It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
A month into the 2017 NFL season, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt wasn’t supposed to still be searching for his first sack. Watt told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle that he isn’t concerned with the stat column.
“If I have to take on two guys or three guys for our guys to go get four forced fumbles in a game, I'll do that all game long,” Watt said. “I don't care. If I end the year with zero sacks but we have 40 as a team and 20 forced fumbles, I'll take that all day long.”
His IDP owners would likely disagree.
It isn’t just Watt, either. Tampa Bay linebacker Kwon Alexander, the No. 1 pick at his position in many IDP leagues, has one tackle this season compliments of a hamstring injury. New York Giants safety Landon Collins, the top defensive back in most drafts, is barely inside the top 20 at his position.
In other words, there are a lot of big names who opened the season with a September slumber.
However, the reality is that more players than not will come around. Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter spent the first three weeks of the season on a milk carton before piling up two sacks a week ago. Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly just posted his best stat line of the season against the New England Patriots.
Is it time to be concerned about underperformers? Sure. But don’t pull that ejection handle just yet.
Here’s what’s going on around IDP Nation as we head into Week 5. It’s bye week time, by the way – no Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints or Washington Redskins this week.
WEEK 5 IDP WAIVER WIRE PICKUPS
Yannick Ngakoue – DE, Jacksonville Jaguars: So far this year Ngakoue has been the poster boy for “feast or famine” IDP options up front. In two of four games, he has two total tackles or less. In the other two the 22-year-old has two sacks and at least one forced fumble.
Lawrence Timmons – OLB, Miami Dolphins: After his bizarre airport incident and subsequent suspension Timmons appears to be back in the team’s good graces and back in a three-down role for a Dolphins defense spending a lot of time on the field.
Micah Hyde – S, Buffalo Bills: Hyde entered the 2017 season under big expectations in IDP circles. With last week’s seven-tackle, two-interception effort against the Atlanta Falcons, the 26-year-old might be beginning to live up to them.
WEEK 5 IDP INJURY REPORT
Kwon Alexander – ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Questionable – Hamstring): Alexander didn’t practice on Tuesday, making it appear rather unlikely that he’ll be able to make a return Thursday against the Patriots.
Cliff Avril – DE, Seattle Seahawks (OUT – Neck): After injuring his neck last week against the Indianapolis Colts, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll indicated that the veteran defensive end will be sidelined “a while.”
Jatavis Brown – ILB, Los Angeles Chargers (Questionable – Knee): Brown was spotted in a walking boot on Monday, but he told reporters he fully expects to be on the field in Week 5 when the Bolts travel east to face the Giants.
Kurt Coleman – S, Carolina Panthers (OUT – Knee): Coleman was already off to something of a slow start. That isn’t going to improve any time soon, as Coleman sprained his MCL in the big win over the New England Patriots and will miss multiple weeks.
Jamie Collins – OLB, Cleveland Browns (Questionable – Concussion): Collins missed his second straight game in Week 4 and remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Maybe watching the Browns play makes his head hurt.
Fletcher Cox – DT, Philadelphia Eagles (Questionable – Calf): Cox was inactive for Sunday’s win in Los Angeles after straining a calf muscle the week before. His availability for Week 5’s tilt with the Cardinals is unknown.
Johnathan Cyprien, S, Tennessee Titans (OUT – Hamstring): There was some hope Cyprien would be back in Week 4, but the veteran safety apparently suffered a setback in practice. He’s been ruled out already for Week 5.
Lavonte David – OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (OUT – Ankle): It’s not known for sure how long the Buccaneers defensive stalwart will be sidelined. It is, however, known that David won’t be facing the New England Patriots Thursday night.
Jarrad Davis – ILB, Detroit Lions (Questionable – Head/Neck): For a time last week it looked like Davis was going to be back in Week 4, but Davis reportedly suffered a setback in practice and missed the win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Thomas Davis – OLB, Carolina Panthers (Questionable – Ribs): Davis played in last week’s big victory over the Pats, but his rib injury limited his snaps, which opened the door to a big day from youngster Shaq Thompson.
Reuben Foster – ILB, San Francisco 49ers (Questionable -- Ankle): Foster’s high-ankle sprain is getting better, but early indications from the Bay Area regarding his chances of playing against the Indianapolis Colts aren’t especially good.
Myles Garrett – DE, Cleveland Browns (Questionable – Ankle): The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft still hasn’t played for the winless Browns, but there’s some hope that Garrett could make his debut in Week 5.
Ramon Humber – OLB, Buffalo Bills (OUT – Thumb): Humber, who had been one of the more pleasant IDP surprises of the 2017 season to date, is out indefinitely after breaking his thumb against the Atlanta Falcons. The injury will require surgery.
Shaq Lawson – DE, Buffalo Bills (Questionable – Groin): Lawson missed last week’s tilt with Atlanta due to a groin injury. His status for this week’s trip to Cincinnati to face the Bengals won’t be known until later this week.
Sean Lee – OLB, Dallas Cowboys (Questionable – Hamstring): Lee’s presence was sorely missed by the Cowboys in their Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but the Cowboys are optimistic Lee will be back on the field in Week 5.
Keith Tandy – S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Questionable – Hip): Because the Buccaneers didn’t have enough injury problems. After leaving the Week 4 win over the G-Men Sunday, Tandy didn’t practice on Tuesday.
Danny Trevathan – ILB, Chicago Bears (SUSPENDED): After a crushing helmet-to-helmet hit that sent Packers wideout Davante Adams to the hospital, Trevathan was suspended two games by the NFL. The suspension was reduced to one game (Week 5) on appeal.
