IDP Hits: Week 2
Go Beyond the Traditional Stats
Thursday night gave us the first game after the Eagles lost MLB Nakobe Dean to a foot injury.
I entered this season excited about the real-life and fantasy upside of the second-year Eagle. So let's kick this week off by looking at how they managed without him.
Nakobe Dean Replacement Plan
The Eagles put the green helmet dot on LB Nicholas Morrow Thursday night, just a few days after elevating him from the practice squad.
That tells us they activated LB Christian Elliss over him in the opener primarily for special teams purposes. It’s also interesting that Zach Cunningham didn’t take over defensive play calling in the wake of Nakobe Dean’s foot injury. Cunningham is the only LB who has started both games.
Morrow edged Cunningham by 2 snaps vs. the Vikings, but both played more than 90%. Cunningham easily led Morrow stat wise …
Cunningham: 8 tackles (5 solo), 1 tackle for loss
Morrow: 3 tackles (all solo), 1 QB hit
Neither looks particularly exciting going forward. Expect Cunningham to land just ahead of Morrow in our Week 3 rankings. We’ll keep assessing the situation beyond that.
Vikings undrafted rookie LB Ivan Pace Jr. has already beaten the odds by earning a starting job right away. Thursday night saw his playing time increase.
Pace went from 68% of the snaps in Week 1 to 79% against the Eagles. That could obviously continue to fluctuate, but betting on Pace (if it makes sense for your format) seems like a good idea.
He has tallied 8 tackles and a QB hit in each outing so far. And Pace already made it into our first IDP Waiver Wire Pickups article of the year.
What Else from Thursday Night?
Don’t overrate the tackle numbers for Vikings defenders in that game. The team racked up 94 total, as Philly held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game.
That’s just not going to happen much. Teams are averaging 63.8 total plays per game so far this year. Last season’s average was 63.0 per team game.
And just last week, Patriots defenders totaled 62 tackles against the Eagles.
That said, there are some takeaways from who is making those tackles:
- S Camryn Bynum has led Minnesota in tackles in each game so far, racking up 10 against the Bucs and then 15 against the Eagles. Playing at the back of a weak defense can be good for opportunity. These Vikings spent the second-most defensive snaps on the field last year and don’t look much better on defense so far this season. Expect Bynum to climb our Rest of Way rankings for Week 3.
- DT Harrison Phillips has notched 8 and 13 tackles through two games. Those are huge numbers for the position, and he’s not likely to sustain them. But Phillips’ playing time is up significantly vs. his first year with the Vikings. He has played 88% and 78% of snaps so far, 60 total in each game. He reached 50 snaps just three times all last year, including the playoff game.
Around the League
Now let’s get to some notes from other teams:
The Ravens lost FS Marcus Williams to a pectoral injury in Week 1. They’re hoping he’s not done for the season, but Wiliams will at least miss enough time to be droppable in nearly all redraft IDP leagues.
Geno Stone stepped in for him in Week 1 and figures to start going forward. Look for Stone to play deep more than fellow safety Kyle Hamilton, and thus be the weaker bet for consistently usable fantasy production.
Brandon Stephens also played full-time in Week 1. He has moved around the Baltimore secondary as a versatile fill-in since arriving in 2021. But Stephens started at CB in the opener. Expect him to stay there at least until Marlon Humphrey returns, which won’t be this week.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah led Browns LBs in Week 1 playing time. We like that for the talented second-year player.
But we’ll need more than his 77% snap share to count on him in weekly IDP lineups.
Anthony Walker (59%) and Sione Takitaki (41%) trailed well behind, supporting JOK as the expected leader. But I’ll be watching for more playing time before pushing him up the rankings.
It’s important not to overreact to Week 1 results. But it’s also important to not under-react.
One significant change I made after Week 1 was boosting LB Zaire Franklin well up the Rest of Way LB rankings, and knocking LB Shaquille Leonard down a bit.
Leonard still sits ninth in our default rankings, so it’s not like I’m souring on a guy I touted preseason. But Franklin played 100% of snaps vs. Leonard’s 86% against Jacksonville. And the broadcast team said Colts coaches talked about Franklin “taking over” the defense in his second year.
I still like both players for IDP use going forward. But Franklin’s the top bet.
Los Angeles Rams
Rookie Edge Byron Young played an impressive 84% of snaps in his first game. He logged an even more impressive 5 total pressures against the Seahawks.
The Round 3 pick with a 4.43-second 40 time doesn’t make for a great starting option just yet, especially against the 49ers. But he’ll bear watching where eligible at DL/Edge.
Young delivered 23.5 tackles for loss across the past two seasons at Tennessee.
LB David Long has already disappeared from our season-long rankings. That’s what happens when you play just 17 snaps in the opener.
Jerome Baker and Andrew Van Ginkel worked as the top two non-edge LBs. That’s no change for Baker. But Van Ginkel’s opener was noteworthy.
Van Ginkel played almost exclusively as an off-ball LB after working almost exclusively on the edge last year. His 63% playing time in Week 1 is low for a non-edge LB. But if he qualifies as a DL or Edge in your league, you could take advantage of relative tackle upside with Van Ginkel’s role change.
LB Cole Holcomb seemed a pretty good bet for full playing time after signing for $6 million per year in free agency amid a rebuild at the position. But his 78% playing time came out too close to Kwon Alexander’s 69% in Week 1.
We’ll see whether that picks up over the next few weeks. It’ll need to if he’s going to be a top-20 fantasy LB.
Let’s watch the playing time on LBs Azeez Al-Shaair and Jack Gibbens.
Al-Shaair – the veteran former 49er – got the clear lead in Week 1: 98% to 65%. But Pro Football Focus graded Gibbens as Tennessee’s second-best defender in the game – and well ahead of the rest of the group.
Al-Shaair ranked 15th in overall grade among 19 who played. He trailed Gibbens by wide margins in run defense and coverage.
PFF grades don’t always line up with how a team feels about a player. And Tennessee coaches will obviously decide who’s on the field more.
But Al-Shaair’s on just a one-year deal and has 32 starts among his 57 NFL games to date – most of those as an injury fill-in. If Gibbens continues to outplay him, we could see the second-year LB gain playing time, perhaps at the expense of the vet.
- Titans Edge Harold Landry didn’t produce much in his return from losing 2022 to an ACL tear. He did, at least, get almost all the way back to his pre-injury playingtime. Landry’s 88% snap share fell just short of the 90-100% he played weekly in 2021. That’s obviously good. But he sits low in our rankings primarily on fear that his production will lag post-injury – not concern for his playing time.
- Packers Edge Rashan Gary went the other way in Week 1. He came off last year’s Week 9 ACL tear to deliver 5 hurries among just 10 pass-rushing chances against the Bears last week. That’s terrific efficiency … but also a playing-time level nowhere near fantasy usability. And, of course, it was about as good a pass-rushing matchup as he’ll see. We’ll see how Gary builds on his return game.
- Seahawks LB Jordyn Brooks played 64% of the snaps in Seattle’s surprising Week 1 loss to the Rams. That he played at all just eight months after his ACL tear is a victory. And his 14.8% share of team total tackles says we can use Brooks even on a smaller snap share than we’d prefer. We’ll see whether that playing time climbs. But even a healthy Brooks will be just the second-best LB in this year’s defense, which regained Bobby Wagner in the offseason.
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