Week 2 IDP Upgrades and Downgradesby Aaron Rudnicki, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
UpgradesDT Tony Brown, TEN (5 solos, 1 assists, 2 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Brown quietly put up some nice numbers in 2007, finishing with 32 solos, 20 assists, and 4 sacks in 15 games. With a healthy and dominant Albert Haynesworth playing next to him and drawing constant double teams, Brown should have a good opportunity to improve on those numbers. Brown and Haynesworth were in the Jaguars backfield all day, combining for 5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 5 QB hits.
DE John Abraham, ATL (4 solos, 0 assists, 3 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - With the Falcons opening up a 21-0 lead on the Lions in the first quarter, Abraham had plenty of opportunities to rush the passer and he made the most of them. He looked like the same dominant player he was when he played for the Jets, finishing with was 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 3 QB hits. Abraham was being drafted very late in IDP leagues this summer, but he was a top-10 DL in 2005 and could certainly wind up there again this year.
DE Shaun Ellis, NYJ (4 solos, 0 assists, 1 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Although 3-4 DEs generally have limited upside, Ellis has a good chance to put up DL3-type numbers this year. With the additions of Kris Jenkins and Calvin Pace, offenses won't be able to focus as much attention on him. An improved Jets offense should also provide many additional pass rush opportunities. While it did come against the Dolphins, Ellis got his season off to a great start with 4 solos, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 QB hits.
DE James Hall, STL (8 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Hall is an above average run defender from the DE spot who also recorded an 11.5 sack season back in 2004 with the Lions. He lost his starting spot when the Rams drafted Chris Long, but that helped motivate him and he was reportedly one of the most impressive Rams throughout training camp. His numbers were inflated this week thanks to a hamstring injury suffered by Leonard Little just 9 seconds into the game, but he should still see extensive playing time as part of a rotation. Should also have added value in leagues where he's designated at the DT position.
DE Lawrence Jackson, SEA (1 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - The Seahawks got some pretty good production out of Darryl Tapp last year but still spent their first draft pick on a potential upgrade in Lawrence Jackson. After a strong preseason, it looks like Jackson has already taken over the starting DE spot in Seattle. The team plans to move him inside to DT on passing downs, but at least that keeps him on the field. Many are expecting big things from Chris Long, but Jackson might wind up being the most productive rookie DE this year.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka, NYG (4 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - With the retirement of Michael Strahan and season-ending injury to Osi Umenyiora, the Giants were forced to move Kiwanuka from SLB back to his natural position of DE. He performed very well in the middle of the 2006 season while filling in for Umenyiora and could have a shot at double digit sacks and a top-10 season.
DE Paul Spicer, JAX (3 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - The Jaguars paid a steep price on draft day to upgrade their pass rush and many thought that Spicer would see a significant reduction in playing time as a result. The long holdout of rookie Derrick Harvey, however, could make it tougher for him to contribute right away. Meanwhile, the Jaguars also showed their appreciation for Spicer with a 2-year, $8 million contract extension this summer. As the best all-around DE on the roster, Spicer should see plenty of playing time and could potentially build on his pretty solid numbers from last season (28 solos, 8.5 sacks, 4 FF).
DE Justin Tuck, NYG (4 solos, 2 assists, 1 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - The same news that helped Kiwanuka (Umenyiora's season ending injury) should also help Tuck. Although he will draw some added attention from blockers this year, he also figures to see a lot more playing time. He managed to record 48 solo tackles and 9.5 sacks last year as the Giants #3 DE, so he should be able to improve on those numbers as their #1 DE.
ILB Stewart Bradley, PHI (8 solos, 1 assists, 1 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 1 PD) - Bradley was unproven as a starter entering the season but he is an athletic player with good size who figures to be a 3-down MLB for the Eagles. Although the Rams finished with just 15 rush attempts and 14 completions, Bradley still managed to put up great numbers which is a positive indicator of his true potential. In addition to his team-leading tackle numbers, he was very active in the Rams backfield with a sack, 2 tackles for a loss, and a QB hit.
ILB Zach Diles, HOU (11 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Diles was a 7th round draft pick last year who played mostly on special teams as a rookie. He won the starting SLB job thanks to a strong preseason, and the only IDP to finish with more tackles than him this week was London Fletcher. Don't expect double digit tackles from him in most weeks, but he could wind up being one of the year's biggest surprises, especially if he can take over nickel duties from Morlon Greenwood.
