Star: JJ Watt - I am not sure that there is a bigger star in Texas than Mr. Watt. While his seasons of ridiculous stats may have passed, I think it is safe to assume he will be top 5 if he remains healthy. Plus, is there anything better than having a good player who you like as a person?
Falling Star: Tyrann Mathieu - I love the honey badger. I think he is a great player and a great story. I believe we will begin to see his decline this year and that breaks my heart. If you have him, wait for a big game and try to move him.
Sleeper: Zach Cunningham - Can a 2nd round pick be a sleeper? Probably not, but I would invest a pick in his ascending talent. Cunningham started his rookie year with some steam, but saw his production dip during the middle of the season. Over the last 6 weeks of the season, he averaged 60 snaps per game. Unlike the beginning of the year, he began to see more opportunities against the run and his numbers increased.
Rising Star: Darius Leonard/Kemoko Turay - This pair of 2nd round rookies are going to be given every opportunity to succeed from the start of the season. (I am not even mad these are my beloved Jets’ picks, because I love Darnold!) The defense finished in the middle of the pack for tackles and 31st in sacks. I think you will see one of these players emerge, but they are both worthy of being labeled a rising star.
Falling Star: Clayton Geathers - I get it, Geathers had a great year in 2016. Everyone loves Geathers and dismisses the great year Farley had in 2017. We have to assume Geathers stays healthy and that the coaches will not find a way to get Farley back on the field. I assume nothing! They have an innovative and aggressive head coach, who after he finally starts taking my calls, will see the error in his ways and place Farley atop of the depth chart where he rightfully belongs. (Disclosure: I had Farley on multiple teams last year and didn’t believe in him enough)(I am sorry, Matthias)
Sleeper: Matthias Farley - See my logical and fact based statements above!
Rising Star: Yannick Ngakoue - The 3rd year defensive end out of Maryland enjoyed a breakout season in 2017. He finished the year with 12 sacks and was in the top 20 DEs in points scored. The first half of the 2017 season was uneven at best, he had huge games against the Jets, Colts, and Texans, and disappeared against the Steelers, Titans, and Rams. After the week 8 bye, Ngakoue’s performance leveled out, finishing with 7 straight games with over 5 points and four games over 11 points. I believe his 3rd year is going to establish Yannick as a star in the NFL.
Falling Star: Marcell Dareus - Where have you gone, Marcell? Dareus finished 2016 with a string of great games, but failed to keep the momentum in 2017. His PFF grade has been dropping slowly and with the competition on the Jacksonville line, Dareus’ best days may be behind him.
Sleeper: Taven Bryan - The 2018 1st round pick is making some noise as the backup DT. He may not have an opportunity to make a splash in his rookie year, but he is worthy of a stash in deeper leagues. With Dareus fading and Campbell getting older, his opportunity will be coming soon.
Star: Kevin Byard - Hey Deion, Kevin Byard is a great player and you may want to learn his name. Byard was the highest rated defensive player on the Titans and logged the second most snaps at safety in the NFL. This translated into top three finish in points for safeties in 2017. With the injury to Jonathan Cyprien, Byard may see even more opportunity this season leading to sustained excellence. He may be hard to get, but will bring value to any IDP squad.
Falling Star: Kenny Vaccaro - Sometimes players are unsigned because they are no longer an NF-level talent. Vaccaro was inefficient for the Saints in 2017, leading to his release. The Titans brought him on after the injury to Cyprien, but he will likely be a backup for the rest of his career.
Sleeper: Harold Landry - The talented OLB from Boston College is currently sitting behind Brian Orakpo on the depth chart. While Orakpo is a solid player, Landry will have opportunity to learn from him and eventually supplant him in the lineup.