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Free Agent Focus

Week 2 IDP Free Agent Focus

By Matt Schauf 12:05am EDT 9/13/22

Kwity Paye, EDGE, Colts

Paye delivered a pair of sacks in the opener of his 2nd NFL season, while playing 79% of Indy’s defensive snaps. That’s a number he reached only once as a rookie. He also tied for 2nd on the team with 7 total tackles, 6 of them solos.

And although the game went into overtime, neither Paye’s 55 total snaps nor Indy’s team total of 59 tackles was out of line with a regulation contest.

Week 2 brings a matchup with Jacksonville, which allowed Paye a season-high 3 QB hits and his 1st NFL sack last October. This season, Trevor Lawrence saw the 2nd highest pressure rate among Week 1 starting QBs.

George Karlaftis, EDGE, Chiefs

The late 1st-round pick started his NFL debut Sunday and played the 2nd most snaps among all Chiefs defenders. He was also active in the pass rush. According to Pro Football Focus, Karlaftis tied for 2nd among all Week 1 defenders with 6 total pressures.

Five of those were hurries, but Karlaftis checked in a solid 21st in pass-rushing grade among 89 edge players who played at least 20 snaps. And he deflected a pass.

Karlaftis doesn’t get a great matchup with the Chargers on Thursday night of Week 2. But he’ll be someone to monitor or pick up in deeper IDP leagues. And he should certainly be on a roster in dynasty leagues of at least moderate depth.

Nick Bolton, LB, Chiefs

Bolton likely got drafted in any leagues of at least decent depth, but his season debut pointed to viability across most formats.

Bolton delivered 10 tackles (9 solo) on a day that found the Chiefs collecting only 48 tackles as a team. Our only question with Bolton entering the season was playing time, and he led K.C. LBs in that category vs. Arizona.

Get ready to fire up the impressive 2nd-year player in your Week 2 lineups.

David Long Jr., LB, Titans

Long should have been treated better at draft time – and might well have popped into the recommendations if you used our IDP rankings. But if he went undrafted in your league, go ahead and change that.

A full-timer when healthy last year, Long continues to look like Tennessee’s top LB now that Jayon Brown is gone. He led the group with 8 tackles in Sunday’s loss to the Giants, adding a QB hit and a tackle for loss. Long showed his impressive closing speed in that hit on Daniel Jones. We much prefer his upside to that of Zach Cunningham, who played his way out of Houston.

Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB, Texans

Grugier-Hill matched Christian Kirksey’s full playing time and dominated the tackle collection in the opening tie vs. Indy.

The unit’s 92 defensive snaps and 91 total tackles inflated the numbers. But Grugier-Hill’s 18 total tackles accounted for a strong 19.8% of the team’s total, and he delivered 26% of the team’s solo stops (14). Kirksey, meanwhile, collected just 2 solos and 9 total tackles.

It’s too early to say that Grugier-Hill is the Houston LB to own and that Kirksey isn’t. But there’s no reason that can’t wind up being true. He played 85% of snaps or more in 10 of his final 12 games for last year's Texans. And 1 of those down games came when he left Week 14 early.

He led that team in total and solo tackles per game.

Zaven Collins, LB, Cardinals

Collins seemed headed for a limited role to start the season, with signs pointing to him sitting 3rd among LBs in playing time – behind Isaiah Simmons and Nick Vigil.

That was not the case in the opener, though. Collins led the group by playing 96% of Arizona’s defensive snaps. Simmons checked in at 87%, with 36 of his 61 coming at CB or safety, according to PFF. Vigil played just 51%.

Collins didn’t put up big stats, ranking 3rd on the team with 7 tackles. But he did supply the Cards’ only 2 tackles for loss. And we’re willing to bet on the 2021 first-rounder getting his numbers if he continues to stay on the field that much. Collins was a cross-category producer at Tulsa.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Cowboys

Vander Esch played 85% of Cowboys defensive snaps in Sunday night’s loss to the Buccaneers. That’s a level he reached just once all last season, and that came in the Week 18 game in Philly (with limited participation by most starters). Vander Esch reached 70% playing time in just 3 other games.

If he can stay up in that range, LVE can deliver us regular tackle numbers. He led Dallas with 9 tackles (6 solo) against the Bucs.

Micah Parsons’ reps in the pass rush (24 of 62 plays vs. Tampa Bay) help leave more tackle opportunities available for Vander Esch.

T.J. Edwards, LB, Eagles

Edwards beat out Kyzir White to be Philly’s only LB to play every snap in Sunday’s win at Detroit. White trailed at 74% playing time, with rookie Nakobe Dean barely seeing the field (3 snaps).

We still like Dean long term, and we watched last year’s Eagles play around with LB roles and playing time. So it’s no lock that Edwards remains ahead of White. But we’ll look to the incumbent as the best bet for now.

Week 2 brings a Vikings offense that supported 19 total tackles for Green Bay’s 2 non-edge LB starters in Week 1 (despite 1 of the 2 leaving early).

Pete Werner, LB, Saints

Werner started his 2nd season strong, racking up a team-high 12 tackles in Sunday’s win over the Falcons. That included 11 solos and a tackle for loss. Werner added a forced fumble.

Werner’s 81% playing time was a mark he hit just twice in his rookie year. The 2nd-round pick also fell short of 25% in 6 of his final 7 outings.

He still trailed LB Demario Davis (100%) against Atlanta. The Falcons also presented favorable tackle conditions by running 38 times vs. just 33 pass attempts. Still Werner will be worth monitoring – and potentially playing – over the next few weeks.

Mykal Walker, LB, Falcons

Walker and Rashaan Evans checked in basically even in playing time, with Walker edging his new teammate by 1 snap. They also matched at 6 total tackles. But Walker’s stat line included a sack, another tackle for loss and a forced fumble.

Evans – once a late 1st-round pick of Tennessee – had plenty of time in the Titans lineup and never delivered consistently useful fantasy numbers. So he has more to prove before we’re believing in the Atlanta version of him.

Brandon Jones, S, Dolphins

The expert consensus on Fantasy Pros had Jones just 45th among DBs heading into the season. He sat inside our top 20, though, and quickly made it look like that might not even be high enough.

Jones racked up 11 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass breakup in Sunday’s win over the Patriots. He brings coverage issues that make him an iffy long-term bet to stay in the lineup. But Jones’ blitzing privileges and position in a defense strong enough to give him role flexibility mean a high fantasy ceiling when he’s on the field.

Sunday’s trip to Baltimore finds a Ravens team that allowed Miami 4 sacks and 7 total QB hits in their 2021 meeting.

Talanoa Hufanga, S, 49ers

In his 1st turn as full-time starter, Hufanga racked up a team-high 11 tackles, including 9 solos and 2 for losses. He also added an INT.

The tackle count was particularly impressive because the 49ers only collected 46 total tackles as a team. So Hufanga claimed a 23.9% share in that category and 25% of the team’s solos.

According to PFF, he spent 51.7% of his Week 1 snaps in the box, which is where we want our fantasy safeties.

Donovan Wilson, S, Cowboys

Jayron Kearse’s Week 1 MCL sprain grows the role of Wilson, who was already working in regularly as the 3rd safety in the opener.

When last we saw Wilson as a starter, he was scoring at a top-20 per-game rate among DBs for the 2020 Cowboys. He did so while spending 36.5% of his time in the box. Wilson played there 52.9% of the time against Tampa Bay on Sunday night.

Regardless of where he’s lining up, a Week 2 date with Cincinnati should keep him busy. Kearse is expected to miss 2-4 weeks.

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