Week 12 Upgrades/Downgrades
Posted 11/21 by Aaron Rudnicki, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
DL Bears pass rush (8 sacks, 2 FF, 3 PD)
The Bears front 4 dominated the game on Sunday and put tons of pressure on Jake Delhomme. RDE Alex Brown was in the Panthers backfield all game and finished with 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. The pressure he was generating on the right side early helped draw some attention away from Adewale Ogunleye on the left side, who finished with 3 sacks himself. Tommie Harris, Michael Haynes, and Alphonso Boone also added sacks.
DL Luis Castillo, San Diego (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF)
The rookie has been starting for the Chargers at LDE in their 3-4 front, which is usually not where you expect to find fantasy value, but he's playing well and has 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his last 3 games.
DL Trent Cole, Philadelphia (6 solos, 2 sacks)
Cole got his first start on Sunday vs the Giants and keyed a 5-sack effort against one of the least sacked QBs in the league. Cole is a rookie whose speed and pass rush ability are a perfect fit in the Eagles aggressive scheme, and he's been on fire lately with 5 sacks in his last 3 games. His play on the right side should help open things up a bit for Jevon Kearse, who had 3 sacks on Sunday to put him among the league leaders for the season.
DL Rob Meier, Jacksonville (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Meier doesn't start for the Jaguars, but he's been their most productive pass rusher recently with a sack in 3 straight games. He's getting more playing time lately in relief of Marcus Stroud - who has been hobbled with an ankle injury - and making the most of it.
LB Daryl Blackstock, Arizona (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Blackstock started in place of Karlos Dansby yesterday and recorded the first sack of his career. The Cardinals blitzed a lot in the game to try and protect their inexperienced secondary and Blackstock got through on one in the 4th quarter when he crushed Jamie Martin and forced a fumble. Dansby has been one of the bigger fantasy surprises this year, but Blackstock showed that he can fill in for him if called upon.
LB Donte Curry, Detroit (9 solos, 1 asst)
The Lions linebacker group was decimated with injuries last week and they had to start a couple backups this week. Curry filled in for Boss Bailey at SLB and finished with a team-high 9 solo tackles.
LB Chris Draft, Carolina (5 solos, 2 asst)
Dan Morgan was already playing with a shoulder injury and was forced to leave the game early when he injured his ankle. Draft filled in for him and did a decent job of keeping the Bears running game in check. Draft is an experienced player who had 102 solo tackles for Atlanta in 2003 and could be worth a pickup if Morgan misses any time.
LB Clint Kriewaldt, Pittsburgh (7 solos, 1 asst)
Stud ILB James Farrior missed his second straight game with a knee injury and was replaced in the lineup by Kriewaldt. If Farrior misses any more time, Kriewaldt could be a productive short-term pickup.
LB Shawne Merriman, San Diego (4 solos, 2 sacks)
Merriman was talked about as perhaps the best pass rusher in this year's draft class and he's living up to the hype. With 20 solo tackles and 6 sacks in his last 4 games, he's beginning to make a strong push for defensive rookie of the year.
LB Bart Scott, Baltimore (8 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FF)
Although Ray Lewis was mysteriously credited with a special teams tackle on Sunday despite watching the game in street clothes on the sidelines, Bart Scott had the game of his career playing at WLB. With the return of Lewis still up in the air, Scott is looking like he could be a force in the fantasy playoffs. Over his last 4 games, he has 3.5 sacks and has averaged nearly 6 solo tackles/game.
DB Glenn Earl, Houston (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Glenn Earl was expected to start for the Texans this year at strong safety but was injured during the preseason and wound up losing his job to rookie C.C. Brown. He's a bigger player than Brown and a better run defender, so the Texans decided to start him against the power running of Larry Johnson. It didn't really work out as the Chiefs were able to move the ball at will on the ground or in the air, but if Earl can keep the job, he'll likely be a valuable pickup in most IDP leagues.
DB Eric Green, Arizona (15 solos, 1 PD)
The Cardinals put a ton of pressure on their rookie CB this week as they used a heavy diet of blitzes to try and disrupt the Rams passing game. That often left Green in man coverage against the Rams talented WRs and they took advantage. 15 solo tackles for any IDP is impressive, but especially so for a cornerback whose previous high was 4.
DB Travares Tillman, Miami (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
With Tebucky Jones out for the season, Tillman has stepped in at strong safety and been productive. Over the last 3 games, he has 14 solo tackles, 7 assists, 2 interceptions, and 3 passes defensed.
