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John "The Guru" Norton and Gary "The Godfather of IDP" Davenport are two of the most experienced and knowledgeable IDP analysts in the fantasy football industry. Every week during the 2022 season here at Footballguys, The Guru and the Godfather will come together to answer five of that week's most pressing questions.
As the calendar turns to October and the first month of the season comes to a close, the Guru and the Godfather have gathered to look back at what to make of this year's surprise stars and slow starters and what that could mean for IDP leagues moving forward and what fantasy managers can expect on the defensive side of the ball in Week 4.
1. After three weeks, Maxx Crosby of the Raiders, Jordan Hicks of the Vikings, and Jalen Pitre of the Texans are all top-three IDP options. Can the trio maintain that production or are they "Sell High" candidates? Is there another player you'd be looking to unload before they cool off?
Guru: Maxx Crosby is an absolute beast. I’m not sure about the top three, but I fully expect him to be in the top five when the season ends. If I have him, he is off the trade market.
I like Jordan Hicks, but I don’t see him maintaining his current status because Eric Kendricks will get his share. I see those two going back and forth with better games all year. I see him as a solid LB2 or excellent LB3. If someone is willing to give you fair (LB2) value at a position of need, make that deal as long as it doesn’t leave you short at linebacker.
I was somewhat pessimistic about Jalen Pitre before the season, mostly because the Tampa-2 that Lovie Smith is known for is purgatory for safeties. We are not seeing a lot of the old Tampa-2 in Houston, and Pitre has been much better than expected. Again, the top three is a hefty prediction, but I can see him being a good DB1 that I would not be looking to move.
There are three guys currently in the top-10 at their positions that I expect to fade rapidly. Deatrich Wise and Jerry Hughes currently rank second and third behind Crosby. Anyone that has played this game has been burned by someone in a Patriots uniform. If it has never happened to you, pick up Wise and join the club.
Hughes is a 13-year veteran that has not put up more than seven sacks in a season since 2014. He’s hitting way above his average at the moment, but I don’t see it lasting for long.
The last guy is Mike Edwards, who is a top-three defensive back after three games. Is coming off an impressive 13-tackle game but had eight combined tackles with four solos in the first two games. The only reason we are talking about him as a top-20 defensive back is the interception return for a score in Week 2 that has his point totals bloated. If you can get something for him, make the deal.
Godfather: That Crosby has posted at least nine tackles in two of three games and is on pace to top 130 total stops is one of the wildest IDP stats I can remember. That sort of ridiculous tackle production isn't sustainable, but Crosby is also converting pressures to sacks at a better rate than last year. Not only is a high-end DL1 finish possible, but Crosby is playing like a guy with a real shot to be the highest-scoring defensive lineman in IDP. It would take a Godfather offer for me to consider moving him.
I agree with my esteemed colleague that the currently wide gap in production between Jordan Hicks and Eric Kendricks should narrow as the season wears on. But I'm not sure it will ever be all that close. On some level, we should have seen this coming—whether in Philadelphia or Arizona, Hicks has been consistently productive when healthy. Provided he stays that way, I don't see him falling outside the Top 15, given what we've seen so far. I wouldn't be averse to dealing him, but he wouldn't come cheap.
Last week against the Bears, Pitre showed off some of the penchant for big plays he showed while playing for the Baylor, um, Bears. I love the rookie as a talent, but it's worth noting that he was S39 after two weeks before exploding against Chicago. Pitre is a textbook "Sell High" candidate. Hopefully, he'll have another big game against the Chargers and net an even bigger return. No defensive back is irreplaceable.
I agree with John that just about every IDP he mentioned is going to regress. But I don't know that any will really net much in a trade—any IDP manager worth his salt expects that regression, too. If there's one big name I might look to sell, it's likely Micah Parsons of the Cowboys. Four sacks over the first three games have kept him in the top five, but he's almost entirely dependent on them for production now. He's an EDGE with LB designation—if he has a big game against the Commanders (a real possibility after Washington allowed nine sacks last week), I'd look to flip him while his value is at its apex.
2. On the flip side, there has been no shortage of IDPs who haven't met expectations in 2022. Identify one player at each position who will rebound and makes for an excellent "Buy Low" target.
Guru: Myles Garrett and Aaron Donald are both outside the top twelve right now. Both of those guys are likely to finish in the top five. Most managers with those guys know what they have. A couple of guys you might get someone to move are Sam Hubbard and DeForest Buckner, who are both off to a slow start.
