Reading the Defense: Five IDP fantasy sleepers

Remember the days when only true nerds played fantasy football? Nowadays it seems that everyone and their mother plays. Not that that's a bad thing. The fantasy community is a big tent with room for everyone. That diversity has brought with it a wide array of formats -- daily, PPR, best ball to name a few. Yet somehow, it comes back to you ... the faithful IDP player. You're the original fantasy hipster.

For those of you who are new to IDP leagues, they are, as the name suggests, leagues with individual defensive players. If you're wondering how to approach drafting in these leagues, here are a few tips...

Consider that your crash course introduction to IDP leagues. But you're really here for nuggets of information. That's what I strive to provide. So as you're getting ready for your upcoming fantasy drafts, I'll be providing you with lists of players to draft and some to avoid this season. Of course, sleepers are always of interest. So why not start there?

Kiko Alonso, LB, Philadelphia Eagles: When the Eagles and Bills made their big trade in the offseason, most of the focus was understandably on LeSean McCoy heading to western New York. But an equally big piece of the puzzle was Alonso coming back the other way. Following a nice rookie campaign, Alonso missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury in training camp. The Oregon product is a nice fit for the Eagles defensive scheme and could add playmaking ability to a linebacking corps that was lacking in 2014.

Mike Daniels, DL, Green Bay Packers: Daniels became a full-time starter for the first time in 2014 and posted a career year. Entering his fourth season in the NFL, Daniels appears poised for even bigger things after finishing last season third on the team in sacks. Playing in a defense that also boasts Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, it's not likely that Daniels is going to challenge to lead the team in quarterback takedowns but the veteran should have a nice chance to top his career-high of 6.5 this season.

Leonard Williams, DL, New York Jets: The Jets were thrilled to have Williams fall into their lap with the sixth overall pick in the draft. That turned out to be even more fortuitous after a series of unfortunate events befell Gang Green's defensive line this offseason. Muhammad Wilkerson has been beset with nagging injuries while Sheldon Richardson's off-field escapades have earned him a suspension. Not only was Williams a force up front during his collegiate career, but he should have the chance to play plenty of snaps as the Jets figure out their defensive end situation.

Vic Beasley, DL, Atlanta Falcons: When the Falcons spent the eighth overall pick on Beasley, the hope was that the former Clemson star would add some bite to a pass rush that was toothless last season. The early returns have been positive as Beasley lined up in several places in the preseason opener against the Titans and showed well in just about every instance. If Beasley can get better in run support, he could end up as a three-down player which would help his fantasy draft value immensely.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB, Green Bay Packers: Last season, Clinton-Dix acquitted himself well in his rookie campaign. The biggest knock was his lack of interceptions since the Alabama product picked off just one pass. Yet he made up for it by being second on the team in tackles. This year, he should have plenty of more room to roam and has a chance to be an even bigger playmaker in the Green Bay defense.

Four downs

» Former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowneyreturned to practice for the Houston Texans on Monday. The pass rushing specialist is trying to rebound from what was essentially a lost rookie season after microfracture surgery. It's far too soon to write Clowney off as a bust, but you can expect that all eyes will be on the former South Carolina star this star. If he can stay healthy, he'll be part of a potentially devasting front seven that also includes Vince Wilfork and (of course) J.J. Watt.

» When fantasy managers have thought about the Denver Broncos in recent years, it's been about all of the weapons on the offensive side of the football. This season, the Broncos could also be a gold mine for IDP owners. Denver's front harassed the Seattle Seahawks repeatedly in the teams' preseason meeting, leading Kenny Anunike to remark that opponents "can't block us all." Between Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and rookie Shane Ray, there are plenty of guys in orange who should get after the quarterback this year.

» The Giants made a move to add secondary help by signing veteran Brandon Meriweather. The 31-year-old hasn't played a full season since 2010, but could potentially have an impact for Big Blue. As for whether he has an impact for your fantasy roster remains to be seen. New York is currently pretty thin in the defensive backfield so there may be an opportunity for Meriweather to play immediately.

» The St. Louis Rams are expected to have one of the NFL's better defenses heading into 2015, but now the team will be down a man in the secondary. Cornerback E.J. Gaines had surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury in his foot and is expected to miss the entire season. Look for Trumaine Johnson to step into the role, but he could compete with Marcus Roberson for extra snaps.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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