Cleat Geeks

The IDP Geek Huddle: Arizona

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In this coverage on NFL teams that should have some changes on the defensive side of the ball that may affect our IDP lineups, we will cover the Arizona Cardinals and see if we can piece together an outlook for 2018. With each team coverage we have been approaching this from different angles and in this case, it should be a little more cut and dry on how things can play out. Other than a few personnel changes the overall aspect of the defensive unit shouldn’t change drastically for our IDP purposes. Let’s dig in and see if that assumption holds true.


Scheme Overview

Pending any new information from new head coach Steve Wilks leaking out the indications at the moment are they will go with the trend hitting the NFL by game planning and using both the 3-4 and 4-3 based schemes depending on the opponent. Yep, here we go again, clear as mud. But realistically with the personnel the Cardinals have, we shouldn’t stray too far from the idea that our main IDP targets from the squad should differ greatly from the past. We’ll now have a look at each area and see how this should play out.


Defensive Backs

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We’ll start with the defensive backs by again remembering I do not “take” on the cornerbacks. Shutdown corner Patrick Peterson will still be avoided by most quarterbacks and likely won’t produce much in terms of IDP points or more than his normal output. And on the opposite side, whether it is Tramon Williams, a free agent signing, a rookie or another corner on the depth chart that steps up, the player across from Peterson could hold more “upside” for fantasy production as the player likely targeted over Peterson. This “other” corner may not play out until sometime this coming summer, so unless there is a notable player signed or a rookie drafted we’ll simply wait this out. Personally and for a big reason I don’t “take” on cornerbacks for IDP is as I always say, cornerbacks are dime a dozen on most waiver wires throughout the season. It will be notable to perhaps target this player across from Peterson, but wouldn’t suggest going out of the way at this time to “force” a roster spot and occupying space for a player in another position holding more value down the road if they happen to work out for us. Yes, we should rather roster a “flier” over a cornerback at this time of the year.

The safety situation could possibly be where we see some changes from what we saw at the end of the 2017 season. Budda Baker is our likely top target as the starting strong safety in the defensive backfield. Of course, depending on how far the new coaching staff strays away from how Baker was used in a linebacker/safety role will determine his real IDP value. Remember we have a whole new coaching crew so it is way too early to lock anything down concerning that hybrid role still being utilized going forward. Hopefully, by OTAs, we have more information on this. But for now, we should look at Baker as the traditional strong safety with potential to be a top 10 producing defensive back.

As for the Tyrann Mathieu at the free safety position, he has recently been asked to take a pay cut after not producing up to the level of his current contract. He has endured thru some injuries and his play on the field has dipped as a result. As of the moment, I sit here typing there is no new information stating if he’ll take the cut and remain with Arizona. With this being said, there are just a few free safeties that are in our top tier of defensive backs for IDP. Those are mainly reserved for strong safeties based on the yearly output by the positions versus each other. While still suggesting a free safety over a cornerback when possible, whoever ends up as the free safety for the Cardinals in 2018 should hold enough value to have on the roster and possibly be in the DB2 range in our lineups.

UPDATE: During a pause, while writing this article Mathieu was released. Guessing that pay cut wasn’t happening. At this point, we should assume a rookie or a free agent signing may happen. This is a situation to monitor.



As I mentioned above in the update, I paused here in writing this article and there was a re-signing of a linebacker we will cover towards the end of this portion. But first, we will cover the two linebackers we know should have roles in 2018.

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Photo by; Seattle Seahawks

Deone Bucannon had somewhat of a down season in 2017. That’s actually putting it nicely. After he had a stellar second season he seemed to take a step back in his third season with his play on the field in 2016. The third season is actually when most linebackers or players, in general, will take another step in putting it all together. So we should keep this in mind. He actually ended the 2016 season on injured reserve. This happens of course, but what came between the end of 2016 and heading into 2017 is also something we will want to keep in mind. There were reports of friction coming out of Arizona that Bucannon was in the doghouse over the injury and the step back he took. In the end, he did return to the starting lineup in 2017 after missing three weeks over the injury he had that put him on I.R. at the end of 2016. We’ll note that it didn’t seem like he was at that second-year form when he did return. But at this point 2018 is a new season with a new group of coaches so we should assume he’ll have a major role until further notice.

Before we move forward, keep in mind I’m using what I know and what I can currently locate for this “take”. It might not be “in-line” with many other “takes”, but it is how I think things will play out.

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Bucannon is one of the original “tweaker” linebackers we have recently seen teams targeting. He basically is the size of a strong safety playing linebacker. Afterall he was a safety in college. He has the speed to burn and it is how he made his money in year two of his career when he had a combined 112 tackles while being fast to the ball and a “tackler”. From what we can assume was his best asset that season should land him at the weakside linebacker position in 2018 as long as the rumors are true and the Cardinals go more of a 4-3 base. This will again make him a great target for IDP purposes. But keep all that’s been stated in mind. Could he lead the Cardinals in tackles in 2018, yes? But we shouldn’t think that it would be at the upper tier one level at this time. He just isn’t big enough to be the middle linebacker who will have the most opportunities. Until we see how he responds to the scheme change he should likely be looked at as a high LB2 or lower LB1. We possibly have seen his ceiling in tackle production in that year two season of his career. He is far from an avoid, but expectations should factor in some concerns when drafting or trading for him. On our rosters, we should want a better option as our lineups number one and two linebackers to play each week. Personally, if I own him he is a player I add something to for an upgrade “sure thing” at the upper tier. In drafting, I believe he should be looked at as the 3rd or 4th linebacker I try to pick while I fill my lineup out.