There are a bunch of underperforming linebackers through Week 3. It’s hard to pick just one, but Lavonte David stands out. He is a perennial top-15 linebacker that currently ranks around number 50. That will change.
Jeremy Chinn is the defensive back I would target. He currently ranks outside the top 30, which, coincidentally, is about where he was after three games last year before catching fire. Starting in week five of 2021, Chinn was the number six defensive back.
Godfather: Hubbard is a great call—in the listener league for the Individual Defensive Podcast, he was outright dropped a couple of days ago. There will be a waiver claim forthcoming from me come next week.
On the defensive line, Cameron Jordan of the Saints is a guy I wish I had targeted before he notched his first sack of the year last week against Carolina. But with a bad matchup in London against a Vikings team that has allowed just four sacks this season, he could dip again. That dip is temporary. Jordan has been consistently good for too long, and he's looked fine this season. The numbers haven't been there yet, but they will be.
David's a great call at linebacker (it's Lavonte David, people), but so is Fred Warner of the 49ers. Over his first three games, Warner saw 60 snaps just once. His lack of production has a lot more to do with who the Niners have played than Warner himself. The Los Angeles Rams are also a bad IDP matchup for linebackers, but one more clunker may just lower Warner's asking price that much more.
At defensive back, there's a long list of guys who haven't produced as expected, whether it's players who have been hurt like Kamren Curl of the Commanders and Kyle Dugger of the Patriots or ones who have just started slow like Jessie Bates of the Bengals. That's the beauty of defensive backs—there's always someone available on the waiver wire.
3. Looking ahead to Week 4, which IDPs at each of the three main positions will smash expectations and help propel fantasy managers to victory?
Guru: Marlon Humphry is not very likely to make a splash play against the Bills, but he could lead all corners in tackles this week. The corner position for Buffalo opponents is averaging nearly 14 solo tackles.
He put up 14 solo stops and 4 assists in Week 1, but after a pair of ho-hum weeks, expectations are way down for Kamu Grugier-Hill. The opponents in those games were Denver and Chicago. Both of those teams have struggled to move the ball offensively, so there has not been much opportunity. The Chargers have some injury issues but will not be stuck in neutral.
Dorance Armstrong got in on the hit parade against Cincinnati with two sacks in Week 2 and again versus the Giants last week when he added another and had one negated by a penalty. For an encore, he gets a shot at the Commanders, who are currently tied with Cincinnati for the most sacks allowed on the season.
Godfather: Frankly, at this point, any sort of real game from Robert Quinn of the Bears would exceed expectations—because said expectations have cratered after the veteran end managed just five tackles and one sack over the first three games of the year. But if you watched Demarcus Lawrence of the Cowboys get home three times against a bad Giants offensive line last Monday night, you know this is a matchup that screams "get right" game.
We spent a good chunk of this week's article talking up Jordan Hicks, but this is a week where fantasy managers wondering if Eric Kendricks will ever wake up may get at least a temporary respite. With Jameis Winston looking iffy to play Sunday in London, the Saints could lean more on Alvin Kamara and the run game, and New Orleans was already allowing the second-most fantasy points to linebackers this year.
At defensive back, my call depends on whether or not Kyle Dugger returns to action this week against a new-look Packers offense that revolves around running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. The Packers have given up the eighth-most fantasy points to safeties so far this year, so whether it's Dugger or Adrian Phillips, having a New England safety in the lineup in Week 4 isn't a bad idea.
4. Which big-name IDPs will likely come up short and disappoint fantasy managers in Week 4?
Guru: Like most edge defenders, Shaquille Barrett is a player whose fantasy value is tied to sack production. No one has given up fewer sacks through three games than the Chiefs with two.
The Dolphins don’t/can't run the ball and are a horrible matchup for linebackers. Logan Wilson can make a few plays in the passing game, but all linebackers need some tackle production to have a successful outing on most weeks. He will be fortunate to post more than four or five combined tackles in this one.
The Bengals play Thursday, so by the time this is posted, Wilson will have already played. We can see if I was right on that one, but I’ll throw out Patrick Queen also. The Buffalo offense is a juggernaut, but they do most of their work through the air and have not been a very good matchup for linebackers.
