A little less than a third of the way through the fantasy regular season, you get a pretty good idea of what kind of team you have on your hands. Depending on what kind of team you have can dictate how you manage your team and even what free agents to grab. A consistent team that has fallen victim to a couple huge outputs may opt for a more boom-bust strategy with their free agents as opposed to the wildly inconsistent team that possesses incredible scoring potential but can disappear from week to week. That team may value consistency more so than the former and sacrifice peak production to get it. I’ll do my best to offer up potential from both ends of the free agent pool as we head into a 4 team bye week this week (Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington).
For last week’s recap, Reggie Walker saw his opportunity get cut by a returning Manti Te’o and Donald Butler. His stat line was a lackluster 4 total tackles. I’m still hanging onto him because neither Te’o nor Butler are the picture of health but he is in firm do-not-start territory for now. Irving was also disappointing with a 3 total tackle performance. Hang onto him if you have the room and see how the Denver LBs situation develops once Von Miller returns. Timmons was a solid play posting 6 solo tackles and a PD. Interestingly enough, it was Vince Williams and not Kion Wilson that got the call to man the other ILB spot. Deep leaguers can take note of that one going forward. DeMario Davis was best recommendation of the week posting 8 solo tackles and 1 assist and Kevin Burnett was serviceable as the sneaky play, putting up 5 solos and a fumble recovery.
Daryl Washington ARI LB – ILB 3-4
Another shallow league redraft play here. Washington may not have been drafted in your league due to a four game suspension handed to him during the offseason that he has just finished serving. If he’s free, there aren’t many people I wouldn’t drop to acquire him. The interesting part of this is how the NFL’s leading tackler, Karlos Dansby, will coexist with the returning Washington. The former Horned Frog is an elite blitzer from the inside with speed and coverage abilities that very few linebackers possess. He also manages to post his fair share of splash plays making him a solid start in every format. The coaching staff has removed all doubt by saying that Washington will start immediately so you can be comfortable getting him into your lineup without having to worry about snap counts. Expect Dansby to remain a starter as well inside with Kevin Minter and Jasper Brinkley coming off the bench.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB1 to High-end LB2
Darryl Sharpton HOU LB – ILB 3-4
Darryl Sharpton looks to finally be getting healthy after squandering major opportunity to be a fantasy factor almost all of last year. The man beside Brian Cushing in the Texans’ defense may be getting a chance to run the show with the former USC Trojan suffering the effects of a concussion against the Seahawks. The Texans get the 49ers in San Francisco in week 5 so I expect that, Cushing healthy or not, Sharpton will be a decent play for deeper tackle-heavy leagues or a flex IDP spot.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Joplo Bartu/Paul Worrilow ATL LB – ILB/OLB 4-3
Deeper league special here. Both guys are undrafted free agents at a position that the Falcons are struggling in for both pure talent as well as health. Sean Weatherspoon is on short-term IR with a foot injury. Akeem Dent injured his ankle against the Patriots in week 4, not much is known about the severity. Paul Worrilow also left the game but again there isn’t much as far as developments go on his status either. For what it’s worth, Dent didn’t look like he could walk that off. As the end of the Patriot game, the Falcons were down to Bartu, Omar Gaither and Stephen Nicholas. Someone needs to carry the mail for tackles at the LB position and I think the young guys are the answer. Joplo Bartu is playing over 90% of the defensive snaps for his team and prior to the game, word was released that Akeem Dent lost his job to Worrilow. If he can stay healthy, Worrilow is a 4-3 MLB that can be had for free.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB3 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Tamba Hali KCC LB – Jake Locker is out with a hip injury and veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to get the start. Fitzpatrick is a liability in the pocket and Kansas City’s edge rush is going to be too much for the Titans to handle. Start Hali especially in big play leagues.
Defensive Linemen Plays
It’s clear that Julius Peppers reads this column. I rag on him for his lack of production on my fantasy team and announce that I am benching him only for him to blow up with a 4 solo, 2 assist, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble performance. Thanks Julius. Way to step up for your owners three weeks too late. It’s tough for me to make a call on him either way this week though. Maybe I should announce my stud benchings more often. You know, for motivation.
The rookie Ezekiel Ansah was disappointing against the Bears but the sneaky plays Derrick Wolfe (2 solos and 1 sack) and Robert Ayers (5 solos, 1 assist and 1 sack) were as dangerous as predicted against the Eagles in their rout.
Osi Umenyiora ATL DE – DE 4-3
Osi has largely been a disappointment for the IDP owners since signing over with the Falcons from the Giants as a free agent. He is applying pressure at times but doesn’t seem to be getting home very often. Geno Smith and the Jets are visiting the Falcons for Monday Night Football next week. If Umenyiora can’t get home in this game, he’s not going to get home all year.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to Low-end DL2
Justin Tuck/Mathias Kiwanuka/Damontre Moore NYG DE – DE 4-3
I’ve decided that as long as Mike Vick leads the Eagles, I will continue to play the matchups against him. Start your Giants DEs next week who are playing Mike Vick in New York. The Giants will be desperate to show their fans that despite being 0-4, they can still play. I don’t expect the Giants to win, but I don’t expect Mike Vick to stay clean either.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to High-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Tommy Kelly NEP DT – Tommy Kelly is getting pressure up the middle and will see a full compliment of snaps with Vince Wilfork out with a suspected torn Achilles.
Defensive Back Plays
It seems to be bad luck to be mentioned first in this column as TJ McDonald has gone down with a broken leg after posting 2 solos and 1 assist. Major Wright continued his strong play with 6 total tackles and an interception and Brandon Meriweather was solid with 5 solo tackles. Nolan Carroll wasn’t as serviceable with 1 solo, 1 assist and 2 PDs before suffering an ankle injury and missing a sizeable portion of the game.
Defensive back has been a difficult position to get a handle on this year. Even “elite” options like Mark Barron have been leaving their owners in the lurch. Don’t get too bent out of shape and make wholesale changes but don’t stick with anyone that isn’t giving you a reason to do so. The guy has to be getting snaps and being put into positions to make plays (check Steve Gallo’s opportunity article weekly).
Charles Woodson OAK S – 4-3 FS
The old man is still making plays but he has been inconsistent in terms of fantasy points. Enter the Chargers in week 5 and their anemic running game. Rivers has willed his team to a great start by way of a prolific passing attack. Woodson is a viable option in tackle heavy leagues. He posted a respectable 4 solos, 3 assists and a sack.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Earl Wolff PHI S – 3-4 FS
Digging a little deeper, Earl Wolff is a 5th round rookie thus into a starting role by way of injury to starter Patrick Chung. Wolff isn’t really ready for the show yet but sometimes those players are what breeds temporary stars at DB. The Eagles get the Giants in week 5. Expect Eli Manning to continue to throw to generate offense. Wolff should get opportunities to make some tackles.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Morris Claiborne DAL CB – 4-3 CB
Claiborne is coming off of a 6 solo, 1 assist tackle effort against the Chargers pass-happy attack. Denver isn’t going to be much different in my estimation. The former LSU Tiger figures to see some footballs thrown at him by All-World QB Peyton Manning. Whether he gets Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker or Wes Welker, there has been no shortage of tackle opportunity for opposing defensive backs against Denver.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Tarell Brown SFO CB – I expect Brown to get all he can handle from Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Brown can tackle well and HOU will likely need to pass at some point. Get Brown into your lineup as a streaming option.