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IDP Upgrades - Week 6

  Updated 10/12 by Aaron Rudnicki, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

Upgrades

DE Jimmy Wilkerson, TB
Although the Eagles only had 48 offensive snaps in the game this week, Wilkerson made a huge impact with 6 solo tackles, 3 sacks, 2 QB hits, a forced fumble, and a pass defensed. Wilkerson was not much of a pass-rush threat earlier in his career (1.5 sacks in his first 5 seasons with the Chiefs), but he seemed to turn things around late last season and finished with 4 sacks in his last 7 games. That helped him earn a full-time role playing opposite Gaines Adams this year and he has made the most of it with 5 more sacks in his first 5 games. He's a solid 2-way DE who should continue to put up solid tackle numbers given how poorly the Buccaneers have been playing as a team and those 9 sacks in his last 12 games indicate that he can still be valuable in big-play scoring systems as well.

DE Andre Carter, WAS
The signing of Albert Haynesworth was expected to rejuvenate Andre Carter and the Redskins pass rush this season. Although it hasn't quite worked out as expected, Carter finally broke out of his early season slump with a huge game against the Panthers this week. He racked up 5 solos, 1 assist, 2.5 sacks, 2 QB hits, a forced fumble, and a pass defensed. Carter has two double-digit sack seasons on his resume so he clearly has the ability to be an impact player, but he just needs to play with more consistency so hopefully this is a sign of better things to come this season.

DE Vonnie Holliday, DEN
Holliday had offseason knee surgery and didn't sign with the Broncos until early September, but he's a proven performer who has experience playing DE in a 3-4 front. Although he isn't starting in Denver yet, he's starting to see more time as part of a rotation and is making the most of it with 4 solos, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble over the past two weeks. He could provide some decent value as a free agent pickup if you're desperate for DL help in the weeks ahead, especially considering how well the Broncos defense has been playing.

DE Dwight Freeney, IND
Although Freeney has been banged up this year and playing through some nagging injuries, he has still managed to record a sack in every single game. With just 9 solos in 5 games, and 6 of them coming directly from sacks, his tackle numbers are likely going to remain a disappointment. However, with the way the Colts are playing on offense this year, Freeney is going to get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer. If he can keep up this type of sack per game pace and add in a few more forced fumbles, it might not matter how many tackles he has and he could return to the top-10 at his position.

DE Cliff Avril, DET
Despite all the struggles the Lions had in 2008, Cliff Avril actually had a solid rookie season as he recorded 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He played primarily as a pass-rush specialist and many expected him to compete for an everydown role this year, but those plans were put on hold as he dealt with a hamstring problem early on. He registered a sack and forced fumble against the Bears last week and followed that up with another strong effort against the Lions this week. Although Turk McBride and Jason Hunter got the starts at DE, it was Avril who stood out with 4 solos, 1 assist, a half sack and a QB hit in the game. With Dewayne White still out injured and Jason Hunter suffering an ankle injury in the game, Avril could be in line for some additional playing time going forward.

OLB Aaron Curry, SEA
While Curry has gotten off to a strong start this season, he took things to another level this week against the Jaguars. Curry was all over the field and finished the game with 9 solo tackles, an assist, a sack, a forced fumble, a QB hit, and a pass defensed. The Seahawks defense shut out the Jaguars and Curry was one of the main reasons why. He's currently on a pace for 90+ solo tackles and 6 sacks, which would likely make him a favorite for the defensive rookie of the year award.

ILB Keith Brooking, DAL
The Keith Brooking signing flew way under the radar for most fantasy owners this year as his production has fallen off in recent years and many thought he was nearing the end of his career. He enjoyed some of the best seasons of his career playing under Wade Phillips in Atlanta, however, and so far he looks like an excellent fit playing WILB in the Cowboys 3-4 defense. After recording 9 solo tackles a week ago against the Broncos, he followed it up with 8 solos, 3 assists, a sack, a pass defensed, and 4 QB hits in this week's overtime win over the Chiefs. He's back on pace for a 90+ solo tackle season and it looks like he should be able to add a handful of sacks to his numbers as well. If he can keep this up, Brooking will finish the year as one of the best IDP values in the league this season.

ILB D'Qwell Jackson, CLE
Despite missing practice on Friday with a hamstring injury and being listed as doubtful on the official injury report, Jackson was able to play through the injury and once again led his team in tackles with 9 solos and 4 assists. After 5 games, Jackson has racked up a very impressive 40 solo tackles and 11 assists which would put him on pace for 128 solo tackles and 35 assists. He may not be able to keep that up, but with the way the Browns have been playing on both offense and defense, it would not be a surprise at all if Jackson finished the year as the leading tackler in the entire league.

