Commentary

D Up! Injuries taking their toll

Updated: October 23, 2009, 2:38 PM ET
By Jim McCormick | Special to ESPN.com

Not to discount the wonderful work that Stephania Bell does, nor to curse the fates of these men who live off of the resilience of their bodies, but it's been a remarkably calm season so far for prominent fantasy injuries. That is, on the offensive side of the ball.

Impact injuries are piling up over here in the land of defenders. Cleveland's D'Qwell Jackson, currently the league's third-leading tackler and last year's pace setter, was placed on IR this week much to the chagrin of his loyal owners. The league's second-leading sack artist and newly relevant fantasy star, Antwan Odom, also hit the IR this week, leaving Cincinnati to wonder what could have been now that its pass rush has suffered such a massive loss. Brian Urlacher's season-ender was well publicized, and now another middle 'backer, Seattle's Lofa Tatupu, is possibly done for the year. Philadelphia's Stewart Bradley was perhaps the biggest preseason loss in the league this season.

As the attrition of the season erodes our rosters, it's time to look toward the wire. Even if your team is relatively healthy, there is distinct value in knowing what is available to you in case you may need support down the line. Nerdy as it may seem, I try and have a few depth running backs and receivers targeted for those times that my team needs a last-second plug-in. Given the violence of playing defense, it makes sense then that we would also compose a short list of defenders that we'd likely look to in a time of need. In just a few plays, a roster can be ravaged, so be prepared and consider some of the names below as useful additions.

Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders

Jackson D'Qwell
Kevin Hoffman/US PresswireD'Qwell Jackson's 59 tackles will stand for now.

Infirmary: The aforementioned D'Qwell Jackson will see his gig likely split between depth 'backers David Veikune and Kaluka Maiava. Let the scenario play out before picking up either, as it's not a given that one will be worthy of fantasy attention. If anything, you may see some increased tackle numbers out of Kamerion Wimbley, who should have a solid week chasing down Aaron Rodgers. ... The loss of defensive tackle Kris Jenkins has more of a negative impact on the New York Jets' overall defense as a fantasy unit, but it might actually help some individual defenders in New York. In particular, linebacker David Harris should see more tackles come his way as tailbacks find an easier path to his level with the massive Jenkins on the sideline.

New homes: The Philadelphia Eagles made a rare impact deadline deal to net talented linebacker Will Witherspoon and with Omar Gaither placed on IR, the move was necessary. The recently signed Jeremiah Trotter, who had been a sports radio host over the past few years, looked as fast and nimble as a sports radio host on Sunday, getting garishly gashed over the middle by Oakland's Zach Miller on a long touchdown play. Consider Witherspoon immediately in deeper leagues, as there's little to block his path to a starting, three-down gig in the middle of the Philly defense. ... Now that Gaines Adams, the fourth overall pick in 2007, is a Chicago Bear, they can hope that they can reverse the curse of Cedric Benson. The Adams era in Tampa Bay was a decided failure, but he'll have much more help to produce on Chicago's line.

Undervalued: Washington's Andre Carter has been racking up the sacks and has been the primary beneficiary of Albert Haynesworth's presence. Consider adding the little-owned end now, as he'll be hard to get in a few weeks as his numbers continue to grow. ... Bernard Pollard, most (in)famous in fantasy circles for ending Tom Brady's 2008, had finally found a gig in late September with Houston and in just a month's time is already a productive starter for the Texans. In a particularly inconsistent defensive back season for fantasy purposes, Pollard is an ideal addition thanks to his penchant for piling up tackles.

DROY: The race to be the top defensive freshman is remarkably contentious now that Brian Cushing has caught up with James Laurinaitis in the race for the hardware. Cushing is flirting with top-5 linebacker numbers in most any format thanks to his amazing recent stretch of production, while Laurinaitis continues to pile up solo tackles and has notched interceptions in consecutive weeks. For keeper purposes, there are few better candidates, if any, than these two youngsters.

IDP Rankings Week 7: The Top 10 linebackers, linemen and defensive backs

So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle - Solo (1), Tackle - Assist (0.5), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (1), Blocked kick (2).

Bargain Bin: Worthy defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues

Detroit's Julian Peterson is on a bye but has 3.5 sacks over the past two weeks and in Week 8 and 9, he'll face the sieve offensive lines of St. Louis and Seattle. ... Pittsburgh's Lawrence Timmons is owned in fewer than 5 percent of ESPN.com leagues and is coming on strong lately. If you know anything about breakout campaigns from Steelers linebackers, then this guy is worth paying attention to. ... The Giants' Antonio Pierce posts solo tackles galore but nary a turnover or big play, making him a safe plug-in with little in terms of upside. ... Clay Matthews' defensive-end eligibility significantly adds to his value and usefulness in deep leagues, as he might just pull off the type of season we thought Aaron Kampman would. ... In abyss-deep leagues, Cleveland's Eric Barton faces the ever-sackable Aaron Rodgers this week. ... C.C. Brown had a breakout game last week and should continue his high-tackle ways against an Arizona offense that, last time I checked, likes to pass the ball.

Mailbag

"Ali" Chowdhury: Using your scoring modifiers, can you name the top 10 defenders for the rest of the fantasy season?

Jared Allen
Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMIDon't underestimate the leg up Jared Allen gives you over your opponent's defensive linemen.

Jim: I've had several of these Rotowski-esque requests and from time to time I'll try and update my rest-of-season rankings.

1. Patrick Willis, 49ers
2. Jared Allen, Vikings
3. James Harrison, Steelers
4. Elvis Dumervil, Broncos
5. David Harris, Jets
6. D.J. Williams, Broncos
7. London Fletcher, Redskins
8. Barrett Ruud, Bucs
9. Curtis Lofton, Falcons
10. Ray Lewis, Ravens

Clearly, I love me some linebackers, as eight of the 10 are purely 'backers. This makes sense, though, as they are the major source of production in IDP leagues and are the only really consistent forces to rely on. Allen's ranking is just further evidence of how truly elite he is, as his numbers aren't nearly as inconsistent as other top defensive ends. No defensive backs cracked the list, as it's been a down season for the position in fantasy. Maybe going forward we can conduct these rankings by position, as well. Let me know if that's something that would be helpful.

Jim McCormick is an IDP and fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as the editor and publisher of Blitz magazine, a print and online publication covering football from prep to pro. Contact espn.idp@gmail.com with all your IDP concerns.

Jim McCormick is a fantasy football and fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.