Welcome back loyal readers to the ONLY weekly fantasy football IDP article on 5thdownfantasy.com! After a much-needed week of rest, relaxation and WAY too much food I’m back to bring you the rising stars and names you need to know in fantasy football IDP leagues. This week we have our typical assortment of fresh faces and known commodities, let’s meet the gang:
WESLEY WOODYARD (Tennessee Titans): (Yahoo Owned: 28%)
When discussing some of the top LB names in the league today the name Wesley Woodyard is usually one that falls through the cracks. That kind of oversight is exactly the reason why he makes this week’s edition of the TRENCH REPORT.
The former undrafted free agent started his career in Denver with the Broncos before shifting to the Titans in 2014, and since then he’s been the heartbeat at the center of the Tennessee defense. Along with fellow LB Derek Morgan, Woodyard has asserted himself as the go to run stopping LB on the Titans, registering an average of 7 combined tackles per game. He’s also been a boon for the Titans in coverage, with his ability to read the QB and take away the middle of the field adding an invaluable dimension to an already stout defense.
On the year Woodyard has scored a total of 76 fantasy points, projecting him to fall below his stellar 2017 total of 146, but given his preseason Yahoo point projection of (37), I’d say he’s been a major over-achiever. Woodyards season long stat line going into Week 13 looks like this (72 Total tackles/3.5 Sacks/1 Forced Fumble). He’s a hard-hitting force over the middle for a team in the Titans that relies on his defense to get stops to keep them in games. As a spot start for an injured player/reliable bench piece you could do a whole lot worse than Woodyard heading into the fantasy playoffs.
ROQUAN SMITH (Chicago Bears): (Yahoo Owned: 36%)
Well, it took us damn near the entire season, but I believe it’s finally time to give this Bears rookie his due. When Chicago drafted Roquan Smith 8th overall in this past year’s NFL Draft they knew what they were getting; a player with a high ceiling and a long list of accolades.
The former standout linebacker from Georgia filled up a trophy case before he even entered the NFL. In 2017 alone, he was named a unanimous All-American, the SEC Championship game MVP, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the he even won the prestigious Dick Butkus award given to the most impressive linebacker in all of college football. To give you an idea of how impressive that award is, here are some of the former winners: (Luke Kuchley/Von Miller/C.J. Mosley/Brian Bosworth).
Smith came into the league with a pedigree of success already attributed to his name, and he’s continued to advance that pedigree at the professional level. Thus far in his rookie campaign Smith has been a pure, tackling machine, racking up 87 total tackles on the year and adding 4 sacks on top for good measure. His game reminds me a lot of fellow rookie LB Leighton Vander-Esch (Dallas) because they’re both seemingly ALWAYS around the ball at the end of plays. Regardless of play call Smith is locked in on the ball at all times, and his ability to track the progression of a play through audibles and fakes has been one of his best traits.
From an IDP fantasy perspective the Bears rookie has been a stable LB start since week one with a quality floor and a rapidly rising ceiling. Over the past month alone Smith has recorded 3 double digit performances (11/14/6/13), with two of those games coming in important divisional wins over the Detroit Lions. His floor has held steady at around 6 points per contest, but I can’t stress enough the appeal of his ceiling.
This past month’s production was impressive enough from a fantasy perspective, but it’s been even more impressive in real life. In just the past 4 contests Smith has recorded 32 solo tackles, he had recorded a combined 29 tackles in the 8 weeks prior. If it were not for the major breakout success of LVE in Dallas and the presence of Khalil Mack in Chicago I believe Roquan Smith would be getting much more press than he currently is. But you know how it goes, one owner’s missed headline is another owners league winning waiver pickup. Check the wire in your league for Smith, he probably isn’t available, but he could be a legitimate league winner at the LB spot for you if he is.
JAMIE COLLINS SR. (Cleveland Browns): (Yahoo Owned: 15%)
Now here’s a name we haven’t heard in a while! When the Patriots opted to trade Jamie Collins to the Browns in 2016 it was immediately labeled as a usual Patriots move. Collins was declared a “distraction” that the Pats got rid of because he just couldn’t cut it anymore. Meanwhile, Cleveland opened its arms to the playmaking LB, offered him an opportunity to prove New England wrong, and Collins has begun to do just that.
