Let’s get ready to rumble, kids.
With the Denver Broncos 21-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers Thursday night, the 2016 NFL season is officially underway. It’s a game that offered plenty of storylines for IDP owners, including the first outings of the season for a couple of elite fantasy options.
Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly didn’t disappoint, tallying 10 solos and a TFL. Denver’s Brandon Marshall started hot but was a non-factor late, getting out-pointed by batterymate (and IDP waiver wire target) Todd Davis. However, Marshall did manage six solos, a serviceable stat line for fantasy owners.
That game is only the tip of the iceberg. This first weekend of the 2016 NFL season features a full 16-game slate – including a possible Super Bowl preview Sunday night and a pair of Monday night affairs.
It also features the pressure of a new fantasy season – the fervent desire to get a new campaign off to the right start. And that pressure often leads IDP owners to commit a common and easily avoidable gaffe – getting cute.
Guys and gals, you drafted the players you did for a reason. At least I hope you did. This ain’t the week to go overthinking matchups. Yes, NaVorro Bowman and the San Francisco 49ers play a Rams team Monday night that allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to linebackers in 2015. But that doesn’t mean sitting Bowman in favor of an option with a better matchup (like Blake Martinez of the Green Bay Packers) isn’t all kinds of nuts.
There will plenty of time to pour over matchups and get twitchy with lineups in October. For now, the best course of action is to dance with who brought you – trot out your studs.
With that in mind, it’s time for the first edition of IDP Studs and Duds for the 2016 season. Hard to believe this is my eighth year of writing this column, including six here at Fantasy Sharks. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Each week during the 2016 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).
Now let’s get after it!
Numbers in parentheses denote ranking in fantasy points allowed to that position in 2015 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
IDP START OF THE WEEK
Blake Martinez – ILB, Green Bay Packers (at JAX)(3): The rookie from Stanford will not only start in a highly-favorable matchup with the Jaguars, but Martinez has emerged as the only true every-down linebacker for the Packers after an impressive training camp and preseason.
Martinez told Wes Hodkiewicz of the team’s website he has no intention of betraying the faith his coaches have shown. “I like the kind of pressure and the added understanding of the defense that it gives me,” Martinez said. “I’m taking it well.”
We’ll see if he backs it up Sunday.
Brandon Graham – DE, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. CLE) (14): If you’ve seen the Browns’ revamped offensive line in the preseason, then you know why I’m high on all the Eagles’ D-linemen in Week 1. Whether it’s Graham, Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin or (of course) Fletcher Cox, the Browns have the makings of a “Start ‘Em if You’ve Got ‘Em” pass rush matchup in 2016.
Danielle Hunter – DE, Minnesota Vikings (at TEN) (2): Hunter has received more than a little run as an IDP sleeper this summer, including from this writer. Week 1 offers the second-year pro a great chance to hit the ground running, as no team in the National Football League allowed more sacks in 2015 than the Tennessee Titans.
Mario Williams – DE, Miami Dolphins (at SEA) (1): “Super Mario” wasn’t so super in 2015, but he told Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post Miami’s scheme is tailor made for his game. “Everything is that much sweeter as far as the mentality of this defense and the mentality of our players,” Williams said. “You’re giving us the green light.” A great matchup with the Seahawks is a green light to get Williams in IDP lineups.
Kwon Alexander – ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at ATL) (2): It was forgotten by many after Alexander was suspended for the last four games of the 2015 season, but early last year he was routinely posting better stat lines than Lavonte David. With a top-three matchup to open the season, both young linebackers need to be in Week 1 lineups against the Falcons.
Jonathan Casillas – OLB, New York Giants (at DAL) (4): Heading into a favorable matchup with their NFC East rivals, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo talked up Casillas’ every-down skills while speaking to Dan Duggan of NJ.com. “He seems like a guy that’s really taken ownership of the defense and the team,” McAdoo said.
Zach Orr – ILB, Baltimore Ravens (at BUF) (8): Another young linebacker who parlayed a good camp and solid preseason into a starting job, Orr will open the season as the Ravens’ starter opposite C.J. Mosley in a top-10 fantasy matchup with the run-heavy Bills in a stadium (in Buffalo) that might well possess the most generous scorekeepers in the league.
Mike Adams – S, Indianapolis Colts (vs. DET) (3): The Colts will start rookie (T.J. Green) at safety next to Adams, and another first-year player in Antonio Morrison at inside linebacker in front of him. That should mean more than a few tackle opportunities for Adams in a nice fantasy matchup. This game has shootout written all over it.
Reggie Nelson – S, Oakland Raiders (at NO) (4): You may want to sit down, because I’m about to drop a revelation on you. The New Orleans Saints throw the ball a lot, and as such they have been known to give up big games to opposing safeties. That sets the table for a big number from Nelson in his first start in the silver and black.
Shawn Williams – S, Cincinnati Bengals (at NYJ) (6): The Bengals let the aforementioned Reggie Nelson depart in free agency largely because the organization trusted that Williams was ready to step into the starting lineup. The former Alabama star will have every chance to make a good first impression against a Jets team that allowed a lot of fantasy points to DBs in 2015.