Bye weeks and injuries are never good, but this week we welcome some quality IDPs back home after their suspensions have been lifted, so there’s a chance they’re showing up just in time. Also, some early season fantasy flukes might not be so fluky after all…

Notable IDP Injuries

  • 49ers DE DeForest Buckner injured his foot and did not return.
  • Bucs DT Gerald McCoy injured his calf and did not return.
  • Saints DE/OLB Paul Kruger suffered a back injury and did not return.
  • Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon ruptured his Achilles’ tendon and is done for the year.
  • 49ers NaVorro Bowman ruptured his Achilles’ tendon and is done for the year.
  • Washington LB Ryan Kerrigan sprained his elbow but the injury doesn’t appear to be serious.
  • Washington LB Will Compton strained his shoulder.
  • Washington LB/S Su’a Cravens suffered a concussion and is in concussion protocol.
  • Steelers OLB Jarvis Jones injured his left ankle and did not return to the game.
  • Panthers OLB Thomas Davis injured his hamstring but is expected to play in Week Five.
  • Ravens SS Eric Weddle suffered a concussion and is in concussion protocol.
  • Rams S T.J. McDonald suffered a concussion and is in concussion protocol.
  • Washington S David Bruton suffered a concussion and is in concussion protocol.
  • Cardinals S Tyvon Branch re-injured his groin and was placed on Injured Reserve.

* Going forward, I’m going to break down some waiver wire targets based on the various roster sizes in IDP leagues. I’m always amazed at who is on the waiver wire, even in deep leagues, so PLEASE start at the top of this list even if you play in a deep league. To quote the title of John Hansen’s new radio show with Michael Rappaport, “Ya Never Know.”

 

On The Wire

Shallow Leagues (1-3 IDPs)

Defensive Linemen

Fletcher Cox (DT, Phi) – Cox is coming off his bye and was consequently dropped in shallow leagues last week. He’s one of the more consistent DLs in the game (and a stud in DT-required leagues), with 11 tackles (9 solo), 3 sacks, a PD, and a forced fumble in three games. If you pick him up this week, you may not look back. Cox is available in 54% of ESPN leagues and 83% of Yahoo leagues.

Rob Ninkovich (DE, NE) – Ninkovich tore his triceps in the preseason, but was also suspended for the first four games of the season. He returns this week and although it doesn’t appear his triceps is 100%, all indications are he’s good to go. With Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long lacking consistency so far, Ninkovich should see plenty of snaps this week. He knows the defensive scheme and will be a nice boost to the New England D. While he may not be the DL1 he was a few years ago (due partly to the D-Line rotation now in place in New England), Ninkovich should still be good for 4-6 tackles per game with a sack every few games as well. He’s an excellent bye week or injury replacement due to his high floor. Ninkovich is available in 90% of ESPN leagues and 98% of Yahoo leagues.

Derek Wolfe (DE, Den) – After a slow Week One, Wolfe has been producing more like the borderline DL1 we thought he would. In his last three games, Wolfe has 14 tackles (12 solo), 4 sacks, and 3 PD. On a defense where opposing teams have to double team Von Miller, Wolfe gets some nice matchups, and should continue being productive going forward. He’s available in 87% of ESPN leagues and 91% of Yahoo leagues.

 

Linebackers

Zach Brown (ILB, Buf) – Wanna know how an LB is having a good season? When his worst fantasy week was an 8-tackle game. And that was Week One. Since then, Brown has 44 tackles (31 solo) in three games. He added 4 big plays last week, just because he must have been bored with only getting double-digit tackles. Brown is the #1 LB in fantasy under virtually every format. He’s also still available in 50% of ESPN leagues and 70% of Yahoo leagues, but he’ll be gone by next week, so make him your #1 IDP target this week.

