As I’m sure you already know, the running back position in fantasy football was ravaged by injuries in Week 2. Danny Woodhead of the San Diego Chargers is done for the year. So is Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and Ameer Abdullah of the Detroit Lions – at least so far as fantasy leagues are concerned. Miami’s Arian Foster, Tampa’s Doug Martin and Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart will all be watching Week 3’s games from the sidelines.
The defensive side of the ball wasn’t spared from this onslaught of injuries either – especially in Detroit. Star defensive end Ezekiel Ansah lasted all of three snaps last week before spraining his ankle. Outside linebacker DeAndre Levy missed Week 2 altogether, and there are rumblings his season may be over.
Combine injuries like that with players who haven’t come close to hitting expectations like Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, and more than a few IDP owners are sitting at 0-2 and freaking out.
Two weeks ago in this column, I cautioned against getting cute with lineup decisions. This week’s warning is to resist letting panic dictate them as well. Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has been a big disappointment this season, with only eight total tackles through two games. It might be tempting to consider sitting Jackson this week in favor of a player who has been hot early.
But Jackson has led the AFC in total stops in each of the past two seasons, and this week he faces a San Diego Chargers team that allowed the most fantasy points to linebackers in 2015. You think you’re pulling hair out now? Wait until you sit a stud player just before he snaps out of a funk.
Is it guaranteed he will? Nope. But sometimes all you can do is trust that you drafted the players you did for a reason. Two weeks just isn’t enough time in some cases to judge whether a player’s perceived value in some cases was built on smoke and mirrors or if he’s just getting out of the gate a little slow.
If it makes you feel any better, I’m right there with you. It’s been a brutal start. But all we can do is dust ourselves off and get back after it with another week of IDP Studs and Duds here at Fantasy Sharks.
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).
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
Zachary Orr – ILB, Baltimore Ravens (at JAX)
As Ryan Mink of the Ravens website wrote, Orr’s play for the 2-0 Ravens has impressed head coach John Harbaugh. “I saw a guy running around, playing really fast – really fast,” Harbaugh said of Orr. “He knows what he is doing – man, zone coverage, run game – and he runs to the ball. He is like a lightning bolt out there. That is really valuable to the defense.”
Orr was a solid producer for IDP owners last week as well, piling up 10 total tackles (including seven solos) in Baltimore’s come-from-behind win over the Cleveland Browns. The third-year pro should make it two big outings in a row this week against the Jaguars, who ranked No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to linebackers in 2015 and sit in that same spot so far this season.
WEEK 3 IDP STUDS
Devin Taylor – DE, Detroit Lions (at GB): Taylor made my Start of the Week recommendation in Week 2 look very good, banging out seven total tackles, 1.5 sacks and tackling DeMarco Murray for a safety. Through two games, Taylor is the No. 2 defensive lineman in fantasy football, and the Packers are a top-five IDP matchup dating back to last year. Ride the hot hand.
Mario Williams – DE, Miami Dolphins (vs. CLE): Williams pulled one of his maddening disappearing acts last week against the Patriots, but savvy IDP owners will get over that one-stop effort PDQ. Sunday Williams faces a reeling Cleveland Browns team with a porous offensive line and Cody freaking Kessler starting at quarterback.
Derek Wolfe – DE, Denver Broncos (at CIN): Wolfe had himself a game in Week against the Colts, with a four-tackle, 1.5 sack performance that had fans saying “Malik, who?” There’s a good chance Wolfe will keep the good times rolling Sunday in Cincinnati against a Bengals offensive line that appears to have taken a big step backward relative to last year.
Jerrell Freeman – ILB, Chicago Bears (at DAL): The thumb injury suffered by quarterback Jay Cutler may have stolen all the headlines, but Chicago also lost inside linebacker Danny Trevathan in last week’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. That leaves precious little competition for stops for Freeman when the Bears visit Big D on Sunday night.
Gerald Hodges – ILB, San Francisco 49ers (at SEA): Once Ray-Ray Armstrong left last week’s loss to Carolina, Hodges stepped into an every-down role and responded with double-digit tackles. Armstrong was placed on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle earlier this week, opening the door for Hodges to continue racking up stats in Seattle Sunday afternoon.
Sio Moore – ILB, Indianapolis Colts (vs. SD): After racking up 13 tackles in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, Moore’s production fell way off in last week’s loss to the Broncos. However, just as with D’Qwell Jackson Week 3 sets up well for Moore to rebound – a favorable matchup in front of a generous home stat crew in a must-win game for the Colts.
Eric Berry – S, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. NYJ): Many fantasy owners are likely leery of starting Berry Sunday after missing practice early in the week with a swollen knee – especially after a pair of so-so statistical efforts to open the season. However, Berry is expected to be fine against the Jets, who have been a top-six fantasy matchup for defensive backs dating back to 2015.
David Bruton – S, Washington Redskins (at NYG): Despite a decent statistical start to the season, Bruton told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he’s working hard to improve in advance of a top-three IDP matchup with Big Blue. “I know what I have to work on, and I’m continuously doing that,” Bruton said “whether it’s extra time on the field or in the meeting room.” This week sets up well for that work to pay off.
Kemal Ishmael – S, Atlanta Falcons (at NO): With the Falcons not playing until Monday and Keanu Neal potentially making his Falcons debut in Week 3, this isn’t a play for the faint of heart. However, Ishmael’s been the top-scoring DB in fantasy football so far this year, and even if Neal plays I think Ishmael will see the field enough in this juicy matchup to have one more big game.