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IDP SLEEPERS: Undervalued DL Targets in the Wake of the JPP Injury

It’s shaping up to be one of those years on the defensive line in IDP leagues. As if the talent pool wasn’t already significantly shallower than at linebacker or defensive back, but now that pool has suffered another major blow.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock all month, New York Giants defensive end (and top-five IDP option) Jason Pierre-Paul injured his hand lighting off fireworks over the July 4th weekend – so badly in fact, that the 26-year-old’s right index finger had to be amputated.

I already covered Pierre-Paul’s side of the injury for Fantasy Sharks, but now that the deed is done Jordan Ranaan of was among the pundits looking for a silver lining to this very dark cloud.

“My best guess is that he uses it as motivation to prove the doubters wrong,” Ranaan said. “And there will be plenty of doubters. Pierre-Paul has a happy-go-lucky personality. It’s hard to envision him moping around with a woe-is-me, I’m-missing-a-finger mentality. He should be motivated, especially with a long-term contract still serving as the carrot in front of his face.”

However, there’s no changing the fact that Pierre-Paul’s status for Week 1 is now very much in doubt, leaving already hard-up IDP owners looking for even more values along the defensive line.

Values like the trio of defensive linemen below.

Average Draft Position courtesy of My Fantasy League.

DL1 Potential:

Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins (ADP: DL16)

2014 was something of an up-and-down year for the 33-year-old Wake. Granted, Wake posted a very respectable 11.5 sacks and finished the season as a top-10 fantasy lineman in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring, but for the second consecutive season Wake failed to hit the 40-tackle mark.

The seventh-year veteran told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that he’s looking forward to playing in 2015 on a re-tooled front that now includes defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. “The relationship [with Suh] is coming along great,” Wake said. “We’ve spent time with each other in meeting rooms. It’s been accelerated. We’ve already built a relationship that will help us out.”

Suh’s arrival should help Wake, who finished in the top seven in the NFL last year in both hits and hurries en route to being named Pro Football Focus’ top 4-3 end, see fewer double-teams this season. Wake’s declining tackle numbers don’t inspire the warm and fuzzies, but the very real possibility of a top-10 finish for a DL2 price is another story.

DL2 Potential:

Cameron Heyward, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: DL27)

Heyward posted a career-high 7.5 sacks in 2014, but the four-year veteran insisted to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he’s only getting started. “I think I left some on the table,” Heyward said. “Some got taken away by penalties. I’m shooting for double-digits. I expect that out of myself, and that means other guys have to step up, too. If I can eat, then everybody else can eat and vice versa. I expect more for myself; I’m not going to settle for 7½.”

Heyward also told Robert Klemko of the MMQB that the scheme of new defensive coordinator Keith Butler should help in that regard. “I would think our defense will be pretty similar,” Heyward says, “but there may be some conceptual changes, some more blitzes he wants to add. I think he wants to generate more turnovers and get more one-on-ones up front where we’re maximizing everyone’s talents and making sure everyone has a chance to get after the quarterback or get a turnover.”

More one-gap concepts under Butler should mean a few more pass-rushing opportunities for Heyward, who finished 24th at the position in fantasy points last year. If he can add a couple more sacks to his steady tackle numbers, a solid DL2 finish could easily be in the cards.

DL3+ Potential:

Jacquies Smith, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: DL41)

The Buccaneers paid big bucks last year to bring in free agent defensive end Michael Johnson, only to see that turn out to be an unmitigated disaster. One year later, Johnson is gone and the Buccaneers are trying to sift through a pile of unproven options to find their 2015 starters at defensive end.

According to Pat Yasinskas of ESPN, free agent acquisition George Johnson and second-year pro Jacquies Smith are the early leaders in the clubhouse.  “Right now, it looks as if the Bucs will start Jacquies Smith and George Johnson at the defensive end spots,” Yasinskas said. “Smith was a pleasant surprise, recording 6.5 sacks last season. He should benefit from having an entire offseason with the team. Johnson was signed as a free agent from Detroit, where he had six sacks in a backup role.”

Smith wasn’t a worldbeater by NFL standards, ranking 38th at his position by Pro Football Focus. However, he also managed those 6.5 sacks in under 500 snaps. With an offseason to improve his run defense and a good shot at a big uptick in playing time in 2015, Smith is just the sort of young upside option IDP owners should be targeting late.

With IDP draft season heating up, Fantasy Sharks has you covered. Whether it’s 2015 player rankings and projections, waiver wire targets, rookie analysis for dynasty leagues or strategy tips, IDP Staff Writer Walton Spurlin and IDP Senior Staff Writer Gary Davenport have all the information you need to dominate your IDP league in 2015.Also, for the latest IDP news and player updates follow IDP Sharks on Twitter.

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 each of the last four years. 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.