Things started well for Collins as he ended the 2016 season as PFF’s 7th ranked LB in the league, but injuries unfortunately plagued his 2017 campaign causing him to miss the majority of the year with an MCL tear. Fast forward to 2018 and Collins has looked a lot like the player that was receiving praise for his abilities in 2016. On the year he’s posted a fantasy total of 86 points that already doubles his total from his injury shortened 2017, and he’s given fantasy owners a surprisingly stable floor on a weekly basis.
On the year Collins’ fantasy totals look like this: (5/6/2/8/14/7/10/11/6/11/3). The former 2nd round pick has flashed the ability the Patriots drafted him for back in 2013 this year for Cleveland, and he’s done is in every facet of the game from a defensive standpoint. Collins has 75 total tackles/2 Sacks/1 INT/1 Fumble Recovery and a Touchdown to his credit through 12 weeks and those numbers are only going to rise as this Browns defense continues to gel and grow stronger together.
The ownership rate on Collins is low, and the opportunity for a big game is relatively high due to the damage he can cause in a multitude of ways. He’s well worth a look.
CHANDLER JONES (Arizona Cardinals): (Yahoo Owned: 37%)
Speaking of former Patriots that have gone on to great things, how about Chandler Jones? The 2017 NFL sack leader (17) has returned with a vengeance in 2018, posting defensive totals that put him on pace to match his production from last year.
On the year Jones has 44 combined tackles/11 Sacks/3 Forced Fumbles and a fumble recovery to his credit, showing that the big edge rusher still has plenty in the tank as he nears 30. Jones’ fumble totals have already eclipsed his 2017 marks and his 11 sacks tie him with Von Miller for 4th in the league behind only J.J. Watt/Danielle Hunter and Aaron Donald. The most impressive thing about Jones’ statistical output is the fact he’s doing it on a much-maligned Arizona Cardinals team that’s not winning many football games in 2018. The reason for that consistency is the fact that Jones never gives up on a play, he’s always pursuing the quarterback from the snap until the play is whistled dead, and that kind of effort shows on a weekly basis.
When the Cardinals get a big stop on defense it’s a safe bet to assume Jones had something to do with it, and that’s a testament to what he brings to both the Cardinals and your fantasy team on a weekly basis. From a fantasy point perspective Jones has 4 double digit totals to his credit (Weeks 5/6/10/11), and he’s produced an above average floor of 7 points per contest throughout the year. His ownership rate is understandably higher than most of the names we include in this article due to his extensive list of accolades and status as defending sack leader, but Jones is available in some leagues. I suggest checking your waiver wire just to see if he’s somehow swimming around in there, because if he is that would be the equivalent of finding fantasy gold.
DEFOREST BUCKNER (San Francisco 49ers): (Yahoo Owned: 15%)
In typical fashion I opted to start with a superstar and end the DL segment with two names that the average football fan may not be aware of (but should be). DeForrest Buckner isn’t just the owner of one of the coolest names in the league, he’s the monster at the center of a deceptively strong San Francisco defensive line. The 49ers defense has quietly performed like a top 10 unit against the run in 2018, besting more well-respected units like Philadelphia/Jacksonville/Denver, and Buckner has been instrumental in making that a reality.
The 6’7” giant from Hawaii has made himself the Niners go to guy on defense since being drafted 7th overall in the 2016 draft by Chip Kelly. The former All-American out of Oregon was named to the PFWA (Pro Football Writers Association) All-Rookie team in 2016 and followed up that success with a 2017 campaign that saw him register 66 total tackles and 3 Sacks, showing marked improvement from his first season. That improvement has continued in 2018 and Buckner has grown by leaps and bounds in one area in particular, his pass rushing and sack totals. Buckner’s 7 sacks this season are by far the most of his young career and are more than double his total from 2017. This level of growth indicates a very real spike in his abilities on the field, and to be doing all of this from the DT position is even more impressive.
On the year he’s posted a total of 69 fantasy points which puts him on pace to shatter his mark of 74 from last season, and he’s produced 2 double digit performance from the DT position on the year. Buckner was drafted for his ability to plug gaps and stuff the run on a consistent basis, and he’s found a way to do that AND rush the quarterback on the regular. San Francisco’s hopes were tragically cut short this year with the injury to Jimmy G, but this defense gives Niners something to be excited about in the coming years. Buckner’s availability in Yahoo leagues is perfect for owners in need of a difference maker that they can snag right now. Give the big guy a shot, he’s a definite dynasty league keeper candidate.
