Here we go again.
The 2017 NFL season is underway. Last night, Kansas City and New England kicked things off at Gillette Stadium. On Sunday, 24 more teams will lock horns. The following night four more teams will wrap things up with a Monday night double-dip.
That means another season of fantasy football is upon us. And that means it’s time for another season of IDP (Individual Defensive Player) Studs and Duds here at Fantasy Sharks. Hard though it may be to believe, it’s my seventh – I’ve now written this article well over 100 times.
Hopefully I managed to get a few recommendations right along the way.
As I usually do, I’m going to start off this year’s edition of “Studs and Duds” with a familiar caveat. Week 1 isn’t the time of year to get cute. You drafted the players you did when you did for a reason, and until we have a month or so of the season under our belts we’re working from last season’s matchup info.
A lot can change in an offseason. The “duds” list is relative this time of year, so know going in that sitting a top option with a poor matchup in favor of a so-so one is a play that will backfire as often as not.
With that in mind, let’s get down to it.
Each week during the 2017 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).
Also, thanks to Hurricane Irma and the postponement of Sunday’s game in Miami, we have a first this weekend – two teams with a Week 1 bye. Tampa and Miami are off – not the best of news if you burned an early pick on Kwon Alexander, Kiko Alonso or Lavonte David.
Still, don’t be that guy who complains about his fantasy lineup getting screwed up by a hurricane. As we just saw quite vividly with Harvey in Houston, there are a thousands of people who stand to lose a lot more than a fantasy football matchup.
Stay safe, Florida.
Numbers in parentheses denote ranking in fantasy points allowed to that position in 2016 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
IDP START OF THE WEEK
Vincent Rey, OLB, Cincinnati (vs. Baltimore) (2)
Cincinnati will be without star linebacker Vontaze Burfict for three games thanks to a suspension, but as Geoff Hobson of the team’s website wrote Cincinnati is fortunate to have an experienced Plan B waiting in the wings.
“Veteran Vincent Rey will do what he does and competently and intelligently lead the defense,” Hobson said, “just as he has in the 11 games he’s replaced Burfict in the last two years when Cincinnati is 8-3.”
Not only has Cincinnati won games with Rey in the lineup, but he’s been a productive IDP asset as well. Rey filled in for Burfict the first three games of last season as well, averaging more than seven total tackles a game over that span. With a Top 5 IDP matchup at home against division rival Baltimore on tap, Rey is a great spot starter for fantasy squads who are short a linebacker thanks to an injury or this week’s scheduling snafu.
WEEK 1 IDP STUDS
Mario Addison, DE, Carolina (at San Francisco) (5)
Carolina defensive line coach Eric Washington told ESPN’s David Newton he expects a breakout season from Addison in 2017. “
This guy has yet to tap his full potential,’’ Washington said. “That’s what’s so exciting about it. The arrow is definitely pointing up.’’
A Top 5 matchup with San Francisco to open the year gives him a good chance at a head start on that breakout.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit (vs. Arizona) (1)
I will freely admit that after missing training camp and the preseason with a knee injury Ansah is a risky play – especially after his injury-marred mess of a 2016 season. However, if the 28-year-old is in the starting lineup for Detroit he should be for IDP owners as well – Arizona was a fantasy goldmine for defensive linemen in 2016.
Cameron Heyward, DE, Pittsburgh (at Cleveland) (2)
Last year, Heyward missed more than half the season with a hamstring injury and recorded his fewest sacks since the 2012 season. However, the 28-year-old is healthy again, chomping at the bit to get after it again and gets a Week 1 matchup with rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer and Cleveland. Rookie quarterbacks tend to hold on to the ball too long.
Mark Barron, ILB, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Indianapolis) (1)
Barron told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times that despite sitting out the preseason he’s ready to make his first career start at inside linebacker.
“I’ve got to make it work,” Barron said. “Of course you want to be able to get a whole offseason in and get all those reps, but I had to make sure I felt good for Week 1, so I’m going to make it work.”
I’m inclined to believe him.
A.J. Klein, OLB, New Orleans (at Minnesota) (5)
New Orleans coach Sean Payton told ESPN’s Mike Triplett he’s been impressed from Day 1 with his new strong side linebacker.
“He’s brought a lot of the things that we were looking for, so that’s exciting,” Payton said. “I think one of the elements is being smart and trying to acquire as many guys that understand the game and can diagnose and solve problems. The mental errors and missed assignments, those things will get you beat. It’s an area that we’ve struggled with, quite honestly, in the past.”
Antonio Morrison, ILB, Indianapolis (at Los Angeles Rams) (3)
Make no mistake, Morrison is by no means a finished product as a linebacker. But the second-year pro has improved in coverage enough that Indianapolis handed him an every-down job inside. That’s a good thing this week, when Indianapolis travels to face a Rams team that will certainly try to set up Todd Gurley and the ground game.
Eric Reid, SS, San Francisco (vs. Carolina) (4)
Reid told Joe Fann of the team website that he’s loving his new role as an enforcer at the back of the San Francisco defense.
“It’s awesome to be in an environment where physicality is paramount,” Reid said. “It’s one of my favorite aspects of the sport. Everybody feeds off of each other. When one person makes a big hit, everyone else wants to make the next one.”
Andrew Sendejo, SS, Minnesota (vs. New Orleans) (1)
Per the Twin Cities Star-Tribune, Minnesota defensive coordinator George Edwards talked up Sendejo ahead of a juicy IDP matchup with New Orleans.
“We all have things we got to improve on,” Edwards said. “But he’s got a lot of strengths he brings to the table. “He’s going to do everything you say about a true professional.”
He’s a solid Week 1 play if you stream in the secondary.
Tavon Wilson, SS, Detroit (vs. Arizona) (2)
There’s always a measure of risk in putting too much stock into last year’s numbers – it’s a bit like relying too much on strength of schedule. But it would take an offensive sea change that just doesn’t appear to be there for Arizona to change its IDP spots. They attack down the field – and that keeps opposing defensive backs busy.