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 Damien Wilson (JAX vs HOU) 2 solos, 2 assists, 1 QB hit, 83% defensive snaps
- LB Matt Milano (BUF vs CAR) 3 solos, 1 pass defended, 93% defensive snaps
- LB Ernest Jones (LAR vs SEA) 5 solos, 6 assists, 1 pass defended, 96% defensive snaps
- DE Dre'Mont Jones (DEN vs CIN) Inactive, foot injury
- DE Jadeveon Clowney (CLE vs LV) Inactive, COVID
- DE Randy Gregory (DAL vs NYG) 1 QB hit, 62% defensive snaps
- S Grant Delpit/ Ronnie Harrison (CLE vs LV) Delpit-Inactive COVID, Harrison-Inactive injury
- S Vonn Bell (CIN vs DEN) 6 solos, 93% defensive snaps
- S Khari Willis (IND vs NE) 5 solos, 4 assists, 1 tackle for loss, 99% defensive snaps
This Week’s Linebackers
LB Jerome Baker (MIA vs NO)
Baker has been up and down this season, but he is coming off a solid performance against the Jets last week. He finished with 7 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss against the Jets. The matchup this week against New Orleans may not look good on paper, but this team is going to be leaning on the run with Taysom Hill, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram II. Look for there to be plenty of tackle opportunities for Barker in the middle of the fields this week.
LB Germaine Pratt (CIN vs BAL)
We highlighted Pratt here a few weeks ago and he has continued his string of good games since. He is coming off a monster 15 total tackles and 0.5 sacks against the Broncos last week and has an even better matchup against the run-heavy Ravens this week. Pratt has struggled with consistency this season, but he is in the middle of a hot streak with a great matchup this week. Start him with confidence no matter if it is Tyler Huntley or Lamar Jackson under center this week.
LB Baron Browning (DEN vs LV)
Browning and the Broncos' defense have been playing extremely well down the stretch. He is coming off a 10 total tackle performance against the Bengals last week and has 5 or more solos in three out of his last four games. This is the time of year to chase consistency and not big names and Browning is doing just that. He has a solid matchup against a Las Vegas team allowing the 13th-most points to opposing linebackers and he should be started with confidence this week.
This Week’s Defensive Linemen
DE D.J. Wonnum (MIN vs LAR)
It is hard to put Wonnum in the sleeper column after what he did in Chicago on Monday Night. Wonnum went off for 7 solos, 1 assist, 3 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble against the Bears. This week he takes on a Rams offense that has struggled to protect Matthew Stafford at times this year and can be attacked up the middle. The Vikings are making a late playoff push and will need Wonnum to continue to step up on this defense if they want to make some noise at the end of the season.
DE Justin Jones (LAC vs HOU)
Jones has put together a nice string of games over the past three weeks. He has played 68% of defensive snaps in that time frame and has a sack in two of three games. The Chargers like to move him inside and out at both tackle and defensive end and Houston is currently allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to defensive ends and the 13th-most fantasy points to defensive tackles. Jones is playing well at the right time of the year and has a plus matchup no matter where he lines up to help your fantasy playoff push.
DE Arik Armstead (SF vs TEN)
Things have slowly started to fall apart for Tennessee with a rash of injuries and ineffective play. They have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing defensive tackles and the third-most to opposing defensive ends this season. Armstead plays roughly 75% of defensive snaps and lines up all over the formation. Armstead is a true boom or bust with 3.5 or fewer points in nine games this season and 6 or more in four games. He has the matchup to provide a boom-type week against the Titans.
DT D.J. Reader (CIN vs BAL)
Reader has played well over his past two games with 8 total tackles and 2 tackles for loss in that time. He has been hovering around 60% of defensive snaps played and is walking into a great matchup against a Ravens line that has allowed the third-most points to opposing defensive tackles. The run-heavy offense allows for tackle opportunities all over the field and could produce one of Reader’s best games of the season. He finished with 2 total tackles against Baltimore earlier this season on just 44% of defensive snaps but should see a bump this week with increased playing time.
This Week’s Defensive Backs
S Terrell Edmunds (PIT vs KC)
Edmunds had a great performance against the Titans last week. He finished with 7 solos, 3 assists, and 2 tackles for loss. He has been inconsistent at times this season but is walking into a great matchup against Kansas City. The Chiefs have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing safeties and are currently dealing with a COVID outbreak. This could be a great week to start Edmunds against a Chiefs team that is fighting for the #1 overall seed.
CB Tavierre Thomas (HOU vs LAC)
Thomas saw starter-level snaps with Terrance Mitchell out last week and delivered a healthy 11 total tackles from the corner position. If Mitchell is out again, he will have a matchup against a Chargers team that has allowed the most points to opposing corners this season. Thomas is a great addition this week in leagues that require a corner or for anyone hit with a rash of injuries at the end of the season. Monitor the injury report in Houston a start Thomas with confidence if Mitchell is out again this week.
S Rudy Ford (JAX vs NYJ)
Ford has played well during stretches this season and has seen a bump in playing time with Rayshawn Jenkins hurt last week. He is walking into a solid matchup against the Jets who have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing safeties and are playing for next season right now. This game should feature two teams trying to assess talent for going forward and could see a lot of mistakes by young players. Look for Ford to try and capitalize and cement himself into the plans for the future.