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IDP SHOWDOWN: IDP Stock Watch

If there’s one thing that should be learned fairly quickly after venturing into the equally exciting and frustrating world of individual defensive players it’s that even the best IDPs can be maddeningly inconsistent, and that it’s folly to read too much into one week’s performance, be it an explosion or a big fat goose-egg.

However, we’re four weeks into the 2011 season, and that’s time enough to be able to say with some certainty that some IDPs have failed to live up their expectations entering the season, while others have exceeded our wildest dreams, as well as to speculate (because really, that’s what we fantasy football writers do more often than not) as to what that means for the IDP prospects of those players the rest of the way.

To assist me in doing just that I’ve enlisted the assistance of a much smarter man than I, none other than the King Kong of IDP at Fantasy Sharks himself, the esteemed James Elvins (Esq.), and together we will now take a look at some players whose IDP stock is either soaring or tanking with the IDP Stock Watch.

SOARING (Stock UP)

Defensive Linemen

James Elvins: Now normally most defensive lines have one – two if you’re lucky – DEs that you’d want to roster. No one knew whether Greg Hardy could lose the “injury” tag he garnered in college or not … and based off his rookie year you’d not be alone in wondering if he ever could.

Last year in the 2010 IDP Dynasty Rankings I said that if Hardy could only stay healthy he could dominate opposition, such was his ability.

He can and he has.

With team’s busy trying to contain Charles Johnson, (with varying levels of success) Hardy has gone from a paltry 30 tackles and 3 sacks during the whole of 2010 to 16 tackles and 2 sacks in just 4 games. It might already be too late to jump on the train if you weren’t watching him out the gate, but he really should be owned in all standard 12 team leagues

Gary Davenport: As I said in this week’s IDP Waiver Wire article at Fantasy Sharks, it’s not all that often that a 3-4 defensive lineman comes along that’s of use to IDP owners, especially one who has been around the block a few times without doing a whole lot statistically, but it appears that may well be the case this season with Houston Texans defensive end
Antonio Smith.

The eighth year veteran hasn’t posted huge numbers throughout his career, never topping 45 tackles or 5.5 sacks, but it appears that the former Oklahoma State standout is well on his way to a career year when it comes to getting after the passer, having logged a sack in each of Houston’s first four games.

Smith may be hard pressed to continue his streak this week against an Oakland Raiders team that’s allowed only two sacks this season, and his relatively low tackle numbers make him a bit of a risky option, but Smith certainly seems to be one of the many Houston defenders rejuvenated by new coordinator Wade Phillips aggressive 3-4, and I’d wager his IDP owners aren’t complaining about getting a Top 12 IDP DL to this point for a minimal investment.

JE: Just as Gary has given a great synopsis on both Antonio Smith and previously on the perils of 3-4 Ends in his excellent WW article, i’m going with another one myself – Jairius Wynn.

Now I’ve written before how i like my DEs to be a little like a nice wine … to have aged a little and shown a little care & patience. Some players can get it right away, but the overwhelming majority need a couple of years to season and mature into pro-players.

Wynn is in his 3rd year and there is a reason why he’s been ranked as the #2 DE in a 3-4 scheme by pro-football focus. Cullen Jenkins is gone and Wynn is enjoying life right now.
Ryan Pickett might command all the attention, but in both real life and fantasy it’s worth keeping an eye on Wynn, especially with all the compressed bye weeks looming large.

Linebackers

JE: I’ve already beat the drum about one or two LBs over the past year and a half that any of you who read the dynasty rankings and surf the IDP forum will know – Angerer, Lee, Washington, Bishop & Bowman to name a few.

For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you’ll notice there’s a couple of players I ranked last year that are
not on that list which is because I’m going to repeat them again 16 months on.

Sean Weatherspoon is probably as irksome to Curtis Lofton owners as Kavell Conner is to Pat Angerer owners and Navorro Bowman is to Patrick Willis owners. Sometimes some positions can “funnel” plays (usually to the Will Linebacker in a Tampa-2). Sometimes a player just flies around the field with a nose for the ball. Sometimes it’s both.

