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NFL defenses have taken the field for the 2023 season's first regular season game. Some deployed personnel similarly to preseason action. Others showed starting personnel for the first time outside of practice. As is the case every year, Week 1 was full of surprises.
The Dolphins' new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, blindsided depth-chart trackers with not just one but two positions widely targeted in IDP leagues. The first surprise is relatively mild. Brandon Jones, listed as the starting strong safety on the Dolphins' opening-day depth chart, played just two snaps on defense.
Fangio explained that Jones is still working his way back into form after an ACL injury 11 months ago. Fantasy gamers chasing DeShon Elliott's 13 combined tackles on waivers should be wary of Jones' role as the season progresses.
Fangio further explained that the front office's prize free-agent signing, David Long, earned a starting linebacker role in base sets but was beaten out by Andrew Van Ginkel for a nickel role. Van Ginkel was a SAM linebacker who spent most of his time rushing the passer in his previous four seasons as a pro. At 28 years of age, Van Ginkel's transition to a new position seemed more likely to put him on the roster bubble than in a regular rotation for playing time.
Most fantasy football platforms overlooked Van Ginkel's position change. Even though he's a part-time player (63% of snaps in Week 1), he's a cheat code as a defensive end in tackle-heavy true-position leagues.
New England Patriots
Peppers was a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate as a multi-purpose defender and returner at the University of Michigan in 2016. He never lived up to fantasy gamers' excitement as a pro and was last relevant as an IDP in 2020 with the Giants.
In the meantime, Dugger played full-time, as did linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley. These two players, together with pass-rusher Matt Judon, provide IDP gamers with a viable fantasy asset at each level of the Patriots' defense for the first time in memory. Bentley's line of 3 solo tackles, 6 assists, and 1 tackle for loss will vary in value based on the scoring system. However, his tackle and snap totals already demonstrate potential for a high return on investment relative to his average draft position last month.
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