ILB Paris Lenon, DET (3 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 1 PD) - While many assumed that Jordon Dizon had the easiest path to a starting job among this year's crop of rookie linebackers, it looks like we might have to wait awhile. Lenon is the veteran incumbent at MLB for the Lions, and even though he's not considered to be a long-term option at the position, he does know the scheme well and is much more reliable at this point. Dizon will likely get a chance to play at some point, but it doesn't look like it will be anytime soon. Lenon put up respectable numbers last year and looks like he'll remain a 3-down MLB for the time being.
ILB Jerod Mayo, NE (6 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - While many dynasty owners were initially unhappy to see Mayo drafted by the Patriots and downgraded him accordingly, it looks like his situation won't be nearly as bad as we feared. Although there was some concern that the Patriots would favor the veterans and bring him along slowly, Mayo has impressed the coaching staff this preseason with how quickly he has picked up the defense. The release of Victor Hobson also seems to be a good sign that the coaches feel comfortable with him and it looks like there's a good chance he could be a 3-down type linebacker from day 1.
ILB Patrick Thomas, KC (5 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Napoleon Harris has been a pretty productive LB at times during his career but he fell out of favor with the coaching staff this preseason and was beat out for the starting MLB job by Pat Thomas. Thomas was a 6th round pick of the Jaguars in 2005 who the Chiefs picked up in midseason last year. He is a young, athletic LB who seems to have flown way under the radar but it looks like he has a great chance to wind up as the starting MLB in Kansas City this year. He may not see time in passing downs due to the presence of guys like Donnie Edwards and Demorrio Williams, but Harris was in the same situation last year and wound up with 82 solos and 33 assists.
ILB Nate Webster, DEN (7 solos, 4 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Although the Broncos signed Niko Koutouvides to a 3-year, $7.5 million contract to be their new MLB, he was beaten out for the job by Nate Webster. Webster played outside on the strong side last year and finished with 67 solo tackles so a move inside could potentially bump him up into LB3 range. Webster may not wind up as a 3-down LB and he could lose his job or be moved back to SLB if Boss Bailey gets hurt, but a starting MLB is certainly worth a look in deeper IDP leagues.
OLB Thomas Davis, CAR (2 solos, 3 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 1 PD) - Davis is another player who looks like he'll be moving from SLB over to the weakside this year. While the presence of Beason at MLB may limit his upside, he could easily jump up from 70 solo tackles to 85 or so, which would likely make him a reliable 3rd starter in deeper leagues.
OLB James Harrison, PIT (7 solos, 2 assists, 3 sacks 1 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Harrison had an amazing season in 2007 and many were expecting his numbers to regress a bit this year. With a huge game against the Texans this week, however, it looks like he might be the rare 3-4 OLB who has a chance to rank among the elite fantasy LBs every year. He'll likely be a bit more inconsistent than other elite LBs from week to week, but most owners will put up with that to get huge games like this one.
OLB Derrick Johnson, KC (3 solos, 1 assists, 1 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Based on what we've seen and heard in the preseason, it looks like the Chiefs have decided to move Johnson over to the WLB spot this year. He's a great playmaker who put up 83 solos last year while playing on the strong side so if he has less traffic to sift through in chasing down plays in pursuit, he could be headed for a huge season on a defense that may have a tough time getting off the field.
OLB Bryan Kehl, NYG (5 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Although Gerris Wilkinson got the start at WLB for the Giants on Thursday night, Kehl split time with him and was much more productive. Kehl only saw14 plays on defense and finished with 5 solo tackles while all 3 Giants starting LBs combined for just 2 solos and 8 assists. The Giants traded up to select Kehl in the fourth round and it looks like he may have a chance to take over full-time duties at WLB before too long.
OLB Gerris Wilkinson, NYG (1 solos, 3 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - The injury to Osi Umenyiora looks like it will also wind up helping Wilkinson. He has been sort of banged up for most of the preseason and was competing with Danny Clark for the starting spot at WLB, but Clark has now been moved to SLB to fill the spot vacated by Kiwanuka. Wilkinson is a former 3rd round pick who really hasn't had a great opportunity to showcase his talent yet, but it looks like he could be in line for a 3-down WLB role this year as long as he can stay healthy.
