2011 IDP Sleepers - Defensive Linemen

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 (e.g. Cliff Avril) most people have heard about and really aren't considered "sleepers." However, this doesn't mean Avril can't provide just as much relative value as a no-name player that comes out of nowhere.

In this article, I recommend defensive linemen who I believe will be significantly undervalued heading into the 2011 fantasy season. This list will be continually updated throughout the off-season.

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DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Matt Shaughnessy RDE Matt Shaughnessy (OAK) - Shaughnessy managed 7 sacks last season while playing in only 65% of the team's snaps. He's talented enough for an every-down role in Oakland especially considering the level of talent surrounding him. Even with this said, the Raiders have been known to be unorthodox in their rotation at times and they may choose to keep Shaughnesssy fresh by rotating him out with Trevor Scott. If given enough snaps, Shaughnessy has a chance to join the lower level of elite fantasy ends and is therefore worth the risk due to the shortage of high caliber players at the position.

Carlos Dunlap LDE Carlos Dunlap (CIN) - Dunlap really didn't get a chance to play in a substantial portion of the snaps until the 2nd half of his rookie season last year. However, he made the most of the time in which he did play. In the final 8 games of the year, he registered an outstanding 9 sacks and gave the Bengals their first glimmer of a stud defensive end in recent memory. He's currently slated as the backup to mediocre talent Robert Geathers at LDE. I just don't see that sticking for very long. The Bengals aren't likely to be very good this season and will look to get their young players as much playing time as possible. Dunlap is one of the best sleeper fantasy ends you can select this season.

Cliff Avril LDE Cliff Avril (DET) - Despite being hurt and suffering through lingering injuries throughout the majority of the 2010 season, Avril still managed to put up a career high 7.5 sacks. Much of that production is testament to the drastic improve in Avril's surrounding cast (KVB, Corey Williams, Ndamukong Suh). If he can stay healthy, double digit sacks are a decent probability. Lawrence Jackson is another Lions end to watch for sleeper value as he would take over Avril's position in case of injury.

Mathias Kiwanuka LDE Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG) - The majority of Kiwanuka's value lies in his classification. Sites such as Yahoo! still have him classified as a DL even though he's currently slotted to be the strong side linebacker in base packages for the Giants and will also see partial time at defensive end in certain subpackages. At linebacker, Kiwanuka should be able to outpace the majority of defensive ends in the tackle department while at the same time throwing in 3-5 sacks out of base blitz packages and as an end in subpackages. If you're league is still classifying "Kiwi" as a defensive linemen make sure to jump on him quickly.

Lamarr Houston LDE Lamarr Houston (OAK) - Houston received a substantial amount of playing time for a rookie last season especially considering Oakland's propensity to rotate their linemen in recent years. His versatility allows him to stay on the field in passing situations as he often slides to the interior of the defensive line. Having a solid presence in Matt Shaughnessy on the opposite end position will only improve Houston's chances of a breakout season. He should be able to improve upon the five sacks he registered as a rookie and if he can remain consistent enough in the tackle column, a top 20 finish is quite possible.

Brian Robison LDE Brian Robison (MIN) - Robison will likely never be more than a situational pass rusher who receives 65-70% of the team's snaps. This doesn't mean he can't be a productive DL3, however. He's playing opposite the one of the pass rushers in the league and also has the benefit of playing alongside two solid, veteran interior linemen. Robison could prove to be a very strong matchup play in the right weeks this season.

Michael Johnson RDE Michael Johnson (CIN) - The Bengals have experimented to Johnson at linebacker since they drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft. However, the signing of free agent Manny Lawson this off-season signals the end of that experiment which is ultimately good for Johnson owners. He has been getting the starter snaps at right defensive end and has the size and speed to put consistent pressure on opposing QBs and he can also hold in own against the run. Consider Johnson a strong sleeper especially in dynasty leagues.

Jason Pierre-Paul LDE Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG) - JPP is one of the most explosive and dynamic ends to come out of the draft since Jevon Kearse in the 1999 draft. He's also one of the most raw. He played at a junior college for two years before transferring to South Florida where he only saw substantial playing time in his senior season. The lack of experience shouldn't give you too much concern however. He had 4.5 sacks in his final 6 games last season and seems to be carrying that type of production over into this season as he has had a strong preseason thus far. Pierre-Paul will likely put up low DL3 numbers even if Osi gets the lion's share of snaps at right defensive end, but he has low-end DL1 potential if Umenyiora gets injured or gets in the Giants' doghouse again. Pierre-Paul is the type of risk pick that could win you a championship in IDP only leagues.

Jabaal Sheard RDE Jabaal Sheard (CLE) - Sheard will be starting and receiving a bulk of the snaps at right defensive end for the Browns if by nothing else more than default. He's an above average talent who possesses an explosive first step and should give the Browns a presence on the edge. He needs to improve against the run to become a more significant DL2 value. Due to the high amount of snaps he should receive, Sheard could provide owners with decent DL3 with a DL5/6 price tag.

Derrick Morgan RDE Derrick Morgan (TEN) - After missing the majority of his rookie season with an ACL tear, Morgan will fail to be on the radar of most owners come draft day. He was the most NFL-ready end to come out of the 2010 draft and will slide into an historically productive position in Tennessee. He's worth a late round flyer in deeper fantasy leagues. It's better to take a chance on a dynamic young player like Morgan than to play it safe with a player such as Kelly Gregg at that point in the draft.

Last Updated: August 23, 2011


Looking for help with your 2011 Fantasy Football draft(s)?  Please support The IDP Guru and purchase a $5, 2011 Fantasy Football IDP Draft Guide. It's over 13,000 words and 28 pages long! To purchase or for additional details, click here.
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