Week 2 is the most opportunity-filled week for free agents outside of week 1 in my opinion. For all of the prognostication we attempt to employ, ultimately the waiver wire is largely a reactionary process. So when we finally get to see real games being played, there’s usually one or two injuries, an early experiment that failed and definitely a few things that nobody saw coming. That works on the flip side as well, sometimes that gamble you took on that linebacker backfired and you need a replacement early in the season. Maybe someone on your roster suffered an injury early like Reuben Foster or Eric Berry and you need a replacement. Or maybe you simply want to build your depth. Whatever your reason, the IDP Free Agent report has you covered with this week’s recommendations.
Week 1 was a large batch of recommendations but I’m happy to report that the majority proved to be good ones. Of the rookies recommended, Jarrad Davis led the way with 9 solo tackles and a fumble recovery playing all defensive snaps in a stellar debut. He looks to be plug and play in most any league if he can keep this up. Haason Reddick logged 8 total tackles (6 solo) in the same game but did not receive a full complement of snaps (58%). Reuben Foster was leading the 49ers in tackles when he went down with what is being described as a high ankle sprain and ended the contest with 3 solo tackles and a pass defensed on only 11 snaps.
Of the recommendations who changed teams in the offseason, DeMario Davis led the way with 14 total tackles and a half sack while playing in every snap. Jon Bostic and Karlos Dansby each posted 5 solo tackles and 2 assists in their respective games. Bostic was the only Colt to play every snap. Dansby missed only 3 snaps in his game. AJ Klein was clearly the linebacker option to own in New Orleans scoring 11 total tackles and a forced fumble in his debut for the Saints. More importantly, Klein was piling up the tackles during the Vikings two-minute drill which bodes very well for his future fantasy success.
The linebackers I expected to take a step forward last week were among some of the best options you could employ. BJ Goodson was the LB1 of the NFL in week 1 for tackle-heavy leagues, scoring 18 total tackles (14 solo) on Sunday night. He missed only one defensive snap which bodes well for his future usage. Myles Jack wasn’t far behind in the Jaguars romp over the Texans, logging 14 total tackles (8 solo) on a full snap count. Darron Lee also scored very well with 10 total tackles, a sack and a pass defensed in the Jets’ loss to the Bills. He played 82% of the snaps in that game. CJ Mosley returned to his LB1 ways with 8 total tackles and an interception in the Ravens’ win over the Bengals. Maybe the big surprise of the week for me was the disappointing tackle volumes from Vince Williams. He scored 5 total tackles (4 solo) but I expected more from him. The good news is that Williams played 83% of the snaps so I expect bigger things from him going forward.
Ramon Humber BUF LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB1 – LB2
Admittedly, I didn’t expect much from Ramon Humber in the Bills 4-3. My thinking was that Preston Brown would continue to carry the load for the Bills as his offseason was good enough to cause the Bills’ management to give up on Reggie Ragland. However, against the Jets in week 1, Brown managed only 3 total tackles while playing every snap while Humber scored 12 solo tackles and an assist while playing every snap except one. While I certainly expect some regression to the mean here (up for Brown and down for Humber), you can’t ignore that kind of production. Week 2 sees the Bills visit the Panthers in what should feature plenty of opportunities for both Humber and Brown to score.
TJ Watt PIT LB – 3-4 OLB Value: LB1 – LB2 (Big play), LB2 – LB3 (Tackle)
Throwing a bone to my big play league players here, I am recommending TJ Watt after his coming out party in week 1 against the Browns a mere four months after writing in a rookie piece not to touch him in redraft. The rookie out of Wisconsin scored 8 total tackles, 2 sacks and an interception in one of the most remarkable debuts in recent memory for a defensive rookie. Maybe even more surprising is how Pittsburgh used him on 94% of the defensive snaps, an unheard of percentage for a Steeler rookie linebacker on week 1. While I surmise that the plays will not come as readily to Watt in week 2 against the Vikings, the fact that he has shown the capacity to take over a game and that the Steelers have committed to his usage give him the upside to repeat those kinds of performances. In 2007 to 2010, James Harrison was deep in the conversation for LB1 in many scoring systems with the tackle numbers he had to go with the big plays. It’s not hard to imagine Watt doing similar if he can play like he did on Sunday with regularity.
