Week 1 was an interesting start to the season. Quite honestly, many of the games this week did not finish how I thought they would. Fortunately for me (and fantasy owners that read this column), many of the matchups that featured many of the waiver wire gems listed last week did. Hopefully, you were able to nab a few and you’re reading this looking to build on a 1-0 start and if not, no sweat. There is no shortage of quality IDP options still floating around.
All three of my LB recommendations in last week’s column (DJ Smith, Wesley Woodyard and Paris Lenon) put up stellar games so if by chance they are still available, snap them up! All three remain viable go-forward options.
Stephen Nicholas ATL LB – SLB 4-3
While Nicholas might be a strong-side LB, he presents good upside if the Falcons defensive scheme trend continues. The Falcons played 66 defensive snaps on Sunday against the Chiefs and over 80% of those snaps were played in a nickel or dime formation. In the Falcons’ nickel package, MLB Akeem Dent is the odd man out, leaving Nicholas and WLB Sean Weatherspoon as the only LBs on the field. Weatherspoon had a quality outing (7 solos and a sack) but Nicholas posted a monster game (10 solos, 2 assists, 2 PD, an INT and a FR). Make no mistake, Weatherspoon is still the LB to own on this defense in my eyes but Nicholas looks to be a big benefactor of the Falcons’ scheme and could surprise many. I like him next week going up against a Broncos offense that has yet to showcase the deep ball as well as a solid option going forward.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Mid LB3
Akeem Ayers TEN LB – SLB 4-3
Ayers posted a solid stat line last week with 6 solos and 5 assists against the Patriots but it’s how he racked up those tackles is what I like about his prospects next week and in the short term. Starting MLB Colin McCarthy left the game with an apparent ankle injury and Ayers posted 9 of his 11 tackles afterwards. He saw a good chunk of time in the middle, tackling Stevan Ridley as well as being the man to track down Aaron Hernandez on half of his catches. Although not successful, he was also charged with blitzing on more than one occasion. All of that adds up to decent fantasy prospects when Antonio Gates and the Chargers come to town next week. If Colin McCarthy finds a way to play next week, consider passing on Ayers however.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Jo-Lonn Dunbar STL LB – WLB 4-3
Dunbar was a mainstay on defense last week for the Rams, almost never leaving the field. He also managed to rack up 5 solos, 1 assist and an interception in a game that didn’t offer much opportunity to the linebackers. The Lions threw 48 times as opposed to 18 rushing plays. MLB James Laurinaitis wasn’t able to fare much better at 5 solos and 4 assists. What intrigues me about Dunbar is how much he plays on a defense that is liable to see the field a large amount. St Louis’ offensive line is already decimated by injury after the first week which doesn’t bode well for their offense controlling the ball. The Washington Redskins are up next for them. The Skins ran the ball over 40 times against New Orleans last week and I can’t imagine why Mike Shanahan would abandon the run this week. Dunbar could see a lot more opportunity come his way.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Russell Allen JAC LB – The Jaguars face a Texans team that they are no match for in week 2. The Jaguars defense is likely to see a steady diet of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Allen was all around the ball against the Vikings in Daryl Smith’s absence and could be a decent play this week.
Thomas Howard CIN LB – The Browns looked terrible of offense last week but they proved that they were committed to running Trent Richardson despite his ineffectiveness. I doubt that Brandon Weeden is given enough rope to throw that many passes next week. Howard could see some opportunity as a result.
Kaluka Maiava CLE LB – Deeper leagues might consider Maiava an option against the Bengals. Maiava was adequate in run support getting the start at WLB. Watch the injury report to see if James-Michael Johnson plays or not.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Productivity out of defensive lineman in general was hard to come by in week 1. So many elite options were rather pedestrian, even non-existent, at times last week. The important thing to remember is that even though this is a waiver wire column; don’t overreact to a week 1 disappointment. Jared Allen should not be dropped despite posting a donut last week. These things happen now and again but the cream usually rises to the top. Derrick Morgan was a solid week 1 performer recommended last week and remains so this week.
