If you’re in a keeper league, you realize the value of identifying undervalued players as quickly as possible– it’s easier to acquire these hidden gems if you’re the only one in your league with the inside track on their 2015 performance. Even if you’re not in a keeper league, getting the biggest return on your draft picks usually involves snagging a good player late in the draft—allowing you to use your earlier picks to select known producers.
I took a few minutes to see if my supercomputer, Mighty Max, could be tweaked to unearth some of those hidden gems. As is usually the case, the results were eye opening and provided some excellent insight.
I decided to use the following criteria for my search parameters:
- A three-year view of the stats (for stability)
- Players whose performance had improved each year (for quality)
- Fantasy scores which exceeded the positional average in 2014 (for significance)
Mighty Max was able to highlight several players likely to continue their upward trends. A few may be familiar, others not; according to Max, all of them will likely improve their performances in 2015.
As with all statistical analysis applied to human actions, it is not enough to just look at the numbers. You need to have an understanding of the situation of each player.
Here’s the resulting set of players Max believes will continue to post improved fantasy numbers in 2015:
There are a lot of names on this list, and not too many are appealing as late-round gems. Ndamukong Suh will be taken early based on his name recognition, so really wouldn’t qualify as a sleeper. However, there are two guys I like heading into 2015: Clinton McDonald is a solid DT for the Bucs who will be overshadowed by the guy he lines up next to, Gerald McCoy; McDonald would make a solid DL3 in most IDP re-draft leagues.
The guy on this list I really like is Jerry Hughes. Hughes is coming off back-to-back 9.5 sack seasons—but that’s not the main reason I like him. I like him because he’s going to play a lot of LB in Rex Ryan’s defense while keeping his DE designation. That probably means more sacks in 2015, but I expect his tackle totals to increase as well. With an ADP of #25 among DLs, that’s some pretty good value.
You have to look at this list and be a bit discerning: Jason Worilds has retired, Junior Galette tore his ACL, and although I expect Jacquian Williams to be signed this season, he’s currently unemployed. Willie Young is a defensive end listed as an LB, which works against him.
Many people are discounting DeAndre Levy due to the return of Stephen Tulloch in 2015 (his ADP is #5 among LBs), but I feel he’s going to be a top-3 LB in 2015. D’Qwell Jackson is as steady as they come, but is getting up in years. Dont’a Hightower is a solid LB3 type, but finds himself in a crowed IDP situation in New England (Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo).
The guys I like are Vincent Rey, whose numbers are almost guaranteed to increase in 2015 on the basis of his moving into the starting lineup; and Demario Davis, who still finds himself playing with a defensive-minded head coach (Todd Bowles) while slowly taking over the main IDP attention from David Harris.
- With DBs, my first rule of thumb is to ignore the guys whose production was mainly tied to interceptions. Why? Because you can’t count on them grabbing INTs year in, year out.
- My second rule of thumb is to prefer safeties to corners (with rare exception). Safeties tend to make their money by making tackles, not interceptions; INTs are gravy for them.
There you have it, an early look at the “Incredible IDPs” for 2015. Of course, situations change as teams go through pre-season and get a better handle on their players and defensive schemes.