Michael Wilhoite (ILB, SF) – The 49ers elected to start Wilhoite over Gerald Hodges, but when NaVorro Bowman went down (out for the year), Wilhoite stepped into the middle of the 49ers defense. He promptly put up 12 tackles, and is the best bet to soak up the monster production left by Bowman. There’s still a chance that Wilhoite won’t be the every-down LB, but he was this week and doesn’t have much competition for the job. Wilhoite is available in 99% of both ESPN and Yahoo leagues.

Deion Jones (ILB, Atl) – Jones has blossomed in the MLB role that Dan Quinn anointed his rookie with. He was on his way to another strong fantasy week against Carolina when he left with a calf injury that cost him some snaps (Jones only logged 62% of the snaps, versus the high-90s he had played previously). D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that HC Dan Quinn indicated Jones was “walking around and moving” on Tuesday, so hopefully he’ll be 100% by Sunday. Assuming he’s healthy, he won’t have any problem finding snaps and production going forward however, as his partner Sean Weatherspoon is out for the year. Jones’s already strong candidacy for LB1 production just got a big boost. Jones is available in 82% of ESPN leagues and 83% of Yahoo leagues.

Zachary Orr (OLB, Bal) – This was my opening sentence on Orr last week: “Oh nothin’. Just the #16 LB sittin’ on the waiver wire.” Well, he’s still the #16 LB, and he’s still on the waiver wire. Orr put up another 9 tackles (6 solo) and now has 32 tackles (23 solo) along with 3 PD and an INT. Orr continues to be consistently productive so far playing next to C.J. Mosley. He’s a legitimate weekly LB2 with LB1 upside. He’s still available in 89% of ESPN leagues and 83% of Yahoo leagues.

 

Defensive Backs

Antoine Bethea (SS, SF) – Bethea has been a stud DB for the last several years, so don’t let his inconsistent start shake your faith. Unlike other DBs whose slow starts are based on scheme changes, Bethea is in the same role and that role is about to grow. With NaVorro Bowman now out for the season, Bethea will most likely be in the box in nickel packages, boosting his already high stock. Last week with Bowman out late, Bethea had 12 tackles (11 solo), with a PD. No DB’s arrow is pointing higher than Bethea’s at the moment. He’s available in 77% of ESPN leagues and 91% of Yahoo leagues.

Karl Joseph (SS, Oak) – Joseph’s presence has helped a struggling Oakland defense over the first two starts of his career. In those two games, Joseph has 18 tackles (11 solo) and a PD. He has seemingly played well enough to be the starting SS going forward and should be the starting DB in IDP leagues everywhere. Joseph is available in 88% of ESPN leagues and 96% of Yahoo leagues.

Keanu Neal (SS, Atl) –The rookie looks 100% healthy and took 100% of the snaps at SS for Atlanta. He posted 9 tackles (6 solo) and looks like a solid option with DB2 floor/DB1 ceiling going forward. Neal is available in 96% of ESPN leagues and 98% of Yahoo leagues.

Trumaine Johnson (CB, LA) – Unlike a lot of CBs, Johnson’s on-field play has correlated with his fantasy value. Johnson has been playing better “real” football, and in that span has back-to-back games of double-digit fantasy points. Over the last three weeks, Johnson has 20 tackles (18 solo), 7 PD, and an INT. He’s a CB1 who can flirt with DB1 numbers, and he’s available in 65% of ESPN leagues and 90% of Yahoo leagues.

 

Full Leagues (2-3 DL/2-3 LB/2-3 DB)

Defensive Linemen

Trent Murphy (DE/OLB, Was) – Murphy is eligible as a DE on several sites, and has snuck under the radar so far. In three games, he has 15 tackles (8 solo), 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Murphy’s OLB role in Washington should keep him in position to put up DL1/DL2 numbers if you can use him as a DL. He’s available in 93% of ESPN leagues and 94% of Yahoo leagues.

