The news cycle for this week is going to be dominated by injured offensive players. Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Gallup, DeSean Jackson and others are huge impacts to both fantasy and NFL teams alike. Savvy owners will use this information to work trades with the teams most affected by trading from their strengths and backfilling with free agents. While this is a good strategy at any time in the season, making these kinds of moves after week 2 is even better as every team still believes in their ability to win. Making a trade in front of week 3 still gives you a chance to win some fantasy games and make the playoffs. Your backup QB and top reserve LB might make a fine offer for a flex skill position player. Have a look at the teams most affected by these recent developments and make your move. Just be sure to backfill your rosters to ensure that you keep your depth.
Last week’s offerings at the linebacker position worked out fairly well. Cole Holcomb scored 6 total tackles against the Cowboys on 90% usage. Out of the four Redskin ILBs that saw snaps, Holcomb was the only one whose usage percentage increased. Thomas Davis logged 12 total tackles in a close loss to the Lions. It was the second straight game where he played every down and led all IDPs in that particular game with tackles. He is approaching must-start LB2 status in tackle-heavy leagues. Terrell Suggs was a bit of a disappointment with only 3 total tackles on 73% usage against his former team, the Baltimore Ravens.
The LB1/LB2 that got dropped in week 1 or week 2 Value: LB1 – LB2
I will admit that this is a bit of a cop-out recommendation but it wouldn’t be on here if it wasn’t true. Every year, there are a handful of quality players dropped because of a lackluster week 1. Guys like Jayon Brown, KJ Wright, Zach Cunningham and Deion Jones all had weaker performances in week 1 and guys like Leighton Vander Esch, Patrick Onwuasor and Lavonte David all left something to be desired in Week 2. None of the players I’ve listed should be free agents in leagues that start more than one IDP. Take advantage of the impatient owner who drops these guys. Scour over the waiver wire in your league and grab the guy who looks like he should be on a roster.
Todd Davis/Josey Jewell DEN LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3
Todd Davis quietly made over 110 total tackles last year in the middle of Denver’s defense on only 78% usage, ceding snaps to Brandon Marshall in a handful of games. After missing the first two games of the season to a knee injury, all signs point to a return to the lineup in week 3 against the Packers. It’s not a stretch to think that Davis could improve on his mid-LB2 finish last year if he is closer to an every-down LB. Jewell has filled in as the every-down LB over those two games with 20 total tackles. For my money, neither Davis nor Jewell are great LBs in coverage but I’d take Davis over Jewell. I expect that Jewell’s usage mirrors Davis’ usage last year when Marshall was healthy. The Packers, Jaguars and Chargers round out the Broncos next three weeks. Davis is an easy plug and play option if his early-season injury has seen him go unowned.
Preston Brown CIN LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Preston Brown had a bit of a rough year last year from both a fantasy perspective and an NFL perspective. Injuries and inconsistent usage led to many owners calling it quits on the former Bill. 2019 seems to be a bit of a bounce-back year for Brown as his usage has been 77% and 86% in the first two games of the Bengals season. With that usage, he paces the Bengals with 18 total tackles. The Buffalo Bills host the Bengals in week 3 and sport a top 10 rank in rushing attempts. I’d give Brown a look as a second or third LB.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Sam Hubbard led the way for last week’s recommendations with 6 total tackles against the 49ers. His usage remains very high at 89% so I’d feel confident deploying him going forward. Trey Hendrickson delivered a sack along with 2 solo tackles against the Rams in a losing effort. The upside on Hendrickson is capped by his middling usage. A player on 50%-60% usage in IDP fantasy typically isn’t a player that one can count on reliably.
Benson Mayowa OAK DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL1 – DL2
Quick show of hands, who had a Raider as second in sacks and tied for first in forced fumbles through two games when Oakland had Denver and Kansas City out of the gate? I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t think that Oakland would amount to much after their tumultuous offseason. Seventh-year man Benson Mayowa has been absolutely huge for the Raiders with big stats on minimal usage. The guy has 6 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 3.5 sacks on only 43 snaps through two games. It’s hard for me to recommend a player who has been used as sparingly as Mayowa has but the stats are hard to argue with. I’d grab and play Mayowa if I was desperate for help but I’d feel better hanging onto him for a bit and hope that Oakland gives him a few more snaps. From a sack perspective, the Vikings in week 3 are a poor matchup but the production will not allow Mayowa to remain a free agent for long. Don’t spend a ton of money here as regression is very possible here.
