It took a while but Kevin Minter finally got into the big play columns with a sack. The problem now is neither he nor Deone Bucannon are getting it done in the tackle columns. Through three games Minter has accumulated a total of 12-1-1 while Bucannon is 13-2-0 on the season. With neither player setting the world on fire it is hard to trust either of them at this point. Just when we need it, here come the Rams who have helped two linebackers reach double digit points every week thus far. Minter is a fringe starter for most of us but those with Bucannon were counting on him to start. This will be an important week from that perspective. If he is not able to get it done with this matchup we need to start looking at other options.
Marcus Cooper won the defensive player of the week after his huge week two outing. His second career start was less exciting but still rather productive in fantasy terms at 6-1-0 with a pass defended. Owners in corner required leagues will want to take a serious look here. Two in a row is a trend after all, and offenses will continue to challenge the youngster over Patrick Peterson. All this considered this will not be a great week to start Cooper as the Rams will ride the running game hard and throw little if they can keep the game close.
Here we go again with the snap count mess. Other than Tony Jefferson the Cardinals are giving us no consistency with their safeties. Week one Tyrann Mathieu played every snap while Tyvon Branch was on the field about 75% of the time. Week two Branch was nearly full time while Mathieu played roughly three quarters of the snaps. To make things even in week three neither of them played full time. They did this to us last season as well so there should be no surprise here. Both Mathieu and Branch are going to have a fair share of productive weeks but playing either of them is a risk/reward situation at this point. There are some injuries factoring into this situation as well. Mathieu is not full go this week due to his knee while Branch has been limited by a hamstring. Keep an eye on the injury reports later in the week.
Keanu Neal finally made his debut in week three. He was eased into the action playing 52 of 80 defensive snaps in a time share with Kemal Ishmael. Neal produced a modest 3-1 but he came through healthy. Chances are Neal will have a full time role against the Panthers in week four. Carolina has been a decent but not great match up for safeties thus far and the linebacker tandem of Sean Weatherspoon and Deon Jones has really been soaking up tackles. I am confident enough to start Neal as my third DB in a couple of leagues this week but am not expecting big production from him.
There may be some concern for the future of Weatherspoon. After playing all but two snaps in week two he was in on 61 of 81 plays against the Saints. Most of his off plays came in dime packages so there is no need to panic, but it is something we will need to keep an eye on. There has been no word from the team confirming or denying Weatherspoon’s status once DeVondre Campbell is healthy. Chances are the coaching staff will put off any comment on the situation until Campbell is healthy enough to force a decision. Ride the wave as long as it lasts and keep your fingers crossed if you have picked the veteran up.
Zach Orr continues to produce solid if unspectacular numbers. In week three he added an interception to his team best 6 tackles and two assists. Orr currently leads the surprising Ravens in tackles with 18 solo on the season including 13 in the past two weeks. Right now he is clearly the best fantasy option among Baltimore's defenders. Though I am still confident C.J. Mosley will reclaim that spot over the next few weeks, Orr is clearly deserving of a roster spot in twelve team leagues starting three backers and it is hard to argue against him being a quality every week third starter.
Last week I gave up on Corey Graham and right on queue he had big game going 4-0-1 with an interception. This will have a lot of owners clamoring to pick him up in those leagues where he was dropped. I suggest we let them have him. Yes he had big fantasy points in one game, but last year Graham's value came from huge tackle totals. He is still not working in the same role that made him a fantasy star nor has he shown any hint of the tackling machine he was in 2015. Simply put it was one huge game based on a couple of big plays. Let's not over react.
Corey White replaced an injured Ronald Darby in week three and turned in a strong 8-1 with a pick. Again we should not over react. The numbers were a result of the strange game flow which saw Arizona fall way behind early. The Patriots are not going to provide the same opportunity even is Darby is out again.
The big numbers by Zach Brown were impressive but there may be reason for concern about his potential to produce consistently. Against the Cardinals, Buffalo went with lot of big nickel packages to match up with the multiple receiver sets. At the end of the day their top four safeties all played at least 32 snaps while Brown worked on 49 of the possible 82. Most weeks it should be safe to roll with Brown but we may need to keep an eye on the match ups.
