Rising Star: Akiem Hicks & Khalil Mack – At 6’5’’ 332 lbs. Akiem will surely feast like the King of Zamunda. That’s an 80’s movie reference, don’t @ me. I digress… The Bears are hungry for success. Hicks is a massive human with the proper skills to take down the QB. He has averaged 7.5 sacks the past two seasons, with last season his best sack season in his career. 50+ tackles also keeps him relevant as far as fantasy IDP is concerned.
Falling Star: Danny Trevathan – Tackle Monster Alert! Unfortunately, Danny is injury prone. If not for that, he would be a top flight LB with great tackle numbers. At this stage of his career, if he gives you a full season he gives you 100+ tackles, 2 sacks, INT, and even some passes defended. Be cautious and good luck!
Sleeper: Roquan Smith – This rookie is out here trying to get his game right for the season. The first round pick at the 8th spot says he doesn’t feel pressure to perform. His awareness as a rookie is stellar. He also seems to be a versatile LB that can transition into a nickel LB. He could have solid tackles and perhaps causes turnovers. If you’re desperate at the LB position late in your draft grab him.
Rising Star: Darrius Slay – The mitts on this guy! 26 passes defended last year. An incredible number in leagues that count these points. Most people don’t even focus on passes defended but they should. Draft him already!
Falling Star: Ezekiel Ansah – With arguably his best season last year, Ansah is poised to lead his team in sacks again. With a crazy large frame this guy creates havoc each down. But, he is prone to inconsistent sack numbers from year to year. 12 last year, 2 in 2016. Not great tackle numbers either. He is solid for starting DL and does have value but he can be found late.
Sleeper: Glover Quinn – A very good DB. Similar to Darrius Slay with tackles. Quinn has the hands and ball hawk capability to help make the Lions D a pesky team to throw against. He causes fumbles additionally, and he is a turnover hound. Quinn does not defend passes as well as Darrius, so he tends to slip in my opinion, but for a safety you could own much worse.
Green Bay Packers
Rising Star: Blake Martinez – He gets to the ball. He tackles. He is an animal! He scores very high in run stop %. A top run stopper already as a young member of a stout Green Bay rush D. 96 solo tackles and 48 assisted tackles led the team, which means he is all over the field. This is the type of IDP player you want to stock up on. His name does not carry much weight in the league so catch him on his way up.
Falling Star: Clay Matthews - DO NOT DRAFT HIM! He was a great player. His name alone won’t help you. Don’t get cute, do not draft him early. The Packers have other options if you select a LB from GB. See: Blake Martinez (AKA TACKLE MONSTER)
Sleeper: Ha Ha Clinton Dix - Clinton-Dix will be an important part of the defense going into next year. He has regressed the last two seasons with regard to his tackle numbers and INT. I like him as a sleeper because he is a talented 5th year player that is in a contract year. He needs to step up and play well this year, not just for the team but for his NFL reputation. See also: Muhammad Wilkerson.
Rising Star: Everson Griffen – The de facto leader of the league’s top 5 defense. He gets his sacks, and he adds a good amount of tackles for you, but he is not elite status as just a tackler. He had 13.5 sacks in 2017. The sacks help a lot, especially at the DE. Paired with Danielle Hunter, creating a duo that will haunt the QB all game, all year, if healthy.
Falling Star: Danielle Hunter - If there has to be one… 7 sacks last year was good enough for second on the team. However, the fact that there is so much damn talent in Minnesota leads me to believe Danielle is closer to his 7 sacks again, and not his career best numbers of 12+ sacks in a season. He is talented but I’m not drafting him.
Sleeper: Eric Kendricks – Excuse me, but has anyone seen the Tackle Monster? Well, here he is fellas, back again! Except this time he is in disguise. A sleeping tackle giant, boys. Another member of the Vikings D that is talented and in the mix. That’s what we want. Opportunity makes points. You want players that have the most time on the field and the ones that make it happen. Here is one in sleeper form.