With week two in the books, your attitude towards snap counts and production that you’re seeing needs to slowly start changing from 2016 expectations to 2016 reality. My rule is that three weeks makes a trend but each owner has their own level of risk tolerance. Grabbing a guy now might make more sense now than after frustrated owners bail on their draft picks. Evaluate your roster now for potential weak links as well as potential free agents on the wire so you can make moves to fill the gaps when your patience wears out.
The Free Agent Report did pretty well in its selections last week. Tahir Whitehead led the way with 10 total tackles (7 solo) against the Titans for the regular selections where Craig Robertson was a stellar pickup from the sneaky play column scoring 12 total tackles (10 solo) against the Giants playing in place of the injured Danelle Ellerbe. Bernardrick McKinney stepped up in place of the injured Brian Cushing with 8 total tackles (2 solo) and a sack against the Chiefs. While De’Vondre Campbell failed to score due to an ankle injury suffered in practice, fellow rookie Deion Jones logged 10 total tackles. Sio Moore led all Colt LBs with 5 solo tackles against the Broncos and Todd Davis logged 5 total tackles himself against the Colts in that same game.
John Simon HOU LB – OLB 3-4
Would it surprise you to know that John Simon outsnapped Jadeveon Clowney in week 1? The former Raven logged 6 total tackles (5 solo) and a sack in the Texans week one win against the Bears and followed it up with 6 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Those are some scary good numbers for two weeks and not just for big play either. And if the Texans are willing to continue to give the former Buckeye the snap count, then fantasy owners need to take notice. Perhaps the lost volume from Cushing’s injury will end up on Simon’s plate. The Texans visit the Patriots in week three which isn’t the best matchup on paper unless rookie QB Jacoby Brissett starts. With Tom Brady still suspended and Jimmy Garoppolo reported out up to six weeks with a shoulder injury, the Patriots third round pick this year is likely to draw the start. The former NC State Wolfpack QB was sacked twice in only 11 dropbacks in relief duty against the Dolphins in week two.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3 (depending on scoring system)
Zach Brown BUF LB – ILB 3-4
I had some trepidation about adding Zach Brown to my fantasy team this year. Brown’s final campaign with the Titans ended with a whimper; the Titans coaching staff dropped him on the depth chart behind Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard. Given the effectiveness of those two, that’s a big negative on your report card. When Brown signed with the Bills this offseason, I assumed that he would be a clear backup behind Nigel Bradham, Preston Brown and/or newly drafted Reggie Ragland. But with Bradham traded, Ragland on injured reserve with ACL surgery and the Bills defense struggling in general, Brown has emerged with numbers that place him squarely in the range of startable as far as a fantasy commodity goes. He has logged 22 total tackles (12 solo) over his last two games. For comparison purposes, Preston Brown has logged 24 total tackles (13 solo) to go with two splash plays over that same timeframe. I expect that Zach Brown will play second fiddle to Preston Brown for the remainder of the season but both Bills ILBs are emerging as quality fantasy LBs as long as the Bills defense struggles. A matchup against the Cardinals is unlikely help matters either. Start either Brown accordingly.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Jonathan Casillas NYG LB – WLB 4-3
Although Jonathan Casillas and newly crowned MLB Kelvin Sheppard both were on the field for about three quarters of the defensive snaps for the Giants in week one against the Cowboys, it seemed as though Casillas was around the ball much more as evidenced by Casillas’ 11 total tackles versus Sheppard’s 2 assists. Week two seems to have reaffirmed that pecking order as Casillas logged 6 total tackles and a PD compared to Sheppard’s 2 solo tackles and a PD. The Giants host the Redskins in week three which is a pretty good matchup. Give Casillas a good look as a matchup play or flex for your fantasy team.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB3 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Sean Weatherspoon ATL LB – The rookie LB experiment was set to continue in Atlanta until De’Vondre Campbell went down in Thursday’s practice with an ankle injury. He was ruled out almost immediately for the Falcons’ week two game against the Raiders. Blast from the past Sean Weatherspoon filled in for Campbell and logged 8 solo tackles and an assist. Watch the injury report to see about Campbell’s availability into week three. The Falcons visit New Orleans in week 3 which is a pretty good matchup for three down LBs.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Fantasy owners of JJ Watt were breathing a big sigh of relief as he went off for 5 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in Houston’s win over Kansas City. It remained to be seen how his back injury would affect him going forward and I know I wasn’t the only one doubting him after seeing his poor numbers in week 1. Stud defensive linemen are so hard to come by that when one gets hurt, it’s almost impossible to replace. There’s usually no “handcuff” like there can be for running backs.
