Reading the Defense: Week 11

A weekly look at IDP trends with a mix of metrics, film study, and matchup strategy

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The tier series returns next week but one long time reader reminded me of a series I've written here in the past about roster stashes for dynasty league owners whose waiver wires may be closing down for the season soon. This is the time of year to maximize your starting roster spots and begin turning your bye week depth into upside for next season. Hit on a player in this category and you've earned yourself a free mid-round draft pick next year at essentially no cost.

I'm going to assume no one has dropped injured talents like J.J. Watt and NaVorro Bowman and Reshad Jones. They belong on this list in shallow leagues.

Defensive Line

We're looking for players who may jump from a 300-500 snap role to a 700+ snap role next year. The most common players to target here are first and second-year defensive ends who are nearing the end of their developmental phase. Even the most well-rounded college edge rushers need to focus on core strength and counter moves before realizing their professional potential.

Jadeveon Clowney -- The Texans moved Clowney to 5-technique opposite J.J. Watt earlier this year. The sack production hasn't been there -- but the Texans faced the fewest dropbacks in the league through nine weeks. Put Watt back in the mix, especially in passing situations, and Clowney as a reclassified defensive end is very attractive.

Danielle Hunter -- Mike Zimmer is one of my favorite defensive coordinators. But I'm not sure I like the decision to give Brian Robison more snaps than Hunter again this year. Maybe that happens again next year but If Hunter is available, stash him. 

Trey Flowers -- Flowers has blown his cover over the past two weeks with seven solos and four sacks. He's earned more and more playing time ahead of Jabaal Sheard, including 61 snaps against Seattle last week. You'll have to compete for him on waivers this week.

Dante Fowler -- Fowler missed all of last season with an ACL injury. This is his developmental season. The Jaguars have no pass rushers of note to mentor Fowler and protect him on gameday. Next year should be better as he grows into his role.

Hau'oli Kikaha -- Kikaha is an injury risk but his reclassification to defensive end was notable this summer. On a team that often gives its linemen lots of pass rush chances at home, he's worth consideration in deeper leagues.

Noah Spence -- I'm not a huge Spence fan; he won't provide enough in run support to hold elite value. But his pass rush skill will play in the NFL and he'll hold value in sack-heavy systems.

Will Clarke -- Many focused on Margus Hunt but it's likely Clarke who will challenge to start next to Carlos Dunlap.

Mario Edwards -- Edwards is a huge durability risk but he's been productive when healthy.

Henry Anderson -- 2016 will be a lost season for Anderson. He may never fully recover from his severe 2015 knee injury but he belongs on the watch list.

Vinny Curry -- I'm stubborn. Curry was dominant last year and I expect we'll learn that his early season nagging injury sapped him of more than anyone has reported. Or not. But I'm still on Curry if it looks like he's going to see 600+ snaps in the future.

Randy Gregory -- There's a serious knucklehead factor here but the Cowboys have a favorable depth chart and should give their line plenty of opportunity for the foreseeable future.


We're looking for players who have the all-around talent to challenge for an every-down role next year or versatile outside linebacker talents with double digit sack upside.

DeAndre Levy -- A risky bet without knowing specifics about the chronic knee and hip injuries that have kept him out of the Lions' lineup this year.

Myles Jack -- Jack is a stud. If the Jaguars can't find an every-down role for him next year, it's a travesty of epic proportions.

Su'a Cravens -- As much I still love Jack, I think Cravens has a chance to be just as statistically productive next year. Similar to Jack, that assumes rational coaching. Washington needs to find a place for Cravens and let him play.

Shaq Thompson -- Thompson is stuck behind two durable and talented linebackers. He's arguably the most talented part time veteran linebacker in the league. It took Barrett Ruud three seasons to get his chance. Thompson will follow the same blueprint.

Darron Lee -- I'm not sold on Lee. Athleticism doesn't mean a linebacker can play the run and cover consistently. But there's value behind the Jets' line and Lee should be able to take advantage.

Reggie Ragland -- The Bills were touting Ragland as an immediate impact player and probable every-down inside linebacker before his injury. Preston Brown has been better than expected but Ragland will challenge again next year.

Jaylon Smith -- I don't think Smith will recover from his nerve injury. He's listed here because he would have been a top five fantasy linebacker had he not suffered the injury. He's worth stashing despite the low percentage chance of hitting.

Blake Martinez -- I'm not sure what happened with Martinez this year. He's the best linebacker on the Green Bay inside linebacker chart but the Packers seem to have decided they don't want too much on the plate of any of their young linebackers. I think Martinez earns an every-down role next year.

Nick Vigil -- The Bengals threatened to put more defensive youth on the field last week. They didn't and got the same inconsistent linebacker play from Vinny Rey and Karlos Dansby. Vigil would be the next man up if the Bengals decide to make a change.

Stephone Anthony -- Keep him on your list. The Saints seemed to sour on him this offseason but their depth chart features Craig Robertson and Dannell Ellerbe.

B.J. Goodson -- I can't help it. The Giants' depth chart is always ripe for someone to ascend. It's not happened in years but it still warrants observation.

Antonio Morrison -- I'm adding Morrison to this list but I think he's too slow to play in the NFL. There are few depth charts easier to crack than the Colts' current group -- Morrison has played 11 snaps in three weeks.

Preston Smith -- Washington has a good group of rush linebackers. Smith hasn't been what I expected this year but he has 3.5 sacks in his last four games and the talent is still there.

Leonard Floyd -- Floyd may prove to be a talented player without a clear fit. At minimum, I think he'll have value in sack-heavy leagues. In a best case scenario, he'll become what Anthony Barr was early in his career before knee injuries derailed his production.

Bud Dupree -- Elite edge rush upside but still needs to refine technique.

Shaq Lawson -- Shoulder injury robbed him of valuable developmental time but has the upside to deserve watch list consideration.

Defensive Back

I generally don't stash defensive backs. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a working watch list of players you're ready to move on between now and next July. 

Vonn Bell, Justin Simmons, Daniel Sorenson, Jaquiski Tartt, K.J. Dillon, and Miles Killebrew are all solid run support talents who could fill base safety and subpackage linebacker roles. Bell is the best coverage player of the group and may still be under the radar despite a six-week run of high snap counts.

Favorable DL/LB Depth Chart Situations to Monitor

Often times, it's obvious that a depth chart is ripe for statistical production but there are no identifiable talents ready to take advantage. These situations may not be actionable until after next year's free agent moves or draft decisions. But prepared owners are thinking ahead here, too. We'll revisit these -- and identify some free agents who look likely to move on -- later in the year.


Additions to the every-down column in BOLD. Injury situations to monitor this week in italics.

75-100% SNAPS
Chandler Jones : Markus Golden : Kevin Minter    
Deion Jones : De'Vondre Campbell
Sean Weatherspoon (IR)  
Zachary Orr : C.J. Mosley
Chris Kirksey : Jamie Collins Sr
Brandon Marshall  
  DeAndre Levy  
Joe Thomas
Jake Ryan, Clay Matthews 
Brian Cushing : John Simon
D'Qwell Jackson Trent Cole (IR)  
Dont'a Hightower
Elandon Roberts     
Dannell Ellerbe
Julian Stanford Darron LeeErin Henderson (NFI)
Ben Heeney (IR)  
Jatavis Brown, Denzel Perryman, Manti Te'o (IR)  
Ahmad Brooks : Gerald Hodges NaVorro Bowman (IR)   

Subscribe to The Audible on iTunes or download our weekly IDP podcast here every Thursday for injury updates, player analysis, and matchup discussion. Follow and ask questions on Twitter @JeneBramel.

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