Identifying individual defensive player (IDP) sleepers for the 2021 fantasy football season can be difficult. A team changing their defensive coordinator or a player moving up on the depth chart are optimal scenarios. Another is when a player is signed or traded to a new team. Based on training camp observations, all of the players mentioned below are in a position to prosper in 2021.
Fantasy Football IDP Sleepers 2021 | Defensive Linemen
Beginning with the behemoths up front, who are the top IDP sleepers heading into 2021?
Josh Allen, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars drafted Allen No. 7 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. He led all rookies with 10.5 sacks, which is also the most by a rookie in franchise history. However, Allen’s statistical production dropped last season in a limited role. He struggled to stay healthy and only played in eight games, finishing with 7 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Now, Allen is healthy heading into 2021 and has had a solid training camp and preseason. Still, Allen found himself on the COVID-19 list, meaning he has either tested positive or has been in close contact with someone that has. He’ll go through protocols to make his way off of the list.
Allen is primed to be a key contributor in the Jaguars’ defense. His role will be multifaceted. Allen will be tasked to rush the quarterback and contribute in pass coverage. This is the type of versatility that could make him a top-tier IDP fantasy option.
Chris Jones, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
The sixth-year defensive lineman has spent his entire career in Kansas City. Jones has accumulated 40.5 sacks since his rookie season in 2016. Did you know that is the second-most among defensive tackles over that time frame?
Last season, Jones averaged 6.1 fantasy points per game and registered 7.5 sacks to lead the Chiefs for the third consecutive season. This year, he is transitioning from defensive tackle to defensive end, which bodes well for his fantasy outlook in IDP formats.
Danielle Hunter, DT, Minnesota Vikings
In 2019, Hunter stockpiled 153 fantasy points and finished as a top-25 player in IDP formats. He tied for fourth in the NFL with 14.5 sacks that season, tying his career-high set in 2018. Unfortunately, Hunter missed all of last season due to herniated disc surgery. He’s looked like himself during training camp and is in an excellent position to bounce back this season.
Fantasy Football IDP Sleepers 2021 | Linebackers
Linebackers are tasked with stopping the run and dropping into coverage. As a result, they are typically the most productive IDP position, thanks to their ability in the middle of the defense.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Simmons is on the cusp of a breakout season. His primary role will be as Arizona’s inside linebacker. But one observation I had during training camp is that the team plans on leveraging his versatility. The Cardinals’ coaching staff have had the 2020 first-round pick participate in drills with the outside linebackers and cornerbacks. Simmons should have an epic fantasy season in 2021.
Preston Smith, LB, Green Bay Packers
In 2020, Smith saw a significant drop in fantasy production. He had more coverage responsibilities in Mike Pettine’s defense. This could have affected his play, but Smith also saw a decrease in quarterback pressures and sacks. The good news is that Smith played for the Packers’ new defensive coordinator, Joe Barry, in Washington. A bounce-back season is imminent for Smith in 2021.
Bud Dupree, LB, Tennessee Titans
Many in the Titans’ organization are excited to see what Dupree brings to the table this season. The prized free agent signed with Tennessee after a phenomenal career with the Steelers. He amassed 39.5 sacks, including 19.5 in 27 games over the last two seasons. Dupree also added 24 tackles for loss and 6 forced fumbles over that span. He should contribute immediately to a pass rush that finished 30th in the NFL last year with only 19 sacks.
Which defensive backs should you target in IDP fantasy leagues?
Amani Hooker, S, Tennessee Titans
Hooker will be one of many new starters in Tennessee’s secondary this year. The former fourth-rounder has impressed the team’s coaching staff during training camp and preseason games. Hooker now has an opportunity to shine under defensive coordinator Shane Bowen and safeties coach Scott Booker after waiting in the wings during his first two NFL seasons.
As a reminder, Hooker accumulated 125 tackles, 9 pass breakups, 6 interceptions, a sack, and a defensive touchdown in 25 games at the University of Iowa.