Congratulations to those who advanced in their playoff round in week 14 and better luck next year to an equal amount of people who saw their fantasy year come to an end. Getting into week 15, you need to be cognizant of a few things that you normally ignore. Cold weather in outdoor stadiums typically means a decreased passing attack, increased running attack and overall shorter game. Take a quick look at the weather report before starting players in a critical playoff game. Your pass rushing specialist likely isn’t going to amount to much in a blizzard.
When it mattered most, the IDP Free Agent Report delivered perhaps its best performance. All recommendations were good for double digits in week 14. Jon Bostic put up 7 total tackles against the Cowboys on the Thursday nighter. Both Telvin Smith (5 total tackles, 1 PD) and JT Thomas (6 total tackles, 1 PD) had decent games against the rushing attack of the Texans. Bobby Wagner logged 7 solo tackles against the Eagles on Sunday afternoon. Finally, Danny Lansanah scored 8 total tackles despite the return of Lavonte David to the starting lineup. It’s worth mentioning that Lovie Smith has name Lansanah as a key piece on defense that the Bucs are going to try to build around, high praise for a journeyman LB.
Danny Trevathan DEN LB – WLB 4-3
Take this recommendation with a gigantic grain of salt if you are counting on production this week. Danny Trevathan was the Broncos starting WLB going into this year but was lost for the first month of the year with a leg fracture. He got two games under his belt before falling to another fracture but in a different part of his leg. He was placed on injured reserve – designated to return with the ability to be activated prior to the Broncos’ week 15 game against the Chargers. The Broncos WLB carries huge value no matter who it is. Trevathan scored remarkably well last year and his replacement Brandon Marshall is a top 5 LB this year. It’s incredibly tough to bank on the former Kentucky Wildcat in his first game coming back from injury but he carries significant keeper value and his utilization may become more apparent with more information available later in the week. You also might see both Marshall and Trevathan on the field at the same time with Marshall potentially moving to the middle.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB1 to Mid LB3
Devon Kennard NYG LB – SLB 4-3
Kennard was on the free agent report a few weeks ago since ascending to the starting lineup as the Giants’ new strongside linebacker. Since he has earned those starter snaps, he has amassed 23 tackles, 4 sacks and a forced fumble. His pass rush has been welcome on a New York Giants team that had struggled to log sacks prior to his ascension in the starting lineup. The Giants host the Redskins in week 15. Be it a hobbled Colt McCoy or a disillusioned Robert Griffin getting the start, the Giants will have many chances to land some sacks.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Will Compton NYG LB – ILB 3-4
Keenan Robinson had been one of the nice surprises of the year, emerging as a solid LB2/3 in replacement of London Fletcher after years of season-ending injuries. Unfortunately, it appears as though the injury bug has bitten him again as Keenan Robinson missed week 14 with a sprained MCL and will likely miss week 15 against the Giants. The replacement ILB for the Redskins is 2013 UDFA Will Compton out of Nebraska and will likely draw any starts while Robinson is out. Compton can tackle as evidenced by his 14 total tackles against the Rams in week 14.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Sam Barrington GBP LB – ILB 3-4
Sam Barrington is an interesting prospect. Green Bay is splitting ILB snaps between Clay Matthews, AJ Hawk and Barrington currently. Barrington is playing a lot of early downs and represents the youth that Mike McCarthy is trying to infuse into his defense. The former South Florida bull was drafted in the 7th round of last year’s draft but has potential to do as Desmond Bishop did a few years back, emerging from the late rounds of the draft as a fantasy LB1. If you can stash him without giving up better talent, do so. AJ Hawk is on the final year of his deal in 2015.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB3 to Low-end LB3; dynasty/keeper value
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Justin Houston/Tamba Hali KCC LB – Oakland visits Arrowhead in week 15 and although the Raiders have been vastly improved lately, they still won’t have much of a shot against the Chiefs in Kansas City who provide one of the best home field advantages in the league. Chances are that both of these guys are owned in big play leagues but perhaps not in balanced or tackle heavy leagues. Those who want to take a big swing in week 15 might look to Houston or Hali in that order.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Tackles drove a lot of the defensive line value this week where 15 defensive linemen logging over 5 total tackles. Week 13 recommendation Fletcher Cox even scored 11 total tackles himself! Sacks were also there with 7 defensive linemen scoring at least two sacks. As injuries mount late in the year to offensive lineman, sacks typically avail themselves more frequently.
It was a really rough week for the free agent report in week 14. Sack hunters that gave Andre Fluellen a shot were rewarded with a sack but nothing else. Desmond Bryant was invisible against the Colts. Tank Carradine had a similar game against the Oakland. Justin Smith had 3 total tackles but really disappointed given the matchup.
