IDP Upgrades - Week 12
Updated 11/23 by Aaron Rudnicki, Exclusive for Footballguys.com
DE Mark Anderson, CHI
Although he received a lot of positive press in the preseason after the arrival of new DL coach Rod Marinelli, Anderson has not been able to recapture the form of his 2006 rookie season when he posted 12.5 sacks. The Bears defense has struggled to generate consistent pressure on QBs this year, but Anderson finally showed signs of life this week with 4 solo tackles, 2 assists, a half sack, and an additional QB hit. With the season slipping away and the playoffs looking more and more unlikely, it would make sense for the team to give more playing to a younger player like Anderson to see if he can take on a bigger role given that Adewale Ogunleye is 32 years old and headed for free agency after this season.
DE Greg Ellis, OAK
Ellis had a tremendous start to the season with 4 sacks in his first 4 games, but he was slowed by injuries and eventually underwent arthroscopic surgery on both his shoulder and knee a couple of weeks ago. He was limited in practice last week and listed as questionable on the injury report, but he was healthy enough to start the game and also picked up his first sack since week 4. Ellis finished with 3 solo tackles, 1 sack, a QB hit, and a fumble recovery. If you've been holding onto him for this long, it looks safe to put him back in your lineup.
DE Shaun Ellis, NYJ
Ellis has not had much success playing in the new Jets defense this year, but he had a strong game this week even if most of his production came after the Patriots got out to a quick 24-0 lead. He finished the game with 6 solo tackles, 2 assists, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a QB hit. Although he had just a half sack in his first 6 games, he has now posted 3.5 sacks (and 10 solo tackles) in his last 3 games.
DE Randy Starks, MIA
After being kept off the score sheet in week 10 by Tampa, Starks rebounded with another strong game on Thursday night vs the Panthers. He was credited with 5 solo tackles and a sack, but he also had 2 additional QB hits in the game as well. The Dolphins defense hasn't been playing that well this year, but Starks has been doing his part and has been a solid start for fantasy owners in 6 of the past 7 weeks.
DT John Henderson, JAX
Henderson was one of the most dominant DTs in the league for the first 4 years of his career. Although his production and level of play have slipped since then, he still can make an impact as he showed this week when he posted 2 sacks in a game for the first time since late in the 2005 season. Henderson finished the game with 3 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 2 additional QB hits, and a forced fumble. The emergence of Terrance Knighton at NT is having a positive impact on Henderson and providing him with more opportunities to rush the passer.
LB Michael Boley, NYG
Boley had a strong return to the lineup 2 weeks ago, but outdid himself this week in a huge win over the Falcons. Playing without Michael Turner, the Falcons tried to establish the run with Jason Snelling but Boley helped limit him to just 3 yards per carry on 25 attempts. Boley finished the game with 11 solos, 2 assists, a sack, and 2 QB hits. With MLB Antonio Pierce expected to miss some time with a bulging disc in his neck, Boley looks like he should be an everydown linebacker as long as he can stay healthy.
LB Gary Brackett, IND
Brackett has been a steady presence at MLB for the Colts over the past four plus years, but his play this year was tough to get a read on. He started out with 15 solo tackles in his first two games before missing some time with an injury. After returning to the lineup in week 5, he only managed to post 15 solo tackles over his next 4 games and it looked like he was no longer a reliable starter. Brackett has flipped the switch back on the past two weeks, however, as he put up back to back games with 8 solo tackles and he also came through with a huge interception this week that helped seal the victory over the Ravens and took the Colts to 10-0.
LB London Fletcher, WAS
Apparently the rumors of Fletcher's demise may have been premature. The Cowboys relied heavily on their running backs in this game with 33 rush attempts for 153 yards, and Fletcher wound up with his most productive game of the season. He finished the game with 8 solo tackles, 5 assists, a forced fumble, and an interception plus pass defensed. He also had a great chance for a 2nd interception in the game but just missed bringing the ball in. With great matchups against the Giants and Cowboys coming up in weeks 15 and 16, he may be a good player to target at the trading deadline in IDP leagues.
