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.

DL

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.

LB

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.

DB

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.

  1. Djbooyah20 says:
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    Doc, Please Let me know what you think of my team regarding my roster as is and where I could use some help or lack depth. Thank You
    As drafted:
    1. Jones Drew
    2. Brandon Marshall (Keeper)
    3. DeSean Jackson
    4. Ryan Grant ( Keeper
    5. Tony Romo
    6. Felix Jones
    7. Braylon Edwards
    8. Derrick Mason
    9. Carnell Williams
    10. Devin Hester
    11. Chester Taylor
    12. Brent Celek (Keeper)
    13. Kellen Winslow
    14. Jacoby Jones
    15. Willis McGahee
    16. IND Def.

    PPR League
    I dropped IND for MIA this week..and also had to drop McGahee for a Kicker unfortunately. Not a ton of roster space, so I was forced into a tight corner(Did I make the right decision?) The only real reach in my draft I thought was Braylon?

  2. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Djbooyah20: Yeah, Braylon was too early. Is Jennings available? I would look to handcuff MJD with his knee issues. As long as MJD holds up the core is good. If Felix can stay healthy and becme the main guy you have a good shot this season.

  3. barker says:
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    some kid is offering me sidney rice in a 10 team PPR league

    he asked for felix jones my 8 rd pick

    i said i would offer jabar gaffney mike williams (sea) hightower in response
    i also offered felix and the SD def for Rice and the BAL def (already have the minn def)
    what would you do? would you even bother?

  4. barker says:
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    now he offered BAL def S rice Willis magahee for felix jones SD def jabar gaffney

    is rice worth even bothering with or what?

  5. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @barker: I wouldn’t even mess with Rice. You don’t need the hassle of rostering him and not knowing when and in what shape he’ll come back.

  6. Moose Knuckles says:
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    I am in an IDP league that rewards heavily for tackles, 2 for solo and 1 per assist. This makes linebackers almost worth as much as some offensive guys. I just read that Quentin Groves will be starting at OLB for the Raiders, and he still has DL eligibility since he has never played OLB. I think this could be a sleeper pickup due to the tackle increase. Any thoughts on him now? I have Ray Edwards and Glenn Dorsey there now, with Kevin Williams at backup. Should I drop Williams for him? Also, I have Moreno and Hightower and I need to start 1 at RB2. Moreno has tough JAX D and Hightower has the Rams. Any case for Hightower, or am I overthinking this? Thanks

  7. Groves is worth a shot, but don’t get too excited. He was in the OLB mix in Jacksonville last season when it opened in a 3-4 base. Things went so well that the Jags were back to 4-3 by Week 3. Groves did play some 4-3 OLB late in his Auburn career, though, and a linebacker with DL eligibility carries obvious upside in tackle-heavy systems. I’d actually drop Dorsey, though. His tackle numbers were decent last year but not terrific and certainly not strong enough to make up for the lack of upside in other categories. Kevin Williams’ 2008 numbers were much better last year, and he’s always a top 10 candidate at the position.

    On offense, I’d take a shot with Hightower (especially if it’s PPR), just because we don’t know if Moreno even knows yet how well his hamstring will do. He started this week at least not having “tested” it yet.

  8. Moose Knuckles says:
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    Thanks, I picked him up and now I need to cut two guys. I am loaded at a lot of positions, especially WR (9). Would you cut any of them instead? I loaded up on offense while Def was going, except at LB.

    QB- Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler

    RB- DeAngelo Williams, Knowshon, Hightower, Fred Taylor, LT, Buckhalter

    WR- Wayne, Bowe, Ochocinco, Driver, V Jax, Holmes, Burleson, Chambers, Mike Thomas

    TE- Zach Miller, Kellen Winslow, Tony Scheffler

    LB- Kirk Morrison, Bradie James, David Thomas, James Farrior, Keith
    Bullock

    DB- Dashon Goldson, Eric Coleman, Reed Doughty

    DL- Ray Edwards, Glenn Dorsey, Kevin Williams, Quentin Groves

  9. Moose Knuckles says:
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    Forgot to mention its a 12 team, 1 PPR league, thanks again

  10. Is “David Thomas” supposed to be David Harris? I’d still dump Dorsey from this group and ditch Scheffler as well. I don’t think he has nearly as much upside as some other folks seem to find (tell me how he gets beyond 40 catches in that offense without like three other guys getting hurt), and a third tight end is almost as worthwhile as a third nipple.

    I have to wonder if there are stronger LB options available, too. It doesn’t matter much if Morrison and Harris fill your starting spots, because they’re every-week types, but the other three aren’t exciting.

  11. Moose Knuckles says:
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    harris yeah, must have been a Wendy’s commercial on while typing. Sheffler I was thinking too. Thanks for the help.

  12. T-BZA says:
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    Is Style G White a sleeper DL pick-up OR does he just have a cool name?

    Thinking of dumping him for Derrick Morgan. Thanks in Advance.

  13. T-BZA says:
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    *Stylez

  14. T-BZA says:
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    1 More:

    Pat Chung — NE

    OR

    Earl Thomas — SEA

    Thoughts on these 2 Safeties?

    Leaning toward Chung just so I can post some Wang Chung you-tube should he dominate one week. But, objectively, I lean toward safeties on teams with front 7’s that are susceptible to RB gashings.

  15. @T-BZA: Sorry, dude. The notification for this went to my spam folder for some reason. Hope you stuck with Chung, who’ll be the safer play going forward as well. Thomas has big-play flair, but Chung will produce more tackles. And yes, Stylez White is a DL sleeper — albeit one who has left his coach less than thrilled with his practice effort.

  16. T-BZA says:
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    @Matt Schauf:
    All good; appreciate these IDP articles.

    I held on to Chung but had him benched. To quote Grey from the fantasy baseball side “Sonovabench!”.

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