The number of reasons for fantasy owners to turn to the waiver wire just keeps growing.
Injuries are an unfortunate part of life in the NFL, and in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues, the list of walking wounded is already alarmingly long. In this past week alone we saw a Top 10 defensive lineman (Minnesota’s Everson Griffen), Top 10 linebacker (Dallas’ Sean Lee), and Top 10 defensive back (Miami’s Reshad Jones) either go down or sit out in Week 3.
The number of injuries to prominent IDPs already this year is mind-boggling.
Tell ’em, Ethan.
There are also under-performers who must be dealt with, like Arizona linebacker Deone Bucannon, who has gone from a fantasy LB2 to wire fodder after falling completely out of favor with coaches and playing just a single defensive snap in last week’s loss to Chicago. Washington’s Zach Brown isn’t in a hole that deep, but he’s been on the field for fewer snaps than battery-mate Mason Foster — less than 75 percent.
There’s also the matter of the bye weeks. No one’s cutting Carolina’s Luke Kuechly loose because the team’s off in Week 4. But in shallower IDP leagues Brown might be another story, and in any event fantasy owners need subs for Carolina or Washington on the roster.
Whether any of these unpleasant necessities has you hitting the waiver wire or you’re just looking to improve your squad, here’s a look at some of the top targets available in Week 4.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Duke Riley, ILB, Atlanta Falcons
“The next step for me is to take this next practice and go all out and do what I can,” Riley said. “I’m not even worried about the next game yet. I’m worried about improving today. The more reps I get, the better I’ll be. The story is always going to flip around. It always has done that throughout my life, so I know it will. I just keep digging. I keep doing what I do.”
Riley’s been hit-or-miss from an NFL perspective, making a tackle on one play only to whiff or get beaten in coverage the next. But it’s hard to argue with his production over that span — over the last two weeks he’s amassed 21 total tackles (including 14 solos) in games against Carolina and New Orleans. He’s a viable third starter at linebacker moving forward.
WEEK 4 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Margus Hunt, DT, Indianapolis
As Zak Keefer wrote for the Indy Star, Hunt continued his strong start with Indianapolis in Week 3 against defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia.
“Week after week,” Keefer said, “Hunt makes (Indianapolis general manager) Chris Ballard look like a smart man. Ballard drew heat for cutting John Simon at the of the preseason; Hunt’s made everyone forget about Simon ever since. He finished with four tackles (three for a loss), a sack, forced a fumble and recovered it in Sunday’s loss. He’s playing the best football of his career, no question, and earning his keep in the 4-3 scheme that fits him so well.”
There’s no denying that Hunt’s tenure with Indianapolis has started out well — the former Cincinnati second-round pick has amassed 10 tackles so far this season and is averaging a sack per game. Hunt was never really able to put it together as a situational player in Cincinnati, but playing full-time in Indianapolis it appears that the light bulb may be coming on for the sixth-year veteran.
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Los Angeles Rams
“He’s got the same mindset — the ultimate goal is to try to win a world championship — that’s the end goal,” Donald said. “So, we’ve got to work towards that and it’s a long process and it’s just the beginning. But, when you’ve got guys like that, that got the same mindset you’ve got, you tend to be happy that those guys are on your team.”
Suh’s impact on his new team didn’t really show on the stat sheet over the first two weeks of the season, but in the Rams’ Week 3 win over the Los Angeles Chargers Suh had three total tackles and the first sack of his tenure in Los Angeles. As Suh acclimates more and more to his new team his numbers are only going to improve — especially with Suh seeing something with the Rams he rarely has to this point in his career … single-team blocks.
Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Dallas
“Vander Esch put in a confidence-building performance and it is something that will serve him well for the future,” he wrote. “That is good news for (Dallas) because (it is) going to be relying on him as the season progresses. Through three weeks, Vander Esch has been a part of a rotating group of linebackers that includes Damien Wilson and Joe Thomas. But with Lee’s availability in question, Vander Esch could become a bigger part of the defense sooner rather than later.”
Vander Esch, who was Dallas’ first-round pick this past April, piled up 11 total stops in his most extensive playing time to date — including nine solos. With the oft-injured Lee now battling a pair of bad hamstrings and expected to miss at least a few games, the future is now at linebacker in Dallas. More big stat lines could follow.