It’s go time, folks!
On Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots will kick off the 2015 NFL season, and with it another year of fantasy football. Teams have been drafted. Even as we speak, lineups are being set.
And for some owners, those lineups already have holes in them.
Maybe it’s from injuries that occurred after the dreaded early draft. Maybe a surprise cut left them holding the proverbial bag. Maybe a camp battle didn’t turn out like they planned. Maybe an arrest for public tomfoolery resulted in their missing the draft altogether and they’re trying to cobble together something resembling an actual team from an auto-drafted mess.
Or, maybe they’re just savvy IDP owners always looking to get better, no matter how well the draft might have gone. In any event, if your fantasy league allows a pass of waiver adds before opening night, here’s a look at some options worth considering.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Malcolm Smith – OLB, Oakland Raiders
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio recently told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle he’s been pleased with how well Smith and fellow free agent addition Curtis Lofton have settled in in Oakland. “Malcolm is playing well. Malcolm is a good player, playing well for us and he’s started to provide some leadership,” Del Rio said. “He and Curtis (Lofton) are getting more comfortable in there playing together with one another. Yeah, they’re doing well.”
In fact, Smith did so well that the Raiders cut bait with youngster Sio Moore over the weekend, trading Moore to the Colts for a late-round draft pick. That leaves Smith firmly entrenched as an every-down player on the weak side of an Oakland defense that should see above-average tackle opportunities in 2015.
WEEK 1 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Kony Ealy – DE, Carolina Panthers
When the Carolina Panthers drafted Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy a year ago, it was with the hopes Ealy would at some point replace one of their high-priced starters at the position. It didn’t exactly come to pass as they’d planned, but it appears Ealy’s time is now.
That’s the latest from Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who told Joe person of The Charlotte Observer that Ealy will start opposite Charles Johnson when the Panthers open the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars. “He’s earned the opportunity,” Rivera said . “And I’ve got to say I’ve been very pleased with him the last two weeks.”
A Jaguars team, by the way, that led the NFL in sacks allowed with an eye-popping 72 in 2014.
Danny Shelton – DT, Cleveland Browns
Outside linebacker Paul Kruger played with All Pro Haloti Ngata in Baltimore, and Kruger told Matthew Florjancic of WKYC that he sees some of Ngata in rookie first-round pick Danny Shelton. “We saw that (speed) on tape on him coming out of college,” Kruger said, “and he’s just a big guy who loves the game, and when you see the passion like that, it gets you excited and I think he was coached really well at the same time. The coaches have been drilling to get after the football, especially Coach Weave (Anthony Weaver) has been helping him out in that way, so it’s going to be exciting to see him get out on the field.”
Shelton has impressed in training camp and the preseason, so much so that the Browns bid adieu to Phil Taylor at final roster cuts. Shelton may not ever be much of a big-play option, but the former Washington talent may emerge as a Damon Harrison-type — a high-floor option in IDP leagues the require defensive tackles.
Justin Durant – OLB, Atlanta Falcons
Given all the changes underway on defense in Atlanta this year, the team needs all the leadership they can get. Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich told Andrew Hirsh of the team’s website he’s hopeful the team will get some of that from veteran Justin Durant, who will slot as the Falcons’ every-down starter on the weakside in 2015 — a role that brings with it more than a little IDP upside.
“He’s got some authentic leadership to him,” said Ulbrich. “He’s not a guy who has to try to force it and fake it. He’s a guy that guys—they just look to. In football, things will go bad no matter how good you are, and he’s that guy, that rock for our group. Hopefully for this entire defense, they can look to him when times get tough. And he won’t waver.”
Maybe IDP owners in a pinch at linebacker can look to Durant as well.
Ramik Wilson – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs
Since being drafted by the Chiefs in the fourth round back in May, Wilson told Herbie Toepe of Chiefs’ Digest he’s been hard at work absorbing as much knowledge as possible. “(Linebackers) Coach (Gary) Gibbs, (inside linebackers) Josh Mauga and Derrick Johnson,” Wilson said. “They’ve been coaching me, developing me, teaching me everything about how to play linebacker in the NFL. It’s starting to pay off.”
Well, it would seem that all that hard work has paid off for both Wilson and the Chiefs. The youngster from Georgia has worked his way into the starting lineup opposite Johnson at inside linebacker, and this week Wilson will make his NFL debut in a highly favorable IDP matchup with the Houston Texans.
Will Allen – SS, Pittsburgh Steelers
OK, so about all that talking up I did about Shamarko Thomas over the summer. After getting roasted in coverage on more than one occasion in the preseason, Thomas had some bad news for IDP owners who spent a late pick on him this summer. “The starters are Mike Mitchell and Will Allen,” a disappointed Thomas told F. Dale Lolly of the Observer-Reporter. “I’m just going to do my job and work.”
Granted, no one is going to confuse Allen, a 12th-year journeyman on his third team and second stint in Pittsburgh, with Earl Thomas any time soon. In fact, the 33-year-old has never even had 80 total tackles in a season before. However, a starting strong safety is a starting strong safety, making Allen at the very least worth a look from IDP owners in deeper formats.
Ronald Darby – CB, Buffalo Bills
If you’ve read much of my IDP work here at Fantasy Sharks, then you’ve likely heard me mention the “Rookie Corner Rule.” Simply stated, first-year cornerbacks have a tendency to get hazed in more ways than one. Off the field, they get taped to goal posts. On the field, they get targeted relentlessly by opposing signal-callers. It’s bad news for them and their teams, but excellent news for IDP owners.
Well, the season hasn’t even begun and we already have an excellent candidate for the RCR. With Buffalo Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin sidelined, second-round rookie Ronald Darby has been thrust into the starting lineup when the Bills open the season at home Sunday. Their opponent? Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, who were a top-five fantasy matchup for defensive backs a season ago.
With IDP draft season in high gear, Fantasy Sharks has you covered. Whether it’s 2015 player rankings and projections, waiver wire targets, rookie analysis for dynasty leagues or strategy tips, IDP Staff Writer Walton Spurlin and IDP Senior Staff Writer Gary Davenport have all the information you need to dominate your IDP league in 2015.Also, for the latest IDP news and player updates follow IDP Sharks on Twitter.