IDP leagues, like standard leagues, can be won with some preemptive in-season pickups or trading for emerging players who the masses may not be focused on. Each week, we’ll detail a handful of IDP players or trends that are essential for dynasty players to know about.
Often, things like quarterback hurries, quarterback knockdowns, and snap counts don’t appear in the box scores – these are huge indicators of potential value changes as they show a particular player may getting after the quarterback and a string of sacks could be on the horizon, or a linebacker may be coming off of the field more than originally expected.
Here are some players and trends to keep an eye on based on this week’s games:
Bruce Carter, ILB DAL
Given how the Cowboys used Carter throughout the preseason, many expected him to be an every down linebacker. However, in week one against the Giants, Carter only played 54% of the team’s snaps. While he started alongside Sean Lee, posted four tackles, and played well (particularly against the run), Carter played significantly less than expected. The second-year inside linebacker is still one of the top young linebacker targets in IDP leagues, but I’d be hesitant to start him against another pass-heavy offense until we see Carter’s snaps increase in passing situations.
Linval Joseph, DT NYG
Statistically, Joseph didn’t have a great game against the Cowboys. He finished the game with two tackles and sack. However, the biggest positive for on Joseph was the amount of snaps he played. Given how he played towards the end of last year, the sack in week one, and how many snaps he played, Joseph should be rostered and targeted in defensive tackle required leagues.
Miles Burris, WLB OAK
Not only did Burris look good in the box score with six tackles and two assists, but he also looked natural on the field. He only played a little over 60% of the team’s snaps, but Burris was decisive and often in the mix behind the line of scrimmage. With Aaron Curry out for a while, Burris should keep the weak side starting role and represents a great bye week filler, if not more.
Derrick Wolfe, DE DEN
Talk about a motor. If you watched the Sunday night game, you saw Wolfe trounce the ever-elusive Big Ben on a key third down in the first half. The starting rookie defensive end finished the game with three tackles and a sack. He already looks to be one of the great 2012 rookie draft IDP values. He received praise and performed well throughout the preseason and now has converted that success to the regular season. If he’s still on your wire, he must be picked up. He has the potential to be an every week starter.
Brandon Spikes, MLB NE
Oof. What a terrible game from Spikes as he played only 59% of the team’s snaps and tallied just one tackle. Rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower ended up playing slightly more than Spikes on Sunday and it appears that Jerod Mayo may be the only true every down linebacker for the Patriots in 2012. Given how many snaps Spikes played towards the end of 2011 and into the playoffs, it looked like Spikes was on his way to an every down role or at least a role in sub packages. That doesn’t appear to be the case based on week one. I’d be hesitant to start Spikes unless the match-up is favorable and against a run-first team or until we see him play more of a role in sub-packages.
Paris Lenon, ILB ARI
Lenon looks to be back to his 2010 form where he finished the season as a top 15-linebacker option in most leagues. Against the Seahawks in week one, he put together an impressive performance with eight tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery on an average number of opportunities – that’s a great sign. However, given his age, the volume of defensive talent competing for tackles, along with the fact that Seattle’s offense really struggled in week one, I wouldn’t count on Lenon maintaining this level of play. I’d wait to see how Lenon performs another week or let someone else take a shot on him.
Brian Robison, DE MIN
Robison was supposed to break out in 2011 – at least that’s what everyone was expecting playing opposite Jared Allen. Well, in week one against the Jaguars, Robison got a ton of pressure on the quarterback, tallying three hits and six hurries playing over 90 percent of the team’s snaps. Unfortunately, he didn’t sack Blaine Gabbert, but still collected three tackles and an assist. That’s not a great fantasy day, but most impressive was the pressure he put on the quarterback. Keep an eye on Robison going forward as he may be a viable option in his second year as a starter as these pressures turn into sacks.
Cameron Jordan, DE NO
The second year defensive end dominated the box score with nine tackles and three assists. The opening game was great statistically, but I wouldn’t expect this kind of production going forward. He’s still a great sleeper option long-term, but Jordan won’t have the opposing offense run 48 times too often. With the inflated opportunities in week one, I’d be hesitant to insert him in my starting lineup right now. He should be rostered given the positive performance, though.
