- Jim McCormick, Fantasy Sports
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Let's all thank Al Davis for keeping Oakland relevant for all the wrong reasons. This week, as you likely know, Davis cut mercurial "cover" corner DeAngelo Hall after having spent a second-round pick to acquire him from the Falcons and at least $8 million in bonus dough on him (that's a million per game!). In real football considerations, Hall was not having a good year in the least; he had given up the most yards in the league and tied for allowing the third most receptions. Hardly Pro Bowl material from the "Mouth of the South."
But in the fantasy realm, Hall had quite a statistical campaign going with 49 tackles and three picks. Because he was giving up so many receptions and yards, opposing teams targeted him a ton, thus the career tackle pace. Hall was playing opposite Nnamdi Asomugha in Oakland, an actual cover corner and widely regarded among league insiders as the best cornerback in football not named Champ Bailey.
The point here is that sometimes in fantasy, specifically in the IDP format, it's good to be bad. Essentially, Asomugha doesn't tally fantasy-worthy stats (21 tackles and zero picks) because he's so feared by QBs, who have stayed away from his side ever since his breakout eight-interception performance in 2006. Hall, on the other hand (or side), was more targeted than a dartboard because of Asomugha's imposing abilities and Hall's own deficiencies in coverage. We find these "bad equals good" scenarios all over the IDP landscape. For example, before a rash of injuries hit, the Broncos boasted three incredibly productive linebackers (D.J. Williams, Nate Webster and Boss Bailey) because their sieve of a defensive line regularly allowed ball carriers into the second level.
Peruse these telling defensive stats and you'll find the teams that accumulate the highest volume of tackles are often the worst against the run. In most cases, bad defenses equate to some nice IDP values. If you are looking for a safe and steady source of tackles, look to the linebackers and safeties from porous run defenses. The Lions' Paris Lenon, for example, is quietly on pace for 100 tackles this season thanks to his spot behind a weak line, and is available in 94 percent of ESPN leagues. Once again, bad means good in this case, as Michael Jackson once taught us.
Consider using these players if you are in immediate need of impact defenders, especially in deep leagues.
Linebackers and linemen: It would be tough for Joey Porter's mouth to get any bigger, but I have a feeling it can, and will. Without much fanfare, most likely due to said mouth, Porter is on pace for 23 sacks this season, which would be some sort of record or something. Just imagine if Porter nets the record, or even flirts with it down the stretch; we'll be hearing a lot more from his considerable vocal chords. That said, Porter is rostered in just 48.2 percent of ESPN leagues, a crying shame if you ask this fantasy nerd. Add him now so you can enjoy the looming sound bites as he racks up sacks for your team. Those of us who watched Thursday night's redux of "The Drive" in Cleveland learned that Shaun Rogers can dunk both forward and backward, an incredible feat if you've ever seen this behemoth of a man in action. We're not talking about dunking Oreos here, rather we're talking basketballs. I guess I bring this up because, despite his poor outing last night, this uniquely athletic tackle has some favorable matchups on the docket and is available in nearly half of ESPN leagues. James Farrior has posted just one game with fewer than five fantasy points this season and yet he's still widely available for the click of a plus symbol. Please give this man the fantasy home he deserves. Consider Leroy Hill the Dwayne Bowe of individual defenders; as Ken Daube brilliantly pointed out in his column this week, Bowe is the most consistent offensive fantasy force, if not the most the prolific. Hill, for his part, has averaged over seven fantasy points per game and rarely leaves his few fantasy owners in the lurch with a weak outing. As I mentioned in the intro, bad defenses afford us good value with defenders, and Hill fits the mold. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Mathias Kiwanuka gets to Donovan McNabb at least once this Sunday night. Grab him if you like that sort of thing. Paul Posluszny's ridiculously wide neck says, "I'm a linebacker, and will likely tackle you." So listen to the man's neck and add him now.
Defensive backs: Welcome back Bob Sanders, from your annual street clothes stretch on the sideline. Now that he's a go (and available in more than half of ESPN leagues), look for him to notch nice tackle numbers against a run-heavy Pittsburgh offense this week. Rex Grossman: Latin for "one who throws interceptions." Consider that Chris Hope has three picks in his past two outings and now gets to face Grossman this week. Also consider fellow Titans Michael Griffin and Nick Harper this week, as multiple picks are quite possible, if not likely. Darrelle Revis provides you with a nice blend of tackles, interceptions and passes defended. Adrian Wilson posted his first sack in two seasons this past week and if you've ever read this column, I kinda love him. I've said it throughout the season, but it's worth mentioning again, Thomas Davis is a productive linebacker with DB eligibility in fantasy. It's not cheating if ESPN says it's OK.
Target these guys for depth and bye-week plug-ins with an eye on their potential to be full-fledged starters.
Linebackers and linemen: Jerod Mayo needs to team up with O.J. Mayo and force Hellmann's into a lucrative endorsement deal. Oh yeah, you should also consider the Patriots rookie a nice addition to your fantasy squad, given his nice tackle clip and maturation in Bill Belichick's complicated defense. Following the TMR's "two first names theory," Thomas Howard is a nice fantasy option to consider as teams regularly run rampant on Oakland. Kalimba Edwards is another Raider who is having a nice fantasy season thanks to his healthy sack production, proving that there is some fantasy value in the Coliseum, just not on offense. Kris Jenkins has been a beast this season and is the preeminent reason the Jets have been good against the run. Against a weak St. Louis line, Jenkins could put up some nice numbers. Chris Long has been impressive so far with little help. He could net a sack against an ailing Brett Favre.
Defensive backs: Cedric Griffin is quietly, nearly silently, on his way to 96 tackles for an improving Minnesota secondary. Speaking of that Minnesota secondary, Madieu Williams is back from injury and could provide an immediate boost to your fantasy team. Kevin Payne has a simply awesome last name for a safety. He's also been a steady source of tackles and faces some sloppy QBs in the coming weeks, which could net him some picks as well. I was really high on Antrel Rolle heading into the season, and I've come down considerably since, thanks to his mediocre production. But much like Adrian Wilson, Rolle is back to putting up big numbers and there are few better big-play options to consider.
Jim McCormick is an analyst for ESPN.com fantasy football.