Everyone loves a Monday Morning Quarterback, so why not a Monday Morning Linebacker? If you're like me, you tend to express your consternation when a player or players on your roster don't exactly perform as expected. Many expletive laden tirades have been directed at my computer or smart-phone as I scan the scoreboards. Occasionally I'm pleasantly surprised, but more often than not it's "WTF was that?!" In this weekly article we'll take a look at those players that performed as expected and those that didn't. This won't be a complete review of every player from every game; simply the outliers that deserve recognition, one way or the other.
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Studs That Were Studs (*Notable players that lived up to or exceeded expectations) London Fletcher, LB, WAS vs. PHI–
You gotta love a guy that saves one of his best performances for Week 16. The ageless wonder still has a little life left in those legs. Against the Eagles, Fletcher tallied 10 solo tackles, 2 assists, a pass defensed and a pick. At 37 years of age, he still finished the year as a top-15 LB in balanced scoring. We’ll see if he can do it again next season.
Julius Peppers, DE, CHI vs. ARI– Peppers, too, decided to save the best for last. Considering everyone eats Cardinals QBs for breakfast, this should come as no surprise. Peppers exploded to the tune of 5 solos, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception and 3 sacks. It was a monster day that couldn’t have come at a better time. He’s a top-10 DL in balanced scoring leagues and with 12 sacks ranked even higher in big play leagues.
Lawrence Timmons, LB, PIT vs. CIN– Continuing the trend, Timmons broke out in Week 16 for 8 solo tackles, 2 assists and 2 sacks. Timmons was a low end LB2 this year with some boom-or-bust to his game. He’ll be drafted as the same next season and has the potential to outperform his ADP.
James Laurinaitis, LB, STL vs. TBB– Also erupting for a season-best performance in Week 16 was James Laurinaitis. The young stud racked up 11 solo tackles, an assist, defended 2 passes and had 1 interception. He’s rewarded his owners by finishing the fantasy season as the #2 overall IDP. Expect him to be one of the first off the board in drafts next season.
Luke Kuechly, LB, CAR vs. OAK- The rookie rounds out a stellar group of studs that delivered in Week 16. Against the Raiders, Kuechly tallied 9 solo tackles, 4 assists, defended 2 passes and had 1 interception. As a ROOKIE, he finishes the year as the #3 overall IDP for 2012. Extremely impressive considering the uncertainty of the LB rotation in Carolina and Jon Beason’s refusal to go away. Consider Kuechly a top-5 LB next season.
Studs That Were Duds (*Notable players that didn't even come close to expectations)
There was a lot of average play in Week 16, but not a lot of major letdowns. Dawan Landry, DB, JAC vs. NEP-
Landryhadn’t posted a single-digit performance since Week 4. But yesterday he put up a stinker that came from just 3 solo tackles against a Patriots team that ran the ball 27 times.
That’s about half of his season average and a pretty big letdown to owners counting on him in Week 16.
Chad Greenway, LB, MIN vs. HOU– Greenway has been averaging 9.5 total tackles per game to date, so to see him post 4 solos and an assist against a Texans team that leads the league in rushing is pretty disappointing. Granted, the game situation limited his chances, but if you were riding him this season, he failed to come through when it mattered most. He’ll still be a top-5 LB selection next season, as he was this year.
Duds That Were Studs
(* Surprising players that far exceeded expectations. Don't take 'dud' literally)
Richard Sherman, DB, SEA vs. SF– Sherman has been more of a stud than a dud over the last few weeks, and yesterday was the icing on the cake. He posted 5 solo tackles, defended 4 passes, and had 1 interception and 1 defensive touchdown. A studly day for a guy that was hit or miss for the better part of the year.
Quintin Mikell, DB, STL vs. TBB – Much like Sherman, Mikell really started coming on at the end of the year. And yesterday against the Bucs, he exploded for 10 solo tackles, an assist, forced a fumble and had 1 sack. Season best numbers for a top-10 DB.
Craig Robertson, LB, CLE vs. DEN – Not sure anyone predicted this. Robertson hadn’t posted a double-digit performance since Week 11, but yesterday he blew up to the tune of 12 solo tackles (TWELVE!) and 2 assists. It helps that the Broncos ran the ball 30+ times, but if you had him in your lineup yesterday, you were happy.
Geno Atkins, DL, CIN vs. PIT – Another guy that’s been all over the map this season, Atkins racked up 4 solo tackles, 2 assists, forced a fumble and sacked Big Ben 2.5 times on Sunday. Coming off a goose-egg the week before, kudos to those owners that rolled the dice on him again this week.
-Morris Claiborne, DB, DAL vs. NO – The highly touted rookie hasn’t been mentioned much, if at all, in this column. But against a Saints team that throws the ball 9,000 times per game, we probably shoulda seen this coming. Claiborne had a season (and career) best 9 solo tackles, 1 assist, forced a fumble and defended 2 passes. If the Cowboys can stay competitive in games, it’s evident Claiborne can be a fantasy IDP factor.
If you've read any of my stuff during the pre-season, you know I think highly of Mario Williams this year. So much so that I've gone out on a limb to predict that Super Mario will be the top DL in IDP fantasy leagues in 2012. Since most other "experts" consider Jason Pierre-Paul the top-dog, it seems only fitting to pit them head-to-head on this scorecard. I will keep a running weekly tab to see how they match up.
Back to a tie. They've both been a disappointment, as their owners will no doubt agree. Heading to the wire, it's neck and neck.
This Week: JPP
Not-so-Super Mario: 2 solo tackles, 1 pass defensed
JPP: 2 solo tackles, 2 assists
Steve Sheiner spent more than a decade as a writer and Senior Editor at FantasyFootball.com and Fanball.com. He’s also hosted a number of radio shows, including the Fantasy Football Extravaganza on 790 the Ticket in Miami. Send Steve your questions and comments to email@example.com. Follow Steve on Twitter @Steve_Sheiner