Week 10 sees a handful of fantasy studs on bye with Detroit, Oakland, Indianapolis and Buffalo all getting the week off. Past recommendations of Zach Brown, Tahir Whitehead and Karl Joseph have been huge for fantasy owners lucky enough to nab them but they need to find a replacement this week. With week 12 having no bye weeks, this week represents the third last week of byes. The default setting for the trade deadline for many fantasy leagues is this week so if there are deals for you to make, get to it and make them now! Be sure to backfill with this week’s best options on your waiver wire.
Week 9 produced a handful of solid options for would-be waiver wire hunters. Nate Stupar continued to be relevant with 7 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble and a fumble recovery as Danelle Ellerbe (quad) failed to start week 9 after playing in his first game of the year in week 8. It’s much harder to expect any kind of reliable IDP performances from Ellerbe given how quickly he returned to the sidelines after playing only 33% of the snaps in week 8. Stick with Nate Stupar and Craig Robertson going forward until Ellerbe shows you otherwise. Nick Perry logged 4 total tackles and a half sack in a game that I didn’t expect Indianapolis to have the lead in at all. The Colts offensive line was very good in this contest so getting that statline was fortunate but unexpected. Elandon Roberts and the rest of the Patriots were on bye week but remain a hot free agent add in many deep bench/dynasty leagues. Shaq Lawson managed to score a sack on Russell Wilson to wrap things up.
Gerald Hodges/Nick Bellore SFO LB – ILB 3-4
Both Bellore and Hodges have appeared on this column in other weeks. Bellore has emerged as a decent starter in relief of injured or ineffective ILBs for the 49ers, who are sorely missing all-Pro Navorro Bowman who is on season-ending IR with an Achilles injury. During week 5 and week 6, Bellore took a majority of snaps alongside Michael Wilhoite. However, in a shake-up of the defense, Michael Wilhoite was benched in favour of Gerald Hodges prior to week 7. Hodges managed to keep his starting role through the bye week and played the majority of snaps in a week 9 loss to the Saints that provided much in terms of tackle volume. Since week 5, Bellore has averaged 9 total tackles per game and has added three splash plays. He is a solid LB2 going forward as long as he sees the field with regularity. Hodges only has two games alongside Bellore in week 7 and week 9. Over those weeks, Hodges has amassed 19 total tackles (16 solo), 1 INT and a sack. Those are pretty good numbers as well and also warrant LB2 consideration but the risk with Hodges is that he has been benched before in this defense, even in this year. The 49ers may not give the former Nittany Lion a very long leash in terms of snap counts. However, with season-ending injuries claiming two of the 49ers ILBs so far, beggars cannot be choosers and the only competition for snaps right now appears to be Michael Wilhoite who I believe management has soured on a bit. The next three games for the 49ers are against the Cardinals, Patriots and Dolphins. All possess potential for a high-volume game for the LBs. Acquire and start accordingly.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Mid LB3
Jake Ryan GBP LB – ILB 3-4
I’ve been on the Jake Ryan train since he was drafted by the Packers last year and this isn’t the first time you’ve seen him in this column. The sophomore ILB out of Michigan has been a mainstay for the Packers defense all year, logging 58 total tackles through 8 contests this year including a game-high 11 total tackles (10 solo) and a PD against the Colts. He is a steady source of tackles that is going to be guaranteed to get about 70-75% of the team’s defensive snaps. The downside of Ryan is that he’s not a source for splash plays, only logging one fumble recovery his entire career so big play leaguers can safely avoid him. In addition, the Packers are committed to getting rookie Blake Martinez and journeyman Joe Thomas enough snaps to nab them between 2 and 5 tackles per game, limiting Ryan’s upside. That said, Jake Ryan is a player that possesses a high tackle floor and can be a matchup play if you can predict high volume games. The Titans, Redskins and Eagles are the Packers’ next three opponents and Ryan should be at least useable if not a confident play in all three.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB3 to Low-end LB3 (tackle-heavy/balanced)
Ryan Shazier PIT LB – ILB 3-4
