2018 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. Frank Clark, Malcolm Smith, Josh Jones) 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 three defensive positions (DL, LB, DB) who I believe will be significantly undervalued heading into the 2018 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 2018 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

1Frank Clark DE - SEA (7), +5 vs. ECR 
Clark has quietly amassed 19 sacks over the last two seasons as a situational pass-rusher for the Seahawks. With Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett both gone now, Clark is moving into more of a full-time defensive end role which should cause his snap count to heavily increase. We shouldn't expect his stats to rise equally with his expansion playing time though as he's not as well protected and we aren't sure how he's going to handle playing 800+ snaps. This said, drafting him around the fringes of DL20 is a fine hedge.

2Markus Golden DE - ARI (9), -4 vs. ECR 
Golden missed all but four games in 2017 and racked up just 11 tackles in the process. This said, he'll be a largely forgotten about player in a lot of fantasy circles. But don't let that be your mistake. Golden had a 41/10/12.5 stat line in 2016 and now qualifies as a defensive lineman in most leagues, making him a very attractive value play heading into the season. He'll be one of my main DL2/DL3 targets.

3Derek Barnett DE - PHI (9), +25 vs. ECR 
Barnett was perhaps the most polished defensive end coming out of last year's draft. Although the five sacks in his rookie campaign don't seem that exciting on the surface, you must keep in mind that was compiled in just 355 snaps. This gives him the 14th best sack rate as a first-year player. With Vinny Curry gone, expect Barnett to see a significant bump in playing time. If he gets the snap volume, I expect Barnett to have a breakout sophomore season and lead the team in sacks.

4Trent Murphy DE - BUF (11), +135 vs. ECR 
Despite being a mid-second round pick, Murphy has flown under the radar since entering the league back in 2013. He's been largely fantasy irrelevant in his career as he was classified by most sites as an outside linebacker. However, he's now in Buffalo and will be labeled as a defensive end. He's coming off a 7.5 season and the Bills have been starting him over Shaq Lawson this preseason, so he's shaping up to a very cheap source of 6-8 sacks.


1Anthony Hitchens LB - KC (12), +5 vs. ECR 
Although Hitchens hasn't surpassed 59 solo tackles in a season, he's shown the ability to produce at a high level when asked to step up and assume a larger role. Now that he's in Kansas City as the sole, every-down inside linebacker, he should have no problem setting career highs in virtually all defensive stat categories. He's shaping up to be one of the best value plays at the position.

2Tahir Whitehead LB - OAK (7), +5 vs. ECR 
Whitehead has been a solid fantasy contributor over the past two seasons, averaging 120 total tackles a season over that span. He's moving into a situation in Oakland that should serve him well from a fantasy perspective. He has a fairly firm grasp on an every-down role and is line for a 80/30 tackle line this season.

3Malcolm Smith LB - SF (11), +12 vs. ECR 
Smith missed all of 2017 with a pectoral injury which is going to cause him to be under drafted this year. But he shouldn't. He put up 99/30/4 and 86/18 in 2015 and 2016, respectively as an Oakland Raider. His tackle opportunity won't be as great in San Francisco with Reuben Foster there but Foster is slated to miss the first two games and there are still enough tackles for Smith to produce at LB3 levels even when Foster returns.

4Oren Burks LB - GB (7), +53 vs. ECR 
Burks, this year's third round selection out of Vanderbilt, is getting thrown right into a starting role due to the season-ending injury suffered by Jake Ryan in camp. The rookie has looked very solid in preseason and is quietly developing into one of this year's bigger sleepers. His overall value is a bit capped with Blake Martinez hogging tackles, but if Burks can secure a three-down role, he's going to be a LB3 at minimum.


1Josh Jones S - GB (7), +18 vs. ECR 
Much like Budda Baker, Jones was forced into a starting role during his rookie season after Morgan Burnett went down with an injury. With Burnett now in Pittsburgh, Jones will be the starter heading into the season and well positioned to pick up where he left off in 2017. The Packers are weak at the linebacker position especially after the season-ending injury to Jake Ryan, so there's a good chance Jones will see some linebacker snaps again this season. DB1 potential if the chips fall where we think they are going to for Jones.

2Jaquiski Tartt S - SF (11), +18 vs. ECR 
Tartt was producing at a fairly steady clip before going down with an injury in Week 9. At 6'1, 220 he plays more like a linebacker than a safety and 49ers often leverage him in that type of role. I fully expect him to be one of the more consistent tackle-producing safeties. He likely won't excel in the big play categories but he shouldn't hurt you there either.

3Justin Evans S - TB (5), +13 vs. ECR 
Even as a rookie, Evans wasted no time making his presence felt last year as he assumed the first team role in week 4. His season got cut a bit short with an injury he sustained in week 15, but will be fully healthy heading into 2018 and is locked in as the starting free safety. With three tackle hog linebackers in front him, he'll struggle to be an every week 4-5+ solo tackle guy, but should have a couple big tackle games and showed enough in the big play column to be considered as a DB2 with DB1- upside.

4Bradley McDougald S - SEA (7), +13 vs. ECR 
The Seahawks' defense is looking like it's going to be on the field more than they have in several years. And with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas likely gone, McDougald is well positioned to have a breakout fantasy year. He put up 92 total tackles just two years ago (80 solo) and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he eclipses 100 in 2018.

Like what you've read so far? Looking to dominate your 2018 Fantasy Football draft(s)? For $6.99 you can get complete access to The IDP Guru's comprehensive and exhaustive 2018 IDP Fantasy Football Draft Guide.


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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 22, 2018
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