Rookie IDP Sleepers
By Joe Goodwin
Now that the 2023 NFL Draft has officially ended, we can now assess our favorite drafted players and what could be their future long term IDP value. Not all draft picks are equal in allowing a player to make an impact as an IDP starter. For example, Nolan Smith (Edge, Georgia) is a great prospect that has unique traits to sack the quarterback. However, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles that employ a rotation with their defensive line. In this situation, it may take Smith longer to be considered impactful in IDP, as opposed to being drafted by the Falcons; where he may have been anointed as a starter from Day 1.
I will take a look at some of my favorite Rookie IDP Sleepers in this article. To be considered a sleeper in my book , I will be analyzing defensive players drafted outside of the first two rounds in the 2023 NFL draft..
Looking through each round of the draft, I was surprised to only find 2 IDP Sleepers at DL that really caught my attention.
Then again, the league values the defensive line so much that 18 defensive line/edge players were drafted in the first 2 rounds. I am sure there will be at least 5 players in the later rounds of the draft that turn into viable IDP Players. Just remember, Maxx Crosby was a 4th round pick (106th overall) by the Las Vegas Raiders. Here are two players I found that I can envision as having an IDP impact similar to Crosby early in their careers.
Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio St (Pick 75 to the Falcons)
Harrison was a 2 year starter for the Buckeyes as he earned First Team All-Big Ten Conference as a senior. Zach was a 5 Star recruit out of high school; number 12 overall in his recruiting class. Harrison checks off all the boxes in height and weight, he just needs to add some strength to his natural abilities. Harrison went to a great spot where he will compete for playing time right away. Unlike Nolan Smith, Harrison will not have to wait long to reach a 50% snap share. And to potentially make an impact as a DL in IDP in the future. I love the long term potential of Harrison in IDP. For redraft purposes, you can pass on Harrison this year. For IDP DEVY leagues, make a small investment and roster him on your taxi squad.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, Edge, Northwestern (Pick 110 to the Colts)
At 6’2 and 280 lbs, Adebawore will move around the defensive line as his athleticism and size allows for that positional flexibility. Playing in the ultra-competitive Big Ten, Adetomiwa made 3rd Team all Big Ten Conference as a senior when he notched 5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, and 38 total tackles. He hasn’t necessarily dominated in the Big Ten, but has shown flashes that he can make a huge impact in the NFL. After running a 4.9 40-yard dash at the combine, that type of speed coming off the edge will wreak havoc on opposing tackles. I love the upside and talent, but it's just a matter of all those traits colliding in one swoop for Adebawore. In deeper IDP leagues, he is worth a taxi spot, but currently does not project as a viable roster candidate this year.
Recently, the position of linebacker has been treated similarly to running back as the league uses less and less of them in base packages; opting to use another corner or hybrid safety/backer to better match up with the personnel of the offense. The position has numerous examples of players that have not been high draft picks that evolved into top tier IDP linebackers:
Freddie Luvu: undrafted free agent New York Jets
Logan Wilson: 3rd round pick by Cincinnati
Foyesade Oloukun: 6th round pick by Atlanta
Fred Warner: 3rd round by the 49ers
Each of those players are all consensus top 10 linebackers in all IDP formats.
The following are some of my favorite players that could join the group above in a few years as IDP elite.
Drew Sanders, LB/Edge, Arkansas (Pick 67 by the Broncos)
Drew Sanders was one of my favorite pre-draft players. Watching tape on Sanders, I see bits of Micah Parsons and bits of Haason Reddick. I am not comparing Sanders to either of those players, just flashes of brilliance that remind me of them. Last year at Arkansas, Sanders totaled 103 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. Sanders was an impact player all over the field. Although the presence of Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell in the Broncos linebacker room might scare some away, don’t be fooled! Drew Sanders is a missile and will be deployed by the Broncos in their base 3-4 scheme from the onset. You will have to make an investment to grab Sanders, but I believe he may be one of the IDP stars to come out of this draft and is worth the cost in your drafts.
Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington St. (Pick 85 by the Chargers)
At first glance when I read about linebackers and see the terms “inconsistent,” “not instinctive,” and “inefficient” I tend to shy away from that player and move on to the next prospect. However, Henley’s attributes also include: toughness, excellent range, and ability to close and wrap up.