The hits just keep coming for a Chicago defense that is already thin on talent. Safety Harold Jones-Quartey left Sunday's game with a concussion and is currently (as of Wednesday eve) in protocol. The Bears did get Adrian Amos back in week three which will help but Jones-Quartey is the lone fantasy prospect here. Even he is hardly an every week must, but at least he is roster worthy in most twelve team leagues starting three defensive backs. With the injuries in the front seven we may get increased value from the Bears secondary over the next few weeks. Chris Prosinski covered for Jones-Quartey in week three and would get the call this week if needed.
Jacoby Glenn has been filling in at corner for Kyle Fuller who landed on IR this week. Glenn saw action in one game as a rookie last year so this is basically another rookie corner situation. As such it should be no surprise to us that Glenn has at least 5 solo tackles in each game. He has reached double digit fantasy points in all three games and with Fuller out at least until December, Glenn is an every week must start in corner required leagues. With 5 defended passes and a forced fumble added to his 17 solo stops, Glenn is even in the conversation as a possible every week start in leagues not breaking out the DB positions.
Michael Johnson was absent from box scores in week three but Margus Hunt and Will Clarke were not. Heading to week four Johnson has played more snaps than any other Bengals defensive lineman (171) while producing less than either Hunt (109 snaps) or Clarke (42 snaps). If this continues we may soon see a changing of the guard at end. Clarke has been impressive producing a pair of sacks in his limited opportunity while Hunt continues to see his role grow. In fact Hunt's 42 plays in week three were four fewer than Carlos Dunlap and one less than Geno Atkins. Against Denver Hunt was 2-1-0 with another blocked kick while playing mostly from the tackle position. Keep an eye on this situation as it may produce a quality in season addition over the next few weeks.
Shawn Williams left Sunday's game for a while with a knee issue. He was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and should be in the lineup against Miami even on the short week. Williams was fairly quiet against Denver even before the injury but we should not read too much into it. The Bengals took away the Bronco's running game so there was not much opportunity in run support. Miami is not a great match up either but I do expect decent numbers from Williams.
The big news in Cincinnati this week is the return of Vontaze Burfict. There is some speculation he will be eased into action after missing the preseason and the first three games. I am not buying into that. Without coming right out and saying it Burfict implied earlier this week that he expects to hit the field full speed. The coaching staff may have a different idea so it might be prudent to keep him on the bench this week but this guy is chomping at the bit. The only reason I am sitting him this week is the other excellent options I have in those two leagues.
Entering the season there were high expectations for Browns strong safety Ibraheim Campbell but it has been free safety Jordan Poyer with the strong production. Through three games Poyer leads the team with 19 solo tackles. Adding 6 assists and a couple of passes defended he also leads all Cleveland defenders with an average of 12 fantasy points per game. There is no guarantee this trend will continue once Campbell gets back on the field but it is a safe bet the Browns defense is not going to get any better in the front seven.
Brandon Marshall was shaken up and had a little help getting off the field on a play late in Sunday's contest in Cincinnati. I have seen nothing to suggest he will miss any time but the Bronco's have not yet released a participation report for Wednesday's practice as I write this. If he is your guy take a look at the injury reports just to be safe.
T.J. Ward left Sunday's game with a neck injury and was not able to return. Shilo Keo replaced him against the Bengals and could do so in week four as well.
Kerry Hyder continued to turn heads with 2-0-1 against the Packers. This gives him 4 sacks on the young season including at least 1 in each game so far. Hyder spent most of his Sunday filling in for the injured Ezekiel Ansah and is likely to do the same this week against the offensively challenged Bears. I like Devin Taylor in this game as well. He had a slow week three while playing through a sore ankle that could still be an issue, but another week to heal should help a lot. Taylor was a limited participant on Wednesday.
Green Bay Packers
The bye week comes at a good time for the Packers who hope to have Morgan Burnett back from his groin injury when they return in week five. In Burnett's absence it was Micah Hyde filling the role of strong safety and moving up into a linebacker alignment in nickel situations. Should Burnett's injury linger, Hyde could be a factor for us.
Bernardrick McKinney had a great outing against the Patriots but temper your expectations going forward. There is no LeGarrette Blount in Tennessee and now no J.J. Watt for the Texans. Houston could also get Brian Cushing back this week creating more competition for tackles. He returned to practice on Wednesday and may play against the Titans.
