Timing is everything. Of the overused idioms we use when describing sports, this one rings particularly true for football. Every play, every individual battle, is predicated on exact timing. Whether it's making plays on the ball or perfectly synchronizing with the snap count, defenders need to combine talent with timing in order to produce on the field.
Timing is also everything in fantasy football. As the market moves rapidly, we must be proactive in our approach to investing.
There have been countless times when we've gone to add that player we've been eyeing, only to realize that another owner clicked the necessary buttons minutes, sometimes even seconds, before. Sometimes, the guys you miss out on in free agency or the wire hurt more than the commodities you misread in the draft.
The positive part of this is that the market continues to evolve, and new names emerge nearly every week. I find that it's better to be proactive, even aggressive, in roster management then to simply hope for better Sundays. Sure, there are many cases where patience is rewarded, like those who stuck with Cameron Wake, but at the same time, there is legitimate value in being ready to risk a roster spot when the timing and talent demands it.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Wake Up: Having exhausted all possible hype and endorsements for the incomparably productive J.J. Watt, it's time to shift the attention to Wake, who just went off on the fallible Arizona Cardinals line to the tune of 4.5 sacks. Wake was weak in terms of production before last week, and while we can't expect him or teammate Brian Hartline to repeat such huge numbers again, there is great potential going forward. Wake is making the transition from outside linebacker to down lineman, and the costs of transition were evident in the first month of lackluster production. Even when the numbers weren't surfacing, however, Wake remained busy, pressuring the pocket. He is now converting that pressure into sack production. Available in almost 40 percent of ESPN leagues, he is an ideal addition at a shallow position.
Get Angry: Pat Angerer, he of the 148 tackles in 2011, has bided his time healing after suffering a broken foot in the preseason and is due to return this weekend. While it's difficult to endorse starting him right off the bat, owning him is another story, as he is still out there in more than 97 percent of ESPN leagues. You read that correctly; the guy who was fourth in the NFL in tackles last season is free for the click of a few buttons. While the Indianapolis Colts' defense has made some marked shifts in scheme and personnel, Angerer should have an entrenched role as an inside linebacker in the team's new-look 3-4 right away.
Last Man Tackling: The demise of the New York Jets defense can't be tied solely to the loss of Darrelle Revis. While it's undoubtedly crippling to lose such a dominant defender, the Jets have lacked a pass rush for nearly two seasons, and the talent in the front seven has eroded as poor free-agent allocation and missed draft picks have limited the depth and impact of the position. There is one positive to be taken from this team, and it's not the Wildcat signal-caller in waiting; it's linebacker David Harris, the team's lone stalwart in the front seven who has been busy chasing the ball this fall. With 30 tackles over the past three weeks and an expectedly steady workload going forward, Harris has top-20 potential at the position for the remainder of the season.
Bargain Bin: Worthy defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues: Vontaze Burfict was talked about a great deal before this spring's draft, and not in a good way. He was the subject of great doubt, as a checkered reputation saw his draft stock plummet from first-rounder to undrafted in a matter of weeks. But there is hope for Burfict, as he has been thrust into the starting outside linebacker gig for the Cincinnati Bengals, a role he had never played before but one he excelled in during his trial by fire last week. Eight tackles and a sack is a pretty stellar first foray into starting in the NFL, and he is an interesting player to target in deeper leagues. The Miami Dolphins' Kevin Burnett won't wow you with big plays, but he is a steady source of tackles manning the inside lanes. Malcolm Jenkins' transition to safety is starting to pay off after some troubling times, and it's safe to assume that teams will continue to pass all over the New Orleans Saints this season. The Cincinnati Bengals' Carlos Dunlap is about as boom-or-bust as it gets in fantasy, but in deep leagues that heavily reward sacks, it's a worthy gamble to consider. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Michael Bennett quietly has four sacks on the season, and the film suggest it's not an aberration but rather signs of a playmaker emerging. We can't bank on big plays from Lance Briggs like we could during the prime of his career, but the steady tackles are welcomed. This week, versus the run-heavy Jags, he is a great bye-week buffer. Atari Bigby is enjoying a revival this season and should be busy patrolling the passing lanes versus the New Orleans Saints.
IDP Rankings Week 5: The top 30 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 (3).