Nick Vigil/Vincent Rey CIN LB – 4-3 SLB/WLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Would you believe that sophomore Nick Vigil led the Bengals linebackers in usage at 100% in week 1? Reserve weakside linebacker Vincent Rey wasn’t far behind at 78% whereas free agent middle linebacker acquisition Kevin Minter was only on the field for 58%. Vigil scored 10 total tackles and an interception compared to Rey’s 11 total tackles. Don’t expect this usage to be the trend for more than two more weeks as Vontaze Burfict returns from suspension in week 4. The Bengals host the reeling Texans next week. Vigil and Rey are decent plug-ins for teams struggling with early injuries or surprises in the usage of their starting lineup.
Joe Schobert CLE LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB2 – LB3
I really didn’t expect Joe Schobert to be anything more than a two down Mike for the Browns but Cleveland’s defense featured three linebackers on the field for the entire game save for one snap that Jamie Collins missed. In that heavy usage, Schobert logged 9 total tackles which were enough to lead all Browns defenders. I don’t expect much from Schobert in big play leagues given how he was used but in tackle-heavy leagues and balanced leagues, he carries some roster value. The Browns visit the Ravens in week 2.
Sneaky play of the week – Ray-Ray Armstrong SFO LB
When Reuben Foster went down to injury, Ray-Ray Armstrong took the majority of the snaps to replace him. In those 45 snaps (67% usage), Armstrong led the 49er linebackers with 6 total tackles (5 solo). Foster’s diagnosis appears to be a high ankle sprain so odds are that Armstrong gets the start at weakside linebacker against the Seahawks in Seattle next week.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Quick poll, who had the Jaguars defense as the number one unit this week? 7 points against, 203 yards against, 10 sacks, 4 turnovers and a score is an unreal stat line for any defense much less the Jaguars. Did you know that all 10 of those sacks came from their defensive line? Calais Campbell remains a DL1 even from his days in Arizona and his 6 total tackle, 4 sack performance showed it but lesser talents on Jacksonville put up DL1 or DL2 stat lines on Sunday as well.
As far as recommendations go, the rookies were disappointing. Taco Charlton played less than half of the Cowboys’ snaps whereas Myles Garrett did play at all. They both earned the same amount of stats. Emmanuel Ogbah was very pedestrian in Garrett’s absence, only scoring 1 solo tackle and a pass defensed on 70% of the defensive snaps. Shaq Lawson scored 3 total tackles and a pass defensed on the Jets and his bookend Jerry Hughes scored the same 3 total tackles. Sheldon Richardson scored 4 solo tackles in his Seahawk debut on 61% on the snaps played. I expect that number to increase over time.
DeMarcus Lawrence DAL DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Lawrence was borderline dominant in the Cowboys’ victory over the Giants. He regularly pressured Eli Manning on his way to a 5 total tackles, 2 sack performance on only 61% of the snaps. It’s worth mentioning that he did lead all Dallas defensive ends in usage. It’s unclear how the usage will change going forward but Dallas’s defense looked dominant in this game. Part of that is due to the poor offensive line of the Giants and my guess is that the Broncos, Dallas’ week 2 opponent, may fare a bit better. It’s tough to recommend much higher than DL2 until I see Lawrence’s usage go up.
Mike Daniels GBP DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL2
In Mike Daniels’ sixth year in the league, he is finally commanding more snaps, in one week at least. Daniels was on the field for 78% of the Packers’ defensive snaps. He made the most of those snaps, scoring 7 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble against Seattle. He looked very disruptive in this game. Although the Seahawks have a below average offensive line and that may have ballooned his stats a bit, I believe that he will still make an impact against the Falcons in week 2. The fact that Daniels out-snapped all other Packer defensive linemen helps as well.
