It’s been quite the year in 2020.
(Figured I’d start this one off with an understatement)
There have been any number of happenings in 2020 that will impact our lives for some time to come — some much more important than others. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every facet of our lives, including sports. And it’s entirely possible that rules the NFL instituted to help cope with these unprecedented times will have an effect on the game long after life has returned to “normal.”
Like the new Injured Reserve rules.
Gone are the days when a player who was placed on IR was done for the year. And we may well be done with the notion of designating a player for return. After getting a taste of this year’s three-week IR stints and unlimited number of spots available, there are going to be no shortage of NFL teams who believe the new way is the best way. And as we have already seen, the “new” Injured Reserve can have a substantial impact on fantasy rosters.
Some Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues got ahead of the curve here by adding and/or increasing the number of available IR spots. But others did not, and it creates quite the conundrum for fantasy managers. Do you burn a valuable bench spot on a player who may be out six weeks? Or cut bait and hope you can circle back around to pick that player back up in as few as three?
It’s been quite the conundrum for IDP managers — one that has created multiple situations where players who before might never have hit Injured Reserve at all are being cut loose by managers who don’t have the roster space (or patience) to hang onto them.
This late in the season, being able to pluck a player like that off the wire just as he’s returning can be a big deal — especially in a week that saw several IDP-relevant players go down with injuries.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Matt Milano, OLB, Buffalo
Milano is just that kind of player — prior to being activated ahead of Monday’s game against San Francisco, Milano hadn’t really played since injuring his pectoral muscle all the way back in Week 4. Milano played sparingly against San Francisco, and per Jon Scott of Spectrum News, Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier admitted that he wasn’t sure how snaps will be divvied up between Milano and A.J. Klein until the former got back on the field.
“Depending on when he comes back, how close is he to being the Matt that we saw before that injury, that will probably determine how it’ll affect A.J.’s role,” Frazier said. “So even though he’s coming off of reserve, will he use that shoulder? Will he be able to do some of the things that would be required at linebacker? We don’t know that. And will he be as effective as he was before the injury? So, some of those things we have to find out and that’ll determine how it affects A.J. as well.”
Milano appeared to get through the game unscathed and didn’t favor the shoulder. That speaks well to his role increasing steadily and rapidly moving forward — while Klein had his moments (especially as a pass rusher) while Milano was out, Buffalo needs its best coverage linebacker out there as it pushes toward the playoffs.
WEEK 14 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Justin Houston, DE, Indianapolis
Houston went completely bonkers against Houston last week, logging the eighth three-sack game of his career and forcing his fourth career safety — a number that ties him for the all-time lead in that category. As Mike Chappell reported for FOX 59 in Indianapolis, Houston has a small problem with that last part — because he is 100 percent convinced he has five.
“I got one in Denver when I was in Kansas City,’’ Houston said. “It was a sack-fumble in the end zone and it was a safety, but they gave it to the team and not me so I really think I’ve got five and not four, so the NFL is shorting me a safety. It’s the clearest sack/fumble in the end zone. It’s a safety. The tackle recovered it and no one touched him down so they gave it to the team and not to me and I’m the one who caused it.’’
It’s an argument IDP types can no doubt get behind. Many are likely surprised to see Houston’s name as a waiver target at all, but he’s available in quite a few leagues after a long dry spell that included just one sack over a nine-week span before last week’s explosion. You aren’t going to find a better option up front on the open market. Not this late in the game.
Jabaal Sheard, DE, New York Giants
It’s been a weird year for Sheard, too — it’s not often (or ever) that a player with 10 years in the NFL finds himself on a practice squad just trying to get another shot. That’s where Sheard found himself in 2020, though, and since earning regular playing time with the Giants he told reporters he’s just trying to take advantage of this latest opportunity.
“It was humbling, I’ll be honest. It was very humbling. You go through the workout, and I have never done a workout either in free agency. It was very humbling. Practice squad, I just knew I had to get on the field and prove myself. That was my mindset,” Sheard said, via Jeevan Kirkland of Giants Wire.
As injuries began to mount along the front seven for the Giants, Sheard was called up and given a shot — a shot of which he has made the most. Playing just over half the defensive snaps the past two weeks for the Giants, Sheard has amassed seven total tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, working his way into the DL2 conversation in deeper IDP formats.
Todd Davis, ILB, Minnesota
Minnesota didn’t expect Davis to play in Week 13 against Jacksonville. But as Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, when Eric Kendricks aggravated his calf injury in pre-game warmups and couldn’t play, it was Davis who was forced into the game at middle linebacker.
“Obviously, we had to make some adjustments with guys playing a little different positions and things like that,’’ he said. “But, no, you know, anything could have happened. … This isn’t the first time that this has ever happened that somebody can’t start the game. It was tough because E.K., he’s a big part of our defense. He’s a leader, but we all have that mentality: Next man up. And Todd Davis, he was ready, and he went out and he played really well.’’
Davis wound up playing all 71 defensive snaps for Minnesota and tied for the team lead with 11 total tackles. This isn’t some unproven youngster or journeyman scrub we’re talking about — for most of the offseason Davis was expected to be a three-down starter before being surprisingly let go by Denver. Davis topped 110 total tackles in both in 2018 and 2019, and if Kendricks sits out Week 14 the 28-year-old could be a fine plug-and-play waiver option.