CB Cortland Finnegan, TEN (5 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 2 INT, 3 PD) - Finnegan had a breakout season in 2007 with 79 solo tackles. Despite his small size, Finnegan is a former safety who tackles very well and is always active in run support. Despite coming into the year with just 1 career interception, he managed to pick off 2 against Garrard this week. If he can continue to make big plays like that without sacrificing too much in the tackle stats, he has a chance to be one of the most valuable fantasy DBs in the league this year.
CB Dwight Lowery, NYJ (3 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 3 PD) - Lowery is the favorite to start at the CB spot opposite Darrelle Revis in the season opener. The early favorite for the job was Justin Miller, but he has been injured and seems to have fallen out of contention. Lowery is a rookie CB and Revis showed enough potential last season to suggest that he could become a lockdown corner with excellent ball skills. Given the situation, it stands to reason that most QBs will prefer to throw to Lowery's side of the field whenever they have a choice. He's a great fit for the zone defense the Jets run and should be very active in run support. Also, for anyone who read my article on the stadium impact on IDP statistics, Jets players may have a slight advantage when it comes to tackle numbers, which could make Lowery one of this year's biggest IDP sleepers.
CB Brian Williams, JAX (6 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - The Jaguars made a big free agent signing when they brought in Drayton Florence from the Chargers. That was expected to knock Williams back to a nickel CB role but instead it looks like the Jaguars are planning to start him at strong safety. He'll still need to hold off Gerald Sensabaugh, but if he can hold onto the job, Williams has an excellent chance to break 60 solo tackles and wind up as a DB3 in many leagues this year.
S Yeremiah Bell, MIA (7 solos, 3 assists, 0 sacks 1 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Bell suffered a torn Achilles in last year's season opener so he likely flew under the radar for many fantasy owners this year. With Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas no longer around, however, the Dolphins defense should struggle to get off the field and there isn't a whole lot of competition for tackles from the front seven. Bell tied with MLB Channing Crowder for the team lead in tackles this week and should continue to be very active in run support.
S Reed Doughty, WAS (4 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - The Redskins have decided to keep LaRon Landry at free safety, which allows Doughty to start at strong safety. While not much of a playmaker in coverage, he should put up pretty solid tackle numbers every week and he could have added value as a blitzer. The trade for Jason Taylor gives the Redskins two elite edge rushers, which should make it even tougher for offenses to handle Doughty blitzing up the middle. He could wind up with 70+ solo tackles and 4 sacks if the Redskins blitz him as aggressively as they have at times during the preseason.
S Rodney Harrison, NE (7 solos, 7 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Even though Harrison is 35 years old and was suspended for 4 games at the beginning of the 2007 season, he finished the year strong and showed that he still had some value left. Harrison recorded 57 solo tackles in his last 10 games, including 11 in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants. His 14 total tackles this week were the most for him since he recorded 18 against the Steelers in 2004, the last year he finished as the #1 overall DB. The injury to Brady likely means a lot more close games for the Patriots this year, which should keep Harrison very active in most weeks.
S Kevin Kaesviharn, NO (6 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Kaesviharn beat out last year's starting free safety Josh Bullocks with an excellent preseason. He's an underrated playmaker who recorded 4.5 sacks and 6 interceptions as a part-time starter with the Bengals in 2006. With an improved pass rush up front thanks to the additions of Bobby McCray and Sedrick Ellis and a potent offense, he should see plenty of interception opportunities and may add a few sacks like the one he had last week when he helped bloody up Carson Palmer.
S Quintin Mikell, PHI (7 solos, 2 assists, 1 sacks 1 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - At 28 years old, Mikell has been around for awhile but he's mostly contributed as a depth player in the Eagles defense. He got his first real chance to win a starting job last season and showed flashes of his potential. The addition of Asante Samuel at one CB spot should help solidify the coverage in the secondary, which will allow Mikell to be more active and play closer to the line of scrimmage. He recorded a sack on Sunday against the Rams and should probably see a few more of those in Jimmy Johnson's aggressive defense.
S Kevin Payne, CHI (2 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - This is a situation that many IDP owners have been following closely this preseason. Whoever starts at SS for the Bears seems to produce big numbers and Brandon McGowan was expected to be that player this year. However, despite putting up better numbers in the preseason, the coaching staff has apparently decided to move Payne ahead of McGowan on the depth chart prior to the season opener. Payne is a more traditional big hitting strong safety who the coaching staff really seems to love. As long as Mike Brown is healthy at free safety, that should free up Payne to be more active in run support. He could be this year's version of Chris Harris, who was buried on the depth chart in Chicago but then traded to Carolina and wound up recording an amazing 76 solo tackles and 8 forced fumbles last year.
