2012 IDP Monk's NFL Fantasy Football Sleeper Rankings

Monk’s Favorite DL Sleeper Picks

Some DLs to note that I listed as sleepers last year in this column were DE Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG) and DE Jason Babin (Phi), both of whom were massive fantasy DLs last year. If you had either (or both), you were sitting pretty.

Here are my 2012 DL sleepers:

DE Kamerion Wimbley (Ten) – You’re going to see a common thread between my first two sleepers, and that’s a change in designation from LB in 2011 to DE in 2012. This is excited for us IDP nerds. Wimbley is a sack specialist who we always hesitated to draft too high because of LB title. But now we can enjoy that production and athleticism as our DE and this immediately opens up his ceiling. Over the last two years, Wimbley has consistently averaged 60 tackles and 8 sacks per season.

DE Cameron Wake (Mia) – Exactly what I said for Wimbley – Wake features the same designation change from LB in 2011 to DE in 2012. In 2010, Wake had a whopping 14 sacks and 60 tackles. His production fell off last year with 42 tackles and 8.5 sacks, but the point is his DE potential is very exciting as well (now, if only we could get Aldon Smith designated as a DE instead of an LB…)

DT Kyle Williams (Buf) – He was plagued by foot problems last year and basically missed the season, so he’s off people’s radar right now. In his previous three seasons, he put up 55 tackles in ’08, 66 tackles in ’09 and 77 tackles in ’10. In each of those years, he averaged 5 sacks a year. Those are extremely high tackle numbers for a DT and put Ndamukong Suh’s 36 tackles and 4 sacks to shame last year. Consider the difference between the ADP of Suh and Williams, This makes Williams my sleeper of the year in DT-required leagues.

Sleeper DL of the Year

DE Carlos Dunlap (Cin) – Dunlap’s potential is off the charts based on how many “hurries” he had last year. He had to be one of the most frustrated players in football, considering how few rotations he was getting at DE and how many “just missed sacks” he had. If he could have converted just a quarter of those pressure percentages into sacks, he would have been in the double digits.

All indications in camp show that he is the main man this year, so that will give him more opportunities to turn some of those “hurries” into sacks. Currently, he has a dinged up knee, but nothing serious. Based on his very low ADP in mock drafts this year, Carlos Dunlap is mySLEEPER DL OF THE YEAR.

Other notables I feel will exceed their ADP this year are Robert Quinn (Stl), Adrian Clayborn(TB), and rookie sleeper Fletcher Cox (Phi).

Monk’s Favorite LB Sleeper Picks

By definition in fantasy, a sleeper is a player who has a strong chance to out-perform their average draft position (ADP). Many tend to think that sleepers are players that are not well known so I wanted to clarify the definition ahead of time because many of the players below are very well known.

Some LBs to note that I listed as sleepers last year in this column were MLB D’Qwell Jackson (Cle), ILB Daryl Washington (Ari), ILB Nick Barnett (Buf), ILB Donald Butler (SD) and MLB Rey Maualuga (Cin), all of whom contributed nicely to my IDP teams last year.

Without further ado, here are my 2012 LB sleepers:

Colin McCarthy (Ten) – He doesn’t appear to be a sleeper to anyone who has looked at IDP cheat sheets this season, but I have him as a sleeper because I believe he will finish as a top-five LB this year. So, although he doesn’t deserve the distinction of “huge sleeper,” as he is already ranked high on most boards, I’m predicting that you will see his name above guys like James Laurinaitis and Derrick Johnson as we approach the 2013 season.

D.J. Smith (GB) – Desmond Bishop’s torn hamstring sounds pretty bad, and he might miss the entire 2012 season. Smith did a nice job filling in for A.J. Hawk last year as well as Bishop when he missed some time in 2011. Prior to Nick Barnett going down for the Packers, Bishop was just an unknown backup as well, and now he’s a top-three IDP LB this year (or was). So my belief is Smith will surprise and be a strong #3 LB to have on your roster, especially considering that you can get him at the end of most of your drafts this year.

Donald Butler (SD) – Although Butler was a sleeper for me last year as well, I don’t feel he reached his full potential so I believe he’s still a sleeper value for you. He finished just shy of 100 total tackles last year and flashed some big-play abilities in the form of a long pick 6 return as well as a couple sacks and forced fumbles.

Lance Briggs (Chi) – This is a case where people feel let down by his production over the last couple years because they became accustomed to 120 tackles a year through his first six years in the league. It is true that his production has dropped off, but the bad feelings have gone too far and are reflected in his low ADP this year. So Briggs is one to target in the late rounds as your potential LB4. Afterall, he does average 107 tackles a year over the last 9 years.

Sleeper LB of the Year

Kelvin Sheppard (Buf) – Sheppard finished his 2011 rookie year with 70 tackles. What’s important about that stat is that 59 of those happened in the final nine games of the season. Do the math, and that works out to be over 100 tackles for the season if he played all 16 games. He collected those tackles from the SILB spot.

