Saturday - Sep 21, 2019

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BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Late-Round Upside IDP Draft Targets

It is just about go time, Individual Defensive Player (IDP) peoples. In one week, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will renew the NFL’s oldest rivalry at Soldier Field in the game that kicks off the 2019 NFL season.

And with it, another season of fantasy football.

By now, most IDP leagues have already conducted their drafts. But there are still quite a few leagues who haven’t. It’s smart, really — waiting until as close to the regular season as possible affords IDP drafters an opportunity to see how training camp and preseason position battles shake out.

Never mind dodging the injuries that have claimed the likes of linebackers Jarrad Davis (Detroit) and Avery Williamson (New York Jets) and Los Angeles Charges stud safety Derwin James.

That last one was a real kick in the junk.

However, whether you drafted in July (why?) or are having your draft over Labor Day weekend, all IDP drafters share one thing in common — everyone’s looking for some late-round dart-throws with the potential to emerge as fantasy contributors.

With that in mind, here’s a last look at some IDP “sleepers” of sorts for 2019 — a dilatory divine group of late-round IDP picks for late-summer IDP drafts.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Seattle

After spending most of training camp and the preseason on the shelf with shoulder and groin injuries, Ansah’s back on the practice field. According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, head coach Pete Carroll expects the veteran edge-rusher to be all systems go for Week 1.

“He moved around fine,’’ Carroll said. “He was going through the individual drills. He will do more (Wednesday). He is on his way back. The shoulder is healed and his groin is healed and he is ready to battle. … We will wait until next week (for him to play). But really happy to get him out, finally. It’s been a long, rigorous return and he has busted his tail and he’s made it. We were hoping he would make it before the final week, which he did. And we will take it and see how far we can go.’’

Ansah’s got a lengthy injury history, and he’s long been a player who will post a huge stat line one week and then vanish completely the next. But as recently as 2017, Ansah was a Top 12 IDP option among defensive linemen in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring. That sort of upside is very rarely available in DL4 territory on draft day.

Brian Burns, DE, Carolina

For the second time in three preseason games, Burns starred in Carolina’s dress rehearsal, recording a pair of sacks. As Max Henson reported for the team’s website, Burns’ big preseason has impressed at least one of his veteran teammates.

“He’s seizing the moment. That boy has got a bright future,” defensive tackle Kawann Short said. “Four sacks in three games? That’s impressive.”

However, head coach Ron Rivera maintained that Burns still has a lot to learn about playing in the NFL.

“There’s a couple things that he has to understand and he may have made a few more plays,” Rivera said. “I think he can be an even more effective player for us.”

Some of Burns’ success in the preseason has come against reserves, and he’s still (at least for now) behind Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin on the depth chart. But there’s a reason Carolina took Burns in the first round. He’s apt to be a high-variance IDP option as a rookie, but the upside is absolutely there.

Thomas Davis, OLB, Los Angeles Chargers

After 14 years with Carolina, Davis joined the Chargers in the offseason on a two-year, $10.5 million contract. At 36 years old, many believe that Davis was added as much for his leadership and toughness as for what he’s capable of between the lines. Daniel Popper of the Athletic thinks the Chargers may have something different in mind.

“The one constant (at linebacker) will be Davis,” he said, “who will man the weak-side linebacker spot — or WILL — in both base and nickel packages. Beyond that, the rotation has been a revolving door, partly because (Kyzir) White, (Jatavis) Brown and (Denzel) Perryman all are on snap counts because of their injuries, and partly because Smith and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley are hoping to cultivate versatility.”

The Chargers linebacker corps has been a confusing mess in recent years, partly because of injuries that have savaged the position. Most IDP drafters aren’t counting on the veteran Davis to be the top dog here — he’s an afterthought in most fantasy drafts. There could be considerable value here.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.