MARIO ADDISON (Carolina Panthers): (Yahoo Owned: 7%)
While we’re on the subject of underrated linemen with low ownership rates let’s talk about Mario Addison. Looking at Addison’s week-to-week fantasy production it’s immediately apparent that he should have a much higher ownership rate in all leagues. His fantasy totals on the year may boast only one double digit performance (8/6/5/1/8/8/18/5/2), but the Panthers lineman has one of the better floors in IDP. Understandably the 1s and 2s are frightening to look at, but those weeks are a regular reality when dealing with a pure pass rusher like Addison.
Most of the big-name sack leaders have games where they fall off the cliff statistically because they specialize in one thing and if they don’t get what they’re after they run the risk of falling flat. In Addison’s case the thing he’s constantly chasing is Sacks, and he’s been moderately successful in his endeavors so far in 2018 with 7.5 Sacks to his credit through 12 weeks. His tackles totals (38) aren’t anything special, but he’s a player that you can grab right now in almost every league and place on your bench knowing that he has a combination of stability and blow up game potential that’s hard to find at this point in the year. Addison isn’t the flashiest name out there, and that’s exactly why you can and should take advantage of this under the radar waiver grab.
If you need something to sweeten the pot a little bit more, Addison faces off against Tampa Bay this week (He scored 18 points against them back in Week 9.
HA HA CLINTON DIX (Washington Redskins): (Yahoo Owned: 34%)
While no one would mistake Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for an “under the radar” IDP play his consistent level of production across two different teams in 2018 deserves some recognition. On the year Clinton-Dix has scored a total of 76.5 fantasy points, a total that puts him on pace to easily surpass his 2017 total of 87 and he’s done it all while once again proving himself to be one of the best young DB’s in the league.
To put it simply, Ha Ha can do it all, and he’s been a multi-tooled type of player for both the Packers and Redskins this season both in coverage and in stopping the run. His Sack totals (1), Forced Fumbles (2) and Fumble Recoveries (1) are all upgrades from last season, and he’s already tied his Interception total from last year (3) with 5 weeks left to go in the season. Clinton-Dix’s 51 solo tackles are on pace to top his 65 from last season and his overall point production from a fantasy perspective has made him arguably the most consistent DB in IDP fantasy in 2018. His weekly fantasy totals look like this (7/7/7/6/6/5/4/6/9/14/3).
With the exception of his most recently performance Clinton-Dix has been either above average or exceptional on a weekly basis for his team and for his fantasy owners, and in IDP it’s all about what players can do for you on a consistent basis. You want to find players with high tackle totals, good turnover numbers and a steady snap count, and Ha-Ha has every one of those qualities. Because he’s a well-known name at this point he’s not going to be easy to find in most leagues, but as always I recommend checking out your waiver wire to see if he’s available.
T.J. MCDONALD (Miami Dolphins): (Yahoo Owned: 7%)
TJ McDonald is an interesting case both for the Miami Dolphins and your fantasy team. On one hand the former 3rd round pick has had his fair share of run ins with the law (DUI related), and his 8-game suspension in 2017 from the Rams led to his dismissal from the team that same year. Miami signed the struggling playmaker to a one year show me deal in 2017 and the 27-year-old quickly asserted himself as one of the top 2 safeties on the Dolphins roster (alongside fellow starter Rashad Jones). That production matched with a clean record free of misconduct lead the Dolphins to extend McDonald for 4 years/$24 Million at the beginning of the 2017/2018 season, and so far, it’s looked like a pretty good investment for the team.
In his first full season with the Dolphins McDonald has flashed impressive tackling ability in the open field as well as the ability to read the quarterback and come up with important turnovers when needed. His stat line this season indicates the growth of a player quickly getting adjusted to his environment (69 Total tackles/3 INT/1 Fumble Recovery), and McDonalds only just begun to heat up in recent weeks. From a fantasy perspective now is a great time to buy in on McDonald while his ownership rate is at rock bottom, because he’s been coming on strong over the past month with 2 double digit performances (2/14/7/11) in his last four contests including a divisional match-up against the Jets.
