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IDP Sleepers - Week 8

  Updated 10/29 by Anthony Borbely, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

This article is a weekly look at players generally ranked around the edge of those considered "startable". For the purposes of this article, I will define startable as all players on the edge of starting on a team that starts 2 DL, 2 LBs, and 2 DBs. Therefore, about the middle of DL2, LB2 and DB2 range are usually where the choices begin to get tough. Each position is covered in descending order beginning with the players who have the most prime matchups to those with more risk and less upside to those who are complete reaches. Your mileage may vary, but the idea is to discuss these players and provide you with some analysis that might help you make those difficult lineup decisions a bit easier. I hope that your expertise as an owner has filled your team with enough players that you don't need to consider players outside of the prime cuts discussed here. Good luck and always keep in mind that your feedback and comments are welcome. I also want to thank and give credit to Bob Henry for creating the format for this article.


Defensive Linemen

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

  • Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions: After missing most of the first three games with an injury, Avril returned in week four and is playing like he did at the end of last season, when he racked up 10 solos, four sacks and three FFs in the last six games. In the three games he has played since returning, Avril has 11 solos, 2.5 sacks, and a FF. Doing the math, Avril has 21 solos, 6.5 sacks and four FFs in his last nine full games. Those are borderline top ten numbers. This week, Avril faces the Rams and although they are only in the middle of the sacks allowed category, they are in the top ten when it comes to QB pressures. Avril should have plenty of sack opportunities this week and also should have a respectable amount of chances to make plays in run defense with the likelihood of a heavy workload for Steven Jackson.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

  • Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts: I'll keep it simple. Freeney is putting up DL1 numbers, but I still think of him as a sleeper, not an automatic every week start. Let me explain. Freeney has a sack in all six of his games. In most leagues, if a DL gets a sack, his week is almost always good. Statistically, a sack is also a tackle, so Freeney's seven sacks are also seven tackles. The problem with Freeney is that he only has three tackles all year that are not from a sack. Basically, if Freeney fails to get a sack, his week will usually be a disaster from a fantasy perspective. Personally, I would not start Freeney unless his matchup is decent and that is how I define a sleeper. The criteria I use is that I eliminate the every week fantasy starters in a league that starts two at each position and then find some sleepers out of who is left. I realize Freeney has a sack in every game and is near the top ten, but past experience tells me to look beyond the raw numbers. This week, Freeney faces the 49ers and they often struggle to protect the passer. That is the kind of matchup that tells me to start Freeney. I still have a hard time putting Freeney in the prime cut category because the risk is always high with Freeney because of his low tackle numbers.

  • Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tennessee Titans: Vanden Bosch does not have a sack this year and there are numerous reasons for it. The Titans have trailed early and opposing offenses have not been forced to pass. This can neutralize a pass rush. A bigger reason is the Titans secondary has been ravaged with injuries and they have not played well even when healthy. In watching Vanden Bosch, I don't see a decline in his play, but results are what matters and Vanden Bosch has not put up much in the way of fantasy numbers. The bye week should help the Titans get healthy and recharge a bit after a brutal start to the season. The Jaguars are next on the schedule and they have been average in pass protection. They want to establish the running game and that should give Vanden Bosch plenty of chances to make tackles in the running game. Other than Mike Sims-Walker, the Jags' WRs aren't going to scare anyone and if the secondary can just cover the receivers for a split second longer, Vanden Bosch could have a few sack opportunities. Vanden Bosch has not played as bad as his numbers suggest and this very well could be his breakout week.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

  • Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams: Little has been solid in most of the games in which he has had a favorable matchup. He has 12 solos and four sacks on the season and is one of the first players I look for when it comes to a sleeper prospect. This week Little faces the Lions and they have been a good matchup for pass rushing specialists. Little should have a few sack opportunities against the Lions, who are in the top ten in sack opportunities allowed. He is still a bit of a risk because the Rams limit his snaps to keep him fresh.

