There's been a very unlikely top dog in IDP leagues in 2018.
From the moment he set foot on an NFL field, rookie linebacker Darius Leonard has been making plays for the Indianapolis Colts. In his first game, the small-school standout from tiny South Carolina State amassed a decent nine total tackles. The following week, Leonard more than doubled that, exploding for 19 total stops, a sack and a forced fumble against the Washington Redskins.
Just like that, the run was on.
Four times in seven career games, Leonard has racked up at least 13 tackles. He has added four sacks and three forced fumbles—including the game-clincher in last week's victory over the Oakland Raiders.
He's both the NFL's tackle leader (with 88–in seven games) and the highest-scoring fantasy linebacker in most scoring systems.
I liked Leonard this summer as a potential "sleeper" of sorts, but I will freely confess I had no idea he'd do this. Leonard has been dominant. A game-changer.
Unfortunately, he's also not available in Week 9. Six NFL teams (the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles) are off this week, because the guy who makes the schedule is a jerk.
It may have been a computer. Whatever.
Whatever the reason, there's no shortage of IDP owners looking to patch holes in their lineups this week—and many of them can't afford to absorb another loss at this point in the season.
Good thing that IDP Nation always kicks off with a few waiver wire recommendations, huh?
WEEK 9 IDP WAIVER WIRE
Kenny Clark – DT, Green Bay Packers: After piling up five tackles and two sacks in last week's loss to the Rams, Clark is a top-10 defensive lineman in many scoring systems. Not defensive tackle mind you—defensive lineman. He should be rostered in all formats.
KJ Wright – OLB, Seattle Seahawks: Wright didn't have a huge game in his first action of the 2018 season, but there's just too much of a track record of Wright producing in the past for the veteran to be on as many waiver wires as he is.
Marcus Maye – S, New York Jets: Maye played through a broken thumb last week, pacing the Jets with seven solos. He's been in and out of the lineup much of the season with an assortment of injuries, but when on the field he has been productive.
WEEK 9 IDP INJURY REPORT
Ezekiel Ansah – DE, Detroit Lions (Shoulder): Last week was another case of Ansah practicing some, reports that he might maybe play, and then news on Sunday that he was inactive again. We're two off ramps down the road from "believe it when you see it" at this point regarding Ansah playing.
Kendell Beckwith – ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Ankle): Beckwith may still be a way away from actually playing in a game, but he's expected to practice this week for the first time since hurting his ankle in a car accident last spring.
Eric Berry – S, Kansas City Chiefs (Heel): It's time for the weekly news that there is no news about Berry's heel. The Chiefs maintain that Berry could play at some point this season, but with each passing week that becomes less and less likely.
Joey Bosa – DE, Los Angeles Chargers (Foot): It was originally hoped that Bosa might at least return to practice after the Chargers bye, but it now appears the star defensive end is still quite a way from seeing the field again.
Tre Boston – S, Arizona Cardinals (Ribs): Boston has missed the last two games with a rib injury, but with an extra week to get right complements of the bye there's hope that he'll be able to return to the lineup in Week 10.
Vontaze Burfict – OLB, Cincinnati Bengals (Hip): After injuring his hip in a Week 7 loss to the Steelers, Burfict missed last week's home win over the Buccaneers. Whether he'll return in Week 10 when the Bengals play next is unknown.
Zach Cunningham – ILB, Houston Texans (Knee): Cunningham went down in Houston's Thursday night win over the Miami Dolphins with a knee injury that is expected to sideline the team's leading tackles for multiple weeks. It's a blow.
Tremaine Edmunds – ILB, Buffalo Bills (Concussion): Edmunds was forced from Monday night's loss to the New England Patriots after taking a shot to the head while trying to make a tackle. He's now in the NFL's concussion protocol.
Reuben Foster – ILB, San Francisco 49ers (Hamstring): The 49ers are all kinds of banged-up on a short turnaround this week. Foster missed practice Tuesday with a hamstring injury and is looking very iffy for Week 9's Thursday tilt with the Raiders.
Corey Graham – S, Philadelphia Eagles (Neck): Graham is another of the injured IDPs who may well benefit from the Week 9 bye. He hasn't played since hurting his neck late in Philly's Week 4 loss to the Tennessee Titans in overtime.
