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IDP Notes
Week 1
9/9/09

Week 1 Injury Report (available Friday PM)

IDP Depth Chart

Defensive Line

  • An offseason of legal posturing resulted in no resolution to the four-game suspensions of several prominent players for violating the NFLís substance abuse policy related to their use of StarCaps. With the issue still tied up in court, the Vikings interior duo of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, as well as the Saintsí end tandem of Will Smith and Charles Grant, will start this week. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed all players will be eligible this week regardless of if a court ruling occurs. However, this issue is far from over, as the NFL continues to lobby for their collective bargaining agreement to supersede any state court ruling, and make sure your roster is prepared to lose all of them for up to four games at some point this season. Of all the back-ups getting a boost if this goes bad for the players involved, the one to grab off the waiver wire is Saintsí DE Bobby McCray.

  • The shocking addition Richard Seymour from the Patriots shakes up the Raiders DLine for a third time this preseason. Previously a disgruntled Derrick Burgess was shipped to the Pats and Greg Ellis came over from Dallas. Seymour should be starting at RDE, but he doesnít get much of a bump in value playing in a 4-3 because itís hard to see him surpassing the 50 tackles and 7.5 sacks he got last year. Ellis moves to LDE and declines in value at the anchor end while re-learning playing in a 4-3. Finally Trevor Scott, who tied for the Raidersí team lead in sacks (five) as a rookie last season, loses an opportunity to be an every-down player and his value is stagnant as a pass rush specialist (look for Seymour to move inside on passing downs). In New England, we wonít know for sure until their first game, but it sounds like Burgess could be limited to a situational pass rush role, which hurts his potential value. However, there have also been indications the Pats could show more 4-3 looks this season (including the departure of Seymour, a true 3-4 end, and addition of a speed rusher like Burgess), in which case Burgess could see starter snaps.

  • Osi Umenyiora returns after missing last season with a knee injury. Despite a recent run-in with new DC Bill Sheridan, Umenyiora should be fine and remain one of the starting ends. DE Justin Tuck remains in the upper echelon of all DLinemen that Umenyiora should returns too, while the drop in value for Mathias Kiwanuka could be less than expected. Despite starting all 16 games last season in place of Umenyiora, Kiwanukaís tackle numbers didnít improve from where he was with almost half as many starts his previous two years. His spike in value was due to his 8.5 sacks, a number he should be able to come close to as just a situational pass rusher with his progress in that area with three years of experience and, like Tuck, the flexibility to play anywhere in the front seven. However, what could hurt Kiwanukaís numbers more is the addition of Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard. Both can be interior rushers, requiring Tuck and Kiwanuka to assume that role less this season, with Canty also a far better option as the fourth end, allowing for a deeper rotation.

  • No reason to believe Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers show any more at end in Cinci this year. Third-round pick Michael Johnson, who was considered an elite prospect before a disappointing final collegiate season in 2008, should become a starter sooner than later and finish as the most productive DE on the Bengals this year.

  • Another rookie DE who should be a decent immediate contributor is Lawrence Sidbury Jr. in Atlanta. Former first-round pick Jamaal Anderson is a bust, at least as a pass rusher, and John Abraham hasnít proven to be the most durable player. L-Sid isnít ready for an every-down role, but had a good showing as a pass rusher in the preseason and should see situational work right out of the gate.

  • Donít underestimate the impact DLine coach Rod Marinelli could have for the Bears. He could make the difference in helping Alex Brown finally reach his double-digit sack potential, help DE Mark Anderson recapture his rookie form, and motivate DT Tommie Harris to play through the pain to be an elite tackle. Marcus Harrison and Jarron Gilbert are two youngsters with high upside (for interior linemen) who will benefit from proper tutelage and need to contribute immediately.

