The term “sleeper” has been flogged to within an inch of its life in fantasy football, as the phrase has been used to describe everything from players who come from nowhere to have big years to any player whose performance exceeds their draft position.
However, there’s about as much chance of the term going away as there is of Tim Tebow becoming an accurate quarterback, so in the truest spirit of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” here’s a look at a handful of defensive players who have a solid shot at providing their Individual Defensive Player (IDP) league owners with the sort of value that can lead teams all the way to a championship.
Trevor Scott, DE, New England
After spending his first four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, the 27-year-old Scott came to the New England Patriots in free agency, and if recent reports are any indication, Scott is fitting right in in his new home.
Scott has been running with the first team in the “elephant” position that produced a double-digit sack season for Andre Carter last year. Scott has apparently taken to the role, although that’s not overly surprising given that he has experience playing both end and outside linebacker from his time with the Raiders.
The presence of first-round pick Chandler Jones is certainly a concern, as the youngster could eat into Scott’s snaps. However Scott’s price tag is so low right now that he’s essentially a risk-free investment that could pay off big if he can hold off the rookie.
Matt Shaughnessy, DE, Oakland
From a former Raider to a current one, we now turn our attention to the Silver and Black and Shaughnessy, who was a trendy pick for a breakout IDP season last year before a shoulder injury ended the fourth-year pro’s defensive end’s season after only three games.
Shaughnessy has returned to the practice field, which was a welcome sign to the Raiders according to defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who told
The Sacramento Bee that Shaughnessy is “the best defensive end in the NFL for sure in terms of stopping the run.”
It’s that two-way ability, and the tackles that come with it, that made Shaughnessy a Top 20 performer in Default IDP Manor scoring in 2010 even though he only started eight games, and if Shaughnessy’s 100 percent he represents the potential for Top 25 IDP production at a discount price.
Perry Riley, ILB, Washington
Riley already gave fantasy owners a glimpse of what he was capable of after taking over at SILB for Rocky McIntosh last year, averaging more than eight tackles a game over his eight starts.
Granted, the presence of the Dyson vacuum of tacklers otherwise known as London Fletcher hampers Riley’s fantasy upside somewhat. However, the fact remains that Fletcher’s no spring chicken, Riley held his own with Fletcher on the field last year, and the Redskins scorekeepers are among the most generous in the NFL, making Riley an excellent choice as an IDP LB4 whose ceiling is significantly higher than that.
Kelvin Sheppard, MLB, Buffalo
I almost feel guilty for even including Sheppard on this list, but since everyone and his mother has named the Buffalo new middle linebacker a “sleeper” for this year I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t. Of course, every time a writer mentions him his average draft position gets a bump, so by August the second-year pro may not be under anyone’s radar.
That said, there is considerable room for optimism with Sheppard, especially given that he racked up 70 tackles in limited duty a year ago. The $64,000 question with Sheppard is whether he can hold off strong side linebacker Kirk Morrison for nickel snaps. Should Sheppard do that, it wouldn’t be a stunner to see him crack the Top 25, making him a very nice value at his current sticker price.
Jordan Babineaux, SS, Tennessee
With Chris Hope no longer in Nashville, the starting job at strong safety for the Tennessee Titans falls to Babineaux, who tallied 93 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble in 14 starts for the Titans last year.
Those numbers were good enough to net Babineaux a 24th-place finish among defensive backs, making him a startable defensive back in 12-team fantasy leagues. That makes the lack of hype surrounding the ninth-year pro a bit surprising, especially given that 2011 was Babineaux’s second Top 25 fantasy finish in three years.
Babineaux is currently being drafted as a low-end IDP DB3 or DB4 in many early fantasy drafts, and given the not insignificant chance that he considerably outperforms that slot prescient fantasy owners can snag a weekly starter for the price of a reserve.
These are far from the only IDP storylines emerging as we head into summer’s fantasy draft season, and to keep up on all the latest updates from training camps around the league, be sure to visit the Fantasy Sharks IDP forum and follow @IDP Manor on Twitter.
Also, if you have a question about a particular player, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll do my best to help.