Maybe it’s just me but I can’t remember a year where so many fantasy-relevant players were neutralized so early due to suspension, injury or off-the-field issues. Be it Adrian Peterson, AJ Green, Jamaal Charles, Ryan Mathews, Josh Gordon or Wes Welker on offense and Justin Durant, Danelle Ellerbe, Jonathan Cyprien or Jerrell Freeman for defense; holes are popping up in lineups across your league. The lone upside to regular starters missing time is that backups are going to be fantasy relevant. If your team has some holes, get some of the following recommendations into your waiver wire picks this week. If your team is lucky enough not to have any holes yet, savvy owners can block desperate opponents from adding starters by filling out their depth.
Last week was pretty solid week for the report. Except for one name, all recommended LBs had double digit scores. Joplo Bartu scored 9 total tackles (8 solo) against the Bengals. He remains a solid LB2 against certain matchups going forward. Bengals OLB Emmanuel Lamur turned in 9 total tackles (6 solo) and a PD in a win against the Falcons despite Vontaze Burfict playing for 3 quarters. Burfict left that game with a neck stinger. He remains a solid LB2 option as well as long as Vontaze Burfict remains limited and perhaps longer depending on the matchup. As expected, both Nate Irving (11 total tackles; 7 solo) and Brandon Marshall (8 total tackles; 6 solo, 1 FF, 1 Sack and 1 PD) were both LB1s last weeks against the Chiefs. Both remain solid plays going forward. Sio Moore and Josh Mauga were solid but not spectacular options; each piling up 6 total tackles. Miles Burris was the lone disappointment of the week with only 2 solo tackles, taking a back seat to Khalil Mack.
Rolando McClain DAL LB – MLB 4-3
Mentioned as a flier option for deeper leagues in week 1, Rolando McClain is now thrust into a playmaker role as well as defacto leader of the quickly depleting Cowboys LB. Those that follow me on twitter saw that Justin Durant suffered a groin injury that is expected to keep him out for close to a month or so. With no one else available to do so, McClain becomes the stat compiler LB in Dallas from sheer opportunity. Against the Titans, McClain scored 7 total tackles, a sack and an interception. He’s not as big of a threat for splash plays as that stat line implies but he certainly carries LB2 upside until Justin Durant returned from injury.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Jelani Jenkins MIA LB – OLB/MLB 4-3
Jelani Jenkins was another Twitter late recommendation after news broke that Danelle Ellerbe landed on injured reserve with a hip injury and Koa Misi will miss time with an ankle injury. Philip Wheeler is still not 100%, attempting to play through a thumb problem. In week 2 against the Bills, the former Gator piled up 14 total tackles (9 solo) and looks to be the focal point in another depleted defense. Jenkins remains a solid LB2/3 until Koa Misi returns and threatens his production.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
David Hawthorne NOS LB – ILB 3-4
David Hawthorne is not a flashy play for the New Orleans Saints. His production is largely tackle heavy and isn’t going to blow up stat sheets in big play leagues but he is actually outscoring fellow Saint ILB Curtis Lofton over the first two games of the season by an assist. Averaging 13.5 points through two weeks, IDP fantasy owners could do much worse with a couple juicy matchups in terms of running plays coming up with the Vikings (5th ranked in rushing) and the Cowboys (coming off of a game with 43 rush att). Use Hawthorne for a high floor, low ceiling LB2 or a safe LB3/flex IDP.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Mid LB3
Preston Brown BUF LB – WLB/MLB 4-3
This is a stash play until Buffalo’s defense fleshes out a bit. Preston Brown is a rookie LB drafted in the 3rd round out of Louisville by Buffalo. He has posted a couple quality games in this young season already. Week 1 came at the expense of suspended LB Nigel Bradham and last week, he posted 13 total tackles (7 solo) at the expense of Brandon Spikes, who sat the majority of the game. My guess is that the usage lies more in the weakness of Spikes in coverage being masked by the rookie as opposed to the rookie starting but it is a good sign to the future value of the rookie. Desperate owners can nab the rookie to play in week 3 against a Charger offense likely to utilize the short pass given the knee injury to their starting RB whereas buy-and-stash owners should sit the rookie until his role is further defined.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Zaviar Gooden TEN LB – Gooden is thrust into the starting lineup after Zach Brown was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Last year’s 3rd round pick out of Missouri isn’t an elite option at ILB but the Bengals in week 3 is a great matchup with AJ Green out of the lineup. Give the second year man a shot if you are desperate.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Scores across the defensive line seem to be fairly skinny with two weeks in a row the low-end DL1 scoring a meagre 10 points and normally stalwart DLs are underperforming early in the year. Sacks are fairly consistent from week to week with 33 players on the DL registering at least 0.5 of a sack in week 1 compared to 32 players in week 2.
