Nothing helps make a fantasy football team better than correctly hitting on a sleeper or two. Early-rounders form the baseline for your team, but when you find a late-round gem who takes a giant leap, that’s how you win a league.
As IDP continues to grow in popularity, who are some defensive players you can target in your drafts to get an advantage over the rest of your league? Let’s dive in.
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2023 IDP Fantasy Football Sleepers
This article looks at five players who could emerge and help carry your team to a title in 2023. Specifically, we’ll look at players at each IDP position to target. For anyone newer to IDP, scoring systems vary widely, but this is the scoring system used.
Since IDP doesn’t have a consensus ADP, this article will use FantasyPros’ IDP rankings. To be considered a sleeper, the player needed to fall outside the top 24 at their position.
Jaelan Phillips, DL, Miami Dolphins
The top DL breakout is Jaelan Phillips, who’s disappointed his first couple of seasons from a sack perspective. A solid 8.5-sack rookie season gave way to just a lowly seven sacks as a sophomore. Digging deeper, though, shows that this was likely an outlier outcome, and he easily could’ve had double that in 2022.
Last season, from a data standpoint, Phillips generated pressure at a similar level in his second season to guys like Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, and T.J. Watt. Those three posted 13 or more sacks in their second seasons. They also are all within the top five players drafted at DL, while Phillips sits down at No. 26 on FantasyPros’ DL rankings.
Azeez Ojulari, DL, New York Giants
The other DL breakout is Azeez Ojulari, who is likely only so low due to his injury in 2022. As a rookie, Ojulari posted eight sacks and followed that up with 5.5. in just seven games. With teammate Kayvon Thibodeaux going into Year 2 and attracting extra attention, don’t sleep on Ojulari posting a sack total in the mid-teens.
"I can't wait to get out there and attack"
– Azeez Ojulari pic.twitter.com/2PxOUHfWTV
— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) August 21, 2023
Ojulari might be a concern to some because they’re worried he doesn’t have a floor, with just 14 combined tackles in his seven games last year. That total was 49 in 17 games as a rookie, and for the low price of DL49, he’s well worth the investment. Especially in leagues that favor sacks, he’s a perfect fit among these IDP fantasy football sleepers.
Nakobe Dean, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
Do you know how many snaps Nakobe Dean played as a rookie on defense? That would be a measly 34. The top LBs, TJ Edwards and Kyzir White, maintained good health in 2022, so Dean wasn’t needed. Edwards left for Chicago and White for Arizona this offseason, and the Eagles minimally invested in the position.
Dean has been the player wearing the “green dot” (aka the player relaying plays from the coach to his teammates). This means he’s in line for the every-down role that saw Edwards post 159 combined tackles, two sacks, and seven passes defended. Even if he’s less efficient than Edwards, how many 120+ tackle guys are ranked outside the top 24 LBs (LB25)?
Kaden Elliss, LB, Atlanta Falcons
Typically, it’s hard to project a player’s role when they change teams. Kaden Elliss is a bit of an exception because he’s following Ryan Nielsen (his defensive coordinator) from New Orleans to Atlanta. Elliss was not a full-time player in 2022 but filled in regularly for an injured Pete Werner. This was his first season seeing significant defensive snaps.
All Elliss did with those snaps was post 78 combined tackles and a whopping seven sacks. This is despite only eclipsing 50% of snaps once prior to Week 9.
He’s been wearing the green dot this preseason over his teammate Troy Andersen. Andersen is LB33, while Elliss is LB46 on FantasyPros’ rankings. Be patient, and you might land the better value of IDP fantasy football sleepers at a later pick.
Daxton Hill, S, Cincinnati Bengals
The final player to touch on in this article is the only DB, Daxton Hill. Hill was a first-round NFL Draft selection of the Bengals in 2022 who barely saw the field as a rookie. Cincinnati was preparing to lose a safety, and both Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III left for new teams this offseason. This allows Hill to jump into a full-time role in 2023.
So far this preseason, Hill appears on track for a valuable DB role for IDP fantasy football. Hill has a better rate of box snaps to deep snaps than either Jordan Battle or Nick Scott, the other two battling for Hill’s running mate.
The role is there for him to easily hit top-24 value with a ceiling in the top 10. Yet, FantasyPros has him down at DB40. Hill is an elite option if you’re looking for a DB late.
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