Weatherspoon is currently tied for 1st for solo tackles through 4 weeks (30) and ranked 5th amongst LB’s for total tackles (38). Wetherspoon isn’t getting as much love as the hype trains rolling for a few other guys right now, but you can’t fault the production here.

GD: OK, everyone raise your hand if you thought Dallas Cowboys inside linebacker
Sean Lee would be the second ranked fantasy linebacker after four games of the 2011 season.

Now, unless you’re Sean Lee’s momma, put your freaking hand down, because you’re even more full of crap than I am.

It was a minor surprise when Lee lined up as the every down WILB when the Cowboys opened the season against the New York Jets. It was a bigger surprise when he responded by racking up 12 total tackles and an interception in that game, and it was an even bigger surprise when he spent the next two weeks terrorizing opponents and making those IDP owners who were lucky enough to have him on their rosters feel like Christmas came early.

Yes, his four total tackles in Week 4 were a bit of a downer, but it happens, and with 35 stops and two picks through four weeks Lee is the leading candidate to be this year’s Desmond Bishop, the sort of out-of-nowhere IDP LB stud that helps win teams titles.

JE: Another in a long line of productive Penn State linebackers (Pop quiz: Name 5 other Penn state LB’s currently playing as starters in the league right now. Answers to follow!) Donald Butler went down on IR fairly early on in his rookie year in 2010. It was no small injury either but one that strikes dread into any professional athlete.

In 2011 we weren’t sure exactly what sort of player we were going to see come back from that perilous Achilles Tendon injury. A lot of players just aren’t the same. Fortunately, Butler seems to be one of the exceptions and long may that continue.

A clear-out of sorts in San Diego has paved the way for relevance for Butler. Chalk another one up for “Linebacker U” as Butler keeps pace with Patrick Willis through his first 4 games of 2011 and is a top 10 linebacker moving forwards.

Pop Quiz Answer: Navorro Bowman, Paul Posluszny, Sean Lee, Tamba Hali & Dan Connor.


Defensive Backs

JE: I’m not going to mention anyone by the name McCourty here … They should already be owned and are performing exactly as they should be.

A guy who has played above and beyond his ADP at the start of the season however is one Jairus Byrd.

Jairus had a sophomore slump. No arguments. He battled injuries and poor form throughout 2010 and that depressed his value coming into 2011. With a gunslinger like Fitzpatrick and a defense that hasn’t yet earned the right to be able to close out games on behalf of the offense (yet) it was only natural the position would yield tasty morsels from the table.

Byrd is currently tackling at the same rate as players like Sean Lee, James Laurinaitis & Rolando McClain. Not bad for a Free Safety, eh?

GD: There’s so much inconsistency from season to season at the defensive back position that I’d be hard pressed to call much of anything a surprise at this point, but even I have to admit that I’m taken aback by the sorts of gaudy numbers being posted by Baltimore Ravens cornerback
Lardarius Webb through four games of the 2011 campaign.

In Webb’s first two games of the season he generated IDP production by making tackles, recording a ridiculous 21 total tackles (with 18 solos) in his first two starts. In Week 3, the tackles dried up a bit, so he picked off his first pass of the year. The tackles dried up even more in Week 4, so the third year pro upped the ante by returning his second interception of the season for a touchdown.

As I said, defensive backs are notoriously inconsistent, so this ride may well not last, but the fact remains that Webb presently trails only Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett among fantasy defensive backs in Default IDP Manor Scoring, and if you’re in an IDP league that requires cornerbacks he’s been worth his weight in gold.

Gold, Jerry….GOLD!

JE: I hope Reggie Nelson won’t mind me saying that he’s always flattered to deceive. The former 1st rounder hasn’t ever really set the world alight or played up to his potential. Whether it’s the change of scenery … whether Bob Zimmer (the Cincy Defensive Coordinator) has lit a fire under him I know not.

What I can tell you is the guy is actually “tackling”, something I haven’t really seen him do since college where he was known as “the eraser”. Any commitment issues seem to be gone.

Oh wait, it’s a contract year … shock.

Forget his questionable attitude as he has first round talent and he’s gaming right now for the Bengals as the former first round bust angles for his next pay-day, so make sure you get yourself some too.

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FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.