The fantasy playoffs are no time for loyalty, at least not when it comes to defenders.
This side of the ball is simply more statistically volatile than on offense. The majority of defenders, outside of say Patrick Willis and a handful of other elite linebackers, are in most cases prone to dormant stretches.
Julius Peppers posted the same amount of fantasy points as Sgt. Pepper did last week, a big round zero, in what was for many the first week of the fantasy playoffs. If a commodity like LaMarr Woodley, Brian Orakpo or Andre Carter were available, I'd add them and cut Peppers, but make sure you wash your hands and don't rub your eyes for a few minutes afterwards.
Despite being a top-10 defensive back in most scoring systems, it's time to tell Danieal Manning to step into your office, and make sure to tell him to bring his playbook, too. Manning was producing at an elite level until say Week 11, and since that point he's been pedestrian. He's well on his way to pulling off a "Rudi Johnson Special" in the end; a season with really nice final numbers (Manning's on pace for 100 tackles) that are accumulated in essentially eight to nine games over the campaign.
According to my road dog Albert Einstein, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Wouldn't that then mean that starting an unproductive player over and over again, despite dramatic downward trending, and expecting positive results should be recognized as the act of a loon? Peppers and Manning serve merely as sound examples of some highly ranked and reputed performers that are currently crippling playoff rosters, but there are numerous examples of how loyalty can interfere with production. With this reality in mind, check out the playoff-themed bargain bin below for some commodities that could sway your fantasy fortunes if you are willing to be a proactive playoff manager.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Tackle Race: The San Francisco 49ers' peerless Patrick Willis continues to pace the league in taking cats to the ground with a silly 132 tackles on his way to another season as fantasy's most valuable defender. The trio of the Carolina Panthers' Jon Beason, the Atlanta Falcons' Curtis Lofton and the Washington Redskins' London Fletcher are all tied for second with 118 tackles. Barring injury, Willis will assuredly win the crown this season. Meanwhile, Beason and Fletcher continue to impress and provide prolific production into the playoffs. Lofton, however, is much like Beason was earlier in his career, a high-tackle 'backer who doesn't net enough big plays and turnovers to be truly considered a top fantasy commodity.
Collision Corner: A concept born in the '90s, the "cover corner" has become a prominent football buzzword in the aughts. Deion Sanders proved that a cornerback can be dominant athletically without being a physically imposing or violent player. Both Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis, while considered much better tacklers than Sanders ever was, seem to share the current crown as the league's top cover corners. That's cool and all, but doesn't really translate so well into fantasy metrics. Antoine Winfield, who plays the position more like the absurdly vicious Dick "Night Train" Lane had, is the embodiment of what should be considered a "collision corner." Winfield's recent return to the lineup for the Minnesota Vikings not only reignited the defense in whole but also proved that he remains the elite fantasy commodity we've coveted over the years.
Red Rookie: Last week I talked about how the Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews was on his way to a double-digit sack campaign and in place to compete with Brian Cushing for the league's top rookie defender. While Matthews performed ably and notched a sack last week, it seems that Brian Orakpo was motivated from the lack of shine I've given him lately and went off on the hapless Oakland Raiders offensive line to the tune of four sacks and a forced fumble. The raring rook is available in over 80 percent of ESPN leagues and is eligible as a defensive end, which only adds to his already promising value.
Exploiting Eligibility: The Buffalo Bills are home to two of the most useful position eligibility loopholes in all of fantasy as safety-turned-outside linebacker Bryan Scott has transitioned ably to the position, and current safety George Wilson continues to be productive while eligible as a wide receiver in ESPN leagues. Both are available in the vast majority of leagues and make for sound investments over the season's final weeks.
IDP Rankings Week 15: The Top 10 linebackers, lineman and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: 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).
Playoff Bargain Bin
A playoff-themed collection of promising and widely available talents.
Paul Posluszny has been a beast of late, which is understandable when you get a look a his thumbnail photo in his profile and realize that his neck intimidates tailors and makes Takeo Spikes look normal. But really, the Penn State product has been on a tear since returning from his annual forearm break and should be busy chasing down the New England Patriots tailbacks and the wily Wes Welker over the middle. ... I dropped Robert Mathis this week due to injury and because Darnell Dockett was available in that league. Dockett enjoys an incredibly inviting stretch of opponents here with the Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams over the next two weeks. Known to get his sacks in bunches, Dockett is about to go on a tear as I see it. ... The Tennessee Titans' Keith Bulluck has produced at an elite level lately and should net some nice tackle numbers this week chasing down Ricky Williams. ... Mario Williams is saving a down season with a recent sack surge that should only continue as the hapless St. Louis Rams host the Houston Texans this week. ... Bernard Pollard and Antoine Winfield are both available in nearly 60 percent of ESPN leagues and make for compelling playoff additions.
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.