Matt Schauf of RapidDraft.com stops by once a week to talk individual defensive players, “IDPs” for those in the know.
In plenty of cases, it’s certainly the time of year to give up on some guys that had you hoping back in August but have left you cussing ever since. Sometimes it’s worth continuing to hold on, though.
When I saw someone drop Jared Allen in the BlogTalkRadio Hosts Gold League, I said to myself: “Self, you’re not getting a ton of production from your DL spot anyway, and Allen has the Cardinals up next. Let’s take a shot.” That shot got me and myself 2.5 sacks and Allen’s best fantasy output of the season — more than doubling his 2010 sack total.
Still ahead for Allen are two meetings with the Bears (the first this week) and matchups with Washington, Buffalo and Philadelphia — all of whom rank among the league’s top half in most sacks allowed and 25th or worse in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate.
For Allen’s previous owner — which just happened to be the team I beat by 3 points — the drop made sense. For me, it was easy to take a chance on a guy with such a long record of production, even if the record had been skipping this season.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t quit on anyone who is underperforming compared with his career numbers. Just keep in mind factors such as upcoming matchups, the potential reward of the player for whom you’d be dropping him and the potential for streakiness at his position.
Now, because this week has been chockfull of defensive-player news, let’s sort through some headlines and guess at … er, I mean, analyze … the IDP impact.
Dan Connor to finish season at home with Roseanne
The Panthers’ 2010 middle man injured his hip last week and hit injured reserve at the beginning of this one. The loss of Connor from the lineup shouldn’t crush anyone’s fantasy dreams, as he tied for a mere 36th in total tackles among linebacker through his final game of the year. More important is what the injury does for Jon Beason.
Beason slid out to the weak side in training camp to cover for the loss of Thomas Davis. Connor’s departure moves Beason back to the spot at which he has been one of the league’s finest IDP producers over the past three seasons. He hasn’t been terrible to date in 2010, but those who drafted him were probably hoping for something more than a guy tied for 17th in solo stops with no big-play numbers. The re-shift should not only help Beason’s tackle production but get him back into position for some plays in pass defense. He grabbed three interceptions in each of the past two seasons.
Back on the outside, meanwhile, former Bills linebacker and college safety Nic Harris appears targeted for first crack at filling in. It would be surprising if he nails down the job the rest of the way, though. The Panthers also picked up recent Cowboys cut Jason Williams and signed Abdul Hodge earlier this season. Either of those players could enter the mix at some point, with Hodge bringing some middle-linebacker background. IDP owners should probably hope for Harris or Williams to satisfy Carolina coaches so that there isn’t motivation to slide Beason outside once again and install Hodge in the middle.
Brian Cushing back to old ways, just without a needle
So the Cushing-in-the-middle experiment didn’t work out, and we probably should have expected it. His name doesn’t fit the scenario nearly as well as “Malcolm.”
After two games of weak run D and lackluster tackle totals for Cushing, Houston will slide him back to the strong side and insert Kevin Bentley inside. This can obviously only help Cushing, as anyone who paid attention to him last year is well aware of the numbers he can produce in the right setting. (Of course, we might be getting our first look at the steroid-free version, so who really knows?) Bentley could prove more comfortable in the middle than Cushing did, as Bentley has been the primary backup for DeMeco Ryans. He isn’t likely to be a three-down player, though, and shouldn’t be looked to for big numbers.
D.J. could use a DD … allegedly
It was announced Friday that Denver inside linebacker D.J. Williams was arrested on “suspicion of DUI,” which either means he did it, has odd-smelling breath or is a really bad driver. As I write this, Williams’ playing status for Sunday has been deemed “uncertain” as Josh McDaniels gathers more information. Can anyone remember the last time an NFL team voluntarily suspended a good player because of a DUI, though? If this season has taught us anything, it’s that Williams will be “suspended” for the first quarter of the Week 10 game and then spend the final three quarters putting together the game of his life. The matchup with the active running game of the Chiefs certainly makes Williams worth waiting on.
Should further “information” actually lead to Williams finding the bench for the full game, Wesley Woodyard would presumably step in. Woodyard has proved productive in limited duty in the past. Mario Haggan would be the safer option for tackle numbers, though.
Aaron Kampman needs to be more careful with his ACLs
Almost exactly a year after ending a season with a torn ACL, Kampman will now miss the rest of 2010 because he tore the other one. It’s not fun to see such a likable player suffer another big injury, but the fact that the loss of a four-sack guy robs Jacksonville of its lead pass rusher tells you just how relevant the situation is for fantasy owners.
Michael Lewis recently joined the Rams, and it appears that he’ll see his first action with team No. 3 this weekend against team No. 2.
The guy who walked out on the Niners after losing snaps to rookie Taylor Mays earlier this season has reunited with Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis. Spags was coaching defensive backs in Philadelphia — as a job, not just because he felt like it — when the Eagles drafted Lewis back in 2002, and the two both left Philly after 2006. Spagnuolo has already said he believes Lewis has “a lot of football left,” and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a good number of snaps for the safety against his old team.
The fact that it will be his first on-field action as a Ram and that Lewis won’t start means he shouldn’t be used in fantasy, but it’s not a stretch to imagine him making his way into the lineup before the year is over. Lewis has been a strong tackle producer throughout his career and would see plenty of opportunities at the back of the St. Louis defense.
Matt Schauf is the senior football writer for RapidDraft.com and the brains behind (or would that be inside?) the “Suit” character in their free fantasy football game. Draft against him and 10 other fantasy Pros in RapidDraft Weekly every week (hence the name).