"The most valuable commodity I know of is information." -- Gordon Gekko
That's right; I'm reaching into the Gekko bin this early in the season. But it's apropos, since information about defenders often is lackluster compared to that about the offensive side of the ball.
Information simply is more vital in Independant Defensive Players leagues than in standard formats because of the lack of communal information about the defensive player pool. A marginally relevant fantasy tailback slips getting out of the ice tub, and the Twitterverse and blogosphere immediately transmit information and analysis, with a fantasy spin to boot. It's increasingly difficult to get ahead of your peers, given this reality.
With defenders, there just isn't the same volume of demand and supply of information. The disparity of readily available content between the two sides of the ball makes the IDP marketplace more scalable, for those willing to seek out the information.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Talents on the rise: Rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis was the St. Louis Rams' rare bright spot in their debacle of an opener. Add him now if he still has a plus sign next to his name, as he's going to post double-digit tackles on a regular basis. ... Louis Delmas had a strong debut with six solo tackles and a long touchdown off a fumble recovery. As the strong safety for the Detroit Lions, he'll be busy all season chasing the ball carrier and looking for the big play. ... Richard Seymour is owned in just less than 20 percent of ESPN.com leagues, but his instant production for the Oakland Raiders should continue Sunday at Arrowhead.
Temper reactions to down weeks: Plenty of big names had bad weeks. Do you cut Michael Turner because he was weak in Week 1? No dice, so afford Shawne Merriman and DeMarcus Ware their due time to produce.
Playing matchups: Playing IDP matchups is not the same as gauging a team defense's prospects. While there certainly are shared elements in evaluating the two (like playing against Jake Delhomme being generally favorable), profiling individual defenders is a quite different science. Take the aforementioned Laurinaitis, for example. While no one is going to roster the Rams' defense in fantasy, some of the very reasons they are a poor overall defense factor into why the young middle linebacker is so appealing. If they had a stout interior defensive line and were able to stop the run often at the line of scrimmage, he wouldn't be racking up 14 total tackles, now would he? One tip that could help in your decision-making: Seek out poor rush-defense teams that are playing run-heavy offenses when looking for a sleeper for tackles, like the Lions' Larry Foote, who will be regularly corralling (or at least attempting to) Adrian Peterson come Sunday.
Injuries to Urlacher, Polamalu, et al: Clearly, the biggest news from the first week is the loss of fantasy legend Brian Urlacher for the season to a dislocated wrist. His replacement, Hunter Hillenmeyer, now mans the middle for the Chicago Bears and is a worthy waiver addition but doesn't boast the sack and turnover potential of Urlacher. ... The New England Patriots' Jerod Mayo will be out of real and fantasy lineups for a prolonged stretch with what is being called a significant medial collateral ligament sprain. Gary Guyton likely will replace Mayo for now, but the team could go dumpster diving if Guyton and Pierre Woods aren't capable replacements. ... While Paul Posluszny has yet to prove he is durable, he always has enticed fantasy owners who seek out tackle-machine middle 'backers. Well, Posluszny is down again with another broken forearm and will miss at least a month, leaving the relatively undersized Marcus "Not to be confused with Mugsy" Buggs to man the middle for the Buffalo Bills. ... The Madden curse lives, as Troy Polamalu will miss significant time due to an injured knee, leaving veteran safety Tyrone Carter to fill his spot. Carter doesn't merit attention just yet in fantasy but is worthy of targeting.
IDP Rankings Week 2
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider to be traditional scoring modifiers for IDP leagues:
Tackle -- solo (1), Tackle -- assist (0.5), sack (3), interception (3), forced fumble (3), fumble recovery (3), touchdown (6), safety (2), pass defended (1), blocked kick (2)
Bargain Bin: Worthy options available in more than half of ESPN leagues
Stephen Cooper had a stellar opening outing and could stay busy chasing down backs as they regularly get past the somewhat-porous San Diego Chargers line. ... When he was at his Pro Bowl best, Aaron Schobel consistently posted double-digit sacks with a stellar blend of tackles and forced fumbles. Hoping for a return to greatness might be a reach, but with talented rookie rusher Aaron Maybin in town, he has legit help across the line for the first time in years. ... Thomas Davis no longer has that wondrous safety eligibility from seasons past, but he remains an impressive commodity as teams look to exploit the Carolina Panthers' line with the run. ... The Philadelphia Eagles' Darren Howard merits consideration in nearly any format as he looks to build on last season's strong finish with a game against his former team, the New Orleans Saints. ... Abram Elam will do well statistically in the Cleveland Browns' safety-friendly system. ... Wait and see what Tully Banta-Cain is able to do this week versus the New York Jets, as his sack party in Week 1 could be just another Bill Belichick-induced aberration.
Luca: Who do you prefer going forward this season between James Laurinaitis, Curtis Lofton or Mike Peterson?
Jim: It's between the Rams rookie and Atlanta's middle man, Lofton. Peterson, arguably the top fantasy defender in 2005, had a really nice debut as a Falcon, but it was inflated somewhat by a timely fumble that came his way. Plus, the veteran Peterson has considerable durability concerns. While Lofton is in a really nice spot to excel in Atlanta, I prefer Laurinaitis for the season, as his tackle totals could pace the league come December.
Eleanor: For some reason -- and this is true of many IDP leagues I've found -- the value is largely concentrated in linebackers and other defensive backs. Linemen don't have as much value. Therefore Justin Tuck, for example, is eons behind Ernie Sims of the Lions. Are there any players who you can see picking up DE or DT eligibility while playing largely at linebacker in a team's system?
Jim: With tackles playing such a prominent role in most IDP scoring systems, the 'backers and defensive backs who post gaudy totals often dominate the scoring leaderboard. Defensive linemen still are a key element to a successful defensive roster, but depending on the settings, I could see them becoming lesser commodities as a result. That said, I know that the widely available Anthony Spencer has DE eligibility in ESPN and is an OLB with major upside playing across from Ware in Dallas. Likely owned in most leagues, Terrell Suggs and Aaron Kampman have dual eligibility in most formats, thanks to their roles in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. The Denver Broncos' Elvis Dumervil and the Pittsburgh Steelers' LaMarr Woodley also have LB/DE mobility.
Jim McCormick is an IDP and fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as the editor and publisher of BLITZ Magazine, a print and online publication covering football from prep to pro. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with all of your IDP concerns.