Haason Reddick is a superb athlete, and because of this, we should consider a couple things. This is one that I figure some may disagree with me when I say there are indications he won’t be manning the middle of the defense as the middle linebacker. The next portion of this article will relay that same thinking by all indications at hand. With the trend of the NFL teams looking to use multiple schemes, he is fitting in as the starting strongside linebacker if the trend holds true. Normally a strongside linebacker wouldn’t be an every snap player. I don’t think this will be the case for Reddick. In one shape or form, they’ll have him on the field. On early downs as the strongside player in coverage and containment to support the run-stopping. While adding a pass rush at times as well. As for any passing down, we should think they would want him rushing the passer or taking on coverage duties. Being that it is a hybrid 4-3 and 3-4 scheme he’ll likely see some outside linebacker snaps each game. With this thinking, he’ll firmly be on the LB2 radar. If the following player I’m about to throw the wrench into this “take” doesn’t live up to what looks like he should be for the team in 2018, then Reddick would likely be the middle linebacker vaulting him into the LB1 tier with upside to be top of that tier. We may not know exactly how this plays out in the camp this summer or even into pre-season. No one freak out here, Reddick may not live up to our expectations we acquired him at last year, but he will still be productive enough that we won’t flat out regret the investment. And always keep an open mind when a new coaching staff and scheme are introduced, anything can happen.

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Now to throw the “wrench” into this. And to clear the air now, I kinda seen this coming. To the point, I took a flier on this player a month ago in my own 32 team flagship league, where digging deep matters. So while I lay it out, keep in mind even if I do have a personal investment here, I’m “taking on this as it has presented itself,” not on what I hope happens. Here me out, at the worse, we have a flier in play.

The Cardinals just re-signed linebacker Josh Bynes recently. This is a 100% under the radar move for us to keep track of. The signing was only a three year deal for about 10 million. It isn’t the money, it’s the length of the contract we should note. Bynes was brought in last season as depth and ended the season with a few notable facts. One would be that he started getting time on the field with the starting unit subbing out main run-stopping linebacker Karlos Dansby on passing downs. Another is while on the field he played well and didn’t embarrass himself while actually improving the defense as they needed him to do. It was a low-key move by the Cardinals setting themselves up for 2018 that mainly went unnoticed. But yet, he was one of the first free agents they resigned. Bynes will be 29 years old in August, a player his age isn’t normally signed long term like the three years here unless the special teams are his bread and butter. There are so many options out there for special teams, it’s just the normal to think youth and Bynes isn’t an ace on special teams. Bynes has bounced around the league and has experience on the 3-4 and the 4-3 scheme. At one time he was a hot name in the league for an up and coming player but things just never seemed to work out for him. You’ll hear he is mainly a run stopper, but yet he was the sub for Dansby on passing downs. At this point, we shouldn’t lock him down as just one of either. He has worked his way thru the NFL and with his journeyman tag can be a very important piece to Arizona as they re-work the roster over the next few seasons. If any of you have kept up with the total package of changes needing to be made or being made we can simply say it’s a rebuild overall at this point for Arizona. Even if they try and compete with there division rivals who are also making strides with much younger rosters.

With all this being said, free agency isn’t over till it’s over and there is a draft coming. Arizona has a lot of needs and I don’t think inside linebacker is now at the top of the list. This is purely a “gut call” on Bynes. I don’t have a chart or information to throw out here to convince anyone of anything. Between him and Reddick, we should think one will likely take the middle linebacker position with Bucannon at the weak side of whatever scheme for his speed and hopefully improved coverages skills. We should simply pencil in Bynes in the starting line up for Arizona right now with both upside and downside. With his upside reaching as high as tier one or the downside of him being a backup or package player. We should hear from me in this situation often over the next few months as things continue to develop, or don’t develop in this case. If we see no more major signings or drafting of linebackers Bynes appears to be a lock one way or another.

Defensive Lineman

Another “wrench”, and only mentioning one player here throwing that wrench into everything, even the linebackers.

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Photo by; Arizona Cardinals

Chandler Jones is a beast! There we got that out of the way. In 2018 will he be a defensive end which is what most prototypes outside linebackers translate to in the change from a 3-4 to a 4-3? One would have to think so. We will note here to make sure we see what the “wrench” is, he could also play the SLB position easily. As unlikely this will be, it is something to keep in mind. Jones will be a top tier DL option as long as he is designated a DE. And is currently the only defensive lineman I care to “take” on as being one we should have on our rosters. We can keep an eye on the “others”, but that’s more than likely at this time how they’ll play out in 2018, the “others.”


A Safe “Gut Call” In Targeting The Players

Budda Baker as a DB1 at the SS spot
Whoever is the free safety, “safe” would be as a low DB2
Bucannon and Reddick as upper LB2
Jones as a solid DL1 with upside to top of the tier, and in case it happens, as an LB2, if at SLB.

Bynes is a wildcard, with nothing at all to an upper LB2. If he (whoever) can lock the middle linebacker down with an every-down role, he would shock us as a solid LB1 easily. Invest accordingly, good luck with that one.

Again, with what looks like a major scheme change and positional shifting, no need to throw out the “playmaking” chart here from 2017.


That’s it, thanks again for reading and be sure to catch me on twitter @HBogart27 for anything IDP.

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