The Free Agent Report was hit and miss as per usual for DL in week two. Danielle Hunter scored 4 total tackles, a sack and a forced fumble to reward fantasy owners that were able to get him in their lineups. He is surpassing Everson Griffen as the most dangerous Viking end this year in my estimation despite not getting the snaps to show for it. Sheldon Richardson returned to the Jets lineup after serving his one game suspension. He scored a decent but underwhelming 4 solo tackles. Leonard Williams was the Jets DL to play this week as he pairs 4 solo tackles with a fumble recovery. Benson Mayowa had a decent snap count but was not the Cowboys DL to log a sack, Jack Crawford was. The young Cleveland Browns I recommended was ultra-disappointing as neither contributed any stats despite decent snap counts. Compounding my frustration, week one recommendation Dante Fowler went off one week too late, logging 6 total tackles and 2 sacks despite getting a little over half of the snaps.
Devin Taylor DET DE – DE 4-3
Devin Taylor is a fourth year end for the Lions that is getting starting snaps. Taylor is leading all Lions defensive linemen in snaps, tackles and sacks through two games. Granted Ezekiel Ansah is hurt right now but Taylor still got only three snaps less than Ansah when Ansah was healthy in week one. The 1.5 sacks he posted on Marcus Mariota in week two are great but what excites me as a prospective fantasy owner is the high tackle counts. I love a three end who can play in the run game. Taylor has 13 total tackles through two games. Those are high floor numbers that I can get behind. The Packers are typically not your best matchup for defensive linemen but the Vikings proved that they are a little vulnerable right now. The Bears in week four are a better matchup but you won’t get him if you wait until next week.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Low-end DL3
Jason Jones MIA DE – DE 4-3
From a current Lions end to a former Lions end; would you believe that a team that boasts Cameron Wake and Mario Williams on defensive end has Jason Jones as the leading end in terms of snaps and sacks through week 2? Granted Wake is slowly coming back from an Achilles injury and Mario Williams dealt with a concussion between weeks one and two but it is a good sign for the nine year veteran that the Dolphins trust him to perform. Jones has 5 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and a blocked kick through two weeks and his Dolphins face a reeling Cleveland Browns that are likely to start a rookie quarterback in week three. Third round rookie Cody Kessler is slated to start after Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown both suffered shoulder injuries in successive weeks. It doesn’t take long to connect the dots here. All Dolphins DL are plus starts here but Jones is the most likely to be unowned simply based on name value.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Paul Kruger NOS DE – Former Raven and Brown Paul Kruger landed softly after his abrupt release in the preseason, signing a deal with the New Orleans Saints. Kruger has ascended to DE2 on his team behind fantasy stud Cameron Jordan. Kruger logged just over 75% of the snaps in week 3 to Jordan’s 81% of the snaps. No other end got more than 26%. I think that the stats will come for eight year veteran simply due to the opportunity presented to him and the talent behind him. The Saints play the Falcons in week three which should present more pass rush opportunities, and hopefully the production to match.
Defensive Back Plays
As tendencies start to develop, if you can grab some reliable safeties or even cornerbacks that are every-week starters (or as close as DBs can get), then obviously do so. But if you can’t get every-week starters, feel free to mix in some matchup plays that target specific matchups. A handful of teams already look to be establishing themselves as plus matchups against opposing DBs. Target those DBs that wouldn’t otherwise be owned or started. Side note as well, you have my condolences if you were one of the teams that got blow out by a CB this week. Four corners scored two interception and four touchdowns were logged by corners as well. Those kinds of games are tough to predict but if you are lucky enough to own Marcus Peters or Janoris Jenkins and they are every-week starters for your team, you saw the value they can present first hand. Very few corner are every week starts in IDP fantasy, value them accordingly.