Jacquies Smith TBB DE – DE 4-3
This is simply a production recommendation. Smith has logged 6 sacks in his last 6 games. The downside on Smith is that he doesn’t log as many run defense snaps as you’d like to see. The second year man out of Missouri, Smith has a chance to get even better early on in his career. Give Smith a shot for sack chasing and maybe stash him for keeper leagues to see if he can improve his situation in terms of snap counts or his ability under Lovie Smith.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Damontre Moore NYG DE – DE 4-3
With Robert Ayers out for the year, this might be the opportunity for former Aggie Damontre Moore to earn a starting role with the Giants opposite Jason Pierre-Paul. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has been vocal in saying that Moore hasn’t earned a starting role yet but I feel like that is a coach wanting his young player to earn his role rather than defaulting into it through injury. Moore is coming off of a 2 sack performance against the Titans and has a shot to add to that with a date against the Redskins.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Jason Babin NYJ DE– Babin probably blurs the lines of a defensive lineman versus a linebacker but he has proved that he can tackle the ballcarrier as he has scored 11 tackles in his last two games. He also has some pass rush chops as we know from his days in Jacksonville and Philadelphia before that. Babin could be a decent high floor guy who has a shot to land a splash play against the Titans in week 15.
Defensive Back Plays
Tackles were the name of the game for defensive back production in week 14. The touchdowns that were scored were done so by players who aren’t going to see the light of day in all but deepest of dynasty leagues and the splash plays seemed to be fewer and farther between than most weeks. I typically try to design my plays around tackles at defensive back and consider any splash play potential as upside. It tends to make for a more predictable score.
While the Free Agent report wasn’t bulletproof, you have to like how some of the top options played in week 14. Dwight Lowery was the DB1 in tackle-heavy and balanced leagues with a staggering 13 total tackles (11 solo) and a forced fumble. Lowery’s running mate at strong safety William Moore left the game early with an injury. Kemal Ishmael replaced him and scored 7 total tackles. When Moore left the game, he had 3 total tackles. Jim Leonhard had a monster game for big play leaguers with 7 total tackles, a sack and an interception. JJ Wilcox and Stevie Brown largely disappointed with 2 total tackles each. Both Bengals corners recommended were solid however. Terrence Newman has 7 total tackles and 2 PDs and Pacman Jones logged 5 solo tackles and a punt return.
David Bruton DEN S – SS 4-3
This is a really risky play as David Bruton is not a starter for the Denver Broncos, at least with the information I have. TJ Ward and Rahim Moore are the starting safeties currently. From what I saw against the Bills in week 14, Bruton was on the field along with Moore and Ward at different times. I wonder if Bruton is being worked into a rotation here. What you can’t really ignore here is his production in week 14. The former golden domer logged 9 solo tackles, a PD and a forced fumble. He should have had an interception in the fourth quarter as well. I might add Bruton and wait and see what happens with him. The Chargers in week 15 are a good matchup though.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Marcus Gilchrist SDC S – SS 3-4
I really like Marcus Gilchrist to make an impact in a huge game against the Broncos in week 15. Gilchrist scored 8 total tackles against the Patriots on the Sunday nighter with five of those tackles coming against the run. Gilchrist was shaken up for a bit in the 4th quarter which hampered his opportunity slightly but he managed to come back to finish the game. I think that a Denver Broncos offense that is committed to running the ball as of late will provide enough opportunity to allow Charger safeties to score.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Corey Graham/Aaron Williams BUF CB/S – CB/FS 4-3
I’m going to the well again, playing a free safety against Aaron Rodgers and Packers. Going back the last three games, free safeties against the Packers have scored at least 13 points. The former Longhorn, Aaron Williams, is about as hit or miss as it gets as far as tackles go but when teams throw on the Bills, Williams can log plenty of tackles. Corey Graham is also a stellar option this week and next going up against Aaron Rodgers in week 15 and Tom Brady in week 16. Since Leodis McKelvin was lost to injury, Graham has averaged 14 fantasy points per game. He is a solid tackle with some big play upside given Buffalo’s pass rush.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Josh Robinson MIN CB – CB 4-3
The Minnesota corners have quietly been solid this year with Xavier Rhodes being one of the better ones in the league. I think that the Lions, who host the Vikings in week 15, shy away from throwing at Rhodes which should see Robinson getting a larger share of the action. The Lions running game hasn’t been awful in terms of yards per carry this year but I don’t think that they manage to run very well against the Vikings. Matt Stafford should need to throw the ball to win; look for Robinson to get involved with tackles.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to High-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
All Houston CBs – Sneak some Houston corners into your lineup in week 15. The Colts need to win to keep pace in the AFC first round bye discussion and the Texans need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Colts win or lose on Andrew Luck’s arm and next week will be no different. Jonathan Joseph is your play here but AJ Bouye and Kareem Jackson also carry value.