After week 3 is the time where usually where I start to draw conclusions on players. The regular season is about a quarter of the way through and a 0-3 or a 1-2 start is not impossible to recover from if you catch fire. If your team is underperforming, you need to look at making some trades or shaking things up with some free agents. It might be tough to do so, but that underperforming veteran that you drafted as your LB2 might need to be dropped. Fantasy draft pedigree means very little at this point in the fantasy season. Fortunately for fantasy owners, the free agent pool has been chock full of startable talents for your fantasy squad regardless of your standings. Remember that injuries can strike at any team, don’t be shy about adding depth if your roster size is large enough to warrant it. Week 4 is also the beginning of bye weeks in the NFL. Fantasy owners that count on New England Patriots or Tennessee Titans in their starting lineups need to find other options this week.
Week3 was a monster week for the Free Agent Report at linebacker. All of the recommendations made significant impacts. The biggest recommendation of the week was Jordan Hicks who scored 10 total tackles (9 solo), a fumble recovery and an interception in a big game against the Jets. Malcolm Smith had another big game with 7 total tackles, 1 PD and a sack. Justin Durant had a big game with 9 total tackles (8 solo) in a Falcons win against Dallas. Saints rush OLB Hau’oli Kikaha scored 6 total tackles and a sack. Even the stash player Robert Mathis scored a sack. Let’s hope for this kind of production again this week.
Highly-drafted Rookie LBs – MLB/OLB 4-3
Play number one is Eric Kendricks. Dynasty owners likely won’t have an option to pick up the second round rookie for the Vikings but with Mike Zimmer slow-rolling his rookies, Kendricks may not have been kept after week 2. In week 3 against the Chargers, we saw Kendricks outsnap veteran Gerald Hodges nearly two to one as the Vikings played a ton of nickel. Don’t expect that week 4 against the Broncos is going to be much different. Snag the former Cal star if he is free. My guess is that he wins the starting job outright after the week 5 bye.
Play number two is Shaq Thompson. I don’t think the plan was to install Thompson into the starting lineup so quickly but between Luke Kuechly’s concussion and Thomas Davis’ pectoral injury, the Panthers don’t have much choice. Thompson did not look out of place on Sunday with 7 total tackles and a sack against the Saints. While I don’t think Thompson’s upside is as high as Kendricks’, the WLB of the Panthers carries a lot of value, especially with the potential of Kuechly to be brought along slow as he returns from his concussion.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Telvin Smith JAC LB – WLB 4-3
Telvin Smith is going to take a back seat to star MLB Paul Poslusnzy most weeks but I like him for two reasons. First, he is a steady tackle source despite being second fiddle for IDP stats on his team. Smith has 29 total tackles through 3 games. Second, Smith is going to be the linebacker of the future for the Jaguars. He stepped into a leadership role for the Jaguars when Poslusnzy went down to injury last year and averaged over 10 tackles a game. Poslusnzy isn’t the picture of health so adding Smith is a safe play with upside while Jacksonville’s team struggles continue. The Indianapolis Colts represent blowout potential despite their offensive struggles given the poor start of the Jaguars defense this year. Roll Smith out as an LB3/flex next week.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Kevin Minter ARI LB – ILB 3-4
It took a couple seasons but Kevin Minter finally seems to be player that fantasy owners thought he might be when he was drafted in the second round out of LSU in the 2013 draft. Minter needed Daryl Washington, Larry Foote and most recently Sean Weatherspoon to get out of the way for him to rise to prominence but his time appears to have come. Minter has 19 tackles through 3 games and looks to be the new leader of the Arizona Cardinals defense. The Rams in week 4 aren’t the most stellar matchup for the Cardinal IDPs but Minter is a safe pick to log tackles on a go-forward basis.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
David Hawthorne/Stephone Anthony NOS LB – WLB/MLB 4-3
I have a feeling that the New Orleans-Dallas game on Sunday night in week 4 will be a bit of a barnburner. Dallas is going to run the ball as much as they can to keep the ball out of Brandon Weeden’s hands. It just so happens that they are really good at it. This is a tackle-heavy special; don’t expect much more for splash plays.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Will Compton WAS LB – Will Compton has been a decent spot start for desperate fantasy owners or deep leagues aficionados alike for a few years now. Compton put another solid game on the board on Sunday with 11 total tackles against the Giants. The Eagles are a great matchup for Redskins IDPs. Watch the injury report to make sure that Compton again draws a start over injured Perry Riley Jr.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Sacks and big plays were down in general with defensive linemen in week 3. Only two defensive linemen logged more than one sack and no defensivelinemen scored a touchdown despite 6 defensive TDs being scored across the league. This parity tends to favor the teams that passed on top DL to fill over spots on their team. That said, one week does not make a trend.