Stephen Nicholas, SLB ATL
Many suspected it may happen and it appears it has. Nicholas has become a rare fantasy option as a startable strong side linebacker. Playing on the strong side, Nicholas’ fantasy upside is limited by definition of the position. However, as an every down player with Curtis Lofton now in New Orleans, he’s seeing more opportunities and it’s impacting the box score. In week one, he totaled ten tackles, two assists, an interception, and a fumble recovery playing all 1oo% of the Falcons snaps. Many passed on Nicholas because of the strong side linebacker tag, but given how much he’s going to be on the field, he’s going to present excellent value throughout 2012 as an exception to the SLB rule.
Dejon Gomes, SS WAS
With Brandon Meriweather injured and Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely, Gomes showed why he’s become a popular stash in deep dynasty leagues. He finished the game with four tackles and picked off Drew Brees to end the Saints hope for a comeback. Merriweather has limited ability in coverage, so Gomes may continue to see snaps. As a perfect stash, Gomes must be watched in all leagues when Merriweather returns.
Henry Melton, DT CHI
We talked about Melton in the NFC article a few weeks ago. In week one, he performed like anticipated. The athletic defensive tackle played 67% of the team’s snaps and finished the game with three tackles and two sacks. The key for Melton is going to be consistency. We’ll get to see that quickly this Thursday against the Packers. If Melton isn’t rostered in your defensive tackle required league, he should be. He has the potential to be a top defensive tackle option (top five to ten) in 2012 and going forward. He’s still young and is expected to continue to see a high volume of snaps.
Randy Starks, DT MIA
Starks sacked Matt Schaub twice to go along with three tackles and three quarterback hurries. If not rostered, Starks is another tackle who must be added in defensive tackle required leagues. With the switch to a 4-3 defense, Starks is playing more 3-technique and because of that, he worked on his pass rushing skills in the off season. It showed with the two sacks in week one. With Cameron Wake on the outside, Starks should continue to see one-on-one matchups and represents a great option at defensive tackle.
Robert Johnson, SS TEN
Johnson started week one over Jordan Babineaux and played close to 100% of the team’s snaps. Statistically, Johnson didn’t have a fantastic game tallying four tackles. The biggest notable for Johnson is the number of snaps he saw over Babineaux. For a guy who wasn’t drafted in many leagues and is still sitting on the wire, this is a significant development. Johnson should be added in deeper leagues and the situation deserves monitoring in all formats.
Rookie Corner Rule Update
We talked about the rookie corner rule in the NFC article as it relates Janoris Jenkins. Here’s an update on a few worthy rookie corners who must be watched:
Janoris Jenkins, CB STL – It was a fantastic week one for Jenkins as he totaled four tackles and one interception after being targeted eight times. As a starter for the Rams, he’s a top rookie cornerback option in IDP leagues. However, the window to acquire him may have passed with his solid opening day performance.
Josh Robinson, CB MIN – Robinson isn’t a starter just yet, but he should be watched. Playing the nickel role in week one, he finished with four tackles, playing 47% of the Vikings’ snaps. He could be starting at some point later in the year and would represent a great fantasy option at cornerback. He should be rostered given his long-term value.
Stephon Gilmore, CB BUF – Gilmore had four tackles against the Jets in week one. He’s one of the better tackling rookie corners and is arguably the best rookie corner fantasy option despite the average performance this past week.
Morris Claiborne, CB DAL – Claiborne actually covered pretty well against the Giants in week one. Regardless of his coverage ability and his rookie corner status, Claiborne isn’t a reliable tackler. He’s not a great IDP option as a result.
Josh Norman, CB CAR – Norman started week one over Captain Munnerlyn. He posted three tackles and an assist in week one. Given his rookie status and his tackling ability, Norman is worth a watch and a stash depending on the league format and size.
We’ll see you next week for our Weekly IDP Watch. Follow Steve on Twitter.