Olivier Vernon – DE, New York Giants (Questionable – Ankle): Vernon was already nursing an ankle injury heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Buccaneers. After re-aggravating the injury during the game, his Week 5 status is very much in doubt.
T.J. Ward – S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Questionable – Hip): Ward missed last week’s win with an injured hip, and with the Buccaneers playing on a short turnaround Ward was a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice.
Muhammad Wilkerson – DE, New York Jets (Questionable – Shoulder): With his arm in a sling Wilkerson has been clear he intends to play through his sprained AC Joint, but the Pro Bowl edge-rusher clearly isn’t 100 percent.
THE WHAT THE HECK DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE WAIVER PLAY OF THE WEEK
Matt Milano – OLB, Buffalo Bills (at CIN)
With Ramon Humber out, Matt Milano will fill in at WILL linebacker for the Bills. Head coach Sean McDermott told Robert Quinn of Bills Wire he has confidence in the rookie. I thought Matt did some good things in the game… we’re getting contributions from our young players,” McDermott said. “I look forward to Matt continuing to improve this week on his individual performance.”
Like Humber, Milano is an unheralded player who will probably be thrust into an every-down role for the Bills. Headed into a matchup with a Bengals team that’s been a favorable matchup for fantasy linebackers this year, Milano’s a good plug-and-play for teams with an injury or bye-week hole in their lineups.
GUYS I LIKE IN WEEK 5
DeForest Buckner – DT, San Francisco 49ers (at IND): Buckner, who got his first sack of the season last week against the Cardinals, is among the league leaders in QB pressures from interior linemen – an area where the Colts struggle.
Brandon Graham – DE, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. AZ): You can also insert the name of just about any Eagles lineman in here, as the Arizona o-line has been abjectly awful at protecting Carson Palmer in 2017.
J.J. Watt – DE, Houston Texans (vs. KC): To say Watt’s overdue for a big game is an understatement. Maybe a matchup with a Chiefs team allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to defensive linemen is the engine that will get him rolling.
Kendall Beckwith – ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. NEP): With both Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander looking unlikely to suit up against the Patriots it will fall to Beckwith to anchor the LB corps in a top-five IDP matchup.
Demario Davis – ILB, New York Jets (at CLE): Among NFL linebackers only Jatavis Brown has more tackles than Davis, who gets a Browns team this Sunday that’s leading the NFL in fantasy points allowed to linebackers.
Nick Vigil – OLB, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. BUF): It was Vigil (and not Vincent Rey) who remained in the lineup with the return of Vontaze Burfict a week ago. Vigil had a big game against the Browns and has a good shot at another one against the Bills.
Kevin Byard – S, Tennessee Titans (at MIA): With John Cyprien on the shelf Byard’s been a consistent producer in the back end for the Titans. Add to that that Jay Cutler has been error-prone so far in 2017, and you have a recipe for success.
Rodney McLeod – S, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. ARZ): McLeod was back at the back end of the Eagles defense in Week 4 and gets a matchup Sunday with a Redbirds squad that leads the NFL in fantasy points given up to defensive backs.
Andrew Sendejo – S, Minnesota Vikings (at CHI): Over his past three games Sendejo has 26 total tackles, and this week the Vikings are on the road against a Bears team allowing the third-most fantasy points to defensive backs.
GUYS I DON’T LIKE IN WEEK 5
Frank Clark – DE, Seattle Seahawks (at LAR): With Avril on the shelf Clark is going to see more playing time, but in Week 5 that extra playing time will come against a vastly improved Rams line that’s 28th in fantasy points allowed to d-linemen.
Cameron Heyward – DE, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. JAX): Heyward is a player whose effectiveness doesn’t entirely show in the box score, but in any event the Jaguars have flipped the script as a fantasy matchup up front in 2017.
Muhammad Wilkerson – DE, New York Jets (at CLE): Wilkerson clearly isn’t 100 percent, and despite giving up a lot of sacks the Browns haven’t been kind to fantasy defensive linemen. In fact, only the Oakland Raiders have been stingier.
B.J. Goodson – ILB, New York Giants (vs. LAC): Goodson was back in action last week for the Giants and should be back to an every-down role Sunday. Unfortunately, that role will be against a Chargers offense that’s been scuffling on the ground.
Benardrick McKinney – ILB, Houston Texans (vs. KCC): McKinney got off to a great start to this season, but he’s cooled off of late and gets a surprisingly poor fantasy matchup this week with the Chiefs, who are 30th in fantasy points surrendered to linebackers.
Wesley Woodyard – ILB, Tennessee Titans (at MIA): Woodyard has been a pleasant surprise so far for fantasy owners in 2017, but it’s hard to rack up tackles when the opposing offense is a dumpster fire. Right now, Miami is just that.
Adrian Amos – S, Chicago Bears (vs. MIN): We’ve reached the point of attrition where someone has to make tackles for the Bears, but the Vikings are the fourth-worst fantasy matchup for defensive backs so far in 2017.
Reshad Jones – S, Miami Dolphins: Jones is next to impossible to sit, but temper expectations in Week 4 – the Titans weren’t giving up fantasy points to defensive backs with Marcus Mariota under center. Matt Cassel isn’t going to make that better.
Sean Davis – S, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. JAX): It was good to see Davis healthy again and making plays last week, but much like on the defensive line the Jaguars haven’t been a favorable matchup for defensive backs this season.
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.
Anthony Brown, Dallas Cowboys (vs. GB): The Dallas secondary has been all sorts of banged up this year, which has forced Brown to play every defensive snap for much of the season. In two of Brown’s last three games he’s posted at least half a dozen solos, and this week the Cowboys square off with a Packers team that ranks second in fantasy points allowed to cornerbacks.