2014 Fantasy Football: Early Defensive Line Rankings

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Top 15 Fantasy Defensive Linemen

RobertQuinnChrisLong
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In fantasy football IDP formats, the defensive line position is considerably the toughest to predict from year to year. Obviously players like Jared Allen and Mario Williams remain decent starting options year after year, but it isn’t foolproof.

For instance, DE J.J. Watt was the number one IDP option off the board in nearly every format. He recorded an unthinkable 81 tackles/20.5 sacks in 2012 and he was deservingly a popular pick on daft day last summer. Despite his high draft position, though, Watt had a rather mediocre season. He suffered numerous injuries and ended up being outplayed by several free agents.

Players like Olivier Vernon, Jurrell Casey, and Adrian Clayborn all had surprising campaigns and were luckily sitting on the wire towards the beginning of the year in a majority of formats. This is just an example of how deep the position can be and how it always produces shocking fantasy performances.

There are never enough IDP rankings out there during the off-season. There are plenty of running back and wide receiver rankings, but IDP rankings remain scarce nowadays across the web. So for those fantasy fans that are never done researching and looking for an edge, here are the top 15 defensive linemen for the 2014 fantasy season.

Related Articles:

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Quarterback Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Running Back Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Wide Receiver Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Tight End Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Kicker Rankings

Adam McGill is the Senior Fantasy Sports Writer at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @adammcgill83, like him on Facebook, or add him to you networks on Google here or here.

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15. DE Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

CameronWake
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

DE Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins – Wake was a very popular lineman heading into the 2013 season, as he recorded 15 sacks in 2012. The aging star recorded just 8.5 sacks last year, and while it was his fourth season with as many sacks, it was still viewed as a disappointment to fantasy fans. He is still worth grabbing after the top-10 options due to his recent production, but his mediocre season will cause him to fall into DL2 territory in 2014.

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14. DE Chris Long, St. Louis Rams

ChrisLong
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

DE Chris Long, St. Louis Rams – Long was greatly overshadowed by teammate Robert Quinn, who finished second in the league with 19 sacks. However, Long still had a decent fantasy season in his own right. He finished with 8.5 sacks and a respectable 40 tackles, which was his highest total since 2009. Long has also never missed a game throughout his six-year career and he will give fantasy owners a couple points game after game.

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13. DT Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans

JurrellCasey
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

DT Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans – After posting just 5.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the league, the former third round pick was relentless in 2013. He finished with an incredible 10.5 sacks and was all over opposing quarterbacks. He has similarly posted 52 tackles in 2011, 54 in 2012, and a career-high 55 in 2013. Casey will post another 50-plus tackles with at least eight sacks in 2014, so view him as a decent DL2 in all IDP formats.

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12. DE DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcusWare
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DE DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys - Ware saw his sack total drop from 19.5 in 2011 down to 11.5 in 2012, and eventually down to a meager 6 sacks last season. He posted 10-plus sacks in seven straight seasons, before his injury plagued 2013 season, and Ware will be ranked much lower in 2014 since he will be turning 32 years old before the season starts. The veteran still has amazing moves and 10-sack potential, but the huge injury-risk will keep him out of the top-10 options.

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11. DE Justin Tuck, New York Giants

JustinTuck
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

DE Justin Tuck, New York Giants – Through his first 10 games of the 2013 season, Tuck recorded a meager 1.5 sacks. He bounced back in true All-Pro fashion, though, by racking up 9.5 sacks over the final six games. Additionally, Tuck’s 63 tackles were his highest total since 2008 when he racked up 67 tackles.

Tuck has been plagued with injuries in recent seasons, as he played just 12 games in 2011 and 15 games in 2012. However, the veteran suited up for all 16 games this past year and showed some durability for the first time in years. Look for him to be another low-end DL1 with the possibility to rack up 10-plus sacks again.