The Free Agent Report improved a fair bit in week 3 from the previous week. Jaye Howard logged 7 total tackles in a Monday night football loss to the Packers. Vic Beasley scored 2 tackles and a sack. Robert Ayers’ hamstring injury kept him from the field on Thursday night football.
Jared Allen CAR DE – DE 4-3
At one time, Jared Allen was the unquestioned IDP superstud. His 2011 64 tackle, 22 sack, 9 splash play line was a major impact on multiple fantasy leagues that year. While four years changes much in the NFL, I’d argue that Allen’s lack of stats lately have more to do with the Bears’ move to the 3-4 than anything. However, on Monday, the veteran pass rusher was traded to the Panthers for a sixth round pick. With Charles Johnson expected to miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury, Allen might be starting in week 4 for the Panthers as a 4-3 DE. Allen still needs to turn back the clock and beat tackles one –on-one but at least he is in the correct position to do so again.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Jarvis Jenkins CHI DE – DE 3-4
While I try to avoid chasing last weeks’ stats, week 3 was the first time that the Bears defense looked menacing despite the 26-0 score. Jarvis Jenkins was a major part of the defensive gameplan for the Bears as his utilization went up by 15% in week 3. He responded by logging 10 tackles and 2 sacks. While you can’t expect that kind of production every week, the fact that he has done it means he could do it again.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to High-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Brandon Williams BAL DT – Williams has 16 tackles through 3 games this year including 8 last week against the Bengals. With the Ravens up against the Steelers in week 4, expect a heavy dose of running from the Steelers as Mike Vick becomes the starting QB. Williams and the remainder of the Raven defensive line stand to benefit from it.
Defensive Back Plays
The Free Agent Report scored big on a couple options last week and was mediocre elsewhere. Chris Conte was the star recommendation with 9 total tackles (7 solo). Perrish Cox logged 4 solo tackles and an interception of Andrew Luck. On the mediocre side of things, Brandon Meriweather had 5 total tackles and Andrew Sendejo had 4 total tackles.
Xavier Rhodes/Trae Waynes MIN CB – CB 4-3
Xavier Rhodes logged 3 solo tackles and a PD before leaving the game in the second quarter against the Chargers with a concussion. Rookie Trae Waynes provided relief with 5 total tackles and a PD. Minnesota draws Denver in week 4 and should provide similar opportunity for the Viking corners to score tackles and some splash play potential as Peyton Manning has thrown an interception to a defensive back in every game thus far this year. Watch the injury report to see if Rhodes gets into the starting lineup. If not, the rookie corner rule applies to Trae Waynes.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Tramon Williams CLE CB – CB 3-4
The San Diego Chargers have supported seven cornerbacks to double digit fantasy points this season. With Cleveland up against the San Diego in week 4, look for Philip Rivers to continue to throw the ball around to give San Diego a chance to win the game. Joe Haden is a lockdown corner that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rivers try to avoid. Tramon Williams on the other side should be the benefactor.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Bacarri Rambo BUF S – FS 4-3
Buffalo safeties have long been a fantasy boon and this year has proven to be no different. After injury cut his week 1 game short, week 1 recommended strong safety Corey Graham has rounded into form with DB 1 caliber numbers. After a scary scene unfolded in week 2 with free safety Aaron Williams being carried off on a stretcher with a neck injury and missed week 3, Bacarri Rambo filled in nicely against Miami with 7 total tackles. The Giants are a decent matchup for Buffalo defensive backs in week 3, don’t be shy about streaming your favourite Buffalo DB into the lineup.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Jonathan Joseph HOU CB – Julio Jones is the most dangerous receiver in football. With 34 receptions, 440 yards and 4 TDs, the Texans need to find a way to stop him. Even with bracket coverage, Matt Ryan is going to get the ball to his best player. Jonathan Joseph figures to factor into a fair amount of tackles to stop Jones.