As bye weeks start to pass, I think it’s worth investing time into forming what your team will look like after bye weeks are over especially if you have a good record. Chances are that things you’ve seen for 4 or 5 weeks in a row are real trends and savvy owners will be the ones that are positioning themselves to capitalize on those trends if they haven’t already. If you are a 1-4 team, you need to have a long, hard look at your roster to understand what is happening but if you are 4-1, you might be able to secure a decent trade for a stronger player whose bye week is yet to come in exchange for a weaker player who can play this week as every week matters for that 1-4 team now. Trading from strength and backfilling with quality free agents is a recipe for success. Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas and Seattle have week 6 off so ensure that you have the depth to cover your starting lineups if you rely on starters from one or more of these teams.
Once again, most every player recommended last week was solid if not spectacular. Ray-Ray Armstrong led things off with 7 total tackles and an interception against the Colts on 75% of the 49ers snaps. Lawrence Timmons was once again decent yet not remarkable with 7 total tackles and a pass defensed against the Titans while playing every defensive snap. Nick Vigil was the only Bengal to play every defensive snap and put up a very respectable 9 total tackles and a pass defensed but he took a backseat to week 4 recommendation Vontaze Burfict who scored 13 total tackles (10 solo), a sack and a pass defensed. Although I expected more from Shaq Thompson after reading that he got 100% of the Panthers’ defensive snaps, his statline of 4 total tackles and a sack wasn’t awful, especially in leagues that reward big plays higher. Sneaky play Blake Martinez paced the week 4 recommendations with 12 total tackles and a pass defensed. As I expected, the Packers played a heavier defense against the Cowboys running attack and Blake Martinez was on the field for 95% of the Packers defensive snaps, up from his previous 74% clip. Christian Jones posted a quality outing for those who needed him in the wake of Danny Trevathan’s suspension with 9 total tackles and a pass defensed. John Timu was also in line for a decent outing with 5 total tackles through 35 minutes of play before leaving with injury. With Danny Trevathan’s suspension being reduced to one game, Timu loses all immediate value and Jones will see his role reduced by a third.
Adarius Glanton TBB LB – 4-3 OLB Value: LB2 – LB3
It really seems as though whichever linebacker the Buccaneers give snaps to manages to post meaningful fantasy production. Rookie Kendall Beckwith has been a top 5 option amongst linebackers with regular MLB starter Kwon Alexander out with a hamstring injury. Adarius Glanton has managed to log every snap in weeks 3 and 4 with regular WLB starter Lavonte David out with a high ankle sprain. In those weeks, he has posted 13 total tackles, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a sack. While I doubt that the fourth year man out of Florida Atlantic ever outdoes Beckwith, there is still some value there as a bye week cover or injury replacement, at least until David or Alexander returns. The Cardinals host Tampa Bay in week 6 and have carried two linebackers to quality fantasy outputs in at least two outings this year including as recently as week 4 against San Francisco with Ray-Ray Armstrong and Navorro Bowman.
Deone Bucannon ARI LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB3
Deone Bucannon actually returned in week 4 from an ankle injury but only played 50% of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps and logged only one solo tackle against the 49ers. With Karlos Dansby playing decently well and first round rookie Haason Reddick worked in consistently as well, it was certainly up for debate what kind of contribution he would make. In week 5, we got our answer. Haason Reddick moved to OLB to cover snaps vacated by Markus Golden who landed on injured reserve with an ACL tear. In turn, Bucannon played 100% of the snaps and scored 6 total tackles against the Eagles. Bucannon has posted LB1 – LB2 stats in the past but the Cardinals’ ILB positions have only yielded borderline LB2 stats this year. Remember that Bucannon posted 90 total tackles in 13 games last year. If he managed to evade ownership due to his late start to the season, you could do worse than Bucannon for your LB3 or bye week coverage.
Jamie Collins CLE LB – 4-3 SLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Jamie Collins is expected to return from a concussion that has sidelined him for the past three weeks. Prior to that, Collins averaged 89% of his team’s defensive snaps despite Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey remaining on the field for every snap. While Collins’ usage varies from coverage to run suport to pass rush more than most LBs, he probably holds more big play potential than most LBs given his pass rushing chops but also carries a decent tackle floor. The Texans in Houston are a decent opponent for the Browns linebackers so provided that Collins doesn’t experience a setback, I’d pick him up and have little reservations starting him.
