Welcome to the fantasy football’s Top 26 dynasty IDP targets under 26 in 2020. This series of articles is intended to help those fantasy football owners looking to revamp or start a dynasty roster. So why 26 under 26? Because our focus is on a group of fantasy football defensive players that are no older than 25. And have shown to be long term potential IDP assets at the highest level. The kind players we want to have on our rosters as they hit their prime years. And hopefully helping us earn a few titles as the seasons roll by.
Dynasty IDP Targets Ranking Ground Rules
Ranking fantasy football players can vary in opinions. So we will lay out the ground rules on how those IDP hairs were split between these players. Starting with the following things taken under consideration. And making this statement now.
No matter how, when. or why it’s an opinion. And the same can be said on who the players are that are chosen to be in the rankings.
So with that being said, my credentials in IDP knowledge runs around fifteen years now. And much of that time is not just spent on fantasy football data. It also includes researching and keeping up on the latest reports and news. And although “numbers” have to be used to rank. I find that those IDP hairs are so thin to split that normally I’d soon have any player within a difference of ten from any given rank.
The point here is we’ll list the considerations taken into these rankings. And my personal opinions are just that. Because all of the 26 and likely a few that didn’t make my list, boils down to my personal preferences.
Now on to our Top 26 Dynasty IDP Targets under 26 years old for 2020.
Consistency Margin Of Error
2020’s Fantasy Football Top Dynasty IDP Targets: #14
Dallas Cowboy Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
Position: MLB/WLB – Height/Weight: 6-4, 256lb – Age As Of Jan. 1 2020: 23
Salary / Contract
Note* Vander Esch (neck) was out for approximately half of the snaps available. For that reason, we will not rank his Gridiron Ratings among his designated position group.
20 Yd Shuttle
As a walk-on his freshman year in 2015, Vander Esch appeared in all twelve games as a backup linebacker and registered 20 combined tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery. Then as a sophomore in 2016, he was limited to six games due to a neck injury. He finished the season recording 27 combined tackles, 4 tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception.
As a junior in 2017, Vander Esch became a fulltime starter and dominated with a breakout season that put him on the map among the NFL scouts. He was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year after recording 141 combined tackles, four sacks, two interceptions with four forced fumbles. As well as being named as an All-Mountain West first-team selection in his final year in college.
Leighton Vander Esch entered the 2018 NFL draft as one of the hottest names among the inside linebacker prospects. Earning a first-round selection by the Dallas Cowboys, and as the 19th player taken off the draft board. And he did not disappoint, earning a Pro Bowl selection, a second-team All-Pro honor, as well as being named to the Pro Football Writer’s Associations rookie first team.
Vander ended his rookie season with an astonishing 140 combined tackles. Third most overall and only behind Blake Martenez with 144 and fellow rookie Darius Leonard at 163. A feat that only comes so often among rookies and ironically the same season another rookie would be able to accomplish it as well.
Then we entered his second season in 2019, ending in disappointment after suffering another neck injury. And by another neck injury, see his college credentials section again. Although overall, he still flashed that talent from 2018 while ending the season with 72 combined tackles in just nine starts.
Fantasy Football Dynasty IDP Targets Summary
Let’s face it, Vander Esch‘s IDP owners were excited, disappointed, and concerned throughout the 2019 season. And he did hit the ground running by starting the season out proving that we were right to be excited about his second season. He pretty well picked up where he left off and was averaging nearly nine combined tackles the first six contests per contest. But maybe from a fantasy scoring point of view, there was some disappointment as well. And not exactly because the neck injury was around the corner either. But breaking it down, that average included only five solo tackles on per week. And the rest of the was assisted tackles, with three of the six weeks recordings with more assisted than solos. Not to mention that he wasn’t padding the stats with playmaking type stats like interceptions and such.
As fantasy owners, those were still respectable and productive numbers for our IDP purposes. But was it what we anticipated in terms of consistency overall? It would have likely depended on our leagues scoring formats and timing when the odd weeks hit, and should we have been surprised? Not really, not to those of us that remember that a talented Jalon Smith is also in that lineup and what he brings to the table as well. Because there is only so much IDP production to go around in any contest, and comparably, Smith got his share as well.
And don’t forget Sean Lee was still in the mix during that period. He might be older, but he hasn’t completely lost a full step just yet. And definitely if used in a part-time role like he was, keeping him fresh.
The Concern Is Real
And of course, the concern was after Vander Esch suffered the second neck injury in week seven versus the Eagles of his football career. Raise your hand if you thought that extra old school neck pad Vander Esch wears was just too look cool. It was not, of course, despite just how cool it does look with his uniform. And then to suffer a setback with the injury and never to return for the rest of the season, we should be concerned.
He did just go through a neck operation around January 14th, for those that might not have heard.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch underwent surgery on his neck on Tuesday with the expectation that he will be available during the offseason program, according to multiple sources. Vander Esch missed seven games with the injury. The hope... https://t.co/8VlpilXloI— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) January 14, 2020
Vander Esch and the Cowboys were hoping rest would help the recovery process but ultimately decide for what is being described as a “non-invasive” surgery.
It is this Writer’s Opinion
It is this writer’s opinion that owning, drafting, or trading for Vander Esch going forward is a “risk versus reward” situation. And on display the first six weeks of 2019, maybe we shouldn’t expect quite as much as some might have. Because it was likely a very high bar set coming off his rookie season and expecting back to back seasons with a top-three type performance again.
It’s simple from where this writer sits, Jaylon Smith isn’t going anywhere soon. He just signed a multi-year deal through the 2025 season. And it’s also my opinion that he is just as talented as Vander Esch in his style of play. So going forward we have to hope that Vander Esch has a full recovery and with no setbacks in the future. If he does stay healthy we’ve got one talented option for IDP purposes for a lot of years. He is young, proven to a point, talented, and in position with the Cowboys to produce at a high level. And he will be coexisting with Smith while keeping in mind that this neck injury just might have extended Sean Lee’s career as a Cowboy another year.
One last thought, does this injury scare Vander Esch to the point he isn’t as aggressive? Do the Cowboys alter his role to avoid putting him directly head-on in run stopping? These all could be factors in how he produces for fantasy football owners. And are a part of why it is my opinion in not ranking him higher here. As we said, it is a “risk versus” reward at this point, but one that the upside should be well worth taking if things go right. And one of our better dynasty IDP targets at only 23 years old.
Top 26 Dynasty IDP Targets To "Click On" And...
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Thank you for joining me as we rank the top 26 under 26 fantasy football dynasty IDP targets for 2020.
“The IDP Tipster”
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