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.
Fair warning: This post isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s chock full of sorrowful injury stories and awesome names.
Take Mathias Kiwanuka, for starters (not literally, as that would be kidnapping). The guy is off to a strong start in what seems likely to become his most productive pro season to date. Instead of getting in on the Chicago sack party, though, he faces a back issue that will either keep him out for just a week or forever (slight exaggeration), depending on what the next doctor says.
At the least, IDP owners must figure they won’t have Kiwanuka in the short term. The positive side of this, though, is that it means more playing time for another very good player. Osi Umenyiora stepped in for three sacks on Sunday night and has produced double digits in that category in two of the past four seasons – the only two in which he started every game. Meetings with Houston and Detroit could prove productive the next two weeks for Umenyiora.
Another lineman has a more definite but less optimistic outlook than Kiwanuka’s. Derrick Morgan’s rookie season has come to an end, as the Titans’ first-round pick landed on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Fortunately for Tennessee, DE Jacob Ford could return from his own knee injury as soon as this week, which would certainly help the pass rush.
This week’s matchup with Dallas probably won’t do much for IDP owners, as Tony Romo got sacked just once through the first three games, but Jacksonville and Philadelphia should prove more vulnerable in the ensuing weeks.
At the other end of the defense sits another rookie with a torn ACL. Morgan Burnett became a Packer in Round 3 and seemed to almost immediate carve out a starting role. Now that he’s done for the season, however, his misfortune creates an opportunity for a guy with more experience and a longer injury history.
Atari Bigby broke through in 2007 with a season that was solid enough statistically and seemed to promise further upside, especially based on how he performed in the playoffs that season (well). Since then, however, Bigby has been riddled with injuries, missing more than half of 2008 and five starts last season. He did at least pick off four passes in 2009, but began this season on the physically unable to perform list. He can’t return until Week 7 because of that designation, but Bigby could step immediately into the starting lineup when he’s ready. At the least, he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Speaking of safeties with really cool names, Oshiomogho Atogwe – don’t trust anyone who refers to him simply as “O.J.” – missed the Week 4 start because of a bruised thigh. I always find a “bruise” to be a funny reason for missing a professional sporting event, but I suppose you have to play at that level to know what an NFL bruise is like.
Even though he didn’t start the game, Atogwe did play and came out fine. That would seem to indicate a return to normal activities in Week 5, and normal activities when facing Shaun Hill tend to include interceptions. Atogwe has been the rare player to consistently produce turnover numbers in his career, with eight interceptions in 2007 and five picks and six forced fumbles in 2008 before injury marred last season. Two weeks after Detroit, Atogwe gets consecutive young quarterbacks in Josh Freeman and Jimmy Clausen who could be prone to errors.
One other safety, Roman Harper missed Week 4 outright and will have to be watched by fantasy owners this time around. His hamstring injury is apparently not thought to be serious, but that kind of thing can often linger for a while. If he can get healthy soon, a strong slate of games awaits.
Finally, it can often be tough to extract fantasy points from cornerbacks, but Terrence McGee has been a solid producer when healthy. The only problem has been that “when healthy” part, as McGee missed nine starts over the past two seasons.
In his place, second-year man Leodis McKelvin got the nod and also got burned by a pump fake and Braylon Edwards. McKelvin was a first-round pick in 2008 but already made his way out of the lineup. He’s filling in for McGee for at least one more week and should be targeted by the Jaguars, at least as long as the team remembers Mike Sims-Walker exists.
Beyond being a target for targets, McKelvin also brings top-notch return skills, which can make him a constant big-play threat. We’ll see what he can do this week and whether he remains relevant beyond.
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).