The word sleeper is overused and overloaded in today’s fantasy landscape. It is really hard to call any player a sleeper with the amount of coverage and information we have. Nonetheless, I will try to cover some rookie IDP talent that is less known or being ignored in dynasty formats. For the purposes of drawing a line for sleepers, I will stay away any player not mentioned in Steve Wyremski’s top 42. If you have not checked out his top 20 and top 21-42 with commentary, I highly suggest it.
Ben Heeney, 4-3 MLB OAK
I have drafted Heeney in a few deep IDP rookie drafts. I am realizing now I am one of the few on the Heeney band wagon. He looks good from a metrics stand point with his 4.59 forty, and blazing 6.68 three cone. He is known for taking risks which is evidenced by high missed tackles but double digit tackles for a loss the last three seasons. He has serious potential if he can play more disciplined, but his opportunity is underrated. Curtis Lofton currently sits on the depth chart in front of him. The truth is that Lofton has graded out negatively the last three years. with a crescendo of grading out 122nd inside linebacker of 125 last year. Malcolm Smith also graded out negatively last year and may be more of a threat to Sio Moore’s playing time. Eric Breeze, my IDP PIC, mentioned that it may be bold to suggest Heeney could keep $9 million dollars of 2015 salary off the field. Honestly, I like his chances and I would be willing to bet he sees 400 snaps this season and could own the starting mike linebacker job in 2016.
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Kwon Alexander, 4-3 ILB/OLB TBB
Alexander is an athletic linebacker who struggles with diagnosing plays. He has a lot upside with his speed and quickness. The Tampa Bay depth chart is easily climbable outside of Lavonte David. Danny Lansanah played well last year but is an RFA next year. Tampa Bay signed Bruce Carter to play middle linebacker, but he has graded out below -8.0 overall at PFF the last two years. Alexander may not see the field a lot this year, but it is very conceivable he could be the starter next year.
Eli Harold, 3-4 OLB SF
Outside linebackers in 3-4 systems often do not hold a lot of value in IDP unless they are elite or your league settings are sack heavy. He has the athleticism to become elite, although he somewhat of a project. Harold could also be seen as a hedge play on the perennial knuckle head Aldon Smith. It is also worth mentioning that Smith is a free agent in 2016. Ahmad Brooks’ guaranteed money goes do significantly in 2016 and 2017, which means he could really be cut like some have speculated this season. If I had to bet on the starting outside linebackers in San Francisco at this time next year, it would be Aaron Lynch and Eli Harold.
Lorenzo Mauldin, 3-4 OLB NYJ
I was not a very big fan of Mauldin in the pre-draft process. Although, has landed on a team where he could become the starter in his first season. Calvin Pace will turn 35 during the season, graded out negatively the past three seasons and will be a 2016 free agent. Quinton Coples also graded out negatively last year and the Jets could easily part ways next year since 2016 will be his option year. I would look elsewhere unless you play in a deeper big play heavy league or a very deep league where you just need starter snaps.
Amarlo Herrera, 3-4 ILB IND
The major story here is opportunity and the Colts spent some draft capital in a 6th round pick. D’Qwell Jackson is now 31 and has graded negatively at PFF the last three years. Jerrell Freeman struggled mightily in run stopping last year and is only on a one year deal. Nate Irving is the best inside linebacker on the team but he is recovering from a torn ACL. Herrera is not an outstanding athlete, but he does have solid instincts and plays physical. He plays the opposite of Ben Heeney, playing the run conservative and rarely getting tackles for a loss. On the other hand he is an effective pass rusher when he is blitzed. This is a depth chart to keep an eye on in camp.
Taiwan Jones, 3-4 ILB NYJ
This listing is based on 2016 opportunity. Joe Mays and Demario Davis are both 2016 free agents. David Harris is 31 years old and is slowly getting worse indicated by his negative overall grade at PFF last year. Jones looks the part with his size and length but lacks in raw athleticism. Inside linebacker is one position where instincts and football IQ can make up for a deficiency of speed and agility.
Bryce Hager, 4-3 ILB STL
This one is a stretch, but represents a good name to file away in case James Laurinaitis gets hurt. Laurinaitis has not graded out positively since 2011, but I doubt the coaching staff takes him off the field. This scheme is a great fit Hager, who can accelerate to the ball very quickly. Hager struggles with blocks but the Rams front four should keep him clean most of the time. Hager really is not worth a stash, but someone to remember.
Davis Tull, 3-4 ILB/OLB NOS
Tull from Chattanooga was one of those players I could not get enough film on in the pre-draft process. An inside linebacker with nice instincts, 138 inch broad, 42.5 inch vertical, and 4.57 forty at 246 pounds was more than enough to intrigue me. The Saints depth is somewhat of a mess and they spent two higher draft picks on linebackers (Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha). It is highly doubtful Tull sees any playing time this year outside of special teams. Although he has the athleticism to make waves if he does see the field.
Anthony Chickillo, 3-4 OLB PIT
The Pittsburgh depth chart is somewhat of a log jam, but it could clear up as early as next year. James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons are both aging. I suspect Jarvis Jones will continue to be a disappointment. Finally, Bud Dupree is a project that may not pan out quickly. Chickillo demonstrated he played the wrong role in Miami, by being an absolute menace of an edge rusher during the East West shrine game. Honestly he is only a stash in the deepest of leagues, but he could see significant playing time in one to two years. Injuries to some of the aging members of the linebacking core would expedite that.
Zach Vigil, 4-3 OLB MIA
Vigil is an undersized, athletic coverage linebacker from Utah State. He could carve out a roll as a rotational player. The only linebackers that Miami have displayed solid pass coverage skills are Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins. Starting SLB Chris McCain has not been on the field much since he has been drafted, so it is hard to tell what he really is. Although it is pretty safe to assume Vigil is better in coverage and McCain’s strength is pass rush. The Dolphins should have the pass rush under control between Oliver Vernon, Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh. I can see the Dolphins needing Vigil’s pass coverage ability sooner than later.
- IDP Dynasty Debate: Linebackers - March 1, 2017
- IDP Dynasty Debate: Defensive Line - February 18, 2017
- IDP 20/20: Raekwon McMillan - February 17, 2017
Great article! My league isn’t deep enough to roster most of these guys now, but will be great snags at the end of the season given their 2016 opportunity.