Going into week 6 of the NFL season, it’s time to start thinking about the strength of your team post bye weeks and even the fantasy postseason. The strengths and weaknesses of the NFL teams are apparent at this point and savvy owners are already positioning themselves for fantasy postseason NFL matchups to exploit. With a handful of bye weeks out of the way already, look to trade off some depth and bye week coverage to strengthen your team if you can and then back-fill those gaps with free agents. Teams that still have bye weeks to contend with or have struggled out of the gate may be willing to trade players with quality fantasy postseason in order to get through a tough couple weeks. Minnesota and Tampa Bay have a bye week in week 6 so owners relying on Vikings and Buccaneers need to find a replacement in their lineups.
Steelers LB Vince Williams led the recommendations of the IDP Free Agent report with 9 total tackles (8 solo) and a sack. He is proving to be a borderline LB1 as long as Ryan Shazier remains out. Michael Wilhoite posted 5 total tackles (3 solo) and a half sack on Thursday Night Football in a losing effort against the Cardinals. Vontaze Burfict posted his first LB1 score of the year with 10 total tackles (9 solo) against the Cowboys. Cory James was disappointing against the Chargers with 2 total tackles. Don’t forget to look at Danelle Ellerbe/Nate Stupar coming off of their bye. Those that stuck with week 4 recommendations Jatavis Brown (6 total tackles, 1 sack), Christian Kirksey (16 total tackles), Lorenzo Alexander (7 tackles, 1 PD, 3 sacks) and Shane Ray (7 tackles, 1 sack) were also rewarded handsomely for sticking with their guy.
Perry Riley OAK LB – WLB 4-3
It’s a new week and another Oakland Raider linebacker on the IDP Free Agent Report. Cory James performed admirably in week 4, leading the Raiders defense from the middle. But with injuries to Ben Heeney and Malcolm Smith, the Raiders felt like they needed to add some depth. That feeling led to former Redskins LB Perry Riley getting signed. According to reports, head coach Jack Del Rio had lobbied Raider management for sign Riley week before the LB need materialized. Riley started at weak side LB for the Raider defense and led the team in tackles in his first game with 7 total tackles and a forced fumble while playing all but one snap. All of his stats were generated against Melvin Gordon or Antonio Gates which should mean that a start against the Chiefs in week 6 is a plus matchup. I don’t think that Riley keeps the WLB job over Malcolm Smith but he is startable until Smith returns from his quad injury. It’s also worth mentioning that since Del Rio really likes Riley, he could challenge for MLB snaps if rookie Cory James disappoints.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Nick Bellore SFO LB – ILB 3-4
Michael Wilhoite scored decently well in week 5 against the Cardinals but it was 6 year veteran Nick Bellore who played every snap and led the 49ers in IDP fantasy scoring with 11 total tackles (7 solo), a forced fumble and a half sack. Someone needs to lead the 49ers defense and whoever does is instantly worth fantasy ownership. Nick Bellore does not have the draft pedigree nor much by way of previous production or hype but he does have the most recent production. Any 100% snap count player also carries a much higher floor than a part-time or two down player. The 49ers face the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo in week 6 and then follow that with hosting Tampa Bay in week 7 before taking a bye week in Week 8. Give Bellore a look as a high-risk, high-reward LB. Injuries have ravaged the 49er defense and I wouldn’t trust Bellore to carry a job for the entire year unless he shows the production to do so but as long as he gets the snaps, he carries the value.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Antonio Morrison IND LB – ILB 3-4
Admittedly, this recommendation is a lot deeper of a dig than most offerings. 2016 fourth round pick Antonio Morrison took over for previous starter Sio Moore who was unceremoniously released after a lackluster start to the season for the Colts defense. The rookie responded with 5 total tackles against the Bears. Morrison is not going to be on the field nearly as much as D’Qwell Jackson who is averaging over 80% of the snaps, but the former Gator should be owned in deeper leagues. One injury or a change in playing time bumps Morrison from a two down thumper with flex play appeal at best to a potential LB2. Morrison is more of a matchup play against a running team. The Texans in week 6 and the Titans in week 7 are those teams. Give the rookie a shot if you are struggling with bye weeks and/or injuries.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB3 to Low-end LB3 (stash)
