I will confess that in over a decade of writing about IDP leagues, I've never seen a start to a season quite like this.
That is most assuredly not a compliment.
The number of significant injuries to big-name IDPs just two weeks into the season is just staggering. The No. 1 defensive lineman entering the 2018 season in IDP leagues (Joey Bosa of the Chargers) hasn't played yet and could be out until October with a foot injury. My No. 1 linebacker (Seattle's Bobby Wagner) missed Week 2 with an injured groin. The third-ranked defensive back (Atlanta's Keanu Neal) is out for the season with an ACL tear.
The carnage at linebacker is truly jaw-dropping. The Falcons didn't just lose Neal in the season opener—Deion Jones landed on IR with a bad flipper. Baltimore's CJ Mosley suffered a non-contact knee injury in last week's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
That's three of the top-five lost before we made it a full two weeks in.
That's not all. Mark Barron of the Rams remains sidelined by a bad ankle. Ditto for KJ Wright and his knee, although there's hope he'll play in Week 3. Deone Bucannon of the Cardinals might as well be hurt—he's been relegated to a subpackage role for the woeful Redbirds.
These aren't nuisance injuries. These are players at IDP's most important position who were likely the first or second defensive player taken by teams in drafts this summer. These are potential season-killers.
Rotten start or no there's little that can be done about injuries other than shaking them off and looking for replacements. Along that vein, we're going to start this week's look around IDP Nation with an all-linebacker version of the IDP waiver wire.
WEEK 3 IDP WAIVER WIRE
De'Vondre Campbell – OLB, Atlanta Falcons: With Jones out second-year pro Duke Riley stepped into the MIKE role for the Falcons. But it's Campbell who was on the field for every defensive snap against the Panthers, posting a very nice stat line (eight solos, assist) in Atlanta's win.
Darius Leonard – OLB, Indianapolis Colts: Leonard did everything but sell nachos against the Washington Redskins in Week 2—18 total tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. The rookie needs to be rostered in all IDP formats after that explosion.
Kenny Young – ILB, Baltimore Ravens: It's unknown how long Mosley's bine bruise will keep him sidelined. But if last week is any indication, so long as he is it's Young who is the preferred add over "Peanut" Onwuasor due to his superior athleticism.
WEEK 3 IDP INJURY REPORT
Ezekiel Ansah – DE, DET (Shoulder): It was reported most of last week that Ansah would be good to go against San Francisco, but the Lions' best edge-rusher was a late scratch. His status for Sunday night against the Detroit Lions is unknown.
Mark Barron – ILB, LAR (Ankle): At this pint I'm frankly not sure what's more alarming—that Barron still hasn't even returned to practice after surgery that happened several months ago, or that there's been no real word on when he might do so.
Eric Berry – S, KCC (Heel): There's some optimism that Berry will be able to make his 2018 debut Sunday against the 49ers, but given the location of the injury and the long layoff it may be best to wait until he makes it through a game before considering starting Berry.
Joey Bosa – DE, LAC (Foot): Bosa's injury has gone from no big deal to sort of a big deal to a big freaking deal. Bosa recently sought a second opinion on the injury, he's been spotted wearing a cast and the latest reports have Bosa out until October—at least.
Preston Brown – ILB, BUF (Ankle): Brown sat out last week's big win over the Baltimore Ravens with a bum ankle. But the veteran linebacker was back at practice on Monday and should be on track to play against the Panthers on Sunday.
Vontaze Burfict – OLB, CIN (SUSPENSION): The Bengals linebackers are the weak spot of the team defensively right now, and it's probably going to stay that way until Burfict returns from suspension in Week 5 against the Dolphins.
Calais Campbell – DE, JAX (Knee, Eye): Campbell was able to play through his knee injury last week against the Patriots, but now he's set to see a doctor Wednesday after getting poked in the eye. When it rains it pours.
Patrick Chung – S, NEP (Concussion): The Patriots took a beating in just about every way imaginable in last week's loss to the Jaguars. Chung was one of two defensive starters for the team who now finds himself in the NFL's concussion protocol.
Jadeveon Clowney – DE, HOU (Back): This wasn't the news the Texans wanted this early in the season, but the oft-injured Clowney missed Week 2's loss to Tennessee wit a sore back. It's unknown if he'll be able to return Sunday against the Giants.