Chandler Jones NEP DE – DE 4-3
In dynasty leagues, this guy is long gone but in some redrafts, I bet you find this guy kicking around. If by chance he is, grab him now. Jones is a disruptive force on defense and New England is not afraid leave him in for 75% of their defensive snaps. He posted 3 solos, 2 assists and a sack against the Titans. Ken Whisenhunt is already phoning around for QBs because Kolb is going to get hit by this guy a lot next week.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to Low-end DL2
Brian Robison MIN DE – DE 4-3
Robison was fairly pedestrian last week with just 3 solos. He didn’t actually seem to generate much pass rush against Blaine Gabbert last week either. But the Colts are struggling mightily with their offensive line and I like the Vikings pass rush to make some hay next week much like the Bears did this week with 3 sacks against the rookie Andrew Luck. Jared Allen isn’t on your waiver wire but Brian Robison might be. Play the matchup against the Colts and hope for a big play.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Cameron Jordan NOS DE – DE 4-3
Jordan isn’t really the best passing rushing end in the league but he is a quality run defender and can post solid tackle numbers from the DE position. Not that he is getting starter snaps, Jordan’s numbers have followed. Against the Redskins, he posted 11 tackles (5 solo) this week. Tough to call that every week but I expect his to be a solid performer week in and week out. He doesn’t have the best matchup next week against the Panthers but you could certainly do worse.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Line Plays
Tyson Alualu/Terrance Knighton JAC DT – Miami (and more specifically Randy Starks) was able to exploit Houston up the middle last week with pass rush. Between ample running opportunity and potential for a sack through the seemingly weak middle of the Texans offensive line, either starting DT for the Jaguars makes a decent flier in deeper leagues or DT-required leagues.
Quentin Coples/Muhummad Wilkerson NYJ DE – Pittsburgh is not ashamed to throw the ball 40 times to cover up a shaky running game. The Steelers are also not afraid to take the odd sack to let Ben Roethlisberger do his thing. My gut says that one of these two guys gets a sack.
Defensive Back Plays
Quality play at the DB position may have been the difference between winning and losing for many fantasy teams in week 1. Lots of players were in the 15+ points range and a couple players were 30+ points. Janoris Jenkins was a solid sneaky play last week but I don’t recommend him this week against a run-heavy Redskins team.
Tracy Porter DEN CB – CB 4-3
Believe it or not, Porter was going to be a spot start recommendation going up against a quality Falcons aerial attack this week before he did what he did on Sunday night. But after posting 8 solos, 5 PDs and pick-six, you don’t really need me to tell you that he is a prime FA pickup. But what I can tell you is that Porter is liable to be just as good next week against the Falcons. Matt Ryan has gotten the collar taken off of him in Dirk Koetter’s new offense and I’m banking on a shootout between him and Peyton Manning on Monday night.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB1 to High-end DB2
Atari Bigby SDC S – SS 3-4
The former Packer played a solid game on Monday night against the Raiders with 7 solos, an assist and a PD. He’s not a big play guy nor is he really a great cover guy. The guy can tackle, plain and simple. He should be a decent source of tackle numbers for your fantasy team this year but his upside is capped at low-end DB2 at best. I don’t like his matchup next week against the Titans but he is a decent hold.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
William Gay ARI CB – CB 3-4
Notice a trend here? Play the CB with good tackling skills who is going up against the Patriots. If you took that advice last week and played Alterraun Verner, you got 15 points (6 solos and 3 assists). Enter William Gay, who was tested by the Seahawks throwing their way back into their game last week. He posted 7 solos, a PD and a forced fumble. William Gay is a free agent in all but the deepest of leagues but should be able to get you 10 points in a pinch easily against a Patriots team that will throw TE and WR screens even if they get up big early.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Plays
Kelvin Hayden/Tim Jennings CHI CB – Hayden played most of the game against Indianapolis because Charles Tillman left with a shin injury. If Tillman doesn’t play, Hayden could post big tackle numbers against the Packers passing attacks. If Tillman does play, Tim Jennings is also a solid option but is more likely to be rostered than Hayden.
Kyle Wilson NYJ CB – Darrelle Revis suffered a concussion against the Bills in week 1. If he can’t go, Kyle Wilson will start in his place. Make no mistake; Ben Roethlisberger will throw at him. A lot.