D Up! Week 8: Remember to pay attention to matchups
The reason that most of us who play in individual defensive player leagues do so is because it affords us more control over our teams. We don't choose a team offense for our fantasy team, so why do the same with the defensive side of the ball?
There is a price to be paid, however, for this higher degree of malleability of our rosters. That price is more time and attention. To get the most production out of our IDP talent, we not only need to have drafted well, but more importantly, manage deftly throughout the season. Just like how a few critical waiver moves can save your fantasy backfield, the same can be said of your secondary. The question we've been considering lately in this column is how do we identify production and potential in an individual defender? Who is ripe for the picking? Unfortunately, there is a lack of readily available metrics for defenders compared to what we have at our disposal for our offensive rosters, like touches and targets.
As simple as it seems, we should use many of the same indicators that prove helpful when deciding on which team defense/special teams to employ in a given week. There are a few especially helpful sites and indexes to peruse, among them ESPN's NFL stats page, specifically the giveaway/takeaway results and ever-descriptive miscellaneous modifier, which breaks down total tackles and passes defended per team, both particularly useful IDP categories.
Consider using these players if you are in immediate need of impact defenders, especially in deep leagues.
Defensive backs: Further proof that memories are short in IDP leagues -- Sean Jones is rostered in just 32.4 percent of leagues. The elite fantasy DB has missed much of the season but is back for the Browns and has already resumed his productive ways. I've added Jones in every league that I could. You do the same. Last week, we discussed Thomas Davis as a valuable linebacker, this week he's a defensive back. And why not? Just like how some leagues had Marques Colston as a tight end or Chris Cooley as running back in years past, Davis' linebacker/safety distinction is an awesome position eligibility loophole to exploit. Chris Gamble has an ideal name for an aggressive defensive back. That, and he's on pace for a career-high in tackles and is entrenched in a ball-hawking Carolina secondary. Yeremiah Bell's ownership leaped nearly 20 percent this week, and for good reason -- the guy produces. Trust Bell for another nice tackle outing against an efficient Bills' passing attack. Oshiomogho Atogwe and Chinedum Ndukwe are phonetic nightmares who are also wrecking havoc on the field of late. Both are good for a steady diet of tackles with some legit big-play potential to boot. Washington's Chris Horton simply makes plays. Paired with LaRon Landry, for perhaps years to come, they form the most underrated and imposing safety tandem in football.
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 Jets' Shaun Ellis rarely will net you a "huge" game, but with sacks in five of six games, he's as steady as they come and faces a Chiefs' line that allows three sacks per game. Kawika Mitchell is a better "real" player than fantasy contributor, but against a run-heavy Miami offense, his tackle numbers could make him worthy of a spot-start in deep leagues. ... Juqua Parker has been quietly dominant of late and could be the rare defensive end that gives the Falcons fits. Much like Ernie Sims, Dewayne White is a productive Lion who merits more attention. The Redskins have been known to blow an assignment here and there and that could result in some nice numbers for White this week. After a hot start Bryan Thomas has been fairly boom or bust of late but is apt to boom this week against the hapless Tyler "Don't Call Me Yancey" Thigpen.
Jim McCormick is an analyst for ESPN.com fantasy football.