We’ve hit the halfway point of the 2020 fantasy football season—as season that has included more than a few IDP disappointments and surprise superstars. But rather than complain about the former (Who doesn’t like a little good old-fashioned complaining?) we’ll kick off this week’s edition of IDP Studs and Duds by lauding the latter.
On the defensive line. Prior to Week 1 Aldon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys hadn’t played in an NFL game since the 2015 season. Smith hasn’t just held his own after the long hiatus—he’s piled up four sacks over the first six games of the season and ranks inside the top five defensive linemen.
That he was added to the injury report late in the week with a neck issue is a very 2020 notion.
Eric Wilson of the Minnesota Vikings wasn’t supposed to even be a full-time starter at linebacker in 2020. But after Anthony Barr was sidelined for the year with a torn pectoral, Wilson was thrust into a larger role. A couple of big games later, the 26-year-old is a top-10 fantasy linebacker.
At defensive back, every season is filled to the brim with surprises, and 2020 is no different. The No. 1 option at the position through six weeks is Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who has racked up half a dozen tackles per game while adding an interception and 2.5 sacks
It may well not hold for the entirety of the season, but so far, it’s been quite the ride—with all three players.
OK, that’s enough attaboys—it’s time to start looking ahead to Week 7—with another edition of IDP Studs and Duds 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
Leighton Vander Esch – ILB, Dallas Cowboys (at WAS) (1)
Vander Esch’s rebound season hit a very Vander Esch-esque snag in the season opener when the young linebacker broke his collarbone. The 24-year-old made it back into the lineup last week against the Arizona Cardinals, and he told ESPN’s Todd Archer that it felt good to be back in action.
“My body feels wonderful, to be honest with everybody,” he said. “I feel great, I feel fast, my legs feel good, my upper body feels good, my collarbone’s healed. I’m getting my strength back. It’s a constant, everyday process. I think I’m doing things good, but I think I need to tackle better. I haven’t played a full game in I don’t even know how long. I need to tackle better. That’s one area that I need to improve on.”
Vander Esch played just 32 snaps against the Redbirds, amassing three total tackles. Those numbers are hardly impressive, but Vander Esch made it through the game unscathed. That may well be the most important takeaway from the game, and it’s not difficult to imagine Vander Esch’s snap count increasing in Week 7 against a Washington team that has surrendered the most fantasy points to linebackers so far this season.
IDP STUDS OF THE WEEK
Josh Allen – DE, Jacksonville Jaguars (at LAC) (2): From all indications, Allen will be back in action Sunday against the Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Only one team in the NFL has allowed more fantasy points to defensive linemen this year than the Bolts.
Jason Pierre-Paul – DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at LVR) (3): With 21 total tackles and 5.5 sacks, Pierre-Paul has been a top-five fantasy option so far this season. The good times should keep going against a Raiders team that ranks third in fantasy points allowed to defensive linemen in 2020.
Olivier Vernon – DE, Cleveland Browns (at CIN) (4): It goes without saying that Myles Garrett should be in starting lineups this week. But Vernon could also be a decent spot-starter against a Bengals team that has surrendered the second-most sacks (24) in the NFL this season.
Jon Bostic – ILB, Washington Football Team (vs. DAL) (5): The Cowboys have already been a top-five fantasy matchup for linebackers in 2020. With the Cowboys likely to lean more on Ezekiel Elliott with Dak Prescott on the shelf, that’s not going to get worse.
Matt Milano – OLB, Buffalo Bills (at NYJ) (3): Milano has missed time of late with a pectoral injury, but he’s trending toward playing in Week 7. Provided he does, Milano will draw a surprisingly favorable IDP matchup with the five-alarm dumpster fire that is the New York Jets.
Kyzir White – OLB, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. JAX) (2): Since moving into the starting lineup for the Chargers, White has been a top-10 fantasy option among linebackers. The young linebacker also draws a top-five fantasy matchup in Week 7 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tyrann Mathieu – S, Kansas City Chiefs (at DEN) (3): Mathieu hauled in a pick-six a few weeks ago against the New England Patriots and draws a Denver Broncos team on the road in Week 7 that has given up the third-most fantasy points to defensive backs in 2020.
Bradley McDougald – S, New York Jets (vs. BUF) (5): There are a couple reasons to roll out McDougald and Marcus Maye this week. The first is a top-five IDP matchup for defensive backs against the Buffalo Bills. The second is a Jets defense that is on the field approximately all the time.
Tracy Walker – S, Detroit Lions (at ATL) (5): After some puzzling usage numbers early, Walker is back in his usual full-time role. That should mean good things Sunday against a Falcons team that ranks fifth in fantasy points given up to defensive backs this season.