“I’ll tell you this. In any fight, it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch. Because that is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face.”
That’s a snippet from Al Pacino’s locker room speech in “Any Given Sunday.” As movies go it isn’t exactly “Citizen Kane.” But it’s also a helluva lot better than the abysmal remake of “The Longest Yard.” And it contains a speech that really gets the blood pumping in football fans.
For those fans, it’s Christmas morning. With Thursday night’s 28-21 win by the New England Patriots over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2015 NFL season is officially underway. No more training camp. No more preseason. It’s go time.
And that means it’s also time for another season of fantasy football. No more basking in last year’s glory. Wallowing in last year’s failures. Every team is tied for first place. And last place. It’s time to crack some heads.
And that means it’s time for another season of IDP Studs and Duds here at Fantasy Sharks.
Each week during the 2015 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 go fight for that inch!
Desmond Bryant – DE, Cleveland Browns (at NYJ): It went largely unnoticed in the fourth circle of football hell known as Cleveland, but Bryant very quietly posted career highs in both tackles and sacks last year. No one’s going to confuse Bryant with J.J. Watt any time soon, but the seventh-year veteran could make for a solid spot-start this week in a highly favorable IDP matchup with Gang Green.
Charles Johnson – DE, Carolina Panthers (at JAX): With Greg Hardy now in Dallas, it will fall to Johnson to anchor the Carolina pass rush against a Jaguars team that allowed an eye-popping 72 sacks in 2014. Teammate Luke Kuechly told ESPN’s David Newton that he thinks Johnson is up to the task. “A veteran guy who has played well and been around for a while,” Kuechly said “one of the leaders on the defense. He does a great job.’’
Olivier Vernon – DE, Miami Dolphins (at WAS): It appears that just like in 2014, when Washington allowed the most fantasy points per game to defensive linemen in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring, that the Kirk Cousins-led Redskins are going to be a highly advantageous fantasy matchup this year. So warm yourself by the glow of the dumpster fire that is the 2015 Redskins.
Thomas Davis – OLB, Carolina Panthers (at JAX): The Jaguars weren’t just an IDP gold mine up front last year—the team also ranked third in fantasy points allowed to opposing linebackers. That’s excellent news for the likes of Kuechly and Davis, who was one of the more interesting late values in IDP drafts this summer. It’s not going to take long for Davis owners to cash in that late-round lottery ticket.
Derrick Johnson – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs (at HOU): I’ve been beating the drum on Johnson all summer long. Yes, he’s 33. Yes, he’s coming off a torn Achilles. But Johnson is fully healthy, and the long-time IDP stalwart should see plenty of opportunities to rack up stats Sunday in Houston against a Texans team that allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to linebackers in 2014.
Telvin Smith – OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. CAR): Sunday’s matchup of ’95 expansion teams may not be Week 1’s most exciting matchup on paper, but there’s plenty to like about the game from an IDP perspective. Such as the fact that the run-heavy Panthers gave up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing linebackers a season ago. Stuff like that.
Corey Graham – SS, Buffalo Bills (vs. IND): As cornerbacks often do late in their careers, Graham made the switch to safety this year, winning the starting job at strong safety for Rex Ryan’s Bills. The 30-year-old is being thrown to the proverbial wolves in his first start at the position against Andrew Luck and the Colts, who were a top-five IDP matchup for defensive backs in 2014.
Tyrann Mathieu – FS, Arizona Cardinals (vs. NO): After an injury-marred 2014, Mathieu told Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he’s eager to get back after it against the Saints. “I’m excited,” Mathieu said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been 100 percent healthy, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and forget about last year and put some new things on the tape.” Given Mathieu’s favorable matchup with Drew Brees and Co., IDP owners should be excited as well.
William Moore – SS, Atlanta Falcons (vs. PHI): Like Mathieu, Moore struggled through an injury-plagued mess of a season a year ago. Not only will Moore’s first shot at redemption come against a Philadelphia Eagles team that allowed the most fantasy points to defensive backs in 2014, but IDP owners get the extra benefit of a player to cheer for on Monday. Don’t lie—you know you want to.