Welcome back loyal readers to the ONLY weekly running IDP fantasy football article on 5th Down Fantasy! After a busy week away I’m BACK and bringing you the top IDP names to watch and roster wherever available. As usual I’ll be breaking down 3 names to know at each major position in IDP format (LB/DL/DB) and shouting out a “Trench Warrior to Watch”. Let’s break it down.
CORY LITTLETON (Los Angeles Rams)
When the then St. Louis Rams signed Cory Littleton back in 2016 it didn’t exactly light the league on fire. The now 3rd year pro had gone un-drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft, but the Rams saw potential and gave him a shot. He’s since rewarded that confidence by becoming one of the most dynamic linebackers in the game each and every week.
For IDP purposes, Littleton has been as good as gold. With 87 points on the season so far he’s already nearly DOUBLED his full season total from 2017 (48), and his individual stats have followed suit. His 46 tackles are up from (22), he’s tripled his sack total with 3 and he’s added an Interception and a safety to his credit. With the surprising trade of Alec Ogletree in the off-season the Rams needed someone to stand up in their line-backing core, and Littleton has proven himself to be exactly the man for the job. At an ownership rate of 72% Littleton is far from available in most leagues, but with the trade deadline fast approaching he’s exactly the type of player to target if you need to bolster your LB position.
DEE FORD (Kansas City Chiefs)
Lost in the glitz and glamour of the Chiefs offense is the fact that their defensive line is producing some stud IDP numbers. Dee Ford is a name that fantasy players (and opposing offensive lines) should know well from seasons past. The former 2014 first round pick out of Auburn has been a dominant presence opposite Justin Houston for the Chiefs since he entered the league. However, due to a series of injuries that lead to a shortened 2017, there are plenty of fantasy owners that may still be sleeping on Ford in 2018. This is something that fantasy owners can and SHOULD take advantage of, because all indications are pointing towards Ford being completely back to health.
No. 55’s been filling up every statistical category on the KC line: (20 tackles/8 sacks/4 forced fumbles), and those numbers are only going to continue to climb as long as he’s healthy. His 8 sacks this year put him on the cusp of breaking his single season career high of (9), and he has a great chance to do just that against a Browns team that’s struggling to keep Baker Mayfield upright. Ford is owned in just 24% of Yahoo leagues at the moment, but that won’t last for long. Snatch him up while you can and get an added advantage in your LB core headed into crunch time.
MATT MILANO (Buffalo Bills)
When most fantasy owners think of the 2018 Buffalo Bills they get a sick feeling in their stomach. It could be that they ate too much Halloween candy, or it could just be the Bills offense, but I have an antidote for what ails you fantasy fans! The Buffalo Bills defense has been a treasure trove of hidden gems this year, and that includes multiple members of this week’s TRENCH REPORT. Let’s start with Matt Milano, the 2nd year LB out of Boston College has adapted to the league at a shocking pace and is already a leader on this defense. The great thing about Bills defenders is that they’re almost always on the field because of their offense, and Milano makes the most of his time out there.
For IDP purposes he’s scored 65 total points at the midway point of the season; that’s enough to top his rookie total of (60) from 2017 and lead the Buffalo line-backing core. He’s scored in the double digits 3 times in 8 weeks (11/15/11) and his average PPG sits at a steady 7 points. With a stat line of (34 tackles/1 sack/1 INT/3 fumble recoveries) Milano is an all-purpose LB with multiple facets to his game that make him a great IDP fantasy start. The best part about all of this is that Milano is owned in just 14% of Yahoo leagues! If you’re reading this, go add him now and thank me later.
