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.
Fred Warner (SF)
It is not going to be some monster double-digit tackle game with a sack and a pick for Warner, but he does have a safe floor. He averages 7 total tackles per game and has seen a recent increase in playing time. He does not have a sack on the season and is not used in many blitz packages. If you are just looking for safe points, Warner is a good bet this week.
Mason Foster (WAS)
The defense is the only thing going right in Washington right now. Foster is coming off back to back games with 10 total tackles and even chipped in an interception last week. He played very well against Houston and Tampa Bay. He also has a matchup against a team that loves to run the ball and has the potential for another double-digit tackle game. Look for Foster to have another big game this week.
Benardrick McKinney (HOU)
It has been very hit-or-miss with McKinney lately, but he has a very safe floor. He is good for six total tackles a game but has a great chance to double that against a Titans team that is reeling right now. McKinney is the only linebacker on the list this week that has a sack this season and Houston is expected to dial up the pressure with Marcus Mariota potentially on the shelf. Look for McKinney to have one of his best games of the season this week.
Emmanuel Ogbah (CLE)
The Browns take on their in-state rival in Cincinnati this week and they are going to need everyone to step up, including Ogbah. He has a very low floor for tackles this season but has seen an increase in playing time and quarterback hits. Ogbah recorded half a sack last week and has the chance to get after Andy Dalton this week. It will be a true boom or bust with Ogbah as he will be highly dependent on if he can manage a sack.
Sam Hubbard (CIN)
Baker Mayfield has not shown the ability to run the ball as much as people predicated and he likes to hold it in the pocket too long. This plays right into the Bengals and their pass rush. Hubbard has shown flashes of brilliance this year as well as put up some duds. He has a matchup that can produce one of his best games of the season this week against the Browns. Look for him to exceed his average of 3 total tackles per game as well as adding a sack against Mayfield.
Jack Crawford (ATL)
It is tough to trust any pass rush against the Saints. Their offensive line has been the best in football at keeping their quarterback upright. Crawford finds his value in the amount of volume he will see against the rush. New Orleans has gotten back to running the ball in recent weeks and that will give Crawford ample opportunity to rack up tackles. He also had a 2-sack game a few weeks ago against the Redskins and there is always the outside chance he gets home on Drew Brees this week.
Donte Jackson (CAR)
Last week was a rough game for Jackson after having a single assist the entire game, but his snap count is hard to ignore. Jackson has played 100% of defensive snaps in 3 out of his last 4 games and was still over 90% in that 4th game. He has a great matchup against the Seahawks and should see his numbers increase this week. Look for Jackson to bounce back and put up a good game this week.
Denzel Ward (CLE)
Ward has made it a point to step up against division rivals this season. Each of his top three games has come against rivals and this week he takes on one from within the same state. Ward has a floor of about 3 tackles and a ceiling of about 8. He also has 3 interceptions on the season and is taking on a reeling Bengals offense. Look for Ward to put up another great game against a divisional foe this week.
Tony Jefferson (BAL)
The Ravens get a bit of a break this week against a Raiders team that has been anything but elite. They are forced into throwing the ball a lot more than they expected this season and that has given the opposing secondary a lot of opportunity to score points. Jefferson has been a steady performer all season long and should be good for 7 total tackles and a pass defended this week. Look for the entire Baltimore defense to have a better game than last week.
Roquan Smith (CHI): 6 solos, 1 assist
It snapped a streak of consecutive games with at least 10 tackles, but Smith played well against the Vikings. He did not have as much opportunity as originally thought after the Vikings abandoned the run game early in the contest. Smith has been dominant in the previous 3 weeks and is a must start if you were able to grab him from the waiver wire during his midseason swoon. He has double digit tackle potential every week going forward.
Deion Jones (ATL): Inactive
This was a grab him while you can play last week. He is expected to return this week against the Saints and you may have missed your opportunity to grab him if you waited. Jones is an elite linebacker that should slot right back into his spot without any issues. The Falcons are clinging to a very slim chance of making the playoffs and will need better play from their defense and Jones going forward to have any chance.
Nick Vigil (CIN): Inactive
In a surprise move, Vigil was ruled inactive last week after being expected to return. MCL injuries can be tricky but he was projected to play all week. He is looking like a lost cause this season for fantasy owners and was dearly missed by a defense that was thrashed by the Baltimore running game.
Jonathan Allen (WAS): 3 solos, 1 assist, 1 tackle for loss
It was not the break out game we were hoping for. The Texans offensive line had let up the most quarterback hits in the league, but Allen could not get home on Watson. There are several other better options along the Washington defensive line for the rest of the season.
Carl Nassib (TB): 4 solos, 2 assists, .5 sack
It was a great all-around game for Nassib this week as he caused all sorts of issues in the back field. He was very close to being credited with the full sack but settled for half. He also saw a rise in his tackle numbers this week to go along with it. It has been a quiet season overall for Nassib, but he had plenty of value last week in a great matchup.
Eddie Goldman (CHI)
Goldman was shut out of the stat sheet after playing over 50% of defensive snaps this week. The Vikings abandoned the run game early and there was not a lot of work to be had up the middle. Goldman has value when the other team runs the ball and that is just not what happened this week.
Bene Benwikere (ARI): 6 solos, 2 assists
The Cardinals played well on defense all around and Benwikere added his second solid game in a row with 8 total tackles. He seemed to be all over the field and laid several big hits late in the game. It was a solid all-around performance and helped pad the stats on any team that started him this week.
Jessie Bates III (CIN): 7 solos, 2 assists
Bates was targeted by the offense early and often this week and he got a chance to make some tackles. He just missed hitting double digit tackles this week with 9 total tackles. He played well and is deserving of an extended look for the rest of the season. Watch his matchups down the stretch against pass heavy teams.
Sean Davis (PIT): 6 solos, 2 assists
It was a very back and forth affair between the Steelers and Jaguars. Each defense held strong and allowed only field goals in the early going. Davis was all over the secondary making plays and narrowly missed double digit tackles this week. Davis continues to play well and has some decent matchups down the stretch.
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