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A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. Value is available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (players that can be found very late in a fantasy draft). To point out this value, we asked our staff to look through IDP ADP from TheIDPShow.com https://www.theidpshow.com/ and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets late in your draft.
Here are the linebackers who received multiple deep sleeper votes:
And here are all of the players mentioned and the reasons why. That's right - a four-way tie!
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Tyrel Dodson, Buffalo Bills
Joseph Haggan: Dodson is not a popular name on the Bills defense as a replacement for Tremaine Edmunds. As of now, all the hype is around 2022 third-round pick Terrell Bernard and 2023 third-round draft pick Dorian Williams. Both Bernard and Williams hold the draft capital edge over Dodson (undrafted free agent), though let's not forget that it was Dodson who was the fill-in starter in 2020, in 2021, and in 2022 when the Bills sifted through their linebacker depth. Dodson had three games in 2022 over a 64% snap-share. He totaled 27 tackles and a sack in those three games. During his rookie season, he eclipsed that snap-share twice, totaling 15 tackles and two passes defended in those two games. The coaching staff is giving Dodson every opportunity to win the job. It is a terrific dart throw outside the top 150 IDP.
Kyle Bellefeuil: There is a training camp battle about to go down in Buffalo. With Tremaine Edmunds leaving for Chicago during free agency, there is a starting spot up for grabs next to Matt Milano. Tyrel Dodson, Terrel Bernard, and rookie Dorian Williams will all be pushing for the open spot when camp gets here. One thing Dodson has going for him is he was Edmunds’ direct replacement when he missed time last year. Dodson also proved to be productive when given ample playing time, producing 27 tackles (18 solos) and a sack in the three games he saw over 50 defensive snaps in 2022. Dodson will have his work cut out for him to win the starting job but is worth a late flyer with his potential opportunity to earn a full-time role.
E.J. Speed, Indianapolis Colts
Kyle Bellefeuil: The appeal of E.J. Speed is based on the health of Shaquille Leonard. Injuries limited Leonard to only three games last season, and he is currently working his way back from offseason back surgery. While no return timetable has been given, the reports have been positive. Should Leonard not be ready for training camp, E.J. Speed would likely fill the other full-time linebacker spot next to Zaire Franklin. The Colts re-signed Speed to a two-year $8 million contract this offseason due to his importance as a depth player and special teams contributor over his previous four seasons in Indianapolis. Speed’s role is set to expand with Bobby Okereke departing in free agency, but it could grow even more if Leonard isn’t ready or suffers setbacks. Speed makes for Leonard insurance or an end-of-the-bench stash in deeper leagues to see how this all plays out as training camp approaches.
Justin Howe: Speed is locked in as the Colts' utility linebacker, and he'll actually open the year starting on the strong side. There's big value there as he replaces the departed Bobby Okereke, who averaged 141 tackles and broke up 9 passes over the last 2 years. Any Colts linebacker projects well in coordinator Gus Bradley's sit-back-and-chase system, but Speed has an ace in the hole as an end-of-draft LB4 type. Should star Shaquille Leonard miss time (again), Speed will likely slide into the middle and produce top-tier IDP numbers.
Robert Spillane, Las Vegas Raiders
Gary Davenport: There will be plenty written and said about Divine Deablo’s IDP prospects this summer—including by me. But don’t sleep on his new batterymate. Robert Spillane isn’t the most athletic linebacker, but he’s smart, tough, and doesn’t get caught out of position. By the end of the 2022 season, it was Spillane (and not Myles Jack or Devin Bush) who was leading the Steelers linebackers in snaps per game. Spillane’s numbers to date in his career aren’t blowing any doors off, but he’ll open the season opposite Deablo as the Raiders' No. 2 off-ball linebacker. And if Deablo gets hurt again or falters, things could get interesting for Spillane in Sin City in a hurry.
Tripp Brebner: Divine Deablo, a converted college safety, made eight starts as the Raiders' only full-time linebacker and signal-caller before suffering a season-ending injury in 2022. The current regime in Las Vegas inherited Deablo but sought out Robert Spillane in free agency this spring. Spillane is a limited player that past coaches trusted to avoid mistakes aftre their patience with more athletic, less consistent players ran out. Spillane should open the season as a starter and proverbial two-down thumper. Deablo will need to improve upon his first season under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham or pass the green dot to Spillane.
Anthony Walker Jr., Cleveland Browns
Gary Davenport: That over 60 linebackers are being drafted ahead of Walker isn’t necessarily surprising. He made it less than a month into the 2022 season before tearing a quad muscle, and to be brutally honest, he’s no world-beater talent-wise. But in Walker’s first season with the Browns, he posted the third triple-digit tackle season of his six-year career and finished among the top-25 linebackers in fantasy points per game. The Browns desperately need a steadying presence at linebacker, and they thought enough of Walker to re-sign him this year. He’s probably going to be Cleveland’s defensive signal-caller, a three-down linebacker, and (provided he stays on the field) an IDP value. Rolling the dice is a lot easier when the stakes are this low.
Kyle Bellefeuil: Anthony Walker started three games for the Browns last season before he suffered a torn quad, which unfortunately ended his season. The Browns brought back Walker on a one-year deal this offseason and he is a leading candidate to fill the starting spot in the middle of Jim Schwartz’s defense. Walker isn’t flashy but does have three 100+ tackle seasons over his six-year career. If he locks down that starting spot as projected, Walker will be relevant and looked at as a value considering his current price.
And 5 Bonus Names
There were five other linebackers that received attention from the Footballguys staff. Here they are.
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