Matt Schauf of RapidDraft.com stops by once a week to talk individual defensive players, “IDPs” for those in the know.
Well, to those of you who drafted DeMeco Ryans, I’m sorry. I didn’t tear his Achilles tendon or anything, but any fantasy player can sympathize with losing a top 15 player at his position to injury.
Rather than wallow in the loss, however – especially because I’m not really sure how to get inside something and wallow – we have to move forward and project the impact.
Zach Diles appears to be the guy targeted to replace Ryans in the middle when the Texans return from a Week 8 bye, and he’s given fantasy owners plenty of reason to take notice. Two years ago, Diles grabbed the starting strongside job and was leading his team in tackles when a broken leg (in practice) ended his season before the ninth game. His tackle totals through eight games projected to 132 total and 94 solo over a full season, which would have placed him tied for eighth and 13th in the league, respectively.
Thereafter, Diles jumped to the weak side – a playmaking spot on most defenses but the less numbers-relevant outside job in Houston – and produced weak numbers in 2009, then pedestrian totals so far this year.
The move inside should put him in line for more chances, though, especially considering the success Kansas City had running the ball on Sunday. Through six games, Houston has faced the 10th fewest carries per week in the league, which made sense after five weeks. To that point, the Texans had allowed just less than 3.6 yards per rush. The Chiefs, however, beat up Houston for 228 yards on the ground and 6 per attempt. That average was pumped up by even stronger rushing success after Ryans had left the game.
At the least, opponents should be expected to test the run defense a bit more going forward, and Ryans’ absence should make Diles more of a three-down player. He’s not verging on fantasy stardom, but those in decently deep IDP leagues should pay attention – even if Houston’s first two games back bring pass-happy Indianapolis and San Diego.
OTHER INJURY SITUATIONS OF NOTE
Gerald Hayes, ILB, Arizona
Hayes has been cleared by doctors to return to action after opening the season on the PUPpy and is expected to return to the lineup. He’ll almost certainly push rookie Daryl Washington back to the sideline, with Paris Lenon shifting over to Washington’s weak inside spot.
Any position move tends to worry fantasy folks a bit, but I wouldn’t be too concerned here. In four seasons as a starter, Hayes has never produced big tackle numbers. His highest totals look almost exactly like Washington’s pace to date, and Hayes is much more a strong, tough inside player than a playmaker. I expect Lenon to remain the primary numbers guy inside for Arizona.
Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Atlanta
The rookie strongside ’backer opened 2010 with a solid seven solo tackles or more in each of the first three games. Since then, however, he has been dealing with a knee injury that already forced him out of two games and will do so for a third this week.
Stephen Nicholas has started in Weatherspoon’s place each time so far and actually posted even better tackle numbers: 13 (12 solo) against the Niners and six solos at Philadelphia last weekend. It’s worth noting, too, that the Falcons have faced the second fewest rushing attempts per game, so the totals aren’t inflated by extra chances. This week’s opponent, Cincinnati, hasn’t afforded good tackle numbers to opposing linebackers, but the weekly production from this position for the Falcons and Nicholas’ three sacks as a starter last year make him a solid (if unspectacular) option.
Antwan Odom, DL, Cincinnati
The situation involves no injury, unless you consider Odom’s wife, following last week’s revelation that Odom blames a positive PED test on accidentally taking one of her prescription weight-loss pills. It does, however, take off the field a guy who led the Bengals in sacks last season despite missing 10 games.
When Odom went down in 2009, Jonathan Fanene handled most of the filling in, and that seems to be the favored path this time if Fanene is healthy enough in Week 7. A versatile, quick player, Fanene tallied six sacks last year to rank second on the team. Should he start in Odom’s right end spot this week, he’ll face an Atlanta team that has yielded three sacks to right ends in its only two meetings with 4-3 base defenses this season. The versatility of Fanene should also allow him to stay on the field more, sliding to tackle just as Odom can when the team wants to get another speed rusher onto the field at end.
Of course, the fact that Fanene hasn’t been 100 percent so far increases the chance that his snaps will be limited, so he’s not a player to chase on the waiver wire this week. He is a decent option, however, for those in need of a fill-in.
Zack Bowman, CB, Chicago
Bowman lost his starting job three games back, leaving Tim Jennings in his place, and a foot injury is expected to keep him off the field completely in Week 7. Jennings has proved in the past to be a liability in coverage as a full-time starter, but he is also a willing tackler. His three starts with the Bears this season have come against a pair of teams that threw 22 times or fewer and a Seattle offense that threw much more often but focused on Mike Williams, who primarily faced CB Charles Tillman.
This week brings a visit from Washington, whose quarterback has attempted at least 32 passes in every game but one – including 45 or more each of the past two weeks. This week should present more chances for Jennings and make him a decent option for deeper IDP leagues.
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).