On the eve of another season of IDP fantasy football, drafters who gambled on two of the more speculative picks on the defensive line were greeted with very different outcomes.
In Aaron Donald's case, what we expected to happen is essentially what did. After holding out for the entire offseason and preseason, the 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year got the mega-extension he wanted. There may be something of a slow start ala last year, but Donald's IDP owners know that soon enough they'll be getting what they paid for.
Khalil Mack got his mega-deal too – just not from the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders stunningly dealt the 2016 DPOY to the Chicago Bears for a package of picks. In some leagues that means little more than it did for Donald – there may be a slow start as Mack learns a new defense, but once he's up to speed Mack will get his.
However, moving to a 3-4 team also means a positional switch back to outside linebacker. At My Fantasy League (who uses Rotoworld's own IDP depth charts to determine positional eligibility) that already has resulted in a switch from DL to LB – and a massive hit in value. More providers will probably follow suit in 2019.
In other words, dynasty owners of Mack are now left with the unenviable decision of selling Mack now before his eligibility changes or riding it out and hoping it doesn't. A bit of friendly advice – if a solid offer comes along, take it. Mack's a linebacker, and any provider who cares at all about accuracy is going to change him in 2019 to reflect that.
If they don't, then frankly you should probably consider a new provider.
WEEK 1 IDP WAIVER WIRE
Carl Lawson – DE, CIN: The Bengals may have brought Michael Johnson back after letting him go at final cuts, but with four preseason sacks in just 48 pass-rushing snaps last year's rookie sensation is making one heck of a case for an increased role in 2018.
Kyzir White – OLB, LAC: The rookie from West Virginia appears to have made such a smooth transition from safety that he's beaten out Jatavis Brown for the starting job on the weak side in LA. Even better, White still has "loophole" eligibility as a DB on many IDP sites.
John Johnson – S, LAR: That Johnson's available on half as many waiver wires as he is makes my head hurt. The young safety has just the kind of mixture of talent and situation to emerge as a "surprise" top 20 defensive back that isn't one this season. Pick him up.
WEEK 1 IDP INJURY REPORT
Michael Bennett – DE, PHI (Knee – Questionable): The Eagles held Bennett out of practice earlier this week, but it was called a "maintenance issue." He's expected to be on the field for the Thursday night opener.
Eric Berry – S, KCC (Heel – Questionable): Berry's been sidelined for some time by a sore heel that the Chiefs insist has nothing to do with the Achilles tear that ended his 2017 season. The coaching staff has labeled the veteran safety "day to day."
Joey Bosa - DE, LAC (Foot -- Questionable): The Chargers spent most of the last month insisting that Bosa's injured foot was no big deal, but head coach Anthony Lynn allowed Thursday that Bosa may not be available in Week 1.
Nigel Bradham – OLB, PHI (SUSPENDED): Bradham will miss Thursday's opener with the Atlanta Falcons due to a one-game personal conduct suspension. He should be back in a three-down role for the champs in Week 2.
Zach Brown – ILB, WAS (Oblique – Questionable): The Redskins continue to be positive about Brown's status for Sunday's opener in Arizona, but the fact that Brown hasn't made it back on the practice field yet is cause for some concern.
Vontaze Burfict – OLB, CIN (SUSPENDED): Hard though this may be to believe, Burfict's in trouble with the NFL again. The silver lining to his four-game suspension to open the season is that if he gets one more Burfict gets a free sandwich.
Oren Burks – ILB, GBP (Shoulder – Questionable): Burks hasn't officially been ruled out of Green Bay's season opener Sunday night, but the rookie isn't expected to be available against the Chicago Bears.
Trey Flowers - DE, NEP (Undisclosed - Questionable): Flowers didn't play at all in the preseason due to a mystery injury, but he insists he'll be on the field Sunday against the Texans. Check practice reports later in the week.
Reuben Foster – ILB, SFO (SUSPENDED): Foster will miss the first two weeks of the 2018 season as the result of a personal conduct suspension for an offseason full of dust-ups. He'll return to his role at MIKE for the Niners in Week 3.
Markus Golden – DE, ARZ (Knee – OUT): The bad news is that Golden isn't expected to play Week 1 and there's no real timetable for his return. But he did manage to avoid the PUP list, so apparently the Redbirds believe he'll be back before Week 7.
