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.
With the 2022 fantasy football regular season already at the halfway point the Guru and the Godfather have come together again to discuss the mid-season IDP MVPs, the biggest defensive surprises so far and to look ahead at players primed for big things (or big-time letdowns) in Week 8.
1. We're halfway through the 2022 fantasy regular season. Who are your most valuable (not necessarily the highest-scoring) players at each of the three main IDP positions?
Guru: Maxx Crosby wins my nomination for defensive line/edge defender. He was close in 2021, leading the league in quarterback pressures, but kept falling just short of getting home on sacks. I was sky-high on him going into this season, and he has not disappointed. In fantasy terms, he leads the league in solo stops for a lineman and is tied for second in sacks. On the field, he is constantly in the opponent's backfield and is highly disruptive on seemingly every play, be it run or pass.
No defensive player, NFL or fantasy, is having a better year than Roquan Smith. After betting on himself and electing to play out the final year of his contract, the guy has been an absolute beast. He is second in the league in solo tackles, has been a factor in the pass rush with two and a half sacks, and even has a pair of interceptions. He is the top fantasy linebacker by a wide margin and a serious candidate for defensive player of the year. The Bears should have paid the man!
At the third level, I am torn between L’Jarius Sneed and Tariq Woolen. Both players have been exceptionally productive in box scores and are a significant factor in the success of their NFL teams. They give their respective defensive coordinators a lot of options and their respective IDP managers a lot of points.
Godfather: There are some other defensive linemen who may be providing more IDP production relative to their draft slot, but I'm with the Guru here—you gotta give the MVP up front to Maxx Crosby of the Raiders. Crosby is once again near the top of the league in pressures with 30—and he's had his bye. He's on pace to record 17 sacks. And he's (and I kid you not) on pace to record 100 total tackles. He won't—but 70 total stops and a dozen-plus sacks are well within reach. So is an overall DL1 finish.
I can't argue that Roquan Smith has been a monster—he single-handedly won me a close game with his performance last Monday night against the Patriots. But Smith was also drafted first among linebackers in quite a few drafts. So, I'm going to give the Most Valuable Linebacker nod to the guy behind him. Nick Bolton of the Chiefs was a trendy breakout pick in 2022, and the IDP community hit big on that prediction. Bolton is tied for third in the NFL with 70 total tackles, he's tied with Smith and Jordyn Brooks for the league lead in solos, and he's the highest-scoring fantasy linebacker in the AFC. It's been a while since a Chiefs linebacker posted those kinds of numbers.
I refuse to name a cornerback the Most Valuable Defensive Back on general principle, although I love what Woolen has done as a rookie. So, I'm going to give the nod to a veteran safety in Edie Jackson of the Bears. For most of his career, any IDP relevance Jackson had was tied to big plays. But in addition to being tied for second in the league with three interceptions, Jackson is also eighth among defensive backs with 47 tackles. In a year where so many big-name defensive backs have failed to meet expectations, Jackson has been a bright spot.
2. What players have surprised you the most (for better or worse) over the first half of the 2022 campaign?
Guru: It is relatively rare for a player to suddenly break out six years into their career, especially without changing teams or at least scheme. When Deatrich Wise Jr has come out hot and is showing no sign of cooling off. With more than half of the season to go, Wise has already tied his career best of five sacks and is on pace to shatter his career best of 28 solo tackles.
I expected Drue Tranquill to be a quality IDP option and a solid player for the Chargers. I did not expect him to be a top-ten fantasy linebacker and a big play threat for Los Angeles. He is making a lot of tackles, has been successful on the blitz, and has excelled in coverage beyond expectations.
Kenny Moore II fits the “or worse” clause in this question. After four seasons as one of the NFL’s most underrated corners and a consistent top-ten IDP guy. Moore finds himself in a major slump. He is still performing well in coverage on the field, but the big plays we are used to seeing are not there. At least it is not hard to figure out what happened. To some extent, we should have seen this coming. Moore has a new defensive coordinator that is using him differently and not taking advantage of his strength. Moore is the same player, he’s just not in the same defense that made him a stud.
Godfather: Norton and I have a defensive line mind-meld working this week—because Deatrich Wise Jr has to be the call here. What's most surprising to me about Wise isn't even his production. It's the consistency with which he's doing it. There are four games this season where Wise doesn't have a sack (three came in Week 3). But even in those down games, Wise has logged at least four total tackles three times. Do you want to endear yourself to IDP managers as a defensive lineman? Avoid posting doughnuts.
At linebacker, my surprise pick is a better and worse situation. Yes, we knew that Shaquille Leonard of the Colts had some health concerns entering the season. But very few expected that seven weeks into the season, Leonard would have played just 16 snaps. And even fewer figured that Zaire Franklin would step into the void left by Leonard's absence and pile up the most tackles in the AFC to this point. Pour one out for Bobby Okereke because, from all indications, even when (if) Leonard does come back, Franklin ain't leaving the field.
Raise your hand if, at this point in the season, you thought Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens would have 56 total tackles—second in the league among defensive backs. Now unless your name is Simone Biles, put your hand down. Lying is wrong. Owens had cooled off before last week's 10-stop effort against the Raiders, but that's still the fourth time in six games Owens has hit double digits. Gotta love freebie defensive backs who become weekly IDP starters.
3. Looking ahead to Week 8, which IDPs at each of the three main positions are going to sail past expectations and guide fantasy managers to victory?
Guru: Aaron Rodgers has traditionally been tough to sack, but there is nothing traditional about this season when it comes to the struggling Packers offense. Gregory Rousseau is well rested and fresh coming off the bye. That adds up to a golden opportunity that I think Rousseau will take advantage of.
I’m not sure if Deion Jones belongs here or with the under-the-radar guys in question five, but the message is the same wherever you read it. Jones was active for the Browns in Week 7 but was not playing much until Jacob Phillips was injured. Jones played nearly every snap after Phillips left, though. In years past, Jones has been a perennial top-10 linebacker. If not for being sidetracked by an injury, he still would be.
In case anyone has missed it, Josh Jacobs is the NFL's second-leading rusher over the last five games and has the seventh most receptions for a running back over that span. That translates to a lot of tackle for opposing linebackers and the potential for a big game by Demario Davis and/or Peter Werner this week.
In leagues that break out the defensive back positions, Cameron Dantzler is an every-week starter at corner. This week’s matchup with the Cardinals could be enough to make him the fantasy game’s top corner this week and a strong option, even in leagues that lump the defensive back positions together.
Godfather: Montez Sweat of the Commanders has been all over the place this year—he started the season ice-cold, had a two-game rip of six-stop efforts with at least one sack, and then cooled back off last week. Week 8 sets up well for the Washington edge rusher to get Sweat-y again—the Colts have allowed the third-most sacks (24) in the league and the fifth-most fantasy points per game to defensive ends.
Deion Jones is a great call—no team in the league has allowed more fantasy points per game this season to linebackers. But Jones isn't the only linebacker set for a big stat line in that contest. After missing Week 7 with a shoulder injury, Logan Wilson is off the injury report and ready to rock against one of the most run-heavy teams in the league. Wilson has been a letdown this season—in Week 8 the bounceback begins.
The Indianapolis Colts haven't just been kind to defensive linemen this season—no team in the league has given up more fantasy points per game to safeties, either. With Sam Ehlinger making his first NFL start Sunday, the Colts will more heavily than ever on Jonathan Taylor. And with Washington's top linebacker (Cole Holcomb) nursing a foot injury, that should mean a bump in run support opportunities for box safety Kamren Curl.
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