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.
Todd Davis (DEN)
Despite the injury concerns, Davis has been a steady performer all season long. He may not put up monster numbers week in and week out, but he will get you about 7 tackles per game and has been used sparingly in pass rush packages. The Broncos will take on a Rams offense that should be on the field a lot this week and that will provide ample opportunity for Davis to make plays. Davis is a low-end LB that you should consider a plug and play if you are having trouble with Bye weeks.
Thomas Davis (CAR)
This may be one of the sneakier moves you can pull this week as Davis is looking to start his first game of the season. He has had a long career and proven that he can produce week in and week out. The Panthers take on a Redskins team that is lacking an identity, but Davis should still put up LB2 type numbers.
Avery Williamson (NYJ)
At this point I the season you are looking for someone who consistently puts up numbers when trying to fil your Bye weeks. Williamson has averaged 7 tackles a game and racked up 2 sacks thus far this season. The Colts normally throw the ball a lot more than they run it, but that could change a little with Marlon Mack returning this week. Williamson is a low end LB2/3 this week and should provide you with enough tackles to make the pickup worth it.
Arden Key (OAK)
The numbers have not quite been there yet this season, but he continues to see an increase in snap count and with that comes added opportunity. The talented rookie is pushing Bruce Irvin for playing time and it is only a matter of time before he gets home on the quarterback. This would be a low-end speculative play this week and should be viewed as more of a long-term dynasty type pick up.
Linval Joseph (MIN)
I recommended the wrong defensive tackle for Minnesota last week with Sheldon Richardson. It was Joseph that took the ball 62 yards to the house and had a sack. The bigger reason he is mentioned this week is that he already has 21 total tackles this season and gets to face one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL this week in the Cardinals. Look for another strong game from Joseph again this week.
Akiem Hicks (CHI)
The NFL and fantasy sports can be a very “what have you done for me lately” kind of thing. Hicks was quietly riding a 3-game sack streak before going into his Bye week. He was dropped in nearly 60% of leagues during the bye and gets a great matchup against an immobile Ryan Tannehill. His overall tackle numbers are not very high, but he has a great chance of getting to the quarterback this week.
Marcus Maye (NYJ)
It is funny how an injury will cause owners to forget all about a guy. May has come back strong and posted back to back solid weeks for the Jets. With 6 solos, 2 assists, .5 sack, a forced fumble, and an interception her returned 104 yards before running out of gas and being tackled at the 1-yard line, Maye had one of the best weeks of anyone last weekend. He will take on a Colts team that loves to throw the ball and should be in line for plenty of work again this week. This may be the last time you can grab him from the waiver wire in your league.
Taron Johnson (BUF)
It seems like there is a different guy from Buffalo on this list every week, but eventually, someone has to step up and make plays for that defense. In the last 2 weeks, the young corner has picked up his first career interception and sack. He plays with a lot of energy and is willing to take risks to make a big play. He may get burned a few times, but he also may jump a route and take it to the house. Look for someone to step up for Buffalo and make a play this week.
Daryl Worley (CAR)
Continuing our theme of guys coming back from injury or suspension and Worley finds himself on this list. He averaged 7 tackles a game to close out the 2017 season and picked right back up where he left off last week with 7 solos and an assist. Worley is worth a long look, especially if your league starts corners and not just defensive backs.
Anthony Walker (IND): 1 solo 2 assists
Walker did not have the big game that many predicted, even when given the starting nod this week. The Patriots overpowered the Colts offense the entire game and never really settled into a run the ball and kill the clock kind of mode. Walker had his opportunity this week to put up some numbers and failed to do so. He should not be on the fantasy radar the rest of the season, barring a huge turnaround.
Vontaze Burfict (CIN): 4 solos 3 assists
The Bengals defense played lights out in the second half of their comeback victory and Burfict had a decent game in his return to the lineup. The biggest thing to note was he did not get injured or commit a penalty that would get him suspended again. Burfict played on a snap count this week and should be let loose the rest of the season. If you had the chance to grab him, start him every week for the rest of the season.
Jatavis Brown (LAC): 2 solos, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 forced fumble
It was not a double-digit or multi-sack game, but Brown made his presence known this week. He may have only had 2 solo tackles, but one was for a loss and forced a fumble. The Chargers will eventually get Joey Bosa back and that should help open things up for Brown in regard to a pass rush even more.
Takkarist McKinley (ATL): 1 solo 1 assist
The Falcons defense laid an egg as a whole and McKinley did not do very much to help stop that. He got caught up in a sea of blockers time and time again and was unable to get to Ben Roethlisberger. Atlanta’s defense is held together by strings right now and there are not a lot of viable options going forward.
Jarran Reed (SEA): 3 solos 3 assists
It was a shootout against the Rams this week and there was not a lot of defense played on either side. Reed found himself isolated in the middle of the field quite often and could not always make the tackle. It was a tough game for all players involved in regard to the defensive side of the ball.
Sheldon Richardson (MIN): 1 assist
The Viking defense stepped up this week against Philadelphia and Richardson did a lot of great things that did not show up on the stat sheet. He was constantly in the face of Carson Wentz but did not have the tackles or sacks to show for it. It can be tough to stick with a guy that does not have the results yet, but Richardson is going to get home on sacks before the season is done. Be patient and pick your spots to start him.
Rafael Bush (BUF): Inactive
Bush was ruled out late due to injury.
Eric Reid (CAR): 3 solos
Reed was pegged as the long play. He was active for the first time for the Panthers and will see his role grow as he gets accustomed to the defense. Look for his snaps to increase each week and his opportunity to make plays as well. Reed may not have paid off this week, but it may have been the only chance you got to pick him up.
Tre Boston (ARI): 6 solos, 1 interception
Arizona finally turned things around and Boston played a big part in that on the defensive side of the ball. He hauled in his second interception of the year and jumped in to stop the run for a 49ers team that was dependent on it. He did not reach double-digit tackles like last week, but the interception was icing on top of the cake to make up for it.