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The first week of the 2012 NFL preseason is in the books, and while the talk of the fantasy football world may be the strong debuts of rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin or the clavicle injury suffered by top-five fantasy pick Ryan Mathews there were plenty of happenings that impacted the world of Individual Defensive Players as well.
Desmond Bishop Goes Down
By far the most important news to strike IDP owners happened in San Diego, where Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Desmond Bishop went down against the Chargers with a hamstring injury that left fantasy owners who drafted early this season reeling. The sixth-year veteran, who was widely considered a top-five IDP option entering this season, is set to undergo surgery, and in all likelihood his 2012 season has ended before it began.
Second-year pro D.J. Smith, who had 27 total tackles and an interception in three starts for the injured Bishop last year, will all but certainly step into a three-down role for the Packers in Bishop’s stead, and Smith has gone from a fantasy afterthought to a viable IDP LB2 and a white-hot waiver wire target in IDP leagues that have already drafted in the proverbial blink of an eye.
A Bunch of Bengals Get Banged Up
The Packers’ defense wasn’t the only one that saw the injury bug bite, as no fewer than three starters for the Cincinnati Bengals exited their exhibition opener with injuries. Third-year defensive end Carlos Dunlap and fourth-year linebacker Rey Maualuga suffered knee sprains, while strong safety Taylor Mays was forced from the action with an apparent concussion.
Of the three, Dunlap’s injury is believed to be the most serious, as the 23-year-old is expected to miss four weeks, placing the Week 1 availability of one of the players I recently labeled a breakout candidate here at Fantasy Sharks very much in doubt.
Mays’ injury could have a significant impact as well should symptoms linger, as the team had already reportedly been experimenting with flipping cornerback Nate Clements to strong safety. Should Mays miss considerable time it’s possible that experiment could become permanent, which could mean a big boost for Clements’ IDP value, especially should he retain positional eligibility in IDP leagues as a cornerback.
The Motown Merry-Go-Round at Safety
The defensive backfield was the Achilles’ heel of the Detroit Lions defense a season ago, and not only did the team do very little to improve in that regard in the offseason but the safety position has become an even bigger question mark for a club with aspirations of making a road trip to the Big Easy next February.
Free safety Louis Delmas, who missed five games a season ago with a knee injury, went under the knife earlier in the week to have a procedure on his other knee, leaving his status for the team’s regular season opener against the St. Louis Rams up in the air. Meanwhile, 2011 starter Amari Spievey, who somewhat surprisingly spent part of last week practicing with the second team, was held out of Friday’s preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns with “concussion-like symptoms”, leaving veteran Erik Coleman and career special-teamer John Wendling as the Lions’ starters against the Browns.
New arrival Sean Jones, who started 16 games last year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also got into the mix Friday night at strong safety with nine total tackles, muddying the waters even further.
Granted, in all likelihood when the dust settles it will be Spievey and Delmas in the starting lineup, assuming they’re healthy. However, the size of that assumption and the risk associated with making it appears to be growing by the day. Which makes the back end of a Detroit defense, that would seem to have a considerable amount of fantasy upside, as dangerous to depend on in IDP leagues as it is tempting for opposing quarterbacks to exploit.
Rookies on Parade
Not all of the IDP news that came out of the preseason’s first week was doom and gloom, as the weekend’s action also brought with it the NFL debuts of some prominent rookies that their new teams hope will be the defensive superstars of tomorrow.
Carolina Panthers' linebacker Luke Kuechly didn’t appear to miss a beat, demonstrating a nose for the football that made him college football’s leading tackler in 2011. Kuechly racked up four total stops and forced a fumble in limited action, and while it’s a very small sample size Kuechly appears to be solidifying himself as a solid IDP LB2 in his inaugural season.
Kuechly wasn’t the only rookie linebacker to have a very good debut, as although Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made only one tackle, it was in the Miami backfield. The former Nebraska standout also picked off an errant Matt Moore pass to boot. David may not possess the redraft upside of Kuechly, but if he can keep this up David could easily find himself a three-down weak side linebacker and viable IDP LB4 as a rookie.
Finally, I’ll confess that I didn’t hold out much hope for the redraft IDP value of New York Jets defensive end Quinton Coples given the questions about his motor and switch to the 3-4 defense, but if Friday’s tilt with the Bengals was any indication I may have been dead wrong. Coples was all over the place against Cincinnati, piling up five stops, a sack, and a forced fumble, and while I’m not ready to anoint the 6’6” 280-pound beast the next big thing just yet, Coples definitely got my attention.
With the preseason now underway in earnest these are sure to be far from the only IDP storylines worth keeping an eye on, and in order to do so be sure to checkout the Fantasy Sharks IDP forum, and for the latest news on IDPs across the National Football League follow IDP Manor on Twitter.
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