July 01, 2009

If you're in a keeper league, you realize the value of identifying undervalued players as quickly as possible -- it's easier to acquire these hidden gems if you're the only one in your league with the inside track on their 2009 performance. Even if you're not in a keeper league, getting the biggest return on your draft picks usually involves snagging a good player late in the draft allowing you to use your earlier picks to select known producers.

I took a few minutes to see if the Sports Grumblings supercomputer, Mighty Max, could be tweaked to unearth some of those hidden gems. As is usually the case, the results were eye opening and provided some excellent insight.

I decided to use the following criteria for my search parameters:

• A three-year view of the stats (for stability)

• Players whose performance had improved each year (for quality)

• Fantasy scores which exceeded the positional average in 2008 (for significance)

Mighty Max was able to highlight several players likely to continue their upward trends. A few may be familiar, others not; according to Max, all of them will likely improve their performances in 2009.

As with all statistical analysis applied to human actions, it is not enough to just look at the numbers. You need to have an understanding of the situation of each player.

Here's the resulting set of players Max believes will continue to post improved fantasy numbers in 2009:

Defensive Linemen

• Think that top-line veterans can't be considered up-and-comers? Think again. Look at players like Shaun Rogers, John Abraham, Albert Haynesworth, Terrell Suggs and Kevin Williams, veterans who are still improving their game.

• The top two point scorers on the list, Suggs and Justin Tuck, were still upping their production in 2008 at a 20+ percent clip -- good bets to continue their outstanding production.


D'Qwell Jackson really stands out among the crowd here, not only for his stellar increase in his 2008 production (49 percent) but also because he's the top scorer on the list. A no-brainer as an LB1 in your IDP league.

• If you're not familiar with Barrett Ruud, you should be; he's the steady, unspectacular type of linebacker that always puts your team over the top.

• After all these years, it's amazing to find Ray Lewis' name on this list; but while his numbers have improved the past three seasons, the increases from season to season have been basically flat. Have we witnessed the plateau of this future Hall of Famer?

Defensive Backs

Gibril Wilson certainly lived up to the hype last season, posting an outstanding performance. His numbers would indicate that he's not done yet, either.

Quintin Mikell and Jarrard Page are younger, less-known players who have performed well and are poised to continue their solid play. Both play safety, which is traditionally the DB position IDP owners prefer. Page's progress is especially impressive when you consider that he is only 24 years old -- which means he is still learning.

There you have it, an early look at the "Incredible IDPs" for 2009. Of course, situations change as teams go through training camp and get a better handle on their players and defensive schemes. So make it a point to visit Sports Grumblings for the latest and greatest fantasy news; while you're there, make it a point to check out my IDP Insights column for our exclusive IDP player rankings.

Until then, remember to keep your facemask up and never, ever forget to wrap up.

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