With over half the NFL season in the books, owners who play IDP have a good idea of the production trends and how to proceed setting their lineups for the rest of the year. But what about a more long-term view of these players and situations that playing in a dynasty league requires? In this article, I take a look at some of the players with the most positive and negative value movements past the midpoint of the 2015 season and make recommendations about how to handle them in dynasty formats.
DE Everson Griffen
The tackles and sacks largely haven’t come for Griffen in the first half of the season. Owners also became frustrated by Griffen’s relatively late scratch against the Chiefs (which would have been a juicy matchup) due to a mystery illness. Looking at the matchups ahead for the remainder of 2015, I am alarmed to see that all but one of the Vikings’ remaining opponents rank in the top fifteen or better in sacks allowed per game. While Griffen is looking increasingly like he will log a down year, I look at this as a buy-low opportunity, as he’ll only be 28 next year and playing in a great scheme.
DE Fletcher Cox
While things haven’t been going right for the Eagles on the offensive side of the ball, we’ve seen a big improvement in their defense. Part of that improvement is attributable to Fletcher Cox’s stellar play. In addition to typically getting a few tackles each game, Cox is finally finishing at the quarterback. He’s on pace to complete the season at or near the double digit sack mark. While Cox’s buy-low window passed some time ago, he’s still a very affordable, underrated option to try to work a trade for if you need help at DE.
DE Jerry Hughes/ DE Mario Williams/ DT Marcell Dareus
As Jene and John have documented on the IDP Roundtable, the tackles and sacks just weren’t coming for Hughes, Williams, or Dareus in Ryan’s defense. Several of the players, including Williams, made comments that they were frustrated with being asked to do things in the scheme that do not play to their strengths. Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman met with the players during the bye week and made adjustments that will allow them to play a more downhill style. While only Hughes ended up having a big game versus the Dolphins, making Williams and Dareus more comfortable and playing to their strengths will eventually translate into production. While other owners run away from these players based on their output so far, I’m running toward them, especially if I can get them below market value in my dynasty leagues.
LB Vontaze Burfict
He scared his owners briefly by exiting the game with a knee injury in week nine, but then returned and tallied two tackles and an assist. Even after leaving the game early, Burfict managed to come back and play 75% of the team’s defensive snaps. He has now logged seven solo stops and an assist since coming back from the PUP, which is better than I expected. With his play and time on the field trending up, many will trust Burfict and slot him back into their lineups with no reservations. I think he’s a bit of a landmine for dynasty owners, simply because he has dealt with two chronic injury issues that could crop back up (left knee microfracture surgery and several concussions). Don’t forget that Burfict also has the third-round rookie selection Paul Dawson simmering behind him on the depth chart. I’m advocating getting out while his value is on the upswing.
LB Lavonte David
I believe David’s decline in numbers isn’t related to lack of motivation after getting paid or poor play. Rather, I think the addition of Kwon Alexander has hurt his production. Alexander is a good player and he’s lapping up those extra tackle opportunities David has normally had all to himself. David isn’t worth what he was a year ago, but he’s still a consistent, low-end LB1 for our teams. If you can get him at a discount, do so, but realize that he won’t post the monster, Luke Kuechly-like numbers to which we’ve grown accustomed - unless Alexander goes down with an injury.
LB Brandon Marshall
Marshall is one of those underdog players for whom we love to cheer. He was drafted in the fifth round of 2012 by the Jaguars and ultimately cut. He was signed to the Denver practice squad and worked hard. He ultimately rose from the practice squad to be the backup to Danny Trevathan. He filled in excellently last year for the injured Trevathan, so much so that the Broncos left him in the lineup when Trevathan was healthy this season. The defense under Wade Phillips has been outstanding and Marshall’s play has been a big part of that. Marshall will become a restricted free agent next year, but I anticipate the Broncos will want to either tender him or lock him into a multi-year deal. He’s a low-end LB1 that you can likely purchase cheaper than others in that same tier because of the uncertainty about a long-term deal.
LB Jordan Hicks/ LB Kiko Alonso/ LB Mychal Kendricks/ DeMeco Ryans
Until injuring his pectoral in the week nine contest, rookie Jordan Hicks had been the only consistently healthy ILB on the Eagles roster. Originally slated for special teams work only, Hicks was pressed into duty by injuries and had so far wildly exceeded expectations. Hicks was placed on season-ending IR on Monday. When all four linebackers are healthy, the Eagles coaching staff would like to rotate them in and out based on matchups, which could cut into each’s totals. So far, this plan has not worked out, as all four have been dinged at different points. I don’t have much confidence in Alonso and Ryans staying off the injury report long-term. Alonso’s health issues are well-documented and as Jene stated in his column, he’s at extreme risk of reinjury by continuing to play on a knee that’s not quite right. Ryans is near the end of his career and will be 32 before the beginning of next season. He also has a storied injury history, including dealing with an injured hamstring the last few weeks. While the short-term picture is a bit of a mess, Hicks and Kendricks are the two whom I believe have the best chance to produce for dynasty going forward. Hicks has the edge over Kendricks in tackle-heavy formats and Kendricks gets the nod in big-play-heavy leagues. With Hicks hitting IR, you might be able to pick him up on the cheap or even free.
S Antoine Bethea/ S Jaquiski Tartt
I don’t typically advocate spending heavy resources on defensive backs in dynasty leagues. This is because production is easy to come by at this position via the waiver wire in all but the deepest of leagues. I will only pay picks to add one when I think there is elite potential. In this case, I believe there is a situation developing which has the chance to create that kind of value for dynasty IDP players. Antoine Bethea was injured in the week seven action against the Seahawks. Rookie safety and second-round pick Jaquiski Tartt was called upon to take his place. It was later revealed that Bethea had torn his pectoral muscle and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Bethea will make over six million dollars next year if he remains on the roster. If Tartt continues to play as well as he has so far, Bethea’s age (he’ll be 32 next year) and salary requirements may make him expendable. Tartt is big, physical, and a willing tackler who excels in run support. With the 49ers offense unable to keep their defense off the field, Tartt looks likely to take Bethea’s place and become a solid contributor for years to come. If you can get your hands on him without paying a premium, do it!