Vic Beasley ATL LB – SLB 4-3
With 8 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, Vic Beasley was likely the top LB of the week with a dominant performance against the defending Superbowl champion Denver Broncos. The downside is that Vic Beasley probably never made it into any lineups given his weak performance prior (7 total tackles, 1 sack over 3 games) and unfortunate position designation in any fantasy providers (LB vs DE). Beasley’s performance shows all fantasy owners what the ceiling can be and fantasy owners will need to determine their tolerance for his floor, which can be zero stats for any given week. The Seahawks in Seattle aren’t the best matchup in the world coming off of bye week so I’m not holding my breath for a repeat of these kind of stats. The Chargers in week 7 is a much better matchup. However, prospective owners will need to pick up Beasley this week to have him.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3 (big play leagues)
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Pittsburgh OLBs – If you’re digging deep for sacks or big plays, you might turn to Pittsburgh outside linebackers for a boost. Miami hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 6. Ryan Tannehill is among the top 3 QBs sacked this year, including three games with at least 5 sacks against. Although the timeshare that Steelers OLBs run caps your upside, the potential for sacks and big plays is larger than usual. Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats and James Harrison are all plus matchups, especially in big play leagues.
Defensive Linemen Plays
With 34.5 sacks from defensive linemen going into Monday night football, the sack production from DL seems to be pretty flat week over week (39 sacks in week 4, 36 sacks in week 3, 36.5 sacks in week 2 and 35 sacks in week 1). It goes to show you that sack production isn’t really as widespread as the NFL might lead you to believe. Figuring out which players that those sacks will go to in any given week becomes even more difficult to predict.
The Free Agent report recommended many players returning to active lineups from suspension. As expected, few of those were effective in their debut if they played at all but don’t give up on them. Many will be eased into the lineup but should return to their productive forms as the year wears on. Sneaky play Akiem Hicks was the best recommendation of the week with 3 total tackles and a sack.
Joey Bosa SDC DE – DE 3-4
Although the rookie out of Ohio State might not be the most under-the-radar play in the world after his monster 5 total tackle, 2 sack performance against the Raiders in week 5, Vic Beasley proved that the Broncos are vulnerable to a stiff pass rush when the running game isn’t working. Bosa, like many rookies seem to early on, suffered a hamstring injury prior to playing his first snaps of the year and made his debut in week 5 against the Raiders. Despite getting listed as the third string DE on the depth chart, Bosa was the most explosive Charger on Sunday and showed everyone why he was the highest drafted defender in this year’s draft. His usage is likely to be sporadic as the Chargers’ may be reluctant to turn over three down duty to the rookie but the upside could be higher than any pass rusher on the team. Use him if you’re desperate for pass rushing stats but I’d like to see his usage flesh out before committing much in terms of a starting role on fantasy lineups.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to Low-end DL3
Brian Robison MIN DE – DE 4-3
Figuring out which of Minnesota’s pass rushers will go off from week to week might prove to be difficult down the stretch. Against a Texans team that looked lost from the get-go, Robison was dangerous in week 5, scoring 2 sacks and a forced fumble. The Vikings defense is arguably the best in football and starting a rush end that is likely to get plenty of pass rush opportunities against teams that try to throw themselves back into a game is a recipe fo success. Week 6 is the Vikings bye week which isn’t ideal and week 7 and 8 bring the Eagles and Bears in successive weeks. Get Robison into your lineup against the Bears for sure.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Low-end DL
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Stephon Tuitt PIT DE – With Cam Heyward likely out, I expect Stephon Tuitt to step up as the Pittsburgh DL to apply the pressure on Ryan Tannehill in week 6. As mentioned, the Dolphins are among the worst at protecting their QB and I think that the Pittsburgh vs Miami is going to be a bit of a bloodbath. Start Tuitt on a gamble to nab a sack and maybe a splash play.