The ripple effect of losing Watt could cause some major shuffling in the Texans front seven. It will be no surprise to see Jadaveon Clowney move up on the line more consistently going forward.
It is hard to figure out what the Colts are doing at linebacker. Sio Moore went 7-1 in week three and led the team in tackles yet again. He has clearly established himself as the team's best linebacker yet Moore is still not playing full time. In fact none of the Colts inside backers played more than 81% of the defensive snaps against San Diego. D'Qwell Jackson led the snap totals with 48 of a possible 59 plays while Moore saw action on 37, Antonio Morrison 16 and Josh McNary 12. Thus far Moore has been able to produce solid numbers despite the limited opportunity. To date he has participated in 73% of the team's defensive plays and leads the club in tackles with 22 solo. The next closest Colts defender is corner Darryl Morris with 14. Moore's numbers have been worthy of strong LB3 consideration but the lack of full time could/will bite us as some point.
Clayton Geathers has looked good on the field. He gave us a quality stat line of 5-1-0 with a forced fumble on Sunday despite clearly not being 100%. He has limped off the field in each of the past two games. Against San Diego Geathers missed 19 plays total. When/if Moore and Geathers are able to stay on the field full time they will be excellent options for us. At this point both are risky fringe starters with good upside.
If you are an owner of D'Qwell Jackson I suggest you play him this week simply because I have thrown in the towel and cut him. You remember Corey Graham right?
Yannick Ngakoue was supposed to be the Jaguars nickel pass rush specialist. Injuries have forced a change to that plan at least in the short term. With Jared Odrick sidelined in week three Ngakoue was on the field for 59 of 67 snaps in a three down role. His size is a disadvantage versus the run and will continue to hurt his tackle totals, but the rookie does have a sack and a forced fumble in each of the last two games.
Los Angeles Rams
Let me start by pointing out the Rams defense was on the field for 90 snaps in week three. In fact their average of almost 80 plays per game is the most in the league through three weeks. This obviously spells a lot of opportunity for our Los Angeles defenders.
Troy Hill got on the field in week two and made a positive impression on the Rams coaching staff. Enough so in fact to land a starting opportunity in week three. Hill is a second year corner getting his first opportunity to start, so this is basically the rookie corner rule at its best. The Buccaneers found the young man in his first NFL start and threw at him often. The volume of opportunity produced a team best 11 solo tackles. The Rams had a trio of corners at the top of the tackle standings on Sunday. Hill, Trumaine Johnson (8-1-0 and 2 passes defended) and Lamarcus Joyner (7-2-0) accounted for 26 solo stops between them. It is unlikely those huge numbers will be repeated in week four but it will be no surprise if all three players continue to put up decent numbers against an Arizona team looking to rebound from an ugly loss.
Dating back to last season Johnson has given us good enough numbers to start as a DB3, and over the past two weeks Brent Grimes and Corey White have both turned this matchup into 12 or more fantasy points. He is an every week starter for me at this point even in leagues not breaking out the defensive back positions.
William Hayes left Sunday's game with an ankle injury and is not practicing early in the week. Ethan Westbrooks took over the position for 73 plays which was more than any other Los Angeles lineman besides Aaron Donald. Westbrooks was 1-1-0 with a fumble recovery for a score. Other than being in the right place at the right time on one big play he did nothing noteworthy.
Koa Misi was forced out of Sunday's game with a neck injury. He was replaced by Neville Hewitt who went 6-1-0 on 26 plays. With the Dolphins suiting up on Thursday there is not much time for healing so Hewitt is likely to get the start.
The return of Xavier Rhodes sent Trae Waynes into a backup role against the Panthers. Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman all played at least 50 snaps on Sunday while Waynes saw action on 37.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints are an absolute disaster defensively. They were short on talent to start with and the rash of injuries has them in position to set new records for futility. Normally a situation like this would mean a big jump in opportunity and box score production. The problem is this group may not have anyone capable of taking advantage of it. James Laurinaitis had his best game as a Saint going 5-2-0 but he could easily have had double digit solo tackles. The only player who looked good against the Falcons was tackle Nick Fairley who was 4-3-1.5. I have talked about him recently as a talented player with an opportunity to shine. If you are in a tackle required league grab him. Craig Robertson came back to earth in week three but sadly the marginal NFL starter looks like the team's best linebacker.
