With a little under half of the fantasy regular season in the books, you need to seriously evaluate where your team stands relative to your goal of making the playoffs. Owners in dynasty/keeper leagues need to do the same thing but your approach in dealing with it is different. Teams with 1 or 2 wins need to be virtually perfect throughout the remainder of the regular season to realistically have a shot of getting in. What that means to your roster is that you can’t afford to wait around on potential anymore. One (or two losses) sinks your fantasy team so you need the maximum amount of points in the current week no matter what. If that means that you cut a guy that you had high hopes for but he hasn’t turned in the kind of performance that you’d hoped for in favor of a guy who is more of an injury replacement but is putting up solid stats, then that’s what you have to do. Teams with 3 or 4 wins are doing ok but can’t afford to be too complacent. You need to ensure that you stay on the path you are on but also know that you are 3-3 or 4-2 for a reason; a couples teams beat you and might have better rosters. Try to add to your roster through free agency or trades in an effort to cover your weaknesses as better you can. If you have 5 or 6 wins at this point, many would say that you shouldn’t change anything. I, however, would recommend trying to target weaker teams for trade and backfilling with free agency. If you can get a better player through trade from a team struggling with bye weeks, your team is weaker for one week (which you can afford) but stronger overall. That gives you the advantage once playoffs start and your record doesn’t matter anymore. Speaking of bye weeks, Detroit and Houston will have the week off in week 7 so make plans accordingly.
Unfortunately, I did have one whiff at the linebacker position due to an unexpected return to the lineup. Despite an ankle injury timeline of about a month, Lavonte David returned to the starting lineup for the Buccaneers in week 6 against the Cardinals which ruined the fantasy chances of Adarius Glanton. Deone Bucannon played in every snap on defense for the Cardinals in that same game and logged a game-high 8 total tackles (7 solo). As expected, Jamie Collins returned to the Browns lineup in week 6 against the Texans with 8 total tackles and a pass defensed. Following his usage before missing time with a concussion, Collins played 82% of the Browns’ defensive snaps. Craig Robertson proved to be the best option from the report last week with a monster game against the Lions. Robertson logged 11 total tackles, a pass defensed, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He outproduced AJ Klein markedly while playing in only 77% of the Saints’ defensive snaps. Deep leaguers may have been able to scrape a passable game out of Nicholas Morrow, who scored 5 total tackles and a pass defensed on 95% of the Raiders’ defensive snaps.
NaVorro Bowman OAK LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB2 – LB3
It seems weird putting Bowman on this report but given the fact that his early season production left something to be desired and that he was released on Friday, many owners have cut bait from the former All-Pro linebacker. While it’s very likely that Bowman’s abilities have been permanent reduced thanks to multiple season-ending injuries that he has suffered over his career, he landed on a team that needs linebacking help desperately. Multiple sources are reporting that the Oakland Raiders signed Bowman to a one year, $3 Million dollar deal. It remains to be seen how big of a role that Bowman will have with the Raiders and how quickly he secures that role but his competition of Cory James, Nicholas Morrow and Marquel Lee doesn’t figure to put much of a fight either due to injury, pedigree or recent performance. Tyrell Adams was waived to make room for Bowman as well. Similar to when Perry Riley was signed as a street free agent last year, there can be some value in this signing for would-be IDP fantasy owners. I’m not sure that I’m starting him in week 7 against the Chiefs in Oakland unless I hear some great insight on how well Bowman is picking up the playbook or directly from the coaching staff how much Bowman figures to play. That said, this is the cheapest that you are likely to get him so the time is now.