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10. DT Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets

MuhammadWilkerson
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

DT Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets – Wilkerson recorded 10.5 sacks in 2013, but the lineman also added an incredible 64 tackles. He was constantly disrupting the play in the backfield and the former first round pick showed he has reliable fantasy potential. Expect a small dip in production, but for Wilkerson to still do enough to post DL1 numbers.

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9. DE Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins

OlivierVernon
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

DE Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins – Vernon was one of the biggest surprises from the 2013 season. The thick 23-year-old finished the year with 11.5 sacks, including a 10-tackle, three-sack outburst against the New York Jets in Week 13. Vernon may not be established enough to draft within the top-five linemen, but he can be a great low-end DL1 with plenty of upside.

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8. DE Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers

CharlesJohnson
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

DE Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers - Johnson recorded 11 sacks last year, which was dwarfed by the 59-15 season teammate Greg Hardy posted. However, Johnson has now averaged 11 sacks over the past four years and is one of the most underrated linemen in the league. Johnson will be another top-10 option in 2014 and is a decent DL1 to look for after the big names come off the board.

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7. DE Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills

MarioWilliams
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

DE Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills - After posting a phenomenal 4.5 sacks in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers, Super Mario was rather streaky in 2013. He had just two sacks over his final eight games and was occasionally outshined by his line mates. Williams is now on a defense that is vastly improving their pass rush, though, as Kyle Williams made the Pro Bowl as a starter and Marcel Dareus was selected as an alternate. Williams will get much more single coverage next season with the emerging stars around him and fantasy fans can expect another double-digit sack performance from Super Mario in 2014.

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6. DE Jared Allen, Free Agent

JaredAllen
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

DE Jared Allen, Free Agent – Allen started the year off rather slow. He had just five sacks through the first 11 contests and was slowed down with an ankle injury. The veteran added 6.5 sacks over the final five games, though and really started to come together at the end of the year. Allen doesn’t have any 20-sack seasons left at 31 years old, but the future free agent certainly has a couple more 10-plus-sack seasons left.

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5. DE Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

CameronJordan
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

DE Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints - Jordan had a career season in his first year at the defensive end position. His tackles dipped from 67 to 47 tackles moving to the outside. However, the veteran recorded a career-high 12.5 sacks. The 24-year-old has matured into one of the most gifted pass rushers in the game and will take over as the team’s perennial 10-sack contributor.

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4. DE Greg Hardy, Free Agent

GregHardy
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

DE Greg Hardy, Free Agent – Hardy has quietly racked up 26 sacks over his last two years. He has also averaged 60 tackles over that span and has become a major contributor against the run. His sack totals alone make him a top-10 option but Hardy’s ability to rack up tackles as well vaults him into the top-five category. He will be a free agent this off-season, but all early reports have him likely heading back to Carolina in 2014.

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3. DE Chandler Jones, New England Patriots

ChandlerJones
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

DE Chandler Jones, New England Patriots - Jones recorded an unthinkable 79 tackles in 2013, which was second only to J.J. Watt’s 80 tackles. Jones also added 11.5 sacks and the veteran has quickly become the team’s most valuble pass rusher. Jones will be a top-five lineman next season in all IDP formats.

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2. DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

RobertQuinn
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams - Quinn exploded last season, as he recorded a jaw-dropping 19 sacks. He posted three games with three sacks and the lineman luckily gets to feast on the lowly quarterback in the NFC West twice a year. Quinn is just 23 and has a half dozen more superb fantasy seasons ahead of him, so consider him one of the top linemen in fantasy heading into the 2014 season.

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1. DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

JJWatt
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans – After seeing his sack total dropped from 20.5 to 10.5 many viewed Watt’s 2013 season as a disappointment. However, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year was bothered with various nagging injuries throughout the year. He has still racked up 161 hits over the last two seasons and has now led the position in tackles in two consecutive seasons. Watt will be completely healthy following a full off-season to recover and fantasy fans can expect Watt to be much more productive performance in 2014. He should easily post another 80 tackles and between 10-15 sacks.