LB Larry Foote, DET
Foote's tackle production has been consistent but somewhat underwhelming for much of the year. He also seemed to be wearing down a bit in recent weeks with just 16 solo tackles in his previous 4 games, but just like the Lions offense he had his best game of the season this week against the Browns. In a high scoring affair that included 9 TD passes, Foote was credited with 9 solo tackles, 3 assists, a sack, a pass defensed, and a QB hit. Although Foote was pushed out of Pittsburgh to make room for a younger player, he's still just 29 years old and could be the MLB in Detroit for awhile.
LB James Laurinitis, STL
Although Brian Cushing is a strong favorite for defensive rookie of the year, Laurinitis has been having a solid season in the middle of the Rams defense as well. Although the Rams comeback attempt this week came up short, Laurinitis did just about everything he could to keep them in the game with 16 solo tackles and a QB hit. This looks like a strong rookie class for fantasy linebackers with several players that have top-10 potential.
LB Joey Porter, MIA
What a difference taking a week off can make for a player. After being told he was going to lose playing time to Charlie Anderson and being left on the inactive list last week, Porter responded with a dominant performance against the Panthers on Thursday night. He was nearly unblockable and finished the game with 7 solo tackles, an assist, 2 sacks, and 3 QB hits. This is what he looked like for much of last year when he seemed determined to prove that the Steelers made a mistake by releasing him. Perhaps he had become complacent earlier this year, but he can clearly still be a lot to handle when fully motivated and the Bills will probably have their hands full with trying to slow him down next weekend.
LB Andy Studebaker, KC
Studebaker made his first career start this week in place of Mike Vrabel and all he did was come through with one of the biggest games from any IDP this weekend. He was credited with 5 solo tackles, an assist, a half sack, a QB hit and 2 interceptions in the Chiefs overtime upset of the Steelers. Studebaker was a late round pick in the 2008 draft out of a Division III Wheaton who the Chiefs signed off the Eagles practice squad late last year.
CB Malcolm Jenkins, NO
The Saints defensive turnaround this year has been sparked by great play from their secondary and it continued this week even though they were forced to play without both starting cornerbacks. 1st round pick Malcolm Jenkins got his first start and he did not look out of place, finishing with 5 solo tackles, 2 assists, an interception, and 2 passes defensed. The Saints signed Chris McAllister last week and are hoping to get Jabari Greer back soon, but they also lost Randall Gay to an injury this week so Jenkins should remain in the starting lineup for the time being. As a rookie corner he will certainly be tested, but he has the size and skills to become an impact fantasy corner.
S Tyvon Branch, OAK
Coming into the season, many IDP owners were excited to see who would take over for Gibril Wilson as the Raiders SS and it became apparent early on in the preseason that Branch was going to be that player. A converted cornerback, Branch may not have ideal size for the position but he has great range and has been picking up right where Wilson left off last year when he posted 96 solo tackles. Branch has been putting up big tackle numbers all year, but he had his best game of the season this week with 11 solo tackles, an assist, a sack, a forced fumble, and a pass defensed. With 67 solo tackles in 10 games, he's on pace to finish with an amazing 107 solo tackles this year.
S Darcel McBath, DEN
McBath was a 2nd round pick out of Texas Tech who has mostly seen time on special teams this year, but he got a chance for some significant playing time this week when Brian Dawkins left the game with a neck injury. McBath was very active and finished the game with 6 solo tackles and an assist. The Broncos are playing against the Giants on Thursday night this week and McBath could put up some nice numbers if Dawkins is unable to play.
S Bryan Scott, BUF
Scott came into the year as the Bills starting strong safety and he was productive with 16 solo tackles and 11 assists in the first 3 weeks. Injuries knocked him out of the lineup for the next month or so, and he returned last week as a starting linebacker. With Kawika Mitchell and Keith Ellison going on injured reserve, the team decided to move the veteran Scott up to linebacker rather than insert another inexperienced player into the starting lineup. While Scott is undersized for the position and can be overpowered at times, he makes up for it with his quickness and ability to chase down plays from behind. All he's done in his first two starts is post 18 solo tackles, 2 assists, with a sack, forced fumble, and pass defensed.
