You have waited seven arduous months for the National Football League to reconvene. Hopefully, you’ve nailed your rookie drafts, executed shrewdly at auction, and fleeced all of your closest friends in trade, to build yourself a powerhouse dynasty roster. But if not, fret not.
DLF’s IDP Report Card is here to spot players climbing their way up from the bottom of the depth chart, trying to reach the peak of “Mt. Relevancy,” as well as those sliding down the side of the mountain because of injury, scheme, in-game situations, age, or one of a dozen other factors.
There are opportunities to secure production on virtually all of the league’s 32 rosters, and warning signs urging us to divest if we’re willing to look for the tells. Here are two players who should be on your radar for week two.
Michael Pierce, DT BAL
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This first entry may not resonate with those of you who aren’t required to start a defensive tackle. For those who are, however, we may have found a new contributor at the position. Pierce is a second-year tackle who was slated to be a reserve on the Ravens’ defensive line. In week one, he played a man-sized game, with three solo tackles, an assist, a sack, and a recovered fumble.
The impressive aspect of Pierce’s game is his unwillingness to be moved off the line of scrimmage. He stood up Bengals’ interior linemen and moved them around at will, as he scanned the backfield for ball carriers and wrecked Cincinnati’s blocking scheme.
On this play, Pierce sees Joe Mixon attempting to get loose off right tackle. Za’darius Smith gets credit for the final stop, yet Pierce is able to “stack and shed” Clint Boling, wrapping-up Mixon’s legs at the same time Smith arrives to hit him up high.
(No.97 — Michael Pierce [1-technique] sheds blocker and makes the stop)
On the next play, Pierce is lined up in an inside 2-technique, again over Boling. At the snap, Bengals’ center Russell Bodine kicks out to block Pierce. Pierce has other designs, as he drives Bodine into Gio Bernard’s running lane, leaving the back no room to escape. This was an easy takedown for the 340-pound undrafted free agent to get his stats up.
And for his final trick, Pierce brutalizes Bodine and Boling simultaneously, on his way to taking down Andy Dalton for a sack.
Typically, 3-4 nose tackles don’t make the best IDP investments. Yet, the Ravens’ defense hasn’t even scratched the surface of where their pass rushing capabilities will be once Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser find their way into the lineup. Pierce has shown a nasty ability to move grown men out of his way that will only make the final product that much more destructive.
Pierce even saw a handful of snaps on third and long. Should the Ravens feel comfortable leaving the big fella in on pass rushing situations, his value increases dramatically based the chance he could see one-on-one match-ups and have a chance to accrue a meaningful sack total. This is a player worth investing in, on a defense which is on the rise.
Michael Pierce, DT BAL
Week 1 Grade — A
2017 Outlook — A (In leagues which mandate starting a DT.) B- (For general DL leagues)
Dynasty Outlook — B+ / C+ (Based on criteria above)
Kevin Byard, S TEN
There were a lot of strong IDP scoring performances in week one, particularly in the defensive backfield. Many of the names a top the scoring list were either young players posting their initial breakout games, or veterans we haven’t seen produce in a few seasons.
Some of you are unsatisfied with the scoring output you got from your starters in week one, and looking to upgrade. Yet, it’s difficult to commit to a player whose week one point total was boosted by interceptions or passes defended — which aren’t the most replicable feats on a week in, and week out basis.
In the search for consistent IDP output, the two things you need from a defensive back are a high percentage of total snaps, and tackling volume. If you can couple these traits with a young player who’s assuming a leadership role on an up-and-coming team, well that’s even better.
Byard is one such player. He’s a second-year free safety, who’s been entrusted to run Dick LeBeau’s secondary. Last week, he tallied eight tackles in a loss to the Raiders. Most of those came on stops of Oakland wideouts downfield. Playing opposite Johnathan Cyprien, most of Byard’s work will be away from the line of scrimmage, as the better coverage safety of the pair.
Byard’s worst play of the game came inside the rezone, on first and ten, from the Titans’ 19-yard line. With Tennessee in Cover 2, the Raiders lined up in 11 personnel and spread the Titans out. DeAndre Washington exited the backfield on a short hitch route, causing Byard to take a few false steps toward the the running back and freeze. The safety’s hesitation bought Derek Carr enough time to find a streaking Seth Roberts on a “Go” route, in the end zone.
(Safety – Kevin Byard, No.31)
Despite the faith his coaches have shown in him, Byard is still a second-year safety experiencing his share of growing pains. Yet, there were also encouraging plays from Sunday’s game, which give you a sense of how LeBeau plans to utilize the young defensive back near the line of scrimmage.
Here, the Titans line Byard up over Michael Crabtree in the slot, at the bottom of the screen. At the snap, Byard blitzes and flushes Carr to the opposite sideline. If No.91 Derrick Morgan does a better job picking up Crabtree as he crosses the formation, Byard has a chance at a sack.
Few of the remaining quarterbacks on Tennessee’s schedule have the ability to escape as Carr does in the play above. In fact, with the exception of Russell Wilson, and Ben Roethlisberger, there aren’t many good quarterbacks on the Titans’ schedule, period.
Byard finished this game with eight tackles, and likely came in around as a DB2 for the week, depending on your scoring system. There will be guys who outscore him each week, posting big games bolstered by passes defended and interceptions. In the end, however, Byard is a stronger candidate than most of those players to finish as a low-end DB1, to high-end DB2, because he’ll consistently be in the mix, playing over 95% of the Titans’ snaps, and pushing for double-digit stops on a weekly basis.
Kevin Byard, S TEN
Week 1 Grade — B
2017 Outlook — B+
Dynasty Outlook — B+