Marcell Dareus (DT, Buf) – Dareus returns from suspension this week, and is likely to enjoy the same fantasy resurgence his teammates are. After back-to-back seasons of DT1/DL2 numbers, Dareus wasn’t as effective last season. However, the Bills defense has been revamped and made simpler, so I’m expecting Dareus to again be a solid DL2/DL3. On a depleted D-Line, Dareus should immediately get back on the field. He might not play a full snap share out of the gate, but should still be productive even this week. Dareus is available in 97% of ESPN leagues and 99% of Yahoo leagues.

DeMarcus Lawrence (DE, Dal) – Lawrence also returns from suspension and is sorely needed on a D-line held together with Elmer’s School Glue. He should play as many snaps as he can handle, and bring a pass rush with him. Last season, Lawrence was a solid DL2/DL3 with 55 tackles and 8 sacks. Just in his third season, he should be able to replicate that game-to-game production going forward. Lawrence is available in 97% of ESPN leagues and 99% of Yahoo leagues.

 

Linebackers

Cory James (OLB, Oak) – James put up a monster 15 tackles (12 solo) with a forced fumble in Week Four. In 6 quarters of owning the starting MLB job in Oakland, James has 21 tackles (18 solo). I promise that’s not a typo. This is the production we were hoping to get from Ben Heeney, but we’ll take it from James all the same. Go grab this potential LB1 while you still can. James is available in 99% of ESPN leagues and 95% of Yahoo leagues.

Avery Williamson (ILB, Ten) – Williamson has started playing like the reliable LB the Titans thought they had last season. He missed some snaps in Week Two, but since then he’s played 100% of the snaps, and has put up back-to-back double-digit FP games. Overall, Williamson has 33 tackles (21 solo) but has really turned it on the last few games. He’s an LB3 at worst and an LB1 at best. Williamson is available in 94% of ESPN leagues and 93% of Yahoo leagues.

Christian Kirksey (ILB, Cle) – Kirksey has been eating in Cleveland now that he owns the every-down role. Through four games, Kirksey has between 6 and 9 tackles in each game and has been a solid LB2/LB3 with a strong tackle floor. Playing under the shadow of Karlos Dansby the last few seasons has kept his stock lower than it should be. Kirksey is available in 97% of ESPN leagues and 94% of Yahoo leagues.

 

Defensive Backs

Chris Conte (S, TB) – Conte continues to be a rock-solid DB2, posting 29 tackles (23 solo) as the #19 DB so far in FPG. His ownership has risen slightly, but considering how high his floor is, and how reliable he’s been since he came to Tampa Bay in 2015, he’s fairly underowned. He’s available in 81% of ESPN leagues and 92% of Yahoo leagues.

Rashad Johnson (S, Ten) – Johnson got off to slow start, but has picked it up the last two weeks. Since then, he has 13 tackles (9 solo) and a PD. He’s had a little boost from Da’Norris Searcy’s multi-week absence, but Johnson was already starting to produce at a better clip before Searcy went down. Johnson is available in 98% of ESPN leagues and 99% of Yahoo leagues.

Vernon Hargreaves (CB, TB) – Hargreaves wasn’t on the field much in Week One and consequently put up poor production, but he moved into a starting role in Week Three and now has at least 5 solos in each of the last three games. We like that tackle floor for a CB2/DB3, but we also like his big play potential that’s likely to come as teams continue to test him. Hargreaves available in 97% of ESPN leagues and 99% of Yahoo leagues.

 

Deep Leagues (3-4 DL/3-5 LB/3-4 DB)

Defensive Linemen

Quinton Dial (DE, SF) – Dial has been a role-player through the first three weeks for San Francisco, but if DeForest Buckner isn’t able to go this Thursday night, Dial is in line for a bump. Buckner didn’t practice on Monday so watch his status carefully. Even if Buckner does suit up, the quick turnaround for a Thursday night game means he’s likely to cede a good amount of snaps to Dial, who moves around between DT and DE. Dial also has a good matchup at home in front a tackle-friendly crew. He’s available in 100% of both ESPN and Yahoo leagues.

