Within the confines of the regular season, week 2 represents the most value that fantasy owners will see over the course of the year. As good as any prognosticator might be, there is always a situation that is missed, be it playing time, position or general usage. That said, it is always worth mentioning that one week does not make a trend, positive or negative so don’t go crazy dropping guys that were expected to be big contributors to your team after a disappointing week 1. However, if week 1 helped you figure out your bench a little bit and you have some expendable spots, this is the week to bet on someone who may have shown the first step of a breakout season.
I offered a handful of options to owners last week. Of the rookies, Devin Bush was the top dog with 11 total tackles (7 solo) on 76% usage in a blowout loss to the Patriots. It’s worth noting that Bush out-snapped both Vince Williams (31%) and Mark Barron (69%). Quincy Williams (4 solo tackles on 66% usage) was on his way to a solid day against the Chiefs before a knee injury derailed him. It’s worth noting that DJ Alexander, his backup, was firmly on the bench until his injury. Devin White had a slow start but decent finish with 6 total tackles on 100% usage against the 49ers.
Of the veterans, Shaq Thompson led the way with 9 total tackles (7 solo) and a PD on 97% usage against the Rams. Patrick Onwuasor appears to have taken over as the centerpiece of the Raven defense as he posted 5 solo tackles, a sack and a PD in a blowout win over the Dolphins. The fourth-year pro didn’t miss a snap. Kyzir White also had a great game with 9 total tackles (8 solo) on 86% usage for the Chargers in an overtime win over the Colts.
Thomas Davis LAC LB – 4-3 OLB Value: LB1 – LB2
I love the fact that at 36 years old, Thomas Davis is still balling out on a thrice-rebuild knee no less. When Davis signed with the Chargers in the offseason, I didn’t really think that he would be anything more than a rotational player. While that still might be the plan for the former Panther, Denzel Perryman is being eased very slowly into the lineup as evidenced by his 0 snaps despite being active. Davis tied for the NFL lead with 14 total tackles on Sunday against the Colts on 100% usage. That’s likely a product of 32 rushing attempts and 4 throws to the running back by the Colts but numbers are still numbers. The Chargers week 2 opponents, the Detroit Lions, offered similar numbers (31 rushes and 4 passes to backs) against the Cardinals in week 1. Davis offers a bit of lineup risk as well as injury risk but if the investment is small, his ownership percentage along with his production and usage says that he should be picked up.
Neville Hewitt NYJ LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3
Fifth-year pro Neville Hewitt was originally supposed to fill in for Avery Williamson after the former Titan suffered a season-ending knee injury in the offseason. His statline and usage was looking fairly decent even with high priced free agent acquisition CJ Mosley beside him. But with Mosley suffering a groin injury that caused him to leave the game in the 4th quarter of the Jets’ close loss to the Bills in week 1, Hewitt may be the top option at ILB for the Jets. Hewitt posted 7 total tackles and an interception on 99% usage in that game with most of it happening with Mosley still on the field. Grab Hewitt knowing that he might be on the field for every down on Monday night football hosting the Browns if Mosley can’t go. He probably still holds LB3/flex value even if Mosley stays in the lineup.
Terrell Suggs ARI LB – 3-4 OLB Value: LB3 (LB2 big play)
Another from the geriatric list, Suggs is one of two 37-year-old OLBs that scored big on the weekend with 5 solo tackles and 2 sacks against the Lions. Cameron Wake (2.5 sacks) was the other. The big difference between these two guys is the usage. Suggs played 77% of the snaps and was opposite Chandler Jones for all of those snaps. Wake played 33% of the snaps among some significantly lesser talent than Jones. For that reason, my big play pickup is Suggs. The Ravens, who the Cardinals week 2 opponent, also are expected to offer a bit more tackle upside which likely leans more towards Suggs than the Colts are expected to offer Wake.
Cole Holcomb WAS LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB3/Stash
The interior of the Redskins defense has a completely different look this season, going from Zach Brown (not resigned), Mason Foster (released) and Reuben Foster (knee injury) to former Steeler Jon Bostic and a committee of players who Washington is hoping will step up and take the job. 2019 fifth-round pick and former North Carolina Tarheel Cole Holcomb led all linebackers with 8 total tackles in the Redskins – Eagles game on 68% of the snaps. While he was outsnapped by Jon Bostic (88%), Holcomb was easily the most impressive of the three ILBs to take snaps for the Redskins. The opportunity is ripe for the rookie to step up and take the lion’s share of the snaps for a defense desperate for a leader and a playmaker to emerge in the middle. Holcomb is worth a stash on a taxi squad for dynasty leagues or a speculative pickup and stash at the end of your bench, especially if you are counting on Bostic in a starting capacity.