Randy Gregory – DE, Dallas Cowboys (Knee): After injuring his knee in a Week 6 loss to the Redskins Gregory had a "minor" procedure done, but there is some optimism he will be able to get back on the practice field coming out of the bye.
Dont'a Hightower – OLB, New England Patriots: Hightower wasn't on the field in Monday night's victory over the Buffalo Bills complements of a knee injury. His availability for this Sunday night's big matchup with the Packers isn't known.
Anthony Hitchens – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs (Ribs): There were reports that Hitchens bruised ribs were severe enough that he was expected to miss time, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid indicated there's still a chance Hitchens could play this week in Cleveland.
Bruce Irvin – DE, Oakland Raiders (Shoulder): Irvin played in just 24 snaps last week against the Colts, in part due to a shoulder injury. Monitor his status ahead of Thursday's Bay Area brouhaha given the short turnaround this week.
Carl Lawson – DE, Cincinnati Bengals (Knee – IR): After tearing his ACL last week against the Buccaneers, Lawson's 2018 season is over. It's a blow for the Bengals, but it should open up some more snaps for Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard.
Khalil Mack – OLB, Chicago Bears (Ankle): Mack missed the first game of his career last week against the New York Jets. His ankle injury isn't believed to be especially serious, but his week 9 status is up in the air at this point.
Brandon Marshall – ILB, Denver Broncos (Knee): As if Marshall's dwindling stats and measly production wasn't bad enough, the veteran linebacker suffered a knee bruise last week against the Chiefs. That could mean more snaps for rookie Josey Jewell.
Gerald McCoy – DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Calf): McCoy is now up to three missed games in a row due to a lingering calf injury. Until he makes it through a practice or two it has to be assumed he will sit in Week 9 as well.
Bradley McDougald – S, Seattle Seahawks (Shoulder): McDougald suffered a shoulder stinger in last week's win over the Detroit Lions. The injury isn't thought to be serious, but monitor his progress as we move later into the week.
Alec Ogletree – ILB, New York Giants (Hamstring): Ogletree missed the Giants latest loss to the Washington Redskins with a hamstring pull. He'll have the bye week to get right ahead of New York's next game.
Joe Schobert – ILB, Cleveland Browns (Hamstring): Schobert hasn't played for the Browns since suffering a hamstring pull back in Week 6. We're going to need to see some practice participation before considering putting Schobert back into IDP lineups.
Andrew Sendejo – S, Minnesota Vikings (Groin): Sendejo missed his third consecutive game Sunday night against the Saints with a lingering groin injury. No definitive timetable has been offered for his return.
Darian Stewart – S, Denver Broncos (Neck): After leaving Denver's Week 7 game with a neck injury, Stewart missed last week's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. His availability for this week's home date with the Houston Texans is unknown.
Jaquiski Tartt – S, San Francisco 49ers (Shoulder): Tartt, who has a history of shoulder injuries, didn't participate in practice Tuesday and is looking unlikely to play in Thursday night's Week 9 opener against the Oakland Raiders. Reserve Antone Exum has also been ruled out.
Nick Vigil – OLB, Cincinnati Bengals (Knee): Vigil hasn't played since spraining his MCL back in Week 6, but there's a measure of optimism in the Queen City that he might be able to return after the bye. Or that could be desperation—Cincy's defense has been atrocious of late.
Kyzir White – OLB, Los Angeles Chargers (Knee): White's last game action came all the way back on September 23, but if the original timetable for his knee scope holds up there's a possibility he'll at least practice this week.
THE WHAT THE HECK DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE WAIVER PLAY OF THE WEEK
Shaq Thompson – OLB, Carolina Panthers (vs. TBB)
As Steven Taranto reported for 247 Sports, Thompson's 13-tackle effort against the Ravens last week drew praise from head coach Ron Rivera. "He's really developing into the player we believe he can be for us," said Rivera. "The young man's got a very bright future (on) this football team. He's a guy that's quietly just playing very steady. Another guy that you could say is underrated on our defense just because of all the guys we have. When you're lining up next to Luke and TD, it is easy to overlook (him). But he just continues to play hard, continues to play well, and makes statement plays for us."
Despite that big game last week, Thompson still ranks outside the top 40 linebackers for the season—and as such is available in many shallower IDP formats. However, there's a good chance the 24-year-old will be able to post another nice stat line Sunday against a Buccaneers team that ranks second in fantasy points surrendered to linebackers.
