Strong LB play was the story of week 2; high tackle numbers, quality splash plays and a surprisingly number of sacks from ILBs and 4-3 OLBs. Brian Cushing, Jerrell Freeman and week 1 recommendation Daryl Smith are all normal tackle-heavy league stalwarts that rewards their owners with better than a sack in their respective games this week. It’s tough to expect those games regularly from your ILBs but when they happen; it’s a huge boost to your squad.
Of last week’s LB recommendations, Zach Brown was a top 5 starter in tackle heavy leagues rounding up 12 total tackles (11 solo) against the Texans although he was aided a bit by the overtime period. Ryan Kerrigan posted a great big play/sack heavy league performance with 5 solo tackles to go along with 2 sacks. Akeem Dent and Josh Bynes were serviceable, each scoring double digit fantasy numbers. Week 1 sneaky play Danny Trevathan also came up huge with 10 total tackles (8 solo) and a sack.
Mason Foster TBB LB – MLB 4-3
Another 3rd year middle linebacker from the NFC South leads us off this year. Mason Foster still plays second middle to weakside linebacker Lavonte David in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 defense but the Washington product should not be ignored. Through two games, Foster has put up 2 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception returned for a TD to go along with 15 total tackles. Foster’s inconsistency last year was maddening; he will regularly follow up big games with stinkers and vice versa. That said, Foster looks to be getting all of the 3rd down opportunity along with Lavonte David so his tackle opportunity as well as his ability to make big plays has increased. Foster is likely only available to shallower leagues but he should be owned in all leagues that start more than one LB.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to High-end LB3
Thomas Davis CAR LB – OLB 3-4
How can you not cheer for a guy like Thomas Davis? His knee has failed him more times than a high school math teacher and the guy just keeps coming back and making plays. His injury history and latest ACL injury make be the reason that he is a free agent in your league but yet is he (and not Jon Beason) that is out there with Luke Kuechly on 3rd down and his tackle numbers show it. Getting the Giants next week could be a good matchup if the tight ends get fed by Eli as much as they did against the Broncos in week 2 (11 rec). That performance saw weak-side linebacker Danny Trevathan and middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard each post quality games.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Geno Hayes JAC LB – WLB 4-3
Hayes is a pure opportunity play. The Jaguars are going to get run on a lot and someone needs to make those tackles. Paul Poslusnzy (MLB) and Jonathan Cyprien(SS) are already quality options to do so but there are more than enough tackles to go around. Playing at weak side linebacker, Geno Hayes is a logical option to pile up a fair share of tackles himself. More importantly, he is also very under the radar right now so there’s a good chance that he is a free agent in your league. Snap him up and consider him as a starter against teams that can run well or who will get up early and stay there. This week against Seattle is likely one of those times.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Aldon Smith/Ahmad Brooks SFO LB – OLB 3-4
If you play in big play or sack heavy league, odds are Aldon Smith is already owned. If he isn’t, drop what you’re doing and go pick him up. This column will still be here when you get back. Seriously, he is that good. However, a guy who might not be as well advertised is Ahmad Brooks. Not rotating in with Parys Haralson is really helping Brooks’ numbers this year. Both Smith and Brooks are piling up tackles as well as sacks which makes them both good options against an Indianapolis protection scheme that did better against the Dolphins in week 2 but still struggled to keep Andrew Luck from getting hit. Enough tackles are there to keep the donuts away and the upside is big for either OLB.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB1 to Low-end LB2 (highly league dependent)
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Spencer Paysinger NYG LB – Digging deeper still, Spencer Paysinger is a guy who was a relative unknown in many IDP leagues up until this year. He has been piling up some tackles for New York this year due to sheer opportunity and lack of talent at the position. I don’t love the situation as Jacquian Williams rotates in more than I’d like to see but the numbers are there and the Giants seem to get themselves into longer games this year which should help the tackle opportunity stay high. Deeper leagues might consider Paysinger as an upside flier to fill out their bench or an emergency starter that has a high availability percentage.
