Wow! Week 2 was a doozy! Crazy end to a crazy week. Remember, NFL bye weeks start in Week 3, so there’s not as much to choose from, sleeper-wise. And for the first time this season, you’ll have to utilize those bench players and/or the waiver wire. Those owners that make the best decisions when the bye weeks dilute their team will be the most successful. Some of the following IDPers may be found on your league’s waiver wire; others might just be on your bench. Either way, they’re definitely worth a shot in most leagues/formats. Good luck!
Brad Kassel (TEN) – Kassel is coming off a huge game, and will need to have another good game if the Titans are to handle the offensive juggernaut of the St. Louis Rams. Last week’s sleeper-turned-stud LB Karlos Dansby had a solid effort against the Rams this past Sunday; so expect Kassel to follow up his big game in Week 2 with another here in Week 3. One more game like this past Sunday’s and he’ll have to become exempt from this sleeper column.
Junior Seau (MIA) – I’m a little reluctant to put Seau on this list, seeing that it is 2005, not 1995. In any case, Seau had a huge game against the Jets (10 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles and a sack). If the Fins are going to have a chance against the Panthers, their defense will have to stop the Panther rushing attack. If Panther RB Stephen Davis is healthy enough to play (reports point to him being fine), Seau may be asked to stuff the run between the tackles. Should Davis give up a bulk of the carries with the speedy Deshaun Foster, the Dolphin LBs will have to make big plays on the outside. Seau is capable of stopping either type of RB.
Akin Ayodele (JAX) – Mike Peterson is certainly the leader and best option in the Jaguar underrated linebacking corps, but Ayodele has talent and certainly can be started as a 3 rd LB or stashed on your bench. Given Jag QB Byron Leftwich’s unknown status, the Jag DEF will need to come up big against the Jets, who will most likely feature the shifty Derrick Blaylock at RB, pending MRI results on veteran RB Curtis Martin’s knee.
Others to consider: Carlos Emmons (NYG), Lofa Tatupu (SEA), Rod Davis (MIN)
Kevin Carter (MIA) – The big DE had a solid effort against the Jets. It’s no secret that fellow Fin DE Jason Taylor is a super stud. Taylor lines up in various positions throughout the course of the game, but Carter’s role is clearly defined as a pass-rusher and run-stuffer. He will need to come up big in Week 3 if the Dolphins are to upset the Panthers.
Bryce Fisher (SEA) – Fisher didn’t have a spectacular tackling game this past Sunday, but did manage to sack the shifty Falcon QB Mike Vick. This Sunday’s opponent features a much less shifty QB, Arizona’s Kurt Warner. Expect Fisher to have plenty of chances at sacking Warner and will be relied upon to stop between-the-tackles runner Marcel Shipp, who’s slated to start despite rookie sensation J.J. Arrington’s impending return.
Shaun Ellis (NYJ) – The Jets are going to come after Jag QB Byron Leftwich, if in fact he’s able to play. Leftwich wasn’t the fleetest of foot QBs to begin with; his jacked-up knee is going to only slow him down more. Expect Ellis and John Abraham on the other side to each get to the hobbled Jag QB.
Others to consider: Chad Lavalais (ATL), Aaron Smith (PIT), Luis Castillo (SD)
Dwight Smith (NO) – The Saints may have overpaid for Smith, but they are loving how he’s playing. He made some big hits this past Monday night. The Vikings are obviously struggling, but they’ll continue to pass. Smith will be critical in defending the pass and spying on Viking TE Jermaine Wiggins and the Viking slot receivers.
John Lynch (DEN) – If he happens to be on your league’s waiver wire, it might be time to audition the old vet. He had a very solid outing against division rival San Diego. Another division rival ( Kansas City) comes to town for what should be a good old fashioned shootout on Monday Night Football. Big players come up big in big games. Lynch might just have himself a big game.
Chris Crocker (CLE) – Quick! Name the starting SS for the Cleveland Browns. Stumped? Well, OK, now you know. Rookie Sean Jones was supposed to take the starting spot, but Crocker, the 3-year vet from Marshall, has played his way into the starting lineup. Cleveland’s Week 3 opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, have been known to throw the ball a bit. Crocker will have to be a ballhawk should the Browns have any chance come Sunday.
Others to consider: Terrence Newman (DAL), Robert Griffith (ARI), Jermaine Phillips (TB)
Last Week’s Sleepers – Report Card
Karlos Dansby, LB (ARI)
The Fat: 5 solo tackles and 1 sack
The Skinny: Time to move Dansby off my sleeper watch list. The guy must be for real. The LB situation in Arizona was a cloud of confusion in the preseason, but it’s now crystal clear that Dansby’s the leader of this group. If he’s available in your league, get him. Now. Go ahead, this column will still be here when you get back.
Paris Lenon, LB (GB)
The Fat: 2 solo tackles and 2 assisted tackles
The Skinny: The Packers just didn’t come out with any fire in this game. The late push at the end just wasn’t enough. I stated in this column last week that if the Packers were to win, they’d have to stop the Brown offense cold. Lenon and his fellow Packer defensive buddies didn’t do that.
Shelton Quarles, Tampa Bay
The Fat: 5 solo tackles and 1 sack (resulting in a safety)
The Skinny: Quarles certainly has talent and may or may not have been available in your league to pick up, but he certainly qualified as a “sleeper”, as Derrick Brooks remains the best LB option fantasy-wise in Tampa. Against the sputtering Buffalo offense in Week 2, Quarles certainly stepped his game up and had a very solid outing. Quarles led the Buc DEF in tackles against a Buffalo offense that struggled all day and accounted for a sack/safety.
