DEPTH CHART NUGGETS AND KEY INJURY REPLACEMENTS
***There are lots of injuries to follow this week. Mychal Kendricks (hamstring aggravation), Sean Lee (concussion), Justin Durant (groin), Paul Posluszny (high ankle), Jerrell Freeman (groin), Antrel Rolle (ankle), and Calvin Pryor (knee) could all be out this week and possibly longer. Alec Ogletree won't return until very late this season after having surgery for an ankle fracture. And there are still ongoing concerns with Luke Kuechly's concussion symptoms.
***The most shocking news of the week was the Vikings trade of Gerald Hodges to San Francisco. Though a base front only middle linebacker isn't a critical need in today's NFL and Eric Kendricks is ready to take over, dealing a solid linebacker is still a surprise. Hodges likely steps in next to NaVorro Bowman immediately and sees a decent bump in value. Kendricks is the big winner here. He'll move into an every-down role.
***I'm surprised Ryan Shazier has a chance to return this week. Last Thursday night, he was seen in a sling to support a weak shoulder more than a week after his injury. That didn't sound like a short term injury. I won't fully buy into Shazier's return to full time duty until we see a full practice.
***Sheldon Richardson and Greg Hardy are both back this week. The Jets are on their bye week and Hardy has a tough matchup and is unlikely to see more than 50% of the Dallas defensive snaps. Roster but bench both while they recondition and get into every-down shape.
***Kevin Minter is an every-down player. The Cardinals subpackage still often features four safeties, but Minter is locked in as a full time player. Sean Weatherspoon was active last week, but didn't play against St. Louis with the Cardinals choosing to play a subpackage almost exclusively.
***The Chargers are finding ways to get Denzel Perryman on the field...and his snaps are coming at the expense of Donald Butler. The coaching staff likes his physical presence and praised his improvement after last week's game. I don't think we'll see Perryman push Butler aside soon, however. Expect his every-down ETA to be 2016 unless there's an injury or the Chargers fall from contention.
***You're going to see lots of notes on Allen Bradford this week and in the near future. Bradford began attracting attention for his physical play during the preseason but wasn't able to crack the starting lineup. He saw nearly 25 snaps last week and looked good, but they came in garbage time when the Falcons decided to pull and protect Paul Worrilow and his groin injury. Deeper dynasty owners should roster Bradford if able, but don't count on him for production just yet. Justin Durant lasted seven snaps into W4 before his first soft tissue injury. It's a groin injury that could be a multi-week situation. Joplo Bartu played every down last week in Durant's absence.
***Josh Mauga has a quad injury that could leave the door open once again for Ramik Wilson. Wilson is again a strong add in all formats, especially if the Chiefs use more nickel than dime packages while Mauga is out.
***Josh McNary replaced Jerrell Freeman (groin), with D'Qwell Jackson moving into the dime packages and playing every down.
EVERY-DOWN LINEBACKER PROJECTION
I'll update this table every week between now and Week 17.
PERFORMANCES OF NOTE
Lavonte David 12-20, FF, 3 PD >> Interestingly, the most common question I received this week was, "What's wrong with Lavonte David?" I think the answer is a little bit of everything. First, and most important, divide 32 total tackles into four games and you get an eight tackle per week average. That's not elite, but it's not replacement level either. The 12 assists last week skewed his numbers, and that's not the only time stat crews have hurt his production this year. The Bucs also have had two games with fewer than 45 tackle opportunities. That looks reassuring for David, but the Bucs are second in the league with 32.5 rush attempts faced per game. That means we're seeing more competition for tackles, primarily because teams are isolating him and Gerald McCoy and choosing to work away from that side of the field. Don't rush to worry over David yet. I expect to see improvement in his stat lines soon.
Elvis Dumervil 5-1-1 >> With Terrell Suggs out for the year, Dumervil is seeing a higher percentage of snaps. Za'Darius Smith is developing quickly, but Dumervil is going to get 50+ snaps a week. The issue with Dumervil in fantasy circles has always been poor tackle lines. But if the veteran edge rusher can continue to put up four non-sack solos a week, he's going to be an every-week DE1. Watch him closely in all formats.
Corey Graham 8-5-1 >> The Bills are facing the league's fewest rush attempts and have allowed the seventh most pass completions. Add in a very favorable home stat crew and a good run of road stat crews and you get an elite fantasy safety. Graham is behind two solid tackling linebackers, but it's likely his elite production will continue.
Stephon Tuitt 10-0-1 >> Don't expect this tackle explosion -- 15 solos in two weeks -- to continue, but it's hard to ignore the 3.5 sacks over the first month of the season. The snap counts are very high (averaging well over 50 per game) and the quality of his rush and pass opporutnity is equally good. Both Tuitt and Cameron Heyward should remain DL2+ values.
Kerry Wynn 7-1 >> Wynn is benefiting from the loss of Akeem Ayers and the continued disappointing play from Damontre Moore. Ride Wynn while you can, but expect his snaps to drop when Ayers is healthy.
Ryan Delaire 5-0-2 >> Delaire exploded onto the scene with a strong edge rushing day against a weak Tampa Bay offensive line. When Jared Allen is ready to take a larger role -- only 44% of the Panthers' Week 4 snaps -- Delaire will drop back into a primarily situaitonal role. That's how Jacquies Smith and many others got their start, however, so Delaire is worth monitoring.
Cameron Wake | Olivier Vernon >> I still believe injuries have limited the production of these two, but Miami is a complete dumpster fire right now. If you've been patient this long, you may as well see if interim coach Dan Campbell can turn things around after the Dolphins bye week against a solid Tennessee matchup. These two should be heatlhier then, too.
WAIVER WIRE PRIORITIES
I'm checking the waiver wire in a mix of my most and least competitive leagues, including expanded lineups. If there's someone on your list who hasn't made mine, shoot me a note and I'll add them here.
LB: Eric Kendricks | Jordan Hicks | Malcolm Smith | Ramik Wilson | Akeem Ayers | Aldon Smith || Anthony Hitchens | Manti Te'o | Chris Kirksey | Joplo Bartu || Thurston Armbrister | Allen Bradford | A.J. Klein