Sleeper articles are, in my humble opinion, the most interesting and most addicting articles to read come draft season. Rankings are too dense to read more than one of, busts a bit too much of a buzzkill. Sleepers are exciting though, the idea of grabbing that diamond in the rough player that wins you a title. If you clicked on this article it means you probably play IDP, which already gives you an edge over most fantasy football players by you being more discerning, but if you want an edge over even other IDP players, you’ve come to the right place.
Disclaimer: All three of these guys featured on my original position rankings, where I touched on why I like each of them this season. I’ll go further in-depth in this article, but if what I’m saying sounds a bit familiar, that’s why. Without further ado…
2018 Rank: LB37
Whether Myles Jack counts as a sleeper is certainly up for debate, as his upside, this season is one of the worst kept “secrets” in IDP. However, considering where he finished last year (and considering I already wrote this blurb before checking where other sites ranked him) we’re going to continue anyway. The explanation for this pick is pretty short and sweet, but I’ll try to add some extra analysis: Telvin Smith is leaving 134 tackles up for grabs. That on its own would be enough to justify grabbing Jack as a sleeper second linebacker, but there’s plenty of other things to like about the fourth-year LB, who will be just 23 when the season starts. He’s a spectacular coverage linebacker, and while that hasn’t translated to many interceptions thus far, it would be no surprise to see him snag multiple picks this season, considering he should be on the field for close to every snap the Jaguars play. He’s incredibly athletic and should have no issue racking up 120+ tackles in 2019, just as Telvin did in 2019. I wish I had more to talk about here, but the increased opportunity honestly speaks for itself.
Also Considered: Kenny Young, Zach Cunningham, Danny Trevathan
2018 Rank: DL42
Expectations for the former USC Trojan were high after the Jets spent the 6th overall pick on him in 2015, and Leonard Williams has yet to disappoint. He’s been among the best defensive linemen in football in all of his four seasons, though it’s a different story for fantasy. His rookie year was relatively nondescript but he followed it up with a DL20 campaign in 2016, giving hope that he could take a leap forward going into 2017.
He did not.
He dropped out of the Top 75 at the position, following it up with another rough (though not quite as awful) 2018 season. So what went wrong? And, more importantly, what’s changed that I’m optimistic about him this year?
Before looking at what went wrong though, let’s look at what went right in his first two seasons. The answer is simple: tackles. In 2015 and 2016, Williams finished with 63 and 68 total tackles, respectively. Additionally, he was able to rack up a career-high seven sacks in 2016. In 2017 and 2018 though, he’s finished with just 47 and 42 tackles, respectively. To add to that, he had a career-low two sacks in 2017. So, where did the tackles go? The answer? Right up the middle. Not coincidentally, Leonard Williams had his best season in 2016 when Sheldon Richardson posted an incredible season from a run-stopping perspective, forcing defenses to bounce the run game outside and into the waiting arms of Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams (Wilkerson was also a DL2). Steve McClendon, though he’s graded well the last couple seasons (due largely, no doubt, to the volume of opportunity he’s had) as a run stopper has historically not been particularly good, and thus defenses had no reservations pounding the ball inside. It showed on the stat sheet too, as the 2016 Jets were the 11th strongest run defense, while the 2018 Jets were the seventh-worst. 2017 wasn’t much better; they were the ninth-worst run defense. The Jets drafting Quinnen Williams in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft though gives them an elite run defender inside now, as does the acquisition of linebacker C.J. Mosley. With teammates who can defend the run, I’m incredibly optimistic that Leonard Williams can once again turn his elite talent into fantasy relevance.
Also Considered: Vita Vea, Marcus Davenport, Clelin Ferrell
2018 Rank: DB49
An often overlooked part of the blockbuster trade that sent Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland, Jabrill Peppers was a very highly touted everyman coming out of Michigan in 2017, who now lands in the perfect spot to produce for fantasy. His #112 finish his rookie year was uninspiring, but he followed it up by finishing as the #49 DB in 2018. That mediocre finish aside though, his pace in the nine games that Christian Kirksey missed would have landed him the #29 DB spot, still not great but it shows he made use of the extra tackle opportunities. Now, he plays for a New York team where he would honest-to-God be the best linebacker on the team if the Giants played him there. Between starting linebackers Alec Ogletree, Lorenzo Carter, Kareem Martin, and Tae Davis, Carter finished the highest in terms of PFF run-defense grades with… 61.1. When looking for safety sleepers, having a linebacking group that couldn’t stop a nosebleed certainly helps. So too does having Antoine Bethea as a teammate, whose range in coverage will allow Peppers to play the vast majority of his snaps up in the box, where he thrives. Add in that he flashed great ability as a pass rusher in college, and you’ve got a player who can do everything in a defense that needs him to do so. The cherry on top for Peppers is his status as the Giants designated return man, which could end up netting you an extra six points one week if you’re lucky. He should go relatively late in drafts, and could very well end up cracking the Top 10 ranks at DB in 2019. Draft with confidence, and watch with pride.
Also Considered: Ronnie Harrison, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Greedy Williams
Hopefully this article ends up helping you make some late-round decisions come draft day, and hopefully, I end up being right on the money. If you enjoyed this article, also be sure to check out my list of some IDP busts to avoid on draft day, coming out at 11 AM ET. Happy reading!
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)