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.
Last Week’s Picks
- LB Cory Littleton (LV vs PHI): 2 solos, 4 assists, 1 pass defended, 1 fumble recovery, 67% defensive snaps
- LB Quincy Williams (NYJ vs NE): 1 solo, 1 pass defended, 30% defensive snaps (left game early, concussion protocol)
- LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (NE vs NYJ): 4 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 69% defensive snaps
- DE Jonathan Greenard (HOU vs ARZ): 3 solos, 1 assist, 2 QB hits, 1 pass defended, 2 sacks, 54% defensive snaps
- DE Maxx Crosby (LV vs PHI): 2 solos, 1 QB hit, 72% defensive snaps
- DE Dexter Lawrence (NYG vs CAR): 3 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, 1 sack, 70% defensive snaps
- S Kyle Dugger (NE vs NYJ): 7 solos, 2 assists, 1 pass defended, 1 interception, 83% defensive snaps
- S Kareem Jackson (DEN vs CLE): 6 solos, 3 assists, 97% defensive snaps
- CB Bryce Hall (NYJ vs NE): 3 solos, 1 pass defended, 100% defensive snaps
This Week’s Linebackers
LB Nick Bolton (KC vs NYG):
This may be the last time we can mention Bolton as a sleeper as the rookie is starting to explode onto the scene. He is coming off a game with 15 total tackles and 4 tackles for loss against the Titans last week. He was constantly in the backfield and had better luck stopping Derrick Henry than almost anyone else this season. We also saw his largest snap share with 84% of defensive snaps this week. The Chiefs have found a gem with Bolton, and he should easily be in the LB2 conversation this week against a poor Giants’ offense.
LB Troy Reeder (LAR vs HOU):
With the recent trade of Kenny Young to the Broncos, Reeder should step right back into a large role in this defense. The linebacking core has always been difficult to predict, but the opportunity for Reeder is too big to pass up this week. He will be taking on a Houston offense that has struggled all season and should easily be in the LB2 mix this week. Look for Reeder to be a long-term play if he can keep a higher defensive snap percentage in this stout defense.
LB Markus Golden (ARZ vs GB):
Much like with Jonathan Greenard last week, sometimes we have to chase the hot streak and that is what Golden is on right now. With Chandler Jones out of the lineup, he has 2 sacks in each of his previous 2 games and is up to 4 forced fumbles on the season. The matchup against the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers is not the greatest, but he is playing too well to ignore right now. Golden is getting after the quarterback at a high rate right now and should be considered in all formats this week.
This Week’s Defensive Linemen
DE Montez Sweat (WFT vs DEN):
The overall tackle numbers have not been there for Sweat, but he is starting to get after the quarterback at a solid rate. He has 10 QB hits to go along with 4 sacks across 7 games so far this season. His defensive snap percentage is anywhere between 65-88% and he is playing opposite Chase Young in this defense. Sweat has a great matchup against a beat-up Denver offensive line and should see his tackle numbers grow as this defense starts to play better. Sweat is a sack-dependent play but has a great shot this week against the Broncos.
DE Julian Okwara (DET vs PHI):
Okwara has fully taken advantage of older brother (Romeo Okwara) landing on the season-ending IR list. He has a sack in each of his past 2 games and has seen his defensive snap percentage rise each week. He is coming off a game with 3 total tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a pass defended. This week he is taking on a dysfunctional Philadelphia offense and has a great chance to add to his sack total. As the snaps continue to rise for Okwara he will become a fixture at the DE/DL position for the rest of the season.
DE Azeez Ojulari (NYG vs KC):
Ojulari seems to be back on track after he burst out of the gates with 3 sacks to start his career and then cooled off considerably. Last week he recorded 5 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss. This week he has a great matchup against a struggling Kansas City offense. There are questions about Patrick Mahomes II’ health, and it has been a down year overall for the Chiefs. Ojulari is playing well and has a great shot at double-digit sacks this season.
This Week’s Defensive Backs
S Marcus Maye (NYJ vs CIN):
Maye had been sidelined since Week 3 before returning with a bang against the Patriots. He had 12 total tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass defended. This week he will take on an offense that loves to throw the ball and is a great candidate for double-digit total tackles. The injury seems to be behind him, and Maye is an instant upgrade for this defense. Start him in any format this week and for the rest of the season.
S Andrew Wingard (JAX vs SEA):
The offense in Seattle is a mess right now. Geno Smith showed some flashes and then has also shown why he has been a backup the last several years. Wingard is playing well in the Jacksonville defense right now and has at least 5 tackles in every game this season. Wingard has flashed some big-play ability and is a strong start against a poor Seattle offense right now.
S Lonnie Johnson (HOU vs LAR):
Johnson is on a big play hot streak right now. He has 3 interceptions in his last 4 games and is doing everything he can to demand more playing time in this defense. He draws a tough assignment against a high-powered Rams’ offense, but he should see plenty of opportunity for tackles because of that as well. Look for Johnson to put up solid tackle numbers this week with an outside shot of adding to his interception totals as well.