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 we move into the second month of a rapidly advancing 2022 season, the Guru and the Godfather have gathered to offer takes on the studs and duds of the season's first month and what players could be set to shine (or falter) in Week 5.
1. We're one month into the 2022 season. Which IDPs have been the biggest positive surprise to you? Can they keep up that production, or will they fade as the season wears on?
Guru: Rashad Weaver is in the Top 15, and Jerry Hughes Top 5. Weaver is looking like the real deal. He took over when Harold Landry was lost and has four sacks in three games. He was shut out against the Bills, but that happens to a lot of pass rushers in that matchup. Weaver is a second-year player, and I see nothing to make me think he is a flash in the pan.
Jerry Hughes has found the fountain of youth, but he’s only been drinking from it every other week. The guy has been a marginal NFL starter for most of his long career and is not breaking out at age 34. He might end up with the best statistical year of his career, but I can’t see him being a top-20 guy when we get to December.
Frankie Luvu at 4, Pete Werner at 8, and Zaire Franklin at 10. Luvu is a fifth-year player that no one had heard of before now. That said, he is stepping up big time and has become the Panthers' best linebacker. I don’t know if he will be an IDP factor beyond this season, but he should be the point man for Carolina for the rest of 2022. The only thing that could stop him is an injury. Coincidentally, Luvu sat has been dealing with a sore shoulder and sat out Thursday’s practice.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been calling out a changing of the guard at linebacker in New Orleans with Pete Werner ascending to the lead role. He’s not there yet in terms of snap counts or the leadership role of calling plays, but the guy leads the league in solo tackles on roughly an 85% snap share.
With Shaquille Leonard’s health issues, Franklin has emerged as an IDP star. Had I been asked about him keeping the production up before last week’s games, I would have leaned toward no, assuming his role to diminish when Leonard returns. Last week’s game, however, put things into a different perspective. Leonard was active and played 16 snaps before leaving with a broken nose and concussion. Those 16 snaps came at the expense of Bobby Okereke, with Franklin playing every snap again.
Marcus Williams at 2, Mike Edwards at 4, and L'Jarius Sneed at 3. Williams put up so many points over the first two games that he still ranks second despite coming back to reality over the last two games. If the Ravens get back to playing Kyle Hamilton as the deep safety on half the defensive snaps and allowing Williams to move around, He can be a top-10 guy. If he is back in the deep safety role full-time going forward, his production will be closer to the 9-10 points per game he put up over the last two weeks.
Sneed was solid last season for a corner. This year he is the third-ranked defensive back, averaging over 16.5 points per game with a season-low of almost 11.5. I have a hard time believing he can average 16.5 all season, but I do see him as an every-week must-start.
Godfather: It's not exactly a shock to see Maxx Crosby among the league leaders among defensive linemen, but the way that Crosby has done it is still eye-opening. You name it, Crosby's killing it. He's averaging almost seven total tackles a game. He's fourth in the league with four sacks. And he's pacing the NFL with eight tackles for loss. I don't know that Crosby can hold off the likes of Nick Bosa of the 49ers for the top spot at his position, but the list of linemen I'd swap Crosby for is awfully short.
The most surprising linebacker has to be my man Frankie Luvu of the Carolina Panthers, who has gone from eight starts over his first four seasons and never playing more than 45 percent of the defensive snaps in a season to an every-down player and top-10 IDP option. Luvu's a joy to watch—the former Washington State standout plays like his magnificent head of hair is on fire, flying to the football. And there's been nothing to indicate that his production isn't sustainable playing on a Panthers defense that is spending more time on the field than any defense in the NFL.
For what it's worth, I think Luvu's missed practice was more maintenance than a real concern.
Raise your hand if you thought that Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens would lead all defensive backs in tackles four games into the season. Now put your hand down and either stop lying or go buy a Powerball ticket because can see the future. I have no earthly idea if Owens can sustain his 10.5-tackle-a-game pace—his six stops last week against the Chargers were a season-low. If you can get a decent return in a trade, selling high isn't a bad idea. But neither is riding him until the wheels fall off, given that he cost diddly squat to acquire.
2. Which IDPs have been the biggest disappointments relative to your expectations for them this season? Can they turn things around?
Guru: Aaron Donald's ranking outside the Top 12 is a mild disappointment and one I don’t expect to last. Jeffery Simmons at 37 and Sam Hubbard at 53, are real head-scratchers. I expect both of these guys to turn it around, especially Hubbard. The Bengals were out of whack in the first two games but seem to have righted the ship. This is an underrated defense, and Hubbard is one of the cornerstones.
Shaquille Leonard is easily the biggest disappointment for me, but it’s all due to the injury. If, and it is a huge IF, he can get healthy, I have no doubt he will go right back to being a stud. I just don’t have a ton of confidence that he will get right in time for matter. Call me nervously pessimistic for now.
De'Vondre Campbell has not been horrible, but no one drafted him to be a high-end LB3. The Packers have adjusted their scheme to accommodate Quay Walker as a near-every-down linebacker, and it is having an impact on Campbell. Low LB2 or might just be who he is now.
I had, and still have, high expectations for Cole Holcomb. He currently ranks 44th among linebackers. I’m resigned to the fact that he will not be a top-20 guy as I had once expected, but I think he will get back to being a quality third starter.
I’m not sure if it is disappointment with Brandon Jones or anger at the coaching staff for the inconsistent playing time. The guy has DB1 potential if they will just let him play. Unfortunately, I see him being hit or miss from week to week. When he hits, it could be big, though.
Budda Baker is not a name we are used to seeing outside the top 30, but we may have to get used to it. Many managers assumed his slide to the DB3 range last season was a fluke and expected to see the old Budda Baker this year. There is a lot more competition for production in Arizona than there was in the past.
Godfather: There's always a risk with aging pass-rushers that the edge of the proverbial cliff will come, but after combining for 29 sacks in 2021, it wasn't unreasonable to assume that Chandler Jones of the Raiders and Robert Quinn of the Bears had at least one more decent year left in the tank. Jones, in particular, has been especially invisible—despite playing opposite Maxx Crosby, his pressure numbers have been dismal. I'm holding out the slimmest of hopes that Quinn can turn things around, and I added Jones this week in one deep IDP league where my defensive linemen are a mess. But if there are any kind of viable alternatives on the waiver wire, no one could fault you for moving on.
Among linebackers, I had Fred Warner ranked as a low-end LB1 entering the season, largely because he has never had fewer than 118 total tackles or 79 solos in a season. But as things stand right now, the 25-year-old is well off the pace in both regards—just 25 total tackles and 15 solos four games in. It doesn't help that Warner has had nothing but bad linebacker matchups this year, but those matchups haven't prevented teammate Dre Greenlaw from posting top-25 numbers. Warner, on the other hand, ranks well outside the top 50 in fantasy points. I'm not dropping Warner in most leagues or selling for 30 cents on the dollar. But on a scale of one to 10, my concern level is about a 17.
Before the season, I talked up New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney as a player who could challenge to be the No. 1 defensive back in 2022. That has, um, not happened—McKinney has been a complete non-factor. The snaps have been there. McKinney is even making the defensive play-calls. But snaps in the box have not been there, and without them, McKinney is a big-play-reliant fantasy option who is only marginally rosterable in most formats.
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