IDP leagues can be won with some preemptive in-season pickups or trading for players who are on the rise, but the masses have not picked up on it. Each week, we’ll detail a handful of IDP players or trends that are essential for dynasty players to be aware of.
Often, things like quarterback hurries, quarterback knockdowns, or snap counts don’t appear in the box scores. These are huge indicators of potential value changes that may be forthcoming as they show a particular player is getting after the quarterback and a string of sacks may 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 week three performances:
Justin Houston, KC OLB
Justin Houston is turning into a pass-rushing beast. He sacked Drew Brees three times on Sunday with one of those being a safety. Houston is getting to the quarterback this year with four sacks, three quarterback hits and six hurries. Unfortunately for the tackle-heavy leagues, in two of the three weeks he’s only had one tackle. His average run defense ability coupled with being a 3-4 outside linebacker will make him nothing but a match-up play in tackle heavy leagues, but in big-play leagues Houston is quickly becoming a weekly must start and a guy who is on his way to developing into an elite pass-rushing option. It’s not going to be shocking if he hits 20 sacks this year or next.
Eric Berry, KC SS
Berry hasn’t lived up to his number one dynasty safety position just yet. After three weeks, that’s a bit concerning for dynasty owners. In the first two weeks of 2012, he only posted five tackles and one assist in total. He seemed to get on track a bit more in week three with three tackles and five assists, but he’s still not at the level many expect. Looking a bit closer at his week two and week three performances, the Chiefs had below average tackle opportunities (the average thus far this year is around 50 and the Chiefs have been in the lower 40s the last two weeks), which was a contributing factor to his underperformance. In week two and three, as a percentage of the tackle opportunities available for the Chiefs, he performed much better than it appears. Granted, his performance is still not at the level many expect, but it’s better than it appears.
In the short-term and as a result of his underperformance thus far, it’s time to put him on the bench, wait until things improve, and look at other options. Long term, do not sell. Berry is only a year removed from tearing his ACL; he will get better. As we know, two years removed is the time when players finally get back to their pre-injury performance levels, so improvement should come.
Kyle Wilson, NYJ CB
With Darelle Revis done for the year with a torn ACL, the former first round pick enters the Jets starting lineup. With Wilson’s inexperience, opposing quarterbacks will throw his way frequently instead of challenging Antonio Cromartie on the other side. That means Wilson will get a high volume of tackle opportunities and could end up being a very productive corner option. He’s worth a target in corner-required leagues as a short-term option.
Bobby Wagner, SEA MLB
The early concern with Wagner dissipated with his seven-tackle performance on Monday night, but regardless, there is no need to be concerned with Wagner. His low level of production in weeks one and two were a direct result of the fact that he’s not playing in passing situations. More specifically, he’s only playing about 55% of the team’s snaps. The reason is purely due to the fact that he’s a rookie. Wagner looks fine and will continue to progress and become a long-term every down linebacker, just be patient.
Rahim Moore, DEN FS
Through the first three weeks, Moore has been extremely active and it’s showing up in the box score. Over the last two weeks, he has 16 total tackles. What’s impressive is that his ten tackle performance in week three was on average tackle opportunities. Beyond the box score, Moore is actually playing every down (save a few snaps in week two). There’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue. That means he’ll continue to see a high volume of opportunities. Moore is quietly becoming a viable safety option on a weekly basis as a second safety.
Rey Maualuga, CIN MLB
Don’t be fooled by Maualuga’s performance thus far in 2012. The only reason he’s a viable fantasy option this season is due to the fact that he’s assured an every down role with Thomas Howard out for the year with a torn ACL. Maualuga is a worthy short-term solution in 2012 if you need someone to plug in your lineup due to the snap volume he’s expected to see through December. Long-term, though, he’s a sub-par option. He’s not playing particularly well and hasn’t in his young career. His pass coverage, in particular, has been sub-par in 2012.
Carlos Dunlap, CIN DE
Dunlap is back from injury and he went bananas in his first game on the field on Sunday. Dunlap got to the quarterback in week three tallying two quarterback hits and four hurries. Given the young defensive end’s potential, he should be rostered everywhere except very shallow leagues. His upside is tremendous.
