There will be plenty written this month about the studs who slot at the top of Individual Defensive Player (IDP) rankings — defensive players like Indianapolis Colts Darius Leonard and Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, from whom much is expected in 2019.
There will also be quite a bit said in regard to some potential IDP “sleepers” like Dallas defensive end Robert Quinn or Philadelphia linebacker Zach Brown —veterans with a real chance of outperforming their modest asking price on draft day.
However, there’s yet another group of IDPs — young players flying so far under most radars that they’re about as well known in most circles as Murray Langston.
Of course, most people reading this are too young to have any idea who the hell the Unknown Comic is either — but in some ways that proves my point.
In more IDP leagues than not, the young players listed here won’t be drafted at all. None are any sort of sure bet to have a big fantasy season. But there’s some upside present here — enough to warrant putting them in dart-throw territory late in drafts.
Charles Harris, DE, Miami Dolphins
Since being drafted in the first round back in 2017, Harris has been a massive disappointment — just 38 tackles and three sacks over two seasons. However, with a new staff in town and a massive bump in snaps a near-certainty, Kyle Crabbs of Dolphins Wire thinks a Year 3 step forward could be in the offing — maybe.
“After playing 36 percent of Miami’s snaps in 2018, the time is now for Harris to sink or swim,” he said. “Projecting a 50 percent increase in productivity per snap for Harris (which is very aggressive) and assuming Harris will double his snap count in 2019 to play approximately two thirds of Miami’s defensive plays, a fearless forecast for Charles Harris in 2019 looks like this — 75 total tackles, four sacks, eight tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hits.”
Harris missing the early part of camp isn’t a great sign, but the former Missouri standout (on paper) may be the best of the lot of an uninspiring group of edge-rushers in South Florida. Assuming that Harris’ solo/assist split stays about the same, those projections would land Harris in low-end DL2 territory.
Arden Key, DE, Oakland Raiders
Key’s been the poster child for the difference between production and potential dating back to his time at LSU. In flashes, the 6-foot-5, 238-pounder looks the part of a difference-maker off the edge. More often than not though, he’s been invisible — both in Baton Rouge in Oakland. However, Oakland defensive line coach Brentson Buckner told the Raiders Insider Podcast that he thinks Key can still be a force in the NFL.
“Arden can be a special guy,” Buckner said. “Arden was a special guy at LSU. He was a special guy coming out of high school. He has the talent. Now we as coaches have to home in and he has to home in [on technique]. He has been working hard knowing that he can’t leave anything on the table. He can be a well-rounded football player. He’s getting stronger and faster and more technical. He wants to master the technique and disciplines of playing defensive line. That’s what it’s all about.”
Key’s the epitome of a longshot player, both for the Raiders and IDP owners. His snap count this season will depend largely on both how he fares in training camp and on whether he can convert some of last year’s near-misses into sacks early in the season. Still, Key’s got enough natural ability — and the Raiders have a big enough need on the edge — to merit a late look in deeper leagues.
Shaun Dion Hamilton, ILB, Washington
Washington surprised many folks this past week when the team decided to part ways with veteran inside linebacker Mason Foster. That move could signify a much larger role for second-year pro Shaun Dion Hamilton in 2019, and Jordan Dajani of 247 Sports thinks that the former Crimson Tide linebacker could be up for the challenge.
“Dion Hamilton is someone many people inside the (Washington) organization are excited for,” Dajani said. “Washington’s sixth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft started four games last season and made 27 combined tackles, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble — a pretty decent showing for a rookie linebacker. During his time at the University of Alabama, Hamilton put up 134 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and two interceptions. He also picked up a couple of National Championship titles as well.”
The release of Foster leaves Washington precariously thin at inside linebacker, and both journeyman Jon Bostic and Dion Hamilton now appear to have the inside track to starting for the team this year. The inside linebacker that leads Washington in snaps has a real chance at emerging as a viable weekly IDP starter —and Dion Hamilton has that same real chance of being that guy.