ILB Jerod Mayo, NE
Mayo injured his knee in the season opener and missed the past three games, but he returned to action this week. Although he didn't start the game and the Patriots tried to ease him into things, he looked strong and finished the game with 6 solo tackles and a forced fumble. Provided there are no setbacks, look for him to resume his role as an everydown linebacker next week. His return likely comes just in time as many fantasy teams will be short-handed with the 6-team bye weeks coming up on the schedule.

OLB Keith Ellison, BUF
Ellison has already had an up and down season and the year is only 5 games old. With the injury to Paul Posluszny in the opener, Ellison took over a spot in the team's nickel package and racked up 17 solo tackles and 10 assists in the first two games. The Bills defense struggled to stop the run in weeks 3 and 4, however, and Ellison saw a big dropoff in his production. This week against the Browns, starting MLB Kawika Mitchell and his replacement Marcus Buggs were both carted off the field with injuries and will be lost for the rest of the season. This means that Ellison is the only remaining linebacker with experience and he's expected to take over at middle linebacker until Posluszny is ready to return from a broken arm in a few weeks. Ellison is small and undersized for the position, but he figures to be on the field for every snap and should have a chance to put up some solid tackle numbers as a result.

OLB Calvin Pace, NYJ
Pace has had two very strong seasons in a row, thanks primarily to his abilities as a playmaker with 12.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and 6 fumble recoveries. He was suspended for the first four games of the season but returned to action in the Monday night game against the Dolphins. He should provide a spark to a defensive units that has already been playing like one of the best in the league.

CB Leigh Bodden, NE
While playing with the Browns, Bodden finished the 2007 season with 76 solo tackles and 6 interceptions, making him the highest scoring fantasy corner in the league. He struggled after the trade to Detroit last season and had a bit of an underwhelming start in New England this year, but he exploded with 10 solo tackles, an assist, and 2 passes defensed in the overtime loss to the Broncos this week. Bodden's tackle numbers have been inconsistent so far this year, but he has a great chance to wind up as one of the leading tacklers at the corner position.

S Chris Harris, CAR
After missing the first four games of the season with a knee injury and being limited in practice early in the week, Harris was able to practice in full on Friday and returned to the starting lineup. He had a busy game right away, finishing second on the team with 7 solo tackles. Harris is a big hitter who should see a lot of time playing up in the box and be a decent source of tackles going forward.

S Bernard Pollard, HOU
After averaging 76 solo tackles the past two seasons, Pollard was a surprise cut by the Chiefs coming into the season. He eventually caught on with the Texans who have been trying to fill their strong safety spot for years and it looks like Pollard may be just the type of player they were looking for. Although he does miss his share of tackles, Pollard is a big hitter with good range who should definitely help upgrade the run defense for the Texans. He took over as a starter last week and has 10 solo tackles and 3 assists so far. Pollard has only been on the team for a few weeks at this point, so look for those numbers to improve as he gets more comfortable.

S Brandon McGowan, NE
James Sanders missed the game this week with a shoulder injury, which allowed McGowan to put a stronger hold on the starting free safety job. He was very active in the game and finished with 6 solos, 3 assists, 2 passes defensed, and a fumble recovery. This marks the fourth straight game that McGowan has finished with 5 or more solo tackles and he's looking like a very reliable option in most standard scoring systems.

Downgrades

DE Jason Hunter, DET
After a strong start to the season that saw him register 8 solos and 2 sacks in the first three games, Hunter has cooled off with just 2 solos and 0 sacks the past two games. He also left the game with an ankle injury this week while 2nd year pro Cliff Avril seems to be picking up steam in a fight for more playing time. If Dewayne White ever gets healthy, Hunter could see his playing time and fantasy value reduced significantly.

DE Greg (Stylez) White, TB
White has been an effective player for the Buccaneers the past couple years, but his playing time has been reduced this year and he's struggling to make much of an impact. After averaging 23 solo tackles and nearly 7 sacks in 2007 and 2008, he has just 2 solos (with 6 assists) and 0 sacks through 5 games this year. The emergence of Jimmy Wilkerson as a potent pass rush threat seems to be limiting his opportunities.

DE Ray Edwards, MIN
Early this season, it appeared that Edwards was possibly headed for a breakout season with 10 solo tackles and 1.5 sacks in his first two games. Since then, however, he's had to deal with a nagging hamstring injury that is making it difficult for him to be effective rushing the passer and he has just 5 solo tackles and 0 sacks in the past three games. With the way that Jared Allen has been playing, including a 4.5 sack game against the Packers on Monday night, offenses are going to focus most of their attention on him so Edwards should be putting up better numbers more consistently than this. Brian Robison showed some flashes against the Packers and might deserve a chance to see more snaps in passing situations.

DE Mario Williams, HOU
Williams has not exactly been the same dominant player this year that he has been in the past. He was a game-time decision this week with what was reported to be a shoulder problem, but there were also some reports that his groin was bothering him. Williams has never missed a game in his career and tried to play through it, but he finished the game with 0 tackles and just a single QB hit. He remains an elite fantasy option at the defensive end position, but watch the situation closely to see how much these injuries are bothering him.

