Years ago, when Deone Bucannon introduced himself as a “money linebacker” on Sunday Night Football, the audience had a good laugh. The term was a reference to his defensive responsibilities but conjured images in the minds of viewers of the huge game checks that Bucannon was earning at that time. Memes popped up in the following days of Bucannon on top of piles of money and gold coins. Hopefully, following the guidance given in this column will have your rosters overflowing with a wealth of IDP riches. We’ll primarily focus on edge rushers but will also hit on some of the other players and situations that are likely to impact teams in big play leagues. We will cover risers and fallers in the format, injury situations fantasy general managers need to know, and upcoming matchups to target.
Note: The defensive player injuries covered in this column are not an exhaustive list, but an attempt to cover the situations most likely to impact big play IDP squads. For more extensive coverage of injury situations, see Jene Bramel’s latest Injury Rounds column.
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Cowboys defensive end Robert Quinn returned from suspension with a vengeance, logging a sack and three tackles. He might be out there in more shallow formats. See to it that he is not still there after waivers this week.
While Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell delivered a huge game against the Titans, fantasy general managers need to exercise caution. His usage in that game dipped significantly. He played only 68% of the snaps. As we know, it’s not smart to rely on efficiency to deliver statistical consistency. Monitor Campbell’s usage going forward, as this was a concerning development.
Seahawks defensive end Ezekiel Ansah saw his first game action this week but logged just 33% of the snaps. We should see his usage rise, but he’ll probably be only a part-time player at this point in his career.
Buccaneers' pass rusher Shaq Barrett has been off to a roaring start with eight sacks in three games. His pace isn’t sustainable, but he has proven to be worth a pickup in big play leagues if he’s still out there.
Steelers linebacker Devin Bush finally hit every down usage and had a great game. He’s a must-start going forward in both tackle-heavy and big-play formats.
Chargers linebacker Kyzir White’s value took a hit with Denzel Perryman’s return. Perryman played only 63% of the snaps in his first action back, but White surprisingly was not used at all. As long as Perryman is healthy, White will just be a player to keep on waiver wire speed dial.
Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick logged his first full-time effort of the season. With plenty of opportunity on a bad defense, he needs to be rostered.
Eagles linebacker Zach Brown’s snaps continue to head upward. He went from 76% to 83% this week. He has moved into LB3-4 territory, but if his snaps keep going upward, he’ll be startable in formats in which only two linebackers are required.
Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis had an impressive workload for his first game back from injury with 83% of the snaps. As predicted, Christian Jones took a big hit, playing only just over half the Lions’ defensive snaps.
With Darius Leonard out, it was Anthony Walker who played 100% of the time with Bobby Okereke managing 90% playing time. Leonard has a good chance to return this week, but should Leonard miss more time, Walker and Okereke would have value.
Todd Davis played 99% of the time in his return from injury. He was not particularly sharp, but that’s to be expected of a player who is seeing his first action since last season.
Newly acquired Steelers cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick played every snap for the Steelers and will be a valuable asset in corner required leagues going forward.
Taylor Rapp played the nickel linebacker role for the Rams this week and logged 76% of the snaps. If the trend upward continues, he may be worth picking up.
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Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett sustained a toe injury. It is probable that he will play this week, but monitor his status.
Mike Daniels, defensive tackle for Detroit, suffered what seems to be a serious foot injury. His week four status is very much in doubt.
Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe appears to have a high ankle sprain and is doubtful for the next couple of weeks.
Takkarist McKinlay, defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, injured his knee in the week three contest. No updates are available at this time, but it would be wise to make other plans if you are counting on him in your league.
Broncos linebacker Josey Jewell strained his hamstring in the loss to the Packers. It remains to be seen how severe the strain is, but it could hold him out in week four.
Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack was concussed in week three’s contest against the Titans. Since he played on a Thursday, the extra few days of recovery give him a better chance to make it back in time for week four. However, those rostering him will need to keep an eye on the situation.
Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey dealt with a chest injury that held him out of week three. It was Mack Wilson who played in his place. Wilson picked up five total tackles and just missed an interception that went right through his hands. Since that time, it has been announced that Kirksey will miss the rest of the season with his injury. Wilson must be rostered in formats in which three linebackers are started.
Lions cornerback Darius Slay hurt his hamstring and is currently questionable for week four.
Ronald Darby, cornerback for Philadelphia, has already been ruled out for the next two weeks with a hamstring strain.
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Atlanta Falcons Pass Rushers vs. Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
The Titans are the worst team in the NFL in terms of surrendering sacks, with a whopping 5.7 average per game. They surrendered 9 in their last game and seem to really be missing suspended tackle Taylor Lewan. If defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and defensive end Takkarist McKinlay play with their respective injuries, they are worth giving a start. Defensive end Vic Beasley Jr could also have a nice day.
Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers vs. Cleveland Browns Offensive Line
Seattle Seahawks Pass Rushers vs. Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Do the Cardinals even have an offensive line right now? Surrendering 5.3 sacks a game, one could argue they do not. The Seahawks’ defensive end Jadaveon Clowney and defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson are the best bets along this front to get a sack or two.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
While the Steelers have offensive troubles of their own, their pass rushers should get back on track this week against a unit that has surrendered an average of 3.7 sacks per game. T.J. Watt, Stephon Tuitt, and Cameron Hayward are excellent plays at their respective positions.
Carolina Panthers Pass Rushers vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
Deshaun Watson continues to take scary hits and this contest should be no different. With Houston surrendering four sacks a game, we should see Mario Addison, Brian Burns, and Gerald McCoy put up quality stats in this contest.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
Since Tampa Bay has given up over three sacks a game, we can expect one of the better pass rush groups to get after Jameis Winston this week. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald must be started, as should the defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.
Jacksonville Jaguars Pass Rushers vs. Denver Broncos Offensive Line
As mentioned earlier, Calais Campbell’s usage remains a concern, but in this matchup, we’ll err on the side of starting him. Defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen are also good to slide into lineups where possible.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
The Eagles have a reputation of having an excellent offensive line, but so far, they have yet to live up to it. They are giving up over two sacks a game on average and face a red-hot Packers pass rush this week. Pass rushers Preston Smith, Za’darius Smith, and defensive tackle Kenny Clark all should be considered this week.
Tennessee Titans Defensive Backs vs. Atlanta Falcons Passing Attack
Matt Ryan has turned the football over at an alarming rate and defensive backs Logan Ryan and Kevin Byard have been prolific in the takeaway department already this season. There’s a good shot one of the two comes up with an interception this week.
Los Angeles Chargers Defensive Backs vs. Miami Dolphins Passing Attack
No matter who has been at quarterback, both Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick have combined to throw six interceptions over the last three games. Casey Hayward, Desmond King, and Reyshawn Jenkins all have an increased chance at making a big play against this historically bad offense.
Baltimore Ravens Defensive Backs vs. Cleveland Browns Passing Attack
Baker Mayfield has been particularly irresponsible with the football in recent weeks. With a formidable pass rush in his face, he could throw another interception or two. Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr are good plays here at the cornerback position. Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson are not startable options on most weeks because of the scheme they play but have a better chance at a big play than usual.
Los Angeles Rams Defensive Backs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Attack
Jameis Winston has been up and down with turnovers the past few weeks and this contest sets up well for Winston to be under duress the entire day. Marcus Peters, Aquib Talib, Eric Weddle, and John Johnson III all have good shots at making an interception.
Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Backs vs. Cincinnati Bengals Passing Attack
Andy Dalton has long had problems with throwing interceptions and has continued that trend into this year, throwing three so far. The Bengals offense seems disorganized at times and that confusion has led to turnovers and ineffectiveness. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmonds were good tackle-producing plays anyway, but now are must-starts. Steven Nelson and Joe Haden also have a better-than-normal chance of coming away with a pick.
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Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers vs. New Orleans Saints Offensive Line
Despite having a stellar pass rush unit, the Cowboys will be up against one of the better offensive lines in football and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who does not hold the football for long on each play. It’s hard to bench Demarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, but one must think about it in this matchup.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers vs. New England Patriots Offensive Line
Despite injuries along their unit, the Patriots always find ways to scheme around their deficiencies. They are giving up only 1.3 sacks a game and are a poor matchup, despite the Bills pass rush looking very good. Stay away from starting Ed Oliver, Jerry Hughes, and Trent Murphy.
Raiders Defensive Backs vs. Indianapolis Colts Passing Attack
Not only has Jacoby Brissett been very responsible with the football this season, but Oakland has yet to record an interception over the course of three games. Don’t look for that to change this week.