Second-guessing is the kiss of death in fantasy football. And even so-called experts fall prey to it.
I did. In this very column. Last week.
With the Dallas Cowboys set to play in a gravy pass-rush matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, I came this close to including Dorance Armstrong as one of my recommendations along the defensive line. I even started writing it up. But Armstrong's snap count nagged at me a little, I started to have doubts and eventually I pivoted to A.J. Epenesa of the Buffalo Bills.
Said pivot blew up in my face. Epenesa was quiet in a plus matchup with the Titans, logging a pair of solo tackles. Armstrong also had two solo tackles against Cincinnati—but both of those tackles were sacks of Joe Burrow.
The week wasn't a total loss. Las Vegas linebacker Divine Deablo piled up 15 total tackles in the Raiders overtime loss to Arizona. Washington linebacker Jamin Davis only had four stops, but he salvaged an OK stat line with a sack. My role as chauffeur of the Frankie Luvu bandwagon paid off nicely to the tune of 10 solos and four tackles for loss. And my longest of longshots hit, with rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson of the Chiefs returning a Justin Herbert interception 99 yards for a score.
However, I have always been the sort of fantasy manager (and analyst) who remembers the misses more than the hits. And this one will linger for a while.
There's a lesson to be learned though—as there often is. Actually, there are two.
The first is to trust your gut.
And the second is that when you don't and it costs you, shake it off and move on.
DE Carl Lawson, NY Jets (vs. Cincinnati)
It was a long wait for the Jets to finally start realizing the investment the team made in Lawson—after signing the 27-year-old to a three-year, $45 million contract last year, Lawson didn't play a down after tearing his Achilles in practice. But as Jack Bell wrote for the team's website, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was eager to see the impact Lawson could have for the New York defense.
"He is very much a unicorn in a lot of ways," Ulbrich said. "I know I've spoken about this before, but it's a guy that when you look on paper you look for, when pass rushers you look for length, you look for speed, you look for great bend and that, and he might not necessarily check those boxes on paper, but then all of a sudden you watch the tape you see this guy that just wins consistently and affects quarterbacks and plays at such a high clip."
Lawson's stats have been modest over the first two weeks of the season—four total tackles and half a sack. But if ever there was a matchup for Lawson to break out in, a Bengals team that has already allowed 13 sacks is it. If Lawson isn't available in your IDP league, rookie Jermaine Johnson and veteran John Franklin-Myers could be viable fallback options. The Bengals are absolutely a matchup that should be targeted moving forward.
Told you I learned my lesson.
DE George Karlaftis (at Indianapolis)
Bolstering the pass rush was a priority for the Chiefs this offseason, and the team addressed that need by spending the 30th pick in this year's draft on Purdue's George Karlaftis. The 6'4", 275-pounder made a number of splash plays in his first preseason, but he told reporters that he's fully aware he has a long way to go as a player.
“I think I have a lot of things to improve, definitely,” he said. “Definitely showed a couple of good things as well on tape, but definitely a whole lot I need to improve on. Just intricacies in the game. On certain pass rush reps, doing this differently as opposed to that. You always want to win and you always want to get an edge. Striving for perfection in everything you do.”
Karlaftis has made an impact in his first two NFL games, but that impact has yet to register much in the box score. However, the youngster has logged a snap share north of 75% in both Kansas City's games so far, and sooner or later pressures are going to turn into sacks. A top-five fantasy matchup for his position with Matt "The Statue" Ryan and the Colts is as good a time as any.
DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Carolina (at New Orleans)
A second-year pro out of Penn State, Gross-Matos is a player whose name should ring a bell for Footballguys subscribers. The reason for that familiarity is none other than the Guru himself—my esteemed colleague John Norton has been banging the drum for Gross-Matos since well before the regular season started.
"Gross-Mattos is bigger than both of last year’s starters, does a good job of setting the edge versus the run, is a sound tackler, and can kick inside on passing downs if asked to do so," Norton wrote. "As a pass rusher, he is tall at 6’5”, has a huge wingspan, and an extra gear to get around the corner. His numbers over the last two seasons have been good considering the role, but Gross-Matos has a rather impressive college resume. As a two-year starter at Penn State, he recorded 64 tackles, 47 assists, 18.5 sacks, and 4 turnovers."
Gross-Matos has been quiet over Carolina's first two games, logging five total tackles without a sack. But things could be looking up for him in Week 3 in the Superdome. Two weeks is an admittedly small sample size, but the Saints' offensive line has struggled without Terron Armstead, surrendering the most sacks (10) in the NFC. Look for Gross-Matos and Brian Burns to both have good games for IDP managers in Week 3.
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, ESPN