1 of 16

Top 15 Fantasy Defensive Linemen

RobertQuinnChrisLong
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In fantasy football IDP formats, the defensive line position is considerably the toughest to predict from year to year. Obviously players like Jared Allen and Mario Williams remain decent starting options year after year, but it isn’t foolproof.

For instance, DE J.J. Watt was the number one IDP option off the board in nearly every format. He recorded an unthinkable 81 tackles/20.5 sacks in 2012 and he was deservingly a popular pick on daft day last summer. Despite his high draft position, though, Watt had a rather mediocre season. He suffered numerous injuries and ended up being outplayed by several free agents.

Players like Olivier Vernon, Jurrell Casey, and Adrian Clayborn all had surprising campaigns and were luckily sitting on the wire towards the beginning of the year in a majority of formats. This is just an example of how deep the position can be and how it always produces shocking fantasy performances.

There are never enough IDP rankings out there during the off-season. There are plenty of running back and wide receiver rankings, but IDP rankings remain scarce nowadays across the web. So for those fantasy fans that are never done researching and looking for an edge, here are the top 15 defensive linemen for the 2014 fantasy season.

Related Articles:

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Quarterback Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Running Back Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Wide Receiver Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Tight End Rankings

2014 Fantasy Football: Early Kicker Rankings

Adam McGill is the Senior Fantasy Sports Writer at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @adammcgill83, like him on Facebook, or add him to you networks on Google here or here.

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15. DE Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

CameronWake
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

DE Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins – Wake was a very popular lineman heading into the 2013 season, as he recorded 15 sacks in 2012. The aging star recorded just 8.5 sacks last year, and while it was his fourth season with as many sacks, it was still viewed as a disappointment to fantasy fans. He is still worth grabbing after the top-10 options due to his recent production, but his mediocre season will cause him to fall into DL2 territory in 2014.

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14. DE Chris Long, St. Louis Rams

ChrisLong
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

DE Chris Long, St. Louis Rams – Long was greatly overshadowed by teammate Robert Quinn, who finished second in the league with 19 sacks. However, Long still had a decent fantasy season in his own right. He finished with 8.5 sacks and a respectable 40 tackles, which was his highest total since 2009. Long has also never missed a game throughout his six-year career and he will give fantasy owners a couple points game after game.

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13. DT Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans

JurrellCasey
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

DT Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans – After posting just 5.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the league, the former third round pick was relentless in 2013. He finished with an incredible 10.5 sacks and was all over opposing quarterbacks. He has similarly posted 52 tackles in 2011, 54 in 2012, and a career-high 55 in 2013. Casey will post another 50-plus tackles with at least eight sacks in 2014, so view him as a decent DL2 in all IDP formats.

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12. DE DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcusWare
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DE DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys - Ware saw his sack total drop from 19.5 in 2011 down to 11.5 in 2012, and eventually down to a meager 6 sacks last season. He posted 10-plus sacks in seven straight seasons, before his injury plagued 2013 season, and Ware will be ranked much lower in 2014 since he will be turning 32 years old before the season starts. The veteran still has amazing moves and 10-sack potential, but the huge injury-risk will keep him out of the top-10 options.

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11. DE Justin Tuck, New York Giants

JustinTuck
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

DE Justin Tuck, New York Giants – Through his first 10 games of the 2013 season, Tuck recorded a meager 1.5 sacks. He bounced back in true All-Pro fashion, though, by racking up 9.5 sacks over the final six games. Additionally, Tuck’s 63 tackles were his highest total since 2008 when he racked up 67 tackles.

Tuck has been plagued with injuries in recent seasons, as he played just 12 games in 2011 and 15 games in 2012. However, the veteran suited up for all 16 games this past year and showed some durability for the first time in years. Look for him to be another low-end DL1 with the possibility to rack up 10-plus sacks again.

