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.
Jordan Evans (CIN)
I had Evans on this list a few weeks ago, but with Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil in the picture, he lost a lot of his playing time in recent weeks. Fast forward to now with Burfict and Vigil both dealing with injuries and Evans is the lone every-down linebacker for the Bengals. He had a monster game last week with 7 solos, 4 assists, 1.5 sacks, and an interception. A repeat of that line is very unlikely, but he does have a legitimate chance at double-digit tackles this week.
Jamie Collins Sr (CLE)
It may not be the best matchup against Kansas City this week, but Collins should receive the volume of playing time to make him a worthwhile start. Joe Schobert has been out with injury and the Browns continue to look internally for replacements. Collins is worth considering this week if Schobert remains out of the lineup.
Marquel Lee (OAK)
With 11 solos last week while only playing 55 percent of defensive snaps, Lee had the most productive day of any Raider. He only came off the field because of the intricate offensive looks that the Colts ran out there, forcing the Raiders into a more pass-coverage-heavy defense. Lee will see his numbers return to normal this week against the more traditional San Francisco team on Thursday night. Look for increased production with more snaps and a better matchup this week for Lee.
Damon Harrison (DET)
Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery for a guy to be productive again. Harrison was a DT1/DT2 coming into the season before the dumpster fire in New York brought him down. Fast forward to now, and in his first game with Detroit he racked up 7 solos, 1 sack, and 2 tackles for loss. Seattle ran the ball more than the Vikings are going to this week, but if Harrison is hanging around your waiver wire after someone gave up on him, it will be your gain and their loss.
Chris Jones (KC)
Sometimes we just have to ride the hot hand and sometimes that hot hand ends up with the best matchup of the week. Jones has a sack in four consecutive games and will take on a Browns offensive line that has given up the most sacks to opposing defenses in the league. Look for Jones to add to his sack total this week with the Browns playing from behind and throwing the ball 40+ times.
DaRon Payne (WAS)
It is slim pickings when it comes to the defensive tackle position this season. He has three sacks so far this season and is coming off back-to-back four total tackle games. This provides a great floor from the defensive tackle position and the upside of getting a sack where you normally would not. Payne is not a flashy play by any means, but he is a consistent producer and a great option in a defensive tackle specific league.
Clayton Geathers (IND)
He may be a little widely owned to be on a list like this but after sandwiching two subpar games with two weeks of injuries, Geathers may be on your waiver wire right now. Considered a DB1 by many coming into the season, Geathers will look to get back on track this week now that he is healthy. He may have only had three tackles last week, but he also played every defensive snap and that is the important part. If someone dropped him in your league, he is an instant plug and play option for the rest of the year.
Eli Apple (NO)
Just like with Harrison mentioned earlier, Apple was able to escape the same New York dumpster fire and got a fresh start with the Saints. It was a little surprising to see him play almost every defensive snap in his first game with the Saints, but he rewarded that trust with a nine-solo performance. Apple joins several of his former Buckeye teammates and is in the position to put up big tackle numbers the next few weeks against pass heavy teams. Apple may finally turn the corner and live up to his draft position in New Orleans.
Patrick Chung (NE)
The Patriots are always a tough team to predict and their defense has been leaky at times. However, Chung has played well in their secondary and they have a pass-heavy matchup coming this week against Green Bay. In his last two games, Chung has racked up 7-solo and 5-solo games. He also has an 11-total tackle game with an interception earlier in the season. Chung should have plenty of opportunities to rack up the tackles this week against the Packers.
Kendell Beckwith (TB): DNP
A nagging injury has kept Beckwith off the field for all of 2018. The thought process behind adding him to the list last week was that once healthy, he will slot into the starting role. No time table has been given for his return, but he still rates out as a speculative long-term play this year. If you have the empty roster spot or can stash him in an injured reserve position, it is still not a bad play to see what happens.
Adarius Taylor (TB): 1 solo, 2 assists
The linebacker position in Tampa is a dumpster fire right now. The plague of injuries and ineffectiveness from those filling in has made it a blackhole for the team. Tampa was unable to stop anything the Bengals were doing this week and that included Taylor. Joe Mixon ran free and Taylor does not look to be a viable option going forward.
Elijah Lee (SF): 2 solos
Lee was another guy getting his shot after a rash of injuries forced the team’s hand. He did not deliver and kept up his streak of underwhelming numbers so far this season. He more than doubled his number of snaps from last week and produced similar results. It looks like San Francisco is not sold on his ability to be the starter.
Ronald Blair III (SF): 3 solos, 1 TFL, 1 sack
After a big swing and a miss with Lee from San Francisco, Blair stepped up and put up good numbers this week. He added his second full sack of the year and more solo tackles than any other game this season. He has a matchup against Oakland next week and they have not done a great job protecting Carr. Blair should be considered again next week if you need the help.
Vincent Taylor (MIA): 1 solo, 2 assists
Taylor was on his way to one of his better games this season before he was forced out with a foot injury. His status for next week is in question and is not worth a roster spot going forward. Look for help elsewhere along the defensive line.
Taco Charlton (DAL): 1 assist
It has been a season to forget so far for Charlton. He registered 20 defensive snaps this week and was not able to do anything with them. He received his highest snap count in Week 1 when he lined up as a defensive tackle instead of a defensive end. The numbers are just not there right now, and the Dallas defense is going to continue to struggle.
Will Parks (DEN): 1 solo, 2 assists
After a revival game last week, the Denver defense returned to its old ways against Kansas City. No one seems to be able to slow down that offense and Parks was no exception. The tackle numbers are just not there right now, and Parks would be a waste of a roster spot unless he turns things around.
Damarious Randall (CLE): 4 solos, 1 pass defended
It was a regression to the norm for Randall this week. After a monster 11-solo performance the week before, he came back down to earth with four this week. Randall was burned by Antonio Brown and the Cleveland defense looked a lot like its former self. Randall should still see the volume to warrant a roster spot and has a very high ceiling going forward.
Darryl Roberts (NYJ): 5 solos, 1 pass defended
Just like Randall, Roberts came crashing down to earth this week against the Bears. He cut his solo tackles in half, but five is still good production from a corner. He has been very active in pass defense so far this season and has a high celling. However, user be warned that he has a low floor as well. Roberts has two games with 5 solos, one with 10 solos, and five with either 0 or 1 solo tackle.
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