- Jim McCormick, Fantasy Sports
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And just like that, it's halftime.
Seven weeks in doesn't really represent the halfway mark of the NFL's regular season, but it does mean many fantasy owners are halfway through their fantasy seasons. Whether you have six or seven (or more) weeks left to make your run at imagined glory, the point is that the season has sped right along, and we're already preparing for the second half of the fantasy campaign.
Going along with this "halfway" theme, the timing is right to hand out our first-half IDP awards. So let's begin:
DL MVP: Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings. Leading the league in sacks seems to be something this rodeo fanatic has become accustomed to. In fact, he's on pace to have a career season in that regard, despite a down season for the Vikings. Another element to his MVP worthiness: He has helped create lanes and one-on-one matchups for line peer Brian Robison, who has proved to be capable of big outings, albeit in more of a boom-or-bust fashion.
Honorable mention: Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants. Four monster games and two other respectable outings have kept his owners quite content. The return of teammate Justin Tuck has been delayed a few weeks now, but it's pretty clear this Giants team knows how to continually draft and groom defensive line studs.
DB MVP: George Wilson, Buffalo Bills. Forgive him for his modeling aspirations and instead marvel at the transformation this college receiver has made into a pro safety. Wilson left the University of Arkansas with the second-most receptions in school history (144 catches for 2,151 yards), but he made the shift to safety in 2007 after toiling at receiver in the Buffalo system, and has become a playmaker and punisher in the role. He never recorded a reception in his three NFL games as a receiver, but he returned a Tony Romo pass for a pick-six in his debut as a safety. He has three interceptions this season to go with a healthy tackle pace.
Honorable mention: Jason McCourty, Tennessee Titans. Last season it was Tennessee's Alterraun Verner who infused fantasy rosters with consistent production from the cornerback position; now McCourty is proving valuable while manning an island for the Titans. With two picks, a sack and a forced fumble already on the season, to go along with an increasingly valuable tackle clip, this fantasy gem should be owned in more than 37 percent of ESPN leagues.
LB MVP: Desmond Bishop, Green Bay Packers. Bishop burst onto the IDP scene last season as the Packers' front seven and linebackers corps were eroding early on, and he hasn't stopped producing since. Not only is he good for some nice secular wordplay with your team name if you so choose, but there is immense value in having this consistent producer in your lineup. With three sacks and a roving role on a team that puts pressure on the opposition with regularity, Bishop makes for a prime trade candidate while he's on bye this week if you weren't lucky enough to net him on draft day.
Honorable mention: D'Qwell Jackson, Cleveland Browns. Another productive 'backer with a fun name, Jackson has resurrected his career in Cleveland and is finally getting some love in terms of his growing ownership percentage (now at 52 percent of ESPN leagues).
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Look into Levy: Detroit's DeAndre Levy has been an IDP sleeper for a few seasons now, and it seems he has finally awoken. Over the past month, Levy has 46 tackles in four games. Don't expect much in the big-play department from Levy, but a steady stream of solo tackles is plenty valuable in most formats, and he's available in more than 97 percent of ESPN leagues.
Mr. Miller: The regular inclusion of Von Miller in this section is due to the lack of attention he's getting in ESPN leagues. The "super rook" is owned in just less than 15 percent of ESPN leagues but has at least one sack in every game since his debut, and even in that contest, he forced a fumble. Sure, he has the makings of a boom-or-bust sack specialist, but it clearly has been a good deal of boom so far.
Mighty healthy: The Carolina Panthers have some nice talent at the linebacker position, but they're rarely able to get it all on the field. The rare durable defender of the group is James Anderson, who for the past season-plus has produced healthy tackle numbers while remaining healthy.
Bargain bin: Each week we profile players owned in less than 40 percent of ESPN leagues, and often we seek out those dramatically below this ownership threshold. Jacksonville's Daryl Smith has been a consistent source of tackles for a Jags corps of linebackers that has proved proficient at times. San Diego's Donald Butler is owned in few leagues now, but he continues to be a productive force. Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons, who gets little fanfare, has proved he can consistently collapse the offensive pocket since the start of the 2010 season. Sticking in Seattle, safety Kam Chancellor is outplaying Earl Thomas in terms of fantasy, and if you don't want to own a dude with such a cool name, that's just sad.
Week 8 Rankings: Top 20 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 (0.5), Tackle -- assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (0.5), Blocked kick (3).
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.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg