The 2016 fantasy football season has been an object lesson in the universe reminding us all how much we don’t know.
Despite his injured back, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt entered 2016 atop most pundits IDP draft boards. Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders was the only defensive lineman considered to be anywhere near Watt’s league.
Well, Watt re-injured his back and is on injured reserve. Mack got off to a slow start and just now crept back into the top 15. And a young end who wasn’t even the first off draft boards on his own team (Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings) is top dog at the position six weeks in.
The madness hasn’t been confined to the defensive front, either. NaVorro Bowman of the San Francisco 49ers, my No. 1 player at the position this year, tore his Achilles. Another top-five player in the preseason (LaVonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) is 63rd at his position in terms of fantasy points per game.
It’s his teammate (Kwon Alexander) who leads the league in that regard, followed by a player who wasn’t the first linebacker with his surname on the Buffalo Bills drafted in most IDP leagues.
And the defensive backs? Well, they’re defensive backs – so of course they’ve been a mess.
Still, just because things haven’t gone according to plan is no excuse not to keep going. All we can do is dust ourselves off, apply what we’ve learned so far this season and get after it again in Week 7 – because even fantasy teams who have struggled still have time to turn things around.
And with that in mind, it’s time for another edition 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
Jurrell Casey – DE, Tennessee Titans (vs. IND)
After a slow start to the 2016 season Casey has heated up of late, notching three sacks over his past two games. Head coach Mike Mularkey told John Glennon of the Tennessean he thinks the sixth-year veteran is only just getting started.
“Well, they know they’ve been close, especially Jurrell (Casey),” Mularkey said. “He’s tough to block, and he knows he’s been close. Nothing has deterred him to keep bringing it. It was good to see him get a couple.
There are a couple of reasons to believe that Mularkey could be on to something. Only two teams in the NFL have given up more fantasy points per game to defensive linemen than the Colts, and only three have allowed the quarterback to be pressured on a higher percentage of plays.
WEEK 7 IDP STUDS
Geno Atkins – DT, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. CLE) (4): Atkins should feast in the Battle of Ohio Sunday. Not only are the Browns a top-five fantasy matchup on the defensive line, but Cleveland guard Joel Bitonio was recently placed on IR and center Cameron Erving has spent most of this season practicing to be a matador.
DeForest Buckner – DE, San Francisco 49ers (vs. TB) (5): As Rotowire pointed out, the Niners have wasted little time turning their first round pick in the 2016 draft loose. “He was on the field for 73 of the 49ers’ 79 defensive snaps (against Buffalo) as the team takes the training wheels off of their first-round draft pick,” they said. “If Sunday’s performance is a sign of things to come for Buckner, then he would become an IDP factor with his ability to rack up tackles and get to the quarterback.”
Cameron Jordan – DE, New Orleans Saints (at KC) (6): Jordan’s been hot of late, with 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks over his past three games. Look for that hot streak to continue Sunday in Arrowhead against a Chiefs team that’s allowing both the sixth-most fantasy points to defensive linemen and the sixth-most sacks this season.
Cory James – ILB, Oakland Raiders (at JAX) (2): With just nine tackles over his last two games, James in mired in something of a rookie slump. However, if ever there was a matchup that looks to be a slump-buster it’s this week against the Jaguars – only the Colts have been kinder to fantasy linebackers so far this season.
Albert McClellan – ILB, Baltimore Ravens (at NYJ) (3): This one comes with a caveat, in that CJ Mosley has to sit for McClellan to have value. Mosley didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday however, and if his balky hamstring keeps him out another week McClellan should be a solid spot start for the second week in a row.
Avery Williamson – ILB, Tennessee Titans (vs. IND) (1): Casey won’t be the only beneficiary of this week’s AFC South matchup. In fact, things look even better for Williamson – the Colts are presently perched atop the NFL both in fantasy points allowed overall to IDPs and fantasy points surrendered to linebackers.
Antoine Bethea – S, San Francisco 49ers (vs. TB) (1): Bethea has a perfect storm matchup this week. The linebacker situation in front of him is as shaky as shaky gets, and no team in the league has been friendlier to defensive backs this season than the Buccaneers. There isn’t a defensive back in the league I like more in Week 7.
Earl Thomas – S, Seattle Seahawks (at ARI)(3): As Dave Boling of the Tacoma News-Tribune reports, head coach Pete Carroll lauded Thomas after he sealed last week’s win over the Atlanta Falcons. “Earl’s really been hot lately,” Carroll said. “He’s been in the right spot a bunch.” Hopefully that hot streak will continue in Sunday’s big NFC West showdown.
Eric Weddle – S, Baltimore Ravens (at NYJ) (2): Weddle’s been in funk of late – less than five solos in every game since his Week 4 concussion. This week sets up well to heat him up though – the Jets lead the AFC in fantasy points surrendered to defensive backs this year, and Geno Smith at quarterback could well mean some tasty pickage.