The fantasy regular season is half over and by this time, you know what your team is all about. If you are on the top half of the league, this is the time of year where I try to trade some depth at strengths to cover some weaknesses, then backfill depth at strengths with free agents. If you are a middling team, you need to cover your weaknesses but you likely don’t have the depth to make trades. If you are a zero or a one win team, it’s probably time to look to next year. If you can nab a couple promising prospects for keepers (if you have them) and trade for picks, it’s a great way to stay active in an otherwise lost season. Teams with regular starters from San Francisco and the New York Giants need to find other options as those teams are on bye in week 8.
As with many weeks of waiver wire speculating, there were some hits and some misses in week 7. The bright spot of the week was the sneaky play. Vincent Rey logged 16 total tackles (7 solo) in a Sunday afternoon drubbing by the Colts. Starter Rey Maualuga is still slated to miss time due to a hamstring injury so Vincent Rey remains a great option for a least a couple weeks. Nigel Bradham also did fairly well with 7 total tackles. Sio Moore and Miles Burris were each decent with 5 solos tackles a piece. Rookie Khalil Mack was the star of that game with 11 total tackles. Deontae Skinner was the miss of the week as Dont’a Hightower returned to the lineup and a prominent role as leader of the Patriot defense. Skinner logged 2 total tackles but that paled in comparison to Hightower’s day.
Malcolm Smith SEA LB – MLB/WLB 4-3
Covering for injured Seattle MLB Bobby Wagner, Superbowl MVP Malcolm Smith is thrust back into meaningful snaps. The former Trojan scored 10 solo tackles and a forced fumble in week 7. Smith had solid production in 2013 covering for an injured KJ Wright late in the year so IDP owners shouldn’t be surprised by week 7’s output against the Rams. The reeling Seahawks get the Panthers in week 8. There is no timetable for Wanger’s return but he is wearing a cast on his foot currently. Expect that Smith can be an option for at least 3 weeks.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Dont’a Hightower NEP LB – MLB 4-3
Let’s be clear, Dont’a Hightower is not Jerod Mayo. The coverage skills simply aren’t there. He is rock solid against the run and hits like a truck when he does however. He also carries above average pass rushing chops. That said, opportunity to generally the mother of IDP production more than anything in fantasy and Hightower is the centerpiece of the Patriot defense. In his first game back from a knee injury, the fromer 1st rounder out of Alabama logged 13 total tackles and a sack against the Jets on Thursday night. With the Bears and Broncos in the next two upcoming weeks, the matchup potential is ripe.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB1 to Low-end LB2
Chad Greenway MIN LB – WLB 4-3
Chad Greenway was a player that many shallow bench leagues might not have been able to afford to wait around on. Through the first 3 games of the year, Greenway scored 13 total tackles while being limited by injury. Hand and ribs fractures ultimately caused him to miss 3 weeks worth of action. Cue week 7’s performance against the Bills and Greenway logged 15 total tackles. He looks to be almost fully recovered from the injuries that slowed him to start the year. If your league saw Greenway dropped, you could do much worse for an option for the rest of the year.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB1 to Low-end LB2
Joplo Bartu ATL LB – ILB 3-4
Bartu is a player that has appeared on the IDP Free Agent report before this year. However after two and a half weeks, Bartu was replaced by rookie 4th round pick Prince Shembo. Shembo has since given way back to Bartu in Atlanta’s struggling defense. When starting, Bartu averages 10 total tackles a game including a monster 15 total tackles against the Ravens in week 7. Bartu and the Falcons draw the Lions in week 8. The former UDFA LB is a decent LB2/flex IDP start.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to High-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Will Compton WAS LB – Washington’s every week starter Perry Riley is struggling with a knee injury. Will Compton played decently in Riley’s absence in week 7 with 7 total tackles. The Cowboys are up next for the Redskins. I like that matchup for the Redskins LBs as DeMarco Murray is going to be fed the ball.
Defensive Linemen Plays
It’s rare to see a week like week 7 as far as high-end DL production. Three players scored at least 3 sacks. A couple of big tackle games as well with 6 defensive linemen scoring at least 6 total tackles. Kyle Orton was sacked 6 times by defensive linemen, Teddy Bridgewater was felled 4.5 times from linemen and Ryan Tannehill hit the turf 4 times from Chicago’s front four. It appears as though all three of those matchups are shaping up to be a solid matchup for streaming DL.
The free agent report went two for three on DL recommendations. Jerry Hughes was stellar; logging 5 total tackles and 1.5 sacks against the Vikings. George Selvie was acceptable with 4 total tackles and a PD. Olivier Vernon was the only defensive end on the Dolphins who failed to score a sack with meaningful sanps against the Bears.
