Weeks 8 and 9 bring the worst of the bye week situations in the fantasy season with six teams getting the week off in each of the weeks. Week 8 sees Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (Giants), Pittsburgh and San Francisco on bye and fantasy owners need to adjust accordingly. With the fantasy regular season most likely to be at least half over in your league, make sure that you don’t give anything away as far as points go. Hopefully, you have planned to cover these bye weeks properly. If not, here are some more free agent options to may be able to help you out.
It was one of the sneaky plays that carried the day for the Free Agent report recommendations from last week. Derrick Morgan scored 4 total tackles to go with 1.5 sacks. His running mate, Brian Orakpo, failed to impress by posting his first game without a sack in the last 6 weeks. Two assists was disappointing. Jamie Collins was able to return to the Patriots’ lineup. That unfortunately ruined the fantasy relevance of Dont’a Hightower who only managed 4 total tackles compared to Collins’ 8 solo tackles. Jatavis Brown was surprisingly ineffective today against the Falcons with 2 total tackles. San Diego was bound and determined to give Perryman a full complement of snaps and Brown’s usage suffered as a result. I wouldn’t drop Brown but the pecking order might change yet again. Unless Perryman simply wasn’t completely healthy in week 6, this doesn’t make much sense and is a little frustrating for fantasy owners. Albert McClellan reprised his role as ILB starter for the injured CJ Mosley against the Jets in week 7. He logged 7 total tackles but only 2 solos.
Denzel Perryman SDC LB – ILB 3-4
The Chargers defense giveth and the Chargers defense taketh away. As a column writer and a Falcons fan, the previous statement rings doubly true. Jatavis Brown made me look really smart a few weeks ago and made me look stupid last week. In week 7, Jatavis Brown received every defensive snap and Perryman played slightly over 50%. That should mean that Brown led the way in terms on fantasy production right? That clearly wasn’t the case in week 7 against the Falcons. Perryman logged a critical interception last in the game that allowed San Diego to tie the game and sent it to overtime. Along with that INT, Perryman scored 7 total tackles (6 solo) compared to Brown’s 2 total tackles. The Broncos in Denver has potential to be a good matchup in week 8. The Chargers defense has been tumultuous given injuries and oddities in play time but Brown possesses huge opportunity given his usage and Perryman is proving his worth as a two-down player.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB3 to Low-end LB3
De’Vondre Campbell ATL LB – WLB 4-3
Sean Weatherspoon enjoyed a brief resurgence into fantasy relevance after an ankle injury to week one rookie starter De’Vondre Campbell. But with Weatherspoon tearing his Achilles’, the door was open for Campbell to come back in and reclaim his job with little resistance. He did so with an impressive 10 total tackles against the Chargers in week 7. The Minnesota product doesn’t seem to have the penchant for big play that his rookie running mate, Deion Jones, has but he does possess speed and tackling ability, something that the Falcons defense needs much more of. When healthy, Campbell has played every defensive snap that Atlanta has had so his utilization is a non-issue. Atlanta hosts Green Bay in week 8 which Jerrell Freeman would tell you is a potential high volume tackle matchup.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Jordan Hicks/Nigel Bradham PHI LB – MLB/SLB 4-3
Hicks is a linebacker that has disappointed many fantasy owners this year who were hoping for gaudy tackle volumes from an old school 4-3 Mike. Early numbers have been disappointing as Hicks has averaged 4 total tackles a game through 5 games going into week 7 action against the Vikings. Hicks broke out big against the Vikings with 11 total tackles, 1 sack and 2 PDs. I wouldn’t surprise me if a disappointing first five weeks saw Hicks get released in shallower leagues. Similarly, Bradham has a far cry from his LB1/2 days in Buffalo, averaging 5 total tackles per game over 5 games. However, Bradham had a pretty good game against the Redskins with 10 total tackles and he followed that up with 7 total tackles (6 solo), 1 PD and a sack against the Vikings. The Eagles visit the Cowboys in Dallas in week 8 and I think that is a plus matchup for linebackers. Don’t look too far into Bradham’s place as a strong side LB in the base defense. Bradham (93%) and Hicks (87%) are the only LBs taking more than a third of the snaps. Basically, the Eagles are running a 4-2-5 nickel package more often than not. That might change if Ezekiel Elliott runs the ball down their Eagles throat however.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Mid LB3
Julian Stanford NYJ LB – ILB 3-4
