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The calendar has turned from July to August. Training camps are underway. Lousy preseason football will soon be there for the watching. Those portents can mean only one thing.
No, not the Apocalypse. Way to be a Debbie Downer, though.
IDP draft season is officially here.
Over the next month or so, thousands of IDP leagues will hold their drafts. Drafters will spend big for elite options like Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner and Cleveland Browns Myles Garrett. They will scour the IDP landscape for values like the ones presented in Part 1 of the IDP Six-Pack series. Try to avoid the risks presented in Part 2. Then come the late rounds, where fantasy managers hope to find a diamond among the debris.
Confession time—I rather hate the word "sleeper." It's quite possibly the most overused label in fantasy football, especially since most of the sleepers talked up have been mentioned so many times they are officially awake.
The late rounds of IDP drafts are about lottery tickets—low-cost fantasy assets with the potential to blow their modest asking price out of the water. This isn't to say the odds are great that these players will hit. There's a reason that they are lottery tickets.
But for each of these players ranked outside my top-40 defensive linemen and top-50 linebackers and defensive backs here at Footballguys has enough potential to pay off to rate a late look on draft day.
DE Darrell Taylor, Seattle Seahawks
After losing his rookie season to a shin injury, Taylor finally got on the field for the Seahawks last year. All things considered, he played well—Taylor tallied 37 tackles and racked up the fourth-most sacks (6.5) of any player making his professional debut. Per Brandon Gustafson of 710 AM, Seattle-area radio personality and former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps believes that Taylor could be set for a major step forward in 2022.
“He was better as the season went on and progressed as a run defender,” Heaps said. “He brings that level of just nastiness on the football field where he can really provide some big hits out there on the field and change the complexion of the game. I think that Darrell Taylor is going to continue to get better as an all-around edge defender with his pass rush and as a run defender. He’s a big reason why I am optimistic for the Seattle Seahawks defense moving forward there.”
Taylor didn't make much of an IDP impact last year, finishing outside the top-40 in fantasy points in most scoring systems. But with Carlos Dunlap in Kansas City and Rasheem Green in Houston, Taylor should be set for a bump up from last year's 543 snaps. If he can maintain his per-snap productivity with an increased workload, it wouldn't take a huge spike to vault Taylor into low-end DL2 territory.
DE Trevis Gipson, Chicago Bears
Like Darrell Taylor, Gipson saw a big-time bump in playing time last year—after spending most of his rookie season as a spectator, Gipson made nine starts in 2021, tallying 39 total tackles and pitching in seven sacks. Now, Gipson enters his third season with a real shot at starting, and as Usayd Koshul wrote for 247 Sports, Gipson intends to make the most of that increased opportunity in 2022.
“I would say I’m more confident," Gipson said. "Just the way that I ended last year and the things that I know I’m capable of doing. I’m getting more reps. I’m being coached even more. Everything is all coming along. I’m getting the ball rolling. I just focus on getting 1% better every day, man. It doesn’t matter who lines up in front of me. I’m just focusing on the things that I was coached on the day before and just try to take that into today."
The Bears are undergoing significant changes in 2022—Chicago traded Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers, and the team is switching to a 4-3 base front under new head coach Matt Eberflus. Gipson should enter the season as the starting end opposite Robert Quinn, and a career year is a genuine possibility for the 25-year-old.
ILB Nicholas Morrow, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have one of the NFL's most formidable off-ball linebackers in Roquan Smith. But while Smith has been on the PUP list and angling for a new deal, fifth-year veteran Nicholas Morrow has been acclimating to a new team and new responsibilities after four years with the Raiders. Per Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire, those new responsibilities include making the play-calls and wearing the "green dot" helmet communicator, and Morrow said he's up to the task.
“I think the biggest thing is making sure we’re all on the same page and we’re over-communicating," Morrow said. "Sometimes you get those young guys in there, and there’s certain calls where it’s gotta be communicated consistently. Just getting that together is probably bigger than the calls, I think.”
Morrow has never tallied even 80 total tackles in a season, although he did amass 78 stops in 14 games (and 11 starts) for the Raiders last year. However, Morrow has also never been on the field for over 75 percent of the defensive snaps in a season—a fact that should change in 2022 if Morrow wears the dot and makes the calls. FBG's own John Norton certainly appears to believe this is a lottery ticket that will hit—he has Morrow inside his top-30 linebackers for the season.
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