Tony Jefferson and Tyvon Branch were the prizes of last week’s recommendations. Jefferson scored 11 total tackles (9 solo) and a fumble recovery and Branch logged 10 total tackles (9 solo) and a PD. The safety pair were by far the leading tacklers of the Cardinals as well as the game and provided DB1 games for would-be owners. Unfortunately, Trae Waynes was too busy committing pass interference and defensive holding to log any stats through 3 quarters other than a solo tackle but he finished strong with 4 solo tackles and a game-sealing interception. Isa Adbul-Quddus picked up 8 total tackles against the Patriots and got a full complement of snaps but it felt like Michael Thomas was vulturing some of his opportunities. Big play leaguers were happy with James Bradberry’s 2 solo tackles, 2 PD and an interception performance against the 49ers but I would have liked to see more tackles.
Andrew Sendejo MIN S – SS 4-3
Andrew Sendejo has been hit and miss in terms of a full time job beside Harrison Smith over the last couple years. This year he has won a job out of camp yet again. Through two games, Sendejo has scored 14 total tackles (13 solo) and 2 fumble recoveries. While you can’t really forecast the fumble recoveries going forward, the tackle count is great and his perchant to be around the ball is promising. The Panthers in Carolina in week 3 and the Giants in Minnesota in week 4 are great matchups as well. Sendejo seems primed to be added to many fantasy squads this week.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Kemal Ishmael/Ricardo Allen ATL S – FS/SS 4-3
Kemal Ishmael saw some spot start duty at times last year due to multiple injuries suffered. It is the same story this year with Ishmael starting in place of first round pick Keanu Neal while the rookie recovers from knee surgery. I wasn’t sure if Dashon Goldson was going to be mixed in enough to marginalize all of the safety stats but the veteran looked slow and out of place in Atlanta’s week two game against the Raiders in his only three snaps that he received. Ishmael and strong safety Ricardo Allen played virtually every defensive snap over the last two weeks. Against the Raiders in a pass heavy contest, Ishmael logged a staggering 15 total tackles (13 solo) to lead the team. Allen was a pace behind but still no slouch at 7 total tackles (4 solo). Possibly the best reason to add one or both of these guys is their matchups over the next two weeks. The Saints in week three is as juicy as they come and the Panthers in week 4 should also prove to be a decent play. Drew Brees is on pace to set a new career high in throwing attempts and to tie his second best output for completions. The Saints are throwing more than ever and that mean tackle opportunities. Ishmael is the better short term play but only until Keanu Neal returns from injury.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Low-end DB3
Marcus Cooper ARI CB – CB 3-4
I know I’m going to get some heat for this because typically I am the guy who tells you not to chase last week’s stats. And I’m not doing that, I’m confident that Marcus Cooper will not make 7 total tackles, get 3 PDs and 2 picks (one of which went for a score) in his next game. What I am telling to chase is the production that a cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson might get. Brandon Williams played all of the snaps at CB2 against the Patriots in week one and got benched for his struggles. Cooper slotted in for just as many snaps as Peterson in week 2 and I like his chances to keep getting looks opposite one of the best corners in the game. Obviously carrying more value in leagues that split corners and safeties, look for Cooper in matchup dependent spots. The Bills in week three are not the best matchup but Rex Ryan insists that they will throw the ball more under new OC Anthony Lynn.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB3 to Low-end DB3 (matchup dependent)
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Sterling Moore/Jairus Byrd/Vonn Bell NOS CB/FS – With the Saints rolling a big nickel/small nickel look for the majority of the game in week two against the Giants air attack, I expect that we will see something similar against the Falcons in week three. Moore and Byrd were the only Saints DBs to play 100% of the snaps in week two and are expected to play much more than Bell, who played just over half of the snaps. The Falcons will end up passing to move the ball again and the Saints defense will be tested. Assuming that Kenny Vaccaro is already owned, mix in another Saints DB and roll the dice for some tackles.