Jason Jones (DE, Mia) – With so much attention paid to Mario Williams, Jones has been able to sustain DL2/DL3 production so far. Over the last three weeks, Jones has 12 tackles (6 solo), a sack, and a fumble recovery. With the Dolphins limiting Cameron Wake to pass rushing duties, Jones is getting plenty of playing time. Jones is available in 98% of ESPN leagues and 99% of Yahoo leagues.

Kerry Hyder (DT/DE, Det) – Hyder has 7 tackles (6 solo), 5 sacks and 2 PD so far. With Ezekiel Ansah sidelined with a high ankle sprain, Hyder should be in line for continued steady production. Ansah may be nearing a return, but Hyder is still useful in big play leagues. However, as long as Ansah is out, Hyder is a legitimate DL2/3 in standard leagues, and DL1 in big play leagues. Hyder is also listed at DT on some sites, so if your league requires a DT, he’s a great play there. Hyder is currently unowned in ESPN leagues and available in 95% of Yahoo leagues.

 

Linebackers

*At the risk of redundancy, Michael Wilhoite should be the first target in deep leagues. He’s virtually unowned and now owns a starting gig. (See “Shallow Leagues” blurb)

De’Vondre Campbell (ILB, Atl) – With the loss of Sean Weatherspoon for the season to an Achilles’ injury, the door is wide open for the rookie Campbell to step up and assume the every-down role once he’s healthy. He’s been battling an ankle injury but has been limited in practice, which means he’s getting close. The Falcons signed A.J. Hawk to take Weatherspoon’s roster spot, but Hawk isn’t a threat to Campbell’s playing time once he’s ready to go. Campbell could be ready this weekend, but even if it’s next weekend, he will have a huge role going forward. If you can risk the roster spot, grab him and fire him up when he’s active. Campbell is available in 100% of ESPN leagues and 99% of Yahoo leagues.

Erik Walden (OLB, Ind) – While the Indianapolis D-Line has struggled, Walden has been doing his fair share of getting after the QB. He has 3 tackles (all but 1 were solo) in every game, and has 4 sacks with 2 forced fumbles. He’s a solid LB2 in big play leagues, but his fairly steady (albeit low) tackle floor gives him LB3/LB4 safety with LB2 flashes in standard scoring as well. Walden is unowned in ESPN and Yahoo leagues.

Aaron Lynch (OLB, SF) – Lynch returns from suspension this week and the 49ers could use his elite pass rushing skill set sorely. Lynch showed well in Backfield Impact last season, putting up 6.5 sacks and 13 PD in a limited role. With the 49ers putting up tons of plays on defense and the LB corps thin on talent, Lynch should see a boost from his 4.6 FPG in 2015. Lynch is unowned in ESPN and Yahoo leagues.

 

Defensive Backs

Will Blackmon (S, Was) – With both David Bruton and Su’a Cravens in concussion protocol and DeAngelo Hall on Injured Reserve, Blackmon is the last man standing among Washington’s safeties. But even with Bruton and Cravens in the lineup, Blackmon was producing. Blackmon had 7 tackles (4 solo) while replacing Hall in Week Four. He’ll get an extra boost if either or both safeties are inactive due to their concussions. Blackmon is available in 99% of ESPN leagues and 100% of Yahoo leagues.

Perrish Cox (CB, Ten) – Cox continues to get picked on by some of the league’s top receivers, which has been great for his fantasy value. Not only does Cox have 20 tackles on the season (15 solo), but his 3 PD and 2 INTs are a welcome boost with all those QBs trying to pick on his average cover skills. As long as he keeps winning a fair amount of those (and creating a few turnovers), he should continue to toe the line of good enough to play but bad enough for offenses to go after. Cox available in 99% of ESPN leagues and 100% of Yahoo leagues.