  • Donít sleep on Washingtonís supplemental draft pick of DE Jeremy Jarmon in deep dynasty leagues. Aging Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn should both be gone next year, if they make it through this one, and Chris Wilson is purely a pass rush specialist. Even Andre Carter has been frustratingly inconsistent throughout his career and could end up a cap casualty or in a situational role next year. Jarmon projects as an anchor end and not an elite pass rusher, so his fantasy upside is limited. However, he should see playing time this season and on a fast track to start at LDE next year.

Linebacker

  • While Carolina MLB Jon Beason (MCL sprain) is confident heíll be ready for the season opener, the team has not expressed the same certainty.

  • Lawrence Timmons is dealing with a high ankle sprain and expected to miss at least the Steelersí season opener on Thursday. After great production as a role player last year, the consensus on the former first round pick is he should explode in a starting role this year (replacing the departed Larry Foote next to James Farrior inside), but this is an inauspicious start and the injury could linger. Keyaron Fox should get the nod for as long as Timmons is out. In his fifth season out of GaTech, Fox is a special teams ace who is still looking to crack the starting lineup on his second team. He is primarily a run-stopper who has some value as a replacement simply from the defense he plays in, but donít burn a high waiver pick on him.

  • Iíve been surprised at how Minnesota MLB E.J. Henderson has been overlooked in redrafts this year. He firmly established himself as a top 20 fantasy linebacker before the relatively minor injury of dislocated toes, which he looked to be fully recovered from in the preseason, derailed his 2008 season.

  • After some bad press and injury problems in the preseason, Kirk Morrison remains the starting MLB in Oakland and should remain the consistent tackle machine heís always been. Ricky Brown, the surprise challenger for the MIKE job, starts at SLB.

  • Philly gave Joe Mays, last yearís sixth-round pick, the first opportunity to claim the MLB job after Stewart Bradley was lost for the season with a torn ACL. However, Mays failed to lock the job down and the Eagles will go back to the future to give undersized Omar Gaither another chance at the role.

  • Dhani Jones will remain the starting MLB in Cincinnati, for now, while rookie Rey Maualuga will start at SLB.

  • New DC Dom Capers brings his previously successful version of the 3-4 to Green Bay and from what weíve seen in the preseason, Iím a bit nervous about the impact to inside backers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk. Barnett has been limited as he returns from a major knee injury and thereís been talk about how both will fit, particularly in passing sets. At this point, I donít want to overreact. Both are starters and will get you tackles. However, Iím more likely to be swayed by early results, as opposed to the patience Iíd normally have for a proven player who gets off to a poor start.

  • As we head to press, Shawne Merriman is accused of smacking around Tila Tequila. Between the steroids, the wobbly knee and now this, Merriman has ascended to his own tier of high risk, high reward. You can see why San Diego reached for rookie Larry English in the first round. On the inside, the situation next to Stephen Cooper is also unstable. Former platoon starter Matt Wilhelm was released, so run-stopper Tim Dobbins has been battling former Cowboy Kevin Burnett for the starting job. The latest indications are Burnett could be an every-down player, which would make him a nice addition off the waiver wire. I like upside of either player if they get a shot on their own, but neither if they platoon.

  • The Patriots saw significant turnover in their LB corps. The retirement of Tedy Bruschi opens the door for Gary Guyton. As an undrafted rookie free agent last season, Guyton made an immediate impression on special teams and eventually got some reps on defense, starting two games late last year filling in for an injured Bruschi. Guyton is a still a bit raw, but has some nice physical tools (his sub-4.5 40 was the fastest time for a LB at the 2008 Combine) and has shown a nose for the ball (two fumble recoveries in limited snaps last season). He is a big sleeper this year with nice low-risk, high-reward potential in deep leagues. One of the most versatile football players in the league, Mike Vrabel, was part of the trade to KC involving Matt Cassel. This opens up a starting spot on the outside that Pierre Woods and Derrick Burgess, who came over from Oakland, will share. Former third-round pick Shawn Crable is out of the picture after being placed on the IR.

