Each week Gary Davenport will dig deep to identify the top IDP sleepers you can slide into your lineups without missing a beat.
With the 2019 NFL season about to get underway, IDP enthusiasts far and wide are getting their lineups ready for the first week of the fantasy football campaign. And while many (if not most) teams are relatively set in regard to their starters, some folks are in a position no one wants to be in heading into the first game of the season.
Staring at a hole in the lineup.
Yeah, that about sums it up.
Maybe you drafted early and picked up Jabaal Sheard of the Indianapolis Colts as a DL2 before he injured his knee. Or took New York Jets inside linebacker Avery Williamson before he suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Maybe you spent an early pick on Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James before a foot injury landed him on injured reserve.
Maybe the draft just didn’t go the way you hoped. Or it did, but your IDP starters have matchups to start the season that give you the same feeling as a 4 AM Taco Bell binge.
Whatever the case, if you’re looking for a Week 1 IDP sleepers, you’ve come to the right place.
This isn’t to say that the individual defensive players listed here will single-handedly win you a matchup in Week 1. Or that you should consider sitting Seattle Seahawks inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald or Washington Redskins safety Landon Collins in favor of them.
But each of the unheralded IDP sleepers listed here is set up for at least a decent statistical outing in Week 1—the kind of outing that will keep you in the hunt for a first-week W.
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Week 1 IDP Sleepers
Sam Hubbard, DE, Cincinnati Bengals (at SEA)
Hubbard was a bright spot for the Bengals as a rookie, tallying 39 tackles and six sacks in a rotational role. Teammate Carl Lawson told Richard Skinner of WKRC that he expects Hubbard to make an even bigger impact in Year 2 of his NFL career.
“We’ve got a great group of guys that can do everything, and you know, we just want to put in some stuff in at camp,” said Lawson. “We’ve got so many guys that are versatile, like Sam Hubbard, that can do anything on the field and we all want to kind of go in and that be our motto. That’s what the NFL is, being able to be multiple because as you’ve seen the past two years, when you sit there and have run defenders and there are pass rushers, teams exploit it.”
That rotational role capped Hubbard’s upside last year, and many IDP drafters looked at the former Ohio State star’s stats for the season and passed on draft day. But Hubbard’s a tough, athletic end who can both set the edge and collapse the pocket. Sunday’s game in Seattle is going to open some eyes—and make Hubbard a hot waiver wire target.
Jerry Hughes, DE, Buffalo Bills (at NYJ)
At first glance, the 37 tackles and seven sacks Hughes amassed in 2019 might not appear to merit an extension worth over $11 million a season. But head coach Sean McDermott told Curtis Rush of Forbes that the 31-year-old’s value to the team goes well beyond just sacks.
“Everyone wants the sack numbers,” McDermott said. “Just as important, at times, is how many times you affect the quarterback, whether it’s getting him off his spot, his vision, his arm, and the way the ball comes out. I think a lot of interceptions, a lot of incompletions, come from just getting the quarterback moved off his spot, affecting his vision, affecting the trajectory of the ball, his arm.”
In fairness, Hughes’ IDP value is all about those sacks, tackles and forced fumbles, and in that regard, last year’s numbers were pretty blah. But the veteran’s at the very least a matchup option capable of taking advantage of a Jets team that was a top-10 IDP matchup for defensive ends in 2018.
Sam Eguavoen, OLB, Miami Dolphins (vs. BAL)
Eguavoen surprisingly climbed from CFL standout to training camp star to three-down starter for the Dolphins this summer. While speaking to Kyle Crabbs of Dolphins Wire, the 26-year-old credited playing on a wider field in Canada with helping him develop the range he showed off in camp and the preseason.
“It’s a 65-yard-wide field there and in the NFL, I believe it’s 53 (yards). That’s huge,” said Eguavoen. “If they throw a screen to the left side here and I’m dropping to the weak hook, I can get there. If I’m running full speed, I’m going to get there. In the CFL, sometimes you don’t get there; but you’re trained to go sideline to sideline out there since the field is so big.”
Despite earning the Week 1 start in Miami, Eguavoen is still flying undet the radar in quite a few IDP leagues. After a top-five fantasy matchup for linebackers in which the Ravens are likely to be grinding out a second-half lead, odds are that won’t be the case.
Kyzir White, ILB, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. IND)
The Chargers linebackers were a carousel in 2018, largely due to injuries. Kyzir White was one of the players who went down, but the second-year pro told Hayley Elwood of the team’s website that he’s healthy again and ready to put last season’s struggles in the rearview mirror.
“It means everything to me,” White said about being ready for the season opener. “After being on the sideline and watching my teammates play, it was a tough feeling. But now that I’m back healthy and I get a chance to go out there and contribute and help out, I’m excited.”
The injury-go-round in L.A. has already begun anew—with Denzel Perryman still working his way back there are reports that it will be White who will start at middle linebacker in the season opener against the Colts. Both he and veteran weak-side linebacker Thomas Davis are good spot-starts against an Indianapolis team that will lean more on tailback Marlon Mack and the run game after Andrew Luck’s retirement.
Terrell Edmunds, S, Pittsburgh Steelers (at NEP)
Edmunds was the Steelers’ first-round-pick last year and was named the team’s top rookie by area sportswriters, but his first year in the NFL admittedly had its ups and downs. Edmunds told Teresa Varley of the team’s website that he’s aiming for more of the former and less of the latter in 2019.
“I want to show that I got better,” Edmunds said. “That’s what I was working on this offseason, talking to the guys, staying motivated. We are building off things to become a better team and this year we are going to come at it. Just put it all out there so we don’t have to talk about it so much.”
Despite Edmunds’ first-round pedigree, he was mostly a non-factor in IDP drafts this summer. However, he also wouldn’t be the first young defensive back who took a while to find his statistical stride, and Sunday night’s trip to Gillette Stadium presents him with a solid IDP matchup to open the 2019 campaign.
Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots (vs. PIT)
At 32 years of age, McCourty is entering the 10th year of a standout career that’s seen him make it to the Pro Bowl twice and win three Super Bowls. The former first-round pick from Rutgers told Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston that he hasn’t considered whether this next season will be his last.
“It was always a goal – once I got into the league – to play 10 years, so it means a lot,” said McCourty. “The average (NFL career) is three (years), and a lot of guys who get to stick around are like, man, it’d be awesome to play 10 years. To be in my 10th year and still feel pretty healthy, to go out here and compete, just being able to do that, obviously, I don’t think about it every day. But to come in and be like, man, this is my 10th training camp, I take pride in that and just trying to keep it going.”
For most of those nine years in the league, McCourty’s been a much better NFL player than IDP option. However, he has shown the ability to post the occasional big stat line if the matchup’s right—like say a prime-time tilt against a Steelers team that was among the league leaders in fantasy points surrendered to defensive backs in 2018.
Got a few IDP sleepers of your own? Let us know about them in the comments below. You don’t get to say, “I told you so,” if you don’t tell us so. For more great analysis check out the 2019 Fantrax Fantasy Football Draft Kit.
A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Davenport has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications, including the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization’s Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. He knows football. Or so he’s heard.
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