Trey Flowers NEP DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL1 – DL2
Trey Flowers was one of the few bright spots for New England in their surprise loss to the Chiefs on the Thursday night game. The third year man out of Arkansas was easily the best Patriot on defense and was the only defensive lineman to not leave the field, playing 100% of the Patriot snaps. If he can produce 5 total tackles and 2 sacks again, I’d leave him on the field for the entire game also. The Patriots face the Saints in New Orleans in week 2 which isn’t the best matchup but week 3 sees the aforementioned Texans visit Foxboro, not to mention the Jets twice.
Defensive Back Plays
As the NFL offenses continue to evolve and feature the passing game, NFL defense continues to evolve their pass defense. The IDP fallout from these changes has already been felt in the linebacker ranks as a linebacker that doesn’t contribute on passing downs as rarely a fantasy commodity. Nickel packages can tend to have a similar effect on box safeties. Snap counts and tackle opportunities mean just as much to defensive backs as they do to linebackers but the waiver wire is full of more of them.
For last week’s recommendations, the three rookies I recommended all played in the same game. Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams both started for the Jets at the safety positions. Maye played the entire game, scoring 7 total tackles and Adams only missed 2 snaps, scoring 5 total tackles and a pass defensed. Tre’davious White scored 4 solo tackles and 2 pass defensed while not missing a snap. I really like the usage of all three of these rookies and they should be quality fantasy assets going forward. Micah Hyde did not figure into the stat sheet as much as I thought he would with only 3 solo tackles but he salvaged his day with an interception. Jeff Heath‘s 4 solo tackles was a little disappointing but it was likely a function of the Giants failure to get downfield.
Devin McCourty NEP S – 4-3 FS Value: DB1 – DB2
Devin McCourty was all over the field on Thursday night for the Patriots, logging 9 solo tackles, an assist, a fumble recovery and 2 passes defensed. The 8th year man out of Rutgers played every snap except one, leading all Patriot safeties. All four New England safeties played at least 61% of the snaps but the other three safeties combined for only 6 total tackles. I definitely like McCourty’s versatility to pay dividends against the Saints in week 2 as the Patriots look to rebound.
Ron Parker KCC S – 3-4 FS Value: DB1 – DB2
Ron Parker is listed as a safety but he played everywhere in week 1; free safety, strong safety, cornerback and even some linebacker. He logged 10 solo tackles and an assist while playing 100% of the snaps for the Chiefs. His versatility kept him in position to make plays on the ball and that gives him a bright outlook for IDP fantasy. Eric Berry’s Achilles injury is likely to cause him to miss a significant amount of time so Parker is unlikely to share the spotlight much in the Chiefs defensive backfield. The Eagles are a decent matchup for Parker in week 2 at the Chiefs host Philadelphia.
Tyvon Branch ARI S – 3-4 SS Value: DB1 – DB2
Many, myself included, expected second round pick Budda Baker to factor more into the safety rotation for Arizona. But in week 1, Tyvon Branch and Tyrann Mathieu played every snap and Antoine Bethea played 85%, leaving only two snaps for the rookie. Of those safeties, Tyvon Branch was by far the most productive with 10 solo tackles, an assist and 2 pass defensed. Tony Jefferson, who left to Baltimore in free agency, has shown in the past that the third safety in Arizona can be very productive for IDP fantasy. Branch, at least for now, seems poised to make a contribution to most fantasy lineups if you can get him and he keeps getting the opportunities.
Sneaky play of the week – Joe Haden PIT CB
Former Brown and current Steeler Joe Haden made his presence felt against his former team in week 1 with a 6 total tackle, 1 sack and 1 pass defensed performance. The Vikings are in town in week 2 and figure to bring their accurate passing attack that made mince meat of the Saints defense. Haden is more likely to be on Stefon Diggs than Adam Thielen but either way, a sure tackle at the corner position figures to be in line for a decent fantasy outing. The coaching staff showing enough faith to corner blitz him in week 1 doesn’t hurt either. I like Haden a lot this week, especially in CB required leagues.