S Eric Weddle, SD (7 solos, 4 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 1 PD) - The Chargers 2nd round pick from last year's draft is a sound tackler, has excellent ball skills, and quite simply has a knack for always being around the football. He led the Chargers in tackles this week with 11 and figures to make a lot of plays before the year is up. Definitely has some sleeper potential and he should see a bump in his tackle numbers as long as Stephen Cooper is serving his 4-game suspension.
DowngradesDT John McCargo, BUF - McCargo has flashed potential during his first two seasons but he has yet to live up to the expectations that come with being a 1st round pick. He was expected to start at the 3-technique spot in Buffalo this year and to get a boost from the trade for Marcus Stroud, but Kyle Williams looks like he'll remain the starter at one tackle spot after signing a contract extension. The Bills also like what free agent pickup Spencer Johnson can add so it looks like they will play all 3 of those guys in a rotation, but Stroud will probably wind up being the only one worth owning in leagues that require a starting DT.
DT Amobi Okoye, HOU (0 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Despite his status as the youngest NFL draft pick in history, Okoye wasted little time in showing his great potential last year when he recorded 10 solos and 4 sacks in his first 4 games. He struggled down the stretch, however, and recorded 1 or fewer solo tackles in 7 of his last 9 games. There was optimism that he'd more consistent in his second year as a starter, but he started off 2008 the same way he ended 2007, with 0 tackles. Making matters worse, the Steelers rolled off 39 rushing attempts in this game so he clearly had plenty of opportunities to make an impact but still failed to do so.
DE Gaines Adams, TB (0 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Last year's 4th overall draft pick entered his second season with a ton of promise after recording 22 solo tackles and 4 sacks in his last 9 games of 2007. Despite 27 rushing attempts from the Saints this week, however, Adams was held without a single tackle. He was also offside on a key play in the game when Brees recognized that he had a free play and connected with Devery Henderson on an 84 yard TD pass. Adams was credited with 2 QB hits on Brees so he did get some pressure, but he'll need to contribute against the run to become a viable fantasy starter.
DE Elvis Dumervil, DEN (0 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Not only does Dumervil have increased competition for snaps on the defensive line this year with the expected emergence of players like Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, he also broke his pinky finger in a preseason game that required doctors to insert 4 pins into it. He's expected to play in the season opener with it but will probably have to wear a cast. There's a good chance that he'll see fewer snaps this year as the team uses more of a rotation to keep him from wearing down.
DE Derrick Harvey, JAX (0 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 1 INT, 1 PD) - The Jaguars paid a steep price to move up in the first round to select Harvey, indicating a strong desire on their part to upgrade the pass rush. However, that same move also gave Harvey added leverage and likely led to the long 33-day holdout from him this preseason. It's hard for most rookies to make an impact right away, but it will be even harder for a player who missed that much time. He could see some time as a pass rush specialist where his responsibilities are limited, but we probably shouldn't expect to see any significant playing time for Harvey until the second half of the season unless there is an injury.
DE Leonard Little, STL (0 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Little averaged 11 sacks per season from 2001 to 2006 but his 2007 season was ruined by a toe injury. He was expected to return to form this year but suffered a hamstring injury 90 seconds into the game that could limit his explosiveness and potentially keep him out of next week's home opener against the Giants. At 34 years of age, there is certainly cause for concern that Little may not be able to heal as quickly from these types of nagging injuries as he used to.
DE Julius Peppers, CAR (0 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Peppers was one of 2007's biggest mysteries and disappointments as he finished with a career-low 3 sacks in 14 games played. There was optimism that he'd return to his old form this year with the move to RDE and unrestricted free agency looming on the horizon. He seemed to have a favorable matchup against the Chargers this week with Pro Bowl LT Marcus McNeill out of the game and QB Phil Rivers still recovering from a torn ACL, but Peppers was neutralized by LT Shelton for most of the game and finished with just a single solo tackle and 1 QB hit.
DE Darryl Tapp, SEA (1 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - After a pretty solid season last year that included a 4-sack game against the Rams, Tapp appears to have lost his starting job to the rookie Lawrence Jackson. The current plan in Seattle seems to be for Jackson to slide inside on passing downs, which will allow Tapp to sub in as a pass rush specialist, but some of those snaps could also go to a player like LB Julian Peterson. Either way, Tapp seems headed for a significant reduction in playing time compared to last season when he only recorded 1.5 sacks in his last 10 games including the playoffs.
