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.
Cameron Wake DE (MIA): Fantasy football can be a “what have you done for me lately” kind of beast, and that puts Wake at the forefront of our defensive line list. With 5 solos, an assist, and 3.5 sacks in his last 2 games, he has paced a struggling Miami defense. Wake now has 6 sacks on the season and will likely end with a double-digit total. To add to his value, Miami takes on a Ravens offense that has not protected Joe Flacco very well. Wake will have ample opportunity to record a sack this week and could be a good matchup play if you are having Bye issues this week.
Kawann Short DT (CAR): It can be tough to fill a defensive tackle spot if your league requires position specific fills. Short has delivered for a mediocre Carolina defense and could be asked to do even more if Luke Kuechly is out for an extended period of time. With 4 sacks in his last 4 games, Short is showing an ability to get after the quarterback. There is not a lot to be said about his tackling ability and he will be mostly sack dependent for the rest of the season. If you need to fill a tackle spot this week, Short is a dependable substitute for the time being.
Jarran Reed (DT (SEA): Reed, the Seahawks second-round selection this year, exploded last week with 7 solo tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble. He's still only playing about half the snaps but has the talent and protection to be a viable option in deeper DT-required leagues. He faces the Texans this week who have been one of the league's most sacked teams. Consider him a DL4+/DT1- for this coming week.
John Simon LB (IND): After suffering a stinger last week against Jacksonville, Simon is doubtful to play this week. However, that could give you the chance to pick him up without having to burn a waiver or even another team dropping him. Simon has been one of the most consistent contributors for a very poor Indianapolis defense this season and he will slot right back into his starting position when he returns. Simon had 6 solos, 5 assists, a sack, and a pick-6 in the week before he got injured. If Simon is available and you have the open bench spot, he is a must add.
Craig Robertson LB (NO): This is more about the volume of opportunity with Robertson than anything else. He was the only linebacker to play 100% of the snaps last week for the Saints. He only managed 5 solos and 1 assist, but those numbers should increase due to the volume of play. Robertson also has a great matchup with the Chicago Bears and their emphasis on the run. The Bears do not have a quarterback they trust to throw the ball and have leaned on Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen all season. Look for a high tackle total this week from Robertson and an LB3 rating for the rest of the season.
Blake Martinez LB (GB): After being highlighted here last week, this may be your last chance to grab Martinez for the rest of the season. After recording 15 solos and 8 assists over the previous two games, Martinez exploded with 13 solos and 3 assists against the Saints. Those are numbers that will not be ignored, and he is a must-own in any league or format. The Packers offense is reeling after losing Aaron Rodgers and the defense is going to spend a lot of time on the field for the rest of the season. Jump on the Blake Martinez train while the Packers are on a Bye and ride it the rest of the season.
Eddie Jackson FS (CHI): This may not come as much of a surprise after being named defensive player of the week with his two-touchdown performance against the Panthers. Jackson was a fourth-round pick out of Alabama and has had a rather quiet start to the season. However, this past week he took a Curtis Samuel fumble 75 yards for a touchdown and then a tipped Cam Newton pass another 76 yards for a touchdown. The Bears defense has a tough matchup with the Saints this week but look for value in Jackson late in the season against his NFC North opponents trying to run the ball in the cold. Jackson is a stash-and-see type of play.
Jaquiski Tartt S (SF): After releasing longtime linebacker Navarro Bowman, the San Francisco defense looked lost on Sunday. There was no one player who really stepped up to try and fill Bowman’s shoes and the defense was run over by Ezekiel Elliot and company. Tartt has the opportunity to step up for that defense and fill the void in tackles left by Bowman. You are not going to see many sacks or interceptions as the 49ers do not currently use him in that capacity, but he has shown an ability to step up in the run game. If your league scoring heavily favors tackles, then Tartt would be a low end add to wait and see if his production increases.
Andrew Sendejo S (MIN): It would be easy to overlook Sendejo as he serves his one-game suspension for the hit on Mike Wallace. It is also easy to dismiss how value because he plays alongside Harrison Smith, but that would be a mistake. Sendejo is slightly smaller but much faster than Smith and rates out with better coverage skills. The young safety exhibited a willingness to come into the pile to stop the run and has seen more and more playing time with the Vikings each season. Sendejo is not afraid to come in and make a hit. He has 29 solos, 13 assists, and 1 interception for the season.
Trae Waynes: Disappointed with only 2 solos
Justin Simmons: Disappointed with 1 solo and 1 assist
Morris Claiborne: Disappointed with 3 solos
Vince Williams: Disappointed with 3 solos
Preston Smith: Top performer from last week with 5 solos
Solomon Thomas: Disappointed with 1 solo
Akiem Hicks: Top performer from last week with 4 solos, and assist, and a sack
Calais Campbell: Best performance with 2 solos, 2 assists, and 2 sacks last week
It was a tough week for linebackers and defensive backs, but Campbell and Hicks salvaged the list from last week with a combined 6 solos, 3 assists, and 3 sacks. It can be hard to find deep sleepers and there will be hits and misses every week. Look for improved tackle totals from the linebacking core this week and sacks from the defensive lineman.