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.
Darron Lee (NYJ): It has been a slow start for Lee so far this season but the matchup this week should provide an uptick in opportunities to make plays. Jacksonville did not look great last week but should get star running back Leonard Fournette back. This should lead to a commitment to the run game and a lot of opportunity for tackles up the middle. The heavily favored Jaguars should also run the ball more as the play with a lead and Lee should have a legitimate shot at double-digit tackles this week.
Jordan Hicks (PHI): This is another speculative play due to the expected volume of runs. The Titans have two injured quarterbacks and have already averaged running the ball 33 times per game. There is no reason to think this number will go down this week with the injuries to Mariota and Gabbert. The Eagles may even try and dial up some pressure in clear passing downs and provide opportunities for a sack. Hicks should be very busy and productive this weekend.
Leon Jacobs (JAX): Jacksonville should be playing with a lead against an inferior team and that would normally limit how many times they run the ball. However, look for the Jets to try and get the ball out quickly on short passes to protect Sam Darnold from the pass rush. Even when playing from behind, they also average 28+ rushing attempts per game. This should lead to ample opportunity for Jacobs to rack up the tackles.
Mike Daniels (GB): The Packers are reeling after a tie to the Vikings and an ugly loss to the Redskins. The defensive front needs to do a better job getting after the quarterback and Daniels should lead that charge. The Bills may have gone in and shocked the Vikings last week but look for a regression to mean this week. Aaron Rodgers should put the Packers up early and let the defense pin the ears back and get after a rookie quarterback who is in come from behind mode. Daniels is poised for a breakout game this week.
Frank Clark (SEA): This pick is less about the player and more about the situation. Arizona’s offense has been atrocious all season long. They have no idea who is going to play quarterback, they simply refuse to commit to using David Johnson, and their offensive line play has been abysmal. You should feel confident in playing just about any Seahawks defender this week and Clark is no exception. He has a sack in every game so far this season and should add to that total this weekend.
Markus Golden (ARI): On the flip side of Frank Clark, Golden will be thrust into a similar situation. Seattle has not played well on offense. Russell Wilson has dealt with more pressure in his face than ever before and there has been no commitment to the run game since Marshawn Lynch left. Golden has had a very slow start and has not registered any stats yet this season but look for that to change as the ramp up his snap count and cut him loose on opposing quarterbacks.
Marlon Humphrey (BAL): Baltimore’s defense has had a very up and down season. Unfortunately, it looks like it will continue its downturn this week against a Steelers team in desperate need of a win in the division. The offense is going to run through Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. This should give Humphrey ample opportunity to make a play on the ball or at least rack up tackles. There is a good chance he gets burned a time or two this weekend, but he should have enough opportunity to put up good fantasy numbers this weekend.
Ryan Lewis (BUF): Don’t look now, but Buffalo is trying to turn things around. After they shocked the world in Minnesota last week, the Bills set their sits on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Don’t expect the Bills to come away with a win this week, but Lewis should get a chance to make plays on the ball in the air. Rodgers is still hobbled by a knee injury and he struggled to get the ball out on time last week. It only takes one bad pass from Rodgers to make Lewis’ day. If he can capitalize on a mistake it will make all the difference this week. Roll with Lewis if you need to take a chance this week on a big play.
Terrance Mitchell (CLE): Baker-Mania swept Cleveland last week and it has masked how well that defensive unit has played. This week they take on a Raiders offense that has no identity right now. The defensive front for Cleveland should have no problem shutting down the Raiders rushing attack and that will have them airing it out all game. The Raiders already average 38 pass attempts per game and we could see that increase this week. If Mitchell can sit back in coverage he should have ample opportunity to rack up the tackles and maybe even come away with an interception.
Darius Leonard (IND): If you missed the boat last week, Leonard has already sailed. He followed up his monster game week 2 with another gem in week 3. Leonard had 9 solos, 4 assists, 2 sacks, and another tackle for loss. Right now, he looks like a man on a mission to make the Colts defense relevant again. If he is still available on waivers, this will be your last chance to get him.
Kenny Young (BAL): It can be tough to step in for a defensive leader, but Young put up a good line last week. With 8 solos and 2 assists, Young reached double-digit tackles for the first time this season. As long as he gets the chance to start, he is a solid LB2/3 option depending on your leagues scoring.
Josh Bynes (ARI): Nothing seems to be going right in Arizona on offense or defense. Bynes has done a nice job stepping in and trying to make a difference. He managed 7 solos and 3 assists against the Bears and is averaging 9 combined tackles per game so far this season. Any time you can get double-digit tackles it is a plus, and Bynes looks like the only guy in Arizona that is capable of that.
Nick Perry (GB): With 4 solos and 3 assists, Perry had his highest tackle total of the season thus far. He still has only gotten to the quarterback once, but with the roughing the passer calls going against Green Bay there may not be many guys who want to anymore. Perry should get better and see those numbers increase as the season wears on.
Nathan Shepherd (NYJ): It was another disappointing showing for Shepherd this week. He managed a single assist again and did not generate any sort of pass rush. When Baker Mayfield came into the game the entire Jets defense struggled, but Shepherd has struggled to find his place in the offense. This was the biggest misfire of last week. He is not an option going forward unless something drastic changes with his playing time.
Jurrell Casey (TEN): It was a slugfest against the Jaguars last week, but Casey was able to add to his totals. He had 3 solos and a sack last week. This brings his season total to 3 sacks and a double-digit campaign is well within sight. If Casey is available in your league, it may not be very long.
T.J. McDonald (MIA): Despite the win, it was a quiet game for the Miami defense. Jordy Nelson torched them for 173 yards and a touchdown and McDonald did not do a lot to stop him. His final line was 3 solos and 4 assists. We are going to want to see more out of him in the tackle department if he is not going to come away with interceptions before trusting him in a starting lineup.
Justin Reid (HOU): 4 solo tackles from a corner spot is not a bad day, but he was not on the field as much as predicted last week. Reid will need to see more snaps if he wants to add to his interception totals or even passes defended. This is a young guy that is a long-term pickup in a keeper or dynasty setting. Look for better days ahead for Reid.
Ricardo Allen (ATL): With 5 solos and 2 assists, Allen had a decent day in the office. With a banged-up Atlanta secondary, he is going to get his chance to play a lot this season. A 50-60 tackle season and 4 interceptions are well within reach if he can stay healthy.