New York Giants
Keenan Robinson continues to sneak up on the Giants full time middle linebacker job. His playing time has steadily increased each week from about 40% of the snaps in week one to 65% in week three. Robinson finished at 5-1-0 against the Redskins while Jonathan Casillas was 4-5-0 on 60 of 71 snaps. It might be a good idea to move on Robinson now as I believe he will continue to see more opportunity.
New York Jets
As expected the injury to Erin Henderson allowed rookie Darron Lee to start and play full time in week three. Lee looked pretty good on the field finishing at 5-1-.5. His speed could prove to be invaluable this week against Seattle and the quickness of Christine Michael. It will be a shock if Henderson gets his job back at this point.
The Raiders seemed to resist playing their rookies in the first two weeks. Against Tennessee they started first round pick Karl Joseph at strong safety and sixth round selection Cory James at middle linebacker. The result was a quality performance for the team, holding the Titans to 10 points after being flattened in each of the first two games. The result most important to fantasy owners was Joseph and James tied with a team leading 6 solo tackles. Baltimore is not exactly a great match up on paper but these young guys are hungry. Joseph is a player who should be in our lineups every week going forward and James may soon become one of those guys if he can keep up the intensity.
The Steelers were embarrassed on the score board in week three but their injury losses may be worse than the score. Ryan Shazier was knocked out of the game with a sore knee that has his week four status in serious doubt. Lawrence Timmons suffered a puncture wound to his shin and was taken to the hospital. He is expected to play this week but the news does not look so good for strong safety Robert Golden who may be forced to sit with a bad hamstring. When Golden went out, Sean Davis shifted from slot corner to full time strong safety where he went on to lead the team in tackles at 6-1. Vince Williams came in at inside linebacker and would be the replacement for Shazier if he is unable to go. Davis would be a great sneaky start if Golden sits.
San Diego Chargers
No one likes to see a player injured but the loss of Manti T'eo could prove to be a positive for fantasy owners. With T'eo out Denzel Perryman moved into the every down role putting up the kind of numbers (7-2-1) we anticipated from him when the season started. He should be at the top of our free agent wish list this week and will likely be a top 20 linebacker the rest of the way. If you miss out on Perryman see about adding rookie Jatavis Brown. According to the reported snap count he played 37 of the 54 snaps after T'eo was lost. I have not had time to watch every play but in the three series I scouted on Monday Brown was off the field for one play. He finished the game at 5-1-1 with a forced fumble and looked every bit as good on the field as the numbers suggest.
San Francisco 49ers
Gerald Hodges had a modest stat line of 1-5-0 with a fumble recovery in his first game as a three down player for the 49ers. If you plucked him off waivers I suggest showing some patience. In fact it would probably be a good idea to start Hodges this week against a Cowboys team sporting a rookie quarterback, a stud rookie running back and having lost Dez Bryant for the immediate future. This formula sounds like a lot of running the ball to me.
The Redskins initially expected to lose Bashaud Breeland for several weeks with a high ankle sprain. Upon further review the injury is not as serious as originally thought though it will keep him out at least this week. Dashaun Phillips, Greg Toler and Will Blackmon are all candidates to replace Breeland in the short term but none of them are going to give us his production.
David Bruton may be no more than a marginal NFL starter but he is obviously good enough to take advantage of a golden situation. I half expected him to be replaced by either Su'a Cravens or Duke Ihenacho at some point early in the season but the injury to DeAngelo Hall probably puts an end to that possibility. Ihenacho stepped in at free safety for the rest of Sunday's game and is the likely starter this week. This is a player who has been productive when healthy but has struggled to stay on the field during his career.
Will Compton finished Sunday's game at 1-1 but he is still the team's full time inside linebacker. It is safe to write his poor outing off as a fluke but we may not want to play Compton this week against the Browns offense.
Mason Foster had a decent stat line in week three but he continues to lose snaps to Cravens who is now encroaching on Foster's nickel participation.
That's all I have this time around. Best of luck to you in week four.