A weekly look at the risers and fallers among individual defensive players. Analysis is based on the four main statistics for most IDP leagues (solo tackles, sacks, passes defensed and takeaways) in three-position formats (defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs).
There are few things I enjoy more than patting myself on the back, so I'm not passing on this opportunity. Despite two years as an invisible man in Philly, I pegged him as a sleeper in the SI Preview mag and the final preseason IDP Report, based on his potential in Pete Carroll's pass-rushing elephant role. Right now, he's delivering at an All-Pro level. Clemons has had two sacks in each of the past two games, and he's been getting into opponents' backfields all year. He's tied for second in the league with 10.5 QB knockdowns. He's never going to be great against the run, but he's played often enough on early downs to collect 11 solo tackles. He's a DL1 in sack-heavy scoring formats and should at least be owned in all leagues.
Early this year, it was a waiting game to see whether first-round pick Derrick Morgan would start eating into Babin's reps or Ball's. With Morgan now out for the season with a torn ACL, Babin and Ball will continue to get heavy playing time. That's the good news, especially considering their solid production so far (Ball has 4.5 sacks, Babin 3.5 plus 12 solo tackles). The bad news: Tennessee will still use a rotation on their line -- William Hayes and Jacob Ford are both capable part-time contributors. Neither Babin nor Ball are true every-down players. Plus, as of now their numbers are inflated by Sunday's game against pass-happy Denver. Kyle Orton dropped back 56 times, with Ball getting 2.5 sacks and Babin 1.5. The verdict: rushing the QB's blindside, Ball has shown enough to be worth a flier as a bench player. Babin has more upside though. He'll get more chances to stop the run playing primarily on the left side of the line, and the former first-rounder is the better pure pass rusher of the two.
A few weeks ago, it seemed like Hawk was destined for next summer's SI "Where Are They Now?" issue. Instead, he's put himself back on the IDP radar over the past two weeks. Will he keep it? That's going to depend on Brandon Chillar's injured shoulder. Hawk has been strictly a two-down player, and a pretty ordinary one since the Pack switched to a 3-4. But with nickel LB Chillar out, he's on the field for three downs again. He delivered nine solo tackles, two PDs and an INT in Week 4, and is a threat for 8-to-10 solo tackles as long as Chillar is out (which, while it's unclear for now, could be a while). Anyone hurting at linebacker, especially in tackle-heavy scoring formats, should feel good about pouncing on Hawk.
He's the stuff that tackle-heavy IDP stars are made of. Moore is a super-sized (220-pound) strong safety who has officially taken the starting job from Erik Coleman. Moore has a reputation of excelling against the run, but it has been his big-play ability that's stood out in his first three career starts. Moore has two interceptions and a forced fumble already. It's enough to make him worthy of a pick-up, but he's risky. He only has 10 solo tackles in those three starts, as the Falcons have been using him and Thomas DeCoud as more of a left-right tandem rather than a traditional free safety-strong safety. And with Curtis Lofton swallowing up tackles in front of him, there's no guarantee those tackles will come.
Not surprisingly, Verner was a popular man in his first career start. Playing across from Cortland Finnegan, the fourth-round rookie was targeted early and often by Kyle Orton. He gave up his share of plays, but all-in-all wasn't an unmitigated disaster, finishing with three PDs and 11 solo tackles. Verner's ball skills are solid, but he's not going to do a lot in run support. And keep in mind his numbers were inflated with Orton putting it up 50 times. All in all, Verner should be a solid reserve DB, and maybe more in leagues that weigh PDs more heavily. He should be able to retain the starting job even after Jason McCourty (fractured forearm) gets healthy.