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.
Anthony Walker (IND):
This play is highly dependent on the health of Darius Leonard. He rolled his ankle last week and has been questionable all week. The Colts have gone light in practice all week and it is hard to gauge where he is at. If Leonard does not play or is limited, Anthony should see the bulk share of the work in relief. Check the injury status one last time heading into their Thursday night matchup and if Leonard cannot go, Walker is the all-in play.
Vontaze Burfict (CIN):
Here is to hoping that people are just not paying attention in your league or are more focused on the return of Mark Ingram II and Alshon Jeffery. Burfict is finally back from suspension and should roll back out with the starting defense. There is a small chance that he is on a snap count in his first week back, but if he is playing well the Bengals are not going to risk their division lead by not playing him. He is a big injury and suspension risk but has the upside that would make it worth it if he is still available in your league.
Jatavis Brown (LAC):
If you ever need a guy to throw out there on a given week, look at the injury reports around the league. With starter Kyzir White ruled out due to a surprise surgery, Brown should get the start again this week. With 8 total tackles in relief, there is no reason to think the Chargers go with anyone else. Brown should be good for at least another start before White comes back. Consider him an LB3 type play this week while he has the starting role.
Takkarist McKinley (ATL):
Everyone has been watching Vic Beasley Jr in Atlanta so far this season and that has left McKinley as one of the more unheralded pass rushers this season. He has at least a sack in every game so far this year and is coming off a 3-sack performance against the Bengals. He does not register much in the tackle department and that limits some of his upside. However, sacks reign supreme and if he continues this tear, he will be a great play yet again.
Jarran Reed (SEA):
This is a sheer volume play. Reed is currently seeing about 80% of snaps on defense right now, and the Seattle defense has been on the field A LOT so far this year. He has put up some strong numbers to this point and should only continue to do so. With the rash of injuries that has hit the Seahawks, Reed should continue to see a lot of work the rest of the season.
Sheldon Richardson (MIN):
It is hard to believe this name could be on a sleeper list, but he has not been the same player he was in the past. However, Minnesota is struggling up front and has no idea when they are going to get Everson Griffin back. They even brought in guys to try out earlier this week to fill that void. What they are forgetting is that they have Richardson up front who can create quite a bit of chaos on his own. If the Vikings start to run a few more stunts with him, there could be a big increase in his production.
Rafael Bush (BUF):
Again, pulling from the injury report, Micah Hyde left last week’s game after only 11 snaps with a groin injury. If he misses any time, it will be Bush in relief. There is more time to watch the injury report here since Buffalo does not play till Sunday, and that will dictate whether or not Bush gets the start. With a game against Tennessee this week, there is ample opportunity for the Bills secondary to step up and make plays.
Eric Reid (CAR):
This was a late signing and a chance for you to jump on a guy that has shown great production in the past. He may not jump off the stat sheet right away and may have a reduced role to start, but he will eventually seize control in that defense and rack up the tackles behind Luke Kuechly. Reid is a season-long play, and there may not be an opportunity to pick him up after this week. Grab him and stash him while you can.
Tre Boston (ARI):
Someone has to step up and make plays in Arizona and Boston is as likely as anyone else. The defense is on the field a lot with that struggling offense and that should lead to more opportunity for Boston. He has the lowest ownership of anyone in that secondary, but the same opportunity to produce tackles. With a weak defensive line and middle linebackers, there will be several guys running free for Boston to try and tackle.
Darron Lee (NYJ): 4 solos 2 assists
The game did not quite go as scripted and Lee was unable to rack up the tackles. Jacksonville was expected to build a lead and then run the ball and control the clock. However, with Leonard Fournette still dealing with a hamstring issue the entire offense changed. Lee did not have as many opportunities as originally thought.
Jordan Hicks (PHI): 6 solos 1 assist
A solid day for Hicks but nothing to really write home about. The 6 solos would help if you needed some help in the tackle department, but he failed to reach double-digit tackles this week in a game that went to overtime and where he should have had plenty of opportunities. He is worth another chance but should be rated as a low-end LB3 at this point.
Leon Jacobs (JAX): 1 solo 1 assist
The Jaguars defense has too many weapons. It seems to be a different guy each week, and unfortunately, it was not Jacobs’ turn. With two total tackles, he did not help many people this week and is projected for similar numbers the rest of the season unless his playing time changes.
Mike Daniels (GB): 1 assist
The final defensive line looks great for the Packers. However, Daniels did not play a big role in that. Buffalo did not have much luck running the ball up the middle and relied on quick and short passes in the passing game. Daniels’ pass rush is not fast enough to succeed with that sort of game flow.
Frank Clark (SEA): 2 solos
The string of consecutive games with a sack is over for Clark. The Seahawks defense played well enough to win this week but could not generate enough pressure and the game was much closer than many thought it would be. The defense in Seattle is not quite as scary as it used to be.
Markus Golden (ARI): 2 solos
It looks like it is going to be a slow start to the year for Golden. Russell Wilson is a tough quarterback to get after, but with a patchwork line, it should have been easier than it was this Sunday. Golden still does not look fully healthy from his knee injury and it may be a few weeks before he is up to speed. If you have the extra roster spot to stash him on the bench, do it. If not cut him loose and run with someone else until he is healthy.
Marlon Humphrey (BAL): 4 solos
It was an overall team effort on defense for the Ravens this week and that did not leave much for Humphrey. The Steelers were in catch up mode and throwing the ball quite often, but it was not always in the direction of Humphrey. He stayed around his season average for tackles this week and did not make any real spectacular plays.
Ryan Lewis (BUF): 7 solos, 1 assist, 2 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles
The only thing that could have made is line better would have been an interception returned for a touchdown. Lewis was all over the field this week making plays. He was by far the best sleeper pick from last week and still has some value going forward. Despite the final score, Buffalo put up a better effort on defense and Lewis was right in the middle of that.
Terrance Mitchell (CLE): 3 solos, 1 pass defended
In a game where the ball was flying all over the place, the defense could have used 1 big play from Mitchell. The Browns could have also used 1 call in their favor and not a dual angle booth review at the end of the game. Mitchell did not have the game we were hoping for but neither did the entire Browns defense. Mitchell was placed on the IR with a wrist injury and his season may be over.
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