Here we go again.
The 2019 season marks my 11th year of writing this column and ninth here at Fantasy Sharks. With any luck it’s been marginally helpful at least twice over that span. If it hasn’t, well…
I do tend to hear that a lot.
The thing is, just about every year the introduction to the Week 1 edition of IDP Studs and Duds contains the same three-word caveat—a warning to IDP owners as a brand new campaign gets underway.
Every single year, plenty of IDP owners shoot themselves in the foot in the early-going for no real reason because they over-think lineup decisions. The reality is that most of the matchup data we use early in the season is from the year before. If you have followed the NFL for any amount of time, you know that a LOT can change from year to year in the National Football League. By October, we may well know that what looked like a gravy matchup to start the year is actually hot garbage—and vice-versa.
This isn’t to say that there’s never, ever a time to consider a matchup play over an IDP drafted as a weekly starter. But those occasions very rarely occur this early in the season.
You drafted the players you did early for a reason. Remember that.
And don’t get cute.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get another season of IDP Studs and Duds here at Fantasy Sharks underway.
Each week during the 2019 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 2018 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
IDP STUD OF THE WEEK
Jerome Baker – OLB, Miami Dolphins (vs. BAL) (6)
After watching Miami head coach Brian Flores have so much success defensively in New England, Baker told Chris Perkins of the Athletic that he’s completely bought into his new coach’s philosophy in his second NFL season.
“Ultimately, it’s Coach Flo,” Baker said. “You just hear it in his voice. ‘This is what I want, it worked. If you want in, go all in.’ And me, it’s like you ain’t gotta tell me twice. I’m all in. Whoever says something, I’m all in, I’m listening because the proof is in the pudding. It works. For me, it’s just buy all in, and anytime they say to do something, just try to focus on that.”
Flores is apparently all-in with Baker as well—the youngster from Ohio State has emerged as Miami’s defensive play-caller and only true every-down linebacker. That’s going to mean a ballistic crapload of tackle opportunities on a bad Miami defense—starting with a favorable IDP matchup at home against the Ravens Sunday.
WEEK 1 IDP STUDS
Marcus Davenport – DE, New Orleans Saints (vs. HOU) (1): Davenport’s rookie year was hampered by injuries, but the 2018 first-rounder has a great chance to start 2019 on the right foot. The Texans allowed both the most sacks in the NFL last year and the most fantasy points to defensive linemen, and trading for Laremy Tunsil isn’t going to magically fix that.
Trey Flowers – DE, Detroit Lions (at ARZ) (8): Flowers hit the jackpot in the offseason with a five-year, $90 million pact from the Lions. He may well hit the jackpot again on Sunday in Arizona—Kyler Murray‘s mobile, but he’s also a first-year quarterback making his first career start behind an offensive line that gave up the fifth-most sacks in the league a year ago.
Jerry Hughes – DE, Buffalo Bills (at NYJ) (3): Hughes got a two-year, $23 million extension from the Bills in the offseason, and the 31-year-old will have a chance to start earning that fat paycheck Sunday against a Jets team that surrendered 37 sacks and the third-most fantasy points per game to defensive linemen in 2018.
Neville Hewitt – ILB, New York Jets (vs. BUF) (2): The last thing an IDP owner wants is to need a spot-starter in the first week of the season. But if you play in a deep league or drafted Jarrad Davis or Avery Williamson, Hewitt could be a solid Week 1 patch playing opposite C.J. Mosley against a Bills team that led the AFC in fantasy points given up to linebackers in 2018.
Nick Vigil – OLB, Cincinnati Bengals (at SEA) (4): It’s been largely forgotten, but Vigil had posted top-10 fantasy numbers over the first month of last season before getting hurt. Vigil’s easily the Bengals best linebacker heading into a highly favorable fantasy matchup with a Seahawks team that’s certain to lean heavily on Chris Carson and the run game.
Devin White – ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. SFO) (1): White was drafted sixth overall in 2019 as the replacement for Kwon Alexander inside in Tampa. He’s a supremely talented, wildly athletic linebacker with a great future who gets a fantastic IDP matchup to open his NFL career. Other than that, the former LSU star is just OK.
Johnathan Abram – S, Oakland Raiders (vs. DEN) (2): Abram’s a big part of the defensive overhaul in Oakland, and he should see plenty of opportunities to produce at the back end of a so-so (at best) Oakland defense. The Broncos didn’t give up much in the way of fantasy points to linebackers last year, but the defensive backs were another story altogether.
Devin McCourty – S, New England Patriots (vs. PIT) (1): McCourty’s one of the better free safeties of his generation, but he’s long been a better NFL player than IDP asset. However, McCourty’s occasionally posted big stat lines when the matchup’s right—and as IDP matchups go it doesn’t get much more right than this primetime tilt with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Adrian Phillips – S, Los Angeles Chargers (at IND) (4): Phillips made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 as a special-teamer, but he’ll be counted on to do a lot more this year with Derwin James on the shelf. Given L.A.’s seemingly constant issues at linebacker, that could set the stage for a breakout season—starting this weekend against the Colts.