Richie Grant is not exactly a big-name defensive back, at least not yet. He has, however, averaged better than twelve points per game in the Footballguys default scoring format and is 13-10-0 with a pick and three pass breakups. A matchup with the Browns this week could drop his average a bit. Despite having one of the league’s best running games, the safety positions of Brown’s opponents have averaged 6.3 solo tackles per game.
Godfather: I know I mentioned Cameron Jordan as a buy low candidate, but as I also mentioned that the Vikings have given up just four sacks in three games this year. Minnesota is also allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to defensive linemen. The rebound is coming—but it probably won't be in Week 4.
Among linebackers, Washington's Cole Holcomb is a guy I loved heading into the season, but that love has not been reciprocated—Holcomb ranks well outside the top-50 in fantasy points at his position. Again, he's a guy I'm not especially worried about long-term, but in the short term, he faces a Dallas Cowboys team surrendering the sixth-fewest fantasy points to linebackers in 2022.
At defensive back, I don't know that Jalen Pitre necessarily qualifies as a big name, but he's certainly a hot one after his gonzo stat line against Da Bears. But repeating that effort on Sunday against the Chargers isn't going to be easy—through three games this year, only two teams in the league have given up fewer fantasy points to safeties.
5. For fantasy managers in an injury pinch or with those underperformers mentioned earlier, what are some good under-the-radar IDP plays for Week 4?
Guru: Three edge defenders make this list for me. Robert Quinn, Chandler Jones, and ZaDarius Smith. It’s hard to get more under the radar than Quinn and Jones, who are starting to show up on milk cartons. All three of these guys came into the season with fairly high expectations and have disappointed this far, and three of them have matchups with opponents that are giving up at least three sacks per game. Many managers have moved on from these guys already. I’m a little stubborn when I believe a player will/should be successful. When it comes to Quinn and Jones, this is a make-or-break week on my rosters.
My under-the-radar linebackers are both replacements. The injury to Anthony Walker leaves Jacob Phillips in the driver’s seat. Phillips will make his first start of the season as Cleveland’s middle linebacker in Week 4. There is nothing special about the matchup with Atlanta, but Phillips is a player the Browns have been high on since drafting him two years ago. He was set to make an impact last season before an injury shut him down and should step into an every-down role.
Darius Harris got the start last week for a suspended Willie Gay Jr. He played 87% of the snaps and racked up six tackles and seven assists against the Colts. His role should be the same this week against the Buccaneers, who have been leaning on Leonard Fournette pretty hard so far.
JuJu Hughes managed a solid eight combined tackles after taking over for the injured Tracy Walker last week. Seattle is not a particularly strong matchup for safeties but Hughes made a good first showing and inherits a position that has been rather productive for Walker.
Rodney McLeod was not an IDP factor while playing free safety for the Eagles in recent years, but he had some productive seasons as a strong safety early in his career. McLeod took over the traditionally fantasy-friendly strong safety position for the Colts when Nick Cross was benched about halfway through the Week 2 game. McLeod managed over eight fantasy points in half a game and then put up 15 against the Chiefs last week. He has a high floor and could do very well if the Titans can get Derrick Henry going.
If Kyle Dugger misses another game, Adrian Phillips could be a sneaky good play against the Packers. He had a so-so outing against Baltimore with seven combined stops (three solos) but played every defensive snap. Green Bay is leaning on short passes and the running game more than they normally would, which means a lot of opportunity for whoever fills the role.
Godfather: Since John Guru-grabbed all the players ever (some people…sheesh), I'll be quick here.
I already mentioned the favorable pass-rush matchup that Robert Quinn has against a Giants team that has given up the second-most sacks in the league. That matchup extends to batterymate Trevis Gipson. Gipson's snap share can make him a bit risky, but as he showed with two sacks in Week 1, the third-year pro is capable of big stat lines.
At linebacker, keep an eye on the Friday practice status of Titans linebacker Zach Cunningham, who missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. If Cunningham can't go Sunday against the Colts, Joe Jones or Dylan Cole could see quite a bit of work against an Indy team allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to linebackers.
I'll go with the venerable Adrian Amos of the Green Bay Packers for my dart throw in the secondary. With Brian Hoyer under center for the Patriots, New England will likely be playing from behind this week. Between the chances of a garbage time takeaway and extra box snaps in run support against a Patriots team allowing the third-most fantasy points to safeties, you could do worse.