The problem with defensive studs, compared to their offensive counterparts, is that the better they are, the less likely they are to rack up stats. Defensive Linemen get double-teamed, Linebackers get run away from, and Defensive Backs are avoided like the plague by smart QBs. This effect limited Dontari Poe, Zach Brown, and Patrick Peterson in Week 3.
But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play your studs. You drafted them early for a reason, and everyone from Bon Jovi to Fred Durst to George Michael knows that you gotta have faith. Or you gotta keep the faith. Keep the faith, unless of course you replace the Faith with Carrie Underwood. Breakout Week 3’s from previous dormant guys like Greg Hardy, T.J. Ward and Muhammad Wilkerson show that if you keep trusting your studs, good things will happen. On to the Week 4 ADRF:
The following players have been ruled out already for Week 4:
Henry Melton, Anthony Spencer, Aldon Smith
The following injuries are worth monitoring:
Cameron Wake (MNF alert!), Mario Williams, James Laurinaitis, Donald Butler, Patrick Willis, Pat Angerer, Charles Tillman, Duke Ihenacho, Pat Chung
George Selvie – I’m admittedly late to the party on this one. Selvie looked great to start the year, but his upside was limited by Anthony Spencer’s imminent return. With Spencer now out for the year after microfracture surgery, I’m all in on Selvie. When he was at South Florida, Selvie looked like the real deal, tearing apart the Big East and making this unproven youngster named Jason Pierre-Paul look like he should be in Pop Warner. Their fortunes have obviously shifted, but Selvie should absolutely be owned in all leagues with DL slots.
Desmond Bishop – He’s technically still behind Marvin Mitchell on the depth chart, but it’s only a matter of time before he takes over the starter’s role. Bishop emerged as an IDP stud last year in Green Bay, but since arriving in Minnesota he has yet to see the field much, playing only 3% of defensive snaps in the first two weeks compared to Mitchell’s 28%. In Week 3, he saw that number increase to 16% (compared to Mitchell’s 18%), and he racked up 3 tackles. He should unseat Mitchell as soon as Week 4, and could take over as an every-down LB soon after. Buy now before it’s too late.
Joplo Bartu – He’s not set to star in the upcoming Star Wars movies like I originally thought, but he is looking like a future star of the Atlanta defense. With Sean Weatherspoon out for the foreseeable future, Bartu looks like a three-down replacement and is a nice option for teams with struggling LBs.
Brandon Meriweather – It’s never fun to pick up a player that you can’t stand, but a wise man once said that you play to win the game. And if your DBs are hurting or underperforming, it’s time to sack up and make a move on Meriweather. The story hasn’t changed, he’s still extremely likely to get hurt and/or suspended, but when he’s on the field Meriweather is always productive, averaging nearly 5 tackles per game over his career.
Cliff Avril – The talent isn’t the question here, it’s the health and the situation. The health issues date back to this offseason where he dealt with foot and hamstring injuries, both of which have likely contributed to his slow start. The more permanent issue here is the situation. Avril is competing for snaps with the stable of pass rushers that Seattle employs, and given the way they’ve decimated their competition so far, there has been very little need to push him in terms of snaps. Hey Avril, why you gotta make things so complicated?
Trent Cole – After a solid couple weeks as a standup LB, it looked like Cole might have value while adjusting to his new position. He did get a sack of Alex Smith in Week 3, but that was his only tackle, something we should get used to. Unless you are in an extremely sack-heavy league, or Cole has DL-eligibility, it’s safe to drop him in favor of LBs that will rack up more tackles.
Reggie Nelson – I’ve been a Nelson fan over the years, and with the way Cincy’s defense looked this year I thought he had a chance to re-establish himself as a top safety in the IDP world. Through three weeks, that has not happened. Despite playing all of the FS snaps for the Bengals, Nelson has managed just 6 total tackles and no big plays. There is no reason to keep him on your roster, let alone start him, with all the available options that are producing right now.
Sheldon Richardson – I had him as an Add after Week 1, and all he has done since then is put up 9 more tackles and another sack. With Wilkerson getting constantly double-teamed, I expect Richardson to continue to wreak havoc in opposing backfields until O-Lines figure out how to contain him. And with what I can only assume is his name-sake winning an Emmy, it’s a good week to be a Sheldon.
Justin Houston – After a game with 7 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two recovered, this is my Captain Obvious pick of the week. What would y’all do without me? I’m typically down on pass-rushing LBs, as most scoring systems don’t value sacks enough to make them very valuable, but there are exceptions. It’s difficult to double team Houston with Poe and Tamba Hali also presenting scary options to opposing O-Lines, so it looks like this could be a breakout year for the former Georgia Bulldog.
Kenny Vaccaro – The safety picture in NOLA was a bit blurry before the season. Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins were both IDP stalwarts, but their actual talent just led to loads of deep completions against the Saints. Then they drafted Vaccaro in the first round to help out, and despite solid play early on, there were still too many cooks in the kitchen so to speak. When Harper went down with knee injury before Week 3, it was Vaccaro’s time to shine and he didn’t disappoint, putting up 7 tackles and an interception. It’s not clear exactly how things will shake out in the New Orleans secondary for the rest of the season, but Vaccaro’s stock is clearly on the rise.
Chris Long – The Rams have a former first round defensive end who is straight up dominating through 3 weeks. Unfortunately for Long owners, his name is Robert Quinn. Long trails his fellow DL by 7 tackles and 4 sacks, and has yet to have anything resembling a big game. Admittedly I haven’t watched much of the Rams this year, so I would assume this has more to do with double teams than a drop in ability, but I’d still be wary of starting Long for the time being.
Aldon Smith – Well this is not good on any level. I’m not going into the details surrounding Smith playing last weekend or what his future might hold, I just hope that he can get himself right. It’s never a good thing when a promising young player runs the risk of losing everything. I don’t have Smith on any of my teams because I tend to steer clear of pass-rushing LBs, but if you want to drop him I wouldn’t blame you.
Devin McCourty – As a Rutgers fan, I’m often blinded by homerism when it comes to Scarlet Knights in the NFL. That’s sometimes beneficial (Ray Rice) and sometimes not (Kenny Britt), but it’s always fun to see RU churn out pros after suffering through their miserable 90s years. So it pains me to say this, but the (very slightly) older McCourty just hasn’t shown me anything so far. With 7 tackles and no big plays through 3 games, I would need to see some production before starting him right now.
Week 4 Rankings: