Why would Minnesota suddenly trade away the guy who opened the season as its starting middle linebacker? Because of the rookie taking his job.
"I know [Kendricks] is a very instinctive football player," GM Rick Spielman said this week per FOXSports.com. "Each week, you see the more reps he’s getting, the more comfortable he’s getting with the speed of this game. And he makes plays when he’s out there. We drafted him because of how strong we felt about him coming out. When we evaluated him in college, you’re starting to see all that come as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. He’s a very instinctive linebacker who makes a lot of plays."
And he's finally about to start making them at the pro level.
We projected this guy into the top 15 among fantasy LBs back before the Vikings revealed they'd start someone else in the middle in Week 1. That obviously made Kendricks harder to draft in the average IDP league. But I stubbornly hung on to him in deeper outfits and recommended back in Week 4 that you go ahead and pick him up.
Kendricks' playing time has steadily grown since Week 1, when he saw the field little as a passing-down replacement facing a run-heavy offense.
Now he'll be an every-down player next to OLB Anthony Barr -- with veteran OLB Chad Greenway continuing to leave the field often. Who's the better IDP target between the 3-down guys?
Well, Barr's a terrific and versatile player. He might the 2nd-best pass-rusher that Minnesota has, after DE Everson Griffen. He sports upside well beyond the 4 sacks that he compiled over 12 games as a rookie. Barr racked up 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss over his 2 seasons as a 3-4 OLB at UCLA -- after arriving as an offensive player.
But Barr sits just tied for 34th among LBs in tackles through 4 games. That's right in Barr's range of production last season. His 70 tackles over 12 games extrapolate to 93 over a full season, which would have tied for 32nd among LBs in 2014.
We're expecting Kendricks to deliver more consistently good tackle numbers. He surpassed 140 in 2 of 3 starting seasons at UCLA -- the same alma mater as Barr, so it's fair to assume the Vikings had been watching, and liking, him for a while. Kendricks displayed his own versatility with 10 career sacks and 4 INTs.
He has looked particularly good in coverage, which adds tackle potential vs. short and mid-range passing. And his position behind a young, strong D-line won't hurt his tackle chances in run D.
Look for Kendricks to provide plenty of tackles and mix in some big plays. Barr should continue to deliver nice value as well, but probably in more of a boom/bust way. Last season found about 34.3% of his total fantasy points (depending on your scoring format) coming in just 2 games.
If Kendricks sits on the waiver wire in your IDP league, pick him up now before the Vikings get back onto the field and he shows his value to the rest of your league.
Making it Hardy for
I've never met Cowboys DE Greg Hardy, but he comes across as both an a-hole and an idiot. But, like it or not, he's returning to the field this weekend against the Patriots.
Dallas is expected to start him right away at right DE, which should surprise. The only reason they took a chance on Hardy post conviction and release from Carolina is that he's way better than their other options. The guy put up 26 sacks over his final 2 non-suspension seasons with the Panthers and collected at least 59 tackles each time. He even collected 11 pass deflections the season before he turned up the sack production.
The numbers should come -- and perhaps right away. It's fair to wonder if he'll prove rusty after missing all last season, but Hardy worked out with the Cowboys all through training camp and played in the 1st 3 preseason games. Expect him to be ready.
Whether to add him to your roster will be a personal decision for each IDP owner. From a purely football standpoint, though, expect fantasy-starter value from Hardy the rest of the way.
Just don't Levy us again
The return of Lions OLB DeAndre Levy should finally give us a Detroit LB worth trusting in fantasy lineups, but I'm not ready to do that this week.
HC Jim Caldwell wouldn't tell reporters this week whether Levy will immediately regain full-time duty. That doesn't do it for me.
NFL coaches are goofy in what they want to keep secret. I can't imagine the Cardinals preparing any differently this week for not knowing whether Levy will play full time or not. I'd like to think the Lions could gain more of an advantage by telling the opponent their top LB is all the way back -- even if he isn't.
So unless I'm playing in a deep IDP league and short on options, I'm waiting to see what Levy does in his 1st game back: how much he plays and how effectively.
I am glad to see that he's been able to kick that dreaded Chilean hip parasite, though.
-- Buccaneers S Chris
Conte has quietly posted at least 5 solo tackles in all 4 games with 1
"stuff" in each of the past 3, according to ESPN.com. (That's what
they call tackles for loss.) That kind of box play can help stabilize a
safety's fantasy scoring. He's a solid option against the Jaguars this weekend.
And the likelihood that the Bucs will spend
plenty of this season playing from behind should keep opponents running often.
-- Bills DBs coach Donnie Henderson confirmed the perception that rookie CB Ronald Darby endured a rocky preseason, but he has seemed to settle in and play better in the regular season. And the experience of starting in the fake games surely only increased his comfort level for the real ones. Darby has defensed at least 2 passes in every contest so far, including 7 over just the past 2 weeks. Playing across from CB Stephon Gilmore will help to keep QBs throwing at him, and the preseason tape might still leave game-callers thinking the rookie vulnerable. Keep him in IDP lineups that require CBs.
-- Raiders CB D.J. Hayden has yet to live up to his top-10 NFL draft position, but he could deliver some fantasy numbers against the Broncos this Sunday. Hayden defensed 3 passes in each meeting with the Broncos last year.
-- Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson, meanwhile, has raised his level of play back to shutdown range this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That's not going to help his fantasy football value a whole lot. It'll drive QBs away from him at times and negate some receptions that would create tackle opportunities. But it does make Peterson a low-floor, high-ceiling option at CB for weeks such as this, when he'll face Lions WR Calvin Johnson and scattershot QB Matthew Stafford. If you choose to use Peterson this week -- or any other -- just know that he could give you 1 point as easily as 12-15.
-- Giants MLB Jon Beason returned to the lineup Sunday against the Bills and played 32 of 75 snaps, leaving 19 for fill-in Uani 'Unga. The adjustment makes 'Unga droppable in all IDP formats. And Beason's wholly uninteresting.
-- Might Buffalo be improving in pass protection? We'll need to wait a little longer to find out. New England accounted for 8 of the 10 sacks the Bills have allowed so far, but the other 3 opponents -- Indianapolis, Miami and the Giants -- all rank 28th or worse in the league in sacks so far. Tennessee has some dangerous guys in the front 7. With an injury-shredded backfield, Tyrod Taylor might need to deal with a lot of pressure. DE Jurrell Casey and OLB Derrick Morgan remain upside IDP plays for the matchup.
-- Browns CB Joe Haden became a surprise inactive for the late set of games last Sunday. He had been listed as probable with a finger injury but apparently told coaches he felt like he'd hurt the team by playing through it. How? Got me. Unless the finger is so bad that it somehow keeps him from running at top speed and/or lifting the whole arm. Cleveland will at least avoid the controversy by listing Haden as questionable for the Week 5 trip to Baltimore. We'll see if he can run on the finger Sunday morning.
-- Titans CB Jason McCourty is finally ready to return from his groin injury this week against the Bills. What can we expect? Who knows? It's worth noting that he practiced leading up to the Week 3 Colts matchup before spending it on the sideline. It's also worth noting that when asked if he's 100%, McCourty answered: "I'll be out there. That's all that matters."
A limited corner can help in fantasy at times, because opponents will target him and completed passes will produce tackle chances. The big unknown, of course, is whether McCourty will play a full game.
You can take a chance on him in CB-required leagues, but know the risk heading in.