JERRY HUGHES (Buffalo Bills)
We’re sticking with the defense from Western New York state as we shift from the LB’s to DL’s! Jerry Hughes has been a dominant force for the Bills upfront in 2018, putting together an above average stat line of (19 tackles/4.5 sacks/3 forced fumbles) and acting as a constant thorn in the sides of opposing QB’s. His 49 points at the mid-way point of the season put him on pace to surpass his 2017 total of (68). He’s already taken major strides towards hitting that goal by surpassing his sack total (up from 4 in 2017) and forced fumbles (up from 1 in 2017). Hughes is another hidden gem to match with Matt Milano on this Buffalo unit, and he’s someone that could be yours in over 90% of Yahoo leagues. With the Week 9 mega-bye hitting owners hard they should give Hughes a look in a potentially juicy match-up against Mitch Trubisky and the visiting Chicago Bears.
FRANK CLARK (Seattle Seahawks)
Whoever said that dominant defensive football was dead in Seattle forgot to tell Frank Clark. In the post-Legion of Boom era we’ve seen a combination of faces (new/old) playing their part to bring a defensive identity back to the Pacific Northwest and Clark is a major veteran leader working towards that goal. Playing in his 4th full season in the league, Clark has experience winning with this Seahawks franchise. He’s played with the LOB, and he’s seen this team to a W/L record of 32-20-1 since he entered the league in 2015. A winning mentality is what Clark brings to this defense, and pain is what he brings to opposing Quarterbacks. The veteran defensive end has filled up the stat sheet so far in 2018, putting up impressive totals of (14 tackles/6.5 sacks/1 INT/3 forced fumbles/1 fumble recovery). Clark has posted a sack in 5 of 8 outings this year and his stand-out 15-point performance against Oakland in Week 6 is a testament to how dominant he can be on any given snap.
Week 6: (3 Tackles/2.5 Sacks/2 Forced Fumbles).
Clark is a leader on a Seattle team that looks like it could be turning the corner right now and at just 14% ownership in Yahoo leagues he can be yours. Go get him.
BRADLEY CHUBB (Denver Broncos)
I’ve talked about Derwin James and Denzel Ward as DROY candidates already in this column, and now it’s time to head to mile high to give the 5th overall pick his due. Bradley Chubb was drafted out of NC State to be the perfect complement to perennial all-pro Von Miller in Denver, and he’s more than lived up to that expectation so far. On the season Chubb has amassed 53 fantasy points and showed an elite ability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. His weekly fantasy totals have seen a drastic uptick in the past month, with back to back double-digit outings in Weeks 6 and 7 against the Rams and Cardinals. Over that 2-week stretch Chubb accumulated (7 Tackles/5 Sacks/Forced Fumble) and showed that he’s ready for a strong second half push for your fantasy squad.
Chubb gets another ideal matchup when he gets to face off against the most sacked QB in the league this year in Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans. He’s currently owned in 22% of Yahoo leagues, so check your free agent pool and see if he’s out there. If he is I recommend grabbing him without a second thought, especially for this week.
TONY JEFFERSON (Baltimore Ravens)
Tony Jefferson is a man that knows his way around the middle of the football field. The 5th year Safety has played in the desert of Arizona and the Charm City of Baltimore and he’s brought the same mentality to both teams. Hard-nosed, hard hitting football; that’s the Tony Jefferson brand. The veteran has been the poster child for consistency at the DB position this year for IDP owners, posting weekly totals of (9/8/6/8/10/7/5/6) and accumulating 60 points overall. Those 60 points put Jefferson on pace to top his 2017 total of 95 and place him among the most reliable options at the position for fantasy purposes. Jefferson is currently dealing with a hamstring issue that should be monitored closely, but with the bye weeks hitting hard there’s a chance he could be dropped by a fantasy owner that can’t use him. Take that opportunity to scoop him up and start him when he’s healthy, especially if you have a surplus at the DB position. You can never have too many reliable options at a generally thin position.
