We know it was going to happen. It’s as annual an event as Christmas and income tax. On the fun scale, it falls a lot closer to the latter than the former.
The injuries are starting to pile up in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues. Entering Week 4, we were already short a number of prominent linebackers and a top safety — Tampa Bay’s Devin White is nursing a sore knee, Indianapolis’ Darius Leonard remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, the New York Giants’ Alec Ogletree has a hamstring pull and Keanu Neal is done for the season with a torn ACL.
After Week 4, they have company.
Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram is expected to miss at least a couple games after pulling a hamstring against Miami. Indianapolis safety Clayton Geathers is in the concussion protocol. Oakland linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been suspended the rest of the 2019 season after yet another dirty hit last week. And no one’s exactly sure what’s going on with Chicago linebacker Roquan Smith.
That’s not a comprehensive list, mind you. But you get the gist.
Over the last two weeks or so, quite a few IDP rosters have started springing quite a few leaks.
OK, maybe it’s not quite that bad, although the Leonard and Smith absences rather feel like it.
Let’s see what we can do about filling in some of the gaps and keeping IDP rosters afloat.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Houston
In his fifth NFL season, McKinney’s become a defensive leader for the Houston Texans. Per Drew Dougherty of Texans TV, McKinney has the respect of all-world defensive lineman J.J. Watt, which says a lot about McKinney as a player.
“He has to be all over the field, he has to play the run, he has to play the pass, he has to get the call in after every play, he has to coordinate everything and make calls,” Watt said. “So, I have a ton respect for that position and I have a ton of respect for (McKinney) and the way he plays it.”
McKinney isn’t the true every-down player that batterymate Zach Cunningham is, but over the past couple of weeks he’s been on the field well over 80 percent of the defensive snaps. That playing time has led to 19 total tackles and half a sack over the last two weeks — numbers that have McKinney back on the IDP radar.
WEEK 5 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Seattle
Ansah made his Seattle Seahawks debut two weeks ago against New Orleans. As Andy Patton reported for Seahawks Wire, after failing to log a stat in that game, the veteran free agent acquisition drew a bit of criticism from head coach Pete Carroll.
“He didn’t use a variety of rushes,” Carroll said on Monday. “He just kind of ran in there and played hard and tough. The guys he was going against were pretty good. He had a couple good rushes. His effort was really consistent. His power was there too. He didn’t finesse much. He pretty much just power rushed the whole game. I think if he had to do it again, he’d mix it up a little bit.”
Ansah apparently took that criticism to heart, racking up five tackles and a sack last week against Arizona. Ansah is injury-prone. He’s a weekly threat to throw up a doughnut. But he’s also capable of going completely bananas and posting the sort of gonzo stat line that will win you a week. He’s the grand poobah of feast/famine defensive lineman.
Nick Williams, DE, Chicago
Chicago has been hit hard by injuries on both sides of the ball, and when Chicago plays Oakland in London on Sunday it will be with Chase Daniel under center. It will also be with Nick Williams filling in at defensive end, but Daniel told JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago there’s no drop-off on the defensive front when Williams is out there.
“Nick’s the type of guy that you want on your team,” said Daniel, who counts Williams as one of his closest friends. “He just works so hard, so guys see that and can emulate it, especially young guys know that, hey, listen, I don’t care what round I’m drafted, I don’t care if I’m a free agent, whatever — as long as I work hard, put my head down, the chips will fall as they may. All I can do is put my best foot forward and take advantage of opportunities as they’re given, and he’s done all of that.”
Williams has absolutely made the most of his opportunity this year — he has at least one sack in three straight games and notched a pair in last week’s beatdown of rival Minnesota. Over the last three weeks, Williams has been a Top 5 producer in most IDP scoring systems. Add in a favorable Week 5 matchup, and we’ve reached a point where Williams should absolutely be rostered.
Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB, Chicago
Did I mention that Chicago has some injuries?
Roquan Smith’s surprise de-activation last Sunday thrust Kwiatkoski into the starting lineup at inside linebacker. As the 26-year-old told Usayd Koshul of 247 Sports, he’s used to answering the call on short notice.
“I’ve been here a while, I’ve seen it happen before,” Kwiatkoski said. “That’s why you come in prepared each week like you’re going to play because you never know what’s going to happen, next man up mentality, injury is a part of football, things happen. It shows our preparation, shows the depth of the defense. And it’s just I mean every, each guy in this defense comes in and prepares like they’re playing. I mean, you can notice throughout the week and obviously, it shows up on game day.”
Despite playing less than 60 percent of the defensive snaps, it was Kwiatkoski who paced the team with 10 total tackles and nine solos against Minnesota. That relatively low snap count’s a bit of a concern, but the per-snap production and this week’s matchup leaves Kwiatkoski at least a serviceable spot-start.