- Jim McCormick, Fantasy Sports
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It was a tough opening week for superstar defenders with last names beginning with "B."
We lost an elite linebacker to a torn Achilles in Carolina's Jon Beason. The middle man for the Panthers was a tackle maven and an emerging playmaker who had just signed a massive pact, assuring him years of menacing play in teal and black (not the easiest colors to call on). I discuss the ramifications of his absence in the Front Four below.
Equally devastating was the torn ACL suffered by our top-ranked defensive back, Eric Berry of Kansas City. The second-year dynamo promised a blend of playmaking and punishment that few defenders in the league can claim. The fantasy fallout isn't quite as clear as with Beason, and his owners must simply chalk this one up to the attrition of the game. We do, however, have some solid defensive back tandems that are flying under the radar for you to consider if you lost Berry for the season. But hey, you still have Matthew Berry, who would likely have to play through such an injury, being a company man and all.
Injuries happen, we are all well aware of this blunt reality in the NFL, and for both the real teams and our fantasy teams, depth will be tested.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Bishop the 'Backer: In a move that would make certain neighborhoods in Belfast tremor, the Green Bay Packers have both a Catholic and a Protestant team chaplain. But more relevant to our purposes, they also have a bishop on board in Desmond Bishop; a young 'backer from Cal by way of the juco circuit, has earned his way onto every team he's ever played with and last year made his impression felt as a spot-starter turned stud impact player as the team chased glory and rings. Now a fixture as an inside linebacker for the Packers, he produces at a brilliant clip for Green Bay and his savvy fantasy owners. Available in nearly 40 percent of ESPN leagues, it's time to get a Bishop on board. If you lost out on Bishop and truly lost out as a Beason owner, stick with the Carolina roster and go get Dan Connor before it's too late. While he has had durability concerns of his own, when Connor has manned the middle for the Panthers, the numbers have been rewarding.
All well with D'Qwell: The Cleveland defense has yet to form an identity despite investing heavily in drafts over the past several seasons. Defensive backs Joe Haden and T.J. Ward are special talents, but the front seven has gone relatively nameless for some time now. That should change with the reemergence of D'Qwell Jackson, a one-time star who has struggled with injuries over the past few seasons but who is now ready and able to dominate from a real and statistical perspective. A huge Week 1 got him noticed, but the Browns 'backer remains next to a plus symbol in nearly 70 percent of ESPN leagues. Join the minority on this one and enjoy the ride.
DB Duos: As we mentioned above in regard to replacing an elite commodity like Berry, there are some strong options floating around in IDP leagues, as the crowd hasn't realized where the rewards are just yet. Starting in Buffalo, safeties George Wilson and Bryan Scott boast some value. Jairus Byrd remains the playmaker of the secondary in Orchard Park, and while these other two seemingly share the strong safety gig it's important to note that Scott plays a hybrid linebacker/defensive back role in nickel situations and most third downs, lending him worthy tackle opportunities and production while retaining a defensive back distinction for roster purposes. The versatile Scott put up nine tackles and a sack last week and is a player to keep a target on. [e] Looking to the Rams duo of undervalued defensive backs, consider Craig Dahl and Bradley Fletcher as sound options that go underappreciated on a team that opponents pass on regularly. [e] One more defensive back sleeper to wake up to is Morgan Burnett in Green Bay, who is owned just 10 percent of ESPN leagues but will be a statistical star in due time.
Baltimore Boys: Ray Lewis has been, and truly does remain, an elite force in fantasy, but the name to covet on that defense for fantasy purposes is outside 'backer/defensive end hybrid Terrell Suggs. With three sacks last week and a penchant for causing chaos in the backfield and in the pocket, get "T-Sizzle" through trade, barter or befriending his owner, because there are few defensive line options that make for better fantasy commodities given his dual citizenship in ESPN leagues across the two valuable positions.
IDP Rankings Week 2
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Solo tackle (0.5), assisted tackle (0.25), sack (3), interception (3), forced fumble (3), fumble recovery (3), touchdown (6), safety (2), pass defended (0.5), blocked kick (3).
Please note the injury designation regarding the players' status in parentheses where applicable: (D): Doubtful, (Q): Questionable, (P): Probable.
Top 20 Linebackers
Top 20 Defensive Linemen
Top 20 Defensive Backs
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com and the high school football editor for ESPNHS.com. Contact him at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or @JMacPhillies on Twitter.
Jim McCormick highlights some of the top options for IDP leagues in Week 2.