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IDP -- Deep Sleepers
Darin Tietgen
July 18, 2005

With the emergence of leagues that use individual defensive players (“IDPs”), so comes the eventual clamoring for more information on IDPs, and specifically, how to a answer WDIS quandaries. Well, before you get to the WDIS questions, you need to know who to draft. Some IDP leagues start multiple players for each position; for example, 3 LBs, 2 DLs, 2 DBs, etc. That being said, you may to have to dig a bit to find backups for these spots, or if you’re in a deep and/or keeper/dynasty league, possible starters. With this in mind, below is a list of IDP players that didn’t make it to The Huddle’s IDP rankings, but should be considered in late rounds when you’re looking for that deep sleeper as your third starting or backup LB or backup at DL or DB.

LINEBACKERS

Tommy Polley - Baltimore: Polley has the pedigree and size to be a dominating LB, but hasn’t put it all together as of yet. Perhaps moving to the best defense in the NFL (Baltimore) will wake him up. He had a solid rookie season with the Rams in 2001, and a very good season in 2003 with 68 tackles, 4 INTs and 7 passes defended. With Ray Lewis commanding attention, perhaps Polley will have a good 2005 season. Fantasy Positioning: 3 rd starting LB in very deep IDP league, backup in most other leagues.

Orlando Huff - Arizona: Fellow Cardinal LB James Darling had a good but relatively unknown fantasy season in 2004, finishing in the top-30 (using the point system referenced below). Darling remains on the weak side with Huff starting in the middle. Huff had three very average seasons with the Seahawks, but joins an improved Cardinal team. Middle linebackers typically rack up a lot of fantasy points, so Huff is certainly worth drafting. Fantasy Positioning: Potentially, Huff could be a solid #2 LB in most leagues. For now, draft him late and hold him on your bench unless you’re in a deep league where you must start three LBs.

Nate Webster - Cincinnati: What’s not to like about Webster? He hails from Linebacker U ( U. of Miami), spent three years in a superb defensive system in Tampa Bay, and now plays for one of the better defensive coaches in the league in Marvin Lewis. Webster was off to a great start to his 2004 campaign before injuring his knee. He’s had some setbacks in his rehab, and the news out of Cincinnati is rookie Odell Thurman will start at MLB. However, if Thurman falters and/or Webster’s knee rehab moves along quickly, Webster could be a nice sleeper for those looking for a solid third LB. Fantasy Positioning: In deep leagues, draft him very late or grab him off waivers early in the season and stash him on your bench.

Raynoch Thompson - Green Bay: Thompson had a couple of incredible seasons with the Cardinals, but that was in 2001-2002. He’s since slipped a bit, but finds himself in a decent situation with the Packers. He’s only 27, so he’s in his prime. If he can find a way into the starting roster, he could certainly put up decent fantasy numbers. Na’il Diggs and Nick Barnett are penciled in at two LB spots, but incumbent Hannibal Navies is nothing special. Rookie Brady Poppinga is supposedly impressing the coaching staff and may make a case for starting. If not, Thompson is a good of a bet as Navies. Given the chance, Thompson could be a solid backup LB. Fantasy Positioning: In very deep leagues, grab him as a free agent and stash him on your bench.

E.J. Henderson - Minnesota: Did you know Henderson was ranked in the top-50 LBs in most IDP leagues last season? Well, racking up 93 tackles will do that. Hardly the kind of numbers of a deep sleeper, but considering the Vikings brought in the grizzly veteran Sam Cowart, Henderson moves to sleeper status. The Viking defense took major strides in the off-season through their draft and free-agent signings. If Henderson can get on the field, he can obviously put up fantasy points. Fantasy Positioning: Draft him very late in large leagues or pick him up in free agency. He eventually could be a solid #3 LB or backup fodder.

Andre Carter - San Francisco: I list him here as a sleeper LB based on the fact that he’ll probably have both DE and LB eligibility. He can rack up the sacks in a hurry, and while he won’t get you the sheer tackle numbers of most LBs, as a backup LB, he could serve well as a bye-week or injury filler based on his ability to rush the QB and the fact that the Niners defense will see a lot of time on the field. Fantasy Positioning: Don’t draft him, but see how the Niners use him as a hybrid DE/LB in the first few games and pick him up if he’s getting 5+ tackles a game in addition to the sacks.