  • Alex Brown & Gaines Adams, Chicago Bears: With the trade for Gaines Adams a couple of weeks ago, the Bears' rotation at DE is in question. With that in mind, pay attention to any potential news about the playing time of the Chicago DEs. I personally think Adams will gain more playing time as the season progresses, especially on definitive passing downs. The Bears play the Browns this week and they are in the top ten in sack opportunities allowed. Adams may be riskier because it is uncertain how many snaps he will play. Both are decent low-level sleepers if you are in need of defensive linemen with good matchups and decent upside.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

  • Ray Edwards, Minnesota Vikings: Edwards has a great matchup against the Packers, but he is so inconsistent and such an underachiever that I find it impossible to recommend him as anything more than a start for desperate fantasy owners. I admit that he does have upside, but he just disappears too often for me to advise starting him. But you could do a lot worse if you are really in need.


Linebackers

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

  • Mike Peterson, Atlanta Falcons: Peterson has been solid overall for the Falcons, racking up 30 solos, nine assists, and a sack this year. His familiarity with head coach Mike Smith from their Jacksonville days has helped his numbers from the start of the season. Peterson has two games that can be called clunkers, but both of those games were against teams that allowed a low number of tackle opportunities. In the other four games, Peterson has averaged 6.5 solos per game, which are LB1 numbers. This week, Peterson has a great matchup with the Saints, who are second in the league in tackle opportunities allowed. Even with stud LB Curtis Lofton playing next to him, Peterson should still have a strong statistical game and therefore should be in all lineups this week.

  • Nick Barnett, Green Bay Packers: Barnett had a solid game last week against the Browns, a team that was not exactly a great matchup. Barnett appears to be fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered last year and is making plays all over the field. That is a pleasant surprise for his fantasy owners because it usually takes close to two years to completely recover from a torn ACL. Barnett has 24 solos and four assists in his last three games and he has a great matchup against the Vikings this week. Inside LBs have put up huge numbers against the Vikings this year and Barnett himself has 10 tackles against them earlier this season. The matchup is great, Barnett is beginning to play like a stud again and he should be at the top of all sleeper lists. Barnett is soon to be an every week start regardless of matchup unless he regresses.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

  • Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals: Dansby has quietly put up solid tackle numbers, but surprisingly, he has done little in the big play department. Dansby has had 24 sacks in the last five year, but this year he only has a single sack in six games. This week, Dansby faces the Panthers and they are a very good matchup all the way around for a player like Dansby. First, they will probably try to establish the running game early to take pressure off of their QB. Second, there have been rumblings about who the QB will be. Head coach John Fox was noncommittal when asked if Delhomme would start. He has struggled mightily and has been a turnover machine. Delhomme also has been sacked 15 times. If one of the backup QBs start, Dansby could be unleashed in the blitz packages and that could propel him to a big statistical game. The tackle numbers should be solid and the chance of some big plays makes Dansby a solid sleeper this week. The only red flag is his lack of sacks this year.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

  • Bart Scott, New York Jets: Scott has been a bit of a disappointment to his fantasy owners and part of the reason is David Harris playing like a stud again. Scott has had some decent games, but has not done anything in the big play department. When I say he has not done anything, I mean he has zero fantasy points outside of those awarded for tackles. The tackle numbers have been decent, but with no peripheral numbers to go along with them, Scott has been little more than a spot starter this year. When looking for sleepers, a decent spot starter with a great matchup is all we can ask for. This week, Scott has a great matchup against Miami, who allow more tackle opportunities than any other team in the league. Scott had nine solos against Miami in week five. Miami has faced two teams that run the 3-4, the Jets and Chargers. Scott and Harris combined for 15 solos against Miami and Chargers' ILBs Stephen Cooper and Kevin Burnett combined for 14 solos and seven assists. Scott is a decent sleeper this week, but Harris has put up monster tackle numbers and combined with Scott's low big play numbers, it keeps Scott listed with the lower level sleepers. He does have upside though, but I had to mention the risk too.