Craig Robertson NOS LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Unfortunately, Saints rookie Alex Anzalone will see his season come to an early end with yet another shoulder injury. His shoulder issues date back into his college day but it’s unclear if they are related at this point. Prior to his injury in week 4, Anzalone was being utilized at a 78% usage on defensive snaps. 2016 Saints leading tackler Craig Robertson figures to step in and handle WLB duties alongside AJ Klein. The Saints second linebacker isn’t going to get 100% of the team’s defensive snaps as they will use multiple safety packages at times but the opportunity will be there to score even at 75% usage. The Saints host the Lions in a game that I’m expecting to feature plenty of offense from both sides.
Sneaky play of the week – Tyrell Adams/Nicholas Morrow OAK LB
With Cory James (knee) and rookie Marquel Lee (ankle) leaving the field against the Ravens in week 5, sophomore Tyrell Adams (55%) and undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow (50%) received significant snaps at linebacker. Injuries were a big story regarding the 2016 Raiders linebacking corps and this year appears to be no different. Given the fact that Lee was carted from the field and couldn’t put pressure on his ankle, Lee’s injury looked significant enough for me to say that odds are that he won’t be suiting up in week 6. Before that, he looked to be putting together a solid game with 6 total tackles through 3 quarters. James’ knee injury didn’t seem to get as serious but was enough to keep him from the game. Head Coach Jack Del Rio didn’t comment any further on either injury in Monday’s press conference either. Deep bench leagues or those who depend on Raiders LBs might consider stashing Adams or Morrow to play against the Chargers in week 6 which is a decent matchup as opposing middle linebackers have averaged over 8 total tackles against the Chargers in the last two weeks.
Defensive linemen plays
Week 5 was a rarity as far as my defensive line recommendations go as everyone was great. Myles Garrett had a great NFL debut with 2 sacks against the Jets. He managed to do this on only 19 snaps (36% usage) so take that production with a grain of salt. As I mentioned last week, the Browns are likely bring their prized rookie along slowly so even though he popped 2 sacks for you on my hunch play, I’d try to find players with higher usage to keep your production floor higher than zero. Emmanuel Ogbah scored 5 total tackles on 81% usage in the same game. Although not nearly as flashy, that kind of line is more what I’d prefer in all but big play leagues as Ogbah will likely always get you something. Julius Peppers paid off sack hunters once again with 2 solo tackles and a sack against the Lions on 48% usage. That puts him at 5.5 sacks through 5 games while playing less than half of the Panthers snaps. His production this year at 37 years of age has been simply remarkable. Finally, Jurrell Casey continued his stellar 2017 campaign with 5 total tackles and a sack playing 71% of the snaps against the Dolphins in a losing effort. He was a force in that game and remains a quality play for the remainder of the season provided that he continues the snap usage he has exhibited thus far.
Vinny Curry PHI DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Vinny Curry is always going to take a backseat to Brandon Graham in the Philadelphia defensive end ranking but the Marshall alum is no slouch. Playing in about 60% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps compared to Graham’s 70%, Curry is still getting prime playing time despite posting his first and only sack in week 5 against the Cardinals. In week 6, the Eagles visit the Carolina Panthers who have given up 3.75 sacks per game in their last four games which is in the bottom five for protection. Curry isn’t likely to be owned in most formats but remains a decent stream option for those in a pinch.
Elvis Dumervil SFO DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
I tend to preach utilization a lot in this column and it tends to lead to more productivity overall. But as seen with Julius Peppers, it can be a simply a number that doesn’t translate to productivity. Case in point, the correct play would be to push Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas who are seeing 75-90% usage over the past few games. Instead, I’m going to present Elvis Dumervil whose snap counts over the last two games increased to 30-40% from the 20-25% it was in the first two weeks. Over his last two games, Dumervil has posted 3.5 sacks. Despite his lack of usage, those numbers are impossible to ignore. The Redskins host the 49ers in week 6 which isn’t a great matchup for a pass rusher to be honest but sack hunters will need to snap him up now or risk losing him. He offers little to no tackle value so unless you are playing big play leagues, I’m passing.
