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IDP Sleepers - Week 1

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Welcome to Season 2 of the ’53 Deep’ Individual Defensive Player (IDP) sleepers article! I guess that means enough folks enjoyed Season 1 that we get to continue to dig for hidden IDP gems again in 2013. For those of you folks returning for Year 2, thank you. And for anyone checking out the article for the first time … come on in and make yourself at home.

For the purposes of this article, we assume that owners start at least three players at each IDP position (linebacker, defensive back and defensive linemen) and that defensive back and defensive linemen are combined into one grouping. Now, I will make note from time to time that a particular player will hold more value in leagues that differentiate between positions - safety (S) and corner back (CB); defensive tackle (DT) and defensive end (DE).

Some of these suggestions may be players that are sitting deep down on IDP benches or the waiver wire that I feel are in a nice position to perform well on a given week. They will generally be ranked in the mid-to-low 30s and beyond (I take into account my own weekly rankings and a consensus of my esteemed peers) but poised to outperform that ranking. Or at least I think they will.

Predicting IDP production for Week 1 of a given season is a bit more dicey than normal as defensive schemes and the division of snap counts are still quite fluid. Players who had prominent preseason roles suddenly revert back to their normal special teams duties and veterans assume their normal play rate. Or at least we hope they do.

Whew, that is by far the longest introduction that will appear before this article. Just wanted to get the ‘whys and hows’ out of the way first thing so we can get down to brass tacks.

Without further adieu …

LINEBACKERS

Alec Ogletree, OLB, ST. LOUIS vs. Arizona: The Rams get the Cardinals in Week 1 and that means quite a bit of opportunity for Ogletree’s athleticism to be on display. He’s solid in coverage and I expect Carson Palmer  to air it out plenty, as Arizona will struggle to establish the run. Ogletree had 12 total tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in his first preseason and will hit the ground running when it counts for real.

Larry Foote, ILB, PITTSBURGH vs. Tennessee: When given a prominent role on the defense, Foote may not be flashy or sexy but he is consistent in his ability to rack up tackles. He finished the 2012 campaign with 113 total stops while lining up in the same inside linebacker position he will occupy in 2013. Week 1 brings a matchup with the Tennessee Titans, and that will mean a steady dose of Chris Johnson carrying the ball, which will lead to very nice tackle numbers for Mr. Foote.

K.J. Wright , WLB, SEATTLE at Carolina: I’m looking at a breakout season for Wright as the Seahawks defense continues to wreak havoc on opponents. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is a star in the making and tackling machine but Wright is no slouch and carries more big play potential. Wright has three sacks along with an interception and two forced fumbles in his first two seasons and will build on those numbers starting in Week 1. He’s athletic enough to chase down Cam Newton and keep up with Greg Olsen in the slot if necessary.

Philip Wheeler, WLB, MIAMI at Cleveland: Wheeler is coming off a career season last year in Oakland that saw him post 78 solo tackles and 109 total stops. He also flashed big play skills by adding three sacks and two forced fumbles. In Week 1 he gets to line up against a Browns team that is missing their No. 1 wide receiver Josh Gordon and will look to run the ball a lot with workhorse running back Trent Richardson. Look for a big fantasy week for Wheeler in Week 1.

Craig Robertson, ILB, CLEVELAND vs. Miami: It was a bit surprising when Robertson surpassed James-Michael Johnson (who has since been released and signed by Kansas City) in the Cleveland linebacker pecking order. Robertson’s coverage skills are above-average and he is now a three-down inside linebacker lining up next to D’Qwell Jackson. Robertson amassed 93 total tackles, two interceptions and a sack while playing limited snaps (628 according to Pro Football Focus). In a full-time roll he is in line for a breakout season. It starts this week.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Michael Brockers, DT, ST. LOUIS vs. Arizona: The season-ending injury (fractured fibula) suffered by left guard Jon Cooper has the Cardinals reshuffling their offensive line … again. This puts Brockers in a prime position to shine in Week 1. A high ankle sprain hampered him throughout his rookie season and he still managed to post 20 solo tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. The Cardinals’ will be over-matched trying to account for defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, allowing Brockers to dominate on the inside.

