Injuries are a fact of life, both in the NFL and fantasy football.
But some weeks, it feels like the universe is actively attempting to injure as many players as possible.
That was the case on the defensive side of the ball in Week 10. It started on Thursday night, when Arizona Cardinals safety Tyvon Branch, who entered Week 10 leading all NFL defensive backs in tackles, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the first quarter of Arizona’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
It was only the beginning.
On Sunday morning, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (fifth in fantasy points among DL entering the week in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring) and Chicago Bears inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (third in fantasy points per game among linebackers over the last month) were both late scratches. In the early games Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Jamie Collins left with what wound up being a season-ending MCL injury. The late slate saw Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys depart after hurting his hamstring.
And by no means is that list complete.
All those injuries have opened doors of opportunity for some players to see an increase in playing time. But they’ve also left a significant number of IDP owners scrambling to fill holes in their rosters just as the fantasy playoff push gets underway in earnest.
So, let’s see if we can’t plug a few of those holes – beginning with Branch’s replacement in the desert.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Budda Baker – S, Arizona Cardinals
Arizona’s second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Baker will be asked to fill Branch’s shoes at strong safety the rest of the way. Teammate Tyrann Mathieu told Darren Urban of the team’s website he believes Baker is up to the task. “When I put on his tape and watched his highlights, you know, most people’s highlight tape is just their best plays,” Mathieu said. “But for him, he made some exciting plays. He’s a rookie, he’s going to have his ups and downs with the playbook. But we’re not asking him to be our signal-caller.”
The Cardinals will be asking a lot from the youngster – defensive coordinator James Bettcher uses his safeties both aggressively and in varied ways. Baker lined up wrong a couple of times against Seattle, but by the time the dust settled he led the Redbirds with nine total tackles. Baker may not be able to match Branch’s top-five IDP production, but if he comes anywhere close he, could be a game-changer for the teams who snare him off the wire.
WEEK 11 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Adrian Clayborn – DE, Atlanta Falcons
As Nick Shook wrote for NFL.com, to say that Clayborn had a day with his six sacks against the Dallas Cowboys is an understatement – and then some. “For some perspective,” he said, “Clayborn recorded 7.5 sacks combined between 2015-2016, had two entering today’s game and hadn’t cracked six in a season since his rookie campaign of 2011, when he was with Tampa Bay. His performance was statistically fantastic and even better on tape, but shouldn’t be expected frequently. After the game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones droned on about the “wide nine” alignment Atlanta employed with Clayborn (and others), but the alignment wasn’t the key to his success. It was more about the inadequacy of Dallas’ left tackles, with most of the focus being on Green, who was benched in the fourth quarter.”
Clayborn, who earned $750,000 in contract incentives with his explosion against Dallas, had two sacks entering Week 10. Before the week began he was 114th in fantasy points among defensive linemen. And obviously we aren’t going to see another game like that from him, well, ever. But any time a player jumps over 100 spots in the fantasy rankings in one game you rather have to take notice – especially with a highly favorable pass-rush matchup with the Seattle Seahawks on tap in Week 11.
Anthony Zettel – DE, Detroit Lions
Per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions didn’t miss a beat in last week’s win over the Cleveland Browns despite Ezekiel Ansah missing the game. “Ansah missed Sunday’s game with a back injury,” Birkett wrote, “and the Lions were just fine with Anthony Zettel playing right defensive end. Zettel was credited with just one sack, but he gift-wrapped a sack for Cornelius Washington in the third quarter and probably deserved a half-sack on Washington’s second of the game. The Lions have some issues up front, but Zettel has made big strides in his second year.”
It’s happened with next to no fanfare, but Zettel’s been better than Ansah even when both are on the field this season. He has 29 total tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble in his second season, including nine stops and two sacks over his last two games. Also, if your IDP league is hosted at Yahoo Zettel has positional eligibility as a defensive tackle, affording the 25-year-old more than a little “loophole” value in leagues that require that position.