2010 IDP Sleepers (Undervalued Players)

I always hesitate to use the word sleeper because readers often associate that word with "no-name players." I prefer the word "undervalued." As a drafter, this is what I am always looking for: value. If I can get a 3rd round value in the 6th round, it gives me a significant relative advantage over my opponent. The following players are recognizable to most and really aren't considered "sleepers." However, this doesn't mean they can't provide just as much relative value as a no-name player that emerges during the season.

In this article, I recommend players at each of the 3 defensive positions (DL, LB, DB) who I believe will be significantly undervalued heading into the 2010 fantasy season. This list will be continually updated throughout the off-season.



DEFENSIVE LINEMAN


Mathias Kiwanuka 1. LDE Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG) - It seems as though Osi Umenyiora and Kiwanuka are going to rotate with Kiwanuka getting a slight majority of the snaps. I think both players will put up top 20 numbers, however, you can bet that Umenyiora will be drafted higher in many leagues due to him being more of a household name. "Kiwi" is a solid tackler and put up 8.5 sacks in 2008 when filling in for the injured Osi. I expect similar numbers this year for Mathias and he should present owners with good value in 2010.

Chris Long 2. RDE Chris Long (STL) - We have been waiting for Long to do something since he was drafted with the 2nd overall pick in 2008. He is now entering into his 3rd season in the NFL and it's do or die time. I have a feeling that many fantasy owners have given up hope on Long and he will slip in fantasy drafts. I'm willing to give him one more chance and you should too. The learning curve at defensive end is more severe than at other defensive fantasy positions and it often times takes two or three years for an end to develop. Long showed some definite signs that he was breaking through during the latter half of the 2009 season when he managed to register 5 sacks in his final 8 games. It's a little disconcerting however that the Rams didn't add any pieces around Long on the defensive line and his sack totals will probably suffer somewhat because of that. However, I still believe he can put up DL2-type numbers.

Greg White 3. RDE "Stylez" G.White (TB) - If their was one defensive lineman to pay attention to on this list it is Mr. White. I have high expectations for him in 2010. Not only is he reportedly in the "best shape of his life" and in a contract year, but the Bucs added to top-notch defensive tackles in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price which should take much of the focus off Stylez. White put up solid numbers last season (6.5 sacks) in limited playing time and I expect double digit sacks out of him this season with good tackle numbers. I think he's going to be a top 15 DL.

Cliff Avril 4. RDE Cliff Avril (DET) - Avril is in a similar situation to Chris Long. He was drafted in 2008 and many IDP owners thought he would be an impact player heading into the 2009 season. So far Avril hasn't done much. However, 2010 should bring a different story. The Lions added Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, and Corey Williams to their starting line making it one of the better lines in the conference. For the first time in his career, Avril has a strong supporting cast surrounding him and with much of the attention focused on KVB and Suh, Avril should finally be able to develop into the player that fantasy owners were expecting. I think 8 or so sacks is a reasonable expectation this season.

William Hayes 5. LDE William Hayes (TEN) - The departure of KVB makes Hayes the Titans #1 defensive lineman this season. Tennessee added talented end Derrick Morgan in the 1st round of this year's draft and he figures to start on the right side of the line. Hayes only had 4 sacks last season, but he had a lot of QB pressures and with another year of experience under his belt, he should be able to convert some of those pressures into sacks. I'm expecting similar numbers to Cliff Avril.

Sedrick Ellis 6. RDT Sedrick Ellis (NO) - When healthy, Ellis is one of the most dominating defensive tackles in the league. He has a strong group of linemen surrounding him and if he can manage to play a full season, he should be able to generate 40+ solo tackles and 4 or 5 sacks, making him one of the best fantasy defensive tackles around.

Glen Dorsey 7. RDE Glen Dorsey (KC) - Dorsey has been a huge disappointment since being drafted in 2008 with the 5th overall pick. He's only managed two sacks in two years which is just pathetic. In his defense, he has been horribly miscast in Kansas City's 3-4 defense. With all this being said, he still finished as the 38th scoring lineman in my league due to his above average tackle numbers. He's not going to set the world on fire, but if you need a consistent low DL3/high DL4, Dorsey is a good option.

