It seems like only yesterday that I was writing the first edition of IDP Studs and Duds for 2016. Heck, it doesn’t feel that long since I wrote the first of these overall – all the way back in 2009 when I was the Head Writer at the newly created Fantasy Football Oasis. But the years have flown by, just as this season has. And with Week 8, we enter the second half of the fantasy regular season.
Maybe things have gone well for your IDP squad. Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter has keyed your front. Buffalo Bills linebacker Zach Brown has piled up the tackles. Arizona Cardinals strong safety Tony Jefferson has followed suit.
Or, perhaps things haven’t quite gone as you’d hoped. The injuries that have decimated the upper echelon of all three IDP positions have taken their toll. Studs haven’t performed up to par. Or maybe you have New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who has managed to do both.
However, unless you’re one of the fortunate few sitting at 7-0 or 6-1 whether things have gone well or poorly every fantasy owner has something in common this time of year. The later in the season it gets, the more important each weekly matchup becomes. The more weight each win carries. And as the games take on more importance, so does every lineup decision – decisions I’m here to help fantasy owners make with 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).
There are a staggering six teams on a bye in Week 7 – Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. Because in addition to all the other problems, having fewer lineup options to choose from just makes things more fun.
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
Christian Kirksey – ILB, Cleveland Browns (vs. NYJ) (2)
Missed tackles have been an issue for Kirksey, who told Matthew Florjancic of WKYC he knows his run defense needs to improve. “It’s the NFL,” Kirksey said. “From you playing from little league to high school to college, you should know how to tackle, so you don’t need to go out there and bang heads each and every time. Obviously, if you do that, you’re going to be wore out by the end of the season. It’s really all about hand placement, techniques, knowing where you’re supposed to be at, gap responsibility and those are the things that will help improve run defense. It’s all about being accountable to your teammates and just being trusted.”
Kirksey’s whiffed more than a few times, but he’s made his fair share as well, pacing the team with 59 tackles so far in 2016. That performance has placed Kirksey inside the top-20 fantasy linebackers, and there should be plenty of opportunities this Sunday against Gang Green.
WEEK 8 IDP STUDS
Adrian Clayborn – DE, Atlanta Falcons (vs. GB) (3): Clayborn is coming off a monster game in last week’s loss to the San Diego Chargers. He was relatively quiet to this point in the season before that explosion, but with Dwight Freeney questionable for Week 8, Clayborn could be looking at an increase in snaps this week in a favorable matchup.
Kony Ealy – DE, Carolina Panthers (vs. AZ) (1): Ealy’s been a massive disappointment to this point in the season, much like the Panthers as a team. The third-year pro and his teammates have had the bye week to get right, and Sunday’s matchup with a Cardinals team struggling in pass protection sets up well for Ealy to get his first sack of 2016.
Rob Ninkovich – DE, New England Patriots (at BUF) (5): Patriots’ DC Matt Patricia told WEEI he expects Ninkovich to play a big role Sunday in Buffalo. “Obviously, Rob has a lot of experience for us,” Patricia said. “He’s been in the position for a while. Experience is a big factor in helping you kind of be able to recognize and decipher plays and scenarios that come up.”
Preston Brown – ILB, Buffalo Bills (vs. NEP) (4): There are any number of reasons to like Brown this week. A top-five fantasy matchup with the Patriots is one. The generousness of the Buffalo scorekeepers is another. Then there’s the small matter of the fact an angry Pats team is going to pound the Bills into a fine red mist.
Demario Davis – ILB, Cleveland Browns (vs. NYJ) (2): It’s a double-dip of Clowns. If Kirksey’s been a pleasant surprise this year, Davis has been something of a disappointment. But in addition to a favorable matchup Sunday in Cleveland, Davis also has the added motivation of taking on the team who cut him loose last year.
Jerrell Freeman – ILB, Chicago Bears (vs. MIN) (7): As defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun Times, Freeman has been a bright spot in a dark season for the Bears. “He’s been a Mike linebacker for a long time in the NFL and CFL,” Fangio said, “so he’s had a lot of snaps as a behind-the-ball linebacker and his experience and play recognition is showing up.”
David Amerson – CB, Oakland Raiders (at TB): It doesn’t take a Mensa member to figure out why the Buccaneers have been a gold mine for defensive backs in 2016. Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston has been prone to turning it over this year, and Winston is targeting wideout Mike Evans an average of 12 times a game.
Tony Jefferson – S, Arizona Cardinals (at CAR) (4): Jefferson has cooled way off after a hot start, with only six tackles over his last two starts combined. However, among defensive backs only Landon Collins of the idle Giants has more tackles this season, and the Panthers are just the sort of matchup that could portend a bounce-back game.
Earl Thomas – FS, Seattle Seahawks (at NO) (1): Thomas hasn’t been lighting up the tackle sheet of late. But the Pro Bowl safety does have an interception in two of his last three games, and in news that should surprise absolutely no one on earth, no team in the NFL allows more fantasy points to defensive backs than the Saints.