Bradley McDougald – S, SEA (Chest – Questionable): McDougald sat out a chunk of the preseason with a pectoral injury, but the veteran safety is back at practice and expected to be a go in Week 1 vs. Denver.
Alex Okafor – DE, NOS (Achilles – Questionable): Okafor missed a lot of the offseason while recovering the Achilles tear that ended his 2017 season. But it appears he'll be a go for the season opener against Tampa, although it may be on a snap count.
Damarious Randall – S, CLE (Knee – Questionable): After being sidelined for some time by a bad knee Randall was a participant in practice on Monday and is tentatively expected to play in Sunday's home tilt with the Steelers.
Malcolm Smith – OLB, SFO (Undisclosed – Questionable): Smith's mystery injury is still limiting the veteran linebacker in practice. His status for the season opener in Minnesota remains up in the air.
Daniel Sorensen – S, KCC (Knee – IR): The Chiefs placed Sorensen on injured reserve as a result of the tibial plateau fracture he suffered early in the offseason. It's possible he could return later in the season, but don't bet the kids' college fund on it.
Leighton Vander Esch – ILB, DAL (Groin – Questionable): Vander Esch is expected to return to practice at some point this week, but the rookie first-rounder's extended absence has dropped him well behind Jaylon Smith on the Cowboys' depth chart.
Olivier Vernon – OLB, NYG (Ankle): Vernon didn't practice Monday, but the hope is that New York's best pass-rusher will be able to get back on the field Wednesday in advance of the home opener against Jacksonville.
Kyle Williams – DT, BUF (Knee – Questionable): Williams was back on the practice field Monday for the first time since injuring his knee in the second preseason game. The veteran lane-clogger is trending toward being on the field for the season-opener in Baltimore.
Avery Williamson – ILB, NYJ (Undisclosed – Questionable): Although there's been no word of an injury with Williamson, but he wasn't at practice Monday. Monitor his practice participation later in the week.
KJ Wright – OLB, SEA (Knee – OUT): Wright had his knee scoped a couple of weeks ago and will miss the season opener against the Broncos. The hope is that Wright will be able to return in Week 3 or Week 4, although nothing's set in stone.
Kenny Young – ILB, BAL (Knee – Questionable): Young's knee injury may have been part of the reason he was beaten out by Patrick Onwuasor for the starting job opposite CJ Mosley. Missing time could give "Peanut" a chance to solidify his grip on the job.
THE WHAT THE HECK DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE WAIVER PLAY OF THE WEEK
Shaquem Griffin – OLB, SEA (at DEN)
Per Liz Matthews of Seahawks Wire, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll was impressed by what he saw from Griffin in the preseason. "He's been running and hitting just like he’s been looking in practice,” Carroll said. “I’m very encouraged. He is a wonderful kid, he’s been really busting his tail to figure it out, and how to play in our scheme and all that."
Griffin's become more than just the one-handed linebacker who became America's darling after tearing up this year's scouting combine. Not only did he make the 53-man roster, but with KJ Wright out indefinitely Griffin is in line to start his first NFL game Sunday in Denver. This isn't a human interest or feel-good story. The kid can play – and I won't be at all surprised if he posts 6+ tackles in Week 1.
Before we go any farther, a quick note about lineup decisions in Week 1. Resist the urge to get cute and go chasing matchups right out of the gate. The reality is we don't even know if last season's good matchups will carry over to 2018. You drafted certain players as starters. So, start them. There will be plenty of time to overthink stuff later. I promise.
GUYS I LIKE IN WEEK 1
Jonathan Allen – DE, WAS (at ARZ): Allen's rookie season was cut short by injuries, but the former first-round pick will get a chance to start Year 2 off right in a plus matchup against a Cardinals team that led the NFC in sacks allowed in 2017.
Carlos Dunlap – DE, CIN (at IND): Dunlap won't have to wait long to start earning his fat new paycheck. The Bengals open the 2018 season with a road tilt against a Colts team that allowed a staggering 56 sacks a year ago.
Trey Flowers – DE, NEP (vs. HOU): There's no doubt the Texans are glad to have Deshaun Watson back. But Flowers should be in a position to try out Watson's wheels given a Texans O-line that allowed 54 sacks in 2017 – second-most in the NFL.
