This week, there are some pretty decent pickups in the second and third level of your defense (linebacker and defensive back), but it’s pretty thin at defensive end and defensive tackle. Much like real-life NFL teams, those guys are the hardest to find, and the waiver wire is pretty thin up front this week.
Shelby Harris, DE DEN
His numbers aren’t eye-popping (you should have gathered this from the intro paragraph), but Harris is a downright decent pickup this week because he’s been flying all over the field, if not the stat book.
One stat a lot of IDP experts watch closely is quarterback hurries. The logic is you want to find the player who is almost getting to the quarterback, because more often than not, those will translate into actual sacks later. I have a second statistic I like to watch for defensive linemen too which is not nearly as utilized: passes defensed. A lineman who has a lot of passes knocked down is indicative of someone who is giving the maximum effort. Even on the plays the lineman realizes he’s not going to get a sack, the situational awareness to get your arms up and block a pass and the little bit of extra effort it takes is valuable to me.
Harris has three PDs in his last three games, including two this past week against the 49ers. During the same time, he’s had four solo tackles, four assists, 1.5 sacks and an interception. That’s a player who is giving max effort, and this time of year, that’s the best you can hope for.
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Neville Hewitt, LB NYJ
This time of year, there are so many question marks when you are looking at starting lineups due to injuries. Everyone is banged up, starters and backups alike. You’re often faced with one of your studs being designated “questionable,” and even if he plays he may not be effective. Or you’re looking at his backup, and you won’t know until game time if he’s even going to play.
This is not that situation. Darron Lee got popped for a four-game suspension by the league, and Hewitt stepped into his role and performed well. Clean. Easy. No last-minute jitters. These are the kind of pickups I like in week 15.
Hewitt was on the field for 62 of 76 snaps this week, and he turned in 5 solo tackles, 3 assists and a half a sack. That’s good enough production to count on him in a starting lineup going forward, although his remaining three matchups are against teams that tend to throw the ball.
Josey Jewell, LB DEN
While this is more of a dynasty pickup, I’ve always been a fan of Jewell coming out of Iowa. The Denver linebacker has been drawing the praise of his coaching staff for playing like a veteran. That’s good because Brandon Marshall’s availability is always up in the air with injuries. Jewell is looking more and more like a permanent starter on a very scary linebacking corps: Von Miller, Jewell, the suddenly studly Todd Davis and uber-rookie Bradley Chubb. Yikes!
Jewell’s numbers don’t amaze… yet. But this past week he had 3 solo tackles, 2 assists and 1 pass defensed. That seems like it will become his floor before too long, and that’s a young player you want on your roster.
Karl Joseph, S OAK
I’ve already been burned a few times this year recommending Oakland IDPs, but here we go again. Joseph was one of the highly touted safeties in IDP circles this offseason, but then there was a bit of buzz going around that he wasn’t meshing with the new coaching staff. It got worse from there. Joseph was completely shut out of the box score for the season’s first three games, then was hurt for a month.
Since he’s been back, he had two pretty decent games in weeks 11 and 12 against the Cardinals and Ravens. He wasn’t exactly a world beater in the stat book this past week, with 1 solo tackle, 2 assists and 1 pass defensed, but it was the first time this year Joseph was on the field for all of the Raiders’ snaps (60).
Opportunity leads to production, and it may be safe to roster Joseph again before your league-mates catch on.
Michael Thomas, S NYG
I almost recommended Thomas last week, but I wanted to wait one week and see how he’d perform in Landon Collins’ role after Collins’ injury.
Verdict: pretty darn good.
Three tackles, 3 assists, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception. You’ll take that all day long.
With Collins on injured reserve, Thomas has this position locked down and is still available on most waiver wires I’ve seen. If you lost Collins or just have underperformers at safety, he’s a must-add this week.
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