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Fantasy Football: 2022 sleepers and values to target late in IDP drafts

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith (91) celebrates sacking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the third quarter during their football game Sunday, November 21, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Min. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Apc Packersvsvikingsfb 1121211601djp

Finding value in any fantasy football draft can be difficult unless you know where to look. In IDP leagues, so many gamers focus on previous season finishes and end up over-drafting players when someone else can put up similar production multiple rounds later.

IDP managers aren’t going to win their leagues at the draft, but getting the season started off on the right foot and finding value in the draft is a great place to start.

Here are a pair of value IDPs at five defensive positions to target late in fantasy drafts this season.

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EDGE PRESTON SMITH, GREEN BAY PACKERS

Quietly one of the better edge rushers of the entire 2021 season, Smith was likely overshadowed by the Rashan Gary breakout season in which he finished third in the league in total pressures (81). Meanwhile, Smith’s 2021 season put him back in the conversation as a top-20 edge rusher after a very disappointing 2020.

Smith racked up 62 pressures (T-10th among EDs), 47 (76%) of which came from Week 10-on, which was second-most in the NFL. On the season, he earned a strong 18.1% win rate, 75.1 pass-rush grade and 14.8% pressure rate, all of which ranked inside the top-20 edge defenders (min. 50% of snaps). With Za’Darius Smith now in Minnesota, Smith’s expected playing time should come close to last season when he played nearly 700 defensive snaps. IDP managers should be looking to grab Smith around the 20th-25th edge rusher off the board with a chance to exceed those expectations.

With Gary’s hype at an all-time high, currently ranked as ED5 for 2022, Smith can be had in those later rounds for those unwilling to invest in the young stud and take advantage of the savvy vet who others have dismissed inside the top-30 players at his position.

Preston Smith 2021 pass-rush stats and ranks among EDs

Total pressures (EDGE rank)

Pressure rate (EDGE rank) Win rate (EDGE rank) Sack production vs. expected
62 (T-10th) 14.8% (15th) 18.1% (15th) +0.7

EDGE DENICO AUTRY, TENNESSEE TITANS

One of the oft-forgotten players along the defensive line in most drafts, Autry is coming off a season where he matched his career high in sacks (9) and there’s reason to be optimistic about another strong year. Autry’s pressure rate (13%) and win rate (16%) were both among the better marks in the league for 2021 edge rushers, and he should be in for another heavy workload in 2022 to showcase those talents.

Autry played just over 500 pass-rush snaps last season and has a shot to come close to those totals again, despite being 32 years old. Bud Dupree missed six games last season due to injury but has been largely disappointing since Tennessee had signed him. Dupree’s presence shouldn’t affect Autry’s playing time all that much, as Autry has the ability to kick inside when he, Dupree and Harold Landry are on the field and still be an effective IDP — especially for the value of a late draft pick this season.

Autry’s nine sacks in 2021 were almost spot on as expected based on sack production vs. expected, which should provide confidence that he at least didn’t overachieve. Older players like Autry are often overlooked, and there will be a few more on this list that fit the bill. But for the 2022 season, when we only need them for one year, they come at an incredible value that can help IDP managers win leagues.

Denico Autry 2021 pass-rush stats and ranks among EDs

Total pressures

(ED rank)

Pressure rate

(ED rank)

Win rate

(ED rank)

Sack production vs expected
61 (T-13th) 13.01% (24th) 15.99% (T-24th) +0.4

DI DEXTER LAWRENCE, NEW YORK GIANTS

Lawrence has never posted more than four sacks in a season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a poor pass-rusher. In fact, he probably deserves more credit as a pass-rush threat based on some of the underlying numbers creating a higher expected sack total for him last season. Lawrence posted an above-average pass-rush grade (74.0) and pressure rate (10.5%) for his position, while his win rate (13.4%) was among the top-20 interior defenders in 2021. 

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