As the season progresses it is hard to find those diamonds in the rough or that guy that no one has heard of. This week we are going to examine the plethora of injuries across the league and who the most likely successor is to that starting job as well as highlight some prime matchups as well as surprising performers to this point. This article will also highlight a few long-term and speculative players that could see their value rise over the course of the season.
Duke Riley: Middle linebacker (ATL)
Deion Jones has been placed on injured reserve as of Tuesday and all signs point to Riley getting the starting reps in his place. There is a chance that Corey Nelson will also share some of those reps, but Atlanta currently lists Riley as the starter. Atlanta takes on Carolina this week and the entire secondary will be on notice trying to cover Christian McCaffery on underneath routes and coming up to stop Cam Newton when he runs. Riley has a chance for a big game this week and to cement himself as the starter for the rest of the season.
Tahir Whitehead: Linebacker (OAK)
Whitehead is another guy who will benefit from the change in scenery. He should be an every-down player for the Raiders going forward and rewarded owners with 7 total tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a pass defended in week one. He looks every bit like an LB2/LB3 option for the rest of the season and would be a great pickup if still available.
Oren Burks: Linebacker (GB)
Burks was on a lot of radars early on as a sleeper when he was projected to be thrown right into a starting role for the Packers. However, he then landed himself on the inactive list for the team’s week one game and a lot of people jumped ship. There is no clear timeline established for how long he will be dealing with the shoulder, but if you have the roster space and can stash him for a few weeks it may pay off in the long run. Burks is purely a speculative pickup and completely contingent on his health. There is value to be had if you are able to wait it out and reap the benefits later in the season.
Trent Murphy: Defensive End (BUF)
Sometimes a change in scenery and a new position designation can revive a stale career. With the move to Buffalo, Murphy is categorized as a defensive end and should provide a cheap source for 6-8 sacks this season. He is getting more playing time than Shaq Lawson and should put up a respectable season. He managed half a sack and an assist in a week one against Baltimore.
Margus Hunt: Defensive End (IND)
It is hard to get excited about a guy who has done next to nothing his entire career, but Hunt decided to show up week one this season. With 2 sacks on Sunday, he almost doubled his career sack totals and added 3 solo tackles to the mix. He played 42 total defensive snaps, which were more than any other Colts defensive end. Week one very well may have been a fluke for Hunt but if you are hurting for help along the defensive line it may be worth the gamble to see if he can do it again.
D.J. Reader: Nose Tackle (HOU)
It is not often that we see a nose tackle recording two sacks and 3 QB hits in a game. However, Reader benefitted from Christian Covington leaving the game with an injury and bounced to the outside to make his big plays. Tom Brady is not often hit this much in a single game and that speaks to how well Reader played in week one. He did not have the same success lining up on the inside and could easily regress the rest of the season, but it is not often that you can find a guy who starts up the middle and also has the ability to bounce outside and get after the quarterback.
Damontae Kazee: Strong Safety (ATL)
This hits just seem to keep coming for the Falcons defense after they lost Keanu Neal for the season in their opener against Philadelphia. Kazee should slot in as the new starting strong safety and the coaching staff has praised his hard work from last year to this year. A Key contributor on special teams as well as limited snaps on defense last season, Kazee will now have the chance to play a bigger role in Atlanta’s game plan and put up big numbers. The injury to Neal happened last Thursday and Kazee is one of the top pickups for the week.
Mike Hughes: Corner (MIN)
It is not easy being a rookie on one of the best defenses in the NFL, but Hughes proved that he belongs right away. Hughes registered 3 tackles and 2 passes defended and returned an interception 28-yards for a touchdown. He did not look overmatched in coverage and played well beyond his rookie status. There are several other Vikings players on the roster who are going to overshadow him every week, but Hughes is a guy who contributed right away and could have a chance to do so again against Green Bay this week.
Bradley McDougald: Strong safety (SEA)
All of Seattle was worried after Kam Chancellor retired with a serious neck injury. McDougald was given the nod as the starter and most fans had tempered expectations. This is until he took over in week one with 5 tackles, 2 passes defended, and 2 interceptions against the Broncos. This is a very small sample size and definitely not a stat line that will be replicated, but it is very encouraging for those who took the risk on him. McDougald may be one of the highest % owned players on this list, but if he is still available in your league, he is definitely worth the add.