DB Nathan Vasher, Chicago (4 solos, 2 INTs, 2 PD, 1 FF)
Vasher led the Bears in interceptions as a rookie last year with 5 despite not even starting. Thanks primarily to his playmaking ability, the Bears moved him into the starting lineup this year and with 2 gifts from Jake Delhomme on Sunday, he now is tied for the league lead with 6. When you include his TD return of a missed FG last week against the 49ers, an average of 3 solo tackles/game, and a couple forced fumbles, he's been one of the best fantasy CBs in the game this year.
DL Shaun Ellis, NY Jets (0 tackles)
The Jets were shut out as a team by the Broncos and so was Shaun Ellis. With no sacks in 4 straight games and just 2.5 in 10 games after putting up 23.5 the past 2 years combined, it would be hard to consider Ellis anything but a major disappointment. Of course, it's hard to rush the passer when your team is always playing from behind, as the Jets have been this season.
DL Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis (0 tackles)
Freeney was kept off the scoresheet completely for the second time this season. He clearly is regarded as one of the best pass rushers in the league, but he's not going to become an elite fantasy DL until he gets better against the run and puts up more consistent tackle numbers. He's also not 100% healthy now, so the Colts may rest him more than usual to try and get him ready for the playoffs.
DL Darren Howard, New Orleans (0 tackles)
Like Ellis, Howard is one of the premiere LDEs in the league, but he's struggling to make much of an impact this year. He has just 1 sack in his last 6 games and is often outscored by 2nd year player Will Smith, who is the Saints 3rd defensive end.
DL ND Kalu, Philadelphia (0 tackles)
Kalu missed the Eagles last game with a shoulder injury and looks like he may have lost his starting job to rookie Trent Cole for good this week. Cole is much more explosive than Kalu, who only has 1 sack in 9 games played.
LB Kendrell Bell, Kansas City (0 tackles)
The Chiefs spent a lot of money to bring in Bell, who was a fantasy stud early in his career with the Steelers. While the Chiefs defense has improved and Bell has played reasonably well, his fantasy numbers are way down from where many expected them to be. Despite playing in all 10 games, Bell has just 21 solo tackles and half a sack, and has to be considered one of the bigger fantasy LB busts this year.
LB Dan Morgan (1 asst) & Will Witherspoon, Carolina (1 solo, 1 asst)
Morgan has always had durability issues and has never been healthy enough to play in more than 12 games in a season. Well, he's already played in 10 games this year and is now battling with ankle and shoulder injuries, so his history suggests he might not last much longer. Witherspoon has traditionally performed great whenever Morgan was out of the lineup, but he was a non-factor on Sunday. Morgan left the game early with an ankle injury and Witherspoon still finished with his lowest output of the season.
LB Zach Thomas, Miami (4 solos, 1 asst)
Thomas has been one of the best fantasy IDPs this season, but he suffered a separated shoulder on Sunday while trying to sack Browns QB Charlie Frye. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. If he can't go next week, upgrade Channing Crowder.
DB Adam Archuleta, St Louis (0 tackles)
Archuleta suffered a concussion after colliding with his own teammate CB Dejuan Groce on the Cardinals first offensive snap of the game. He tried to play through it but left the game for good soon afterwards and finished with 0 tackles.
DB Deke Cooper, Jacksonville (2 asst)
Cooper showed some progress early in his career that suggested he'd be able to take over for Donovin Darius at strong safety. While nowhere near the run defender that Darius was, he was expected to be adequate there while providing an upgrade in his coverage skills but he's been ineffective in both areas lately. Has just 1 solo tackle and 2 assists in his last 2 games, which are terrible numbers for a starting strong safety.
DB Robert Griffith, Arizona (2 solos)
Griffith finished with a disappointing 2 solo tackles on Sunday, while the other 3 starting members of the Cardinals secondary finished with 28 combined solo tackles. At 35 years old, Griffith has lost a step or two from earlier in his career and is an unreliable tackler, so free safety probably isn't a very good fit for him.
DB Kenoy Kennedy, Detroit (1 solo, 2 asst)
Despite being about the only healthy player in a back seven that has been decimated by injuries, Kennedy only managed 1 solo tackle and 2 assists. Kennedy's numbers were even more disappointing when you consider that the Cowboys had 40 rush attempts in this game.
DB Terrence Kiel, San Diego (1 solo, 1 PD)
Kiel has been battling through a shoulder injury lately, which has rendered him nearly useless from a fantasy perspective. After starting off the year with 31 solo tackles in his first 4 games, he has just 11 solo tackles in his last 5.
DB Lito Sheppard, Philadelphia (1 solo, 2 asst)
Sheppard suffered a severe sprain of his ankle yesterday that will require surgery and likely force him to miss the rest of the season.