2017 IDP Sleepers (Redraft)

I hesitate to use the word sleeper too much because the term has been overused to the point of losing its meaning and readers often associate that word with no-name fantasy football players. I prefer the word "undervalued." As a drafter, this is what I am always looking for: value. If I can get a third round value in the sixth round, it gives me a significant relative advantage over my opponent. The following players (e.g. Brandon Graham, Jerrell Freeman, Kenny Vaccaro) most people have heard about and really aren't considered "sleepers" in the traditional sense. However, this doesn't mean they can't provide just as much relative value as a no-name player that comes out of nowhere.

In this article, I recommend four players at each of the 3 defensive positions (DL, LB, DB) who I believe will be significantly undervalued heading into the 2017 fantasy season.

I will periodically update these throughout the off-season to reflect changes in free agency, defensive schemes, playing time, draft selections, etc. However, keep in mind that the information listed here is just a small sample of a much larger set of rankings and descriptions that are accessible through purchasing my 2017 IDP Fantasy Football Draft Guide.

Scoring System:
Solo Tackle = 1 point
Assist = 0.5 point
Sack = 3 points
Interception = 4 points
Forced Fumble = 2 points
Fumble Recovery = 2 points
Pass Deflection = 1 point
Defensive TD = 6 points

1Brandon Graham DE - PHI (10)
After being tragically miscast during the majority of his career, Graham finally got a chance to shine as a defensive end in Jim Schwartz' "Wide 9" defensive scheme. His 5.5 sacks last year aren't overly impressive on the surface, but his strong tackle production lifted him to a top 15 finish and he graded out as the league's #2 edge rusher behind All-Pro Kahlil Mack. He led the NFL in QB hurries with 40, which is another sign that there's plenty of untapped upside with Graham. This said upper echelon tackle production along with double-digit sacks is a reasonable projection for him this season.

2Mario Addison DE - CAR (11)
Addison took a big step forward in his sixth season, quietly establishing himself as one the league's most effective pass-rushing specialists. He compiled 9.5 sacks in just 14 games, generating a sack rate of 2.2% which was tops among all linemen with over 400 snaps. The Panthers felt confident enough in Addison's play to offer him a three-year contract extension and trade away one of their primary defensive ends in Kony Ealy this off-season. Both factors signal that Ealy is slated for an increased role in 2017 and, with it, and generous bump in year-over-year production. He's a dark horse candidate to lead the NFC in sacks.

3Emmanuel Ogbah DE - CLE (9)
Despite being the 32nd overall pick in last year's draft and leading the Browns in sacks as a rookie with 5.5, Ogbah is still a relatively unknown name in the fantasy community. His worth last year was minimal given his designation as an OLB; however, he will gain defensive end eligibility in 2017 as the team moves to a 4-3 base defense. He shouldn't have much issue with the transition, as defensive end was his primary position in college. The addition of #1 overall pick Myles Garrett will draw defenses' attention away from Ogbah and put him in a prime position to build upon his year ago production totals. 50-55 total tackles and 7-8 sacks are well within reach for Ogbah. You can draft him in most leagues as your DL4 and some leagues even as your DL5, which is very good value considering he has DL3+/DL2- potential.

4Noah Spence DE - TB (11)
Spence served as a rotational end behind William Gholston and Robert Ayers during his rookie season, compiling 5.5 sacks in 572 defensive snaps. His sack rate of 1.1% was 12th amongst all lineman with 500 or more snaps played - an impressive stat for a first-year player who played through a fully torn labrum for three months of the season. He's dropped 10 pounds this off-season in an effort to be more explosive off the ball and teammates have said they are expecting a "breakout" sophomore campaign from the 39th overall selection in last year's draft. His current average draft position is in the low-tier DL3/high-tier DL4 range which is a solid value for a player that has double-digit sack potential.

1Jerrell Freeman LB - CHI (9)
Freeman was sneakily one of the league's best linebackers last year excelling in both run defense and pass coverage. He missed four games due to a suspension but still finished with 87 solo tackles. With Danny Trevathan a PUP candidate to start the season, Freeman has a good shot at being the lone tackle threat on defense that is going to be on the field at a near league-leading rate. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio rarely blitzes his linebackers so don't expect many big plays from Freeman, but he has a solid chance at finishing with 100+ solo tackles.