Chris Conte – S, TBB (Knee): Conte was forced from last week's win over the Eagles with a knee injury. Given how quickly the veteran safety was ruled out, don't hold your breath about his ability to play in Week 3.
Trey Flowers – DE, NEP (Concussion): Flowers made it just a handful of snaps into the Jacksonville game before exiting with a concussion. His playing status for Week 3 will be determined by his ability to pass the league's concussion protocol.
Markus Golden – DE, ARZ (Knee): There was some hope that Golden would make his 2018 debut last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Until he gets through a game without any setbacks with his knee, Golden should be glued firmly to the bench.
Randy Gregory – DE, DAL (Concussion): Gregory missed Week 2 against the G-Men, but the belief is that the young defensive end will clear the NFL's concussion protocol in time for a dream matchup Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
Christian Kirksey – OLB, CLE (Shoulder): Another big-name linebacker on the shelf. Kirksey missed Cleveland's Week 2 loss to the Saints and wasn't on the practice field Tuesday. His status for Thursday night against the Jets is looking iffy.
Shaq Lawson – DE, BUF (Hamstring): Lawson's IDP value was already confined to deeper formats, but now that the first-round bust has a hamstring pull that sidelined him in Week 2 it's getting that much harder to justify keeping him on rosters.
Sean Lee – OLB, DAL (Hamstring): Lee sat out a big chunk of the second half of Sunday night's win over the Giants with what was originally called a hamstring strain. Lee insisted afterward that he was just cramping—monitor his practice participation later in the week.
Takkarist McKinley – DE, ATL (Groin): The Falcons just cannot catch a break when it comes to injuries. Now it's the defensive line and McKinley, who suffered a groin injury in last week's win over the Carolina Panthers.
CJ Mosley – ILB, BAL (Knee): It could be worse—when Mosley initially went down his injury had the hallmarks of an ACL tear. Instead it's being called a bine bruise, although there's been no timetable given for how long Mosley will be out.
Malcolm Smith – OLB, SFO (Hamstring): After missing the first two games of the 2018 season with a hamstring pull, Smith is now a perfect 18-for-18 in missed games since signing with the 49ers back in 2017. At least he's consistent.
Jaquiski Tartt – S, SFO (Shoulder): Tartt left Sunday's win over Detroit in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury that's being called day-to-day. Check practice participation before penciling Tartt into lineups in Week 3.
Olivier Vernon – OLB, NYG (Ankle): Sunday night's depressing loss to the Dallas Cowboys marked the second straight week Vernon sat out thanks to a high-ankle sprain. We'll believe he's playing against the Houston Texans when we see it.
Bobby Wagner – ILB, SEA (Groin): Wagner was a late addition to the injury report last week and wound up missing Week 2 with a groin injury. However, there's optimism that Wagner will be back in action at home Sunday against the Cowboys.
KJ Wright – OLB, SEA (Knee): Wright has sat out the first two games of the 2018 season after a preseason knee scope. Like Wagner, the Seahawks are optimistic that Wright will be able to return to the field Sunday against Dallas.
THE WHAT THE HECK DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE WAIVER PLAY OF THE WEEK
Jaylon Smith – OLB, Dallas Cowboys (at SEA)
Before the season, Smith told the Dallas News that he has big plans for 2018. "Extremely excited, but it's expected,'' Smith said. "Prior to my injury, everyone pretty much knows the high-caliber guy that I was as a player. The Jones family and the Cowboys believed in me. I will return to that [player] and more. There are going to be some great things this year.''
Based on early returns, Smith wasn't kidding. The third-year pro paced the Cowboys in Week 2 with 10 total stops against the Giants, and in the season opener Smith posted four tackles with a sack. Heading into a plus fantasy matchup for linebackers with the Seahawks, Smith appears to be becoming the linebacker Dallas hoped it was getting in 2016.
GUYS I LIKE IN WEEK 3
Myles Garrett – DE, Cleveland Browns (vs. NYJ): Garrett came back down to earth last week, but that was to be expected in a bad matchup with the Saints. This week's matchup is much more favorable, and Garrett absolutely needs to be back in lineups.
