10 IDP Sleepers 2018
When it comes to IDP Fantasy leagues, NFL Free Agency can have a massive impact on your rosters depth and season potential. There is arguably more opportunity for an investment player to step up in an IDP league than there is on the offensive side of the ball. The following 10 defensive sleepers could emerge as potential starters in IDP leagues in 2018.
LB | Houston Texans
Many thought Cunningham would be a first-round pick in 2017 and he showed why during his first year in the NFL. With Brian Cushing suspended, Cunningham stepped in to replace him and recorded 90 tackles in his rookie season. Now that Cushing has been released, Cunningham is set to become the focal point of the Texans’ linebacker core. His coverage skills are a great compliment to Benardrick McKinney’s pass rushing and were directly responsible for improving Houston’s DVOA from 28th in the league to 7th. If Houston’s pass rush is fully healthy in 2018, Cunningham’s sophomore season will translate to fantasy success.
LB – Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have released Derrick Johnson and are high on the former Bills second rounder. Ragland took several games to acclimate to the Chiefs’ defensive scheme, but took off in the second in half of the season and lead the defense in tackles (for a total of 44). Bob Sutton is starting to run more blitz packages using both inside linebackers instead of one linebacker and one strong safety, so Ragland will be in a prime role to accrue fantasy numbers. As a versatile run stopper who can perform equally well in coverage, Ragland will be on the field in 2018 as much as is humanly possible.
DE | Philadelphia Eagles
Barnett accrued five sacks in his rookie season despite being in a platoon with Chris Long behind Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. He’s also won universal respect from his teammates for his work ethic, humility, and desire to learn. The Eagles’ defensive line starters are all likely to return in 2018, and Barnett only played on 40% of snaps. But if he continues to be featured in pass-rush packages that slot him next to Fletcher Cox, Barnett will put up more-than-worthy starter numbers for your fantasy team. This is, after all, the defense that led the league in QB pressures last year.
CB | Los Angeles Chargers
King was the steal of the 2017 draft for LA. The Thorpe Award recipient out of Iowa fell to the fifth round due to concerns about his mediocre combine performance. King proved those concerns wrong in his rookie season, performing as one of the top freshman cornerbacks in the league. The Chargers love using him in zone coverage, where he led the NFL with 23 stops. King had amazing ball-hawking skills at Iowa, so I expect him to snag a lot more interceptions in 2018. The Chargers have an excellent secondary, and Jason Verrett will be healthy again in 2018, but King is too talented in the slot and in coverage to not play a starter’s share of snaps next season.
DE | Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins just traded for Robert Quinn, but he’s had difficulty staying healthy and isn’t the franchise’s future at the position. William Hayes also won’t be in Miami much longer, and the Dolphins have stressed that they have big plans for their rookie. Harris, the Dolphins’ first-round pick in 2017, will be competing for a starting position this season, and Miami is excited about his potential. Jason Taylor, among others, thinks he is a future Pro Bowler. Harris could be lining up sooner rather than later opposite of Cam Wake, creating a potent pass rush and IDP opportunity.
DE – Atlanta Falcons
McKinley led Falcons rookies in snaps and registered 6 sacks during his first season in the NFL (only 1 fewer than number one overall pick, Myles Garrett). This was in spite of McKinley being third on the depth chart behind Adrian Clayborn and Brooks Reed. Clayborn will be a free agent in 2018 and Reed will be 32 years old. Vic Beasley regressed in 2017 after leading the league in sacks in 2016. All of these factors point to McKinley becoming the featured pass rusher of Atlanta’s defense next season. He will be fully healthy in 2018 after a minor left shoulder surgery this offseason, and his rushing technique improved substantially during his first year in the pros.
CB | Denver Broncos
Aqib Talib will likely be traded or released this offseason, giving Roby a starting role on the outside. The former first-round pick has excelled in coverage when targeted and would already be the #1 corner on most teams. Denver is rumored to be addressing their slot role through free agency, meaning that Roby will be an every-down starting corner on one of the best secondaries in the league.
DT | Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei will be a free agent this season and Ron Rivera has indicated he is comfortable with Butler taking Lotulelei’s place if the 2013 first round pick decides to move on from the Panthers. Butler graded out as an average DT in 2017 and has battled ankle and knee injuries during his first two years in the league, but has also shown glimpses of immense potential. If he can lose weight in the offseason and improve his technique and fundamentals, Butler could easily produce fantasy numbers while playing opposite Kawann Short.
LB | Los Angeles Rams
The Rams traded Robert Quinn to Miami to open up cap space and push their young talent at the linebacker position. Ebukam, a fourth-round pick, had 31 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble in his rookie season after starting in the place of an injured Connor Barwin, who will be a free agent in 2018. Samson has been praised by Sean McVay and many veteran teammates for his work ethic and motivation. With the Rams pursuing a youth movement on defense, Ebukam will see extensive playing time in 2018.
DE | Seattle Seahawks
Miami thought Jordan was a bust after selecting him third overall in 2013. Injuries and drug abuse led to him missing over two years and starting only one game. But Jordan experienced a renaissance in Seattle, compiling 4 sacks and a forced fumble in only 5 games. The Seahawks have signaled their interest in moving on from veteran defensive players like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett; Jordan gives them a young, cheap, high-upside player to build their defense around as well as a potential replacement for Cliff Avril in 2019.
Thanks for Reading
Sam recently graduated college and works in consulting. He loves philosophy, cryptocurrency, and fantasy sports of all forms. Sam is despised by his fantasy football league mates for his unhealthy obsession with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2016 draft class and his tendency to blame all of his problems on John Elway. A devoted Broncos fan, Sam also avidly supports the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Princeton Tigers.