It seems like only yesterday that the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams were kicking off the 2022 NFL season. But here we are, a month into the season. Four weeks of IDP action are already in the books. Leaderboards are starting to take shape.
And is the case each and every year, for every player who was supposed to sit near the top, there is another who has surprised.
Along the defensive line, Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders is the high-scorer after a month. That's not especially surprising, but the inclusion of Jerry Hughes of the Houston Texans and Deatrich Wise Jr of the New England Patriots most assuredly is. At linebacker, Frankie Luvu of the Carolina Panthers and Mykal Walker of the Atlanta Falcons have gone from afterthoughts for much of the summer to top-10 fantasy linebackers. As they so often are, the top of the defensive back rankings are littered with guys not much was expected from, whether it's Talanoa Hufanga of the San Francisco 49ers or Jonathan Owens of the Houston Texans.
(I talked up Hufanga and Luvu before the season. But Owens was a complete jaw dropper for me—and I pride myself on seeing such things coming.)
The point I'm trying to make (yes, there's a point) is this—identifying and acquiring these discount diamonds can have a major impact on your odds of success this season, whether it's just for the week to come or the entire year.
Will Hughes and Wise keep up the early pace they have set? Probably not. But finding a matchup play that affords you the opportunity to bench Chandler Jones of the Las Vegas Raiders until he does something can be the difference between a win and a loss. That win can be the difference between making the playoffs or not. And you might just stumble across a Luvu or Walker that becomes a weekly starter.
The most successful IDP managers are the most active ones. The ones who never stop searching for an edge.
Let's get work—by looking for said edge on the edge.
I know. I'm quite the wordsmith.
DE Dorance Armstrong, Dallas (at Los Angeles Rams)
When the Cowboys failed to re-sign Randy Gregory in the offseason (at least that's one way of putting it), there was no shortage of hand-wringing over what his departure might mean for the Dallas pass rush. But as Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reported at the time, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones was confident that fifth-year veteran Dorance Armstrong was capable of playing a bigger role defensively.
"We hated to lose Randy," Jones said. "We went down to the wire with him. But at the same time, you look at production. You look at what Dorance Armstrong has done. He's right there from a production standpoint with Randy."
At the time, the comment elicited little more than eye-rolls. But Armstrong has played his part for a Dallas pass-rush that leads the league in sacks, logging three over the season's first four games. With Dallas heading west to face a Rams team that just gave up seven sacks to the 49ers, Armstrong's stay on the spot-start radar is continuing into October.
EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul, Baltimore (vs. Cincinnati)
Not that long ago, Pierre-Paul was watching football on TV like the rest of us—after an injury-marred 2021 in which the 33-year-old managed just 2.5 sacks, there wasn't much interest for Pierre-Paul's services on the open market. However, after offseason shoulder surgery, Pierre-Paul told ESPN's Jamison Hensley that he's healthy again and eager to show what he can do after the Ravens signed him to a one-year deal.
"I basically got a whole new shoulder," Pierre-Paul said. "I feel way totally better. I did what I could do for the team [last year]. But not having two shoulders is a big thing. Can't push. Can't grab. Can't snatch. But I can do all of that now. My energy is going to say it all, especially when it comes to game day. My energy is going to take over and you're going to see the reason why everybody loves me and would like to have me on their team. I'm pretty sure everybody knows that by now. But we'll see. It's only a matter of time."
Pierre-Paul made his Ravens debut last week against the Bills, and while his four total tackles weren't especially impressive, his 86 percent snap count was. If Pierre-Paul can maintain close to that snap share in Week 5, he could be an interesting matchup play against a Bengals team that leads the AFC in sacks allowed with 16.
EDGE Rashad Weaver, Tennessee (vs. Washington)
Tennessee Titans edge-rusher Rashad Weaver has been a starter by necessity this season—when Harold Landry tore his ACL before the season, the Titans needed someone to step up opposite Alvin Dupree. However, as John Glennon wrote for All Titans, Weaver has already opened eyes in Nashville even before Landry got hurt.
“He was going to find a role somehow,” Vrabel said. “He was continuing to improve and had shown some really good things in the preseason. His ability to disrupt the football, get his hand on a football, sack the quarterback, and have some impactful plays.”
That momentum has carried over into games that count—after logging two tackles, a sack and a forced fumble last week against the Colts, Weaver now has four sacks on the season and at least one sack in three of four games. With a Commanders team coming to town that leads the NFL In sacks allowed, Weaver is the definition of one of those surprise stars I mentioned earlier. He's also available in far more leagues than he should be.
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