From local games to national events, I covered high school football for several years. Often, I would attend games with the intention of highlighting an incumbent star player or coveted recruit. Yet nearly just as often, a new narrative would emerge when an off-the-radar player would influence the game, meriting coverage by the sheer demand of the results.
Years ago, I went to watch an offensive lineman who was a major ACC recruit play in a prep game, but I couldn't take my eyes off this lanky quarterback for Penn Charter named Matt Ryan, who could spin the ball. You never know what you'll find as long as you're watching.
This happens in fantasy football as well. In watching Game Rewind this week to get a closer look at some exciting, young Vikings, I ended up noticing strong safety Robert Blanton playing next to Harrison Smith, the kid I was there to see. Blanton never left the field and has actually played every snap this season to Smith's 96.7 percent snap rate. Blanton is available in 93 percent of ESPN leagues and is trending for well over 100 tackles, including 80 solos.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Denver Danny: Not only are the Denver Broncos enjoying the play of spot-play 'backer Brandon Marshall, they will be getting back a proven playmaker in Danny Trevathan. The third-year Kentucky Wildcat had 129 tackles, two sacks and seven forced turnovers last season and is available for a few clicks in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues. Trevathan is the sort of addition that can influence weekly outcomes for fantasy investors.
What can Brown Do For You? Preston Brown is a rookie linebacker for the Buffalo Bills enjoying amazing opportunity each week out thanks to a full complement of snaps and a steady share of tackle opportunities. On pace for 160 total tackles in the wake of Kiko Alonso's injury, this rookie (available in 80 percent of ESPN leagues) from Louisville is primed to produce profits for progressive fantasy investors.
Snap count: The teams with defenders constantly on the field can offer profit potential for those seeking cheap sources of counting stats. The Eagles, unsurprisingly, field several defenders in the top 20 of snap counts through four weeks. Seeking out simple but helpful tools like time of possession and even pace of play can help us identify some of these sources. Clearly, you want to also confirm that a player is producing worthy fantasy totals along with the snaps, like how the Raiders' Miles Burris is silently on pace for over 100 tackles.
Most Defensive Snaps, 2014 Season
Bargain bin -- Defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues
The Redskins' Keenan Robinson is quietly pacing for well over 100 total tackles along with a healthy blend of sacks and turnovers. Available in 60 percent of ESPN leagues, Robinson and his defensive peers could be on the field a lot Monday night. ... The Giants' Damontre Moore hasn't emerged quite as noticeably as I was hoping as a hyped offseason commodity, but the widely available (owned in 33.3 percent of ESPN leagues) lineman has massive upside in facing a porous Falcons protection plan. ... The Jets' Demario Davis is pacing for 124 total tackles and eight sacks at the quarter mark, a pretty sweet blend of fantasy goodness. Davis should be busy chasing down an efficient San Diego Chargers attack. ... We promoted Detroit's Tahir Whitehead last week and everyone should have taken notice, as the linebacker posted 12 tackles as the starting middle man. However, no one added him in ESPN leagues, so he's still available in 100 percent of leagues. Whitehead is one cheap man in the middle of a great front seven.
Week 5: The Top 35 LBs, DLs and DBs
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).
Note: Rankings were updated to account for the latest news and to remove players from Thursday's Vikings/Packers game. Latest update: Friday, 10:15 a.m. ET