DE Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, IND
Dwight Freeney was listed as questionable on the injury report this week but practiced fully last week and didn't appear to be limited in the game. Robert Mathis was coming off his best game of the season and had recorded 3.5 sacks in his last 3 games. Both players were completely shut out this week, however, as the Ravens got some great play from their offensive tackles. It was likely an aberration as both players are having great seasons, but it does mark the second disappointing game in a row for Freeney.
DE Richard Seymour, OAK
Seymour was forced to leave the game in the first quarter with a back injury. Although it reportedly wasn't that serious, his status for the Thursday game against the Cowboys is up in the air. With just 4 solos, 3 assists, and 0 sacks in his last 4 games, it's probably safe to bench him and look for another option this week.
DE Matt Shaughnessy, OAK
Shaughnessy had been doing a good job and came into this week's game with 9 solo tackles and 2 sacks in his last two games, but the return of Greg Ellis to the lineup pushed him back to the bench. The injury to Seymour appeared to create an opportunity for Jay Richardson so Shaughnessy made need to wait until next season for his chance to become a full-time player again, but he showed flashes of his potential and is certainly a player to keep on your radar.
DT Jason Ferguson, MIA
At 35 years of age, Ferguson wasn't playing as well as he had in previous seasons but he was still a decent source of tackles in DT-required leagues. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn quad muscle this week and was placed on injured reserve. His contract expires after this year and there's a good chance that he could retire. The Dolphins will replace him with Paul Soliai, but he missed the last game while dealing with an ankle injury.
LB Aaron Kampman, GB
Kampman has struggled in the new 3-4 defense in Green Bay, but he was having one of his better games of the season this week with 4 solo tackles and a sack before being carted off with a knee injury in the second half. An MRI revealed a torn ACL and he'll be placed on injured reserve. This is a big blow for Kampman who figured to be one of the most sought after free agents in the offseason, and for IDP owners who were holding onto him in hopes that he'd wind up playing DE in a 4-3 next season. That could still happen, but he has a long recovery process ahead of him now.
LB Shawne Merriman, SD
It has been a strange season for Merriman as he went sackless in his first 6 games, posted 4 sacks in his next 2 games, and now he's posted just 1 solo tackle, 1 assist, and 0 sacks in his last 2 games. He has been bothered by a foot injury that forced him to miss some practice time last week and also kept him out for parts of the game this week. The Chiefs look like a favorable matchup for him this week, but it's tough to count on him if he's not fully healthy.
LB Calvin Pace, NYJ
After sitting out the first four games while serving a suspension, Pace made a big impact with 22 solo tackles, 3 sacks, and a couple forced fumbles in his next 4 games. He did record a sack last week against the Jaguars, but he's only posted 3 solo tackles and 1 assist in his past two games. Pace still has the potential to blow up with a huge game in any given week, but without some steady tackle production it's much tougher to justify starting him.
CB Al Harris, GB
Harris hasn't hit 40 solo tackles in any of the past 3 seasons so he's not much of a fantasy factor, but he's a very good corner whose strong play allows other players in the Packers secondary to take more chances. Unfortunately, Harris suffered a torn ACL this week and will be lost for the rest of the season. He'll likely be replaced by Tramon Williams, who has put up some nice numbers as the #3 corner and he could see a lot of action playing opposite Charles Woodson.
CB Fabian Washington, BAL
The Ravens pass defense has been a sore spot for much of the season and Washington has been part of the problem. It looks opponents will have to find a new corner to pick on as Washington suffered a torn ACL this week. Lardarius Webb, a rookie 3rd round pick, who has looked promising in limited playing time thus far, will replace him in the lineup.
S Al Afalava, CHI
After missing last week's game with a shoulder injury, Afalava returned to the starting lineup this week but he was ineffective and burned badly on a big TD play by DeSean Jackson. Despite being the starting strong safety for nearly the entire season, Afalava's production has been underwhelming and he hasn't really shown any signs of improvement. With low tackles numbers and no big plays, his fantasy value is pretty minimal.
S Brian Dawkins, DEN
Dawkins was a great pickup who has had a huge impact on the Broncos defense, but he was knocked out of the game this week with a neck injury. At 36 years old, he might not be as quick to heal as he has been in the past and the Broncos have a short week of preparation before they face the Giants on Thursday night.