Defensive Back Plays
With 13 interceptions in week 5, picks were down this week; 23 picks in week 4, 23 picks in week 3, 24 picks in week 2 and 12 picks in week 1. Defensive backs that regularly find themselves around the ball making splash plays are worth a lot in fantasy. Those who also manage to pile up tackles to build a high floor for points end up being DB1s.
For last week’s recommendations, Kurt Coleman was pedestrian in Monday night football with 4 total tackles. Keanu Neal was amongst the better recommendations for week 5 with 8 total tackles (6 solo) and a forced fumble in an upset win against the Broncos. The Falcons operated with multiple safeties throughout the game so Kemal Ishmael and Ricardo Allen both posted enough stats to keep Neal further down the leaderboard than I’d like but I’ll take that statline all day. Leon Hall took over the majority of free safety snaps but only managed 4 total tackles. Janoris Jenkins logged 2 INTs and 3 PDs however. I was banking on one of those finding its way to Hall. Jason Verrett revealed a major knee injury prior to Sunday so new CB1 Casey Hayward saw much more action with 8 solo tackles. Dexter McCoil led the Chargers safeties in points but only managed 2 solo tackles.
DJ Swearinger ARI S – SS 3-4
With Tyvon Branch on injured reserve with a sports hernia, DJ Swearinger was promoted to the starting lineup. Arizona’s big nickel starting lineup leans heavily on both the tackling and the coverage ability of their safeties to operate the defense and stifle opposing offenses. Swearinger’s reputation in the NFL is that of a big hitter. He is a decent tackler but weaker in coverage. This is reflected in his statline in week 4 against the 49ers, 7 total tackles, 1 PD and a sack. The Cardinals hope that their superior corners preclude them from needing to depend on Swearinger to carry them in coverage. The Cardinals face the Jets and Seahawks in weeks 6 and 7 which should be a decent matchup.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Low-end DB2
Duke Ihenacho/Donte Whitner WAS S – SS 3-4
The Redskins secondary has been banged up early this year. With starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland nursing an ankle injury and both day one starting safeties, DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton, on IR with a torn ACL and concussion respectively, Washington has turned to some old faces to hold this secondary together. One of those old faces is Duke Ihenacho. Like Bruton, Ihenacho is a former Bronco safety but has some history of playing within the Redskins organization, being there longer. He also has a history of piling up some decent fantasy games when he can get some tackles. The knock on Ihenacho is that he is a liability in coverage; a year hasn’t changed that. However, when he is out there, he will be a solid DB starter for your fantasy team. “The Duke” scored 9 total tackles and a PD in a win against the Ravens in week 5. Donte Whitner was signed by the Redskins last week and didn’t play. That is a major risk for Ihenacho’s ability to contribute. That said, Whitner is a very similar player with a bit more pedigree but also a bit more tread off the tires. I’d play Ihenacho until I hear word that Whitner has supplanted Ihenacho as the starter. Either guy is good for solid tackles stats. The Eagles and Lions in weeks 6 and 7 are pretty good matchups.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to High-end DB3
Chris Prosinski CHI S – SS 3-4
Chris Prosinski was elevated to the fulltime strong safety role within the Bears defense in week 5 against the Colts after start Harold Jones-Quartey blew a coverage assignment. Prosinski eventually finished the game with 8 total tackles. Prosinski’s hold on the job is anything but ironclad but in deeper leagues, any change in starting safeties is note-worthy and Prosinski has a history of good tackle production when he starts. The Jaguars and Packers are pretty good matchups in weeks 6 and 7. If you are desperate, give Prosinski a look or at least a stash to see if he holds onto a job.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB3 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Trumaine Johnson/LaMarcus Joyner/Maurice Alexander LA CB/FS – Detroit ran the ball at barely over 3 yards per carry against the Eagles in week 5. The Lions offense is going to continue to run through the right arm of Matthew Stafford into week 6 and as such, Rams corners and their free safety should become startable commodities given the matchup between the two teams. Rams strong safety TJ McDonald has been a startable commodity already but should have been owned already. Give a look to a Rams DB as a stream option given the juicy matchup against the pass attack of the Lions.