Another deeper league option here, Julian Stanford was signed off the street to the Jets who are struggling mightily with injuries at inside linebacker. Stalwart David Harris has missed some time, rookie Darron Lee is out with an ankle injury and Erin Henderson’s season is over after landing on the non-football injury/illness list. Veteran Bruce Carter started in week 7 against the Ravens but left early with a quad injury and didn’t return. A fifth year practice squad player from Wagner, Julian Stanford has very little starting experience but performed admirably with 7 total tackles (6 solo). The Browns aren’t the greatest matchup in week 8 but the new-look running game of the Dolphins in week 9 is. Stanford might be a spot start or flex IDP if you are struggling with injuries or bye weeks.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB3 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Jake Ryan/Blake Martinez GBP LB – Neither Packer ILB has been very consistent this year in terms of quality starts from a fantasy perspective. Sophomore Jake Ryan has quietly put up 5.5 total tackles per game with little fanfare but if fantasy owners were able to pick the bigger games out, he’d be more useful. Blake Martinez is slowly but surely increasing in snap counts as the year progresses. In the last few weeks, Martinez has seen comparable utilization to Jake Ryan at about 70% and his production has improved because of it. The Falcons in Atlanta are a great matchup in week 8 for Packers IDPs. Consider starting a Packer LB if you are struggling to fill out your lineup due to bye weeks.
Defensive Linemen Plays
The solid yet unspectacular outings of San Francisco’s 3-4 DEs showed that a high tackle floor can produce low-end DL1/high-end DL2 production in weeks where fantasy outputs weren’t exactly at all-time highs. Arik Armstead (4 total tackles, 0.5 sack) and DeForest Buckner (6 total tackles) remain some of my favorite options in balanced or tackle-heavy leagues because of their high tackle numbers. Any sacks obtained after that is gravy. Those two led the way for the Free Agent report recommendations in week 7. Michael Johnson was disappointing with no sacks but avoided a donut by logging 3 solo tackles against the winless Browns. Malcom Brown and Alan Branch led the Patriot defensive line IDP output with 5 solo tackles and 3 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble respectively. The last point I’d like to make is if you didn’t listen to me and failed to grab Joey Bosa off of the waiver wire in week 6, you are kicking yourself. 5 total tackles and 2 sacks was a monster factor in San Diego’s win on Sunday and a quality fantasy performance.
Frank Clark SEA DE – DE 4-3
Normally, it’s pretty tough to roll with backup or rotational pass rushers but in the odd time, that choice yields results with Danielle Hunter being a recent example. Another player that seems to be in that same mold is Frank Clark. Clark is a sophomore for the Seahawks, drafted in the second round out of Michigan last year. His rookie year saw him log 3 sacks over 16 games. In his second year, Clark equalled that amount in two games. However, with his usage less than half of the snaps, it was hard to count of that kind of production going forward. He missed some time out of the bye in week 6 but came back with a vengeance in week 7 with another 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Another thing I like is that his snaps have steadily increased up to over 70% as of late. You like this pickup in keeper leagues or dynasties also as Michael Bennett always seems close to a holdout and could become a cap casualty in 2017. The matchup in week 8, the Saints in New Orleans, is a poor matchup given that Drew Brees has been among the better protected QBs but Clark should have plenty of time on the field. Week 9 has Seattle hosting Buffalo which could be huge. Given Clark’s week 7 production, you might need to grab him this week to hold onto him.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Noah Spence TBB DE – DE 4-3
Much of fantasy production (or capability of production) lies in the opportunity. This point is on display in full force with regards to Noah Spence. The 2nd round rookie defensive end out of Eastern Kentucky shouldn’t have hit fantasy relevance this year as most rookie defensive rarely are well developed and disciplined enough to play a full complement of snaps against both the run and pass. However, with the myriad of injuries to the Buccaneers defensive line, Spence was forced into just under 70% of snaps and responded with a sack against the 49ers in week 7. The rookie is worth an add in deeper leagues although week 8 against the Raiders is a weaker matchup.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL3 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Jaye Howard KCC DE – Jaye Howard isn’t a terrible fantasy commodity but he is a far cry from the borderline-dominant 3-4 DE/NT that we saw last year. The Chiefs face the Colts in week 8. I don’t particularly think the Howard is a great own for the rest of the year but if you can’t get going against the Colts as a pass rusher, you can’t get going at all. The Colts are still leading the league in times sacked 2016, averaging over 3.5 sacks given up per game. Howard isn’t the primary pass rushing threat on the Chiefs but he can clean up a good as anyone. Give Howard a shot as a flier if you need to fill a spot for this week.