DE Jason Taylor, WAS (2 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Taylor was traded from the Dolphins to the Redskins, who already have a pretty explosive edge rusher at RDE in Andre Carter. As a result, Taylor is expected to line up primarily at LDE for the first time in his career. Taylor also suffered a knee injury during the preseason which may limit him in the season opener or keep him out entirely. It's hard to count him out because he's been one of the best and most consistent pass rushers in the league for a long time, but at 34 years old the knee injury and position switch are certainly cause for some concern.
ILB Jordon Dizon, DET (4 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - When the Lions drafted Dizon, many thought he was going to take over the MLB job instantly. However, he is a smaller player who has looked lost at times and was often engulfed by blockers in preseason action. Paris Lenon seems to have a strong hold on the starting job so this may be a situation similar to what happened in Tampa when Barrett Ruud had to sit for a couple years behind Shelton Quarles before finally taking over. Dizon is still the MLB of the future in Detroit, but dynasty owners will have to be more patient with him than they originally thought.
ILB Larry Foote, PIT (1 solos, 3 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - The talk of the preseason for the Steelers seems to have revolved around last year's 1st round pick Lawrence Timmons. Although he didn't seem to be a great fit for the Steelers 3-4 defense initially and took pretty much his entire rookie season to adjust, it looks like he's ready to start stealing snaps from Foote at ILB. The Steelers defense wore down late last season and Foote seems to be the fall guy even though he's an experienced vet who is still just 28 years old.
ILB Antonio Pierce, NYG (1 solos, 2 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Pierce played every snap for the Giants defense on Thursday night but only finished with 1 solo and 2 assists. His tackle numbers did seem to drop off a bit last year, and since he's approaching 30 years of age there's a chance that he may have lost a step. But, as a leader of the Giants defense, he should remain an everydown LB and it would be hard to imagine almost any player in that situation not getting back to 80 solo tackles before the year is over. Where he might be hurt the most is in the big play numbers, an area that he has never excelled in anyway.
OLB Derrick Brooks, TB (3 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Although he has never missed a game in his 14-year career due to injury and has made 193 straight starts, Brooks is questionable for next week's game with a hamstring injury he suffered in the third quarter this week. With Brooks on the sideline, the Saints rallied to score two late TDs and win the game. Brooks has remained a very reliable defender over the years but he's no longer the impact player he used to be and at 35 years old, it's questionable how much he has left. The Bucs have a natural replacement on the roster in SLB Cato June, but he's going to have limited value as long as Brooks is playing.
OLB Keith Bulluck, TEN (1 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Bulluck became a full-time starter in 2002 and averaged over 100 solo tackles for 5 straight seasons. His numbers took a huge drop last season, however, and he finished with just 68. The 5 interceptions he recorded in 2007 helped mask the dropoff somewhat and suggested that he was still the same athletic playmaker he had always been. The Titans decided to give the headset to fellow LB David Thornton this year, suggesting that a changing of the guard may be taking place. Bulluck certainly isn't going to reassure many fantasy owners with the stat line he put up this week against the Jaguars either. He still figures to be a 3-down LB, and at 31 years old it is too early to write him off completely, but his days as an elite LB1 and possibly even a LB2 seem to be over.
OLB Angelo Crowell, BUF - Coming off the best season of his career, in which he led the Bills in tackles and was the only defensive starter to start all 16 games, Crowell decided to have arthroscopic surgery on his knee last week. Despite a reported normal recovery time of 3 to 4 weeks, the Bills made a curious decision to place him on injured reserve and effectively end his season. Crowell is in the last year of his contract and will likely have little trouble finding a starting job with another team next season. He'll be replaced in the lineup by Keith Ellison.
OLB Donnie Edwards, KC (2 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Edwards has been injured for much of the preseason so we don't have a clear idea of how he'll be used by the Chiefs this year. However, the move of Derrick Johnson to the weakside seems to indicate that Edwards may slot in on the strong side. That doesn't seem like a great fit for a player who is undersized and may not be quick enough at 35 years old to stay with some of the talented TEs in his own division. He's been an IDP stud for a long time but don't be surprised if he falls off quickly as the Chiefs begin to go with more of a youth movement on defense.
