Most who follow Matt Schauf of RapidDraft.com on Twitter seethe at each “IDP” tag and wonder how he can make light of internally displaced persons. In this case, however, we’re talking individual defensive players, who add realism to your fake football leagues and gripes for the whiny leaguemate who always finishes last anyway. Schauf will be stopping by once a week to help you beat ol’ whiny even worse.
Last week, it was all about the full season – who you should draft for the long term. This week is more about the specific matchups. (Well, I guess Monday was more about grilled sausages and craft beer, but then it’s on to matchups … or gas, depending on your age.)
So now we’re all about matchups, right? Actually no. There will be plenty of time to factor in trends and specific individual battles as the season wears on, but Week 1 is the time to go with the guys you got. That’s often true across the board, but it might be even more true in IDP, where so much of the point-scoring plays depend on the actions of so many others.
If we’re guessing about just how often a particular team is going to run the ball this year, then we’re really guessing about how much said team will be running it this week, where those runs will go and how far into the defense the tackles will occur. Passing only introduces more variables.
Rather than try to unvariable-ize all those variables, let’s take a look at some players who could emerge this year as better options than they were before – and do so before the games start and others get the chance to see them emerge.
Calais Campbell, Cardinals – Campbell made his way into the top 20 fantasy scorers at his position in his first year as a starter – at least in my system, which relies heavily on astrology and baking skills. His seven sacks tied for the team lead, but more important was the fact that Campbell garnered the nickname “Almost” from his teammates for getting close to a sack without converting so many other times. (Rumor has it the nickname was really kicked off by Campbell’s affinity for Edward James Olmos.) Look for him to convert a few more of those this year and also continue to use his 6-8 frame and long arms to compile fringe stats such as pass breakups and blocked kicks.
Kroy Biermann – I liked what I saw from Biermann last season, when he was a primary pass rusher for Atlanta, but I was knocking his fantasy stock as recently as a month ago. I said to myself: Self, how can this guy be counted on for numbers when he’ll be part of a rotation with other players the team reportedly likes (such as Chauncey Davis and Lawrence Sidbury)? Then my self and I watched Biermann terrorize his way to a sack in each of the three exhibition games he played, forcing fumbles on two of them. As long as your format isn’t overly tackle-heavy, Biermann has clear and significant upside.
Michael Boley, Giants – Weakside, strongside, inside, outside (USA), sometimes the labels can be misleading. Keith Bulluck told reporters recently that the Giants’ “weakside” and “strongside” designations are bass-ackwards from how other teams apply them, according to actual positioning and duties. Whatever. The explanation here is much longer than most would care to follow, but the bottom line is that Boley steps into a playmaking position under new coordinator Perry Fewell. Fewell was the coordinator in Buffalo last year when Bryan Scott went to the sidelines an injured safety and came back a highly productive fantasy linebacker late in the season. Boley looked like an emerging talent in Atlanta a few years ago (before emerging arrested and suspended) and should reemerge in 2010.
Lawrence Timmons, Steelers – Timmons shouldn’t be a new name to anyone who has spent a few years playing IDPs, but nagging injuries have kept him from putting a full season together. By all accounts, though, he had a terrific training camp and continues to look every bit the breakout candidate. In his first crack at starting last year, Timmons tallied seven sacks, four forced fumbles and four pass breakups. He contributed five sacks as a part-timer in 2008 as well, and is so versatile that he has lined up at safety and stands as the top backup at outside linebacker. There’s no ceiling on his scoring potential this year.
Tanard Jackson, Buccaneers – Jackson doesn’t need to do anything differently from last year, other than not get suspended. (“That’s too much,” Aqib Talib says.) His per-game scoring average ranked among the position’s top 10, but Jackson’s four-game ban kept his total points from measuring up. Interceptions can often be tough to count on, but Jackson is good in coverage and grabbed a repeatable five in 2009. His tackle numbers also jumped way up, helped by the Bucs’ defense facing the seventh most plays in the league. The Tampa offense doesn’t appear on its way to dynamism in the near future, so those plays should continue to be there.
T.J. Ward, Browns – Ward comes into the league as a Bob Sanders type, from the craving for big hits to the proneness for injuries. As discussed in this space last week, though, the average IDP league leaves a deep enough pool of available players to take on that injury risk. In his one full healthy season of starting in college, Ward led his team with 101 tackles and ranked fifth in the Pac-10. If you really want to be impressed, though, check out some of his video highlights. It won’t matter to fantasy owners when he gets beaten in coverage. We’ll be too busy enjoying the hits.
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. Challenge him and 10 other fantasy Pros for a guaranteed $100,000 grand prize.