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. Each week, we 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 fifteen performances:
Sean Spence, PIT ILB
Spence was once a highly touted rookie IDP linebacker. An injury that put him on IR quickly has many IDP owners passing him over and leaving him on the waiver wire. Given his athletic ability, nose for the ball, and the fact that Stevenson Sylvester is struggling to succeed James Farrior at inside linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons, Spence may quickly find himself in the mix for a starting spot next season. Larry Foote currently holds that spot and is playing adequately, but he’s older and Spence may provide more of a spark. He also has the potential to slide into the playmaker role on that defense as Troy Polamalu continues to slow down with the endless string of injuries. The bottom line is Spence is a stash in moderately deep leagues headed into the offseason.
Brandon Graham, PHI DE
Graham has been the subject of this article quite frequently as of late. That’s because he’s finally playing like a first round pick. This past week he tallied two and a half sacks, five quarterback pressures, a forced fumble, and four tackles. Since starting in week twelve, he has four sacks and 13 quarterback pressures. That’s good enough for top 15 in most IDP leagues since taking over for Jason Babin as starter. He’ll remain a top defensive end option and sleeper pick headed into 2013.
Casey Hayward, GB CB
This past week, Hayward only played 50 percent of the team’s snaps, but he added another interception to bring his total to six on the year, which ranks third among cornerbacks. That’s impressive considering he didn’t see consistent meaningful snaps until week seven. This past week, tough,both Sam Shields and Tramon Williams are started over Hayward. It’s unclear if that’ll continue into the last two weeks. Don’t be concerned with the limited snaps at this point; it appears Hayward will be a solid option at corner in 2013 with it unclear if Sam Shields will return to the Packers as a restricted free agent this offseason.
Eric Berry, KC SS
This past week against the Raiders was Berry’s second double-digit tackle game in the last five weeks. We’ve mentioned this before, but Berry is struggling with consistency in his first year back from a torn ACL. It typically takes players not named Adrian Peterson more than a year to return to form. Berry has often played tentative this season, but at other times looked “himself”. With these two recent showings and the fact that he’s played considerably better since week eight, Berry should be an offseason buy low with the expectation of a tackle spike in 2013 as he’s another year removed from the injury. He’s another sleeper target headed into 2013 with tremendous long-term potential at the safety position.
Lamarr Houston, OAK DE
Houston quietly has 27 hurries on year (eight coming in the last three weeks), along with 13 quarterback hits, 36 tackles, and three sacks. He currently ranks in the top twenty defensive ends in most IDP leagues and represents a DE2 with upside. At only 25 years old, many were expecting a breakout from Houston at some point over the last two years as he was often tagged as a sleeper. He’s been adequate, but we haven’t seen the breakout many are waiting on. The problem is certainly his sacks as he followed up his five-sack rookie season with only one sack and three sacks over the last two seasons. The encouraging sign is that with three weeks left to play in 2012, he’s already tripled his quarterback hits and met his quarterback hurries from 2011. As compared to 2010, he’s exceeded both categories. This leaves hope for 2013 and forward.
Jacquian Williams, NYG SLB
Williams has been compared to Giants’ great Jessie Armstead. He’s super athletic and fantastic in coverage. In his rookie year in 2011, he played almost exclusively in sub-package situations. Unfortunately, he missed a significant portion of 2012 with a knee injury and hasn’t shown as much potential as many hoped. Since returning to the field in week fourteen, he’s taking snaps away from Mathias Kiwanuka since Williams is more reliable in coverage. As Williams was raw coming out of South Florida, he’s still improving his game. With the potential to be an every down linebacker along with the inherent upside, he’s a viable stash to see how things shake out between him and Kiwanuka.
Junior Galette, NO DE
Will Smith and Cameron Jordan are expected to be around for the foreseeable future, in deeper leagues, Galette is worth a look as he’ll continue to rotate with the two starters. In shallower leagues, he should just be watched given the log jam.
Colt Anderson, PHI FS
With Kurt Coleman injured the past two weeks, Anderson has started at free safety for the Eagles. Anderson is more of a short-term play at this point after posting five and four solo tackles in the last two weeks, respectively. The career special teams standout shouldn’t be expected to maintain this production. Keep an eye on David Sims, though, as well as offseason activity at safety as Coleman was in danger of being benched before his injury, anyway.
Whitney Mercilus, HOU OLB
Mercilus played every down over the last three weeks with Brooks Reed out. Over that time, he has eight quarterback hurries and three sacks. He now has six sacks on the year playing intermittently prior to week twelve. With Connor Barwin set to be a free agent in 2013, Mercilus may be a starting OLB for the Texans in 2013. When Barwin returns this year, Mercilus is assured to go back to his rotational role, but long-term given his sack potential he’s a worthy OLB target in average depth leagues. He’ll be inconsistent and limited in production due to his 3-4 OLB designation, but he can get to the quarterback and should be productive as a result.
Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ DE
Wilkerson is a top ten defensive end. Let that sink in for a few minutes… Not many expected this type of production from Wilkerson, but he’s having a phenomenal year with 33 tackles, 28 assists, and four sacks. Sure, he’s a 3-4 defensive end, but the 23 year old has shown significant improvement as compared to his first two years. He should be productive yearly. He may not be a top ten defensive end perennially, but top 15-20 is a virtual certainty.
Players and Trends to Watch
Buster Skrine, CLE CB – Skrine posted a goose egg after playing only one snap this past week. Long-term, he should still be productive given his production with Joe Haden out earlier this year, but his down week against Kansas City appears to be a bit more than a bad match-up.
Pat Angerer, IND ILB – Angerer started for the first time all year on Sunday and played highest volume of snaps since returning from injury (73%). He didn’t play every down, but the limited snaps all year may have been due to his injury recovery process.
Brandon Taylor, SD SS – A favorite long-term sleeper of many, Taylor played 16 snaps last week posting two tackles. It looks like he’ll see limited snaps through the end of the year, but keep an eye on this guy long-term.
Jonte Green – Jacob Lacey has been starting, but was injured this past week six snaps into the game. Green then finished in his place and tallied six tackles. He also played significant snaps from weeks seven through nine earlier this year and, in most formats, finished two of the three games with double-digit fantasy production. Keep an eye on the rookie in deeper corner required leagues.
James-Michael Johnson –JMJ is out for the season and on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Follow Steve on Twitter.