DE Antonio Smith, HOU
Smith was one of the best free agent defensive ends available this offseason and the Texans brought him in to help solidify their defensive line and hopefully provide a complementary pass rusher to Mario Williams. Through 5 games, however, Smith has yet to record a single sack and he has just 10 solo tackles while the Texans have one of the league's worst run defenses.

DE Patrick Kerney, SEA
There is little doubt that Kerney is the best pass rusher on the Seahawks but he has had problems staying healthy in recent years. He missed 7 games in 2006 and then missed 9 games in 2008. With a couple sacks in his first four games, it looked like Kerney was going to get his career back on track but he was forced to miss the game this week while recovering from a groin injury. That's not a good sign for a pass rusher as it could limit his quickness and limit him to being little more than a power rusher.

OLB Kawika Mitchell, BUF
After getting run over by the Saints and Dolphins the past couple of weeks, the Bills decided to move Mitchell inside to MLB this week to replace the much smaller Marcus Buggs. Unfortunately, we didn't get much of a chance to see how the move worked out as Mitchell left the game early in the second quarter with a knee injury. He was carted off the field and it was reported on Monday that he would be lost for the season. Buggs was also lost for the year later in the game and it appears that Keith Ellison will take over until Paul Posluszny returns in a few weeks from a broken arm.

OLB Zach Diles, HOU
Diles was named the starting WLB over Xavier Adibi this year, but he hasn't really been able to do much with the opportunity thus far. He's not normally a part of the team's nickel package and has been credited with just 14 solo tackles and 4 assists in 5 games. The rookie Brian Cushing has been much more impressive so far while playing in the same SLB spot that Diles played last year.

OLB Keith Rivers, CIN
As a top-10 overall draft pick a year ago, many expected Rivers to emerge as an IDP fantasy stud but he has struggled to find consistency from week to week. The Bengals won the time of possession battle this week, but the Ravens still had 51 offensive plays in the game so it was a big disappointment for Rivers to finish the game with 0 tackles. This may have just been one of those fluky games where he didn't happen to be around the football, so he'll try to rebound next week against the Texans.

ILB Justin Durant, JAX
Even though he was listed as probable on the official injury report, Durant wound up being a late scratch this week. It appears that he had a problem with his hip develop during the week and it was bad enough that he couldn't play through it. This likely caught most fantasy owners by surprise and was a big disappointment considering that Durant had been playing very well with 29 solo tackles in his first four games.

OLB Ricky Brown, OAK
Brown was given a chance to compete with Kirk Morrison for the Raiders starting MLB job this preseason but he remained at the SLB spot to start the season. With the Raiders struggling on both sides of the ball, Brown put up some steady numbers through the first four weeks of the season but he left the game with an ankle injury this week that was bad enough to warrant x-rays being taken. They came back negative but it seems like there's a chance he might need to miss next week's game against the Eagles.

OLB Michael Boley, NYG
Boley signed a big free agent contract with the Giants this offseason but he has had a very rough start to his Giants career. He had hip surgery in the offseason and then missed the season opener after being suspended for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Boley returned to play well in the next three games, but his knee apparently locked up on the flight home last week and he had to undergo surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus. Initial reports indicated that he would be out a month, which means he likely won't return until week 11 after the Giants bye week.

S Michael Lewis, SF
Michael Lewis is a very effective run stopper who has been one of the most consistent fantay safeties in the league over the past 6 or 7 years, but he left the game with a concussion this week that was reportedly his third of the season. He is scheduled to undergo extensive testing and may be shut down for the rest of the season to try and prevent any permanent damage.

CB Nick Harper, TEN
With 27 solo tackles in the first 5 games, Harper has been one of the more productive corners in the league. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken forearm in the loss to the Colts this week and will be sidelined for the next 4 to 6 weeks. The Titans secondary has been one of the most disappointing units in the league and this only figures to make things worse.

CB Chris Gamble, CAR
What a difference a year makes. Last year, Gamble was one of the most valuable IDPs in the league has he was credited with 83 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, and 18 passes defensed. This year, however, Gamble has just 11 solo tackles, 0 interceptions, and 2 passes defensed through four games. He still has the ability to turn things around but it's looking more and more like last year's big tackle numbers were a fluke.

S Sabby Piscitelli, TB
Tanard Jackson returned to the lineup at free safety this week after serving a 4-game suspension. Piscitelli remained the starting strong safety but he finished the game with just 1 solo tackle, and it appears that his production has been on a steady decline over the past few weeks. Jackson figures to help solidify the play in the deep secondary and steal some tackles that might have otherwise gone to Piscitelli, and it also looks like Will Allen may start to split time with Piscitelli, who is a liability in coverage.