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 five performances:
Luke Kuechly, CAR WLB
With Jon Beason out in week five, the rookie moved to the middle linebacker spot and we got a preview of how Kuechly would produce in a sub-package role. We actually got a little bit more than that. Not only did Kuechly play in sub-packages, but he also played 100% of the team’s snaps ahead of James Anderson who previously held the every down role for the Panthers. Kuechly appeared a lot more comfortable in the middle and excelled playing 100% of the team’s snaps totaling seven tackles, four assists, and an interception. At this point, the Panthers claim that they’re unsure if Kuechly will stay in the middle. However, don’t be surprised to see Kuechly stay there and/or see more snaps in sub-packages when Beason returns. Things are looking great for the preseason consensus top rookie linebacker in dynasty leagues.
Perry Riley, WAS ILB
Riley played well down the stretch in 2011 when he played every down for the Redskins, but his numbers have suffered a bit thus far in 2012. He’s still playing every down early in 2012, but his tackle numbers aren’t what they were in late 2011. As opposed to solo tackles, it seems that he’s racking up the assists instead. His big-plays in recent weeks are also keeping his fantasy numbers afloat, but some are concerned with the solos. Don’t get frustrated with Riley’s low tackles; he’s still very young and playing well. He’ll be fine long-term and those assists show that he’s around the ball at least. He’ll get his tackles.
Robert Quinn, STL DE
Quinn continued the Kevin Kolb beat-down in week five contributing three sacks to the Rams’ nine total team sacks for the week. As expected, Quinn has excelled in pass rushing situations with six sacks thus far. However, he’s also performing well against the run. As he develops into a complete defensive end, Quinn now represents a viable DE1/DL1 for IDP purposes. Not only that, but he’s looking like a top tier defensive end amongst that group. If you can still grab Quinn at a reasonable price with some questioning whether this is sustainable, now is the time to do it. He’ll continue to see favorable match-ups long-term with the other dominant pass rushers on the Ram’s defensive line. It looks like double-digit sacks are a certainty and 15-20 sacks appear to be within reach.
Bruce Irvin, SEA DE
Like Robert Quinn coming out of North Carolina, Bruce Irvin is known as a pure pass rusher. That’s exactly why Seattle drafted him and it’s paying off immediately. Irvin now has four sacks after five weeks with them coming in bunches after a couple of two sack games. For the short-term, Irvin is purely a match-up play against teams who yield a high volume of sacks. However, if Irvin works on his run defense, his ceiling is sky high. Don’t expect Irvin to be a weekly contributor just yet, but with the way he’s started his career, Irvin may find himself as a top IDP defensive end a few years down the road. He just needs to become more of an all-around player. As mentioned, in the short-term in big-play leagues or when the match-up is right in all leagues, he’s worth considering.
Nigel Bradham, BUF SLB
Bradham’s snaps continue to increase and he’s taking snaps from Arthur Moats. Moats still started on the strong side in week fivea, but Bradham played more snaps . Specifically, Bradham played 42 snaps as compared to Moats’ 21 snaps. Following week five’s match-up against the 49ers, coach Chan Gailey said that Nigel may start over Moats in week six. While we’re talking about the strong side linebacker spot, Bradham is worth consideration in deep leagues given his week five performance registering six tackles on 58% of the team’s snaps.
James-Michael Johnson, CLE WLB
He didn’t see a defensive snap last week, but James-Michael Johnson (JMJ) is finally healthy and ready to get on the field. Many tagged JMJ as a solid IDP rookie linebacker target following the NFL draft, but an early injury has prevented him from action thus far. It’ll probably take a few games before JMJ sees meaningful snaps, but now may be a good time to try to snatch JMJ from an impatient owner or grab him off the wire before his snaps increase and buzz begins to build. He has a bit more competition than originally expected with the emergence of Craig Robertson, but he’s still a valuable dynasty target long-term as he projects as a weak side or middle linebacker.
Billy Winn, CLE DT
The Browns believe they got a steal with the rookie out of Boise State. He played well in offseason OTAs and that’s continued in his five starts thus far. The sixth-round rookie is playing a little over 60% of the team’s snaps and showing the ability to both play the run and rush the passer. The athletic tackle has three quarterback hurries and three quarterback hits on the season, along with seven tackles in the last two weeks. In deep defensive tackle required leagues, he’s a watch or speculative add for the long-term.
Letroy Guion, MIN DT
Like Winn, Guion is playing 45% of the team’s snaps through his five starts on the season. He’s a little inconsistent at this point, but Guion has two sacks and eight tackles on the season. He’s only a consideration in deeper defensive tackle required leagues as Guion has carried forward his solid performance from the final four games of 2011 when he tallied eight tackles and three quarterback hurries.
Josh Robinson, MIN CB
The rookie corner drew the start in week five over Antoine Winfield and continued to rack up the tackles with six on the day. Over the last two weeks, Robinson has 13 total tackles playing over 75% of the team’s snaps. If you’ve been following this series, you know rookie corners are gold in the short-term. The Vikings claim they aren’t ready to name him a starter for week six just yet, but given how he played the last two weeks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Robinson start. Robinson is a good bet for five plus tackles on a weekly basis as a starter, so he should be targeted.
Tavon Wilson, NE SS/FS
Wilson continues to play an inconsistent number of snaps. He played 98% of the team’s snaps in week five, but that was likely due to the Patrioits’ game plan against Peyton Manning. Wilson’s coverage skills are solid, which is the likely cause for the snaps spike. As a result, this is unlikely to continue, but his five tackles and five-assist performance against Denver shows that if he sees regular snaps, he could be productive. Given the average play of Steve Gregory to date, it’s worth monitoring or stashing Wilson in deeper leagues if he’s not rostered.
Andre Branch, JAX DE
After playing over 80% of the team’s snaps in the first three weeks of 2012, Branch has only played a little over 55% in the last two weeks. For a rookie defensive end that was believed to be the top defensive end option immediately after the draft, that’s rather disappointing. While he has eight quarterback hurries on the season, he’s yet to register his first NFL sack. It’s too early to write him off given that it typically takes defensive ends some time to develop at the NFL level, but it’s discouraging nonetheless.
James Harrison, PIT OLB
Outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense are a risky proposition in tackle heavy leagues given the inconsistent production and reliance on sacks. Harrison returned from injury in week five and only recorded two tackles back in the starting lineup. However, he was as disruptive rushing the quarterback as he normally is tallying three quarterback hits and a hurry. While Harrison is getting up there, if you’re in a bind and need a filler due to injury or to make a playoff push, he’s worth a cheap acquisition from a frustrated owner in both tackle heavy and big-play leagues. He will accumulate the sacks. Keep in mind that in tackle heavy leagues, he ranked as an LB2 when healthy last year.
Week 5 Quick Hits:
Vontaze Burfict continued to play every down in week five and played more snaps than Rey Maualuga.
After struggling in his first two games, O’Brien Schofield has played well in last three weeks. He’s picked up his game from last season. [Deep add / big-play starter worthy]
Janoris Jenkinsmay be improving in coverage too quickly for fantasy purposes as his tackle numbers are not staying afloat over the last few weeks.
Colin McCarthy returned from injury in week 5 and played 60 of 67 snaps and registered two tackles and four assists.
Brian Cushing is out for season with torn ACL. Tim Dobbins replaced Cushing on Monday night and is expected to step in to starting spot. He’s worth a pickup in deeper leagues.
Justin Houston continues to rush the quarterback like a mad man. He can’t be stopped as he added two sacks and six hurries in week five.
We’ll see you next week for our Weekly IDP Watch. Follow Steve on Twitter.