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.
LB Isaiah Simmons (ARZ vs MIN)
It was never about talent with Simmons and had everything to do with Kliff Kingsbury not trusting a rookie LB with a major role last season. That seems to have changed in week 1 with Simmons playing 91% of defensive snaps and racking up 9 total tackles, 2 passes defended, and an interception in a week 1 win against Tennessee. The opportunity for tackles will skyrocket against a run-first Minnesota team in week 2 and with the offense focused on Chandler Jones after his 5-sack performance last week. Simmons will not be a sleeper for very long this season so jump on the train early.
LB Jordyn Brooks (SEA vs TEN)
It is easy to get forgotten about playing alongside Bobby Wagner at linebacker. However, Brooks was able to rack up 11 total tackles on 89% of defensive snaps in a week 1 victory for Seattle. He played all over the field and showed great vision and athleticism chasing down the ball carrier. He is going to see another run-heavy team in Tennessee in week 2 and should have another great chance at double-digit tackles again this week.
LB Cole Holcomb (WFT vs NYG)
The Washington defense is much better than most people will give them credit for. Holcomb is playing behind Chase Young and Montez Sweat and has Landon Collins patrolling behind him. This leaves a lot of opportunity in the middle for tackles with the offensive scheme centered around other plays. Holcomb played 100% of defensive snaps in week 1 and came away with 11 total tackles and a QB hit. In week 2 he will face a Giants offense that struggled offensively with a Saquon Barkley that does not look fully healthy. Look for Holcomb to produce as long as he is getting on the field with consistency.
DT Cameron Heyward (PIT vs LV)
If you are in a league that has more than one defensive lineman spot or requires a defensive tackle, then look no further than Heyward. Not only does he have a great matchup in week 2 against Las Vegas, but he plays in what will be one of the top defenses all season. With T.J Watt inked to a long-term deal and garnering most of the attention, Hayward will be free in the middle to plug holes and get after the quarterback. He is coming off a game with 4 total tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss against the Bills. Look for Heyward to remain consistent this season.
DE Josh Allen (JAC vs DEN)
How quickly we forget. Allen had 10.5 sacks as a rookie in 2019 but has largely been overlooked after only playing 8 games last season and registering 2.5 sacks. He had a strong in week 1 with 5 total tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss. Urban Meyer likes to unleash his edge pass rushers and Allen is in store for a big bounce-back season. A good matchup against a shaky Denver Broncos’ offensive line should produce solid stats again in week 2.
DE Jadeveon Clowney (CLE vs HOU)
It was a solid week 1 performance for Clowney playing opposite Myles Garrett. He had 4 total tackles and a tackle for loss. He appears to be healthy and was putting constant pressure on the quarterback in week 1. We also have the benefit of a revenge game as Clowney will take on the team that drafted him #1 overall in 2014. Look for a big week and season-long potential with Clowney in this potent Cleveland defense.
S Kyle Dugger (NEP vs NYJ)
Dugger is a prime candidate for a 2nd-year jump and just needs to be given the opportunity. He saw 93% of defensive snaps in week 1 and 24% of special teams’ snaps. With 6 solos, an assist, and a tackle for loss it was a good week 1 for Dugger. The Patriots have always been difficult to predict player usage, but a prime matchup against a Jets squad with a rookie quarterback makes Dugger a great play in week 2.
S Taylor Rapp (LAR vs IND)
It does not seem to matter what Rapp does, he is constantly overlooked. He is coming off a double-digit tackle performance in week 1 against the Bears with 6 solos and 4 assists. He has assumed an every-down role and is a key part of this defense going forward. Rapp has a great matchup against a run-first Colts offense that is going to try and pound the ball with Jonathan Taylor. Look for him to play up near the line and have plenty of tackle opportunities in his week 2 matchup.
S Juan Thornhill (KC vs BAL)
He is coming off a great week 1 with 5 solos, 2 assists, a pass defended, and a forced fumble against the Browns. He has a plus matchup against a Ravens offense that was not clicking in week 1 and has a solid defense playing in front of him. His downside will be when Tyrann Mathieu is active, but he has a solid matchup in week 2 and should deliver positive numbers for those in deeper IDP leagues.