As we enter into week 5, take a second to ensure that your bye week coverage is sufficient for this week as well as weeks beyond. After week 5 which sees the Lions and Dolphins get the week off, there are two weeks of four teams on bye. If you need to grab a player to cover those weeks, start looking for that player now. A savvy opponent might try to outbid you on top free agents if they see that you have two or more starting spots to cover.
Shaq Barrett led last week’s recommendations and continued his DPOY pace with 4 total tackles, 2 PDs, an interception on a critical 4th down and a strip sack that basically ended the game against the Rams. Barrett’s unbelievable stat line through four games includes 20 total tackles, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and an interception. He’s a must-start until owners are given a reason not to. Both Anthony Walker (10 total tackles, 1 sack on 100% usage) and Bobby Okereke (7 solo tackles on 85% usage) were solid plays in a losing effort against the Raiders. Both lose much of their appeal when Darius Leonard returns from injury. Jarrad Davis led the Lions linebackers in snaps with 97%. He also led them in tackles with only 3 solo tackles. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Davis just wasn’t where the ball was for the majority of the game. Eric Wilson returned to obscurity with Anthony Barr’s return to the Vikings’ lineup after a one-game absence. Denzel Perryman logged 3 solo tackles on 54% usage but missed a large chunk of the game being evaluated for a concussion. According to reports, he does not have a concussion and should return to regular high volume usage.
Nick Kwiatkoski CHI LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3
With Roquan Smith missing Sunday’s game against the Vikings for personal reasons, many fantasy owners were caught off guard and wouldn’t have been able to get Kwiatkoski into their lineup. The fourth-year man out of West Virginia was rock solid in his spot start with a team-leading 9 total tackles and a sack. With that production, why am I only recommending him for LB2-LB3 usage? He was only utilized on 55% of the snaps. Kevin Pierre-Louis (40% usage, 4 solo tackles) was the guy that he was splitting snaps with and that does sap some of the upside out of the play here. With Kwiatkoski’s production, the hope is that the coaching staff gives him a few more snaps if Smith misses week 5 against the Raiders as well but I wouldn’t spend LB1 blind bid dollars on him as there is a significant risk of regression at that usage. The Bears coaching staff have offered very little in terms of details regarding Smith and his availability next week.
David Mayo NYG LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3
Digging a little deeper here, the Giants are down a handful of ILBs from where they were a few short weeks ago. A preseason trade sees BJ Goodson leave town to Green Bay, Alec Ogletree missed week 4 against the Redskins with a hamstring injury and rookie sensation Ryan Connelly is now out for the year with an ACL tear. Unless the Giants bring in some help, Mayo is the most experienced linebacker on the team and likely stays on the field every down for them. On Sunday, Mayo logged 8 total tackles (4 solo) on 69% usage but that was with Connelly on the field for 67% as well. Look for Mayo to get a look at high volume snaps as long as Ogletree misses time. The matchup against the run-heavy Vikings in week 5 is also a good one for tacklers. Once Ogletree returns, Mayo would revert back to a flex/bye week coverage option for me in tackle heavy and balanced formats.
Nicholas Morrow OAK LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB2 – LB3
With news breaking on Monday that Vontaze Burfict will be suspended for the year for yet another dangerous hit to the head. Nicholas Morrow should be the player that steps up to fill the void in snaps left by the former Bengal. Morrow played every snap once Burfict was ejected (79%) and finished with 7 total tackles and a PD. The Bears in week 5 represent a pretty good matchup for opposing linebackers even with a backup quarterback. I like Morrow as a low-cost option who might end up playing for the rest of the year as a starter for the Raiders.
Devondre Campbell ATL LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Devondre Campbell is a guy who kind of gets overshadowed by Deion Jones in the Atlanta defense but even going into the Falcons’ week 4’s game against the Titans, Campbell had more tackles than Jones. Campbell was by far the Falcons’ best defender on Sunday in a losing effort as the fourth-year pro from Minnesota logged an obscene 17 total tackles (7 solo) and 2 forced fumbles. That performance puts him as the Falcons’ leading tackler this year at 38, or 9.5 total tackles per game. Campbell can disappear at times but hasn’t shown that yet this year. He’s available in more leagues than he should be given his production and usage. The Texans in week 5 are a plus matchup with an average of 26 fantasy points between the two majority snap count linebackers to start the year.