Olivier Vernon, DE, MIAMI at Cleveland: I’ve been hyping Vernon this entire preseason and am not about to stop now. He is going to start at right defensive end for the Dolphins opposite Cameron Wake, who will draw extra attention from offensive lines. Olivier posted 32 total tackles and 3½ sacks in limited action as a rookie (445 snaps). Look for him to start 2013 with at least one sack of Brandon Weeden.

Kendall Reyes, DE, SAN DIEGO vs. Houston: Reyes finished his rookie season with 5½ sacks, including 3½ against the Jets in Week 16. The Chargers defense is likely to be on the field a lot in 2013 and that means plenty of opportunities for Reyes to build on his rookie totals. I look for better tackle totals this season (he finished 2012 with less than 30) beginning this week. Look for a sack and at least five total tackles for Reyes.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, TAMPA BAY at New York Jets: Clayborn is recovered from the torn ACL he suffered nearly a year ago and is ready go for Week 1. In the preseason he tallied two quarterback hurries and a quarterback hit while failing to register a sack playing 51 snaps. Clayborn is ready to pick up where he left off in his rookie season (2011) when he finished with 40 total tackles and 7½ sacks. The Jets are a mess and Clayborn will be hounding Geno Smith all game long.

Nick Fairley, DT, DETROIT vs. Minnesota: The Vikings are going to give the Lions defensive front every chance to make plays as they pound the rock with Adrian Peterson. At times Fairley has flashed excellent fantasy potential and finished last season with 35 total tackles and 5½ sacks in only 13 games. Staying on the field hasn’t been Fairley’s forte, so get him in the lineup in this nice matchup, as he’s fully healthy.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Kenny Vaccaro, S, NEW ORLEANS vs. Atlanta: I’m getting Vaccaro on this list for Week 1 because it won’t be long until he is ranked too high on a weekly basis to qualify. Vaccaro finished the preseason with 18 total tackles and his versatility saw the Saints using him all over the secondary. He played down in the box with the second unit while taking on slot receivers when running with the first team. He’s not starting yet, which makes him an excellent sleeper candidate. The Falcons have a bevy of receiving options, Vaccaro will be on the field a lot and he post starter worthy fantasy totals.

Ryan Mundy, FS, NEW YORK GIANTS at Dallas: Mundy has taken over the free safety position after the season ending injury to Stevie Brown. Week 1 brings a showdown with the Cowboys and a lot of opportunities to make plays. Free safety is a nice fantasy scoring position on the Giants defense in general and Mundy is the only game in town. In the second meeting with Dallas in 2012 Brown had eight solo tackles and two interceptions. Get Mundy in your lineups.

Aaron Williams, SS, BUFFALO vs. New England: Williams is a converted cornerback that surprisingly came out of the preseason as the starting strong safety for Buffalo. It is a position that has offered up a lot of IDP goodness over the years. The Bills secondary has been hit hard by injuries and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist) as well as safety Jairus Byrd (foot) are not going to be on the field in Week 1. Tom Brady will look to exploit the depleted Buffalo secondary, leading to a lot of work and fantasy totals for Williams.

Troy Polamalu, SS, PITTSBURGH vs. Tennessee: This Week 1 matchup with the Titans is an ideal one for Polamalu. Tennessee is going to run the ball plenty and there are few better at stuffing the run than a healthy Polamalu. It’s early in the season and the nagging injuries that have plagued him the past couple of seasons are not a concern. Titans quarterback Jake Locker is prone to the untimely turnover and Polamalu still has big-play savvy and skills to capitalize on any errors.

Brent Grimes, CB, MIAMI at Cleveland: When healthy Grimes is a top-level cornerback proficient in coverage and unafraid to step up and help in run support. As he returns from last season’s Achilles injury, I expect teams to go after him and that starts this week with the Browns. Grimes will put up very nice fantasy totals as he returns to full-time duty and fantasy prominence. Chances are that he won’t be ranked among defensive backs eligible for this article often, so get him in the lineup this week.

That’s a wrap for Week 1, folks! As the season unfolds and roles continue to expand and contract on defensive units we will delve deep down NFL rosters to bring you the sleepers to help your IDP team to the playoffs and beyond.

Oh yeah … as always … have fun!!