This may sound like an odd way to start off the first edition of a brand-new weekly column here at Footballguys. But the last thing you want in Week 1 is to need advice or recommendations from this column.
I know. I'm quite the salesman.
The purpose of Living the Stream this season will be to help IDP managers overcome the adversity that is a part of each and every fantasy season. To get you through that week or two, one of your starting linebackers misses with a sore calf. To help you find the occasional matchup play that can put your team over the top in a given week. This isn't the place for season-saving waiver gems, although a few might make an appearance here over the course of the season. This is the place of band-aids. Temporary fixes. Where glass is broken in case of emergency.
Thus, the opening for this inaugural edition of Living the Stream. Because if you're already in scramble mode before the season's first game has even been played, then it's probably going to be a long year.
Fortunately, the preseason carnage this year has been relatively manageable. There have been losses, to be sure—the New York Giants surprisingly released linebacker Blake Martinez (if you have room on the roster, hold onto him for now), and Tennessee Titans edge rusher Harold Landry tore his ACL in practice last week. We also don't yet know the Week 1 status of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard.
But oh man, could it be worse.
Still, those blows left holes in lineups. Some IDP managers didn't have the draft they'd hoped. And every savvy fantasy manager is always looking to improve, even if it's only for one week.
All of these players may not be available in your particular IDP league. But some of them will—and all of them have the potential to punch well above their proverbial weight in Week 1.
DE Trevis Gipson, Chicago (vs. San Francisco)
When you're playing opposite a veteran coming off an 18.5-sack season and being charged with replacing a star the magnitude of Khalil Mack, it's not exactly a stunner to be flying under the radar a little entering the season. Despite racking up seven sacks last season, including four over the last five games of the season, third-year pro Trevis Gipson was overlooked in quite a few drafts this summer.
Take advantage of that.
From Week 11 on last season, Gipson was quietly a mid-range DL2 in many scoring systems—a decent second starter. The San Francisco 49ers were just a middling matchup for opposing defensive linemen last year, but that was with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. Trey Lance was only sacked three times in two starts last year, but young quarterbacks tend to hold the ball. Young, mobile quarterbacks tend to hold the ball even more.
With the Niners sure to focus attention on Robert Quinn Sunday, Gipson's a sneaky pick to log a Week 1 sack.
EDGE Azeez Ojulari, NY Giants
In some respects, it's fitting that an article about contingency plans contains a player that fantasy managers might need a contingency plan—Ojulari is questionable for the season-opener with a calf injury. But the second-year pro was a limited participant in practice Tuesday, and he appears on track to take the field Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
If Ojulari's out there against the Titans, there are a couple of reasons to have him in starting lineups in IDP leagues that utilize the EDGE position or in True Position formats.
The first is Ojulari himself. All the second-year pro from Georgia did as a rookie was flirt with 50 total tackles and pace the Giants with eight sacks. But the moment that the G-Men drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux, Ojulari became an afterthought to many IDP managers.
The second is this week's matchup against a Tennessee Titans team that faces some real problems along the offensive line. Last year, only one team in the NFL surrendered more fantasy points to defensive linemen than the Titans, and only Joe Burrow of the Bengals was dropped more times than Ryan Tannehill.
DT Arik Armstead, San Francisco (at Chicago)
Let's just get this out of the way before we go any further. This recommendation doesn't portend a return to Armstead's 2019 form, when he piled up 54 total tackles, added 10 sacks and finished as a top-12 defensive linemen. That was a fluke, not a trend. That ship, as they say, has sailed.
But last year, Armstead racked up a career-high 63 total tackles, added six sacks, and cracked the top-30 defensive linemen. Those numbers just might be sustainable, giving Armstead some IDP value—especially when the matchup is right.
This week, the matchup is right.
The Bears may well be a better offensive team this season than last. But on some level, that's because there was literally nowhere for the team to go but up. Last year, the Bears led the NFL with a staggering 58 sacks allowed and ranked fifth in fantasy points allowed to defensive linemen.
Chicago's offensive line is still a mess. And Armstead will spend a fair amount of time in the Chicago backfield Sunday.
LB Micah McFadden, New York Giants (at Tennessee)
In a perfect world, Tae Crowder would be available all over the place for needy IDP managers this week. But in a perfect world, Blake Martinez never would have been released. And given the gaudy stats that Crowder posted last year after Martinez tore his ACL, he was scooped up anywhere he was available about 11 seconds after Martinez was shown the door.
Bot someone is going to have to occupy the starting spot opposite Crowder now—and from all indications, fifth-round rookie Micah McFadden is going to be that guy.
Last year with the Hoosiers, McFadden tallied 77 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks. Those latter two categories seemingly endeared McFadden to new Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who never saw an A-Gap blitz he didn't like.
Even without Derrick Henry for half the season last year, the Titans were still third in the league in fantasy points allowed to linebackers. With Henry back, that isn't likely to change.
Two Giants in the Week 1 column. That's not at all distressing.
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