It’s easy to get wrapped up in the NFL’s version of March Madness with the opening of free agency. We’ve been without football since the Superbowl and the start of training camp is still four months away. All the big name free agents are flying off the boards. Teams are in a signing frenzy and we are all basking in its full glory. In recent years fantasy leagues have begun a migration to draft or auction their rosters before training camp and even before the Rookie Draft in May. It’s becoming increasingly more critical to be able to see the full ripple effect of these moves and take advantage of them before the other owners know what hit them.
With Karlos Dansby leaving for Cleveland, the Arizona Cardinals were very comfortable knowing that their second round pick, Kevin Minter LB, was ready to step in and take the reins at inside linebacker alongside Darrel Washington. Dansby totaled 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 19 pass defenses last year. He was without question one of the best linebackers production-wise last year and leaves a big hole in the interior of the Cardinals defense. Now If Minter is capable of reaching 80 tackles with 4 sacks, you have a very young IDP stud in the making. We all know the NFC West is a proven power-running division with big backs and a strong will to run. Minter has just found himself in a perfect situation to thrive.
The New York Giants tried playing russian roulette with Justin Tuck and let him peek out the free agent door. “Well that escalated quickly” and Tuck left the Giants holding the bag. They were ready with Damontre Moore DE. Moore was a 2013 third round pick and played primarily special teams last season. With an offseason minor shoulder surgery behind him, he can now focus on the task at hand. The Giants are expecting Moore to have a breakout year and so am I. I don’t expect Moore to have double digit sacks in his first 16 games, but having a young guy with a lot of upside is fantastic trade bait.
The Ravens entered the free agent season with strong safety James Ihedigbo leaving for greener pastures in Detroit. Matt Elam SS was drafted out of Florida where he played two years as a strong safety. Baltimore expected Michal Huff to play free safety opposite Ihedigbo, but bombed after 2 games and forced Coach Harbaugh to play Elam in his place. This year Ihedigbo is in Detroit and this gives Elam the opportunity he was waiting for to go back to strong safety and remind us why he was originally drafted in the first round. The difference here is that strong safeties are smaller faster linebackers that will cover both the pass and the run, were free safeties typically are the overseers and ball hawks. In IDP you want to find the strong safeties that will get you tackles and pass-defense. Look for Elam to get back to strong safety were he can tackle and harass the AFC North and your fantasy opponents.
The last guy I’m going to bring up is Vince Williams LB inside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. His predecessor Larry Foote ended last season on injured reserve with a torn bicep and he will be 34 this summer. Unfortunately for Foote, the Steelers needed to get under the cap and he was on the outside, looking in. In his place, the Steelers tried Kion Wilson and Williams, but it did not take long for the coaches to see something special in the sixth round draft pick out of Florida St. Williams is more of a sleeper for me but I expect him to jump in and win the starting inside linebacker spot, racking up tackles.
You might call these guys sleepers or just second year rookies but in IDP drafts when other owners are taking big name players with little IDP value you can take the points all the way to the bank.