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.
Michael Brockers DT (LAR): Seattle has not had a run game to speak of all season long and with a myriad of injuries along the offensive front, it has fallen on Russell Wilson to get the job done. However, he has proved to be human in recent weeks and Seattle has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing defensive linemen according to Yahoo Sports. If there ever was a game for Brockers to break out, it would be this week in a juicy matchup against a division rival with the playoffs on the line. Look for Brockers to have one of his best games of the season this week at Seattle.
Tyrone Crawford DT (DAL): It has been a very trying season for Crawford thus far, even with the success the rest of the Dallas defensive line seems to be having around him. However, this is a week that he could potentially turn things around against a struggling Oakland team. Oakland has tried to go back to a power running game and this will give Crawford a chance to try and plug holes and get a few tackles. Not the highest upside in this matchup but a solid chance for tackles if you need them this week.
Chris Long DE (PHI): After losing Carson Wentz, the Eagles are going to need to come up with a little bit of magic on the other side of the ball to continue their push towards a Super Bowl. Long has had a bit of a disappointing season but did register his 4th sack last week and well have the opportunity to take on a very porous Giants offensive line that really does not have anything to play for. There is big breakup upside for Long this week.
Manti Te'o LB (NO): Despite how well Craig Robertson played last week, Te’o seems to be emerging as one of the better options in the Saints secondary. With 8 solos and 2 assists last week, Te’o is starting to look like the player he was in college and has a great matchup this week. The Jets were thoroughly throttled by the Broncos defense last week and lost their quarterback to the IR. The forecast calls for heavy usage of the run game and that should give Te’o the opportunity to hit 10 total tackles again this week.
Shane Ray LB (DEN): The Broncos defense finally looked like the squad that made a run to the Super Bowl a few years ago, and a healthy Ray is only going to make that even better. Teams traditionally run the ball more on Thursday Night games and the Colts have not been a great team all season. Look for the Broncos to try and replicate what they did last week against the Jets and Ray to see more snaps as the season progresses.
Jaylon Smith LB (DAL): Smith has been pretty consistent all season long hover around 3-4 solos per week, aside from his 7-solo blowup in week 12. Dallas takes on Oakland this week and their renewed commitment to running the ball. If Smith is able to tackle Marshawn Lynch in the open field, he will have a great chance to show some value this week. It would definitely be a risk to run Smith out there this week, but he will have no shortage of opportunity to make tackles this week against the Raiders.
Corey Graham S (PHI): Picking Graham this week has more to do with the Eagles matchup than anything else. The Giants have been terrible all season, and half of the team appears to have phoned it in. This should give a boost to any player on opposing defenses and Graham is no exceptions. Graham has notched 2 interceptions this season but has not been the most reliable coming up to stop the run. This is a true boom or bust candidate with a plus matchup this week.
Marshon Lattimore CB (NO): Lattimore is a frontrunner for defensive rookie of the year and has been a big reason for the Saints defensive turn around. He held Julio Jones to under 100 yards and out of the end zone last week in a key divisional matchup and is going to draw the top wideout week in and week out. If someone dropped Lattimore while he was injured, now is the time to pick him up and hold on to him for as long as your league will allow.
Tony Jefferson S (BAL): Two weeks ago it was Eric Weddle, this week it is going to be Jefferson. After the Ravens got picked apart by Ben Roethlisberger, teams are going to line up and try to throw the ball more. The good news for the Ravens is that they take on Cleveland this week and will have a chance to get back in the win column. Jefferson will have has chances to make plays against a shaky passing offense and will try to repeat his luck from last week when he tallied 8 solos, 3 assists, and half a sack.
Muhammad Wilkerson DE (NYJ): Wilkerson had an all-around good game despite the final score in Denver. He ended the day with a very productive 3 solo, 3 assists, and 1 sack on the day.
Jerry Hughes DE (BUF): With blustery conditions in Buffalo, it was difficult for anyone to really make a difference. Hughes ended the day with a solid 4 solos and an assist.
Johnathan Hankins DT (IND): Hankins may have been the only person who enjoyed the snow in Buffalo. He set a career high with 7 solos this week and added an assist for good measure.
Elvis Dumervil LB (SF): This was not a great week for Dumervil. He was shut out of the stat sheet despite getting good pressure on the quarterback. It has been a rough season as a whole for Dumervil.
Craig Robertson LB (NO): Robertson stepped up this week with a solid 6 solo and 2 assist performance. There is still a lot of upside to finding the right New Orleans linebacker and Robertson made a good case this week.
Antonio Morrison LB (IND): Despite the poor conditions, Morrison managed 6 solos and an assist. The majority of this game was played in the trenches and most of the tackles happened right around the line of scrimmage. It is a little surprising that he was not credited with more assists.
Dre Kirkpatrick CB (CIN): As stated last week, this would have been a very risky play due to the concussion the week prior. Kirkpatrick ended up not playing and the Bengals were blown out by the Bears.
Eric Weddle S (BAL): There was no way to expect Weddle to replicate his Week 13 performance, but a subpar 3 solo and 3 assist day is not going to cut it. The Raven’s secondary was torched by Roethlisberger for over 500 yards and Weddle could do little to stop them.
Robert McClain CB (TB): McClain was able to pick off an injured Matthew Stafford like we talked about last week. He added 4 solos and an assist to put together the best game from our list of defensive backs last week.
There were a few hits last week, especially along the defensive line. Weddle and Kirkpatrick really put up disappointing weeks, but McClain was able to save the secondary with an interception. Last week was aided by stacking the Colts-Bills game that ended up being played in blizzard conditions. Johnathan Hankins set a career-best 7 solo tackle performance, and everyone else from that game had respectable total tackle numbers. The regular season is winding down and we are going to see several new faces for teams already eliminated from playoff contention and this is really the time to pay attention and find those guys no one else has on their radar.