Olivier Vernon, DE, Giants
Perhaps this mention makes your face twist in confusion because he’s been owned in your league since draft day. But we’d bet there are leagues out there that saw Vernon get dropped as he was tallying just 1 sack through his 1st 7 games as a Giant.
But DC Steve Spagnuolo moved him from right end to left 3 games ago, which will nearly always pit him against an opponent’s weaker (or, at least, less athletic) OT. Plus, Vernon said last week that a wrist injury had bothered him through the 1st 7 weeks but felt better coming out of the bye.
He finally delivered his 2nd sack of the year Sunday and has collected 4 solo tackles in 3 of his past 4 games. Next comes a Cincinnati offense that entered Week 9 ranked 2nd worst in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate.
A healthier Vernon could also simply turn into a near-weekly starter for you.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Lions
To an even greater degree, Ansah will likely already be rostered in the leagues of most readers. But we’d rather including him unnecessarily than take his owned rate for granted and miss out on value.
Ansah still didn’t generate a sack in Sunday’s OT win over the Vikings—and didn’t even register a QB hit. He did, however, tally 5 solo tackles—including 1 for a loss. That’s his largest solo number since Week 2 of last season. Ansah entered Sunday with just 7 total tackles for this year.
He’s not going to suddenly morph into a well of tackle production, but we’ll take this level of activity as a signal his ankle is doing pretty well.
Now comes a Week 10 bye that should leave him feeling even better on the other side. We’d bet on sack numbers returning soon.
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Falcons
Clayborn remains on perhaps the biggest roll of his career.
Thursday night’s drubbing of the Bucs marked his 3rd straight game with 2+ QB hits, and the 5th such game among his past 6. He has converted 4 of those hits into sacks over just the past 3 weeks, with at least 1 in each contest.
Next up: a Philly offense that entered Week 9 ranked 20th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. Clayborn gets an opportunity boost every week as part of a defense facing the league’s 2nd most pass attempts per game (42.4).
Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins
Wake’s on fire since returning to the starting lineup. His past 3 games have produced 6 QB hits (2 in each contest) and 4 sacks. He delivered a season-high 2 sacks in Sunday’s win over the Jets, giving him 3.5 over the past 2 weeks.
Wake’s talent and DT Ndamukong Suh’s presence inside give him upside even in neutral-to-negative matchups.
Ryan Shazier, ILB, Steelers
Shazier spent Sunday showing that he’s officially back.
He played just 56.1% of the defensive snaps in his Week 7 return from a knee injury and collected just 2 solo tackles and a pass breakup. He started at Baltimore on Sunday, though, and racked up 9 tackles (6 solo) and a half-sack. His team totaled 3 sacks and 6 QB hits against a Baltimore offense that generally protects well.
A healthy Shazier is a weekly starter in most leagues, while a better-performing Pittsburgh D has a chance to create more big-play opportunities.
Gerald Hodges, ILB, 49ers
Hodges delivered his best fantasy line of the season his last time out—and then came back from the bye and beat it.
He took over Michael Wilhoite’s spot in Week 7 and tallied 8 tackles (7 solo) and an INT against the Bucs. On Sunday, Hodges topped that – depending on your scoring with 11 tackles (9 solo) and a sack.
Playing in the middle of a bad Niners D on 1 of the league’s fastest-paced teams is a great spot to be for IDP scoring opportunities.
Keenan Robinson, LB, Giants
Robinson’s playing time has climbed over the past 4 games, including a season-high 86.1% of the snaps in the Week 7 win in London.
Robinson came back from the bye to rack up a season-high 11 tackles (6 solo) in Sunday’s win over the Eagles. That followed an 8-tackle (7-solo) outing against the Rams, with pass breakups in each game. After defensing 6 total passes over the past 2 seasons, Robinson has already gotten his hands on 5 this year.
Week 10 brings the Bengals, who present a neutral scoring matchup for LBs overall. But 3 of Cincinnati’s past 4 opponents had a 10-tackle LB. The other, Cleveland, saw Christian Kirksey tally 9 tackles, a half-sack and a pass breakup.
Jake Ryan, ILB, Packers
Ryan entered Sunday leading his ILB partner, Blake Martinez, by 7 total tackles through 7 games. He widened that gap with a season-high 11 stops against the Colts, including 10 solos. That makes 2 straight games of 9+ tackles for Ryan, who also defensed his 3rd pass of the season in the loss to Indy.
Week 10 should find him busy again, on the road to face a run-heavy Titans offense. Tennessee hasn’t provided a great scoring matchup for LBs overall, but San Diego’s Korey Toomer on Sunday became the 4th LB to collect 9+ tackles against the Titans within just the past 3 weeks.
Eric Reid, S, 49ers
Reid has provided a solid – for a DB – 5+ tackles in 4 straight games, including 5+ solos in 3 of those. He collected 6 solo tackles and forced a fumble in the 1st meeting with Arizona, which comes up again on the schedule for Week 10.
The Cardinals hit their Week 9 bye allowing more fantasy points per game to DBs than any other team in the league.
Along with his career-best tackle rates, Reid defensed his 4th pass of the year Sunday against the Saints and collected 4 QB hits over his 1st 3 games.