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 Kamu Grugier-Hill (HOU vs IND) 10 solos, 10 assists, 3 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit, 1 sack, 86% defensive snaps
- LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (NE vs BUF) 3 solos, 5 assists, 93% defensive snaps
- LB Joe Schobert (PIT vs BAL) 6 solos, 1 assist, 1 pass defended, 100% defensive snaps
- DE Jaelan Phillips (MIA vs NYG) 3 solos, 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, 2 sacks, 45% defensive snaps
- DE Kwity Paye (IND vs HOU) 1 solo, 1 assist, 1 QB hit, 60% defensive snaps
- DE John Franklin-Meyers (NYJ vs PHI) 1 solo, 63% defensive snaps
- S Jayron Kearse (DAL vs NO) 8 solos, 1 assist, 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass defended, 1 interception, 99% defensive snaps
- S Keanu Neal (DAL vs NO) 4 solos, 2 assists, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, 1 sack, 33% defensive snaps
- S Will Harris (DET vs MIN) 2 solos, 1 assist, 1 pass defended, 76% defensive snaps
This Week’s Linebackers
LB Germaine Pratt (CIN vs SF)
Pratt is a name that has been mentioned earlier this season, and he winds up on this list again with an injury to Logan Wilson in front of him. Wilson dislocated his shoulder against the Chargers and could miss time. That plays right into an ideal matchup against a run-heavy 49ers team this week. Pratt could easily have one of his best games of the season if Wilson is ruled out. He is worth the speculative add this week as we watch the injury reports out of Cincinnati.
LB Nick Vigil (MIN vs PIT)
Vigil has rewarded the Vikings when he has stepped into a starting role with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr both missing time. Last week he recorded 9 solos and 6 assists. He always seems to be around the ball when he is getting starter-level snaps. Both Barr and Kendricks have been dealing with injury and could miss more time. Look for Vigil to be an LB2 if either player is out this week against a Steelers offense that ranks in the bottom 10 of points allowed to opposing linebackers.
LB Kwon Alexander (NO vs NYJ)
The entire Saints defense is in a great spot this week as they take on the struggling Jets. Last week, Alexander racked up 7 solos and 2 assists while playing 75% of defensive snaps. The Jets have struggled with a carousel of quarterbacks as well as a rash of injuries at running back. Start Alexander this week as an LB2 option with LB1 upside against this struggling offense.
This Week’s Defensive Linemen
DE D.J. Wonnum (MIN vs PIT)
The inability of Ben Roethlisberger to move in the pocket makes this an ideal matchup for the entire Minnesota defensive line. However, there is no one hotter than Wonnum on that unit right now. He is coming off back-to-back games with a sack and finished with an additional 2 solos, an assist, a tackle for loss, and a pass defended in week 13. The Vikings' defense will have something to prove after letting up a walk-off win to the Lions and Wonnum should lead the charge from the defensive line.
DT Ndamukong Suh (TB vs BUF)
This matchup does not look great on paper this week, but he is on a hot streak right now that warrants consideration in any league that requires a defensive tackle. HE has 5 sacks in his past 5 games and added 2 solos, 2 assists, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss in week 13. The matchup against Buffalo is tough but he gets the Saints and the Panthers in the 2 weeks after that and could be in line for big games. Add Suh where needed this week or stash for his great upcoming matchups.
DL Rashan Gary (GB vs CHI)
The Green Bay defense has flashed periods of dominance this season and they have a great matchup against a struggling Bears offense this week. Gary has 5 sacks and 10 QB hits over his past 5 games and a sack in each of his last 3. He added 3 tackles and a forced fumble in week 13 to add to his overall stats. The tackle floor is low for Gary, so this is a boom-or-bust big play add this week. It is a great matchup for a player that is on a hot streak, deploy Gary if you need a big week to make the fantasy playoffs.
This Week’s Defensive Backs
S/LB Divine Deablo (LV vs KC)
Any time a player is taking snaps at both linebacker and safety the tackle potential is too high to pass up. Deablo played a season-high 57% of defensive snaps last week with injuries to Denzel Perryman, Corey Littleton, and Nick Kwiatkoski. He could see his role continue to increase after recording 8 solos and 3 assists. He is an easy play this week against the Chiefs if he draws the start due to injuries. Watch the injury report and if any of the 3 guys ahead of him are to miss time then he is worth the play this week.
S Jayron Kearse (DAL vs WFT)
It was a big Thursday Night game for Kearse last week. He walked away with 8 solos, 1 assist, 2 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 1 pass defended. He has played extremely well since getting starter-level snaps in week 8 and may not be available in your league because of it. However, he has a great matchup against Washington in 2 out of the next 3 weeks that has given up the 4th most fantasy points to opposing safeties. Start Kearse with confidence the next few weeks or at least pluck his from waivers so your opponent cannot.
S Tracy Walker (DET vs DEN)
It has been a frustratingly inconsistent year for Walker so far, but he is coming off a great week 13 with 8 solos and 3 assists against the Vikings. He has played extremely well over the past few weeks and draws a Broncos team that is allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing safeties. Walker is a great plug-and-play option in almost all formats this week.