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10. DT Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets

MuhammadWilkerson
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

DT Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets – Wilkerson recorded 10.5 sacks in 2013, but the lineman also added an incredible 64 tackles. He was constantly disrupting the play in the backfield and the former first round pick showed he has reliable fantasy potential. Expect a small dip in production, but for Wilkerson to still do enough to post DL1 numbers.

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9. DE Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins

OlivierVernon
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

DE Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins – Vernon was one of the biggest surprises from the 2013 season. The thick 23-year-old finished the year with 11.5 sacks, including a 10-tackle, three-sack outburst against the New York Jets in Week 13. Vernon may not be established enough to draft within the top-five linemen, but he can be a great low-end DL1 with plenty of upside.

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8. DE Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers

CharlesJohnson
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

DE Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers - Johnson recorded 11 sacks last year, which was dwarfed by the 59-15 season teammate Greg Hardy posted. However, Johnson has now averaged 11 sacks over the past four years and is one of the most underrated linemen in the league. Johnson will be another top-10 option in 2014 and is a decent DL1 to look for after the big names come off the board.

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7. DE Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills

MarioWilliams
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

DE Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills - After posting a phenomenal 4.5 sacks in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers, Super Mario was rather streaky in 2013. He had just two sacks over his final eight games and was occasionally outshined by his line mates. Williams is now on a defense that is vastly improving their pass rush, though, as Kyle Williams made the Pro Bowl as a starter and Marcel Dareus was selected as an alternate. Williams will get much more single coverage next season with the emerging stars around him and fantasy fans can expect another double-digit sack performance from Super Mario in 2014.

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6. DE Jared Allen, Free Agent

JaredAllen
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

DE Jared Allen, Free Agent – Allen started the year off rather slow. He had just five sacks through the first 11 contests and was slowed down with an ankle injury. The veteran added 6.5 sacks over the final five games, though and really started to come together at the end of the year. Allen doesn’t have any 20-sack seasons left at 31 years old, but the future free agent certainly has a couple more 10-plus-sack seasons left.

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5. DE Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

CameronJordan
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

DE Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints - Jordan had a career season in his first year at the defensive end position. His tackles dipped from 67 to 47 tackles moving to the outside. However, the veteran recorded a career-high 12.5 sacks. The 24-year-old has matured into one of the most gifted pass rushers in the game and will take over as the team’s perennial 10-sack contributor.

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4. DE Greg Hardy, Free Agent

GregHardy
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

DE Greg Hardy, Free Agent – Hardy has quietly racked up 26 sacks over his last two years. He has also averaged 60 tackles over that span and has become a major contributor against the run. His sack totals alone make him a top-10 option but Hardy’s ability to rack up tackles as well vaults him into the top-five category. He will be a free agent this off-season, but all early reports have him likely heading back to Carolina in 2014.

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3. DE Chandler Jones, New England Patriots

ChandlerJones
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

DE Chandler Jones, New England Patriots - Jones recorded an unthinkable 79 tackles in 2013, which was second only to J.J. Watt’s 80 tackles. Jones also added 11.5 sacks and the veteran has quickly become the team’s most valuble pass rusher. Jones will be a top-five lineman next season in all IDP formats.

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2. DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

RobertQuinn
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams - Quinn exploded last season, as he recorded a jaw-dropping 19 sacks. He posted three games with three sacks and the lineman luckily gets to feast on the lowly quarterback in the NFC West twice a year. Quinn is just 23 and has a half dozen more superb fantasy seasons ahead of him, so consider him one of the top linemen in fantasy heading into the 2014 season.

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1. DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

JJWatt
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans – After seeing his sack total dropped from 20.5 to 10.5 many viewed Watt’s 2013 season as a disappointment. However, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year was bothered with various nagging injuries throughout the year. He has still racked up 161 hits over the last two seasons and has now led the position in tackles in two consecutive seasons. Watt will be completely healthy following a full off-season to recover and fantasy fans can expect Watt to be much more productive performance in 2014. He should easily post another 80 tackles and between 10-15 sacks.


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