Every year we try to forecast the next wave of “sleepers” for the upcoming season; the group of players flying below the radar but still produce at elite levels. The first batch of players to examine is always the incoming rookies, followed by free agents who have transitioned to new markets.
Missing from this equation are players with established abilities or opportunities but were lost to injury in the prior season. Below we will examine three key players (one per IDP position group) that have been forgotten by many but should be on the minds of every serious IDP fantasy player.
Defensive Line: Nick Fairley (DT, Detroit Lions)
Nick Fairley struggled to earn playing time in his rookie season but appeared to turn that around in 2012. Over the second half of last season, Fairley was emerging as a dominant threat, compiling 23 tackles and 4 sacks in his final 5 games. The season was eventually lost as Fairley landed himself on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
Coming into 2013, IDP players need to keep Fairley’s name in the back of their head. The former Auburn standout has rare athletic ability and playing next to Ndamukong Suh will free up Fairley for some free release attacks.
Linebacker: Brian Orakpo (OLB, Washington Redskins)
Brian Orakpo was off to a great start in his career, earning back to back Pro Bowl appearances his first two seasons. After switching to a 3-4 and pairing Orakpo with Ryan Kerrigan, the former Longhorn appeared ready to dole out some damage in 2012. However, a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2 would ultimately sideline Orakpo for the entire season.
After eight months of rehabilitation, Orakpo is back and ready to resume his natural place, in quarterback’s nightmares. With a healthy body and a pro bowl caliber sidekick in Ryan Kerrigan the stage is set for Orakpo to reemerge as a double-digit sack artist. On top of everything working for Orakpo, the Redskins have elected to wait on offering a contract extension; providing an even greater incentive for him to deliver a career season.
Defensive Back: Lardarius Webb (CB, Baltimore Ravens)
After cementing himself atop the Baltimore depth chart, Lardarius Webb was in the process of establishing himself as a top corner in the NFL prior to his injury. Webb was showcasing potential shutdown corner skills along with great turnover ability. Low and behold the violence of the NFL took its toll and delivered Webb a torn ACL in Week 6, ending his 2012 season.
Coming off of a serious knee injury, many fantasy players will be quick to steer away from Webb, but they should think again. Not only does Webb have great turnover ability but he also acts as a threat in the return game. While not as elusive as Patrick Peterson, Webb represents a dual threat defensive back that is worth drafting and stashing in deeper IDP leagues.