Five weeks into the 2020 NFL season, we know a few things in IDP leagues—for better or for worse.
We know that Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett are incredibly good at their jobs. Donald rampaged against the Washington Football Team for four sacks and leads the NFL with 7.5. Garrett logged his sixth sack of the 2020 season last week against the Indianapolis Colts and has three forced fumbles.
We know that at linebacker, a couple of big names are big disappointments. In his first five games as a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, Cory Littleton of the Las Vegas Raiders has hit the five-solo mark all of once—but at least he’s on a bye this week so he can’t lay another egg. Deion Jones of the Atlanta Falcons has been better, but he barely ranks inside LB3 territory in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring and has been outpointed by teammate Foyesade Oluokun by a significant margin.
At defensive back, we know that we don’t know from one week to the next whether Taylor Rapp will have any value. First Rapp lost his starting job to rookie Jordan Fuller. Then he got it back when Fuller hurt his shoulder. Then he lost it again when Fuller got healthy. Then he got it back again when Fuller aggravated the injury and landed on short-term IR.
Confused yet? Welcome to my world.
Now, there’s still enough season left for all this to reverse. Garrett and Donald could hit a cold snap. Jones and Littleton could get hot. Fuller could lose his job back to Rapp for the duration.
But these aren’t one-offs or flukes. There’s enough of a sample size to call these trends—the kind of trends that should affect IDP lineup calls.
Calls like IDP Studs and Duds here at Fantasy Sharks.
Each week during the 2020 season, I’ll point out some Individual Defensive Players who could be set to exceed expectations this week (Studs), as well as some that for whatever reason are riskier plays than normal (Duds).
This isn’t necessarily to say that every “Stud” is a must-start (it depends on your other options) or that every “Dud” should be glued to your bench (just that the odds of a letdown week are greater than usual).
Numbers in parentheses denote ranking in fantasy points allowed to that position in 2020 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
IDP STUD OF THE WEEK
Bobby Okereke – ILB, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN) (5)
With Darius Leonard out last week against the Cleveland Browns, the Indianapolis Colts were forced to turn to Bobby Okereke and Anthony Walker at linebacker, despite that fact that both players were themselves dinged up. But as Brendan King wrote for 93.5 The Fan in Indianapolis, Okereke wasn’t going to let a little thing like thumb surgery stop him from playing.
“I knew that I wanted to play as long as doctors said it was safe for me,” Okereke said. “Especially with Darius being out, I had step up for the team. We always talk about sacrifice, and obviously I fractured my thumb and was in some pain. But that’s my contribution to the team to try and help us win a game however I can.”
Okereke did more than just play—he shined last week, racking up 10 total tackles and intercepting a pass. Leonard is on track to sit again this week when the Colts host the Cincinnati Bengals, which means a full-time role for Okereke in a top-five IDP matchup.
WEEK 6 IDP STUDS
Calais Campbell – DE, Baltimore Ravens (at PHI) (1)
Campbell’s statistical production has been pedestrian so far this season. But if you’ve been holding the veteran this long, this is a prime “get right” spot against an Eagles team allowing the most fantasy points to defensive linemen.
Justin Houston – DE, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN) (4)
Houston is on pace to hit double digits in sacks for the second time in an as many seasons with the Colts, and no quarterback in the league has been brought to the ground in 2020 more than Joe Burrow—24 times.
Kerry Hyder – DE, San Francisco 49ers (vs. LAR) (10)
You know that the 2020 season hasn’t gone as planned for the defending NFC champs when a journeyman veteran is one of the brightest spots for the team’s defense. But to his credit, Hyder has amassed 3.5 sacks in five games this year.
Jerome Baker – ILB, Miami Dolphins (vs. NYJ) (2)
The Jets are the worst team in the NFL and a hot mess on offense. But as sure as the sun will rise in the morning Adam Gase will have Frank Gore fall forward 15 times on Sunday—which means tackle opportunities for Baker.
Jon Bostic – ILB, Washington Football Team (at NYG) (7)
Saquon Barkley‘s ACL tear has taken some of the shine off the Giants as a linebacker matchup this year. But the Giants are still running the ball consistently with Devonta Freeman so long as they don’t fall too far behind.
Jamie Collins – OLB, Detroit Lions (at JAX) (3)
Collins is a big play-reliant, matchup-dependent fantasy option who is a better NFL player than IDP asset. But Week 6 sets up well as one of the times he can post a gaudy stat line.
Tyrann Mathieu – S, Kansas City Chiefs (at BUF) (1)
Josh Allen looked distressingly like 2019 Josh Allen in Tuesday’s loss in Tennessee. If he throws that many off-target passes this week against the Chiefs in Orchard Park, Mathieu is likely to come down with one.
Justin Simmons – S, Denver Broncos (at NEP) (5)
Despite New England’s reliance on the run, the Patriots have been a surprisingly good fantasy matchup for defensive backs this season. Both Simmons and Kareem Jackson have a good shot at DB2 production in Week 6.
Harrison Smith – S, Minnesota Vikings (vs. ATL) (6)
For several years Smith has been a better professional football player than imaginary football option. When the matchup is right though, he can produce quite well. This has the makings of one of those weeks.
IDP DUD OF THE WEEK
Shaq Thompson – OLB, Carolina Panthers (vs. CHI) (28)
With long-time starters Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly gone from Carolina, Shaq Thompson is now the elder statesman of the Panthers linebackers. Per 99.3 WBT in Charlotte, Thompson said his plan is to lead by example, let his play on the field do the talking and not worry about stats.
“Just try to help this organization win games. That’s what I’m focused on,” Thompson said. “I’m not really focused on myself. I’m a team player and that’s what I’m focused on. My stats are just gonna play how they play. But I’m all about this team.”
Over the first five games of the 2020 season, Thompson has been feast-or-famine—three games with double-digit tackles and two with five or fewer. Unfortunately, this week sets up as the latter—last week against the Bears both Devin White and Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were IDP duds.