Defensive Lineman Plays
It was a hit-and-miss week for recommendations on the defensive line last week. Both Jaguars I recommended (Josh Allen and Calais Campbell) registered 2 solo tackles and 3 assists between the two of them on 69% and 82% usage respectively. The Panthers that I recommended did much better with their matchup. Brian Burns was only credited with a half sack to go with 2 total tackles where I thought he should have gotten the whole sack. Mario Addison was the play of the week with 4 total tackles and 2 sacks against Houston.
Taco Charlton MIA DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
In Taco Charlton’s second game with the Dolphins, the former Cowboy logged a solid 6 total tackles to go with a sack. That gives him two sacks in as many games. Those are great numbers but what I liked the most was his usage. The former first-round pick was given 72% of the snaps against the Chargers. That usage and production in run support will sustain your fantasy name in weeks where your player fails to log a sack. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Charlton and the Dolphins are headed to a bye week but if you can afford to stash him, I’d be ok having Charlton on my team if he can keep this pace up.
John Simon NEP DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Let me preface this recommendation by saying that attempting to predict what Bill Belichick will do usually ends in failure. However, trending the usage of defensive linemen for the Patriots shows that no single lineman played more snaps than former Texan and Colt John Simon at 69%. His usage has gone up every week since week 2 culminating in a 5 solo tackle, 1 sack effort against the Bills. While all of that is good, what intrigues me the most is the matchup. The Patriots will visit Washington and get the first start of young Dwayne Haskins career. Plain and simple, Haskins, Case Keenum and the rest of the Redskins were atrocious against the Giants in week 4 with a combined 4 interceptions and 3 sacks given up to a Giants defense that is far from imposing. Grab Simon and hope for a sack in a game that I think could get ugly.
Defensive Back Plays
Kemal Ishmael logged 9 total tackles against the Titans but 8 of those were assists. He and Damontae Kazee split time too much to count on a big performance week in and week out anyways. His value is threatened significantly by an addition to the Falcons’ roster that you’ll see below. Neither Mike Edwards (6 total tackles on 100% usage) nor Jordan Whitehead (2 solo tackles, 3 PDs, 1 INT on 94% usage) were world-beaters but each gave their respective fantasy owners double-digit fantasy points in an upset win over the Rams. Roderick Teamer played every snap for the Chargers but as expected, it wasn’t the ideal matchup as Teamer only scored 4 total tackles against the Dolphins but I still like him moving forward.
Jonathan Cyprien ATL S – 4-3 SS Value: DB1 – DB3
On Monday, Jonathan Cyprien was traded from the Eagles to the Falcons for Duke Riley and a one round bump in late round picks. It’s my guess that the Falcons do not intend to move forward with Kemal Ishmael as a starting safety. Cyprien’s coverage skills leave a bit to be desired but he isn’t far removed from DB1 years and he also is likely to occupy a position that has housed a DB1 in the past in Keanu Neal. The Falcons are looking like a shell of their former selves and are seeing plenty of runs against them as they are finding themselves on the wrong end of the score more often than not. Cyprien could be big if the Falcons commit to using him close to full time.
Erik Harris OAK S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
Erik Harris played in Oakland’s three safety look for the entirety of the game in week against the Colts. That high snap count gave him the opportunity to log 7 total tackles as well as a pick-six to clinch the game. As I always say, you can’t plan for those kinds of scores but it’s good to know that he can make those plays if put in that position. What it also does is give publicity to the player so even though Harris had never played a full game until that point, you likely won’t be able to wait on him. You’ll have to pull the trigger this week if you want him. The Bears are not the greatest matchup but there are points to be had with 26.5 fantasy points per game going to opposing safeties through week 4 when playing against Chicago. Harris should be unowned in virtually every format.
Andrew Sendejo PHI S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
It’s a bit of a head-scratcher in that Jonathan Cyprien was deemed expendable and yet the Eagles were forced to play former Viking Andrew Sendejo in a significant role against the Packers in week 4. Injuries have ravaged the Philadelphia secondary with Sidney Jones, Ronald Darby and now Avonte Maddox all missing time with various ailments. Sendejo set a career-high usage as a member of the Eagles with 80% usage in Philadelphia’s heavy nickel and dime usage defense. He responded with 8 total tackles and a PD. It’s worth mentioning that the Eagles will not play the Packers every week and that expectations should be tempered but in leagues where both Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins are owned, I’d have no problem rostering Sendejo for matchup starts. The Jets in week 5 are a decent matchup for run support safeties so I’d get him in the lineup if you need help.