Week 3 is upon us and the IDP landscape is still in an uncertain state. The defensive line position is a topsy-turvy mess, as some very big name players have yet to appear on the fantasy landscape. For example, Nick Fairley has more sacks right now, than Jared Allen and Mario Williams COMBINED. That’s all we need to say about that.
Injured and suspended players will begin to make their way back on to the field in the coming weeks, further muddling the situation, but we’ll keep rolling out the hot sleepers each week.
Week 3 brings some very nice matchups in which our lower ranked gems will shine. So, without further ado…
, DE, JACKSONVILLE, at INDIANAPOLIS: The rookie has yet to record a sack and has amassed five total tackles through the first two weeks of the season. The Jaguars head to Indianapolis in week three and Branch is due to break the ice on getting to the quarterback. Look for Branch to have a solid fantasy outing in week three as he has shown better push to the quarterback week-by-week and it pays off against the Colts.
, DE, CHICAGO, vs. ST LOUIS: After swinging and missing with McClellin as a week one sleeper, when he managed only a couple of quarterback hurries, we return the rookie to the list. In week two against the Packers he managed to post 1.5 sacks and four total tackles. Week three brings the Rams and their shaky offensive line to the Windy City. The rookie looks have adjusted to the speed of the NFL and will be chasing down Sam Bradford all day.
, DE, CLEVELAND, vs. BUFFALO: Rucker has posted seven overall tackles in the first two weeks of the season and is a solid run defender. Against the Bengals in week two he added a sack and that is what the Browns were looking for when they signed him this off-season. The week three match up with Buffalo should see Rucker post solid tackle numbers, as well as have the chance to get to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
, DT, OAKLAND, vs. PITTSBURGH: Kelly is solid against the run and the Steelers will show a commitment to pounding the rock in week three. To date in 2012, Kelly has put up six solo tackles and will be a sure bet to add to that total this week. Pittsburgh has allowed eight sacks of Ben Roethlisberger in two games, the offensive line is struggling and that will give Kelly the chance to garner his first sack of 2012.
, DT, ATLANTA, at SAN DIEGO: ‘Babs’ has already notched two sacks in 2012 but is lacking a bit in the tackle totals, with only two solo stops to date. With the banged up state of the Falcons secondary, look for teams to attack Atlanta through the air and for Babineaux to bring plenty of pressure from the middle. He’s extremely strong and has a quick first step to keep offensive linemen off balance. Should Ryan Mathews return in week three, Babineaux could also notch a couple stops as San Diego feeds the ball to their No. 1 back.
, DT, MIAMI, vs. NEW YORK JETS: While Starks failed to put up a sack in week two, after notching two in week one for the Dolphins, he was credited with three QB hits and two QB hurries. He is anchoring the middle of a very stout Miami run defense, totaling eight tackles to date this season. The Jets have only allowed Mark Sanchez to be sacked twice; Starks will use his strength and experience to get after Sanchez all day and I see him adding to that sack total.
, DT, CLEVELAND, vs. BUFFALO: Hughes has seen an uptick in his playing time, first due to the injury to Phil Taylor (pectoral) and then Juqua Parker suffering a sprained foot against the Bengals. Hughes put up six total stops and added a sack in week two and could represent sneaky good fantasy production, thanks to the increase in playing time. The Browns offense is still finding itself and that makes every member of their defense a bit more valuable in terms of fantasy, as they see plenty of action. Monitor the health status of Juqua Parker before pulling the trigger on starting Hughes.
, DE, WASHINGTON, vs. CINCINNATI: This is more of a statement about opportunity, than it is about earning the spot with an impressive season-to-date performance. The Redskins lost both Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo for the season, during their week two loss in St Louis. Jenkins will get one of the first cracks at filling in for Carriker and the Bengals have allowed 10 sacks in two games. Jenkins has struggled to regain the form he flashed before an ACL injury but necessity will dictate that he gets a chance to contribute for the Redskins and fantasy owners.
, DT, BUFFALO, at CLEVELAND: Dareus has started slowly in 2012 and is now playing with a heavy heart after the tragic death of his brother. He notched his first sack last week and added two solos and is too talented to be kept in check by the Browns. With Richardson pounding the ball in week three, Dareus will get his share of tackles, while continuing to bring solid pressure from the middle of the Buffalo defense.
, DT, JACKSONVILLE, at INDIANAPOLIS: Alualu had six solo tackles in week two as the Texans ran all over the Jaguars. He now has 10 total tackles on the season to go along with a sack. He is a bright spot on a floundering Jacksonville defense and will continue to man the middle of the line. The Colts don’t run the ball well but the smart money says they will try to pound the rock a little bit in week three, allowing Luck to take some play-action shots down the field.