A long time ago, Sunday acquired a reputation as the ideal day to relax, rejoice and reflect. For us football fiends, however, it's become a day to stress over fantasy lineup decisions, grill marinated meats and consume 14 straight hours of football. I genuinely prefer the latter, and as you well know, it's all gloriously coming back to a couch near you. In order to help get you ready to decipher the defensive side of the ball for your fantasy squad, this offseason we discussed how to approach the 2013 market for talent and some key talents to target heading into the new campaign. It's likely that several of the talents we endorsed in those pieces are still floating around your league. My man Tristan H. Cockcroft even penned a brilliant piece on IDP historical analysis and how it might help us navigate this current market for defensive commodities. The biggest key to producing a contending IDP roster is to always mine for production and profits on the market for defenders, as it's definitely a format that rewards early birds. As always, we will dig into weekly rankings, news and telling trends in this space, and I invite you to comment and discuss your IDP needs and analysis below.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Midway Mike: The competition between veteran D.J. Williams and rookie Jon Bostic for the eminent middle linebacker spot in Chicago is reaching a crescendo just as the season kicks off. With Williams ailing for much of the preseason, the rook has started four preseason games and reports from the beat have been overwhelmingly warm to Bostic's upside in replacing team legend Brian Urlacher. New coach Marc Trestman is basically holding an open competition starting in Week 1, as Williams is set to return from a knee injury and actually compete for snaps with the rookie from Florida in the opener. Keep tabs on this battle; if there were an outright victor, he would immediately become a top-20 linebacker with the potential for so much more. My money is on Bostic, but the play on the gridiron will settle this soon enough.
IDP Infirmary: We are well aware of just how menacing and monstrous Jason Pierre-Paul can be when he's in peak form. We are also quite aware of just how troubling his injury issues and production have become over the past year. It's encouraging that he's back at practice this week, but given that he's listed as a rotational end going in and expected to play limited snaps for a late Sunday game, it could be wise to leave him on the bench until we see a healthy snap count. We left Pierre-Paul off the top 25 at his position this week due to such real usage doubts, but make sure to follow all of the "JPP" news on the NFL Nation blog this weekend. … The offseason contract drama with Buffalo's Jairus Byrd is now in the background, as a lingering foot ailment will likely keep him from starting the season. The Pro Bowl playmaker has immediate value when he returns to the fold, but converted corner and starting safety Aaron Williams could be quite busy chasing down Patriots this Sunday.
Mighty Quinn: Available in nearly 85 percent of ESPN leagues, St. Louis Rams end Robert Quinn is entering that famous third season, or vaunted "leap year," in the pros when it all comes together. With a stocked front seven around him and a savory matchup to start the campaign, getting an early share of the former Tar Heel could prove profitable.
Bargain Bin: Defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues
Linebacker Desmond Bishop's descent from rising star for the Packers to fighting for a roster spot with the Vikings also saw his fantasy stock dramatically deflate. But now that he's played his way into a starting spot on the outside for the Vikings, we can potentially find value in deeper formats, or merely as a depth flier in more shallow or standard formats. The production pedigree is undeniable with Bishop, and now the risk has been removed from the cost equation. … Nick Roach is the man in the middle in Oakland now and it could be an incredibly productive role for fantasy investors. Confidently roster and start Roach (owned in just seven percent of ESPN leagues) heading into the season. … Indy's Jerrell Freeman posted 145 tackles last season and has a sweet role on a young defense, but is still widely available in leagues. Go change that. … Could I possibly interest you in a player who has one career tackle -- rather, one career assisted tackle? If I still have you, go ahead and begin to target the newest member of my spell-check team, Denver's Duke Ihenacho. As the surprise starter at strong safety for a team that will engage in its fair share of shootouts given all the requisite ingredients, Ihenacho could soon have his name mispronounced on a regular basis while tallying tackles and pass breakups. … It would be wise to keep an eye on Bengals safety George Iloka this weekend, as he has earned the starting gig on a safety-friendly defense.
IDP Rankings: Week 1
The top 25 linebackers, linemen and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Solo tackle (0.5), Assisted tackle (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (0.5), Blocked kick (3).