Lofa Tatupu - Seattle: Tatupu was mentioned in the IDP Rookie column, and for good reason. He’s in a great situation in Seattle, with the generally untested Niko Koutouvides ahead of him on the depth chart. Koutouvides could conceivably be moved to the weak side, opening up a spot for Tatupu. Tatupu, like his fellow USC Samoan Troy Palomalu, has a motor and can hit. Fantasy Positioning: If he’s given the starting nod, he’s certainly worth starting as your #3 or even #2 LB. If you have a deep bench, perhaps draft him late or pick him up off the free agent list early in the season. As a starter, he’d be a must-have.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Igor Olshansky - San Diego: On name value alone this guy is worth drafting. Igor’s a physical specimen and will start from Week 1 for the Bolts. The San Diego defense was outstanding last season, and improved with the drafting of Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo. These rookies will play important spot roles, but won’t limit Olshansky’s potential. Fantasy Positioning: Most leagues only start one or two DLs, so at best, Olshansky’s worth watching early in the season and adding as a backup spot starter if he excels.

Matt Roth - Miami: Roth was mentioned in the rookie IDPs, as he has tremendous upside, pedigree, and that “motor” that is required for DE’s in the NFL. He has some work to do, obviously, with the very solid veteran Jason Taylor inked in at DE. However, on the other side of the line are the aging Kevin Carter and Jeff Zgonina. If Roth impresses in mini and training camps, he could certainly play a role in the Dolphin defense. Fantasy Positioning: In keeper/dynasty leagues, he’s a fantastic pick. In re-draft leagues, leave him in free agency but keep an eye on him if he beats out the dinosaurs and starts opposite Taylor.

Ebenezer Ekuban - Denver: Ekuban is somewhat of an enigma. He had some decent seasons with the Cowboys, sack-wise. He racked up 8 sacks for the Browns last season. He can’t seem, however, to dominate the line and get tackles. Most defensive lineman don’t get big tackle numbers, but Ekuban should improve on his 2 tackles per game to warrant fantasy importance. Given that he’s moved to Denver, however, he can be listed as a deep sleeper. Having the monster Trevor Pryce on the other side will bring single pass-coverage blocking to Ekuban (or current starter Raylee Johnson, who Ekuban should beat out). Fantasy Positioning: Don’t draft Ekuban, but keep him on your radar if you’re hurting at DL and need a guy that could potentially rack up double-digit sacks.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Deltha O’Neal - Cincinnati: O’Neal is overlooked as one of the better cover corners in the NFL. He got burned many a time in Denver, but also had some very good games covering some very good WRs. O’Neal’s value comes from an improved Bengal defense and the fact he will most likely return punts/kicks. If your league gives points for yards/TDs for returns, O’Neal has value. In 12 games for the Bengals last season, O’Neal accumulated nearly 40 tackles, 4 INTs and defended 11 passes. He’s slated to start, so could conceivably top 60 tackles, 6 INTs and 15 passes defended. Decent numbers for a backup DB. Fantasy Positioning: In very deep leagues where return yards count, he’s worth drafting as a #2 DB. In all other leagues, leave him in free agency but keep an eye on him.

Thomas Davis - Carolina: Another rookie that was covered in The Huddle’s rookie report, and Davis certainly is classified as a sleeper (however perhaps not “deep”). He’s listed as the backup SS to the very solid Mike Minter, but Minter could easily move to the FS spot (currently held by the very average Idrees Bashir), allowing Davis a starting role. Davis could put up top-5 fantasy numbers as a starting SS. Fantasy Positioning: In keeper/dynasty leagues, Davis is a must-have. He’s potentially the next Rodney Harrison. In re-draft leagues, he’s worth drafting in later rounds, as he’ll be on the field one way or another, and will produce.

Darrent Williams / Lenny Walls - Denver: Walls had a solid 2003 campaign with the Broncos, racking up 57 tackles and defending nearly a pass a game. Therefore, he’s currently slated to start at RCB, opposite Champ Bailey. As I referenced in my other column, CBs that start opposite ultra-studly shutdown CBs like Bailey are always worth a look, as they’ll have plenty of opportunities with the QB avoiding the shutdown CB. Williams was drafted to help on special teams, returning punts and kickoffs, but may impress enough to start at CB. He’s small (5’8”, 188 lbs.), but athletic. If he lands the starting gig and your league counts return yardage, he’s worth a look. Fantasy Positioning: Neither is worth drafting, even if your league counts return yards (Williams). If Walls grabs a few INTs early in the season, consider him as a backup. If your league counts return yards and Williams grabs the starting spot, consider him as a backup.

