It’s getting to be that time of year.
As the calendar turns to November for a great many IDP owners – the ones with 4-4 or 3-5 teams – it’s the time in the fantasy campaign where each week becomes its own mini-season. Win, and playoff hopes stay alive. Lose, and it’s possible that by the time Week 15 rolls around the only thing you’ll have to worry about keeping hot are Christmas cookies.
I like a good snickerdoodle, but to each their own.
In other words, the margin for error is all but non-existent. And with a second straight six-team bye week looming in Week 9 some fantasy owners are in panic mode trying to figure out how to plug holes in the lineup.
Relax. Take a breath. If you pass out who will set your lineup.
However, even this late in the season there’s still some fruit left on the old IDP vine. And while these players may not be game-changers, they are at least capable of keeping you in the game this week.
And who knows? One of them may just be the difference between a win and a loss.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Dont’a Hightower – ILB, New England Patriots
Yes, there are six teams on a bye in Week 9. Yes, the Patriots are one of those teams — meaning that Hightower won’t be of any help to fantasy owners in the short-term. However, this isn’t about the short-term — and there’s a really good reason why Hightower should easily be atop waiver priority lists in any and every IDP league in which he is available.
Monday’s stunning trade of Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns sent shockwaves through the defenses on both ends. And in Beantown that means that Hightower will now be counted on not to play on every down, but also to anchor the Patriots LB corps. Frankly, the 26-year-old should already be rostered. But if he isn’t, we’re talking the very real possibility of plucking a potential LB1 off the waiver wire.
These are the acquisitions that win leagues, people.
WEEK 9 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Adrian Clayborn – DE, Atlanta Falcons
There was a time not too long ago when Clayborn was considered a rising young pass-rusher – a versatile defensive lineman in the Michael Bennett mold capable of getting after the quarterback from both the end and tackle spots. Then injuries started taking a toll, and Clayborn’s light faded a bit.
Well, of late the sixth-year veteran’s brights are on again.
Clayborn was a big part of the Falcons big win over the Packers in Week 8, posting three tackles and adding two sacks. That outing gave Clayborn 10 stops and 3.5 sacks over the past month, production that places him near the top of the defensive lineman rankings over that span.
Star Lotulelei – DT, Carolina Panthers
As Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reported, Lotulelei was glad to see the Carolina pass rush finally come together in Week 8. “The rush and coverage working together – we’ve been harping on that all year. And it finally worked out. It finally happened,” Lotulelei said. “The coverage gave us the time we needed to get there and I feel like we did a great job of working together as a defensive front.”
Of course, Lotulelei was the biggest reason that Carolina pass rush thrived against the Arizona Cardinals, notching three of the team’s eight sacks and forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Thomas Davis – music to the ears of fantasy owners in DT-required formats who have Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins on a bye this week.
Nigel Bradham – LB, Philadelphia Eagles
After his second arrest since July earlier this month for having a loaded gun at the airport, Bradham admitted to Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com that he’d become the last thing NFL teams want – a distraction. “You never want to be a distraction. Obviously, that is what happened with the two instances,” he said.
Bradham also allowed that a league-mandated vacation may be in his future. “I don’t know, but it’s definitely a possibility. I’m sure they are going to [both incidents] into account,” Bradham said. “But I’m just blessed to be here.”
Still, Bradham hasn’t been suspended yet, and while his off-field troubles may be a distraction on the field Bradham’s become an every-down linebacker for the Eagles. This week’s matchup against the Giants isn’t ideal, but hey – neither is having half a dozen teams taking Week 9 off.
Malcolm Smith – LB, Oakland Raiders
Smith is one of the numerous players who have raised a fist during the national anthem this season, something he told the San Jose Mercury-News he intends to continue doing. “We mentioned it, but honestly we haven’t talked too much about it in detail,” Smith said. “Everybody’s focused on the game. The last thing I want to do is distract us from game-planning and preparing, so I’m going to go about things just a similar way as last week and continue to pay respect and also recognize the issues at hand.”
Politics aside, Smith has also emerged from the LB carousel in Oakland as the most dependable IDP option. Smith’s six solos against the Buccaneers in Week 8 isn’t an eye-popping stat line, but Oakland’s opponent next Sunday night (the Denver Broncos) have given up some big games to linebackers of late.
Robert Blanton – S, Buffalo Bills
With Aaron Williams out with a neck injury in Week 8 against the New England Patriots, it was Blanton who was called on to start at safety for the Bills. And from a fantasy standpoint at least, the fifth-year pro fared well. Very well, in fact – Blanton led the team with 10 total tackles (including seven solos) in a 41-25 loss.
The stat line in and of itself isn’t shocking – Blanton showed the ability to be an IDP-relevant defensive back during his time with the Minnesota Vikings. Given the scary nature of Williams’ injury and his history of neck problems, he isn’t going to be back any time soon. And so long as Blanton’s in there, he merits a spot on IDP rosters.
Daniel Sorensen – S, Kansas City Chiefs
As Pete Prisco of CBS Sports pointed out, Sorensen is the latest NFL safety to find success playing as a nickel linebacker. “Sorensen is the latest to be used as a buck linebacker in nickel situations — and excel,” Prisco wrote. “Sorensen doesn’t actually line up at safety, but is used almost entirely in the box as an extra linebacker. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he isn’t big but is tough enough to hold up in the run game when it’s coming at him. He’s a nice pawn on that defense.”
Sorensen doesn’t play full-time (47 of 66 snaps in Sunday’s win over Indianapolis), but Week 8 marked his second straight big game (seven stops, FF) and third straight decent stat line. With the Jacksonville Jaguars likely to be playing from behind Sunday, the Chiefs will be spending plenty of time in the nickel – and that means snaps for Sorensen.