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Week 4 IDP Free Agent Focus

Aaron Donald, DT, Rams

This guy can’t be available in any leagues that actually play with linemen, right? Well, I’ve learned not to take anything for granted with this list over the years.

I would be willing to bet that there are folks dropping Donald this week, now that he has finished his 3rd straight game without a sack. If that happens in your league, go get him. (Donald, that is. Not your league mate.)

L.A.’s star DT notched another 2 QB hits Sunday at Tampa to give him 7 through 3 games. That puts him on pace for 37.3 over 16 games. Donald finished last season 2nd in the league with 37 QB hits, trailing only J.J. Watt.

In other words, he’s getting after the QB just like last year. He just hasn’t happened to convert any sacks yet. They’re coming.


Kerry Hyder, DE, Lions

The Detroit rookie did it again Sunday, notching 1 of the mere 2 sacks (and 2 total QB hits) the Lions managed in their loss at Green Bay. That makes 3 straight games with a sack to open his career. Hyder has racked up 4 sacks in all and 5 total QB hits.

He’ll head to Chicago next weekend starting in many IDP lineups. Hyder carries especially sneaky value if your commissioner site identifies him as a DT and you play in a DT-required league.


Zach Brown, ILB, Bills

Brown beats fellow ILB starter Preston Brown on speed and athleticism. Preston Brown’s edge entering the year looked like playing time.

But Zach Brown has been joining him on the field as a full-time player and delivered his 2nd straight double-digit tackle tally Sunday. His 10 solos and 12 total stops both led the team in the surprising win over the Cardinals. And Week 1 produced 8 total tackles.

Next comes a visit to a New England team likely to go heavy on LeGarrette Blount once again. Brown’s not only a good pickup off waivers but looking like a weekly starter right now.


Vontaze Burfict, OLB, Bengals

Burfict has finishede serving the 3-game suspension for his playoff headshot to Steelers WR Antonio Brown. That will return him to action Thursday night against the Dolphins -- likely in an immediate starting role.

Burfict began last season sidelined by a knee injury that required microfracture surgery, yet he started the 1st game he played in and was a full-time player by the end of the year. No physical setbacks this time around should have him playing the larger role from the start.

Even in the decreased role he played over 10 games last year, Burfict still collected tackles at a rate that would have ranked him top 15 for the season. Over the final 7 contests, he produced at least 5 solos and 6 total stops every time. His rate over that span projects to about 135 over a full season, which would have tied for 4th in the league last year. And that doesn't even include the 6-tackle, 1-sack, 1-INT, 1-FF line from the playoff loss to Pittsburgh.

There's a reason he remains in the Bengals lineup through all the injuries and NFL punishments. When he's in there, Burfict produces and improves the defense.

Benardrick McKinney, ILB, Texans

I have to admit: I don’t like this guy.

It’s not personal. I just think that his pro performance has matched what I saw on his college tape so far: a big guy who lacks the play recognition and awareness to capitalize on his plus speed. But McKinney is capitalizing on his stat opportunities right now.

In his 2 full games since fellow ILB Brian Cushing suffered a knee sprain in the opener, MKinney has produced 24 total tackles (8 solo) and 2 sacks. That included 16 tackles (6 solo) and a sack at New England last Thursday.

Next comes a lackluster Tennessee offense that should keep plenty more opportunities in McKinney’s area.


Christian Kirksey, ILB, Browns

Kirksey has posted decent tackle numbers in the middle of a weak Browns defense so far, but he has made himself more relevant by tallying 4 QB hits through 3 games.

That started with a sack plus a 2nd hit in the opener, but Kirksey has continued by registering a hit each of the past 2 weeks as well. He also contributed a season-high 9 tackles (8 solo) in Sunday’s near-miss at Miami.

Kirksey should remain busy in Week 4 against a Washington offense that has heavily involved slot WR Jamison Crowder and TE Jordan Reed in the passing game. Plus there are the shorter-range touches for RBs Matt Jones and Chris Thompson.


Karl Joseph, S, Raiders

Oakland's 1st-round pick finally got into the lineup for Sunday's win over the Titans, and he promptly led all Raiders with 10 tackles (including 6 solos).

Coaches obviously opened the season believing Joseph wasn't ready for NFL responsibilities, but 2 games of historically bad team defense forced a switch. Frankly, if Joseph struggles in coverage, it might help his fantasy production by encouraging opponents to target his area of the field.

Before the ACL tear that ended his 2015 season at West Virginia, Joseph flashed some serious playmaking chops. He opened his college career with 104 tackles as a freshman and had snared 5 INTs through 4 games as a senior before the knee injury ended his career.

The fact that Oakland moved up in Round 1 to draft a safety coming off a serious knee injury shows what they think of his fearless tackling and ball skills. Joseph presents intriguing fantasy upside at the back of a soft defense.

Jordan Poyer, S, Browns

Poyer’s not a pickup for every league, but he combines solid numbers to date with an attractive Week 4 matchup. Poyer racked up 12 tackles (including 10 solo) Sunday at Miami. That followed lines of 6 and 5 tackles the 1st 2 weeks (including 6 solos in the opener).

Like Kirksey, Poyer will be visiting a Washington offense that attempted 125 passes over the 1st 3 games. Poyer figures to be busy, and the Browns D remains plenty capable of letting tackle opportunities reach him.