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.
NaVorro Bowman (FA)
While he has not officially signed yet, the Cleveland Browns tried out Bowman after an injury to Joe Schobert and waiving his back up. Bowman is a risk of suspension and injury almost every week and this would be a massive speculative pickup. However, he is the kind of guy who can make a difference for your team down the stretch if he does sign.
Genard Avery (CLE)
If you want to feel a little more comfortable with your pickup, Avery is the projected backup to Schobert and is slotted to fill in if he misses time. Bowman would be a stretch and someone you would need see a return on for some time, but Avery will get a look right away. The Browns take on a Tampa Bay team that found some part of a running game last week and that should help whoever plays linebacker.
Vincent Rey (CIN)
Staying in the Buckeye State, another linebacker suffered an injury down south. Nick Vigil will miss several weeks with a sprained MCL and the first guy up is Vincent Rey. Rey has had a very quiet season to this point but should see a lot more of the field in the coming weeks. The eight-year veteran has played very sparingly so far this season but will see that change immediately.
Frank Clark (SEA)
After calling out Jarran Reed last week and being rewarded with a sack, Clark one-upped him with a 2.5 sack performance. Reed may be the one that is still available in your league (and worth the pickup) but if Clark is there, this may be the last time you can get him. He also has an interception this season, and while the tackle total may not be there, he is making up for it in other areas of the box score.
Corey Liuget (LAC)
If there was a way to put the entire defensive pass rush for the Chargers on this list, I would. Liuget has been largely overlooked due to his suspension and ineffective play early on. He performed much better last week with 1.5 sacks against the Browns. The bigger reason he is on this list is due to the matchup with the Titans. Tennessee gave up a ridiculous 11 sacks against Baltimore and have not done anything to bolster their offensive line. Look for all of the Chargers to get after Marcus Mariota next weekend.
Mike Mitchell (IND)
With all of the injuries in the Colts secondary, Mitchell was brought in and got the start. He played 76% of snaps last week and racked up 6 solo tackles. He should be able to build on these numbers as long as he is starting. The offense has played better of late, but that defense is still on the field a lot and that should bring about ample opportunity for Mitchell.
Jordan Lucas (KC)
Getting extensive playing time last week due to injuries, Lucas racked up 10 total tackles against the Patriots. Most of his role came in run support and he was victimized in the passing game, especially late when Gronkowski took over. However, if both Eric Berry and Eric Murray are inactive again this week, Lucas will see his fair share of work. He is a great plug and play option for tackles if you need help at DB right now.
Brian Poole (ATL)
The Falcons defense is banged up and teams have found that they can throw the ball against them. Opposing teams are trying to keep up with their offense and have found the biggest weakness in the Atlanta defense is the secondary. Enter Poole, who came down with his first interception last week to go with five solos and an assist. He is not going to get double-digit tackle totals, but he is going to get ample opportunity to make plays. Eli Manning has not looked great and has a weak arm. Look for Poole to try to jump a route this week against the Giants.
Todd Davis (DEN): 4 solos, 2 assists, 1 pass defended
Davis kept up his average of six tackles per game and added a pass defense this week. No Bronco defender seemed to be able to stop Todd Gurley last week and that includes Davis. He is a solid producer and should continue to be all season long. He is a great plug-and-play when you are dealing with Bye week issues.
Thomas Davis (CAR): 5 solos, 1 assist, 2 passes defended
In his first game back from suspension, Davis put together a solid game. He played a majority of the stats for the Panthers and should continue to do so. The Redskins did not have a great running game last week and it did not give him as much opportunity to rack up tackles. He will see an increase in playing time as the weeks progress and this should provide an uptick in his production.
Avery Williamson (NYJ): 5 solos, 2 passes defended, 1 interception
The Jets walked away with a surprising win last week and even more surprising was the interception by Williamson. His five solos were right on pace with his season average, but he did not come away with a sack this week. Aside from his two-sack performance against the Browns, he has not gotten close to a quarterback since.
Arden Key (OAK): 4 solos, 1 sack
It was a blowout and not a lot went right for the Raiders, but Key walked away with his highest tackle total of the season and his first career sack. He was disruptive in his limited playing time and may have bought himself a longer look next week. Key had a great matchup against a bad offensive line this week and it brought about his best results of the season.
Linval Joseph (MIN): 2 solos, 1 assist
After a big day against Philadelphia last week, Joseph had a much quieter day against Arizona. He had a great matchup against a porous Arizona offensive line but did not produce. He was unable to get after the quarterback this week. The Viking defense looked a little more like the team from a season ago and if that continues it should bring about more opportunity for Joseph.
Akiem Hicks (CHI):4 solos, 3 assists, 1 QB hit
The sack streak is over after two games for Hicks. He did register a quarterback hit and narrowly missed a sack. He also set a season-high for solo tackles and total tackles. This was a great step forward to Hicks despite the step backward for the defense as a whole.
Marcus Maye (NYJ): 5 solos, 1 assist
It was not a 104-yard interception return game for Maye, but he did stay right in line with his average tackles per game. Unfortunately, he broke his thumb and will be out three to four weeks and is no longer a fantasy option.
Taron Johnson (BUF): 1 solo, 3 assists
Johnson fell flat on his face this week, but so did both the Bills and Colts as a whole. He did not defend any passes and did not play a big role in stopping the run. The fourth-round pick has not taken on a big role in the defense yet despite the injuries. He is a good stash option for another week to see if his usage increases.
Daryl Worley (CAR): 5 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, 2 passes defended
In his second week of action, Worley was all over the field. He returned his interception for 16 yards and was able to disrupt a play in the backfield for a tackle for loss. His overall tackle numbers were low this week, but he made up for it with an interception.