Week 2 saw a return to form for a few players that many fantasy owners were concerned about. Still, just as many players are leaving their respective fantasy teams in the lurch with weak production two weeks straight. The LB group as a whole in fantasy saw a lot more tackle-heavy numbers get posted rather than relying on the big play to boost numbers for LB1s as we saw in week 2. As a result, we are seeing early signs of the dependable IDPs versus the home-run hitters. Pickings are getting slimmer as the usual suspects are starting to populate their rightful places in the IDP pecking order.
Four of the recommendations made in this column last week produced solid numbers in week 2 (Stephen Nicholas, Akeem Ayers, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Russell Allen). If any of those names still happen to be available on your wire, you would do well to grab one of them if you are struggling at the LB position.
Larry Foote PIT LB – ILB 3-4
The 32 year old is defying the odds in his second stint with the Steelers. Taking over for James Farrior who was cut in the offseason, many expected Foote to take a back seat to Lawrence Timmons as far as tackle opportunity goes in the Steelers’ front seven. However, after two games, Foote has amassed 16 tackles (13 solo), a sack and a forced fumble to Timmons’ 9 tackles (8 solo). Foote just looks to be around the ball more than Timmons. With the Raiders on deck for week 3, Foote is liable to repeat the performance that Donald Butler (7 solos, 1 assist) and Karlos Dansby put up against Oakland in weeks 1 and 2 respectively.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Erin Henderson MIN LB – WLB 4-3
I was a buyer on Henderson in as many leagues as I could this offseason. Henderson plays the weakside on a struggling football team. He is also a three down LB, playing nickel snaps alongside Chad Greenway. But what is most intriguing about his play thus far is that the defensive coaching staff is letting him blitz as evidenced by his two sacks thus far in this young season. While it is unlikely that his sack total will be kept up going forward, it certainly offers upside to a player who is already posting solid numbers (22 total tackles). Henderson is still available on many shallow league wires. Snap him up if he is still there.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Philip Wheeler OAK LB – SLB 4-3
The former Colt looks to be fitting in well with the Raiders’ scheme with 14 total tackles over two games. He is not prone to the big play (only 3 sacks and 1 FF in his entire career) but he can add a consistent stream of tackles to prop up a fantasy linebacker corps suffering from an injury or two. MLB Rolando McClain has been nicked up since the start of the year and hasn’t delivered for his fantasy owners. Wheeler seems to be picking up some of that slack. With Washington averaging well over 30 rushing attempts so far, Wheeler could have a solid day on Sunday.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Plays
Zach Brown TEN LB – The kid who was supposed to be afraid of contact showed up last week with a solid stat line. In redraft and shallow keeper, this kid isn’t rostered. Those looking for a homerun could do worse off of the wire.
Vincent Rey CIN LB – Digging really deep here. WLB Thomas Howard suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. While Vontaze Burfict was supposed to start at WLB against Cleveland, Rey was the LB to play in that game logging the nickel snaps. Deep roster leagues can take a stab at this guy.
KJ Wright/Leroy Hill SEA LB – I think the Seattle game is the first game that you are going to see the real Green Bay offense. I expect the nickel LBs of Seahawks to have a big day.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Hopefully most of you didn’t hit the panic button after your stud DE put up pedestrian stats in week 1. Many guys were able to get back into the swing of things with big week 2 performances including Julius Peppers, Jason Pierre-Paul and Calais Campbell. Jared Allen and Mario Williams owners will take the tackles but I know you are looking for sacks. While I don’t recommend hitting making a rash decision on either of those guys, those looking for an option on the defensive line have a couple choices. A few recommendations made in the last couple weeks (Chandler Jones, Cameron Jordan and Derrick Morgan) are still hanging in there will solid production so far. Feel free to snag one if they are still available.
Henry Melton CHI DT – UT 4-3
In DT required leagues, odds are that this guy is taken. But if he isn’t, grab him now. Don’t finish reading this column. Go get him now, I’ll wait; the guy is that big of a value play in those leagues. Melton plays inside as a DT during base downs and kicks out to DE for passing downs now and again. Melton has 3 sacks already this year and is facing a Rams offensive line that is without two starters. Melton is poised to have another big day.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to High-end DL3
Kyle Williams BUF DT – NT 4-3
Kyle Williams isn’t very far removed from top 10 DL status (2010) where he posted 76 tackles and 5 sacks. He is starting to show signs of life bouncing back from the foot injury that derailed his 2011 campaign. He is up against Cleveland in week 3 so the tackle opportunity could be there to post a solid outing.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Will Smith NOS DE – DE 4-3
Coming off of the bounty scandal fallout, Smith likely went undrafted in redraft and may have even got cut in many shallow keeper/dynasty leagues. Fact is that Smith is the best pass rusher that the Saints have and he is adequate in run support to boot. The Saints are in an absolute must-win against the hapless Chiefs who have surrendered 8 sacks already this year. I expect the pass rush to be relentless.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Plays
Cory Redding IND DE – Redding is good in run support, playing at home against maybe the worst quarterbacking tandem in the league in Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne in week 3. There is potential here.
Ray McDonald SFO DE – McDonald is off to a solid start for the 49ers and he is up against the Vikings in week 3. Minnesota had failed to protect their quarterback so far this year, allowing 6 sacks already. McDonald is worth a stab if you are desperate.
Defensive Back Plays
DB play in week 2 proved to be a lot less big play oriented in general than week 1. The tackle numbers were the main source of scoring for most DBs including a ridiculous 18 tackle (16 solo) performance by Michael Griffin. Griffin should already be rostered but just in case he isn’t, you have to grab just based on that potential alone. William Gay, Kyle Wilson and Tim Jennings were solid plays last week but I have a tough time recommending Kyle Wilson again with Darrelle Revis set to return soon. To those playing DBBC (defensive back by committee), there is no shortage of short and long term options available at DB.
Ryan Clark PIT S – 3-4 FS
Clark is habitually underrated as both an NFL safety and a fantasy safety. The guy does nothing but post solid tackle numbers every year with some PDs and INTs sprinkled in. He isn’t going to win you a week all by himself but he won’t ever post a donut either. Missing week one with his sickle cell trait in Denver seems to have kept his under the radar even further. Troy Polamalu is hurt so his short-term upside may be even better while the all-pro is out.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Brandon Browner SEA CB – 4-3 CB
I have seen Brandon Browner play a handful of times in person when he was a member of the Calgary Stampeders. The same traits that made him great in the CFL are the same reasons that I like him going up against Green Bay in week 3. He is a physical corner who can tackle but he also has ball skills that help him make big plays. I expect Green Bay to be forced to throw as Seattle has been very stingy to opposing RBs. Browner’s fantasy stock for week 3 should pay dividends.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Mike Adams DEN S – 3-4 SS
After Brian Dawkins retired, I fully expected the Broncos to mix Quinton Carter into the strong safety role. However, that hasn’t been the case. Former Brown and 49er Mike Adams has seized control of the job and is posting solid numbers. I expect Adams to be a decent year-long play provided he can stay healthy.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Plays
Chris Gamble CAR CB – If Ahmad Bradshaw is unavailable, it remained to be seen if Andre Brown and David Wilson can be trusted with a full rushing attack. Eli Manning may be forced to throw as much as he did this week. If so, Chris Gamble becomes a solid IDP play.
Antoine Cason/Quentin Jammer SDC CB – Michael Turner and the Falcons rushing attack in general is atrocious. They can’t run the ball and Matt Ryan will be forced to throw 35+ times again for them to have a shot. Both Charger corners can tackle and are beatable by WRs with less talent than White/Jones. I like the odds.