Randy Gregory – DE, Dallas Cowboys (at SEA): Given how the Seattle O-Line has looked over the first two weeks of the season, it's hard to find a Dallas lineman I don't like in Week 3. The Seahawks have averaged six sacks allowed a game.
JJ Watt – DE, Houston Texans (vs. NYG): The last time Watt recorded a sack, the No. 1 movie in America was Sully. Against a Giants line that's had all sorts of issues in two games this season, it's time for that long dry spell to end.
Zach Cunningham – ILB, Houston Texans (vs. NYG): About the only thing that's even semi-working for the Giants offensively right now is Saquon Barkley. That's translating to a lot of fantasy points allowed to linebackers in the easy-going.
Cory Littleton – ILB, Los Angeles Rams (vs. LAC): Littleton was red-hot in Week 1 and then ice-cold in Week 2. The deep freeze said more about the Buffalo Bills than Littleton—he'll rebound Sunday against Melvin Gordon and the Chargers.
Duke Riley – ILB, Atlanta Falcons (vs. NOS): Campbell may have had a better stat line than Riley last week, but the latter's seven solos and two assists wasn't cat food either. He's a decent fill-in for IDP teams hit hard by injuries.
Ricardo Allen – S, Atlanta Falcons (vs. NOS): It's Allen who took over for Neal at strong safety in Atlanta, and Allen who stands to benefit from facing a Saints team surrendering the most fantasy points to defensive backs this season.
Sean Davis – S, Pittsburgh Steelers (at TBB): This isn't a play for the faint of heart given Pittsburgh's safety carousel this year. But Davis' role appears well-set—and it's a role that matches up well with what Tampa's doing offensively early in the season.
Jordan Poyer – S, Buffalo Bills (at MIN): Poyer has emerged as the clear-cut safety to own in Buffalo, and he's going to be on the field a LOT on Sunday. You know, assuming that he doesn't decide to call it a career at halftime.
GUYS I DON'T LIKE IN WEEK 3
Mario Addison – DE, Carolina Panthers (vs. CIN): Addison's off to a good start to the season, but a large part of the reason the Bengals are playing so well early in the season is that the Cincy O-line is doing a much better job of protecting Andy Dalton.
Vic Beasley – DE, Atlanta Falcons (vs. NOS): The Saints were a terrible matchup for defensive linemen last year—allowing just 20 sacks and the second-fewest fantasy points to the position. Things aren't much better this year—the Saints are 25th through two games.
Akiem Hicks – DE, Chicago Bears (at ARZ): The Arizona Cardinals are a disaster from stem to stern—including the offensive line. But Sam Bradford isn't a quarterback who allows a lot of sacks—just three in two games this year.
Reuben Foster – ILB, San Francisco 49ers (at KCC): Foster comes back from suspension this week but it's a bad matchup for his return. The Chiefs were 28th in fantasy points allowed to linebackers in 2017 and are dead last through two weeks in 2018.
Vince Williams – ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers (at TBB): The Buccaneers are certainly firing on all cylinders offensively and chewing up yardage. However most of those plays have been throws to the outside, and it's showed in the stat sheets for opposing linebackers.
Kenny Young – ILB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. DEN): Young's a good WW pickup in Week 3, but the matchup this week isn't in his favor. Despite a re-dedication to trying to run the ball, the Broncos are 31st in fantasy points given up to linebackers this season.
Adrian Amos – S, Chicago Bears (at ARZ): This warning extends to just about IDP on the Bears this week. The Cardinals have barely run 100 offensive plays total over two games. The offense is so bad that it's choking off any chance for defensive production.
Kareem Jackson – S, Houston Texans (vs. NYG): Jackson has transitioned seamlessly from cornerback to safety this year, but he's going to be hard-pressed to find a lot of opportunities for production Sunday against a struggling Giants offense.
Bradley McDougald – S, Seattle Seahawks (vs. DAL): McDougald's off to a very nice start to the season for IDP owners, but this feels like a slow week. The Cowboys have been exceptionally stingy to defensive backs so far in 2018.
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.
Ryan Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. PIT): The Buccaneers have been ravaged by injuries in the secondary, with Smith going from sub-package cornerback to full-time player as a result. Last week the third-year pro posted a team-high nine total tackles and two passes defensed against the Philadelphia Eagles, and Monday night's matchup with the Steelers (on paper, anyway) is even better.