Tremaine Edmunds – ILB, BUF (at BAL): Both Edmunds and WILL linebacker Matt Milano are solid IDP plays in Week 1 against a Ravens team that led the league in fantasy points given up to linebackers and should be playing from ahead.
Alec Ogletree – ILB, NYG (vs. JAX): Ogletree has a great matchup for his first game with Big Blue. The Jaguars were a top-six team last year in both tackle opportunities allowed and fantasy points given up to linebackers.
Malcolm Smith -- OLB, SFO (at MIN): If Smith plays, he's a quality start against Vikings team that allowed the most tackle opportunities in the NFL last year. If he can't go, youngster Fred Warner becomes a very interesting spot-starter.
Morgan Burnett – S, PIT (at CLE): It was announced Thursday that the rookie will start at strong asfety over Morgan Burnett in Week 1. The youngster gets a very nice matchup to kick off his NFL career.
Kurt Coleman – S, NOS (vs. TBB): Coleman will start at strong safety for the Saints in 2018, and the vet gets a primo matchup to open the season. No team in the NFC allowed more fantasy points last year to defensive backs than the Buccaneers.
Kenny Vaccaro – S, TEN (at MIA): Vaccaro went from out of work not that long ago to the starting strong safety in Tennessee after john Cyprien got hurt. Add in a great matchup in Week 1 and you have the makings of a sneaky-good play on the back end.
GUYS I DON'T LIKE in WEEK 1
Mario Addison – DE, CAR (vs. DAL): I spent much of the offseason beating the drum for Addison as an undervalued asset on the defensive line. But the Cowboys have a mobile quarterback and the NFL's best offensive line. Not great when your production relies heavily on sacks.
Jurrell Casey – DE, TEN (at MIA): Casey's a good high-floor IDP DL2 or depth to have on a fantasy roster. But Week 1 doesn't set up well for the veteran – Miami allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to defensive linemen last season.
Aaron Donald – DE, LAR (at OAK): Donald's a monster and worth every penny the Rams are paying him – a generational talent. But his long absence probably means a snap count, and the interior of the Oakland line is as good as any team in the NFL.
Jordan Hicks – ILB, PHI (vs. ATL): With Nigel Bradham out, Hicks might appear a more tempting fantasy play in the season opener. Buyer beware – the Falcons were a consistently lousy fantasy matchup for opposing linebackers in 2017.
Darius Leonard – OLB, IND (vs. CIN): I like Leonard this year as the best of an admittedly terrible Colts LB corps. But this week might not be a great start to his rookie year – the Bengals were dead last in the NFL in tackle opportunities allowed a year ago.
Tahir Whitehead – OLB, OAK (vs. LAR): Despite the presence of Todd Gurley, the Rams ranked last in the NFC in fantasy points allowed to linebackers last season. That makes Whitehead a riskier IDP play than one might think next Monday night.
Clayton Geathers – S, IND (vs. CIN): Geathers is healthy for now and starting at strong safety for the Colts. But that isn't much good to IDP owners against a Bengals team that was 31st in fantasy points allowed to defensive backs in 2017.
Derwin James – S, LAC (vs. KCC): I have very little doubt that James is going to be a rock-solid NFL safety. I have all kinds of doubts that he'll have a big debut against a Chiefs team that was last in fantasy points surrendered to DBs a year ago.
Jordan Poyer – S, BUF (at BAL): Both Poyer and Micah Hyde were valuable IDP assets a year ago. But the Bills' sterling safety dup opens at Baltimore against a Ravens team that's been stingy to defensive backs for years.
THE SCRAP-HEAP STREAMING CORNERBACK PLAY OF THE WEEK
In recent years the number of dependable weekly fantasy starters at the cornerback position has dwindled to just about zero. So, as a service to those hearty souls who play in IDP leagues that require them, each week I’ll point out a player at that position available in many leagues who should serve as a fine streaming option.
Terrance Mitchell, Cleveland Browns (vs. PIT): Mitchell's long been a favorite son of IDP types, as he has everything you could want in a cornerback. He's good enough (barely) to keep a starting job, but not so good that opposing quarterbacks have a second thought before targeting him. Add in good tackling ability and a nice matchup in Week 1 with the Steelers, and I'm starting Mitchell in every CB-required league I could acquire him in.