More from Rustyn Rose
Football is one of those high contact sports that result in a lot of injuries, and generally they come early in the season, mostly due to a lack of playing time, and a general warped sense of humor from the football gods. When we draft our individual defensive players, we tend not to waste bench spots an extras, and focus more on offensive depth. Then inevitably in week one, someone gets hurt, or simply doesn't perform at all, and we have to start looking for temporary or permanent replacements. Likewise, each season new IDP faces will appear that surprise even those of us who spend hours of relentless research trying to unveil potential hidden gems. Perhaps more so than any other position defensemen play with brute determination and heart, making fantasy projections more difficult.
-Week 1 Injuries, Impact and Replacements-
Week one left us with some broken IDP staples. The linebacking corp was hit with a substantial number of key injuries. Let's look at the Week 1 injuries and the impact and potential replacements or fill-ins for Week 2 and beyond.
Troy Polamalu, DB, PIT ~ Perhaps more than any other defensive player (including Ray Lewis), the Flyin' Hawaiian is the heart of his team's defense. Anyone who has watched this kid marvels at the way he manages to seemingly cover the entire field. It's like he's in on every single play. His loss hurts the Steelers defense as a whole more than his value as an IDP player, because fantasy scoring doesn't account for intangibles which change the momentum of a game with one play. Polamalu was on the bench before the half ended and he already had 6 tackles, an interception, and two pass defenses. However, he didn't end 2008 in the top 25 at his position in fantasy football.
5 Potential Replacements:
Louis Delmas, DB, DET - Delmas is a rookie, but he was a sleeper this season with big upside. This week he put up 19 fantasy points against the Saints, with 6 tackles, a pass defense, a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown. Not bad for your first NFL game. He won't score a TD each week, but he will be involved heavily in the passing games, which offers a lot of potential for fantasy points. He's currently owned in only 3% of Yahoo leagues, and 1.2% of ESPN leagues.
Anthony Henry, DB, DET - Henry also had a nice day against the monster passing attack of New Orleans (12 tackles, 1 interception, and 2 pass defenses), so temper expectations, as not every team passes as much as the Saints, but you can still expect strong fantasy production on a Lions team that will often be on defense. His current ownership in Yahoo leagues is 8%, and ESPN is 0%.
Maurice Leggett, DB, KCC - The Chiefs sophomore had a nice opening day against the Ravens with 8 tackles and 3 pass defenses. He has big play-making ability, and the Chiefs will be on defense often. If your league counts return yards, Leggett will also be getting punt return duties according to the team. Current ownership in Yahoo is 1%, and ESPN is 0%.
Tyvon Branch, DB, OAK - Branch was another one of my 2009 sleeper picks. He was impressive in the preseason and looked great in his Monday night game against the Chargers, where he nailed 9 tackles and one pass defense. Like Polamalu, he is a play-maker who is all over the field. His current ownership is zero in both ESPN and Yahoo.
Cedric Griffin, DB, MIN - Griffin benefits from playing opposite Antoine Winfield. As teams throw away from Winfield, they have to throw towards Griffin. On Sunday he racked up 6 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception, and a pass defense. Griffin is probably the best known name on this list, and the most owned at 17% in Yahoo leagues, and 41.2% in ESPN leagues.
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Brian Urlacher, LB, CHI - The iconic linebacker for Da Bears finally looked completely healthy and ready to once again be the catalyst of his team's defense. That lasted all of a few minutes into the team's first quarter against the Packers. Urlacher hurt his wrist and left the game. Monday it was announced he would require season ending surgery and has been placed on the IR. He managed 3 tackles before his season ended. Fellow linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is also out with a knee injury. Hunter Hillemeyer is likely to replace Urlacher at middle linebacker. That won't help your fantasy team much.
Jerod Mayo, LB, NEP - Last season's IDP rookie sensation was felled with a knee injury early in the first quarter against the Bills. How serious the injury is we do not yet know, but expect him to miss a few games at least. Ouch.
Paul Posluszny, LB, BUF - Posluszny had 6 tackles in the statbook when he broke his arm in the third quarter of Monday's night's near upset of the New England Patriots. His timetable for return is unknown. But it will require surgery and he'll be out for a few weeks at least. This is the same arm he broke a couple of seasons ago.
5 Potential replacements:
Stephen Tullock, LB, TEN - Tullock replaced David Thorton in the nickel and is a three-down back, so he has fantasy potential. Because of his 12 tackle, 1 fumble recovery performance against the Steelers, he's likely going to be a waiver-wire target, and of the five on this list, the one I like the least. He's currently owned in 3% of Yahoo leagues, and 0% of ESPN leagues.
Stephen Cooper, LB, SD - Cooper was an animal Monday night against the Raiders, racking up 13 solo tackles, a force fumble and recovery, and 2 pass defenses. He was the top scoring LB in week 1. He had 98 total tackles in 2008 in only 12 games, and 108 in 2007, yet he's only owned in 16% of Yahoo leagues, and 5.5% on ESPN.
Keith Ellison, LB, BUF - Ellison looked great against the Patriots offense, helping befuddle Tom Brady all night. He had 11 solo tackles and 5 assists. Yahoo owners have more love for the 4th year player, with 29% ownership. ESPN another zero.
Eric Barton, LB, CLE - Barton had a respectable 8 tackles in his first game against Minnesota. Nothing to raise a flag over, but he's on this list because he's eclipsed 100 total tackles in 5 of his last 6 full 16 game seasons. He moves from the Jets to the Browns this season. A team which will rely on his 11 years of NFL experience. He's owned in only 9% of Yahoo leagues and 2.7% of ESPN leagues.
Brian Cushing, LB HOU - If you've read my IDP columns this preseason, you know I'm high on this kid. He will have a monster rookie campaign, similar to what Jerod Mayo did last year. He was hurt in preseason so the coach limited his play against the Jets on Sunday, yet he still managed 8 tackles, 5 solo. He's owned in 3.3% of ESPN leagues and only 2% of Yahoo leagues.
Other guys to watch: Aaron Curry, Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga.
The Linemen managed to go unscathed this week in terms of injuries to key fantasy IDP factors. There were a couple of surprises though that you may want to keep an eye on:
Richard Seymour, DL, OAK - Seymour showed up for the Raiders and jumped right into game action with 2 sacks and 6 total tackles. Not bad for a guy who doesn't know his team. He's owned in 16% of Yahoo and 6.7% of ESPN leagues.
Kroy Biermann, DL, ATL - Biermann is in a rotating platoon for the Falcons, but with games like he had Sunday, he'll be seeing more snaps. He had 2 sacks, 5 tackles and a forced fumble in limited time. In Yahoo leagues he also qualifies at linebacker. Don't race out to pick him up, unless you really need help at DL, but keep an eye on him as a potential bye week filler or more if he keeps this up.
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