Defensive Linemen Plays
An interesting stat I heard on the weekend was that the monster game posted by Mario Williams (4.5 sacks) was the single largest output of sacks by a Buffalo Bill ever. It’s hard to believe that sackmaster Bruce Smith never posted better. Congratulations to Super Mario owners whose trust in their stud was rewarded.
Both Jason Hunter and Kyle Williams were quality plays last week. Hunter posted 5 total tackles (4 solo), a sack and a PD to be amongst the top 10 options at DL. Kyle Williams returned to his tackle happy ways with 5 solos, 1 assist and a PD. Both remain quality options at DL.
Chandler Jones NEP DE – DE 4-3
Chandler Jones should be pretty well owned in deeper leagues but he isn’t as well owned in shallower leagues. In my opinion, Jones has DL1 potential this year for the Patriots. Jones was plagued by injury last year but appears to be fully healed this year. Do not assume that weaker stats from last year mean that his recent numbers are a fluke. I’m betting that Jones is a DL1 this year.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to Low-end DL2
Adrian Clayborn TBB DE – DE 4-3
Give Tampa Bay credit, their defense is vastly improved this year. Adrian Clayborn seems to have taken another step in development as evidenced by his strong showing against the Saints. He posted 5 total tackles, a PD and a strip sack of Drew Brees. Those are not easy things to do against Drew Brees. The Bucs draw Tom Brady and the Patriots next week. In years past, I’d say that’s a bad matchup but the supposed juggernaut of New England isn’t as such this year. Give Clayborn a shot as your DL2/3 if you need help there.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Michael Bennett/Cliff Avril SEA DE – Getting the Jaguars in Seattle isn’t fair. Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert; it doesn’t matter. It will be a feeding frenzy of sac ks. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.
Defensive Back Plays
The stream option of last week (Leonard Johnson) struggled last week but then again, the entire Saints passing attack not named Jimmy Graham struggled. Streaming properly is more an art than a science but you will not hear me back down from the idea. If done properly, it can offer more points than your static lineup.
It was another quality week at DB for the IDP report. Aaron Williams led the way with 12 total tackles (7 solo). He remains a great option should he still be available. Barry Church and Bacarri Rambo followed close behind with 15 and 14 fantasy points respectively.
Rodney McLeod STL S – 4-3 SS
Rodney McLeod looked to be very serviceable in both coverage and tackling in his game against the Falcons. 7 solos would suggest that he can wrap up and get some numbers on the board for your fantasy team as well. The Rams safeties have long been a fantasy boon and McLeod seems to be carrying that tradition on. Getting Dallas next week is also a quality matchup and should provide some significant opportunity.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Quintin Mikell CAR S – 4-3 SS
Onto the man that Rodney McLeod is replacing, Quintin Mikell latched on late with the Panthers after being cut by the Rams earlier this year. Mikell has never been a quality cover safety but has always been a sure tackle; a great recipe for fantasy success. Mike Mitchell has been all but benched by the Panthers and when Quintin Mikell takes your job because he is better in coverage, you know you’re bad. Mikell is a solid DB2 option in tackle heavy leagues and likely didn’t get drafted/kept because he was a free agent later into the preseason.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Nate Allen PHI S – 3-4 SS
I see the Eagles getting themselves into shooting matches this year with that high octane offense. As an IDP guy, that sits just fine with me since that creates more tackle opportunities. Allen has made the most of his chances in the Eagles secondary piling up 17 total tackles over his last two games. As with many IDP options, Allen is not a great safety so there is risk of him being replaced sooner or later but until that happens, continue to ride the wave of tackles.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Tyrann Mathieu ARI CB/S – Something about this kid I like. He’s got swagger and skill, maybe a bit too brash and not the most intellectual player you’ll ever see but his raw athleticism is impressive. With the Saints in town, give me the rookie and let’s see what he can do. He carries extra value in CB required leagues where is classified as one.