OLB Shawne Merriman, SD (1 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - The Merriman story got plenty of headlines so most people should be familiar with it. Despite strong recommendations from doctors that he should have knee surgery to repair a couple of ligaments, Merriman plans to play through it. While he apparently played with the same injury during the end of the 2007 season and was still productive, he seems to be at an increased risk for a season-ending and possibly even career-ending injury. If he starts off the season strong, might not be a bad idea to try and move him to a less risk-averse owner in your league.
CB Nate Clements, SF (0 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Clements is an elite fantasy CB who recorded 77 solo tackles and 4 INTs last year. It looked like he had a great matchup this week with the Cardinals tandem of great WRs coming to town. The Cardinals relied heavily on the running game, however, and the only time Clements showed up on the stat sheet was an assisted tackle on the Cardinals 2nd play from scrimmage. Don't panic too much though as Clements had a similar start to his 2007 season when he recorded just 2 solos in the opener, which was also against the Cardinals.
CB Richard Marshall, CAR (1 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 1 PD) - After putting up back to back 70+ solo tackle seasons despite playing primarily as the team's nickel back, Marshall entered the 2008 season as a consensus top-10 fantasy DB. The Chargers may not have been a great matchup for him this week since they don't use a lot of 3WR formations, but he still should have been used to help slow down Antonio Gates. Instead, Marshall wound up with just 1 pass defensed on the night and a couple of special teams tackles. He put up some games like this last year too, but the upcoming schedule features a lot of run first teams that might wind up limiting his snaps.
CB Leodis McKelvin, BUF (0 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - McKelvin was the first corner drafted and he filled what looked like a big need for the Bills at the time. However, he has been outplayed by fellow rookie Reggie Corner during the preseason and also by 3rd year pro Ashton Youboty. With Jabari Greer and Terrence McGee having a pretty strong grasp on their starting jobs, it looks like McKelvin will begin the year no better than 4th or 5th on the depth chart. He'll still contribute as a returner right away but may wind up being a bit of a project as a corner.
S Josh Bullocks, NO (1 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Bullocks started 43 games over his first 3 years in New Orleans and finished with some respectable numbers in 2007 (65 solos in 14 games). The Saints had an open competition for the starting FS job in the preseason this year, however, and Bullocks lost out to Kevin Kaesviharn. So, his value likely takes a big hit for the time being unless there's an injury to one of the starters.
S Sammy Knight, NYG (0 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Despite never being blessed with great speed, Knight has managed to hang around the league as a productive starter for many years due mostly to his experience and playmaking ability. He had a very surprising season in 2007 with the Jaguars, finishing with 79 solo tackles and 4 interceptions. With the loss of Gibril Wilson to the Raiders, many expected Knight to take over as the starting SS for the Giants this year. Barring an injury, however, it doesn't look like that will happen. Knight was inactive in the season opener and the Giants seem content with a safety rotation that includes Michael Johnson, James Butler, and 1st round pick Kenny Phillips.
S Brandon McGowan, CHI (2 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 1 PD) - McGowan entered the preseason with a lot of promise but it looks like he may have lost his starting job before the season even begins. The Bears recently announced that 2nd year player Kevin Payne has passed him on the depth chart, which could reduce McGowan to more of a part-time role in certain packages. Even though McGowan appears to be the better overall player, the coaches really seem intent to get Payne on the field so we may even wind up seeing some type of platoon situation that hurts the value of both players.
S Ed Reed, BAL (2 solos, 1 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 1 PD) - Reed always seems to be a player that is more valuable in the NFL than he is to fantasy owners because the impact he can have on games doesn't always show up in the box score. Making matters worse, he's expected to miss the season opener and possibly more time with a nerve problem in his neck. He did manage to bring in 7 interceptions last season but he also set a career low with just 29 solo tackles in 16 games.
S Antrel Rolle, ARI (1 solos, 0 assists, 0 sacks 0 FF, 0 FR, 0 INT, 0 PD) - Rolle was moved to free safety this year, which should help him keep the play in front of him and allow him more time to react. Despite the presence of Mike Martz, however, the 49ers ran a pretty conservative offense this week that didn't involve a lot of downfield passing and that wound up limiting the number of opportunities for Rolle to make a play. He should do better than this in the week's ahead but may rely too heavily on big plays to be a consistent starting option in deeper leagues.