  • The Jets front seven faces a tough start to the season thanks to suspension. OLB Calvin Pace, who had a career-high seven sacks last season, will miss the first four games for performance-enhancing drugs. DE Shaun Ellis will miss the first game for a behavioral suspension related to a marijuana-related arrest last year. The big winner is former first-round pick Vernon Gholston, who gets a fresh start in a new regime and the opportunity to start four games in place of Pace. A good showing ensures more of a role for Gholston the rest of the season, so picking him up could pay dividends for more than four games.

  • Tweener Matt Roth battled a mysterious groin injury in the preseason (who some have alluded to the cause of being a desire for a new contract) and has been placed on the reserve/non-football injury list. That means he is unavailable for the first six games, propelling prodigal son Jason Taylor from brink of retirement to returning to a starting role in Miami. Look for Quentin Moses in the deepest of leagues to spell Taylor at times and possibly have a significant role if Taylor struggles to stay healthy.

Defensive Back

  • Coltsí SS Bob Sanders (right knee) was on the active roster, which is a good sign, but exactly when heíll be back remains a question. HC Jim Caldwell would only say he expects him back earlier than the six weeks he would have missed if left on the PUP. Melvin Bullitt should be a solid producer in place of Sanders until then.

  • Jermaine Phillips was progressing in his conversion to LB and looked set to replace Derrick Brooks on the weak-side in Tampa Bay, until Tanard Jackson was suspended for four games. Phillips now returns to SS and Sabby Piscitelli will replace Jackson at FS. The move secures starting roles at SLB for Quincy Black and WLB for Geno Hayes.

  • Roy L. Williams is reunited with DC Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati and has won the starting SS role. Williams had his best production when Zimmer ran the D in Dallas.

  • A knee injury to second-round pick William Moore cost him an opportunity for a starting role in Atlanta. Instead, Thomas DeCoud gets the opportunity to start at FS and versatile veteran Erik Coleman will start at SS. Moore is back and healthy for the start of the season, so DeCoud will have a short leash. If DeCoud is bumped, Moore will start at SS and Coleman falls back to FS, hurting his fantasy value.

  • One of the more surprising cuts was Bernard Pollard in Kansas City. The hard-hitting safety apparently was too much of a liability in coverage and the team opted for injury-prone veteran Mike Brown as a starter instead. Ironically, Brownís former team, Chicago, would make a lot of sense for Pollard, as the Bears have struggled in sorting their safety situation without Brown.

  • It was good news that CB Charles Tillman starts the season on the active roster in Chicago, but his back is still a concern and his status for their Sunday night opener is uncertain. Former Pro Bowler Nathan Vasher, who has been relegated to slot corner, would get the start if Tillman canít go. Starting opposite Tillman is Zack Bowman, one of the more intriguing young players who has flashed brilliant playmaking ability in limited opportunities. Safety is more of a mess, where rookie sixth-round pick Al Afalava was the most impressive in the preseason and may have worked his way in to a platoon at SS. Hard-hitting Kevin Payne remains the nominal starter there, but the team is surprisingly looking at him more at FS, despite insinuating Danieal Manning will start at FS in the base package and move to nickel corner in passing situations. Inexplicably out of the picture appears to be Corey Graham, who stepped up huge in place of Vasher last season. Itís hard to believe he wonít factor in somewhere in the defensive backfield quickly in to the season.

Position Eligibility

The complex and variable defensive schemes employed in the NFL have made identifying the position of a player ambiguous, at best, on some teams. If your league bases position eligibility solely as listed on your stat provider’s website, it is a good time to take stock of your roster and the waiver wire for players who may be recognized at a more beneficial position based on your scoring system. For example, in leagues where sacks are undervalued, a player who is listed as a DE, but will be more often line up as a LB, is likely to have more tackles and be more valuable, even though he may rush the passer less.

More on Rookies

For more detail on the top new faces, check out my preseason preview of IDP rookies: