As the season progresses it is hard to find those diamonds in the rough or that guy that no one has heard of. This week we are going to examine the plethora of injuries across the league and who the most likely successor is to that starting job as well as highlight some prime matchups as well as surprising performers to this point. This article will also highlight a few long-term and speculative players that could see their value rise over the course of the season.
ILB Zach Cunningham (HOU) - Cunningham makes a repeat appearance on the sleepers list this week as he continues to produce in wake of Brian Cushing’s suspension. There was not a steep increase in his production last week but he only played 67% of the snaps as Houston is also giving Dylan Cole an opportunity to establish himself. Cunningham is the most likely successor to Cushing and may even keep the starting job when he returns from suspension. This is a must add in a dynasty format or anywhere with a deep bench.
WLB Vincent Rey (CIN) - Rey has burst onto the scene while filling in for a suspended Vontaze Burfict. He has been one of the league’s best tackle producers on a per snap basis and has tallied 22 tackles in the first two games. Rey is more of a matchup play this week as this will be the last opportunity as an every-down linebacker with Burfict coming back. Rey is a great play against a Packer’s offense that will look to control the clock more and commit to the run after a Week 2 loss to the Falcons.
MLB Mike Hull (MIA) - Hull has been thrust into a starting duty with the mysterious circumstances behind Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga coming in overweight and not in football shape. In his new every-down role, Hull has produced 7 solos and 3 assists and that should continue as long as he sees the same amount of snaps. Hull is worth a temporary add until the linebacker situation is resolved in Miami.
WLB Ramon Humber (BUF) - Buffalo seems to be a revolving door with its top linebackers. Last year we watched Zach Brown come out of nowhere and take over and now it looks to be Humber’s turn. Humber turned in 12 solos in Week 1 and 7 solos and 4 assists in Week 2. These numbers are hard to ignore, especially playing Denver and its revived run game. Humber was not viewed as an elite linebacker and has by far outproduced what he was expected to do. With no one behind him to challenge for playing time, he should be viewed as an LB2 going forward.
DE Noah Spence (TB) - Spence’s value comes mostly from his ability to get after the quarterback and disrupt the backfield. A double-digit sack season is within reach after recording a sack in his first game of the season, but a low tackle total is going to make him a very spotty play. If your league values sacks and tackles for loss, then Spence is a great speculative play against a Vikings offensive line that has really struggled. The ceiling for Spence is most likely a DL2 unless he can bring his tackle numbers up as the season progresses.
DE Demarcus Lawrence (DAL)- Lawrence is off to a hot start in Dallas after tallying 2 sacks in each of the season’s first two games. However, if he is still hanging around on the waiver wire he is a must add. Lawrence has shown a knack for getting after the quarterback this season and only looks to be getting stronger. The fourth-year pass rusher looks to surpass his career-best 8 sack total from 2015 and is already halfway there. Lawrence is healthy once again and looks to star in a Cowboys defense that has left much to be desired.
DE Mario Edwards (OAK) - Edwards is someone who has never really lived up to his potential. The oft-injured defensive end finally seems to be healthy and is showing the speed off the end that he was drafted for. Despite the low tackle total, Edwards already has two sacks on the season and will benefit all season from the opposing offense focusing on Khalil Mack. There is potential for a double-digit sack season in Edwards, especially if the Raiders keep scoring and allow their defense to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback.
DE Julius Peppers (CAR) – Peppers is a name you would never expect to see on a sleepers list, but with several rising stars and his swindling playing time he has not been on the radar. Peppers is averaging just 30-35 snaps a game which from an overall production standpoint is not going to cut it. However, these limited reps are helping to keep him fresh and are coming in clear passing situations. Peppers’ value comes from sacks and he already has 2.5 on the season as well as a TFL. Peppers is back with Carolina, the team who originally drafted him, and is looking to cement his legacy. The Panthers have used him very wisely to this point and an add could pay off in a deeper league that you need to fill a spot.
SS Matthias Farley (IND) - Farley has become a beneficiary of a very poor Indianapolis defense and a linebacker core that is just not getting the job done. Farley’s snap percentage has also jumped to 100% in Week 2 and will increase his opportunity to rack up tackles. After just two games Farley has 14 solos, 4 assists, and 2 passes defended. The Colts defense looks to be on the field a lot this season giving Farley DB1 potential the rest of the way.
FS Jordan Poyer (BUF) - Sticking with the trend of unheralded defensive players coming out of Buffalo, Jordan Poyer is making his case this season. The former seventh-round pick is making a name for himself in the Bills’ secondary to the tune of 14 total tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception, and 5 pass deflections. Poyer is currently grading out at or near the top of the league in regards to safeties through Week 2. Poyer has not shown this ability to date in his career and should be considered a DB2 going forward unless he can sustain these numbers.
SS Vonn Bell (NO) - The Saints continue to struggle on offense and have benched Kenny Vaccaro as a result. No comments have been made as to whether this is a temporary situation as a message to the team, or if the Saints are looking to go in another direction entirely. If this is a long-term move, then Bell will be the next guy up on the depth chart. Bell would be a purely speculative add as no official comment has come out on the benching but is still a worthwhile waiver add as there is instant value if he takes over. We will monitor this situation and readdress it in the coming weeks if necessary.