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There is no question that there isn't a more overused term in fantasy football than sleeper. There is no shortage of articles talking up Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis as a sleeper in 2022, even though approximately all the people in fantasy football are talking about him.
The dude's awake. Fully.
With that said, bust isn't far behind. This guy's gonna bust. That guy's gonna bust. The biggest busts of the year coming right up. And there's nothing wrong with that—those are buzzwords the fantasy community became comfortable with years ago. Comfortable is good.
But the only word that really matters in fantasy football is value. Grab an undervalued player in a draft slot where he's being selected near his floor, and you're setting up your team for success. Draft overvalued players closer to their ceiling, and the chances of being disappointed go way up.
The two can be harder to differentiate in IDP leagues. There's not that much ADP data available for the format, and when there is, it's a limited sample size. Throw in the massive scoring variances that can exist in IDP, and you get the muddiest of waters.
Identifying value picks (like those in Part 1 of this series) and risky selections In IDP involves legwork, some trial and error (actual drafts), and good old-fashioned educated guesses. Combining the three gave rise to this sextet of IDPs for whom the risk involved in 2022 drowns out much of the reward.
DE Chase Young. Washington Commanders
After tallying 44 tackles and 7.5 sacks on the way to Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2020, expectations were sky-high for Young in 2021. But he managed just 1.5 sacks in nine games before an ACL tear ended his season. That injury has kept Young from the practice field so far this summer, although he told Peter Hailey of NBC Sports Washington that he's doing what he can to prepare for the season in the meantime.
Everything is going as planned," Young said. "I'm happy where I'm at, and I'm confident on everything I'm doing going forward. (I'm) standing with [coordinator Jack] Del Rio, listening to every call, watching every guy, what he's supposed to do. It was really just my plan that we had with Dr. [James] Andrews, my trainer in Colorado, and the trainers here. Just the best plan to bring me back to 100%."
Young is an exceptional talent—at least he was while wrecking opposing offenses at Ohio State. He showed flashes of elite fantasy upside as a rookie. But even before the injury last year, he just wasn't getting home, and that's a real concern for IDP managers. Add in talk that he will open camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List and may even start the season on injured reserve (which would cost him the first four games of the season), and drafting Young as a DL1 is asking for trouble.
DE Chandler Jones, Las Vegas Raiders
After six seasons and 71.5 sacks in Arizona (including 10.5 in 2021), Jones headed to Las Vegas in free agency, getting a three-year pact with the Raiders that included $34 million in guarantees. The 32-year-old Jones has amassed 107.5 sacks over a decade in the NFL, and he told the team's website that he's anxious to add to that total playing opposite Maxx Crosby for new Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
"When you have someone with the brain of Patrick Graham – the first word that comes to mind is creativity," Jones said. "This guy is an Ivy League graduate from Yale. So when you just talk about that in itself, you talk about how creative someone can be. Then when you bring it over to the sport of football, that's easy for him. That's X's and O's for him. He's so creative, and to know that and be such a proven person, the sky's the limit. I'm excited to get out and get in front of these fans so they can see what I can do."
Jones certainly had a big debut game for the Cardinals last year, exploding for five sacks against the Tennessee Titans. But therein lies the rub—almost half of Jones' season total came in that one game, and he didn't log No. 6 until Week 9. Jones didn't have a sack in 11 of Arizona's 17 games last year, and he recorded fewer than three tackles in over half of them.
Don't let the career accolades and season stats disguise those harsh realities.
ILB Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings
Statistically speaking, the 2021 season was the best of Kendricks' career—the 30-year-old posted career-highs in total tackles (143), solos (81), and sacks (five) on the way to a top-10 IDP finish in most scoring systems. However, that statistical success came amid a miserable season for the team. Per Ben Goessling of the Twin Cities Star-Tribune, Kendricks said he's looking forward to a fresh start under head coach Kevin O'Connell and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.
"Here we are. We're here with a new staff, new players, new defense, and we have this amazing opportunity ahead of us again," he said. "Every team around the league is going to have new types of situations going on with them. It's an even playing field right now. Whatever happened last year is in the past and we have to move forward. We can learn from a lot of things, but we also have to adapt and change with the new year."
Kendricks is a consistently excellent NFL linebacker who has eclipsed 100 tackles in six straight seasons. But last year was the first time he surpassed 115 total stops, he has never had 85 solos in a season and last year's five sacks equaled the five seasons that preceded it. Add in the arrival of Jordan Hicks (who has over 115 stops in each of the last three seasons), and it's likely Kendricks regresses into the low-end fantasy LB2 or high-end LB3 we saw for several years.
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