Week 3 is where I start to look at trends. Maybe you don’t necessarily believe in them yet but you need to consider at least planning to deal with trends that at least appear to be there. Is Preston Brown really only a flex play going forward with Ramon Humber playing as he has? How much do you trust Jaylon Smith going forward? Can you really bench Nigel Bradham? These are just a few of the many questions surrounding IDP fantasy at the moment and if you are struggling to deal with one of these kinds of problems, it’s best to try to get a contingency plan together so that you have an option to go to when enough is enough. The easiest way to do that is to add a player with upside.
Last week’s recommendations were largely quality adds to most fantasy teams. The Bengals I recommended both turned in decent performances. Vincent Rey‘s 11 total tackles (6 solo) were tied for the best among those mentioned in last week’s article. Sophomore Nick Vigil also chipped in with 5 total tackles and a pass defensed. Both linebackers played 100% of Cincinnati’s defensive snaps and remain good options going forward until Vontaze Burfict returns from his suspension in Week 4. Ramon Humber turned in another quality effort in Week 2 against the Panthers with 11 total tackles (7 solo). Compared to MLB Preston Brown’s 7 assists, Humber is looking like the linebacker to own in Buffalo. Unfortunately, TJ Watt‘s day was cut short due to a groin injury. He left in the first quarter but looked very good in his short time out there with 2 assists and a pass defensed along with some pressures. Rounding out the week 1 recommendations, Joe Schobert‘s day was fairly ho-hum with 5 total tackles against the Ravens and sneaky play Ray-Ray Armstrong logged 8 total tackles in replacement duty filling in for the injured Reuben Foster.
Mike Hull MIA LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB2 – LB3
It’s not clear why Lawrence Timmons was inactivated by the Dolphins in week 2. The only information released to this point is that he left the team prior to the game. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was very evasive when answering questions about it after the game and only on Monday did we hear that the Dolphins may have gone as far as putting out a missing person report on Timmons. What I can tell you for sure is that MLB Mike Hull, who was originally slated for a two-down role only, filled the hole in sub packages left by Timmons and was able to deliver a quality fantasy performance with 10 total tackles (7 solo) to lead his team against the Chargers. My opinion is that whatever has caused Timmons to leave the team isn’t of the run-of-the-mill variety otherwise Gase would likely be more forward in the post-game press conference. And if it’s a team or coaching conflict, Timmons may miss more than just this week which could lead to more fantasy relevant days for Hull. It’s also worth mentioning that Timmons is seeing team doctors since his return to the team. The Jets host the Dolphins in a matchup in week 3 that doesn’t particularly excite me but could yield decent numbers for Hull if given the same usage. This situation will require an eye to the newswire, however.
Lavonte David/Kendall Beckwith TBB LB – 4-3 WLB/MLB Value: LB1 – LB3
Kwon Alexander was on his way to another quality fantasy outing when he left the Buccaneers week 2 game against the Bears with a hamstring injury. The third-year pro did not return to the contest. Which recommendation you choose here depends on your league. Shallow leagues might have seen Lavonte David go undrafted after only 86 total tackles were registered by the weakside linebacker last year. David led all Buccaneer defenders with 9 total tackles and a fumble recovery. His history of carrying the Tampa Bay defense in stats prior to the emergence of Alexander is well documented and he warrants LB1 consideration if Alexander misses any more time. Rookie Kendall Beckwith is a bit of a deeper dig for leagues with larger starting lineups or deeper benches. Beckwith took over a more significant role with Alexander out, actually out-snapping David 58 to 53. The third-round pick out of LSU responded with 5 solo tackles, including 2 tackles for loss, to go with a pass defensed. Beckwith is a riskier play that could yield quality points as Tampa Bay visits Minnesota in week 3. Watch the practice report to see how Alexander progresses.
Zach Cunningham HOU LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3
Make no mistake, Bernardick McKinney is still the Houston linebacker to own. Even prior to Brian Cushing’s 10 game suspension for violations of the NFL’s policy on performing-enhancing substances, McKinney was primary ILB commodity for the Texans. What has happened in the wake of Cushing’s suspension is the Texans’ rookie second-round pick out of Vanderbilt, Zach Cunningham, is being thrust into meaningful snaps on defense much earlier than the Houston coaching staff likely expected. Cunningham only played in 66% of the snaps in week 2’s victory over the Bengals but managed to score 6 total tackles (4 solo). He split snaps with undrafted rookie out of Missouri State, Dylan Cole, who logged 3 assists on 36% of the defensive snaps. I like Cunningham to increase his share of the pie as long as he continues to gain the trust of the Houston coaching staff. The Patriots host the Texans in week 3 which may or may not be a good matchup depending on New England’s gameplan.