Sneaky play of the week – Noah Spence/Robert Ayers/Gerald McCoy TBB DE/DT
Given their stats going into week 4, none of these players figured to be on many fantasy rosters despite their respective pedigrees. However, these three linemen lead the Buccaneers in usage with Spence at 63%, Ayers at 75% and McCoy at 83%. Tampa Bay visits Arizona in week 6 and after week 5, the Cardinals are averaging 3.8 sacks given up per game. That rate is good for the third worst in the league. The Cardinals’ lack of running game and Carson Palmer’s concrete feet won’t get better any time soon so if you are desperate, plug in a Buccaneer pass rusher and gamble on a big play.
Defensive back plays
The Tampa Bay/New England game on Thursday carried much of my hopes for recommendations in week 5 and while Tom Brady did complete 30 balls, too many of them evaded my targets (forgive the pun). Vernon Hargreaves posted a respectable 6 solo tackles but I hoped for better given the matchup. Chris Conte played 100% of the snaps but so did 2017 second round pick Justin Evans who scored 9 total tackles, 2 passed defensed and an interception to Conte’s 4 solo tackles. Jahleel Addae continued his strong production with 8 total tackles and a pass defensed against the Giants and Adrian Amos turned in a great performance on Monday night, posting 8 solo tackles against the Vikings.
Justin Evans TBB S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2
As alluded to in the preamble, Justin Evans stepped up in his first start in a big way. The second round rookie out of Texas A&M played 100% of the Buccaneers snaps and scored 9 total tackles, 2 passes defensed and an interception. TJ Ward and Keith Tandy both missed week 5 with hip injuries. It was Ward’s second game missed in a row with the ailment and Tandy’s first. Expect that Evans might not get handed an every-down role cleanly with Ward and Tandy around but at the same time, every franchise wants to see their draft picks perform well so there will be some interesting usage dilemmas going forward. While both are injured however, expect Evans to get heavily used. I really like the matchup in week 6 against the Cardinals who lead the NFL in pass attempts with 45.4 attempts per game and are 2nd in the NFL in completions with 27.2 completions per game.
Darian Thompson NYG S – 4-3 FS Value: DB2 – DB3
Thompson’s rookie year was cut short last year due to a Lisfranc injury but appears to be the starter at free safety for the Giants. Outside of week 4 where he played 50%, Thompson has played virtually every defensive snap for the Giants as well. In the Giants’ week 5 game against the Chargers that featured Philip Rivers throwing 44 passes for 21 completions, Thompson rattled off 11 total tackles, 2 passes defensed and an interception. While the Broncos in week 6 aren’t the strongest matchup for a free safety, the Seahawks in week 7 are definitely better. Thompson has struggled in wrapping up tackles this year which led to his temporary benching in week 4 but he seems to be back on track. Given their rough start record-wise and the rash of injuries they are dealing with, expect that the defense will be working early and often for the Giants.
Marcus Williams NOS S – 4-3 FS Value: DB3
2017 second round pick Marcus Williams has been a steady contributor on the New Orleans defense since week 1 this year, taking almost every defensive snap for the Saints. The Saints feature three safeties on the field for a large chunk of their defense but unfortunately Kenny Vaccaro, 2016 second round pick Vonn Bell and Williams tend to cannibalize each others’ stats a bit as their is plenty of overlap in their jobs. Detroit visits New Orleans in a game that has all of the signs of an old-fashioned high-volume shootout in week 6. Matthew Stafford is top 10 in the NFL in completions at 22 per game going into this game as well. Williams is a low investment option to capitalize on some of the production that is likely to arise from this game.
Sneaky play of the week – Darius Slay DET CB
Darius Slay has posted 19 total tackles, 5 passes defensed and two interceptions against the passing attacks of the Giants, Falcons and Panthers this year. Those contest averaged 24 completions on 33 attempts passing. The quarterback of Detroit’s week 6 opponent, Drew Brees, is averaging 26 completions on 38 attempts per game. Although the stats say that he probably won’t throw a pick as he hasn’t thrown one yet this season, I’d expect Michael Thomas to continue to get targets which will allow Slay to make a few plays. Slay continues to be a boom-or-bust player.