Randall Godfrey, LB (SD)
The Fat: 4 solo tackles and forced fumble
The Skinny: It’s difficult trying to pick which of the Bolt LBs (besides Donnie Edwards) is going to have the big game in a given week. In Week 1, Godfrey was huge. Week 2, against a division rival, you would have thought he’d come up big again. He did lead the team in tackles, too bad that number was somewhat low.
David Pollack, LB (CIN)
The Fat: 1 solo tackle
The Skinny: I thought the Vikings would struggle a bit. Just a bit. But not THAT much! Pollack and friends didn’t have to do anything special on Sunday – the Vikings simply imploded. Expect big things from Mr. Pollack down the road, though.
Kailee Wong, LB (HOU)
The Fat: 8 solo tackles and 3 assisted tackles
The Skinny: Like Dansby, it’s time to move Wong off my sleeper watch list. He’s apparently taken the lead role in the linebacking corps for the Texans, whose DEF will be on the field a bit due to their sputtering offense. He’s a solid add as a 3 rd LB (heck, or even a 2 nd LB if your #1 LB is a super-stud) or even just a guy to stash on your bench and wait for good matchups.
Marcus Spears, DL (DAL)
The Fat: 1 solo tackle, 1 assisted tackle and a half sack
The Skinny: Perhaps not the big, breakout game we’ve all been waiting for, but Spears definitely showed promise on Monday night. The Dallas DEF will have to continue to make big plays if they’re to remain alive in the NFC East. If you’re in a keeper/dynasty league, Spears should be targeted. In redraft leagues, wait until he really breaks out before snatching him up.
Jevon Kearse, DL (PHI)
The Fat: 2 solo tackles
The Skinny: Yeah, the Niners came crashing back to Earth, as expected. The Freak, and the rest of the Eagle DEF, just sat back and waited for the Niners’ offense to screw up and hand the ball over for another Donavan McNabb TD. Keep an eye on The Freak, as he Philly DEF will continue to make big plays week in and week out.
Brentston Buckner, DL (CAR)
The Fat: Zip, zero, nada.
The Skinny: Bit of a shock here: Carolina looked really, really good against the defending champs. Because the Patriots weren’t controlling the clock with the run as much as most pundits (including this one) expected, the interior of the Panther defensive line didn’t have to worry about the between-the-tackles running of Corey Dillon. Buckner will probably find his way to this list again in future weeks, especially when facing big, bruising backs.
Reynaldo Wynn, DL (WAS),
The Fat: 2 solo tackles
The Skinny: The Washington DEF was again very stout, especially stopping the run (Dallas RB Julius Jones rushed 22 times for only 3.7 ypc). What was mildly surprising, though, was that Wynn and the rest of the Redskin D-line wasn’t able to sack the statue-like Drew Bledsoe. As the Washington’s DEF is absolutely critical to their success, guys like Wynn will be worth a look as bench filler.
Anthony Hargrove, DL (STL)
The Fat: 1 assisted tackle
The Skinny: What an ugly game for both the Rams and the Cards. Both teams made some crucial mistakes, and the ball was on the grass more than a few times. If you caught the game on TV, you saw that Hargrove was very involved in the game, unfortunately most of his involvement was after the whistle blew. He broke up a late shoving match between a teammate and a Cardinal offensive lineman which incited the Cardinal fans into throwing bottles onto the field. Classy. You Cardinal fans should be ashamed of yourself. Both of you.
Bryan Thomas, DL (NYJ)
The Fat: 1 assisted tackle
The Skinny: The Jet DEF controlled the Miami offense pretty well on Sunday afternoon. The Dolphins only rushed the ball a total of 18 times, thereby limiting Thomas’ chances at racking up tackles.
Chris Hope, DB (PIT)
The Fat: 3 solo tackles
The Skinny: Well OK, this week, fellow Steeler DB Troy Polumalu was the super stud. Maybe Week 3 will be the week to use Hope.
Bhawoh Jue, DB (SD)
The Fat: 3 solo tackles, 1 pass defended and 1 interception
The Skinny: As expected, this game was a hard-fought battle. And as expected, Jue got the start at FS for the Bolts and had a pretty solid game.
Kerry Rhodes, DB (NYJ)
The Fat: 3 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle and 1 pass defended
The Skinny: Rhodes got the start at safety on Sunday, and led the Jet DBs in tackles. The Jet DEF will have to continue to play sound football to win, so if you’re in the market for a deep DB sleeper, Rhodes’ game certainly has merit.
Charles Woodson, DB (OAK),
The Fat: 6 solo tackles, 2 passes defended and a forced fumble
The Skinny: Yahtzee!!! Woodson came up big in this rivalry game. Feel free to start him when/if the Raiders are facing pass-happy teams (read: AFC West games). Woodson officially got the start at FS, as he was to shadow Chief TE Tony Gonzalez. Nice gameplan, actually.
Derrick Gibson, DB (OAK),
The Fat: 3 solo tackles and 1 pass defended
The Skinny: With Charles Woodson having a pretty big game, Gibson – who may keep finding his way to this sleeper column, was somewhat quiet. The Raider defense is a bit of a fantasy quagmire, but if anyone’s gonna separate himself as being worthy of a pickup, it’s probably Gibson and rookie LB Kirk Morrison (13 solo tackles and 7 assisted tackles in 2 games).
Michael Hawthorne, DB (STL)
The Fat: 4 solo tackles and 1 assisted tackle
The Skinny: Fellow Ram safety Adam Archuleta had a huge game, but going unnoticed was Hawthorne’s solid effort. The Rams’ DEF is going to give up some yardage, so the Ram DBs are worth owning. Hawthorne’s a solid bye-week filler.
Got a comment? Suggestion? Deep sleeper I’m missing or should keep an eye on? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.