Philip Buchanon ( Houston: Buchanon knows all about playing opposite a stud, shutdown corner after spending three seasons in Oakland with Charles Woodson. Now he plays opposite the 2 nd-year sensation Dunta Robinson. Buchanon has skills, and if he’s tested, he’ll produce. He had 59 tackles and 3 INTs in just 14 games for the Raiders last season. He’ll conceivably rack up 75+ tackles and 5+ INTs for Houston. Fantasy Positioning: Not worth drafting, but certainly worth a look once the season starts if you’re weak at DB.

Gerome Sapp - Indianapolis: Rookie Matt Giordano is making a case for taking the opening day starting FS spot (incumbent Mike Doss is suspended), but Sapp could potentially start, too. He spent a year learning the ins and outs of championship defense in Baltimore before coming to Indianapolis in 2004. He had 27 tackles in very limited action last season. He could potentially help your fantasy team in the first few weeks of the season if he’s given the starting gig, but once Doss returns, should return to the bench. Fantasy Positioning: Not worth drafting, but pay attention to the news out of training camp and watch preseason games to see if he’s producing.

Mark Roman - Green Bay: Who? Mark Roman. Get to know the name. Savvy IDP vets should probably know the name, and I’m sure they’re salivating now that he’s in a good role. He had three average seasons with the Bengals, then came alive in 2003. He had a decent season for the Packers last season, but now the defensive backfield is all his, with the departure of Mike McKenzie and Darren Sharper. Green Bay defensive backs typically put up decent numbers, and Roman certainly can produce now that he’s given a shot. Fantasy Positioning: If you’re strong at DB (ie, Rodney Harrison is your #1 DB), take a late round flier on Roman as your #2 DB or backup. In shallower leagues, keep tabs on him early in the season, as strong safeties typically put up good fantasy numbers in terms of defensive back scoring.

Will Poole / Mario Edwards / Reggie Howard - Miami: OK so that’s a lot of names to follow for one position, but with Patrick Surtain now playing in Kansas City, it opens the door for either Poole, Edwards or Howard to start opposite the veteran and studly Sam Madison. Poole is probably the front-runner at this point, as with limited action in 2004, racked up 31 tackles, a sack and five passes defended. Edwards and Howard have more experience, but are better suited as backups and in the nickel package. Fantasy Positioning: Just something to watch, as Miami’s defense will be on the field plenty, and the CB opposite Madison will probably see plenty of action.

Justin Miller - New York Jets: Here’s a rookie that wasn’t mentioned in The Huddle’s rookie IDP rankings that probably deserves deep sleeper status. Miller was drafted to improve the Jets’ kick return game, but he can certainly hold his own as a cornerback, too. He’s currently listed as a situational CB, but could conceivably start for the Jets. In leagues that score return yards, he could be very valuable. Fantasy Positioning: In re-draft leagues that score return yards, he’s worth a late-round flier or merits watching as a free agent. In other re-draft leagues, just keep an eye on him. In keeper/dynasty leagues, however, he’s pretty valuable as far as CBs go.

Fabian Washington - Oakland: Washington was listed in The Huddle’s “Best of the Rest” rookie IDPs. He’s merits a look as a deep sleeper in leagues that award points for kick/punt and INT return TDs and return yardage. In short, Washington can fly. Al Davis loves the speedsters, and Washington could very well be the fastest man in the NFL. If he’s given a chance at the starting gig (he’s currently behind three veteran DBs), he would be worth a look, especially in keeper/dynasty leagues. Fantasy Positioning: Don’t draft him but keep an eye on him, especially if given the kick/punt returning duties from the get-go. If he’s given the starting CB job, he could be a surprise, as QBs will steer clear of Charles Woodson on the other side.

Jermaine Phillips - Tampa Bay: The Bucs signed Phillips early in the 2004 season as the incumbent to replace the legendary John Lynch. Phillips’ season came to an early end with an arm injury. He was having a decent fantasy season up until then. He’s back now, healthy, and is slated to start at strong safety for the Bucs, a position that has, in the past, been a fantasy producer. Fantasy Positioning: Strong safeties are, again, the better point-producers for DBs in IDP leagues, so he’s worth a very late pick or watching closely on the waiver wire.

Ryan Clark - Washington: Hey, did you know this guy had 91 tackles in 15 games last season? That led all Redskin DBs. DC Gregg Williams loves this guy, and with Sean Taylor possibly in shackles, Clark could really put up some big numbers for the Redskins. He’s competing for the strong safety spot. Fantasy Positioning: Clark’s worth a late-round flier in all leagues.

Note: Rankings and opinions were based on a point system of 2 points per tackle, 1 point per assisted tackle, 2 points for sack, 2 points for INT, 2 points for forced fumble or fumble recovery and 1.5 points per pass defended.