Dont’a Hightower, NE SLB
Hightower is currently playing the strong side linebacker spot for the Patriots, but he’s been very productive in the tackle department despite the limiting position. Hightower is consistently playing 60% or more snaps and is making an impact. I put Hightower on this list not for 2012 production, but because of his future potential. The Patriots current middle linebacker, Brandon Spikes, is signed through 2013. That will leave the spot open after next season and Hightower should be the perfect successor. Not only is he likely to man the middle, but he has the potential to be an every down player. In the short-term, it seems that Hightower can be reasonably productive manning the strong side, but his long-term potential is why he should be targeted.
Brandon Graham, PHI DE
Graham isn’t playing much just yet, but in limited snaps he’s showing the pass rushing skills the Eagles hoped for when the drafted him in the first round of the 2010 draft. In week two, for example, he played nine snaps, hit the quarterback twice, and made a tackle. In week three, he played 17 snaps and posted a sack, a quarterback hurry and three tackles. The bottom line is it’s clear from these two examples that he’s an impact player – he flat out makes plays. Graham may be worth a preemptive pickup at this point depending on your league size. His snaps should be watched nonetheless to see if he continues to see increased snaps. If Graham stays healthy, his ceiling is extremely high.
Brandon Carr, DAL CB
This is still a developing situation, but with Barry Church out for the season with a ruptured Achilles, there’s a possibility that Carr will play safety for the remainder of the season. After only ten snaps at safety in high school prior to last week’s game, Carr mostly played safety in week three. He was set to play free safety with Gerald Sensabaugh out anyway, but the loss of Church made it a necessity. When Sensabaugh comes back, it’s possible Carr sticks at safety with the Cowboys depth at corner. A move to safety could make Carr a sneaky start in cornerback required leagues once he gets comfortable at the position, so it’s worth monitoring the situation. One thing to keep in mind is that Danny McCray is also in the mix at strong safety.
Dannell Ellerbe, BAL ILB
Many assumed Jameel McClain was the heir apparent to Ray Lewis, but Ellerbe is making a strong case for that title. Granted, many thought Lewis would be out of football before age 37, but Dannell is taking advantage of the opportunity thus far in 2012. The Ravens tendered Ellerbe at a second round level this past off season, so they obviously believe in his ability. McClain is still sharing snaps, but Ellerbe has the greater share thus far and is performing at a higher level. Keep an eye on Ellerbe as he’s playing with conviction.
Olivier Vernon, MIA DE
Vernon is another young defensive end who is only playing limited snaps at this point, but in week three against the Jets he showed the explosion off the ball that he exhibited at Miami. Against the Jets, Vernon had four tackles and half a sack. Watch to see if the week three production leads to more snaps for Vernon this week. The athletic rookie defensive end is a great long-term investment that should continue to be monitored and potentially stashed given his upside depending on league size.
Deep Dynasty Watches
Here are some guys to watch in super deep dynasty leagues:
Jamell Fleming, ARI CB
Fleming is the latest rookie corner to keep an eye on. Given how solid the Cardinals’ defense has been along with the fact that Fleming is starting to see meaningful snaps, he represents a viable option in deeper corner required leagues. As the season progresses and he continues to play a larger role, Fleming should see increasing tackle opportunities.
Akiem Hicks, NO DT
The Saints are a disaster and Hicks is playing well. This past week, he had six tackles playing roughly 43% of the team’s snaps. With the Saints 0-3, the coaching staff will continue to evaluate players to turn the season around or see what they have on their roster for next season. Coach Steve Spagnuolo already said Hicks earned more playing time. Keep an eye on this guy.
Junior Galette, NO DE
Like Hicks, Galette is playing well in limited snaps. He’s also expected to see more action going forward. Galette is getting to the quarterback and showing pass rushing skills. He’s worth keeping tabs on as well.
Danny McCray, DAL SS
As was mentioned above, McCray has a shot at significant snaps with Barry Church out for the season. It’s unclear if Brandon Carr will take more reps at safety, but McCray should get a shot.