As we move into August and the NFL preseason gets underway, fantasy draft season will do the same. From Alabama to Walla Walla and all points in-between, IDP managers are busily making final preparations as draft day nears. And among those preparations, none are more important than identifying targets falling farther in drafts than they should. Players who are flying under the radar.
However, that can be more easily said than done in IDP leagues. IDP managers don't have the luxury of accurate ADP information—what is out there is confined to a particular format and usually involves a small sample size. IDP mock drafts are out there but aren't nearly as prevalent as in offense-only formats.
So what's an intrepid IDP manager to do? Consult a Ouija board? Nope. Those unleash ancient and unspeakable evils—or at least, so I saw in a movie. Throw on a blindfold and throw some darts at player pictures? Nope. That unleashes a trip to the emergency room.
No, what IDP drafters can do is examine drafts that have already happened to see which players are dropping to a position of value.
As it happens, I can help there.
This past week, I participated in an IDP draft with several other fantasy analysts (and a veteran player who has been a pain in my butt for a decade-plus). It was a fairly standard format—start two defensive linemen, two linebackers, two defensive backs, and two defensive flex spots. As is the case in most IDP leagues, the scoring leans tackle-heavy.
If there's a wrinkle here, it includes "true position." The impact here is that 3-4 outside linebackers are lumped in with defensive linemen. It's a format more and more IDP leagues are turning to in this age of subpackages as de facto base defense.
With that draft concluded, here's a look at some players who appeared to be garnering less notice from these industry experts than their potential for production warrants.
(Number in parentheses denotes where each player was drafted)
DE Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints (13.11 - DL19)
To be fair, this draft slot isn't tremendous value for Jordan, especially when you factor in the increased player pool with 3-4 edge-rushers included with defensive linemen. But Jordan is being mentioned (again) in this column for two reasons.
The first is that he's undervalued in 2022. The second is that he represents a value both in this kind of format and in more traditional IDP leagues where 3-4 edge-rushers are included with linebackers. If your preferred IDP strategy is to hoard linebackers early, Jordan is a fantastic target as your first defensive lineman off the board.
Even with the deeper player pool, Jordan was DL10 in this scoring a year ago. The 33-year-old may be entering his 12th season, but Jordan has shown no signs of slowing down—he has at least 12 sacks and/or 50-plus tackles in four of the past five seasons.
DE Leonard Floyd, Los Angeles Rams (19.10 - DL30)
I will write a column later this week at Footballguys that goes more in-depth into strategy along the defensive front in "true position" formats. Even going to include tiered rankings for the new-look defensive linemen because I'm such a swell guy.
But here's a quick preview tip for you—while big-name 3-4 rush linebackers like Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt will be drafted early in leagues like this, you can get ridiculous value on some of the lesser-known starters—like, say, getting Leonard Floyd of the Rams just over 15 rounds after Watt came off the board.
Is Floyd going to challenge the sack record? Probably not. But in the past two seasons, the 29-year-old has posted at least 55 tackles and 9.5 sacks. In this scoring, Floyd was eighth among defensive linemen in fantasy points in 2021. The year before, he was 12th.
Is getting a DL1 in mid-range DL3 territory good? It sounds good.
DT Leonard Williams, New York Giants (25.06 - DL38)
Want another handy-dandy tip for finding under-the-radar fantasy values on draft day? Well, too bad, because you're getting one. In IDP leagues that don't split up defensive ends and defensive tackles, tackles not named Aaron Donald tend to be undervalued.
Even so, getting Williams this late in a draft isn't value. It's felony larceny. Two years ago, Williams exploded for 57 tackles and 11.5 sacks. His sack numbers were down last year, but Williams compensated for that with a career-high 81 total tackles. Both years, Williams was a top-20 defensive lineman.
Williams' drop in sack production last season has seemingly soured many in the IDP community on the eighth-year veteran. But over his two full seasons with the Giants, the former sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft has an average line of almost 70 total tackles and nine sacks.
He's an excellent high-floor DL2 available at a more than reasonable price.
LB Blake Martinez, New York Giants (7.10 - LB11)
The only feeling worse than opening a letter and finding out the IRS is auditing you is being frozen out of the first big run on linebackers in an IDP league. In this league, five linebackers were drafted between my picks in Rounds 6 and 7. Ten had come off the board before I selected my first. And yet I feel pretty good at the position, thanks to Blake Martinez.
Martinez's 2021 was admittedly not good—the 28-year-old made it just three games into the season before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. But before that, Martinez had been a tackle-vacuum in the truest sense, surpassing 140 total stops in four straight seasons with the Giants and Green Bay Packers.
You never know when the first big IDP run will come in a draft. If it happens earlier than you expect, you can use that to your advantage and gain an edge on offense by zigging when the rest of the league zags. But for that to pay off, you need a linebacker target in your back pocket who can post elite numbers without the price to match.
Martinez is that linebacker in 2022.
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