Jeremiah Ratliff CHI DT – DT 4-3
I normally try not to chase last week’s stats but Jeremiah Ratliff isn’t leaving me much choice. The former Dallas Cowboy returned from injury in week 7 to put up 7 total tackles and 3.5 sacks against the Dolphins. One of the most ridiculous games from any defensive lineman much less a tackle, Ratliff has proven he can produce very well at times but has been hampered as of late by injury. The Bears get a Patriots team that hasn’t been the best at protecting Tom Brady in week 8. The matchup is decent here. I think Ratliff is worth an add to see if he can continue to win inside as offensive lines try to contain Jared Allen and Willie Young. Just don’t expect DL1 production every week.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to High-end DL3
Chris Clemons/Andre Branch JAC DE – DE 4-3
This pickup is simply a percentages play. The Bears were able to hurt the Dolphins on pass rush and pile up sacks. I think that Jacksonville’s budding defensive line can do some damage as well. Clemons is the better play with 4 sacks on the year so far and 3 in each of his last 3 games but Branch is decent flier in deeper leagues. Miami will continue to struggle on pass protection, expect Gus Bradley to bring the heat more than once on Sunday
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL1 to Low-end DL2
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
All Detroit DL – The Atlanta Falcons might have the best all-IR offensive line in the NFL. Starting third-string centers, nicked-up rookie left tackles and a cavalcade of replacement talent at all of the other offensive line positions, the Atlanta Falcons are mess for protection. They allowed 5 sacks from edge rushers against Baltimore and I don’t see things improving much more against a better defense in Detroit. In terms of value next week, Ansah is the top billing, then Suh and Fairley and then Darryl Tapp and George Johnson.
Defensive Back Plays
Week 7 defensive back production was largely tackle dominated. No defensive TDs by any IDP for the first time this season helped contribute to that. Out of the top 18 DBs in week 7, only 5 were cornerbacks. This throwback-type of IDP production hasn’t been typical of IDP production before this week and likely isn’t going to be typical after this week. Safeties remain more consistent options due to tackle opportunity for the most part but do not overlook a high-end cornerback.
Week 7 might be one of the best weeks for the free agent report this year and almost everyone recommended were not only solid options but elite. Blidi Wreh-Wilson was exactly as advertised with 7 total tackles and a PD against a mix of Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins of Washington. Reshad Jones was a top 5 option at DB with 7 total tackles, 2 PDs and an interception in a big game against the Bears. Brent Grimes was passable with 4 solo tackles against those same Bears. Both Bears starting WRs were largely bottled up on Sunday. Both Detroit safeties were great against the Saints. James Ihedigbo scores 8 total tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. Glover Quin had 6 total tackles and the game-sealing interception. With Atlanta up next for the Lions, both Lions safeties remain a solid play for week 8. Perrish Cox was the lone disappointment as he was not in position to make as many tackles as I predicted.
Charles Woodson OAK S – S 4-3
With Tyvon Branch and now Usama Young lost for the year due to injury, Charles Woodson is going to be expected to carry much of the load in the defensive backfield of the Oakland Raiders. Woodson can still get it done at 38 years old as he scored 7 total tackles and an interception in a week 7 loss to the Cardinals. With the Browns and Seahawks up next and no one of NFL-caliber to play safety with him, Charles Woodson might be involved in many more plays down the stretch.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix GBP FS – FS 3-4
Clinton-Dix was already coming into his own as a third safety and spell SS/FS for the Packers. In that role, he averaged 6 tackles a game from week 4 through 6. In week 7, he took over full time free safety duties from Micah Hyde and responded with 9 total tackles against the Panthers. With New Orleans on the slate in week 8, expect the rookie first round pick out of Alabama to make an impact.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Patrick Chung NEP SS – SS 4-3
Not very long ago, former Oregon Duck Patrick Chung was an elite, can’t-miss IDP DB1 in all dynasty leagues for the New England Patriots. The only thing standing in his way was injury. Fast forward a bit and further injury and ineffectiveness saw him leave for Philadelphia only to underwhelm there. Chung is now back in blue and grey and seems to be making a decent impact on this Patriot defense in the wake of some major tacklers being out of the lineup. He scored 9 total tackles in week 6 against the Bills, 8 total tackles against the Jets in week 7 and gets the Bears in week 8. Give the 27-year old a shot to put up some tackles.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Rodney McLeod STL/LaMarcus Joyner STL S – FS/SS 4-3
San Diego defensive backs combined to score 32 tackles against the Chiefs in week 7. McLeod himself is averaging 5 tackles a game plus a PD. The Rams have been surprisingly competitive despite fielding a largely inexperienced offense but go up against the Chiefs in week 8. I don’t think that the Rams win this game but I don’t think that it is a blowout either. Look for the Rams safeties to pick up some tackles here. Rookie LaMarcus Joyner is a wildcard in this picture though, he scored 7 tackles largely at the expense of TJ McDonald.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Bradley Roby DEN CB – Bradley Roby is quickly becoming a difference maker for the Broncos. He is a decent tackle and a decent cover corner. 7 total tackles against the 49ers is evidence that he will be targeted by teams that are getting blown out by the Broncos. San Diego’s passing attack led by Philip Rivers visits the Mile High city in week 8. I like Roby’s shot to make an impact.