- Jim McCormick, Fantasy Sports
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For those managers out there with teams that are 0-5, 1-4 or 2-3, it's time to get dramatic. We are nearly halfway through the fantasy regular season, and therefore it's time to make some moves if you are wallowing in your league's basement.
Dramatic action can take many forms; making trades, cutting dead weight or gambling on more risk/reward scenarios than you would otherwise. Too often I've been in leagues where struggling teams' managers give up on their season far too early after a few tough injuries or losses. You scream at your flat screen all Sunday asking that the on-field warriors give it their all, and you should ask the same of yourself. In IDP leagues, there's more potential to make up ground on the wire than in traditional leagues. There's generally more talent available to you if you capitalize on the emerging talent.
Consider using these players if you are in immediate need of impact defenders, especially in deep leagues.
Linebackers and linemen: Ernie Sims' ownership has dropped to an unacceptable 43 percent in ESPN leagues. Look, we all know the Lions are horrible; atrocious, even. It's to the point where it's getting increasingly difficult to find adjectives that adequately express their ineptitude, but in "Good Will Hunting" form, I have to say: It's not your fault Ernie, it's not your fault. For as poor as the Lions are on defense, Sims has continued to put up awesome tackle numbers and deserves to be rostered in nearly every league. Philly's new man in the middle, Stewart Bradley, has proven to be a very sound run defender and should continue to put up solid tackle numbers despite his deficiencies in pass defense. Nate Webster has capably replaced D.J. Williams in the middle this season and can be trusted as a weekly starter. Webster is the ideal example of a player benefiting from a favorable role in his given defense. Paul Posluszny has officially been added to my spell-check roster, and is equally deserving of a place on your fantasy squad. With the Bills on a bye, his ownership has dropped, making him a great player to stash on your bench. I've extolled Freddie Keiaho and his healthy tackle production all season, but it's also worth noting that fellow Colts linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session are valuable fantasy commodities in their own right. Brackett is an established performer and well-known among the IDP crowd, but Session is just now earning shine, and behind the weak Indy defensive line all three of these 'backers should post nice tackles totals. Justin Smith continues to prove effective as a stand-up pass rusher for the San Fran defense and is particularly of fantasy value in leagues that afford him OLB and DE eligibility. Joey Porter has a notoriously big mouth, but he can back it up with his play: a rare feat. Consider Porter the ultimate boom/bust fantasy play in the vein of Lee Evans, with this week's matchup against the Texans having nice boom potential.
Defensive backs: Jacksonville safety Brian Williams has done a good job while teammate Reggie Nelson has battled injury. Williams has consistently produced for his few faithful fantasy fans, and will continue to produce even when Nelson rejoins him in the secondary. Eric Weddle has been the most valuable defender for the Chargers so far this season, and should continue to post good numbers behind a struggling front seven. Lawyer Malloy probably isn't a great source for legal advice despite the name; however, he is enjoying a statistical renaissance and deserves attention from those suffering from underproduction from their DBs. Given the way he plays and how the defense utilizes him, Michael Lewis should be considered a linebacker/safety hybrid considering how often he's in the box. While he'll never put up great interception or pass defense numbers, Lewis' tackle production is as steady as they come. . For further proof that it takes a few years to grade a draft adequately, it took Donte Whitner a few seasons to live up to his billing, but he's doing so now on this surprisingly effective Buffalo defense. Target Whitner as an ideal addition to your roster, especially if he's been dropped during the bye. Gibril Wilson is owned in most respectable IDP leagues but in those in which he's still available, end the madness and add him. Wilson has yet to truly take off statistically, so if he is owned in your league, consider trading for him before he puts together a string of big outings.
Target these guys for depth and bye-week plug-ins with an eye on their potential to be full -fledged starters.
Linebackers and linemen: The fantasy community left Takeo Spikes for dead after a disappointing 2007 in Philadelphia. No doubt that Spikes was a beast in Cincinnati, and when healthy in Buffalo. Now in a favorable role in San Francisco, he's back to putting up solid tackles and is making plays once again in the passing game. Much like Spikes, Mike Peterson is a former fantasy stud who has fallen out of favor due to injury and recent underwhelming numbers. Also like Spikes, Peterson is enjoying a resurgence in production and has value in deep leagues. . The little-known, little-owned David Herron takes over the middle in the Vikings' defense now that E.J. Henderson is on IR and done for his season. Consider Herron a depth addition for now with potential to force his way on your starting docket. Zach Diles isn't DeMeco Ryans, but the fellow Texans linebacker actually has better numbers than Ryans. He merits increased ownership as there's a lot of potential production behind an undersized line. As unlikely as it seems, Boss Bailey is for now the most useful Bailey brother for fantasy purposes, thanks to his healthy tackle clip and recent penchant for making plays.
Defensive backs: In limited time early in the season, Chris Horton was putting up starter-like numbers and has subsequently earned a starting gig in the Washington defense. Add Horton now before your fantasy peers take notice. Antoine Winfield gets the pub and the fantasy love, but Cedric Griffin is a remarkably consistent source of tackles and could have a strong day knocking down errant Detroit passes. Tampa Bay legend Ronde Barber has quietly amassed Canton-worthy numbers and, despite a down 2007, is again producing at a valuable clip. Thankfully, there's no fantasy metric for giving up hordes of penalty yards, thus making Kevin Kaesviharn a nice bye-week plug-in for those in need. "K2" is particularly of use this week against a potentially sloppy Oakland offense. Because he's on the bye, Nick Harper is widely available in fantasy leagues, but he deserves more ownership playing with a brilliant Tennessee defense.
Jim McCormick is an analyst for ESPN.com fantasy football.
Jim McCormick looks at the top defensive players likely available as free agents, including a number of veterans.