Just like in real football, there's not a lot of patience in fantasy football. In the NFL, jobs are on the line in every game, in every practice. In fantasy, roster spots are constantly at stake, as the pressurized nature of the game asks us to be proactive in our management. The market for talent in fantasy seems to vacillate endlessly because of the steady stream of injury reports and commentary that we digest on a daily basis, in addition to plain old production.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a single strong outing and his ownership jumped from 1.5 percent last week to 51.9 this week. Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin had an atypically awesome tackle-heavy performance and is significantly added as a result. Should we follow the "public" and consider these popular additions as sound commodities?
We are constantly pursuing precision in our management and seeking the ideal timing for acquiring, starting and releasing specific commodities. On the offensive side of the ball, following the add/drop trends might not as be as useful, given that most fantasy managers can read several articles as to which players make for the best additions each week. Essentially, I think it's becoming increasingly difficult to be savvy on the waiver wire in this age of profuse information. Even the laziest cat in your fantasy league can read bullet points on each week's impact waiver considerations.
On this here defensive side of the ball, tracking the ownership trends can be somewhat valuable. I'm going to go ahead and purport that the individual defensive player (IDP) manager is a little more intense about his or her business, particularly when it comes to managing defenders. What I mean is with such a small group of competitors (roughly 10 percent of ESPN leagues) and such a large pool of talent (any NFL defensive player) the additions made each week are seemingly more precise and immediate, while offensive additions are more speculative and conditional because they focus on potential returns and upside in most cases. To wrap up this convoluted pitch, I'll simply suggest that each week you peruse your league's player pool and consider how the IDP marketplace is fluctuating. Sometimes you'll find a gem that your peers have unearthed for you.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Infirmary: Close to a month into the season, the injuries are piling up. The most significant loss of the season so far is likely the Cleveland Browns'D'Qwell Jackson, who entered the season with a serious pectoral injury and was recently placed on injured reserve. Let's forgive how strange it is that he wasn't placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and didn't reportedly suffer any serious setbacks. Instead, consider the fantasy takeaway here. The result of Jackson's lost season is that cagey veteran Eric Barton will remain in a favorable inside linebacker spot for the Browns, which could lead to a healthy stream of tackles. Consider Barton in deep leagues or as an immediate bye-week commodity. The Detroit Lions DeAndre Levy was high on sleeper lists this summer, but his lingering injury issues have seen his ownership dip below 30 percent in ESPN leagues. Keep an eye on Levy over the next couple of weeks to see if any of the hype materializes into production. The Buffalo Bills Paul Posluszny is coming off his annual injury sabbatical and can be had for free in over 30 percent of ESPN leagues. Facing what could be a run-heavy New York Jets offense this Sunday in Orchard Park, expect Posluszny to hit double-digit tackles in his return.
Best Byes: The bye week for a stud fantasy commodity can be a frustrating reality, even for the well prepared. This is particularly true in the IDP realm, in which we often can't bear all of the byes and find that sometimes a legit performer must be let go for the roster space alone. The flip side is if a manager can make room on a roster to accommodate this reality, then he or she can be proactive and pursue any compelling bye-week casualties that surface in the league. This week, the most-dropped list for defenders is filled with talents on bye. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle-machine Barrett Rudd saw a near 10 percent drop in ownership this week. The Minnesota Vikings trio of talents, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield and Chad Greenway, saw small dips in ownership, too.
Return Rewards: One of the most common requests that I often don't get around to accommodating, besides the whole toilet seat thing, is to cover the impact of return yardage on the IDP talent pool. A percentage of leagues out there reward return yardage and, in some cases, it can seriously impact the value of a player. Many of the e-mails I receive about return yardage focus on the lack of resources for such a specific setting and ask where to find good analysis for this format. The best resource, it seems, is to simply peruse the numbers and hunt for the defensive backs who are significantly contributing yardage. It's not shaping up to be great year for defensive backs, particularly fantasy-worthy ones, but I'll mention a few that merit some consideration. The Philadelphia Eagles Ellis Hobbs was once an elite returner for the New England Patriots and is currently entrenched in a return role. The Chicago Bears'Danieal Manning was stellar on kick returns last season, and is warming up lately, with a big return against the Green Bay Packers this past Monday. In deeper and keeper leagues, keep an eye on Kansas City's Javier Arenas, the much younger and faster cousin of Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas.
WWWWD: What would Will Witherspoon do? He ended up in Tennessee as somewhat of a castoff and is beginng to attack quarterbacks on the regular. With a sack in each of his first three outings, Witherspoon is reminding veteran IDP managers of his monster 2007 campaign in St. Louis, in which he tallied 110 tackles and seven sacks. While the tackle pace isn't nearly as profound, the Titans are certainly apt to use him on blitzes and maximize his value in that role. He's rostered in less than 7 percent of ESPN leagues, but there's no risk to go with considerable rewards for taking a flier on the wily vet.
IDP Rankings Week 4: 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 (0.5), Tackle - Assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (1), Blocked kick (2).
Bargain Bin: Worthy defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues
The aforementioned Griffin can't be relied on for double-digit tackles on a weekly basis, but his larcenous ways in the passing game have long been a part of his game. In leagues that significantly reward turnovers, Griffin bears added value. Keep an eye on the injury status of the Arizona Cardinals Paris Lenon heading into Sunday. If he's a go, consider him a quality bye-week plug-in because he'll be busy chasing down the San Diego Chargers offense this week. The Carolina Panthers James Anderson gets to the ball quite often, and this is a good thing. The New England Patriots Pat Chung could be busy against a Miami Dolphins offense that might just have to pass early and often to keep pace with the Patriots offense. The Panthers Charles Godfrey will be busy pursuing the New Orleans Saints bevy of receiving talents. Rocky heads back to Philly this week, Rocky McIntosh that is, and you should consider him before everybody knows about him.
Going forward, please contact me at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com with any of your IDP questions.
Kevin Vickery: Where can I go to find more IDP research? Your analysis so far has been very helpful but IDP leagues are run in so many ways one person simply can't cover everything.
Jim: This is true, Kevin. The resources for IDP are somewhat limited, especially given the amazing variety within the format itself. Without naming specifics, I can say that there are several accomplished and worthy IDP analysts out there, and I suggest you go out and read as much as possible as a means to glean as much of an edge and understanding as possible. Us IDP nerds aren't that hard to find. More than anything, I suggest, like I always have, you simply pore over the numbers each week. Look through box scores, your peers' rosters, the waiver wire and what not and you will find that the commodities will find you eventually.
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Washington Post's "Behind the Helmet" and Sirius XM's Fantasy Sports Channel. You can reach Jim with your questions and comments at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or on Twitter @JMcCormickESPN.