DeAndre Levy, LB, DET
Although we doubt he's a good fit at the position, it seems Detroit is set on appointing Levy as the starting inside linebacker for this year. He made 85 tackles (61 solo) and intercepted a pass as a rookie outside linebacker last year, and he's a good bet to add 40 tackles to that total in 2010. Look for Levy to get run over in the real football world, but expect it to result in lots of tackles downfield.
Keith Bulluck, LB, NYG
For almost all of the previous decade, Bulluck was an IDP monster at weak-side linebacker for the Titans. In New York, he's the favorite to be the team's starting middle linebacker. This is a guy who posted 125 or more tackles five years in a row at one point, and he's a near guarantee to hit triple digits this year if he can stay healthy. He suffered an ACL tear in December, but he called himself 90 percent healthy at the end of July.
Cliff Avril, DE, DET
Avril is a player who looked close to breaking out last season, but 2010 will be when he finally arrives. Like fellow Boilermakers Rosevelt Colvin, Chike Okeafor, Shaun Phillips, Ray Edwards and Anthony Spencer, Avril will soon give DE University yet another reason to boast. He's been effective as a run defender the past two years, as 18.5 of his 64 career tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage, but look for him to start finding the quarterback more this year. After being a rotational player the past two years, he's expected to secure a full-time role in 2010, and we think he'll make the most of it.
Brandon Graham, DE, PHI
Graham is too good not to start for Philadelphia by the fourth week of the season. Write it down. He's the best defensive end prospect since Mario Williams, and he'll be one of the league's most feared pass-rushers by the end of the year. Graham averaged 5.25 tackles per game in his senior season at Michigan, and even if he loses snaps to Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker, look for him to total at least 45 tackles and eight sacks in 2010.
Darrell Stuckey, S, SD
Stuckey still needs to outperform Steve Gregory to win the starting strong safety spot in San Diego, but we really like his chances. Stuckey has free safety athleticism but a strong safety's mentality and skill set, making him a good candidate to earn a three-down role with the Chargers next to Eric Weddle. San Diego Union-Tribune writer Kevin Acee recently speculated that Stuckey will be taken off the field in passing situations (in favor of Gregory), but we think Stuckey will prove to be better than Gregory in that role as well.
Tyson Alualu, DT, JAC
Alualu is all but a lock to start for Jacksonville this year, but the recent news that fellow 2010 draft pick D'Anthony Smith may be out for 2010 with an Achilles' tendon injury means that he'll see even more snaps. Alualu could prove to be a top option for leagues that mandate the defensive tackle position, as he averaged nearly five tackles per game during his last two seasons in college. Although many criticized the Jaguars for taking him 10th overall in the draft, Alualu will be one of the league's best defensive tackles soon enough.
Elvis Dumervil, LB, DEN
A torn pectoral muscle from August 4th could mean the end of Dumervil's 2010 season. He never was much of a threat to make tackles as a one-dimensional outside linebacker in the 3-4, but he would have been a great option in leagues that reward heavily for sacks. The Denver defense is in deep trouble without Dumervil, as he's probably (at least) twice as good as Robert Ayers and Jarvis Moss combined.
Gerald Hayes, LB, ARZ
Hayes unexpectedly had a back surgery earlier this summer, and he's out indefinitely while he rehabs the injury. There's no telling when he'll be back and if he'll see the field when he returns, as Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington could distance themselves from Hayes by the time he's ready to go.
Eric Barton, LB, CLE
Barton is a long shot to make the Cleveland final roster. D'Qwell Jackson and Chris Gocong seem to have the starting inside linebacker jobs locked down, while David Bowens and Kaluka Maiava have to be the favorites for the backup spots. Barton posted 58 tackles in eight games last year and 119 in the year before, but he won't be a relevant IDP unless he lands a starting job somewhere else (Arizona, perhaps?).
Michael Lewis, S, SF
Lewis has been a high-level IDP performer for most of the past eight years, but 2010 should mark a steep decline for him. He suffered three concussions last year and deals with other injuries a good amount of the time, as well. Taylor Mays was drafted to replace Lewis and, given that it's hard to see Lewis in San Francisco beyond this year, you have to think the team will go out of its way to get Mays some reps during the season.
Derrick Morgan, DE, TEN
Morgan is dealing with two pulls to the same calf muscle, and it's not known when he'll be able to go full speed again. He was a favorite to start for a Tennessee defensive line that badly lacks talent at the end position, but this could be a major obstacle. Morgan is a polished player, but if he isn't able to pick up on the nuances of the Tennessee system before the season starts, he could have a hard time getting on the field.