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Two months have passed since the last preseason game. Fantasy drafts are a distant memory. Gamers who play to win in September have begun to take their lumps. Injuries and bye weeks are the great equalizers of fantasy football.
Footballguys' "Rate My Team" app offers drafters in-depth assessments of their August hauls and forecasts each team's likelihood of a playoff berth. The app always offers the caveat of "great," "good," or "average" in-season management as a modifier of a team's likelihood of success.
Line-up decisions, waiver wire management, and trading constitute the bulk of in-season management decisions. Trading might be the most difficult to navigate, but it also might add the biggest advantage.
With the advent of the 18-week season, most fantasy leagues deploy a 14-week regular season. Fantasy gamers' midseason adjustments could differentiate between an also-ran season and momentum into Week 15 and the fantasy playoffs.
This midseason edition of Reading the Defense forecasts an All-Second-Half Team. The following players are trending upward and could serve fantasy gamers as key starters down the stretch. Their accrual of fantasy points to date just might make them expendable to their current fantasy managers in medium-sized fantasy leagues.
Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles
Paul Perdichizzi of Saturday-2-Sunday Football named Falcons running back Bijan Robinson and Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter the two blue-chip prospects of the 2023 draft. Character concerns caused Carter to slide to Pick 9 on the draft's opening night.
Carter is enjoying an extraordinary start to his career. Playing in rotation with perennial Pro-Bowler Fletcher Cox, Carter has 3.5 quarterback sacks and 2 forced fumbles to his credit despite missing a game and a half. More impressively, he comfortably leads all tackles in pass-rush win rate. In 90 pass-rush attempts, Carter has beaten the block within 2.5 seconds 23 times (26%), as reported by ESPN using NFL NextGen Stats.
Jalen Carter stands 20th among fantasy defensive tackles on the Footballguys' leaderboard. He easily has upside into the top 10 and should be considered a top-5 commodity at the position in dynasty leagues.
Jalen Carter is almost unblockable 1 on 1. He didn't get a sack and only had 1 tackle but his presence was still felt by the dolphins. #Eagles #FlyEaglesFly #PhiladelphiaEagles pic.twitter.com/TONqqzbLgy— Clay Harbor (@clayharbs82) October 25, 2023
Boye Mafe, Seattle Seahawks
The son of Nigerian immigrants was deemed a project coming out of the University of Minnesota. NFL.com scouts comped him to Green Bay's Rashan Gary. Dynasty gamers have not shown the necessary patience with the 2022 second-rounder. Redraft gamers ignored him outside the deepest of 2023 drafts.
Boye Mafe has scored a sack in four straight games since missing Week 2 and leads NFL linemen in pass-rush win rate. With Seattle's leading edge-rusher, Uchenna Nwosu, placed on IR, Mafe steps into a high-volume role for a team with a strong secondary behind him. The proactive fantasy gamer might easily trade an aging star like Khalil Mack or a flash in the pan like Michael Hoecht of the Rams for Mafe.
Biggest difference in Boye Mafe's game this year compared to his rookie season? He wouldn't have been able to bend around the corner as quickly as he did in 2022... Looks like a different player in that regard and it's leading to a ton of pressures like this one. pic.twitter.com/Jp4WeioNKK— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) October 25, 2023
Will Anderson Jr., Houston Texans
The third overall pick of the 2023 draft won't be a target for dynasty gamers; he's already a consensus DE1. Impatient redraft players, however, might be willing to part with him. Will Anderson Jr. has just one sack to his credit and slumbers at 46th in Footballguys' scoring among edge rushers. His bookend, Jonathan Greenard, has 3.5 sacks. Anderson is the one winning at an elite rate of 30 percent, a pass-rush win rate that ranks third in the NFL through seven weeks.
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