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)
This time of year, it is all about solid point totals and not chasing the big plays. Davis has been consistent and is averaging almost 8 tackles a game. He has had four solo tackles in every game except one this season and has a great matchup against the Browns. Davis is not going to give you an interception return or multi-sack game, but he will fill the tackle column with safe points this week.
Neville Hewitt (NYJ)
Sometimes it takes an injury or suspension for a guy to get playing time. Hewitt has played about 82% of snaps while filling in for Darron Lee and has put together solid lines. He has a great matchup against the Texans this week and is another sneaky source of safe points. He has a floor of about five tackles and an outside ceiling of double-digit totals depending on the game script for the Texans.
Zach Cunningham (HOU)
Cunningham posted double digit tackles last week and made up for his disappointing total the week prior with an interception. The Jets are struggling on offense and are ripe for the picking against Houston this week. Cunningham has been a consistent performer all season long and has a chance to be a star for you this week.
David Irving (DAL)
It has been another long wait, but it looks like Irving should return from his 6-game absence due to an ankle injury this week against the Colts. It could not come at a better time as this is a prime matchup for sacks. He is expected to be on a snap count in his return, but a single sack would make starting him worth it. Consider Irving a boom or bust candidate that is highly sack dependent.
Trey Flowers (NE)
It may have been a disappointing start for Flowers, but he has turned it on since the Bye week. He has a sack in his last 4 games and gets a chance to face the Steelers this week. Things have not been clicking in Pittsburgh as much in recent weeks and Flowers has a great chance to extend his sack streak this week.
Chris Wormley (BAL)
We usually would not consider a guy who is only seeing under 50% of defensive stats, but Wormley has a chance to blow up this week against Tampa Bay. That team is in total disarray and has no identity outside of throwing the ball as far as they can down the field. This leaves Jameis Winston in the pocket for a long time and gives Wormley a chance to get home for a sack. It is a deep dive into the waivers for Wormley, but he may help if you are desperate this week.
Eric Berry (KC)
It has been a long wait for the return of Berry, but he is expected to suit up on Thursday night against the Chargers. There is a chance he is available due to the length of his injury, and if so you should pounce. He may be on a snap count this week for his return, but he has the ability to make big plays all over the field, even in a reduced role. Check the status of Berry in your league and scoop him up if you get the chance.
Ronnie Harrison (JAX)
The Jaguars are all but done for the season and are spending their final few games evaluating their young talent. Harrison has gotten an extended look so far in an every-down type of role and has posted average results. He is definitely worth a speculative add in a dynasty league but also has some big play potential for the final three games this season. If you are thin in the secondary and need to make a push in the playoffs, Harrison is a good bet.
Michael Thomas (NYG)
With Landon Collins done for the season, Thomas is seeing over 90% of defensive snaps. The defense played with a huge lead last week and there were not as many opportunities for tackles, but he still put up respectable numbers (five tackles and an interception). Thomas is a great play due to the number of snaps he is playing and should provide a safe floor for the final three weeks of the season.
Eric Kendricks (Min): 3 solos, 4 assists, 1 interception
It was an abysmal game for the Viking offense, but the defense held its own and was the only thing that kept the game close. Kendricks came up big with an interception in a goal to go situation from the 1-yard line and totaled 7 tackles. His tackle numbers were down a little from recent weeks, but the interception made up for it. Kendricks is a viable option for the rest of the season and should be started in almost every format.
L.J Fort (Pit): 3 solos, 1 assist
The wheels seem to be falling off in Pittsburgh right now after their third straight loss. Fort was not a viable source of fantasy points this week. He played 80% of snaps on special teams and almost 80% on defense. He just did not seem to get his nose to the football this week and make the same number of plays as last week. With four total tackles on 73 combined snaps, it was a very poor showing. Pittsburgh has a lot they need to look at to close out the season.
Cory Littleton (LAR): 6 solos, 1 tackle for loss
It was a very solid game for Littleton as he stayed within his average tackle numbers. The biggest plus this week was that all of his tackles were solo, and he got into the back field for one of them. It was a defensive oriented game and Littleton did his part this week. He would have been a safe source of tackles this week and has a good matchup against the Eagles next week as well.
Darius Philon (LAC): 2 solos, 1 tackle for loss
The return of Bosa has not led to many more opportunities for Philon. Cincinnati was using a backup quarterback this week, but he is also much more mobile than Andy Dalton. The game ended up being a lot closer than most people thought and Philon did not make much of a difference on defense. He has now gone 6 straight games without a full sack and his numbers look to decline even further the next 2 weeks against Kansas City and Baltimore.
Denico Autry (IND): 3 solos, 1 assist, 2 sacks
The Texans have not been able to protect Deshaun Watson at all this season and it showed. It was another monster game for Autry this week. He had three sacks last week and then another two this week. Autry has three multi-sack games this season and is a true boom or bust candidate. He has good matchups to close the season but would be a major risk during the playoffs. If you are a big under dog and need a cheap source of sacks he is a good bet to continue his hot streak.
B.J. Hill (NYG): 1 solo, 2 assists
The Giants dominated the Redskins in almost every aspect this week, but Hill did not play a major role. Once they brought in a more mobile quarterback there were not as many tackles in the back field. Hill is starting to see the snap count you want from your starters, but he still has a long way to go to be fantasy relevant every week.
Eli Apple (NO): 2 solos, 1 assist
Teams have not been picking on Apple as much in recent weeks. The Saints defensive unit has made a huge turn around in the second half of the season, but Apple has not been at the center of that. Apple is still the weak link at corner and teams should still target him, but there is no guarantee of sustained success. Apple has not lived up to his high draft choice coming out of Ohio State and is not a reliable option every week.
Adrian Phillips (LAC): 5 solos
The game against the Bengals ended up being a lot closer than everyone thought, and it took every one of Philip’s tackles to make the difference. He matched his solo total from the previous week against the Steelers but did not add any assists. He had a good chance of double digit tackles this week but fell short of that projection.
Shelby Harris (DEN): 3 solos, 1 assist
Harris was another guy who did not continue his hot streak from recent weeks. After an interception and 1.5 sacks in the last two weeks, he fell back to his norm this week. The Broncos had a huge let down against the 49ers this week and ruined any chance of making the playoffs. Harris may have another interception in him this season but is not a reliable source for consistent points in the remaining weeks.