D Up! Week 2: Rivers, Kiwanuka on the rise
Ouch. Talk about a rough Week 1. With a number of stars bowing out to major injuries in this first week, many fantasy owners are trying to pick up the pieces just 10 days into the long fantasy season. While losing a star player for the season is certainly no fun, for him, his real team and your fantasy squad alike, it is important to remember that injuries are part of what makes fantasy so compelling.
Just a few seasons ago, I had a team that hosted more ACL tears than Veterans Stadium. On both sides of the ball, key contributors were regularly getting little red "IR" labels next to their names. The rapid erosion of talent on my team forced me to get creative, to play unknowns and make dramatic trades. My team, "The Dr. James Andrews Project," somehow made the league finals that winter with a starting lineup that looked like an NFL Europe roster. Managing that team and maximizing the limited talent available made the season ultimately rewarding, even more than some championships I've won.
The point being, you can recover from your losses if you hustle. The ideal way to do improve your team is, of course, the free way. Even in deeper leagues, the waiver wire is still ripe with talent. This rings even truer in IDP leagues since many managers are slower to edit their defensive rosters. Don't wait to make changes to your team solely based on timing. Who cares if it's early in the season? Get out there and make your team better when the opportunity presents itself.
Consider using these players if you are in immediate need of impact defenders, especially in deep leagues.
Defensive backs: San Diego's relatively unheralded safety tandem of Eric Weddle and Clinton Hart deserves to be owned in more than just 10 and 30 percent of ESPN leagues, respectively. The duo combined for 21 tackles this past week and could be busy with ball carriers all season behind an ailing Bolts front seven. Add Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan not only because he has a pretty rad name, but because he's also a consistently productive DB who'll win you some weeks with a breakout performance, like his two-interception effort this past week. Hard-hitting legend Rodney Harrison hasn't been a valued fantasy commodity since 2004, the last season he suited up for a full 16 games. He's off to an auspicious start so far with a dominant 14-tackle debut, but be wary of looming injury concerns for a player who's racked up nearly 1,200 tackles. Chris Harris is a punishing, game-changing fantasy writer, um, I mean safety, who had a simply awesome 2007 campaign, leading the league in forced fumbles. Whatever he did last offseason to adjust his tackling technique, it continues to work, as he jarred yet another ball loose this past week. Add him now if you can, as he's still available in more than 40 percent of ESPN leagues. Despite getting annihilated by the beast that is Brandon Jacobs last week, LaRon Landry still put up solid numbers and will start inflicting punishment rather than taking it as the season wears on.
Target these guys for depth and bye-week plug-ins with an eye on their potential to be full-fledged starters.
Defensive backs: Sadly, most football fans will remember Bernard Pollard as the guy who rolled on Tom Brady's knee. He should be known, however, for being an emerging young safety with a growing reputation for punishment in the open field. He's primed to break out this season, so make room for him on your roster. The Dolphins' Yeremiah Bell is forcing his way onto fantasy teams with his awesome Week 1 that saw him post 10 tackles and a forced fumble versus the Jets. He should be busy once again this Sunday chasing the Cardinals' talented receivers. Owned in over 48 percent of ESPN leagues, Adam Jones gets waaaay too much fantasy love for what he currently offers. For one, the nickname is gone so it's not nearly as fun to own him, and two, he simply doesn't put up legit fantasy totals outside of leagues that count returns. Nick Harper, on the other hand, who has replaced Jones on the Titans, is a vastly undervalued corner with just 7 percent of fantasy managers considering him roster-worthy. Harper posted 77 tackles last season and is a veteran leader on an emerging Titans defense that will need to be stellar throughout to keep this team in contention.
Jim McCormick is an analyst for ESPN.com fantasy football.