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As sure as every Arian Foster owner is looking to add Ben Tate later in their fantasy draft as his handcuff, so too must the savvy Individual Defensive Player (IDP) owner back up his studs with their potential replacements. With the rash of preseason injuries to-date in 2012, it is more important than ever to make sure that our IDP handcuffs are in place. Unfortunately, it is not quite as defined on the defensive side of the ball as to who the next man up may be, and often times a defense may look for a multi-headed solution to their injured stars. Here is a look at some names to definitely monitor as replacements for the No. 1 man at their respective positions. Some of the names will be familiar and some of them will be from deeper down the depth charts as we look for IDP handcuffs.
DJ Smith, ILB, Green Bay: This one is as simple as it gets. Smith has now assumed the position formerly held down by Top 5 fantasy linebacker, Desmond Bishop, who has undergone surgery to repair a damaged hamstring. Smith stepped in for an injured Bishop in 2011, amassing 57 total stops and an interception in nine games played. While he may lack some of the big play potential that Bishop brings to the table, he is an immediate three-down player on the Packers defense and a must have for Bishop owners.
Barrett Ruud , ILB, New Orleans: While “Bounty Gate” rocked the Saints defense in the offseason with the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith, it is a rash of injuries to the linebacker position that continues to plague them in the preseason. Newly acquired Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain have all gone down with one ailment or another, forcing the Saints to trade for the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Tennessee Titan. Ruud was languishing in Seattle as the backup to rookie Bobby Wagner and now has new life with the Saints. Hawthorne (meniscus) and Lofton (high-ankle sprain) will both make it onto the field in 2012, while Chamberlain (torn ACL) has already been placed on Injured Reserve. Ruud was a fantasy beast from 2007-10 for Tampa Bay, and while he won’t be asked to carry the load for New Orleans as much as he did back in his time with the Buccaneers, he will have fantasy value from the middle of the Saints defense in 2012.
Chris Carter , OLB, Pittsburgh: While Smith and Ruud are somewhat known commodities at their positions, Carter is a wild card for the Steelers. With James Harrison iffy for the start of the season, Carter has been taking first-team reps for Pittsburgh. Drafted in the fifth round in 2011, he saw very limited action before being placed on Injured Reserve with a hamstring problem. A converted defensive end, Carter has shown an ability to bring it off the edge with a quick first step and has added some bulk between his rookie and second season. He has a non-stop motor and will get his chance to stake a claim to the outside linebacker position in Pittsburgh. He has been favorably compared to Von Miller, and, if he can fulfill on some of that potential, he will be a fantasy steal as the handcuff to Harrison.
Jerrell Freeman , Moise Fokou , Greg Lloyd Jr., ILB, Indianapolis: The foot injury suffered by Pat Angerer has brought forth this three-headed monster of potential replacements for the Colts. While the Colt who will most likely benefit from the absence of Angerer is Kavell Conner on the weak side, there is also value to be had from whoever emerges as the replacement in the middle. Fokou has the edge in experience as he has started 22 games in his career while with Philadelphia and put up respectable numbers. Lloyd Jr. was a seventh-round pick of the Eagles and came over with Fokou in a trade for Kevin Thomas and a conditional seventh-round selection, joining Indianapolis this offseason. If pedigree counts for anything and Lloyd Jr. shows some of the skills that his five-time Pro Bowler father had, he could make some noise in the middle of the defense. The jury is still out on him and he will have to make the most of every preseason snap to stake a claim to the position. Freeman was an undrafted free agent back in 2008 when the Tennessee Titans signed him, after being released, he went on to find success in the Canadian Football League. He led that league in tackles in 2011 while in Saskatchewan and will now be in the mix to step up right away for Indianapolis. This situation is still a fluid one, and the Colts could even decide to go with a veteran off the waiver wire, but these three names are the ones to watch as Week 3 of the preseason plays out.
Miles Burris , OLB, Oakland: Burris was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Raiders and has been working as the starting weak side linebacker in place of the injured Aaron Curry. Burris is a solid edge rusher who put up eight sacks in his final season at San Diego State and has the non-stop motor that coach’s love. Curry has been an iffy fantasy option since being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks back in 2009 and is not even a lock to make Oakland's 53-man roster. Rolando McClain is facing a pending legal issue, and the Raiders will need all hands on deck if a league suspension is imposed. It remains to be seen whether or not Burris manages to stay on the field in a three-down role, or if Curry can make a push to regain his spot on the depth chart, but as of now keep Burris on your fantasy radar on draft day.
Larry Grant , OLB, San Francisco : When Patrick Willis went down last season, Grant stepped in and was a solid fantasy contributor. He tallied double-digit points from Weeks 13-16, amassing 35 total tackles and a forced fumble while spelling the injured Willis. The 49ers brought Grant back with a one-year, $1.26 million contract as an insurance policy should a linebacker go down again in 2012. Grant spent his first three seasons in the league as a backup in St. Louis, is comfortable in the role and proved more than capable when called upon. While he is not an explosive player, he is solid in run support and can hold his own in coverage. He is a must have, late-round draft selection for fantasy purposes for any owner of Patrick Willis.
Everette Brown , DE, Detroit: Hey, I told you we were going to go deep on some depth charts. Brown is now with his third team in as many years after signing with the Lions in March of this year. Originally a second-round selection of the Carolina Panthers in 2009, this may be his last chance to shed the ‘bust’ label with which he has been saddled. Detroit boasts an impressive array of defensive linemen, but injuries have sidelined both Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nick Fairley this preseason. Brown had an impressive debut, racking up 1.5 sacks to go with two stops in the Lions’ first preseason game. The Lions will use a rotation along the line, and Brown will get his chance to earn snaps as veterans are rested or injured this preseason. He has a quick first step and the ability to get around the edge, but still only has six sacks to-date in his NFL career. It is now or never for Brown. Keep an eye on his snap count during the preseason. If you have Vanden Bosch, go ahead and handcuff Brown to him.
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