Friday - Dec 9, 2022



In IDP leagues, everyone’s looking for the next Darius Leonard. And why shouldn’t they? All the first-year linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts did was rampage through fantasy leagues during the 2018 season in a way that made Godzilla green with envy.

OK, he was already green. But still…Leonard won plenty of people leagues.

The thing is, it’s essentially impossible to predict who the next Darius Leonard will be. I actually liked Leonard last year (and have the receipts to prove it)—as an upside LB3 you could probably get as a LB4. Had any IDP pundit suggested the second-round pick would lead the NFL in tackles and finish as the No. 1 IDP by a sizable margin, it would have been strongly inferred that said pundit should lay off the Schnapps for a bit. At least until noon.

You can’t forecast where lightning will strike.

They have compilations of that!

That said, there are breakouts that are a bit more predictable. Yes, New York Jets safety Jamal Adams had a disappointing rookie season. But he didn’t forget how to play football, and IDP drafters who gambled that he just needed a year in the NFL to acclimate were rewarded in in his second go-round in 2018 with the best IDP numbers from a defensive back in all the land.

Some of the players listed here may appear obvious. In a few respects, they should be—most are young players who were drafted to be difference-makers.

But all share two things in common. The first is that a breakout’s coming. This year.

The second is that not enough people realize it yet.

Myles Garrett – DE, Cleveland Browns

ESPN recently polled a panel of their writers regarding who the best player in the NFL is under the age of 25 not named Patrick Mahomes. Fully half the group selected Garrett, including Matt Bowen.

“Garrett already has racked up 20.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in his first two seasons,” Bowen said. “The film is pretty freaky, too. With that monster 6-foot-4, 272-pound frame, the 23-year-old is developing a deep toolbox of countermoves to go with his natural power, speed and flexibility. Watch out — he can be a star in this league.”

It might seem weird or lazy (maybe even wazy) to include a player here who came within half a sack of the Browns’ franchise record for sacks last year and is being drafted inside the top-five defensive linemen in many IDP leagues.

But there are also a lot of leagues where he isn’t, despite all that talent and a vastly improved situation. Until that changes, I’ll be holding up a boombox outside his house.

What? Don’t judge me.

Derek Barnett – DE, Philadelphia Eagles

As Dave Zangaro pointed out for NBC Sports Philadelphia, Barnett’s injury-ravaged 2018 season has quite the silver lining for those who bother to look for it.

“Barnett was on pace for a season with 52 tackles and 10 sacks,” he said. “That might not sound elite, but just 10 players in the league put up those numbers last season: Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Danielle Hunter, Dee Ford, T.J. Watt, Jason Pierre-Paul, DeForest Buckner, Bradley Chubb, Calais Campbell and DeMarcus Lawrence. I’m not suggesting Barnett was — or will be — as good as some of those players, but he was on pace to be in their company.”

Will Barnett be a top-10 defensive lineman in 2019? Probably not. But the Eagles wouldn’t have traded Michael Bennett if the staff wasn’t confident in the youngster. With due respect to veterans Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, Barnett’s now the most talented edge-rusher on a Jim Schwartz defense. Even if he doesn’t quite hit Zangaro’s  prejection (making that a word now), the top-15 is well within reach.

Jayon Brown – ILB, Tennessee Titans

Per Jim Wyatt of the Titans website, Brown fits the fold of what Titans head coach Mike Vrabel believes is the NFL’s future at inside linebacker.

“The size of linebackers has really diminished over the past 10 years,” Vrabel said. “Most recently it is what is playing in college football. The more that offenses become spread out, the more that college defenses recruit athletic, quick, smaller (linebackers). We are very comfortable with where we are with Jayon Brown and his development as a linebacker. As long as you give the guy, the player, enough tools in his toolbox to play with his skillset and then try to develop some other things around it, I think that is always something that we are trying to do.”

Brown was a breakout candidate on many lists last year, and thanks in large part to six sacks he was able to finish in LB2 territory in most IDP scoring systems (LB 16 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring, if you care. Please pretend to).

As the season wore on, Brown’s snaps trended up. He’s Vrabel’s go-to guy inside. There’s top-10 potential here. That it’s available in LB3 territory as often as it is makes my head hurt.

The Titans, as an organization, need a hug. You’re real guys. We see you. Some of us, anyway.

I’m hoping this is clever. I’m certain that it’s dating me.

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 nine-time FSWA Award finalist and three-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award four times. He won the honor in 2017 and 2019. 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.