of the week, and McClellin is the more talented player.
Da’Quan Bowers: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 23 years old, Year 3
You all may think I am crazy on this one because Bowers has been a bust for the most part in his first 2 years, but most of that is due to injuries more than ability. Da’Quan Bowers was arguably the most talented DE in the 2011 draft, but slid into the second round due to medical concerns surrounding his knee. At 6’4”, 274 lbs., Bowers is a big, physical DE that has the ability to dominate opponents, he just has to put it all together.
Bowers was slowed in his first season recovering from the knee injury and then an Achilles tear kept him out for the majority of the first half of the season last year, therefore Bowers and has yet had a full healthy offseason. The good news is this year looks to be different. Bowers is finally healthy for the first time and should be able to train properly and utilize the offseason to turn into productive pro. He certainly has the physical tools and talent to be a force.
Additionally, Bowers is in a great situation in Tampa Bay now that Michael Bennett is gone and Adrian Clayborn is dealing with knee issues of his own. Bowers will get his shot to start at DE in a defense that just added Dashon Goldson and Darelle Revis to their secondary. Bowers should get plenty of opportunities to make plays as receivers struggle to get open against a much improved Buccaneers secondary. Like the others, Bowers has upside to produce in the double digits but I would guess somewhere in the range of 8-10 sacks next year is reasonable.