Wesley Woodyard TEN LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2
Judging from how 2016 played out for the Tennessee Titans’ defense, I expected Avery Williamson to continue to be the leader of the defense and take every snap. As such, I expected him to be the linebacker to own for fantasy purposes from the Titans. Woodyard, who saw his role reduced into a timeshare with Sean Spence, would likely continue to lose snaps to rookie fifth-round pick Jayon Brown once he was up to speed. On the contrary, what has happened is Woodyard has led all Titan ILBs in production. The former Bronco has logged 17 total tackles and a sack so far this season, more tackles than Brown and Williamson combined. While Woodyard’s usage isn’t 100%, his production is worthy of a roster spot. Of a possible 134 defensive snaps, Williamson has been on the field for 77%, Woodyard for 70% and Brown for 50%. The Titans host Seattle in week 3. While the Seahawks offense is struggling right now, that didn’t stop opposing linebackers Navorro Bowman and Ray-Ray Armstrong from posting very fantasy-relevant scores this week.
Sneaky play of the week – Nick Kwiatkoski/Christian Jones CHI LB
Those who follow me on Twitter got a tip to nab Nick Kwiatkoski once news broke that week 1 ILB starter for the Bears, Jerrell Freeman, revealed that he played in that game with a pectoral injury that ultimately caused the 7th year man to head to injured reserve. The sophomore looked to be on his way to a solid tackle heavy game against Tampa Bay with 4 solo tackles on the first drive alone but had to leave the game with his own pectoral injury. Reserve LB Christian Jones took over from there and scored 4 solo tackles after that. It’s not clear whether Kwiatkoski will be out for week 3 or not. If he’s ruled out, Jones will take over snaps as he did on Sunday. The Steelers visit Chicago in week 3 which should prove to be a good matchup for Bears linebacker production.
Defensive linemen plays
Of last week’s recommendations, DeMarcus Lawrence had a monster game with 7 total tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. While he did get a boneheaded penalty which led to a Broncos touchdown, almost every league I play in doesn’t give you negative points for that. Lawrence is quickly making a case for DL1 early in the season. Mike Daniels failed to score against the Falcons on Sunday night due to a hamstring injury that caused him to leave the game and not return. Trey Flowers only scored 2 total tackles against the Saints despite Drew Brees dropping back 45 times. In typical Drew Brees fashion, the Patriots were held to only one sack and Flowers was not the one to get it. Stick with Flowers as the Patriots host the Texans in week 3 who are featuring a rookie quarterback. The Texans have also allowed 13 sacks through two weeks which leads the NFL. No other team has given up more than 10.
Jerry Hughes/Shaq Lawson BUF DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL1 – DL3
I mentioned both Hughes and Lawson as beneficiaries of a scheme change to 4-3 in Buffalo. It didn’t take long for that scheme change to bear fruit. Against the Panthers in week 2, Hughes scored 6 total tackles and 2 sacks whereas Lawson put up 5 total tackles and a sack. I like defensive linemen that carry a high floor by getting a handful of tackles even when they don’t get home. Both Hughes and Lawson appear to be those kinds of ends. Lawson and Hughes both command between 65-80% of the Bills defensive snaps to lead them in usage among defensive ends. It’s not ideal but it’s better than most. Buffalo hosts Denver in week 3. While the 3 sacks given per game average that the Broncos currently sport isn’t particularly note-worthy, Denver left tackle Garett Bolles went down with an ankle injury late in week 2 and is likely to miss week 3. On the other end of the line, right tackle Menelik Watson was made into a turnstile at points in the game. I think that there is an opportunity here to exploit. Hughes is the play for shallow leaguers whereas Lawson should get a look for deeper leagues.