Success against your division is essential to win the NFL and if McDonald truly has a knack for success against the AFC East then he’s got a perfect stretch of games to end the year with 2 games against Buffalo (Weeks 13/17) and one against New England (Week 14). I highly recommend grabbing McDonald and putting him on your bench as an upside play as we roll into the fantasy playoffs.
EDDIE JACKSON (Chicago Bears): (Yahoo Owned: 16%)
Chicago’s defense has been so impressive this year that they’ve managed to get TWO of their young stars featured on this week’s edition of the report. Eddie Jackson is as undeniable a DB talent as you’ll find anywhere in the league right now, the Prince of the Pick 6 has cemented himself as a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the Bears secondary and given the new age Monsters of the Midway another tool to intimidate opponents with. You can’t make mistakes against this unit, and Eddie Jackson is more than likely the man that will hurt you when you do.
Jackson’s 84 total fantasy points put him on pace to eclipse his impressive total of 98 from last season, and he’s improved his stats at every major coverage category available in IDP. Jackson’s boosted his sack (1), INT (4), Forced Fumble (2) and TD (3) totals to new heights in his 3rd season in the league and he’s produced 4 double digit fantasy finishes on the year alongside his partner Adrian Amos.
Jackson’s turnover totals look like the kind of stats one would normally expect to see from a CB, but that’s the trick with Jackson, he has the coverage ability of a top-level corner with the eye of an elite safety. He’s one of the brightest rising stars at the DB position in the NFL today, and he’s finding a way to standout despite sharing a roster with the likes of Khalil Mack/Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan.
Jackson’s one drawback is a somewhat average floor (4/5 points per game), but his consistent ability to create turnovers and score TD’s makes me more than forgiving on his off days. The 3rd year safety is on top of the world right now, and he’s somehow still available in most fantasy leagues. If you only grab one player from this week’s write up, make sure it’s Jackson. He’s a player that will undoubtedly be featured on plenty of IDP fantasy championship teams.
TRENCH WARRIOR TO WATCH
JAYLON SMITH (Dallas Cowboys): (Yahoo Owned: 43%)
10 Points. That’s all the Dallas Cowboys allowed the Saints to score in Jerry world this past Thursday night in one of the more shocking upsets in recent history. The young Dallas defense slowed down an offense that was averaging 34 points and almost 400 yards of offense per game and they did it largely due to the contributions of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch.
My love for LVE as a player is already well documented as he appeared a few weeks back in my report, but owners and football fans in general shouldn’t forget about how great Jaylon Smith has been this season. The former 2nd round pick out of Notre Dame was widely regarded as the best LB prospect in the 2016 draft class before a devastating knee injury forced him to fall down most owner’s draft boards. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys had a history of gambling on players with potential (with mixed results), and they decided to gamble on Smith, a move that has proven more and more rewarding seemingly by the week.
Now back and fully healthy, Smith has proven himself to be exactly the type of prospect that most draft analysts thought he could be, and he’s become one of the more vocal leaders of the Dallas defense on a weekly basis. For fantasy proposes he’s produced one of the more productive floors in the league for the position and he’s posted 4 double digit performances on the year (Weeks 2/5/6/12). Smith’s sure handed abilities as a tackler have led to him becoming the Cowboys making run stuffer and open field tackler opposite LVE and that role has translated to a well above average fantasy floor of 7 points per contest.
On the year he’s accumulated a total of 98 points through 12 weeks, a mark that’s a solid 20 points above what he accomplished last season. Digging deeper into that point total you’ll find that Smith has improved both his solo tackling (58) and Sack (4) totals in 2018, and those two metrics can make or break how productive a LB is for fantasy purposes. With the Cowboys currently sitting atop the NFC East and 2 divisional contests left on the schedule it goes without saying that the Dallas defensive captain will be on his A game to finish the year strong. He’s an invaluable asset to both the Cowboys and any fantasy team he’s starting on.
That’s all for this week! Thanks again to everyone for checking out the TRENCH REPORT. For those who play in IDP leagues I’d love to hear your feedback on these highlighted players, and for those that have never played IDP format, I hope this article sparks your interest! Best of luck in Week 13 everyone!