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 Germaine Pratt (CIN vs SF) 4 solos, 5 assists, 1 pass defended, 100% defensive snaps
- LB Nick Vigil (MIN vs PIT) 1 assist, 14% defensive snaps
- LB Kwon Alexander (NO vs NYJ) 4 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, 2 sacks, 92% defensive snaps
- DE D.J. Wonnum (MIN vs PIT) 2 assists, 2 passes defended, 91% defensive snaps
- DT Ndamukong Suh (TB vs BUF) 67% defensive snaps
- DL Rashan Gary (GB vs CHI) 1 solo, 2 assists, 1 fumble recovery, 74% defensive snaps
- S/LB Divine Deablo (LV vs KC) 5 solos, 5 assists, 79% defensive snaps
- S Jayron Kearse (DAL vs WFT) 2 solos, 1 assist, 1 pass defended, 1 fumble recovery, 100% defensive snaps
- S Tracy Walker (DET vs DEN) 7 solos, 4 assists, 100% defensive snaps
This Week’s Linebackers
LB Damien Wilson (JAX vs HOU)
Wilson is in the middle of a hot streak right now. He is coming off a 6 solo, 4 assist, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack in week 14 and he has a great matchup against a Houston team with just a single healthy running back. Looking even further, he has a matchup against the Jets the following week and could produce at an LB2/3 over the next 2 weeks. That is a lot of production for a guy available this late and he could make a huge difference in your playoffs if you need help at the linebacker position.
LB Matt Milano (BUF vs CAR)
Much like Wilson above, Milano is in the middle of one of his hot streaks. He is coming off a 6 solo, 3 assists, 1 tackle for loss, and a sack in week 14 and he has a great matchup against Carolina this week. The only offense seems to be Cam Newton running up the middle right now and that should provide plenty of tackle opportunities for Milano and the rest of the Buffalo linebacker group. Look for another solid performance this week with a double-digit tackle day possible.
LB Ernest Jones (LAR vs SEA)
Jones has been showing the Rams why they invested draft capital in him in recent weeks. He has played 72% or more of defensive snaps over the past 4 weeks, is averaging 7 tackles per game, and has .5 sacks and an interception in that time frame. He has a great matchup against a Seattle team that has lost its identity on offense, and he should continue to produce. He is also a great play the following week against the run-heavy Vikings and can be a fantasy asset through your playoff run if you are thin at linebacker.
This Week’s Defensive Linemen:
DE Dre'Mont Jones (DEN vs CIN)
The snaps for Jones have been inconsistent, but he is in the middle of a hot streak right now and will be taking on a Bengals offensive line that has struggled to protect Joe Burrow. Jones has produced all 5.5 of his sacks in the past 6 games and is averaging 55% of defensive snaps played. He has also produced in the tackle department with 3 or more solos in 3 out of his past 4 games. Jones has the making of a DL2 this week against a subpar offensive line and in the middle of a sack streak.
DE Jadeveon Clowney (CLE vs LV)
Clowney has been surging for the Browns in recent weeks. He is coming off a game with 3 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, and a pass defended. He plays opposite Myles Garrett and sees a lot of 1 on 1 coverage. The Raiders have played well against defensive ends this season overall, but they have allowed 9 sacks over the past 3 games including 4 last week to Kansas City. Pencil in Clowney at a DL2 with the better than average matchup against a Raiders team going the wrong direction in almost every category.
DE Randy Gregory (DAL vs NYG)
Gregory returned with a bang in week 14 with 1 solo, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, 1 pass defended, and 1 forced fumble. He has 6 sacks in 8 games played so far this season and ranks 10th in fantasy points per game for defensive linemen. He has a great matchup against a Giants team that does not know who is going to be under center on Sunday. This offensive line has struggled mightily and Saquon Barkley has been a shell of his former self. Look for big numbers out of the Dallas defensive line this week in a great matchup against the divisional foe Giants.
This Week’s Defensive Backs
This is a situation to monitor as the week progresses. Harrison has the chance to return from injury this week and would likely see starter-level snaps if he does so. It is hard to justify burning 2 spots, but the matchup against the Raiders is too good to pass up. There is DB1 potential for whoever starts for the Browns this week. The Raiders rank in the bottom 5 in points allowed to safeties with Derek Carr just throwing the ball up deep in desperation almost every week. Watch this situation closely and insert Harrison if he is back healthy or Delpit if Harrison is ruled out again.
S Vonn Bell (CIN vs DEN)
Bell has played well in recent weeks and is coming off a 10 total tackle, 2 passes defended, and 1 forced fumble performance last week. This week he gets a Broncos team that is allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing safeties. He then gets a great matchup against a struggling Baltimore offense and could be the piece that pushes you over the top in your fantasy playoffs. Start Bell with confidence this week and potentially roll with him again in week 16 if needed.
S Khari Willis (IND vs NE)
Willis finally looks to be back to health and should easily regain his top 10 DB form down the stretch. He gets a great matchup against New England this week who either runs the ball heavily or relies on quick passes in front of the safeties from Mac Jones. There is a lot of tackle potential this week for Willis who returned from injury in week 13 and then had a Bye last week to continue to rest and heal. Look for a potential double-digit tackle game in what is a prime matchup for Willis.