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2024 Fantasy Football: IDP Sleepers – Defensive Linemen

I’m tackling another position in my IDP sleepers series: defensive linemen. Last week, I discussed my IDP linebacker sleepers, and prior to that, I doled out my rookie tiers for each IDP position.

In continuing this IDP deluge, it’s important to remember the big picture. A sleeper is a relative term; everyone has their own line in the sand for what qualifies. To me, a sleeper means a player that significantly exceeds the value of their average draft position. It doesn’t mean a player nobody has heard of.

Really, embedded in that interpretation of the term “sleeper” is a slight. Dare I say, a disparagement in the mere suggestion you don’t know players.

I can only assume you, a late-May reader of a fantasy football IDP article of all things, know everybody who plays football in a 5,000-mile radius. You’re scouting the local Pop Warner leagues. You’ve got a printout of every player’s Madden ratings going back to their rookie year and, soon enough, their NCAA College Football 25 ratings, too.

Remember in Forrest Gump that he sleeps with his ping pong ball and paddle? Well, you’re sleeping in full football gear.

No? Well, maybe that’s just me. The only things I’m sleeping on are the bedsheets with my favorite football team on them.

I digress. Before diving in, please remember that my player recommendations fit for a league with 11 IDP starters (1 DT, 2 DE, 3 LB, 1 CB, 2 S, and 2 IDP flex).

Also make sure to check out my IDP sleepers at the linebacker position.

What!? Your fantasy football league wasn’t hosted on Fantrax last season!? Once you see how Fantrax stacks up to the competition, we think you’ll be singing a different tune in the 2024 season.

Fantasy Football IDP Sleepers: Defensive Linemen

Justin Jones, DT, Arizona Cardinals

Drafting a defensive tackle is a lost art. First, I recommend using a scoring system that functions like a TE-premium league. To subsidize the position, tackles for defensive tackles should count for 25-50% more. The flaw in the position is the top DTs typically score half of what the best IDPs score. Because of this, there’s not much incentive to have an elite DT compared to a good enough DT. So, the little scoring boost creates more of an incentive to not punt the position every year.

With all that in mind, I have to recommend waiting on the position as the point differences between the top DT and the 15th DT may only be about 2 to 3 points per game, compared to QB1 and QB15 (6 ppg), RB (10 ppg) and WR (9 ppg).

So why Jones? Well, he’s entering his prime in his age-28 year. He produced 22 QB pressures, 4.5 sacks, and 12 QB knockdowns. These are all notable numbers for defensive tackles.

After spending the last two years in Chicago, he signed a 3-year, $31M deal with the Arizona Cardinals. In those two years, he delivered about 50 combined tackles per season with enough pass-rushing totals to keep him on the fringes of fantasy relevance.

With no dominant, established pass-rusher on the Cardinals roster, he will be tasked to get more pressure on the quarterback.

More DT sleepers: Kobie Turner (LAR), Osa Odighizuwa (DAL), Maliek Collins (SF)

Will Anderson Jr., DE, Houston Texans

In 2023, Anderson had the third-best win rate among EDGE pass rushers. As a rookie, he did that. Wow. A “win” in this context means how often the pass-rusher beats his block within 2.5 seconds. Anderson finished behind Micah Parsons and Myles Garrett and ahead of other household names like T.J. Watt.

Let’s remember the Texans traded a small fortune to move up to the No. 3 position from the No. 12. They gave up that No. 12 pick, the No. 33 pick in 2023, their 2024 first-round pick, and a 2024 third-round pick for Anderson and the No. 105 pick in 2023. So, while much is made about the offseason acquisition of Danielle Hunter, I’d argue that the veteran may be the complement to Anderson and not the other way around.

The problem is that the production wasn’t quite there in 2023, at least for us IDP managers. Anderson finished with 44 combined tackles and seven sacks. Good for a rookie but not enough to quite move the needle to be more than a bench player, even in deeper IDP leagues.

So, right now, the expectations are very high for Anderson. He’s a low DE1, but the argument is he does make the leap into the top 5 of the position. It may not feel sleeper-worthy, but it’s a big jump from 2023’s DE36ish into the top five or being ranked around DE12 and performing among the game’s first-tier defensive ends.

George Karlaftis III, DE, Kansas City Chiefs

Meanwhile, hyper-talents like Anderson can make the leap all at once from Year 1 to Year 2, but most players need to marinate for a few years and achieve more incremental success. Such is the case of Karlaftis, the Chiefs’ No. 30 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. In what will be his third season, we’re looking for another step forward in his progression.

In 2023, he collected 10.5 sacks and should be on every IDP manager’s radar by now. He also had 35 pressures and 18 hurries, both in the top 10 among defensive ends.

What we need to see is more tackles. Karlaftis had 47 combined tackles, so he finished outside the top 25 in fantasy scoring among defensive ends.

Tackles and the scoring derived are the lifeblood of a quality IDP league, and they provide consistency in scoring. There were six games where Karlaftis scored 5 or fewer fantasy points. That can’t happen as frequently.

I’m encouraged by his snap totals (he led all Chiefs DEs in snaps last year) and the continuity of Kansas City’s defense, where most of the starters are returning, and some of the new starters were backups last year. This is a really underrated component of the defenses that don’t miss a beat year after year.

More DE sleepers: Dorance Armstrong (WAS), Bryce Huff (PHI), Byron Young (LAR), Tuli Tuipulotu (LAC)

Got a few IDP sleepers of your own? Drop some names in the comments below.

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