2K.J. Wright LB - SEA (6)
Wright continues to be underappreciated in the fantasy world despite three straight top 25 finishes. He's not a flashy player and he doesn't excel in any one particular category but is a solid tackler who provides a handful of big plays as well.

3Vince Williams LB - PIT (9)
Williams racked up a ridiculous 35 total tackles and two sacks in the three games he started in replace of an injured Ryan Shazier last year. His play during this short span of time was strong enough for the Steelers to let Lawrence Timmons walk in free agency and to give Williams the every-down RILB responsibility. Given Shazier's difficulties in staying healthy, Williams could very well assume the play-calling duties for several games in 2017 and should rack up LB2 numbers even as the team's "second fiddle" inside linebacker.

BJ Goodson LB - NYG (8)

The Giants failed to address their deficiencies at linebacker this off-season and will once again field one of the weakest units in the league. The team hasn't had a starting caliber fantasy player at the position in several years, largely due to the fact they've been unable to find someone capable of adequately playing every down (no Giants linebacker played more than 72% of the snaps in 2016). Enter B.J. Goodson. He was a fourth round selection back in 2016 and barely played as a rookie but is currently projected to be the starter at middle linebacker for the G-Men. Reports indicate that the team is looking for the Clemson graduate to be an "every down force", and we've seen that fact play out in the preseason. If he can secure that sub package role, he'll see enough opportunity to be a high-floor LB3 at little cost to fantasy owners.

1Kenny Vaccaro S - NO (5)
The Saints' mess at linebacker over the last few seasons has allowed Vaccaro to assume more in-the-box/linebacker duties. He was having a career year before getting suspended four games and judging by his career trajectory, he's well primed for another uptick in production in 2017.

2Eric Reid S - SF (11)
Coming out of LSU, Reid was considered a straight-line, hard-hitting secondary player best suited for a strong safety role. However, since San Francisco already had proven veteran players in Donte Whitner (2013) and Antoine Bethea (2014-2016) at that position, Reid was forced to play free safety his first four seasons in the league. With Bethea now gone in free agency, Reid will make the transition over to the strong side in defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's newly installed 4-3 under scheme. As we've seen with Kam Chancellor and Keanu Neal in recent years, players in this position have been extremely productive from a tackle perspective as they spend a majority of their time around the line of scrimmage in run defense. Reid has the size and physical build to excel in this role and finally live up to the lofty expectations many had for him when he was selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft. This role, along with the ample tackle opportunity the 49ers defense is going to receive, makes Reid a solid weekly DB1 candidate.

3Sean Davis S - PIT (9)
The Steelers were quite thin at the cornerback position last year, which forced Davis into a nickel corner role for the first half of the season. The team eventually moved him back to his intended position of strong safety where he saw full-time action starting in week 10. He was a top 15 fantasy safety during those remaining eight weeks averaging nearly 6.5 total tackles per game and throwing in a handful of big plays to boot. With Davis locked-in as Pittsburgh's every down strong safety, a 100+ total tackle season with decent big play upside is well within reach for 2017.

4Jahleel Addae S - LAC (9)
A lot of people are sleeping on Addae as he's never posted more than 55 solos in a season. But it was evident that the departure of Eric Weddle opened up a ton of tackle opportunity for Addae who averaged nearly 5.5 solo tackles a game over the eight games he played last year. That's 86 solo tackles over the course season. He's a sneaky DB1 threat this year and can be had for a DB3 price tag.

Like what you've read so far? Looking to dominate your 2017 Fantasy Football draft(s)? For $6.99 you can get complete access to The IDP Guru's comprehensive and exhaustive 2017 IDP Fantasy Football Draft Guide.


- Updated in real-time
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- Rankings for all defensive fantasy positions (DL, LB, and DB)

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- Sleeper/Target/Avoid Notation

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Questions, comments, or concerns with any of these rankings? If so, please let me know by posting a comment below or emailing me at theidpguru@idpguru.com. You can also hit me up on Twitter

Last Updated: August 23, 2017
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