Welcome back to another edition of Eight in the Box. In case you’re new here, this is a weekly feature that focuses on IDP issues. The first two centered around the NFL Draft, but this week we’re moving on.
Injuries are an unfortunate, bitter truth about the NFL, and it can affect us dynasty players just as strongly as the teams our number accumulators come from. Today we’re going to take a look at eight IDPs who are coming off an injury in 2014 and determine what you can expect from them in 2015. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I wanted to highlight a few players who may be picked up for less than market value right now.
Lamarr Houston, DE/OLB CHI
He tore his ACL celebrating a meaningless sack late in a blowout loss after the Bears gave him a truckload of money in free agency. (I’m not still bitter. Really, I’m over it. Really. Ok, no I’m not. Sigh. WHYYYYYY?) Reports are he will be ready to go Week 1 and will move to an OLB spot opposite Pernell McPhee in the new 3-4 defense. His career high in sacks is just six, coming in 2013 with Oakland. Not only will he need to be healthy at the start of the season, he’ll need to demonstrate production early and often to win over the Bears faithful. For IDP owners, a motivated pass rusher is a good thing and depending on your league’s rules, he could be laying around on the waiver wire for free.
Kiko Alonso, ILB PHI
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Ok, so he’s not going to be cheap, but he is coming off an injury. As crazy as it sounds, I think his numbers will actually go up playing for the Eagles. Wait. Don’t leave yet. Let me explain myself. First, he’s back with his college coach Chip Kelly in a scheme where he should be comfortable. Second, the NFC East is a more run-heavy division than the AFC East. Dallas and New York are both run-first teams and I think Washington will run more this season trying to protect Robert Griffin III. More running means more tackle opportunities for Alonso. Similarly, Philadelphia opponents will look to run more, trying to give their defense a rest against the breakneck pace of the Eagles offense, which in turn means more consistent opportunities for tackles across all 16 games.
Stephen Tulloch, ILB DET
Evidently there was an epidemic of stupidity last season as Tulloch also tore his ACL celebrating a sack. Like Houston above, he’ll be ready to go by week one. While Tulloch has never had huge IDP numbers, he is a steady producer and a fairly safe play week in and week out. For those who believe players fall off a cliff at a magical age, Tulloch will turn 31 during the NFL playoffs.
Justin Durant, OLB ATL
Not only is Durant coming off an injury, he switched team in the off-season to boot. Durant tore his tricep in Week 8 playing for Dallas and was done for the season. He signed with Atlanta in the off-season and will play for first-year coach Dan Quinn, most likely at the weakside linebacker spot. Durant has had a history of injury trouble, so if you’re looking to pick him up, do so with a plan in mind to replace him if need be. He is a bit of a journeyman, so he should pick up on a new scheme quickly.
Tyrann Mathieu, S ARI
A knee injury ended his season prematurely, but he had battle a thumb problem along the way as well. Both have since healed and he should be ready for the season. The Cardinals are looking for a bounce-back effort from Mathieu this season, and expect him to look more like he did in his rookie campaign. At his best the Honey Badger is a turnover generating machine and seems to have his act together in the NFL after having some off-field troubles in college. Much like Alonso above, Mathieu might not be cheap to acquire, but he is well worth the cost.
Jerod Mayo, LB NE
He’s only played in 12 games total the past two seasons, but he is generally regarded as one of the best linebackers in the game. A patella tendon tear cost him the 2014 season after only six games, but reports are saying he’ll come back as the starting weakside linebacker on the Patriots defense. He’s only completed three full seasons in his seven-year career, so odds are good that he might miss some time, but when he is on the field, he is highly productive. Pairing with Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins will provide some cover if Mayo has a slow start back.
Derrick Johnson, OLB KC
Johnson is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon which cost him all but one game of the 2014 season, but he is expected to be ready to go Week 1. He is just 18 tackles shy of setting the Chiefs all-time record, so he should be primed for a quick start to the season. While he carries a big cap number ($5.2 million) and is in the final year of his contract, reports say Johnson will be a Chief in 2015. When he’s right, he is a true LB1 in IDP play, but he is also 32 years old. I still think he holds value, but his time in the NFL is coming to an end, so don’t make any long-term plans to have him on your roster.
Gerald McCoy, DT TB
Out of all the injuries in this article, McCoy’s was the least serious, as he missed the final three games of the season with a sprained knee. He should be back terrorizing quarterbacks with regularity at the beginning of 2015. If you play in a league where you are required to start a defensive tackle, they don’t come much better than McCoy – he was on pace to have double-digit sacks last season and those kinds of numbers are huge at the DT position.