Another week means more data and confidence about some trends we started seeing earlier! I’ll also break down the impact of the Roquan Smith trade.
LB Roquan Smith was traded to Baltimore.
This trade has a ripple effect for both the Ravens and Chicago. Let’s break down the Bears’ side of things first. Smith and teammate Nick Morrow have both been full-time players on defense. Post-trade, there is a potential opening for a backup linebacker to see meaningful volume. This season, four other linebackers have played defensive snaps: Jack Sanborn, Joe Thomas, Matthew Adams, and A.J. Klein (who was on the return end of the trade). Sanborn was an undrafted free-agent rookie this year, Thomas and Klain are both 31-year-old career backups, and Adams was just placed on injured reserve this past week. While it’s no guarantee that any player gets the same volume of snaps that Smith had, the upside is undeniable, given that Sanborn (the most likely benefactor) is not rostered in almost any IDP league. As a bonus, Sanborn is also the only linebacker currently on the roster who is under contract for next season. Now for the Ravens. The main player impacted is Patrick Queen. He has been an inconsistent asset, playing anywhere from 80%-100% of defensive snaps. The Ravens clearly do not trust him to lead the linebacker room and have benched him at times in the past. With Smith now in the picture, Queen should play a more limited role and his fantasy value takes a massive hit.
Turner has been plagued with injuries since his rookie season in 2021, but he seems to finally be ready to go after a massive performance in Week 8. He earned two sacks and four tackles on 57% of defensive snaps. It’s no guarantee that Turner will continue to play over Davenport, but managers in deep leagues and dynasty leagues need to make a note of his usage and production because he should be a relevant asset moving forward.
Last week I mentioned this situation as one to watch. With an additional week of data, it is becoming increasingly clear that Thompson is the linebacker to have from the Panthers. Managers with Luvu should look to sell him if they are able, and Thompson managers should be confident in his production moving forward.
Denver LB Josie Jewell is once again back from injury.
Jewell played 100% of defensive snaps for the Broncos and earned nine tackles. Teammate Alex SIgnleton played just 25% of defensive snaps and earned three tackles (Jonas Griffith played over him). Managers should add Jewell anywhere he is available and move on from Singleton despite his big games in Jewell’s absence.
LB Christian Harris played 100% of defensive snaps for Houston.
Last week, I mention Harris as a buy because of his increased usage, and this week is more of the same. Christian Kirksey played 83% of defensive snaps (his lowest rate of the season), so it seems the Texans view Harris as the future of the team. He still had some rookie mistakes, but he only missed one tackle this week which shockingly is a massive improvement for him. Managers need to consider adding Harris in most IDP leagues if he is still available.
LB Zaire Franklin was the only Indianapolis linebacker to play 100% of defensive snaps.
Bobby Okereke and Shaquille Leonard were both active in Week 8, but it was Franklin who wore the green dot and played every defensive snap. It’s possible the Colts were being measured with Leonard’s usage coming back from another injury, but in any case, managers should be concerned about Okereke’s usage moving forward. If this trend continues, Okereke may become an almost-irrelevant IDP asset.
LB Oren Burks played 100% of defensive snaps for San Fransisco.
This one hurts. Last week I mentioned that Dre Greenlaw was dealing with an injury and could miss Week 8. I got that part correct. However, I also mentioned that Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles was in line to play 100% of snaps as his replacement. I even took my advice and started him in two leagues! He rewarded me by scoring a whopping zero fantasy points. Why? Because Burks was the one to replace the injured Greenlaw. Now for the good news. Should Greenlaw miss any more time, Burks is a valuable backup to have after putting up seven tackles. Managers should also keep an eye on Azeez Al-Shaair, who is returning from IR in a few weeks.
S Verone McKinley III played 80% of defensive snaps for Miami.
Last week I mentioned Eric Rowe as a possible replacement for Brandon Jones. I was wrong; Rowe was a healthy scratch in Week 8. McKinley played 41 of his 48 snaps at free safety and wasn’t targeted a single time. Jevon Holland ended up being the player to benefit most from the Jones injury. He racked up his highest tackle count of the season and played 72% of his snaps in the sweet spot (by far his highest rate of the season). McKinley should only be added in deep IDP leagues, and managers with Holland should be optimistic that his Week 8 stat line was not a fluke.