DAMARIOUS RANDALL (Cleveland Browns)
Contrary to popular belief there’s another corner in Cleveland that’s not named Denzel Ward…and that man is Damarious Randall. Since coming to Cleveland, the former Green Bay Packer has been a dominant force in a young/talented Browns secondary and it’s a testament to his ability that he’s actually outperformed Ward for fantasy purposes so far this year. With 61 points overall, Randall has a narrow lead over his team-mate (Ward has 60), but that kind of playful competition is the kind of thing that makes this tandem so great. They’re both constantly getting better each week and when paired with 2nd year safety Jabrill Peppers they form a core secondary that could be one of the best in the league for the foreseeable future. It’s rare to find a cornerback worthy of starting over a safety in IDP format due to the open field tackle advantage safeties enjoy, but Randall is one of those rare cases. He’s posted incredibly consistent fantasy totals every week this season (8/6/3/13/5/8/11/4), and he’s more than earned a starting role in your DB slot in IDP leagues across the nation. He’s owned in 25% of Yahoo leagues, so if he’s available in your league, well, you know what to do.
JESSIE BATES III (Cincinnati Bengals)
Now this is my favorite free agent acquisition of the week by far. Jessie Bates in Week 9 is the perfect storm of qualities that equal a successful/smart pickup. He lacks the name value that would make him a target for most opposing owners, and he’s currently on bye which means his owner may have dropped him to make room for a DB they could start this week.
So let’s get to know Jessie Bates III shall we? Bates was drafted 54th overall in the 2nd round of this past year’s NFL Draft by Cincinnati out of R Nelson Snider High School in Indiana and he’s since become one of the best safeties in the league. Bates’ 69 overall fantasy points in IDP place him in elite company and his weekly totals are as consistent as you’ll find anywhere (8/7/6/7/8/7/9/15). Bates is a monster over the middle, he averages 5 tackles per game and he just had his best performance of his young career in Week 8 against Tampa Bay (4 Tackles/1 INT/TD).
Bates is the definition of a rising star in the format and he should be owned in all leagues moving forward. All of these things I listed are reasons why he’s my favorite FA acquisition for Week 9, but the cherry on top is his ownership rate (15% in Yahoo Leagues). I don’t care if he’s on bye or not, Bates is a MUST ADD asset if he’s available in your league. Don’t allow yourself to miss out on this guy.
TRENCH WARRIOR(S) TO WATCH
JOSH JONES/JAIRE ALEXANDER (DB; Green Bay Packers)
With the surprising trade of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins it’s now Josh Adams’ secondary over the middle in Green Bay, and the rookie looks perfectly prepared to live up to the task. The first year DB has been praised by Mike McCarthy for his athleticism and he now stands to inherit a position that made Clinton-Dix a top tier talent. Jones is a calculated dart throw for the future for IDP owners; he has all of the tools to be great, and now he’s getting the opportunity.
My other warrior to watch this week lines up right alongside Jones, and that’s fellow rookie DB Jaire Alexander. If you want to know just how great Alexander has looked this season just do yourself a favor and look up any sound clip of Bill Belichick leading up to this week’s game against Green Bay. Belichick repeatedly praised Alexanders athleticism and coverage ability, going as far as to say “He (Alexander) is going to be one of the top corners in the game for quite a while”. Belichick also added that the Patriots had Alexander on their draft board and wanted to take him in the first round. Any time you get praise from a 5x Super Bowl Championship winning coach it’s bound to turn some heads, and Alexander deserves all of the attention he’s likely to receive in the aftermath of those statements.
For IDP purposes No. 23 is more of a pure corner than someone like Damarious Randall/Denzel Ward, by that I mean his statistical totals fluctuate more from week to week. His totals since Week 1 (3/10/6/5/0/0/9) are above average, but those zeroes will scare some owners away. I advise owners to lean into Alexander as a quality bench option with starting ability rest of season for the same reason I advise picking up Josh Jones. Both players will be more involved with the absence of Clinton-Dix, and both will need to be even more involved in the tackling game around the ball on a consistent basis. Both should be a monitored closely on your waiver wire and if you have extra room on your bench I’d recommend picking them up to get ahead of a possible breakout.
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! Make sure to check back here every Friday/Saturday to start your weekend in the trenches with me, I look forward to it.
Until then, best of luck in Week 9 everyone!