As the season wears on and there is more data to go through it can be hard to find those diamonds in the rough or guys that not everyone else is on yet. Each week we will take a look at guys who are still widely available across leagues, have potential matchup value this week. Or maybe a long-term, guys to stash on your bench and see how the season shakes out. With the myriad of injuries across the NFL, there are young guys getting their chance to make an impact. Each week we will also take a look back at some of the top performers from last week’s list and see if they are worth keeping. We will highlight a list of defensive lineman, linebackers, and defensive backs each week.
Muhammad Wilkerson DE (NYJ): It has been a very up and down season for Wilkerson who signed a very rich 5-year $86 million deal in July 2016. Some question whether he has just phoned it in since getting paid. However, his $16.75 million salary is not guaranteed for next season to this point and he will need to put forth a much stronger showing to close out the season if he wants to remain a Jet. Wilkerson has a juicy matchup this week against a Broncos offensive line that is giving up the 3rd most points per game to opposing defensive linemen. Wilkerson needs to close the season strong as he is already a release candidate at the end of the season.
Jerry Hughes DE (BUF): Hughes has also been very up and down this season and has really underperformed outside of Weeks 2 and 4. However, if there was any game for him to make a statement it would be this week. The Colts have given up more sacks to opposing defenders than any other team in the league, and are also the team that traded Hughes away a few seasons ago. Look for Hughes to make a vengeful statement against his former team and put up one of his best games of the season.
Johnathan Hankins DT (IND): Hankins has battled injuries for the majority of the season and has not really performed well, even when healthy. This week is a great opportunity to change that against a struggling Buffalo offense. There is no denying LeSean McCoy, but his slow developing and cutback style running should give Hankins opportunities to plug holes up the middle and record some tackles. It may not be much, but look for Hankins to have his best game of the season this week against the Bills.
Elvis Dumervil LB (SF): It has been increasingly difficult to predict which linebacker in the 49er defense is going to step up but this week it looks like Dumervil may be the one to turn back the clock. After recording 2 solos and a sack last week against Chicago, Dumervil is slated to get more snaps this week against a very shaky Houston team. The offensive line has been unable to protect Tom Savage and the running game has struggled to be effective without Deshaun Watson. It is certainly a risk running Dumervil out there in your starting lineup, but this week comes with a juicy matchup and the potential to pay a dividend.
Craig Robertson LB (NO): Just like the situation in San Francisco, it has been equally as hard to predict which linebacker in New Orleans is going to step up. AJ Klein did not have the best week against Carolina but did manage to record a sack. Robertson is more of a thumper and looks to be in the base run stopping packages. In another must-win divisional game, look for New Orleans to put their best foot forward and Robertson to have the chance to show what he is made of.
Antonio Morrison LB (IND): Morrison has been a consistent tackler for the Colts all season. He has not recorded fewer than 7 total tackles outside of week 1 and 9. He has not played much in pass coverage situations, but the Bills have been a running team all season so that works to his advantage. This is one of those sneaky under the radar pickups if you need a solid 5-7 tackle performance. There is not a lot of upside here but certainly points to be scored if you need them.
Dre Kirkpatrick CB (CIN): Kirkpatrick has been on fire the past 6 games, scoring at least 10 fantasy points in basic defensive scoring leagues. The biggest issue here is the concussion he suffered Monday night against the Steelers. There has not been a lot of news out of Bengals’ camp if he will clear concussion protocol, and this is something you will have to monitor as the week goes on. If Kirkpatrick is healthy this week, he is a must-start in all formats, especially with Adam Jones out of the lineup with a groin injury.
Eric Weddle S (BAL): Weddle was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in week 13. He recorded 2 solos, 1 assists, a strip sack, and returned an interception for a touchdown. The tackle numbers are a little lower than you would like to see from a safety, but it is hard to argue with that performance from a week ago. There is a very high ceiling for Weddle again this week as Baltimore takes on division rival Pittsburgh. A win would put the Ravens right back in the division conversation and look for Weddle to lead that defensive charge.
Robert McClain CB (TB): McClain has been disappointing for the majority of the season, but he has a chance to erase that this week against the Lions. The biggest thing to watch leading up to this game is the health of Matthew Stafford. If his hand is banged up that will work in McClain’s favor as the ball will not come out on time or with the same zip. If Stafford does not go at all then McClain will have a chance to feast on backup Jake Rudock. This will be an interesting matchup to watch as the week wears on.
Mike Daniels DE (GB): 1 solo, 3 assists, and half a sack. Not the dominating performance we were hoping for from Daniels but the same can be said for the rest of the Green Bay defense.
Marcell Dareus DT (JAX): 3 solos. Dareus did not see the field as much as expected this week and barely made an appearance in the Colts’ backfield all game.
Frostee Rucker DT (ARI): Rucker did not register a single stat this week after posting 5 solos last week.
Bruce Irvin LB (OAK): 7 solos, an assist, and a sack. Irvin turned back the clock and took advantage of the matchup against the Giants this week.
AJ Klein LB (NO): 3 tackles, 2 assists, and a sack. The saving grace for Klein this week was getting to Cam Newton for his second sack of the season.
Thomas Davis LB (CAR): 1 tackle, and 1 assists. A very disappointing game all around for Carolina, especially for Davis.
Kyle Fuller CB (CHI): 5 solos, 1 assists, and 1 interception. The Bears did not get the result they wanted against the 49ers, but it was not for lack of trying on Fuller’s part.
Tre Boston S (LAC): 4 solos. The Chargers continued their winning ways but it was not exactly dominating fashion against the Browns last week.
Last week was not a great performance for our IDP sleepers as Kyle Fuller and Bruce Irvin were the only two players who seemed to show up. The final stats for the week are 28 solos, 12 assists, 2.5 sacks, and an interception. There are several boom or bust candidates again this week and strictly matchup plays. Good luck this week, especially as the fantasy playoffs are right around the corner.