A bit of a shallow league gem here, Ryan Shazier just finished suffering though what seems to be a yearly fight with a knee injury. Shazier came back in week 8 but split snaps with Vince Williams who played admirably in Shazier’s stead while the former Buckeye was out since week 4. In week 9, Shazier returned to a full complement of snaps against the Ravens and responded with 9 total tackles (6 solo), a forced fumble and a half sack. Shazier is a LB1 when he is healthy. That said, staying healthy has been more of a problem than production for the third-year LB and that inability to stay healthy has seen Shazier hits the waiver wire in shallow leagues with his own percentage under 50% in a handful of fantasy providers. The Cowboys and Colts in weeks 10 and 12 respectively, represent quality matchups for Shazier in any format.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB1 to Low-end LB2
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Korey Toomer SDC LB – Similar to the 49ers, the Chargers are also dealing with a multitude of injuries at the ILB position. Korey Toomer represents option D at ILB with Manti Te’o out for the year (Achilles), Denzel Perryman (hamstring) not being expected to play before the Chargers week 11 bye and rookie Jatavis Brown day-to-day with a knee injury. Toomer was signed off Oakland’s practice squad in week 4 and hasn’t looked out of place with 3 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in five games that he’s seen action. Most recently, Toomer started and took the majority of ILB snaps for the Chargers against the Titans in week 9 and turned out 9 total tackles (8 solo) and a forced fumble. Like any injury replacement, Toomer’s value is directly tied to the availability of Jatavis Brown in week 10. It’s unlikely that Toomer holds a job when Perryman returns to action so my guess is that Toomer is a one week stream option and then will only carry taxi squad stash value. Week 10 sees the Chargers host the new-look run game of the Dolphins which is a plus matchup for ILBs if Jay Ajayi can get going.
Defensive Linemen Plays
With 3 solo tackles and a sack, Adrian Clayborn was a solid plug-and-play option at defensive line at a position and time of year that rarely offers any sort of predictability. Trey Flowers is coming off of bye week and remains a stash play especially for those in dynasty leagues. Kyle Williams logged 3 total tackles in a messy Monday night football matchup against the Seahawks that didn’t produce many tackles for the defensive line as Russell Wilson was able to throw at will on the Buffalo secondary.
Cameron Wake MIA DE – DE 4-3
Cameron Wake is one of those guys that might be owned in your league based on name value only despite his first five games of the year netting fantasy owners only 4 total tackles and a sack. However, if your leagues are anything like mine, Cam Wake was dropped in week 2 or sooner as he was not expected to contribute much after an Achilles injury this time last year. Wake has not supposed to be a starter and was only going to contribute rotational pass rush. However, as the year has worn on, Wake has increased his snap counts to 60-75% more recently at the expense of Jason Jones and free agent mega-bust Mario Williams. Over his last three games, Wake has logged four sacks and two forced fumbles. It’s hard not to like Wake to return to DL1 numbers that he’s enjoyed in the past especially with the Chargers, Rams and 49ers up over the next 3 weeks. The Dolphins are playing .500 football right now and need to feast on some of the weaker teams they are due up against. Wake could be huge going into the fantasy playoffs.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL1 to Low-end DL2
Robert Quinn/William Hayes STL DE – DE 4-3
It wasn’t that long ago, 2013 in fact, that Robert Quinn briefly dethroned JJ Watt as the number one DL in fantasy. Those days seem so far in the rearview mirror now due to injuries and inconsistent play from the Rams as a whole that Quinn has hit free agency in many leagues. On the other side of the line, William Hayes has emerged as a starter after playing injury fillin for the past few years. With Chris Long out of the picture, Hayes has been called upon to deliver a majority of snaps opposite Quinn. Both players have underperformed to date due to injuries and inconsistent play but the Jets coming to town seems to be a great panacea for fantasy owners counting on Rams pass rushers. The Jets have allowed 10 sacks over their last three games and will start either a hobbled Ryan Fitzpatrick or a first-time starter in Bryce Petty. I like my chances to get something there.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Timmy Jernigan/Brandon Williams BAL DT – This one doesn’t take much thought as the division-leading Ravens host the winless Browns, who are starting a rookie at quartberack, in week 10. I’d try to find a way to start Ravens pass rush if I could. As a team, the Ravens only have 18 sacks with 5 coming from Terrell Suggs who is playing through a biceps injury. Based on snap counts, Jernigan and Williams are the plays on the Ravens defensive line. Including past production into the analysis, Jernigan would be my play first with Williams being the option if Jernigan was already owned.