Charles Johnson 8. RDE Charles Johnson (CAR) - When most people think Carolina lineman and sleeper, they think of Everette Brown. Brown is going to be a great player and is a very solid dynasty pick, but the fact remains that he's probably still a year away from becoming a full-time starter. It looks like Johnson is going to enter the season as the starter at RDE and I see no reason why he couldn't put up 7 sacks. Even if Brown impresses and wins the starting job, Johnson will get enough playing time between RDE and LDE to justify this prediction.



LINEBACKERS

Michael Boley 1. WLB Michael Boley (NYG) - In 2007, Boley had career highs in total tackles, sacks, forced fumbles,  and INTs. Many fantasy owners were high on Boley after he signed on with the Giants in the off-season to play WLB. Many people figured that Boley, moving from SLB to WLB, would be able to produce solid LB2 numbers. If you look at Boley's 2009 stat line (66 solo tackles, 19 assists, and 2 sacks), you may be disappointed. However, Boley missed five games. If you extrapolate this numbers out over 16 games, he would have finished with 96 solo tackles, 27 assists, and 3 sacks. These are D.J. Williams type numbers. In addition, the Giants just signed defensive coordinator Perry Fewell who has used the Tampa-2 scheme often in his coaching career and this type of scheme funnels most plays to the weak side.

Geno Hayes 2. WLB Geno Hayes (TB) - This kid really started to turn it on the last few games of the season by registering 38 solo tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 INTs over his last 5 games. Tampa Bay isn't going to be much better next season, which means Hayes should be on the field a ton and will consequently see a lot of tackle opportunities. His big play production down the stretch is an added bonus as well.

DeAndre Levy 3. MLB DeAndre Levy (DET) - Levy will be the starting MLB for the Lions next season, essentially becoming the fantasy equivalent of Ernie Sims (circa 2006-2007). Levy isn't quite as talented as Sims though and will have more of a learning curve. I think Levy will really turn it on about 4 or 5 games into the season and be a solid LB2. It's just a matter if you want to sit and wait a few games for him to really develop.

Dan Connor 4. MLB Dan Connor (CAR) - The season-ending injury to Thomas Davis opens up the door for a fantasy sleeper to emerge in Carolina. The most likely scenario is that current MLB Jon Beason slides to the weak side and Connor becomes the first string middle linebacker. Connor is the most optimal fit for the position and could put up very nice LB3 numbers. Grab this guy late and drafts and enjoy his value.

Derrick Johnson 5. MLB Derrick Johnson (KC) – Johnson is one of the more talented linebackers in the league and he showed this when he had not one, but two pick sixes in week 17 against the division rival Broncos. The Chiefs failed to use Johnson to the extent that he should be used (shocked!). However it looks like the Chiefs may have learned their lesson as Johnson has been running with the 1st team linebacker during the off-season. If Johnson can secure a starting role, he could put up very solid LB2 numbers.



DEFENSIVE BACKS

LaRon Landry 1. SS LaRon Landry (WASH) - Landry is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the NFL but he often times struggles in coverage. In real life this can be frustrating for coaches and fans. However, in fantasy football, this is what IDP owners love. Landry will be moving to the more fantasy lucrative strong safety position this year and I expect him to put up DB1 tackle numbers. He won't get you a lot of big plays, but I'll take 85-90 solo tackles anyday.

Kenny Phillips 2. SS Kenny Phillips (NYG) - Phillips entered the 2009 season on many IDP sleeper lists and was performing well until he went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.  Backup safety, C.C. Brown, had some monster games in Phillips' absence (back-to-back double digit solo games in Week 6 and 7), granted much of that production was due to Brown having absolutely no cover skills. If Phillips can fully recover from his 2009 injury, he should have good value moving into the 2010 season as both of the safety positions in New York have proven to be good fantasy spots.

Morgan Burnett 3. SS Morgan Burnett (GB) - Burnett is one of my top rookie fantasy sleepers this season. With incumbent starter Atari Bigby holding out, Burnett looks like he will enter as the starter at the SS spot in cheese city. Burnett is talented enough to put up solid numbers right out of the gate and him registering 70 solo tackles with 15 assists isn't out of the question.

Patrick Chung 4. SS Patrick Chung (NE) - The Patriots are exceptionally good drafters and they selected Chung with the 34th overall pick in last year's draft for a reason. I look for him to gain the starting SS job sometime during the 2010 season, however it may be later in the season. Chung is a great dynasty pick as he has DB1 potential in this system. However, temper your expectations for this season as it may take him a while to garner a starting role.

Last Updated: July 20, 2010



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