Sen’Derrick Marks and Wallace Gilberry were not star recommendations but did not leave their respective fantasy teams with donuts either. Marks piled up 6 total tackles (4 solo) against the Redskins and Gilbery scored 3 solo tackles against the Falcons. Unfortunately, Adrian Clayborn was lost for the season with a biceps
Willie Young CHI DE – DE 4-3
In this young season, it has been Willie Young, not Lamarr Houston that has been the impact player opposite Jared Allen for the Bears. Young has 3 sacks already this year and looked unblockable against the 49ers. The Bears get the Jets and Packers in the upcoming weeks but I think that Young is a player to hang onto for the better part of the year.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
William Gholston TBB DE – DE 4-3
The replacement of Adrian Clayborn who was lost for the season, William Gholston is set up for big success alongside two of the better pass rushers in the league in Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson. His first start yielded 6 total tackles and a sack against the Rams. The Falcons and Steelers are up next for the Buccaneers. Gholston stands as good of a chance to score sacks against those two opponents as any.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Mario Addison CAR DE – 4th year man Mario Addison draws into the starting lineup on a formidable Carolina Panthers defense at the expense of Greg Hardy whose ability to regain his starting job is in doubt given the domestic violence issue hanging over his head. Addison proved he can get the job done as evidenced by his 2.5 sacks against the Lions on Sunday. Watch for Hardy’s activity in the upcoming week.
Defensive Back Plays
As an example of how scoring from DBs can be exploited in IDP leagues in an ever-increasking passing NFL, low-end DB3s in Huddle performance scoring were around 14 points compared to equivalent DL3 low-end scoring being around 7 points. As I will continue to push throughout the year, streaming DBs will continue to be a viable option based on simply this phenomenon.
Week 2 was another great week for the IDP free agent report on the defensive back side of the ball. Antoine Cason was the number one DB in almost all leagues last week with a stellar 10 tackle (7 solo), 2 forced fumble and one fumble recovery line. Ryan Mundy posted 6 solo tackles and an assist in a winning effort against the 49ers. Tony Jefferson was solid again for 8 total tackles against the Giants. Look for him to perform again until Tyrann Mathieu is healthy enough to be counted on to tackle consistently. DJ Swearinger and Reggie Nelson performed well but not amazing with 3 solos, 1 forced fumble and a fumble recovery for the Texan and 5 total tackles, a sack and a PD for the Bengal.
Corey Graham BUF CB – 4-3 CB
Over the first two weeks, Buffalo corners have collectively averaged 19 tackles a game. Week 1 saw Leodis McKelvin rack up 13 solos alone but in week 2, he didn’t see the field for more than 50% of the snaps and gave way to veteran Corey Graham. Graham scored 10 tackles and 3 PDs in response against the Dolphins. With the Chargers in week 3 and the Lions in week 5, Graham seems poised to repeat his stellar numbers if he can keep his snap count high.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Winston Guy Jr. JAC FS – 4-3 FS
It’s hard not to like what this kid has done with his playing time so far as the starting free safety for the Jaguars. Yet another former Seahawk that seem to litter this Jaguar team, Guy has been close to an every down safety for the Jags so far in this young season. His 7 total tackle, 1 sack performance has to turn some heads in fantasy circles. Interestingly enough, only one of the tackles he made on Sunday was on a completed pass. The others were run support and a sack. I think that Guy can be a “guy” that scores when his team gets down as he tends to play downhill. The Jaguars schedule doesn’t get easier with a hungry Colts squad up next followed by the Chargers. Both teams are good matchups for the former Wildcat.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Mike Adams IND S – 3-4 SS
The former Bronco and Brown, Mike Adams is proving once again that he carries value despite his previous team all but writing him off. Playing as a hard-tackling strong safety alongside LaRon Landry, Mike Adams is racking up tackles and making a case to once again be owned by IDP squads as evidenced by an 8 solo tackle and a PD performance in week 2 against the Eagles. Week 3 against the Jaguars isn’t a stellar matchup but owners may want to swing on Adams now and hold him until juicier matchups present themselves in the middle of the year.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB3 to Low-end DB3
Kyle Fuller CHI CB – 4-3 CB
Wow, did this kid ever impress me on Sunday night football. 7 total tackles, 2 INT and 2 PD is a great coming-out party for anyone much less to do it on the stage that he did it on as early as he did in his NFL career. This year’s first round pick, the Bears moved him between outside corner to slot corner to free safety at time during the game. The former Hokie showed amazing ball skills and instinct to go with surprising tackle form. With CB1 Charles Tillman’s career potentially over with yet another triceps tear ending his season again, Fuller’s time to shine may be now. His value is higher in CB-required league obviously but I still think that he can score in upcoming weeks 4 and 6 where he gets the Packers and Falcons respectively.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Josh Evans JAC S – Josh Evans is taking the place of Johnathan Cyprien at strong safety for the Jaguars while Cyprien is out with a concussion. With no practices throughout the week for Cyprien and a strong performance against the Redskins in week 2 for Evans (14 total tackles and a PD), Evans is a solid option (read: borderline DB1) for a week or two until Cyprien returns. Watch the injury report to see if Cyprien gets cleared and adjust your lineup accordingly.