  • Kaluka Maiava, Cleveland Browns: Maiava replaced the injured D'Qwell Jackson in the Browns and the rookie responded with back-to-back games of five solo tackles. Maiava faces the Bears this week and inside LBs have put up solid tackle numbers against them. Maiava will lose some tackles to Eric Barton, but there should be enough scraps to make Maiava a decent low-grade sleeper this week. He does have upside because the Browns offense is so bad that their defense could spend a lot of time on the field.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

  • Andra Davis, Denver Broncos: Davis is one of the few 2-down LBs who I think could make a decent sleeper. He is a sure tackler in the run game and the Ravens still like to run the ball, albeit not as much as they have in the past. If you are desperate for a LB this week, take a look at Davis. He is averaging five solos per game and has a solid matchup. You can't ask for much more from a sleeper than that.


Defensive Backs

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

  • Erik Coleman, Atlanta Falcons: Coleman's tackle numbers have been wildly inconsistent this year. He has three games with seven or more solos and three games with four or fewer. Coleman has been a productive IDP in the past and if the matchup is right, he should be given strong consideration for a starting spot in fantasy lineups. In the last two weeks, Coleman has 16 solos and six assists and that trend should continue this week as Coleman has a great matchup against the Saints. Strong safeties have averaged eight solos against the Saints this year and I see no reason for Coleman to not join that tackle parade. There are some games that a sleeper looks like money on paper and this is one of them, so get Coleman in your lineups this week.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

  • Richard Marshall, Carolina Panthers: If there is one fantasy player that is boggling the minds of us IDPers, it is Richard Marshall. Many of us have owned Marshall since he entered the league and after he put up strong tackle numbers as a nickel corner, I really thought Marshall would vault to the top of the DB scoring list. That has not been the case and it is really hard to fathom why. Marshall has a great matchup with the Cardinals this week and with them leading the league in attempted passes with over 41 per game, it seems logical that Marshall will see a lot of action. If there is ever a week for Marshall to live up to his lofty draft status, it's this week.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

  • Dawan Landry, Baltimore Ravens: Landry has been solid in his return from an injury that cost him most of the 2008 season. The tackle numbers are not all that great, but that can happen when you play behind a tackling machine like LB Ray Lewis. Landry has a very good matchup this week against the Broncos, a team that has allowed opposing strong safeties to put up 37 solos and 11 assists in their six games. A safety with better tackling numbers would be a higher-grade sleeper. Landry's tackle numbers are modest, but the great matchup warrants him being a low level sleeper this week.

  • Atari Bigby, Green Bay Packers: Bigby has missed a lot of time this year due to injuries and since returning, only has four solos in two games. In Bigby's defense, he has had a couple of terrible matchups against the Lions and Browns, neither of whom could keep their offenses on the field. This week, Bigby has a matchup with the Vikings and Bigby figures to have a lot more tackle opportunities than he has had in the previous two games. The Vikings have been a decent matchup for strong safeties this year in all but one game, and ironically, it was against the Vikings. That was Bigby's first game back after his injury and he did not look especially sharp. This week should be better for Bigby, but until he shows something, he will not be more than a low-grade sleeper. He has produced in the past when healthy, so there is some upside.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

  • Deon Grant, Seattle Seahawks: Grant has put up rather ordinary numbers this year with only 17 solos in six games, but the Cowboys have been a great matchup for strong safeties this year. The matchup is great, the player is below average, and that is a combination that is sometimes tough to analyze. I tend to take a strong look at players like this and although Grant has not done a whole lot this year, I just think the Dallas offense is on such a roll that they could see the field for a majority of the game and that usually leads to high tackle opportunities for the defense. This is the place where I list starters for owners who are desperate and Grant fits the bill.