There are several interesting storylines on the defensive side of the ball following the inaugural game of the NFL calendar. We delve into some of the fantasy moves you should consider going into week two.
Ivan Pace Jr, LB MIN – ADD
Brian Asamoah, LB MIN – BENCH
Pace has been rising on draft boards despite going undrafted in April. The rookie impressed head coach Kevin O’Connell during training camp and the preseason following an injury to presumed starter Asamoah.
Despite Pace’s recent ascension, few expected him to play such a prominent role from the outset. However, in week one, the undersized linebacker played 67.7% of the available defensive snaps against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, second only to Jordan Hicks’ 97%. Brian Asamoah, a third-round pick in 2022, managed only 3%.
Pace finished the game with eight tackles and a QB hit, and more productive weeks are within his range of outcomes if he continues to remain involved. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores doesn’t appear to be sold on Asamoah, and 31-year-old Hicks is only signed through 2023.
Jalen Carter, DT PHI – START
We typically preach patience with rookie DTs, but Carter has the potential to be one of the best at his position. The talented Georgia product wasted no time reminding us of this in week one, exploding out of the gate with eight pressures, leading all defensive linemen in that category.
Carter took full advantage of the inexperience on the interior of the New England Patriots offensive line, dominating guards Sidney Sow and Atonio Mafi in ways not often seen from rookie defensive tackles.
Jalen Carter quick pressure to flush Mac Jones out of the pocket pic.twitter.com/ly9PNxBGtX
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) September 10, 2023
The rookie achieved this despite playing in a rotation. Fletcher Cox had a 62.5% snap share, Carter had 50%, and Jordan Davis and Milton Williams weren’t far behind. In that sense, new defensive coordinator Sean Desai appears to be taking a similar approach to his predecessor, Jonathan Gannon.
The Eagles won’t play 80 defensive snaps every week, and unless Carter earns a larger snap share, he will undoubtedly have quieter weeks. Therefore, starting Carter is not as appealing in leagues that do not require a DT or combine DTs and DEs under the ‘DL’ tag.
However, it remains an impressive start to his career, and in deep DT-required leagues, Carter can be a difference-maker. In dynasty formats, he’s a potential star in the making.
Jordan Whitehead, S NYJ – EXPLORE TRADES
Josh Allen will have nightmares about Whitehead for weeks. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety had the best game of his six-year career, picking off the Buffalo Bills three times and playing a pivotal role in the New York Jets’ upset win.
Jordan Whitehead ties the @nyjets franchise record with 3 INT in a game.
He is the 9th to do it and first since Ty Law in 2005 at home vs. the Bills.pic.twitter.com/KuEDYpX1NP
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) September 12, 2023
Whitehead deserves all the plaudits he receives, but this will obviously be an outlier performance. The 26-year-old has proven to be a capable safety and has a chance to finish among the top 16 at his position. However, he had only seven interceptions in his first five years, and the safety or DB position remains one of the most replaceable positions in fantasy.
Strike while the iron is hot and see if you can tempt another manager to give up an asset at a more valuable position.
Carl Granderson, DE NO – START
The departure of Marcus Davenport opened the door for Carl Granderson to earn an expanded role, and the fifth-year player took full advantage of his opportunity in week one against the Tennessee Titans, registering five pressures, including two sacks.
Fantasy managers should exercise caution; despite racking up eight tackles in 2021, Granderson only managed an 8.5% pressure rate. This leads us to have reservations about whether he can sustain the disruptive performance we saw in the Saints’ opener.
Furthermore, the Titans’ offensive line did not play well. Granderson will face more formidable opposition than Andre Dillard.
However, his 75% snap share was only second at the position to Cameron Jordan’s 86%, and Granderson may be relied on more heavily following the injury suffered by teammate Payton Turner, who will require surgery and is expected to miss significant time.
Granderson offers intriguing upside as a DE3 or DL4 in deep leagues.
Cole Holcomb, LB PIT – EXPLORE TRADES
Holcomb was a tackling machine during his tenure with the Washington Commanders, and many expected that to continue following his move to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, one of the main reasons Holcomb was so productive in Washington was because he played every down.
A few weeks ago, the Steelers listed Cole Holcomb OR Kwon Alexander as starters on the depth chart, prompting questions about whether the two players would eat into each other’s snap share.
Those concerns appeared justified after their week one utilization. Holcomb led the position group with a 78% snap share, but he ceded snaps to Alexander, who finished with 69%. Elandon Roberts was third with 43%.
That loss of snaps will hurt Holcomb’s outlook if it continues, and while it may be a little hasty, you should explore whether you can still trade him for an alternative every-down linebacker with more upside. Mike Woellert has a complete list here.
Don’t overreact to fantasy production in week one; there is much scoring volatility throughout the season.
Do consider making subtle moves to acquire players who appear to be earning a more prominent role than initially expected and explore trades for notable fading fantasy assets whose roles are trending in the opposite direction.