I’m not 100% sure Henley even knows what his future could be, but I love banking on a player that makes up for instinct with explosiveness. Henley will have some time to develop behind Kenneth Murray and Eric Kendricks. Henley is not worth a roster spot this year, but don’t be surprised to see his name on Dynasty IDP lists starting in a year or two.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson (Pick 86 by the Ravens)
If Sanders was my favorite pre-draft player, then Trenton Simpson was my second favorite. And the fit??? Well, it was ok until I read the Baltimore Ravens declined the 5th year option on Patrick Queen. Then, the fit went through the roof! That, alone,does not mean the Ravens have anointed Simpson as a starter, but it does show that the team does not necessarily view Queen in the long term plans based on his current salary. And to think that Simpson gets to work the undisputed #1 IDP linebacker, Roquan Smith, is only icing on the cake for his long term development. Clemson, and Bret Venable, used Simpson’s positional versatility to use as he played deep, on the line, in coverage. You name it, Simpson was asked to do it at Clemson. In 2022, Simpson had 77 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. With all these positive traits, Simpson has the unique opportunity to learn with one of the best (Roquan), while playing against one of the best (Lamar) in Baltimore. If the Ravens trade away Patrick Queen, then a clear sign is made that the organization is moving forward with Simpson. Draft him now, and feel good knowing your long term plans include one of the best “up and coming” linebackers in the game.
The top two rookie defensive backs in IDP last year were Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Tariq Woolen.
And the two couldn’t be more different in draft position. Gardner was the 4th overall pick, and the 2nd DB selected; Derek Stingley was 1st. Tariq Woolen was the 153rd overall pick. In total, 149 players were selected between Sauce and Tariq, yet they both were widely regarded as the best defensive backs in the 2022 NFL draft. The list below identifies a few players that hope to perform like Gardner and Woolen, but are closer to Woolen’s draft spot than Gardener’s.
Sydney Brown, S, Illinois (Pick 66 by the Eagles)
A pick that was widely regarded as a “homerun” as soon as the pick was turned in. In 2022, Brown led the Big Ten in interceptions with 6. He may remind some Eagles fans of Malcolm Jenkins, and for good reason. Brown reminds many of Jenkins’ ability to play both in the box, and in coverage. Brown will immediately get a chance to start for the Eagles with the departures of CJ Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps. The Eagles signed Terrel Edmunds from Pittsburgh and Justin Evans from New Orleans to provide players to fill the void. With Reed Blankenship already on the roster, the position would appear to be wide open for the Super Bowl contender as the current players vying for a spot are middling at best. Brown shows a lot of character, leadership, and willingness to study his craft. Sydney Brown should quickly establish himself as an IDP contributor and should be rostered on all IDP formats this year.
Marte Mapu, S, Sacramento St (Pick 76 by the Patriots)
The NFL is one of the most dynamic sports because of its willingness to reinvent itself over and over. Currently, teams are using less linebackers, and more hybrid safety/linebackers. These players are smaller, but faster with more range. The hybrids have coverage skills like a corner, but some “pop” like a linebacker to help stop the run. Mapu is an example of that hybrid. At 6’3 and 217 lbs, Mapu is bigger than many safeties, but smaller than most linebackers. With 76 total tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 3 pass break ups, Mapu demonstrated his versatility in his final season at Sacramento St. Mapu will most likely not impact IDP rosters next year. However, his traits and situation align for a future IDP star. You may be able to wait a year in shallower IDP leagues, but don’t wait too long to roster him or you may just miss out.
Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina (pick 138 by the Colts)
Darius Rush attended South Carolina as a wide receiver out of high school. He transitioned to corner not long after. At 6’3 and 198 lbs, Rush has the ideal size to thrive in defensive backfields. I truly believe Rush may end up as a safety in the NFL. His willingness to blitz off the edge is what excites me about his IDP future. Rush dominated receivers at the Senior Bowl with his aggressiveness and route recognition. If Rush can get on the field and do a little bit of everything, he may end up like a “Jamal Adams-type” safety that just knows how to play football in whatever way is necessary for his team to win; all while racking up stats in the process.
Jordan Howden, S, Minnesota (pick 146 by the Saints)
In 4 years at Minnesota, Howden amassed 240 total tackles. One interesting fact about Howden is he didn’t allow a single touchdown against him last season. And like most IDP sleepers, he has position versatility as a safety or slot corner. With his ability to play around the field, the Saints will find a way to utilize his skill set appropriately. In addition, the Saints are thin at the position which gives Howden a chance as a rookie to make an impact. I love the potential. And, depending on your taxi squad availability, I love his upside enough to roster him this year.
If not, he should definitely be on your radar next year.
In many ways, finding IDP Rookie Sleepers is like finding the needle in the haystack. There is a lot to look through and it is difficult to focus on just one thing. However, I would focus your attention to players that have versatility with the chance to play. Like Tariq Woolen last year, IDP sleepers may come in with little expectation to contribute right away, but with opportunity and a mindset, can yield immediate results.
Did I miss your favorite IDP Sleeper? Hit me up on Twitter @JGoody77
Full time teacher, full time fantasy sports enthusiast. I try to look at fantasy sports through my own lens and share that vision with my readers I love to explore and find new, and exciting fantasy football options including: C2C, dynasty, IDP, and Devy. See me on Twitter @JGoody77
Always willing to give advice, reach out via Twitter