Defensive Back Plays
Week 9 was interesting in that only two defensive touchdowns were scored. They were scored by the same team (Chargers) within 15 minutes of each other. At time, it seemed like piling on but those touchdowns were the difference in that game. That downside is that Dwight Lowery was unlikely to be in fantasy lineups at safety due to his inconsistency and only deep CB-required leagues would have had Brandon Flowers in a starting lineup so soon after coming back from injury.
Jairus Byrd led the week 9 recommendations with 8 total tackles (7 solo) in a win against the 49ers. In that game, all three Saints’ safeties scored double digit fantasy points. Vernon Hargreaves scored 6 total tackles (5 solo) and a PD against the Falcons in a losing effort on Thursday night. Kelsie McCray started in place of the still injured Kam Chancellor who missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury. Those able to get McCray into their lineup benefitted from Buffalo methodical and volumetric attack that yielded plenty of tackles for Bobby Wagner and Kelsie McCray. McCray piled up 10 total tackles and a PD in a Seahawks win. Chancellor is close to returning so watch the injury report to continue to capitalize on Seattle strong safety production, especially headed into a week 10 grudge match with the Patriots. The other safety playing in Monday night football, Robert Blanton, logged only 4 total tackles despite plenty of opportunity. The fourth year pro was simply overmatched by Jimmy Graham and was rarely close enough to him to make a tackle. The Bills get a bye in week 10 and the Bengals in week 11. Blanton isn’t cut-worthy despite the weak performance.
Clayton Geathers IND S – S/LB 3-4
Clayton Geathers is latest in a string of hybrid safety/linebackers that have been popularized by the NFL over the last couple years. Filling a part free safety/part linebacker role, Geathers has filled in a handful of tackles over the past few weeks that would have otherwise gone to Sio Moore, who was released abruptly after week 4. The Titans and Steelers should be good matchup in weeks 11 and 12 respectively but the Colts are on bye in week 10. With Geathers averaging 8 total tackles over the last two games, he is worth a hold.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Darian Stewart DEN S – FS 3-4
Darian Stewart has slowly put together a handful of quality IDP fantasy outings against high volume passing offenses over the last few weeks. With the Broncos visiting the Saints in week 10, I really like both Denver safeties to come up with big games against a passing offense that leads the league in completions. Five opposing safeties have logged double digit fantasy points against the Saints over the last three weeks. Stewart should be a solid flex play/DB3 with DB2 upside.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Kevin Byard TEN S – FS 4-3
With Rashad Johnson missing time with a neck injury, third round rookie Kevin Byard has logged a majority of snaps over the last two games. Over those two games, he’s scored an average of 8 total tackles per game with 10 of them coming against a high volume passing attack in the San Diego Chargers. If Johnson misses another game, Byard could be in for another big game as the Titans host the Packers in week 10. Byard doesn’t appear to be much of a big play option in fantasy so he’s probably in play for tackle heavy leagues only.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Nolan Carroll PHI CB – Streaming a cornerback that has posted some half decent tackle numbers in the past against a top passing attack isn’t exactly rocket science but Nolan Carroll won’t be started as much as he should prior to the Eagles’ matchup against the Falcons in Philadelphia. Carroll is averaging over 3 total tackles and a PD per game but has shown a proclivity to scoring better against higher volume passing attacks. Give the former Dolphin a look in week 10 as a stream option.