From undrafted out of Division III John Carroll University to becoming the active NFL leader in consecutive games played with an astounding 249 and counting, no one can claim that Redskins linebacker London Fletcher hasn't maximized his time in the professional ranks. This isn't 16 years of punting with a grandfathered single-bar facemask or holding a play chart next to the coach, inside linebacker is a position defined by constant collision, with an every-down demand for athleticism and instinct. If he continues his current streak of games started until the end of this campaign -- and if you look at Fletcher's stats page, you'll see "16" appear 15 times in the games played column -- he will tie all-timers Ronde Barber and Alan Page with 209 consecutive games started. After 11 strong and sometimes even stellar seasons, Fletcher finally earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2009, and now has earned that distinction for four straight seasons. As recently as last December, at age 37, he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month after posting 51 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks over the course of the final month, as Washington successfully chased a playoff berth.
Going on 13 straight seasons with at least 100 tackles and with a 14th well in range, Fletcher would undoubtedly rank as an all-timer in this statistical department, but the books are messy on this one. Since the NFL didn't make the tackle an official stat until 2001, the preceding team-kept tackle tallies are to be considered somewhat dubious, if not just wholly inaccurate. Before the 1994 season, assists were grouped with solo tackles by many teams. As Pro Football Reference confirms, from 1994-2000, assists were unofficial but consistently recorded. It's nearly impossible to compile an accurate all-time tackles list considering this reality, although that would be a pretty awesome (or awful) and demanding (or defeating) research project, depending on your ability to chart every game in the history of football. Sadly, defensive greats of the 1950s and into the '80s simply don't have reliable statistical résumés for us to pore over. Tackle monsters like Ray Lewis and Zach Thomas, Kyle Clifton and Jessie Tuggle all would assuredly be near the top of the leaderboard, and so would Fletcher and his 1,988 combined tackles.
Despite Fletcher's awesome career, his production and fantasy impact has noticeably waned this fall. While he's still on pace for over 100 tackles this season, an increasing share of them are assists (often worth less in fantasy scoring) and the big plays aren't showing up. Just last season, Fletcher posted a career-high five picks while adding 139 tackles and three sacks, so calling it a wrap on his enduring stretch of excellence could be premature, but the evidence is mounting. It's hard not to notice that Fletcher has four-or-fewer combined tackles in three games this season and on tape he's simply not at the ball as suddenly or often as in seasons past. Pro Football Focus currently rates Fletcher 53rd out of 53 qualifying inside 'backers based on grading for every snap this season. We should still see a few double-digit tackle efforts for Fletcher over the next seven games, but it appears that his ownership (51.1 percent in ESPN leagues) and starting rate (46.8 percent) are inflated by history and don't reflect recent results. I have moved on from Fletcher as an every-week starter in a few leagues already, preferring to go younger at the position. It didn't feel great, but the numbers will support the move. There's rarely, nor should there be for a savvy manager, much loyalty in fantasy investing, but Fletcher will go down as an all-time great in both real and fantasy regards, and his decade-plus as a must-start IDP asset deserves discussion.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Rey to Rey: Bengals 'backer Rey Maualuga could return to the fold this week, but it's unclear how much of the field he'll see. While on the mend from a knee injury, Maualuga had to watch Vincent Rey thrive in his place, tallying 20 tackles and three sacks in his first two career starts. Maualuga isn't an exciting fantasy commodity; his three career sacks were matched by Rey just past this Sunday in Baltimore. Rey also amassed 15 tackles in Week 10. If the window was closing on Rey's starting stint for the Bengals in Maualuga's place, this awesome performance in a crucial division battle, albeit a loss, could serve to keep the last-name Rey in over the first-name Rey for the time being. It's not advisable to plug Rey in until it's clear what the breakdown and usage might be between he and Maualuga, but it's an undeniably interesting scenario to monitor.
Worry Less: The idea here is that if you pick up and play Paul Worrilow you will worry less about your production. The undrafted University of Delaware Blue Hen rookie can certainly call on fellow alum Joe Flacco for some free dinners in the offseason, but if he keeps up the massive production -- 19 tackles in each of the past two games -- Worrilow might just have a steady gig to call his own. As Sean Weatherspoon approaches a return to the field for the Falcons, it will be interesting to see how Worrilow's role develops. On a team heading toward its first losing season since 2007, however, allowing youth to shine and earn work seems more viable for a player in Worrilow's situation. Given the torrid tackle clip of late, there is immediate spot-start value here, and possibly some enduring success if Worrilow can continue his three-down role (he has played every defensive snap the past two weeks).
Arizona Abe: A stat correction came on Wednesday affording John Abraham a third sack for Week 10, giving the veteran sack legend (128 career sacks tied for 11th all-time) a Cardinals record of six sacks over a three-game span. Until Week 7, Abraham was battling injury and transitioning to an outside linebacker role in the Cards' 3-4 scheme after a career spent with his hand on the ground in a 4-3 setup. Since Week 7, the man with two first names has multiple sacks twice and the aforementioned three-game stretch. Even at his double-digit best in the sack department, Abraham has long been a frustrating fantasy commodity due to the sack-or-nothing tendencies of his production. Weekly trust was never there at his best, and it shouldn't be present in the twilight of his career. The caveat here is that while working from the outside edge as a 3-4 'backer these days, Abraham remains eligible as a defensive end in our game, affording him some strong spot-start status here versus a suspect Jacksonville offensive line.
Bargain bin -- Defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues
Oakland's Lamarr Houston is the rare defensive end with a healthy tackle rate, helping to buoy those sack-less outings. A matchup against the Texans this week versus an increasingly porous line and pass-heavy offense could see Houston thrive. Watch out now: The Eagles are actually using a guy they drafted to get to the quarterback to, you know, get to the quarterback. Vinny Curry has sacks in three of four games after being in and out of the game plan for the early weeks of the season. This current Seahawks regime has been amazing at getting the most out of their edge rushers after other teams struggled to do so. Cliff Avril is yet another example of an end thriving in their system, as the ex-Lion has 3.5 sacks over his past four games and faces a suspect Vikings offense this Sunday. I likely stuck with Colin McCarthy for too long in my offseason rankings. The Titans have long gotten great production from their inside linebackers, and the lure of that role clouded the reality of his lingering injury issues. Now back on the field and healthy, however relatively, for the first time in a good while, McCarthy merits attention as a solid spot-start or LB3. Giants safety Antrel Rolle has been successful getting to the pocket recently and the valuable usage should continue for the veteran safety.
Week 11: 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 (4), Pass defended (0.5), Blocked kick (3).