Buffalo will transition back to a 4-3 defense this year. Head Coach Chan Gailey is on record as saying Sheppard will be the starting middle linebacker in their new 4-3. ”I know Shep’s going to be in the middle,” Gailey said. “Don’t hold me to anything after that. Shep’s in the middle, I know that.” Seems pretty clear.

I’ve been playing IDP football for a long time and anyone who has played IDP ball over the last five years or so knows to keep an eye on Buffalo’s defense because it’s always been a system that produces big tackle numbers. Here are a few examples:

From 2002 through 2006, London Fletcher averaged 145 tackles per season. From 2007-2010, Paul Posluszny averaged 142 tackles per 16 game season. When Poz was hurt, John DiGiorgio tallied 113 tackles as a fill-in, and that’s desite being such a poor football player that he was out of the league one year later.

The point here is that if Sheppard is the MLB, he is basically a guarantee for over 100 tackles and the ceiling is high as you just saw above in the 140 range. Considering he’s not even being drafted in many IDP mocks this year, he’s my SLEEPER LB OF THE YEAR.

Other notables I feel will exceed their ADP this year are Erin Henderson (Min),Connor Barwin (Hou), Paris Lenon (Ari), and very deep sleeper Thomas Davis (Car).

Monk’s DB Sleeper Picks

Some DBs to note that I listed as sleepers last year in this column were S George Wilson (Buf), SS Kam Chancellor (Sea), SS Morgan Burnett (GB), and S Jairus Byrd (Buf), all of whom contributed nicely to my IDP teams last year.

Here are my 2012 DB sleepers:

SS T.J. Ward (Cle) – Due to an injury-plagued season and the emergence D’Qwell Jackson, Ward let down all of the IDP world last year, as he was the #1 DB pick on many people’s list. Because of that, he’s being drafted way lower than his potential and that makes him a value to target if he slips to the later rounds in your draft. We all know he has the potential for a 120 tackles, because we’ve seen him do it. That’s more than you can say for many of the defensive backs that are being drafted at his same ADP. Ward’s quotes in the media entering camp imply that he wants to erase last year and really step up his game. He feels fresh and 100% healthy and you have to love his upside as a sleeper this year.

CB Alterraun Verner (Ten) – Any time this kid has seen the field in the past, he produces IDP points. Part of it is that he is in the right system, and the other is he is a freak athlete who makes things happen. He makes a solid DB ¾ target in leagues that don’t require a CB, but makes a high upside CB2 in leagues that do require a cornerback starter. Remember, Tennessee has to replace the strong IDP production of the departed Cortland Finnegan.

SS Tom Zbikowski (Ind) – Basically, he’s on no one’s radar, but with the foot injury to LB Pat Angerer and a rookie I learning how to play in the NFL on the other side of the ball, I think Zbikowski is going to see a lot of action at strong safety his year. He was good enough to keepBernard Pollard on the bench most of the season last year in Baltimore, and while he’s definitely no Eric Berry, but he’s a guy that you will probably not even have to draft and he could produce as well as a low end DB3 for you.

Sleeper DB of the Year

SS Jordan Babineaux (Ten) – Babineaux flashed IDP greatness last year stepping in for an injured Chris Hope. He also showed enough “real NFL” skills to allow the Titans to let Hope find a new team. Both of these factors are crucial, as the only thing holding owners back with Babineaux last year was the fear that Hope would take his job back at any moment and they’d lose their stud DB. Now with Hope gone and knowing Babineaux gets the full nod from the Titans, we can breathe easy and enjoy those 6-10 tackles a game that Babineaux was totaling for us.

In part-time play last year, he totaled 93 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles and a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown. He’s being drafted about 10 safeties after Troy Polamalu, but I feel he’ll finish the season with better numbers than him so that’s why he’s my SLEEPER DB OF THE YEAR.

Other notables I feel will exceed their ADP this year are Kenny Phillips (NYG), Brandon Meriwether (Was), and very deep sleeper Quinton Carter (Den).

1 comment:

Ryan Sitzmann said...

Nice article Monk! I completely agree with you on all the sleepers mentioned. My only concern is about Kelvin Sheppard. If you look at his current ADP, he's currently being taken at LB34 (according to MFL data). Although, I believe he can greatly outproduce that draft position, the fact remains that he's likely to start the season as a two down linebacker with Bryan Scott subbing for him in nickel situations. Plus, he still has to fend for tackles amongst a much improved front four and Nick Barnett on the weak side.

As you mentioned, The Bills system has been quite productive from a fantasy standpoint, but players like LFB and Paul Posluszny were every down players.

Also, Sheppard has been on virtually every "sleeper" list I've seen this season and, as a result, his ADP skyrocketed from where it was early in the off-season diminishing his value a bit in some drafts.

I'm not arguing that Sheppard isn't a great IDP prospect, but until the Bills give him a chance to play in subpackages, I see him more of a LB3/4 matchup play. In my opinion, he's worth a LB4 pickup in redraft leagues or low-end LB3 at most, but it's hard to spend much more on him when you can snag guys like Riley, McClain, Barnett, Urlacher, etc. around the same draft position.