Arik Armstead SFO DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
DeForest Buckner was a popular pickup in tackle heavy leagues last year as his high tackle total made him a safe play even as a rookie. 74 total tackles and 6 sacks with upside as he continues to develop? Sign me up. However, lost in the shuffle this year is third-year man Arik Armstead. After minimal usage in his rookie year and a sophomore campaign cut short due to a shoulder injury, Armstead has become a key cog in the 49ers defense. Armstead’s usage has been just under 80% of the defensive snaps, a very close second to only Buckner on the team. Among Through two games, Armstead has logged 7 total tackles and a sack but those stats belie how disruptive Armstead has been. The 49ers host the Rams in week 3.
Sneaky play of the week – Deatrich Wise/Lawrence Guy/Cassius Marsh NEP DE
You can lump Trey Flowers in here too. This is simply playing the percentages as New England is hosting a rookie quarterback who happens to play for the most sacked team in the NFL right now. Wise was New England’s fourth-round pick in the draft this year and is coming off of his first career NFL sack in week 2 along with increased usage from week to week. Marsh was acquired through trade with the Seahawks and Guy signed as a free agent from the Ravens. Flowers is the best option here given his usage is over 90% but despite the fact that each end got between 40-50% usage in week 2, the likelihood of splash plays is going to be high in this one. I have them listed in priority order in the heading.
Defensive back plays
For last week’s recommendations, Tyvon Branch led the way with 7 total tackles and a pass defensed in a scrappy game against the Colts. Ron Parker followed his breakout game against the Patriots with a single solo tackle against the Eagles despite playing in 100% of the snaps. I want to believe that is more of the exception rather than the rule going forward. My hunch on Joe Haden proved to be just that as backup QB Case Keenum didn’t get the ball to the outside receivers nearly as much. Stefon Diggs didn’t do much damage compared to Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. As such, safety Sean Davis and slot corner Mike Hilton were able to pile up 8 total tackles apiece. Finally, Devin McCourty has put up 6 total tackles and a pass defensed against the Saints.
Jordan Poyer BUF S – 4-3 FS Value: DB1 – DB2
While I thought that strong safety Micah Hyde would be more of the playmaker in the Bills’ defense, so far it has been free safety Jordan Poyer who has been scoring in fantasy circles. Through two games, the former Brown has piled up 14 total tackles, 2 sacks, 5 passes defensed and an interception. All of those stats and 100% usage on Buffalo’s defensive snaps. Poyer is still criminally under-owned and under-started in many IDP leagues in this young season. You can’t ignore that kind of production. Check to see if Poyer is unowned in your league. The Broncos in week 3 are a decent matchup as well given their recent success in the passing game.
Matthias Farley IND S – 3-4 FS Value: DB2
Farley has scored 18 total tackles and 2 passes defensed through two games this season. His 10 total tackle effort in week 1 was noteworthy but his usage of under 70% and talent behind him led me to believe that his stay at the top was short-lived. After week 2, you can’t ignore the former Cardinals’ production. Farley played every snap in week 2, partly due to Darius Butler’s injury, TJ Green’s benching and Malik Hooker fulltime promotion to starting free safety. While Hooker scored an interception in the game, his lack of tackles leads me to believe that Farley is going to be the better IDP fantasy option at least until Clayton Geathers (neck) can return to the lineup.
LaMarcus Joyner LAR S – 3-4 FS Value: DB2 – DB3
The Rams safeties have been a bit hit and miss over the past few years which threw me off of grabbing one of them this year. However, slot cornerback turned free safety LaMarcus Joyner has proven to be a solid fantasy asset in his last two games. Through two weeks, the former Seminole has scored 13 total tackles, 2 passes defensed, an interception and a return touchdown. While the return touchdown isn’t typically predictable, the tackles can be. I like Joyner to continue to deliver in his new role on the Rams defense. The Rams visit San Francisco in week 3 which is a poorer matchup but the Cowboys in week 4 should be better. You might need to grab him now to get him as his 9 total tackle performance in week 2 is a little more eye-popping than usual.
Sneaky play of the week – Adam Jones CIN CB
Cincinnati’s week 3 opponent, the Green Bay Packers, are 27th in the league in total rushing right now and appear to be better moving the ball with short passes than runs in my estimation based on what I saw in their effort against the Falcons on Sunday night. Adam Jones typically factors into many games that do not feature the pass but this one likely will. Give Pacman a look as a homerun kind of play as he has a low floor but a very high ceiling in this type of game.