Defensive Linemen Plays
While defensive linemen are always harder to throw out predictions for, a few guys stood out for fantasy owners that were able to get them into their lineup. Justin Houston was the best of the bunch with 4 total tackles and a sack on 80% usage. That combination of usage and production usually leads to DL1 production over the course of the year. Grab this guy if he’s not taken already in your league. Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford both logged sacks in their first regular season action with their new teams. Clowney took 62% of Seattle’s snap where Ford took 59% of the snaps. Not bad but low tackle numbers might signal DL2 production for those guys.
Sam Hubbard CIN LB – 4-3 DE Value: DL1 – DL2
2018 third-round pick Sam Hubbard exploded onto the scene on Sunday with a huge game against the Seahawks. The former Buckeye scored 10 total tackles (6 solo) and 2 sacks to lead all defensive linemen in fantasy scoring this week. Maybe more exciting to me is the usage. Hubbard played 81% of the snaps, eclipsed only by stalwarts Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Written off by many prior to the start of the season, the Bengals were far from a pushover in week 1 as Seattle had to claw back to eke out a one point win. If Hubbard’s usage and Cincinnati’s resilience as a team continues, I like him as a fantasy asset into the season. The Bengals host the 49ers in week 2. The 49ers only allowed one sack in week 1 but it was against the Buccaneers who are not a clear comparison in my eyes.
Trey Hendrickson NOS DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Despite trading for Laremy Tunsil in the preseason to shore up their left tackle, Texans QB Deshaun Watson was under siege for much of the night against the Saints on Monday night, ending with 6 sacks against. Responsible for two of those sacks against were third-year pro Trey Hendrickson. Hendrickson was disruptive and delivered in the clutch for the Saints towards the end of the game, beating Tunsil for his second sack of the game with less than 5 minutes to play. At the time of this article, I don’t have the snap counts for this game but Hendrickson is likely to be unowned in your league and could likely be had for a song. There has been a DL3 behind Cameron Jordan for the Saints every year since 2015 and Hendrickson might be the guy this year who comes through this year.
Defensive Back Plays
Of the defensive backs from last week’s column, it was a rookie that performed the best. Juan Thornhill led the Chiefs in tackles with 8 on 100% usage in a win over the Jaguars. Earl Thomas logged an interception but only scored one solo tackle to go with it. Adrian Phillips had a decent day with 6 total tackles in an overtime win over the Colts on 97% usage.
Anthony Harris MIN FS – 4-3 FS Value: DB2 – DB3
A favorite of mine last year, Anthony Harris appears to have finally won over the Vikings coaching staff as he enters this season with a stranglehold over the safety job opposite Harrison Smith. He wasted no time putting up a monster statline of 5 total tackles, 2 INT and a fumble recovery against the Falcons who struggled from the get-go. Harris also played every down despite an injury scare during the game. The Vikings visit the Packers in week 2. I like more for a tackle perspective for Harris but the big plays have to be encouraging. Harris is a solid pickup with some big play upside that is still relatively unknown in many fantasy circles.
Tracy Walker DET FS – 4-3 FS Value: DB2 – DB3
Trying to predict what the Lions will do with their safeties over the past few years has been difficult. They split time and tend to be fairly fluid in how they deploy their personnel in the secondary. That’s why I was so surprised to see that Tracy Walker, a 2018 3rd round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette, played every down against the Cardinals. He turned in a team-high 9 solo tackles along with 2 PDs and an interception. Walker is virtually unowned in all but the deepest dynasty but should be given a look to shore up a weak fantasy secondary if he’s getting every down work. Lions safeties are no stranger to big seasons as long as they get the snap count to go with it. The Chargers in week 2 are also a plus matchup.
Morgan Burnett CLE SS – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
Old habits die hard I guess. I’ve had a soft spot for Morgan Burnett ever since he led my defense to a championship in 2014. Burnett is now 30 years old and injuries have robbed him of his productivity over the past few years leading to a departure from the Packers and a lackluster stop with the Steelers. Now with the Browns, he hopes to get his career back on track. Taking 100% of the snaps and scoring 6 total tackles and a sack is a pretty good start as far as I’m concerned. I’d love to tell you that Burnett has another DB1 season on deck but that’s not realistic given the scraps that Browns safeties have scored in recent years behind Schobert and Kirksey. It’s worth mentioning that the Browns weren’t competitive in many of those games but it’s not a limb I’m willing to go out on just yet. For now, I’m grabbing Burnett as a low-end DB2, upside DB3.