Reuben Foster SFO LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB1 – LB2
The other two benefactors of the Bowman move were Reuben Foster and Ray-Ray Armstrong. It was announced shortly after Bowman’s release that Foster was to inherit the middle linebacker job which likely means that Ray-Ray Armstrong will become the fulltime weakside linebacker. Foster is still on the sideline due to an ankle injury suffered in week 1 and ultimately missed the 49ers’ week 6 game against the Redskins. Brock Coyle filled in at middle linebacker in that game and score 6 total tackles on 100% of the 49ers’ defensive snaps. Coyle is a decent fill-in for owners who are banking on Foster’s production or play in a deeper league as odds are that he reprises that role every game until Foster returns. The cheapest going rate for Foster was when I tweeted this news out on Friday, the second cheapest rate is probably right now. The Cowboys in week 7 would typically be a great matchup for the 49ers linebackers but that matchup is in a state of flux with Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension looming.
Lavonte David TBB LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB2
When Lavonte David went down with an ankle injury early in week 3, he was originally expected to miss a month or more. Hence my surprise to see him back in the Buccaneers lineup in week 6. The former Cornhusker made a splash in his return, scoring 3 solo tackles, 2 fumbles forced and a fumble returned for a touchdown on 94% of Tampa Bay’s defensive snaps. While it bothers me that he only scored 3 solo tackles in a game that featured 53 tackle opportunities (35 of those were rushing), ultimately I am defaulting to track record here. David has scored well on this defense and should continue to see plenty of opportunity to make plays. Tampa Bay goes up against the Bills in Buffalo in week 7 which should be a decent matchup on paper. If David’s injury had him hit the waiver wire, you would do well to snag him.
Nigel Bradham/Mychal Kendricks PHI LB – 4-3 SLB/WLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Three-down MLB Jordan Hicks has been nursing an ankle injury that apparently aggravated and caused him to miss most of week 6 against the Panthers. Weakside linebacker Mychal Kendricks stepped in to fill the three down role alongside three-down strongside linebacker Nigel Bradham. Kendricks responded with 15 defensive tackles on 67% of the snaps and another 2 tackles on special teams. Bradham also had his best outing of the year with 10 total tackles and 2 passes defensed on 95% of the snaps. There is a decent chance that Hicks misses no time but Hicks owners may want to protect themselves against any missed time. The Redskins in week 7 represent a good matchup where opposing three down LBs are averaging seven tackles per game.
Sneaky play of the week – Hayes Pullard/Korey Toomer SDC LB
Jatavis Brown playing only 20 snaps (34%) of the Chargers’ week 6 win over the Raiders. Details are limited but it’s suspected that a lingering ankle injury that similarly caused an early exit from week 5 against the Giants is to blame. Filling in for Brown’s snaps were former recommendations, Hayes Pullard and Korey Toomer. Pullard had 2 solo tackles, 8 assists and an interception on 93% of the Chargers’ defensive snaps. Toomer had 8 total tackles (5 solo) on 59% of the Chargers’ snaps. Brown’s injury history is numerous despite his short tenure in the league thus far. Pullard carries better value with Brown out but is still ownable with Brown in the lineup. Toomer is injury replacement only; he’s droppable if Brown is in the lineup. The Broncos are averaging 14 total tackles per game to opposing WLB/MLB pairs this season including a combined 15 solo tackles and 5 assists to the very same Chargers in week 1.
Defensive linemen plays
It was a rough week for the IDP Free Agent Report for defensive linemen as the scarcity of the position forces DL streamers to get more creative or more risky. Vinny Curry‘s 4 total tackle week against the Panthers wasn’t so bad but he seemed to be one of the few Eagle DLs that failed to get a half sack. Elvis Dumervil followed up his 3.5 sacks over two weeks with a donut in week 6. The Cardinals actually ran the ball after putting up points early which ruined the chance of the Bucs defensive line to tee off on Carson Palmer. Gerald McCoy salvaged a decent day with 2 solo tackles and a sack.
Solomon Thomas SFO DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL1 – DL2
I even told myself in the column that I should be recommending Solomon Thomas. Turns out that Thomas was indeed the right pick as the rookie first rounder scored 9 total tackles (7 solo) and a sack on 92% usage. The rookie’s usage has gone way up lately and figures to stay high given the injury suffered by Arik Armstead (broken hand). Like most of the San Francisco defensive line, he can tackle which should keep your points floor high. The Cowboys visit San Francisco in week 7 which isn’t a great matchup for sack hunters but absolutely is for a great tackling defensive line. The higher your tackle scoring is for linemen in your league, the more excited I’d get over the prospects of Thomas in your lineup.
