First off, welcome to the world of IDP sleepers. I’m Tom Diggs and I’ll be bringing you through the ups and downs of the IDP world for this coming season at FantasyKnuckleheads.com. Individual defensive players can be much more difficult to project compared to offensive players and their level of consistency game-to-game and year-to-year involves a much greater level of flux, particularly outside of the top dogs. Adding to that challenge is the fact that leagues can vary in size from 8 to 32 teams and from beginner IDP leagues starting out by requiring only one IDP to expert leagues that start 11 IDP. With this wide range of potential readers in mind, this page will cover a host of players from the upper echelon down to guys you may have never heard of. A player here will be defined as a sleeper in two ways:
- He is fairly unknown
- He is known (maybe very well known), but not rated highly enough
As such, please be aware that some sleepers will be written about that many readers know about or are very familiar with, but may not appreciate enough or target enough. It’s here that we will open your eyes to the value so that you can maximize your IDP draft and team’s value to bring home that championship!
With that in mind and out of the way, we get to my first sleeper for 2011: David Hawthorne, WLB, Seattle Seahawks.
Now some people, particularly those more experienced IDPers, will say “David Hawthorne is NOT a sleeper Diggs. Why the heck are you calling him a sleeper?” Well, the first reason is because David Hawthorne is significantly underrated by almost everyone in fantasy football. That alone makes him a sleeper. Secondly, I would argue that Hawthorne might be a top-10 LB this year and for years to come, when most sites and alleged “experts” like me will rank him as a LB3 or lower.
The people that are aware of Hawthorne most likely know him from when he burst onto the IDP scene back in the 2009 season. That year, Lofa Tatupu was hurt and missed week 3 and then was out for the season after week 6. What did Hawthorne do in his starts while Tatupu was out? He “only” racked up 105 tackles in 11 games. Nothing much…..just a pace for 153 total tackles over a 16 game season! Hawthorne was a newfound revelation that came from obscurity to prominence and dominance in a matter of weeks. So what happened next?
People, including self-proclaimed “experts” such as myself, had the unenviable and impossible task of trying to rank and project Hawthorne heading into the 2010 season with Tatupu coming back healthy, a new coaching regime coming in (with a head coach that coached Tatupu in college), a brand-spanking-new expensive first round draft pick LB in Aaron Curry, and the dreaded “potential one-hit-wonder” tag all clouding our prognosticating minds. Opinions were all over the map and Hawthorne finished below a lot of people’s expectations. So why am I trumping him up now?
Well, despite only finishing somewhere around 40-45th amongst linebackers in terms of points per game, Hawthorne showed some serious signs of coming on like his 2009 whirlwind-self at the end of the 2010 season. Hawthorne had to deal with playing a new position (switching from the MIKE [MLB] to the WILL [WLB]), had to deal with playing next to Tatupu for the first time, and had to deal with playing with another talented OLB (Curry) for the first time as 2010 started. As such, Hawthorne only racked up a paltry 27 total tackles in the first 7 games of 2010. At the time he looked like a complete bust. So what happened next? The real David Hawthorne stood up and when he did, opponents went down with a vengeance!
Over the final 9 games of the 2010 season, Hawthorne accumulated a total of 79 tackles. Projected over a 16 game season, that would be 140 total tackles- close to his 2009 pace despite a new position and all the other talent at LB around him that he was competing against. Once Hawthorne got comfortable in his new surroundings, he placed 7th amongst linebackers in ppg over the final 9 games and also 7th amongst linebackers over the final 7 games (in order to remove his one outlier game in week 9). That puts him in the following company:
Over the Final 9 weeks
Over the Final 7 weeks
|1||Patrick Willis||Stephen Tulloch|
|2||Paul Posluszny||Ray Lewis|
|3||Stephen Tulloch||Jerod Mayo|
|4||Jerod Mayo||Paul Posluszny|
|5||Brian Urlacher||Patrick Willis|
|6||Ray Lewis||Brian Urlacher|
|7||David Hawthorne*||David Hawthorne*|
That means that over the final half of the season, Hawthorne was right up there with the elite of the elite again for the second straight year.
He even continued his production in the playoffs as he tallied 9 total tackles in each of the Seahawks two playoff games. Hawthorne even avenged some of his 1st half bad games as he faced those opponents again in the season’s 2nd half. Three repeat opponents saw an upraise in his fantasy points the second time around:
|Opponent and Points Scored
|Opponent and Points Scored
|1||San Francisco (4.0)||San Francisco (11.0)|
|2||St. Louis (4.0)||St. Louis (10.0)|
|3||Chicago (0.0)||Chicago (17.0)|
When you put it all together, Hawthorne looks like he is once again growing back into a star. He burst onto the scene in 2009 when nobody had heard of him. He tanked to start 2010, and most people jumped off the bandwagon. If you can, take advantage and get him in your drafts as a LB2 or LB3. He likely will not command the price tag of a top-10 or LB1 player, but he will produce like one which makes him a sleeper. Add in the fact that he is only 26 years old (for you IDP dynasty folks out there), and Hawthorne is not just the present, but also the future in Seattle and in the IDP world. Get him while you still can!