Fantasy football leagues that use individual defensive players (IDPs) add a new level of depth to your typical league. While using IDPs can be fun, it also means keeping track of an extra three or more players each week. An IDP will normally score around two to six points per week for your fantasy team, depending on your scoring, with most of that weighted towards tackles. Because of this, most fantasy owners will not save many bench spots for IDP depth. Personally, I keep one bench spot for IDP to use during bye weeks and just ride it out if I have multiple players without games. Since most owners seem to follow a similar strategy, the people in your league will be constantly scouring waivers for the next IDP stud. So knowing each team’s depth chart and who will step up in the event of an injury is extremely important in order to get the jump on the owners in your league. Each week I will keep you updated on key defensive injuries and who is expected to replace them. This way you can decide if it is better to wait it out, or make a move for a healthier option.
I’ll pay most attention to the linebackers since these will be your largest IDP fantasy point scorers, followed by defensive backs and defensive lineman. If you have an injured IDP on your fantasy team and he is not on this list, then he is not worth owning.
Elvis Dumervil (Broncos) – Out for Season (pectoral) – If you auto-drafted and ended up with Elvis, feel free to cut him for a better option, don’t keep him around simply for the cool name. Robert Ayers could see a lot more pass rushing opportunities this season.
Gerald Hayes (Cardinals) – Out (back) – on the PUP list with an injury that dates back to last season, Hayes will miss at least the first 6 weeks. His replacement, rookie Daryl Washington, has looked impressive and with a huge void in stats left by the departure of Karlos Dansby, could be a sleeper IDP.
Shawne Merriman (Chargers) – Questionable (achilles) – Merriman is looking like a game-time decision on Monday night. At this point in his career he is not the dominant IDP that he used to be, so I’d look for better options. If you have to own a Charger linebacker, then look at Shaun Phillips or Stephen Cooper.
Channing Crowder (Dolphins) – Out (abdomen) – Crowder looks like he is going to miss multiple games with a groin/hip/abdominal injury (only in football). He has good tackle potential, but Karlos Dansby is the Dolphin to own.
Calvin Pace (Jets) – Out (foot) – Pace is ahead of schedule in his recovery from foot surgery, but he is a long shot to return before week 4. Pace is probably not worth a roster spot at this point, but could make a nice bye week replacement after week 5. He will be replaced by a rotation of Jason Taylor and Bryan Thomas.
DeAndre Levy (Lions) – Doubtful (groin) – Levy missed practice on Friday, confirming he will not be playing week 1. The Lions have given no timetable for his return. His replacement, Landon Johnson, will play every down and makes a nice IDP pick-up in tackle heavy formats.
Clay Matthews (Packers) – Probable (hamstring) – Matthews is going to play, but he has been moved to the right outside linebacker position. This will hurt his IDP value because he will lineup against the tight end more often, leaving fewer one-on-one matchups with the opposing tackle. Brad Jones will replace him on the left side and should have more IDP value.
Brian Cushing (Texans) – Suspended – Cushing will sit the first 4 games of the season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Xavier Adibi will be his replacement for the first 4 games and is a huge downgrade. Cushing should be worth waiting on, or a great waiver wire target if an owner gets impatient.
Major Wright (Bears) – Probable (finger) – This news is significant because it may push Daniel Manning to the nickel back hurting his IDP value. A healthy and starting Major Wright would make a nice DB on any IDP squad.
Aqib Talib (Buccaneers) – Suspended – Talib is suspended 1 game for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He is worth waiting on if there aren’t better options on the waiver wire. If possible, Tanard Jackson is the Tampa Bay DB to own.
Brodney Pool (Jets) – Questionable (ankle) – Pool was limited at practice on Friday and will be a game-time decision Monday night. As the team’s starting strong safety, Pool could be an IDP sleeper.
Atari Bigby (Packers) – Out (ankle) – Bigby is starting the season on the PUP list, but is already running and cutting and should be ready to go when eligible in mid-October. Bigby is another to guy look for on the waiver wire when he is closer to returning. Morgan Burnett will be the starting strong safety in his absence. With Al Harris’ future in the NFL up in the air, Charles Woodson and Nick Collins look like the only Packers’ defensive backs worth owning.
Ed Reed (Ravens) – Out (hip) – Reed will also be starting the season on the PUP list, but should be ready to return when eligible. If he was just going to be out a couple weeks, I would recommend hanging on to him. However, 6 weeks in fantasy football is a long time and unless you have IR spots, I would look elsewhere for DB help. Once again, Reed could make a great waiver wire grab around week 4 or 5. Tom Zbikowski will fill in while Reed is out and could put up some decent IDP numbers.
Kareem Moore (Indigenous People of North America) – Out (knee) – Moore is expected miss at least he first couple of weeks after having his knee scoped. He is the best safety on Washington, but probably not worth a roster spot on your IDP squad. Reed Doughty will replace him.
Darren Sharper (Saints) – Out (knee) – Sharper is another former IDP superstar starting the year out on the PUP list. There has even been speculation that Shaper may have been waived if he hadn’t landed on the list. He is not worth stashing and his replacement, Malcolm Jenkins, while someone to watch, is not worthy of roster spot just yet. Roman Harper is the Saints safety to own.
Bob Sanders (Colts) – Only a matter of time.
Troy Polamalu (Steelers) – Only a matter of time.
Shaun Rogers (Browns) – Questionable (leg) – Looks like he will be ready to play, but he won’t see significant time for at least a couple weeks. Rogers will play at tackle and end and will have some IDP value in deeper leagues.
Jonathan Babineaux (Falcons) – Suspended – Babineaux was suspended 1 game for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. He is definitely worth hanging on to, especially on teams that differentiate between ends and tackles.
The Fantasy Dick is the fantasy baseball writer for www.thebaseballchick.com and can be followed on Twitter at @thefantasydick. Feel free to ask any fantasy sports related questions or just questions about life in general, The Fantasy Dick is an expert at both.