It’s decision time.
With six NFL teams on a bye again in Week 9, every roster spot in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues is critical – especially if you’re 4-4 or 3-5 and fighting to keep your season afloat. That means it’s time for some hard choices regarding whether to hang on to struggling players taking the week off or bid them adieu.
A week ago at this time, it might have been the latter with New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who has battled nagging injuries all year long. But in last week’s loss to Atlanta, Wilkerson had his best game of the year, piling up five solos and notching his first sack of 2017.
It’s a similar dilemma with Los Angeles Chargers inside linebacker Jatavis Brown. In each of the first three games of the year, Brown amassed at least 10 total tackles. But the second-year pro has been playing through an ankle injury that has limited his snaps and killed his statistical productivity.
Then there’s San Francisco safety Eric Reid, who actually isn’t even on his bye in Week 9. Reid made an appearance in this column last week amid reports San Francisco was moving him to linebacker. But even with rookie Reuben Foster on the shelf Sunday against Philadelphia, Reid played less than half of San Francisco’s snaps.
He’d seem an easy cut – except for the fact that Jimmie Ward’s broken arm could lead San Francisco to consider flipping Reid back to his natural position.
After finally showing signs of life, Wilkerson’s a hold if at all possible – a Pro Bowl talent at a position where depth can be hard to come by. Brown’s less of a certainty, but he’s also worth hanging onto if possible in the hopes that the off week will help him heal up.
Reid’s a toss-up – if you have the room and want to see what happens that’s fine, but no sleep should be lost over showing him the door.
Now that we’ve freed up a roster spot or two (perhaps), let’s take a look at the top IDPs to target on the waiver wire in Week 9.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Mychal Kendricks, OLB, Philadelphia
With Jordan Hicks out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles, Kendricks has been pressed into every-down duty again in Philadelphia. Head coach Doug Pederson told David Hennessey of Eagles Wire that he expects Kendricks to take full advantage of that opportunity.
“It’s a great opportunity for Mychal Kendricks,” Pederson said on Friday. “And he’s been a big part of the success on defense already this year, and I know his role’s limited because of the style of offenses. You know, a lot of nickel and dime personnel on defense and obviously he was the guy coming out. But now this is a big opportunity for him. I fully expect him to rise to the occasion.”
If the last three games are any indication, Kendricks is more than up to the task. Over that span Kendricks has piled up 24 tackles and 18 solos – and that’s with the 27-year-old sitting out Week 7 with a bad hamstring.
WEEK 8 IDP TARGETS
Henry Anderson, DE, Indianapolis
As Stephen Holder wrote for the Indy Star, Anderson had his best game in a long while in Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati.
“(Indianapolis has) been waiting to see whether the Anderson (it) once knew would reemerge,” Holder said. “Anderson burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2015, forcing offensive lines to account for him as both a pass rusher and run stopper. He was on his way to an All-Rookie season, it appeared, before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. That injury reduced Anderson to a shell of himself in 2016, but we’ve been steadily seeing improvement from the third-year pro in 2017. And on Sunday, Anderson’s comeback seemed to reach its apex.”
Anderson, who also made an appearance in this column last week, exploded for seven tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and a blocked field goal against Cincinnati, placing him inside the Top 5 defensive linemen for the week in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
This week, the Colts face a Houston team giving up the most fantasy points to defensive linemen this year.
Vinny Curry, DE, Philadelphia
Philadelphia is 7-1 after smoking San Francisco in Week 8, but head coach Doug Pederson told Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press that there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
‘‘These guys are so eager now to get back on the practice field Wednesday, kind of redeem themselves a little bit,’’ Pederson said. ‘‘Got another opportunity Sunday against a good football team to get back on track that way. You score 33 points and you feel like – listen, it’s not a loss, obviously, but you can feel that way sometimes individually in your performance.’’
Curry held up his end in the game, posting a season-high five solos and a sack in 32 snaps. The 29-year-old has just two sacks this season, and his rotational role adds a measure of risk to trusting him in IDP leagues. But in half of his games this season Curry has piled up at least four solos.
With six teams on a bye you could do worse in a pinch.
Cory James, ILB, Oakland
The big story in Oakland on defense of late has been the acquisition of veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman, but while it didn’t receive the same fanfare the Oakland defense had another new addition at linebacker Sunday in Buffalo.
OK, actually it was an old addition back in the lineup.
For the first time since injuring his knee back in Week 5, Cory James was back on the field for Oakland playing 49 of a possible 58 snaps. The second-year pro led the team with eight solos, and was second to Bowman in total stops.
In each of his last two full games before the injury, James hit the 10-tackle mark, and while the presence of Bowman means more competition for tackles, the 24-year-old showed against Buffalo that he still has more than a little IDP value of his own.