Frank Clark SEA DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
With Cliff Avril’s career potentially in jeopardy due to neck issues, Frank Clark’s usage figures to go way up as he is expected to become a starter at defensive end alongside Michael Bennett for Seattle. Savvy IDP owners will note that Clark was already the more productive defensive end and that’s true. However, Clark’s opportunity should go up as Avril took up about 37 snaps per game through week 4 which was remarkably close to Clark’s 38 snaps per game. Don’t expect all of those snaps to go directly to Clark but it stands to reason that Clark’s usage will approach closer to Bennett’s 84% usage. In week 7, the Seahawks visit the New York Giants who have given up 11 sacks this year to opposing defensive lines alone this year. I expect that both Clark and Bennett will factor into this game and reward would-be fantasy owners.
David Irving DAL DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2
David Irving returned from suspension in week 5 against the Packers in a big way as he racked up 5 total tackles, 2 sacks and a pass defensed on 75% of the snaps. With the Cowboys on bye in week 6, the time is right to get Irving into your lineup against the 49ers in week 7 who are going to start a rookie quarterback in CJ Beathard. Washington touched up the 49ers for 3 sacks in week 6 and I think that Dallas might be able to do better.
Defensive back plays
Fairly decent recommendations all the way around were the story for week 6. Justin Evans continued his start to a solid rookie season with more production. The former Aggie standout put up 7 total tackles and a pass defensed against the Cardinals on 99% usage. Darian Thompson put up 5 solo tackles against the Broncos while playing every down. Marcus Williams scored 7 total tackles and a pass defensed on 80 of 81 potential defensive snaps in a crazy game between the Saints and Lions. In that same game, Lions cornerback Darius Slay scored 4 solo tackles and an interception. I expected more tackles but in fairness, the Saints didn’t need to throw given the way that the game started for them.
Justin Simmons/Darian Stewart DEN S – 3-4 SS/FS Value: DB2 – DB3
Justin Simmons hadn’t lived up to the standards left by the safety he replaced in TJ Ward until week 6 against the Giants. Simmons scored 11 solo tackles and 2 passes defensed in that game. Free safety Darian Stewart, no slouch to fantasy production in his own right, scored 6 total tackles in the same game. The Broncos visit the Chargers in week 7. Opposing safeties have averaged 15 fantasy points per game against the Chargers over the last two weeks. The stars are aligned for a potentially big game from Broncos defensive backs. Simmons would be my pick for a better game with Stewart an option in deeper leagues.
DJ Swearinger/Montae Nicholson WAS S – 3-4 SS/FS Value: DB2 – DB3
Similar to the Chargers, opposing safeties have scored a combined 26 fantasy points against the Eagles which are playing the Redskins in week 7 in Philadelphia. In addition, DJ Swearinger scored 5 solo tackles and a pass defensed in Washington’s week 1 game against which is serviceable. Rookie fourth round pick out of Michigan State, Montae Nicholson was not a starter in that game but has drawn into the starting lineup recently, scoring 6 total tackles and a pass defensed against the 49ers in week 6. Both safeties played between 85-100% of the snaps for the Redskins defense. Nicholson is virtually unowned in most leagues whereas Swearinger is a little more owned. Add accordingly.
Ricardo Allen ATL S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
I expect that when the Patriots host the Falcons in week 7, they will employ a very similar gameplan to how the Dolphins beat the Falcons in week 6. Run the ball 30 times, make completions when you need to and play good defense. Ricardo Allen returned from injury in week 6 after the Falcons bye with 7 solo tackles against the Dolphins, 5 of which were on running backs. Expect that even if the Patriots throw, the majority of their offense will flow through their backs. For comparison purposes, 28 of the 44 offensive touches for the Patriots against the Jets in week 6 went through their running backs. Give Allen a look for tackle heavy or balanced leagues.