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Week 12 IDP Hits

By Matt Schauf 10:51pm EST 11/21/14

You've no doubt already seen the IDP edition of the Free Agent Focus that we run every Monday, and the defensive positions in the weekly rankings that try to reveal any matchup sleepers.

But there's a lot of other stuff going on -- beyond the injury report -- that doesn't fit into those features. So here's a quick roundup of some items I picked up during the past week of IDP research:


Willie Young, DE, Bears

Young's Week 11 sack against the Vikings was his 1st in 4 games. Over that 4-game stretch, he has totaled 0 QB hits and 6 hurries behind the lone sack. In fact, Pro Football Focus credits Young with just 1 QB hit (not counting sacks) all year. And only once has he logged more than 2 hurries in a game.

What's all that mean? The recent cold streak doesn't look like a star pass-rusher simply meeting bad luck. It looks more like regression to the mean for a guy who wasn't playing as well early as his sack tallies seemed to indicate.

This week brings a matchup with Bucs RT Demar Dotson, who hasn't allowed a sack in 4 games and grades out 13th among all OTs in pass-blocking for the season, according to PFF.


Malik Jackson, DL, Broncos

Jackson might be the best bet among all Denver linemen not named DeMarcus Ware to deliver quality fantasy production -- if he were to get the consistent playing time.

Week 11 brought a season high in that area, seeing Jackson play 57.6% of the Broncos' defensive snaps. That share wasn't out of line with his previous numbers. Jackson has finished every week between 44% and 58%, and the difference within that range can often come down to just a few snaps.

The biggest difference against the Rams might have been that Jackson played more run downs than usual, logging 20 run-D snaps to beat his previous high of 14. That's more likely to happen when your opponent runs it 33 times vs. 29 pass attempts, but it sure wouldn't hurt Jackson to see more plays with the base defense.

This guy can play DT or DE, though the Broncos have lined him up outside more often this year. As a 4-3 DE, Jackson grades out 6th overall in Pro Football Focus' ratings: 10th at the position in pass-rushing and tied for 4th in run D.

He'll turn just 25 in January and remains an upside dynasty option. But if you play in a deep redraft league, Jackson also faces upside matchups in the Dolphins this week, and then the Chiefs and Bills the next 2 games.


Alec Ogletree, OLB, Rams

Did you draft this 2nd-year LB in the summer and then wonder why he didn't deliver much for you early in the season? Well, perhaps he was just too fat.

"I don't think he was in the best of shape when he came to camp," HC Jeff Fisher told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week. "And so, I think he's played himself into really good shape right now."

Fisher also added that he thinks Ogletree has a "much better feel for what he's doing" than he did earlier in the season. But whatever the exact combo, the weak-side starter has turned it on lately.

Ogletree has earned his 3 best game grades of the season from Pro Football Focus over the past 3 weeks, including his only 2 positive coverage ratings of the year and 2 of his 3 best run-D grades. And the fantasy numbers -- including big plays -- have rocketed him back into the top 10 among LBs.

If Ogletree can show a better offseason work ethic going forward, there's no reason he shouldn't be a perennial top-20 fantasy LB. The talent's certainly there. And he looks good as an IDP starter the rest of the way this year.


Brian Cushing, ILB, Texans

Cushing returned to his normal workload in Week 11 after taking 2 games off to rest his bothersome repaired knee. He played 77.2% of the defensive snaps in the win over Cleveland after logging 79.1%, 96.6% and 67.9% in his previous 3 games.

The knee flare-up right around the time of that season-high workload might not have been a coincidence. Don't expect Cushing to climb past his current load the rest of the way, which is still enough for this talented LB to deliver some helpful fantasy numbers. His decreased playing time -- and, of course, the balky joint -- certainly lower his ceiling, however.


James Laurinaitis, MLB, Rams

Laurinaitis has seen his pass-rushing role grow lately. After totaling no more than 7 pass-rushing respts in any of his 1st 6 games, the St. Louis middle man has tallied 9 or more in 3 of his past 4 outings. That included 14 at San Francisco in Week 9 and 16 vs. Peyton and the Broncos last Sunday.

Laurinaitis posted sacks in each of those 2 games, but they're his only 2 of the season. And the decent-but-unspectacular 2 QB hits and 7 hurries behind that don't scream "high sack ceiling" going forward.

That said, sheer volume adds some upside in that area for a guy who no longer collects tackles the way he did in 2011 and 2012.


Devon Kennard, OLB, Giants

The rookie started on the weak side in place of the concussed Jacquian Williams last week and notched a nice 9 tackles (7 solo) against the 49ers.

According to former Giants LB Carl Banks and at least 1 writer for Giants blog Big Blue View, Kennard looks like "the future at linebacker" for this D.

Kennard worked as a strong-side guy in the summer and competed for the starting job there before the team settled on Jacquian Williams, Jon Beason and Jameel McClain as its opening trio. Even Beason's foot trouble failed to press Kennard into more than a part-time gig before Week 11.

But Kennard flashed speed, discipline and the ability to play all 3 downs. That makes him interesting to watch in what should be his 2nd start this weekend vs. Dallas (with Williams still out). The rookie did play just 55 of 68 snaps vs. the Niners, though, which lowers the IDP ceiling a tad.

Beyond 2014, we'll see which position Kennard settles into. The strong side might cut into his upside, though we'll need to assess the situation more when it comes to fruition.


Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Washington

After a strong start to the season -- 6.5 sacks through his 1st 6 games -- Kerrigan has delivered just 1 over his past 4 outings. And there have been no QB hits hiding behind that either. Through the 1st 6 weeks, by comparison, Kerrigan never had back-to-back games without at least 1 hit (in addition to the sacks).

The Associated Press reported this week that Kerrigan has been dealing with a chipped bone in his right hand the past 2 games, though it's hard to imagine that playing a significant role.

Consider that Kerrigan notched just 2 of his 8.5 sacks last year from Week 9 on. He also had just 1 sack over the final 5 games of his 2011 rookie season and then finished 2012 with no sacks in 4 of his final 5 contests. Whether Kerrigan wears down over the grind of a season, doesn't like the cold or gets stressed out by the holidays, it has become a clear pattern that he doesn't rack up the sacks late in the year.


Aldon Smith, OLB, 49ers

The Niners' lead pass-rusher finally returned Sunday from his 9-game suspension and played a strong 54 of the team's 70 defensive snaps. He didn't break through for a sack -- Eli Manning does pretty much anything he possibly can to avoid those -- but Smith did register 1 QB hit and 6 hurries. Consider him an option in sack-heavy leagues this week against a Washington team that seems likely to miss LT Trent Williams.


Aaron Lynch, OLB, 49ers

The focus on Ahmad Brooks for acting like a jerk during Sunday's game has overshadowed the recent growth from this rookie.

Lynch played 100% of his team's snaps in Week 10 at New Orleans and then all but 3 snaps against the Giants on Sunday. He delivered a sack and 7 hurries at New York, his 3rd in the past 4 games. And he has registered 2 or more QB disruptions in 7 straight games, averaging 4.4 per contest over that span.

So don't be surprised if the Niners let the 30-year-old Brooks stay on the sideline and turn his job over to the future.

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