Stephon Tuitt PIT DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Every year it seems like I’m pushing both Steelers defensive ends for fantasy purposes and every year they seem to be overlooked. Both Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward enjoy high usage (70+%). Both are stout against the run and both have some decent pass rush chops. Case in point, Stephon Tuitt was the star of the Steelers defense with 4 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. He was disruptive against the Seahawks all day and was a big reason that the Seahawks struggled to hit deep throws. The 49ers host the reeling Steelers in week 3. They’ve only allowed one sack through two games but will not have their star left tackle Joe Staley. Without their best offensive lineman, the 49ers pass protection game may not be as solid as previous games. Beyond week 3, the Steelers host the Bengals in week 4. The Bengals are the second most sacked team in football.
Defensive Back Plays
All solid but no spectacular picks on the defensive back front for the free agent report last week. Tracy Walker continued his strong play early in the season with 10 total tackles on yet another 100% usage day; this time against the Chargers. At this point, he is pushing DB1 territory for me in balanced and tackle heavy leagues. Morgan Burnett scored 6 total tackles and a sack on the Monday nighter in a complete dismantling of the injury-ridden Jets. Anthony Harris scored 6 total tackles against the Packers on 100% usage. All three remain good week 3 options as well if they remain available.
Minkah Fitzpatrick PIT S – 3-4 FS Value: DB2 – DB3
You read that right. Minkah Fitzpatrick asked for and was given a trade out of Miami on Monday. The Steelers are essentially giving up a first-round pick in 2020 for Miami’s 2018 first-round draft pick in the former Alabama Crimson Tide player. Fitzpatrick is a versatile defender and could play some slot corner for the Steelers but I think that they will slot him in as a safety and look to upgrade from Sean Davis who is battling a shoulder injury at the moment. Steelers safeties are no stranger to fantasy relevance and Fitzpatrick, while he is a risky play, has some huge upside for a team that might see more defensive snaps now that Ben Roethlisberger is done for the year. Stash him for the week to see how Pittsburgh plans his usage. If you need an immediate fill for your lineup, look elsewhere. Fitzpatrick is a long play for fantasy.
Ronnie Harrison/Jarrod Wilson JAC S – 4-3 SS/FS Value: DB2 – DB3
Both Jaguars safeties are solid plays in my opinion. Both have high usage and are expected to snap every defensive snap barring injury. The scheme is such that either safety can end up in the opposing backfield as Harrison logged a sack in week 2 and Wilson had two tackles for loss. Maybe best of all, both safeties are high volume tacklers and Harrison currently averages 7 total tackles a game whereas Wilson has 6.5 tackles per game. The Tennessee Titans visit the Jaguars in week 3 and are offering an average of 19 fantasy points per game to opposing safeties. Harrison would be my pick if forced to choose one over the other but he also had more predraft hype as well and it more likely to be owned.
Montae Nicholson WAS S – 3-4 FS Value: DB2
Landon Collins was tabbed by many, myself included, as the DB to own from the Redskins. While few fantasy owners will be upset with 19 total tackles through two contests, it is his running mate Montae Nicholson that is turning a few heads with his fantasy output early in the season. Nicholson was the starting free safety alongside DJ Swearinger to begin Washington’s 2018 campaign but lost his job in week 9 following the acquisition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. A late-season arrest didn’t help things from Nicholson either. As one of the few holdovers from the middle of the Redskins’ defense, Nicholson has performed admirably on fulltime usage to begin the year. The former Spartan has 14 total tackles, 2 PDs and an interception so far. The Bears represent a juicy matchup in week 3 as Chicago has afforded over 34 fantasy points per game to opposing safeties through their first two games. Give him a look as a mid DB2 for your squad.