Defensive Back Plays
As I expected, Michael Thomas was the primary recipient of the snaps vacated by Reshad Jones. In fact, Thomas played more than Isa Adbul-Quddus which is a good sign for fantasy production. Unfortunately, the Buffalo-Miami game yielded very weak opportunities for the Miami defensive backs and going into their bye won’t leave fantasy owners with an opportunity to try him out again. Perrish Cox was well on his way to a big game with 4 solo tackles through 25 minutes of football when he left the game injured and didn’t return. Jason McCourty (3 total tackles) was avoided as backup CB Brice McCain was picked on moreso. Bashuad Breeland’s day (3 solo tackles, 1 PD) was mired with injury (ankle) and a lack of opportunity presented by Detroit’s passing game. Matthew Stafford only completed a season-low 18 passes in this game which limited opportunity. Kendall Fuller played 40 of 53 snaps but logged no stats much to the chagrin of streamers.
George Iloka/Shawn Williams – FS/SS 3-4
Cincinnati safeties have been a bit of a fantasy wasteland since the days of Reggie Nelson. George Iloka and Shawn Williams have typically been good for the odd tackle breakout game but this is sporadic at best given the high volume tacklers they have at LB and CB. The Bengals generally run two safeties at close to 100% utilization which bodes well for Iloka and Williams but typically it’s the team they face that determines the matchup. Washington, the Bengals’ week 8 opponent, is currently 4th in the NFL in terms of total completions. With Kirk Cousins seemingly primed to provide ample opportunity, I like the Bengals safeties to get involved tackle-wise.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Ricardo Allen ATL SS – SS 4-3
Ricardo Allen has played nearly 100% of the defensive snaps for the Falcons this year and with Kemal Ishmael being phased out of the defense in favor of rookie Keanu Neal, the Falcons appear to be content with running two safeties only as evidenced by their utilization in their week 7 loss to the Chargers. The third year pro from Purdue has been solid but not outstanding with his above average games coming in game where the opposing team is throwing themselves back into a game. Week 8’s matchup against the Packers in Atlanta looks to me like that kind of matchup. Allen is rarely going to provide you a splash play so I’d looking at him as a backup safety, DB3 or IDP flex option.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB3 to Low-end DB3
Steven Nelson KCC CB – CB 3-4
Marcus Peters has proven himself to be a very dangerous corner in his short 22 game career in the NFL. As such, you are already seeing many opposing quarterbacks avoiding him. This was on display in week 7’s Saints-Chiefs matchup where Marcus Peters was generally avoided (3 solo tackles, 1 fumble recovery) by Drew Brees whereas the opposite cornerback was picked one repeatedly. That cornerback’s name? Steven Nelson. Nelson was victimized by Saints receivers (mostly Michael Thomas) repeatedly on his way to scoring 9 total tackles. While Nelson hasn’t been startable for most of the year, his big games were against high volumes passing offenses in San Diego and New Orleans. With Indianapolis on deck for the Chiefs, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Nelson get targeted by Andrew Luck in an effort to avoid Peters. He is a high-risk, high-reward option for cornerback required leagues or streamers.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
AJ Bouye HOU CB – For those looking to double down on streaming CBs against Matthew Stafford, I offer up AJ Bouye. Bouye has taken on more snaps with the injuries to Kareem Jackson and more recently, Kevin Johnson. Expect Bouye to continue manning to slot and should play close to 100% of the snaps against Detroit. Bouye logged 11 total tackles and 1 PD against the Broncos on Monday night football so he can produce if given the volume.