Commentary

D Up: Week 2

Updated: September 15, 2007, 9:04 PM ET
By Jim McCormick | Special to ESPN.com

Week 2 is a funny and fickle time in the fantasy schedule. We chase opportunity in droves on the wire. Ownership statistics spike in a matter of hours when a Brandon Jacobs goes down and a Derrick Ward steps up. In most cases we are shooting the ground for oil, hoping that the production that inspired our interest isn't a mirage. It's in these first few weeks that the phonies are exposed and the gems shine brightest. A free-agent addition in mid-September has the potential to influence your fate more than your second-round pick. Some rode LT and Shawne Merriman to a championship last year while others won with Ronald Curry and Jarvis Green. It's all the same, isn't it?

The defensive side of the ball experiences these Ward-esque free agent binges as well. The difference being that the opportunities aren't as clear in IDP. While, on the offensive side, we can usually expect a certain ration of carries or touches for a player, the defensive side isn't nearly as predictable. If a starting three-down linebacker goes down, it's not always a guarantee that his replacement will bear that same workload; rather the team could employ a situation-based platoon.

All we can do to counter the injuries and underperformance that strike most of us during the season is pay attention to the numbers and the matchups. It sounds simple and cliché, but in IDP, paying attention can really improve your weekly performance. Is that sack-specialist you have stashed on your bench facing a bumbling, sack-prone passing offense like the Falcons? Many IDP managers sit on their rosters longer than their offensive talent, less apt to address a weakness or act on a prime matchup, less informed as to which players could provide instant production, slower to cut dead weight. Take advantage of this; don't be afraid to take a risk. There's little reason to trust your 21st pick just because you clicked "draft player" while in that weary, draft-drunk state of mind the 21st round tends to induce. Don't hesitate to take a flier on a player who provides more upside and potential than a depth player wallowing on your bench.

Starters

Consider using these players if you're in immediate need of impact defenders, especially in deep leagues.

Linebackers and Lineman: Patrick Willis needs a nickname. He looked simply menacing out there, channeling the intensity of Niners' linebackers coach Mike Singletary. Paris Lenon is a cheap tackle source to tap into if you're battling injury or depth issues. Mike Peterson was regarded as a top-five IDP talent going into 2006 but lost much of his season to a torn pectoral muscle. Now healthy, Peterson provides instant impact to your IDP roster. Barrett Ruud is a solid tackle prospect to consider. Michael Strahan should be owned in deeper IDP leagues. I mean come on, he's Michael Strahan. Would you be surprised by 10 sacks? The perpetually underrated Karlos Dansby is still available in more than half of ESPN leagues. Just look at the man's numbers please. Mario Williams was one of the most added defenders in fantasy this past week thanks to a huge Week 1 that included an impressive TD return. I'm adding or pursuing Rocky McIntosh in all of my leagues. I urge you to do the same. E.J. Henderson patrols the middle for a wildly underrated Minnesota front seven. He's available in the majority of ESPN leagues. Shaun Phillips was a beast last season and deserves much more love, my fellow nerds, much more. Dan Morgan is worth owning and starting if you feel you can afford the inherent injury risk.

Defensive Backs: Madieu Williams, or "Mad Will" as the cool kids call him, is a tackle-machine safety on a team that will consistently allow the runner to get into the secondary. Reggie Nelson was a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable week one for the Jags defense, tallying seven solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Oshiomogho Atogwe's name has never been mispronounced, ever. His name is mentioned often thanks to his jarring hits and forced fumbles, making him a nice play this week against the still evolving Cardinals' offense. Atari "2600" Bigby is in a spot to put up consistent numbers playing on a quietly loaded Packers' defense.

Sleepers

Target these guys for depth and bye-week plug-ins with an eye on their potential to be full-fledged starters.

Linebackers and Lineman: Napoleon Harris and Derrick Johnson are nice tackle values. Since peaking in 2004 with 14.5 sacks, Bertrand Berry has logged just 19 games and 12.5 sacks. He does have some sleeper value thanks to his role this new-look, fantasy-friendly Cards defense. He could see a return to the double-digit neighborhood thanks to the snaps he'll get at OLB in the 3-4 scheme. Kamerion Wimbley had a sack called back on a penalty last week, and should be targeted in deeper leagues. Dewayne White is the talk of the IDP market after his scintillating debut for the Lions. Detroit lured White from the Bucs this summer with a $29-million deal that raised more than a few eyebrows. But with two forced fumbles and one recovered, an interception, seven total tackles and a sack, the Ford family and fantasy owners alike should be happy they own his services. Target him for now, although he merits immediate ownership in deeper (12 teams or more) leagues. Keep an eye on Jon Beason as he adjusts to the league. Robert Geathers feasted on McNair last week and is coming off of a promising 10.5-sack 2006 campaign. He's a great addition in sack-heavy formats. Jarvis Green is a sack specialist in an ideal situation in New England. Scott Fujita was one of those players who got passed around most leagues last season thanks to his solid but unspectacular production. Stephen Cooper is an able starter surrounded by elite playmakers in San Diego, making him a nice value in deep leagues. Patrick Kerney has battled injuries the past few seasons but is now healthy and in a productive scheme in Seattle.

Defensive Backs: Safety Ko Simpson's broken ankle makes the 5'8'' 185 pound Jim Leonhard a starter for the Bills. The diminutive safety was impressive with 13 total tackles and an interception. Target him for depth or bye-week purposes. Fellow Bill Donte Whitner is still a work in progress in regards to coverage but his tackle potential alone makes him a value. Richard Marshall is the rare, if only, nickel back I'd consider owning in a standard IDP league. A string of injuries has forced Michael Boulware into a starting role for the Texans. If he can stay healthy, he'll post some nice outings. Terrence Holt's clutch forced fumble at the goal line on Monday night nearly won the game for the Cards. He'll likely be amped as he faces his brother Torry this week; a high-tackle performance is very possible.

Jim McCormick is a fantasy football and fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.