All season long, this is the place for your weekly Individual Defensive Player Report. We'll be focusing on the three main statistics for most IDP leagues (solo tackles, sacks, and takeaways) in three-position formats (defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs).
It's a bit of a knee-jerk reaction for fantasy owners. A stud starting running back goes down, you rush to pick up his replacement. A stud IDP linebacker like E.J. Henderson goes down, your first instinct is to rush to get his replacement, in this case, Herron. But there's absolutely no need. Unlike Henderson, Herron is a two-down linebacker, limiting his snaps. And, frankly, he's not a very good one at that. Some two-down linebackers can still hold fantasy value despite their limited snaps. Herron is not one of them. Through two starts, the second-year linebacker has three solo tackles. Obviously, that production can only go up. But between a lack of playing time and a lack of ability, it's not going up by much.
At the beginning of 2007, Jones was out of the NFL (of course, it could be argued that playing in Cincinnati is a lateral move). He latched on with the Bengals and was a solid fill-in starter on the weak side for Cincy, recording 33 solo tackles in his eight starts at the WILL. New defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer moved Jones to the MIKE for '08, and so far the results have been great. Jones' overall stat line is inflated by his 19 assists. But 31 solo tackles through five games is nothing to sneeze at. He's short on big plays, and eventually rookie WILL Keith Rivers will start taking away some of Jones's plays (and possibly displacing him). But, for now, with the Bengals struggling to hold onto the ball and opponents ramming it down their throats with a league-high 190 opponent rushing attempts, Jones remains as safe a bet as almost any fantasy linebacker.
Will anyone even bother throwing on the Seattle Seahawks again? It's a legitimate question to ask, and one that should make Kerney owners very nervous. The run/pass splits against Seattle have been evened out by matchups with the pass-happy 49ers and Rams. But Week 5 was an eye-opener. Coming off a bye no less, Seattle's front seven almost refused to tackle anyone coming out of the Giants backfield. And considering their banged up offense isn't putting opposing offenses back on their heels, there's little reason to think the next few opponents won't go right back to attacking Seattle on the ground. Kerney isn't a slouch in run support, but his main value is in the sacks. He has four in his first four games, but Kerney's opportunities could start drying up.
Has it happened? Is IDP's most chronically overrated defensive lineman now underrated? Peppers was essentially out of the minds of IDPers after last year's 2.5-sack debacle. It was the result of a lack of an option on the other side of the line, and with the Panthers offense incapable of moving the ball, other teams weren't inclined to go pass-happy very often. But the offense is better with Jake Delhomme under center again, and the seemingly-uninspiring left end rotation of Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson is actually working out well, forcing opponents to look at the other side of the line. Peppers' production hasn't been eye-popping: three sacks and a disappointing eight solo tackles through five games. But he's on a much better pace than '07. And with his raw talent, Peppers becomes an intriguing -- though risky -- high-reward option.
Porter will never be an every-week option at linebacker. But he's back in the IDP discussion in Paul Pasqualoni's scheme. Porter was often playing out of position, putting his hand in the dirt too often under ex-DC Dom Capers in his first season in Miami. But the Parcells/Sporano regime came on and installed a 3-4 much like the one Porter thrived in with the Steelers. Keep in mind that four of his 5.5 sacks came in a Week 3 rout of the Patriots. But Porter's ability to rack up sacks rushing from the weak side make him an option for gambling owners in leagues with sack-heavy scoring formats.
First of all, if your league still counts Ware as a defensive lineman, you best find a new league. He hasn't been a lineman since he played at Troy. And, of course, having only linebacker eligibility hurts Ware's value in fantasy leagues. But if there were ever a rush linebacker to own, he's the one. Like most 3-4 OLBs, Ware doesn't rack up tackles -- 53 games into his NFL career, he's never had more than seven solo tackles in a game. But no one gets to the quarterback more consistently. Including the playoffs, Ware has at least a sack in each of his past nine games.
After a borderline-disastrous couple of seasons in Jacksonville, the Jaguars finally conceded that in Williams, they had invested a lot of money in a cover corner who couldn't actually cover anyone. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams seemed to have come up with a fine solution for '08: move Williams to strong safety. As an effective Cover-2 corner in Minnesota, Williams had shown he was more than capable in run support. And better yet, the move would mean a whole lot more tackles for Williams, who never had the ball skills to make a lot of big plays. Suddenly, he was a nice sleeper option in IDP leagues. But the best laid plans ... new starting corner Drayton Florence went down with a groin injury. Plan A was to insert William James into that spot on Sunday night. James was so bad in the first half against Pittsburgh that NFL Films should take clips of him trying to cover receivers and set it to the theme music from Benny Hill. Plan B came in, and that was moving Williams to that corner spot, breaking IDP owner hearts everywhere. If Florence is forced to sit again on Sunday, Williams' IDP stock will continue to dip.
Most fantasy owners already know Winfield is awesome. He plays the run better than any corner in the NFL. Actually, he plays the run better than a lot of linebackers. And as an added bonus this season, the Vikings are boosting his big-play ability by blitzing him off the corners a little more often. So far, he's had two sack-strip-recover plays, one that he ran back for a TD. On top of that, Winfield had a blocked field goal return for a TD on Monday night. But the most beautiful part for fantasy owners was his eight solo tackles in New Orleans. That kind of consistent tackle production, with the big-play ability piled on top, is what makes Winfield the No. 1 DB in fantasy for my money.