Over the past few weeks here at Fantasy Sharks, the Individual Defensive Player Bargain Bin series has looked at some value picks among individual defensive players. Whether it’s defensive linemen, linebackers or defensive backs, I pointed out some late-round options that will allow fantasy owners to get the most bang for their buck.
However, there’s also a dark side of IDP, the evil twin of sleepers, a nefarious foe who is hell-bent on seeing your championship aspirations ruined.
They are the busts, players who for whatever reason have a good chance of coming well short of the expectations that go with their average draft position.
Here’s a look at some of the leading candidates this season. This isn’t to say that these players should be avoided altogether in IDP drafts, but fantasy owners should go into those drafts with their eyes opened to the very real possibility that these IDP studs will be relative disappointments.
Average draft position data courtesy of My Fantasy League.
J.J. Watt, DE, Houston (DL1, 4th Round)
No reason to postpone the name calling, and no, I haven’t been drinking.
Yes, J.J. Watt was the king of the proverbial mountain last year. The third-year pro was the top overall IDP and the top player at his position by a ridiculous margin. Watt had more tackles (81), sacks (20.5) and passes defensed (16) than any other defensive lineman in the NFL. He was a force of nature.
So what could there possibly be not to like about him in 2013?
Well, for starters there’s that fourth-round asking price. Unless you play in an IDP league with large starting lineups on defense or weighted scoring, Watt essentially has to repeat last year’s numbers to justify the pick. It’s not enough for him to just be the top defensive lineman … he has to be No. 1 by a mile.
The recent track record of defensive linemen coming off of transcendent seasons doesn’t bode well for his odds of doing that. I go into more detail about Watt’s 2013 prospects in this article, but the long and short of it is that, as fantastic as J.J. Watt is, he’s by no means a slam dunk to terrorize IDP leagues again in 2013.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants (DL2, 7th Round)
I know, I know. I must be absolutely insane to infer that the top two defensive linemen in fantasy drafts in 2013 are both big bust risks. I mean, there hasn’t been a season where the top-2 defensive linemen in IDP drafts were both disappointments since all the way back in … 2012, when both Pierre-Paul and Minnesota’s Jared Allen saw big dropoffs after huge years the season before.
The reason why Pierre-Paul is a risky bet in 2013 is easy to pinpoint. The 24-year-old had back surgery in June, and that has left his status for the beginning of the regular season very much in question.
New York general manager Jerry Reese has stated that he expects Pierre-Paul to be back in time for the season opener, but Pierre-Paul gave no such guarantee. Speaking with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, Pierre-Paul said that he’s not going to rush back until he’s 100 percent, stating that “I already know that I’m going to be taking on two guys, double-team, triple-team maybe. So I’m not in a rush to hurry up and come back to put myself in that position.”
The possibility that Pierre-Paul could miss time, coupled with the additional possibilities of Pierre-Paul working back into shape “on the fly” and/or the injury lingering, makes that seventh-round pick needed to land Pierre-Paul a pretty big gamble.
Von Miller, OLB, Denver (LB4, 8th Round)
Granted, this average draft position is inflated by drafts that were conducted before Miller was hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but the third-year pro is still being drafted as a top 10 linebacker even after the ban came down.
Miller is confident that an appeal hearing will result in the suspension being lifted according to The Sporting News, but it’s hard to share his optimism.
Remember, this isn’t like Richard Sherman’s PED suspension last year, which was overturned on a technicality. It’s unknown what exactly led to Miller being suspended, but per the NFL’s policy it doesn’t have to be a failed drug test. Just missing a test is enough to draw a ban, and given that Miller was just arrested for failing to appear in court it’s not exactly a stretch to imagine him blowing off an appointment with a man holding a cup.
Also, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that Miller will all but certainly face at least a four-game ban, with the possibility of six. Word that they are trying to negotiate the suspension
down to six games all but destroys any hope of Miller being available in Week 1.
Even if Miller didn’t miss a snap there’s reason for some concern when it comes to his IDP prospects for 2013. With Elvis Dumervil gone, the Broncos no longer have a complementary pass rusher to take attention off Miller. Unless Derek Wolfe or Shaun Phillips steps up, Miller is going to be facing constant double-teams.
Take the missed time and throw in Miller paddling upstream all season long, and it gets a lot harder to justify making him one of the first handful of linebackers off the board, talented though he may be.