GUYS I LIKE IN WEEK 9
Arik Armstead – DE, San Francisco 49ers (vs. OAK): Armstead's on a mini-hot streak of late, with eight tackles and two sacks over the last two games. This matchup sets up well for him to make it three in a row with a sack.
Romeo Okwara – DE, Detroit Lions (at MIN): The silver lining to Ziggy Ansah's never-ending injury has been Okwara's breakout season for the Lions. He gets a top-five pass-rush matchup Sunday in the Twin Cities against the Vikings.
Cameron Wake – DE, Miami Dolphins (vs. NYJ): Miami's pass rush has been essentially non-existent this season, but the Jets are an excellent IDP matchup for defensive linemen. Only two teams have allowed more fantasy points to the position.
Marquel Lee – OLB, Oakland Raiders (at SFO): Despite not playing every down last week against the Colts, Lee piled up 11 total tackles, leading the team. He has a good chance at another nice stat line in a favorable matchup Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Denzel Perryman – ILB, Los Angeles Chargers (at SEA): Perryman isn't a true every-down linebacker, but given how much the Seahawks run the ball and how many fantasy points they have given up to linebackers this year that shouldn't matter.
Danny Trevathan – ILB, Chicago Bears (at BUF): It's been a trend for most of this season—despite the Buffalo offense being a dumpster fire the Bills continue to allow a lot of fantasy points to the linebacker position. Whatever works I guess.
Quandre Diggs – S, Detroit Lions (at MIN): Diggs has received the most snaps of any Lions safety this season, and that means very good things leading up to Sunday's NFC North showdown against a Vikes team that has been kind to defensive backs.
Eric Reid – S, Carolina Panthers (vs. TBB): With 16 total tackles and a sack over the last two games, Reid is rounding into form. Sunday, he draws a Buccaneers squad that has given up the most fantasy points in the NFL on the back end in 2018.
Justin Reid – S, Houston Texans (at DEN): Reid's been coming on of late, and Sunday the second-year pro takes on a Denver Broncos team that has surrendered the most fantasy points to defensive backs so far this season.
GUYS I DON'T LIKE IN WEEK 9
Frank Clark – DE, Seattle Seahawks (vs. LAC): Clark's been a top-10 IDP option most of this season, but the Chargers have surrendered just 10 sacks and have given up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to D-linemen in 2018.
Kenny Clark – DT, Green Bay Packers (at NEP): Yes, I advised picking up Clark earlier in this piece. But that doesn't make starting him in Week 9 a great idea. The Patriots have long been a bad IDP matchup for defensive linemen.
Myles Garrett – DE, Cleveland Browns (vs. KCC): If my man-crush on Garrett becomes any bigger he's going to take out a retraining order against me, but this week's an uphill climb. The Chiefs are last in the league in both sacks allowed and fantasy points allowed to defensive linemen.
Jamie Collins – OLB, Cleveland Browns (vs. KCC): Collins has seen an uptick in snaps (and IDP value) with Joe Schobert out, but for as good as the Chiefs are offensively no team in the NFL has been stingier to fantasy linebackers this season.
Demario Davis – OLB, New Orleans Saints (vs. LAR): Over the past few weeks, Davis' snap counts have been up and down. Add in a poor fantasy matchup with the Rams and you get a start that's a lot riskier than it looks at first glance.
Darron Lee – ILB, New York Jets (at MIA): Lee is one of the most maddeningly inconsistent linebackers in fantasy football—a bad sign heading into a matchup with a Dolphins team that ranks 27th in fantasy points given up to linebackers.
Damontae Kazee – S, Atlanta Falcons (at WAS): Kazee's been racking up stops for the injury-ravaged Falcons, but it shouldn't come as any real surprise that the run-centric Redskins aren't a good fantasy matchup on the back end.
Bradley McDougald – S, Seattle Seahawks (vs. LAC): McDougald being a bit nicked up is bad enough, but the Seahawks also face a Chargers team that's last in the AFC in fantasy points allowed to defensive backs this season.
Harrison Smith – S, Minnesota Vikings (vs. DET): Smith's a great safety and a fine IDP option, but this week may be a downer—no team in the NFL has surrendered fewer fantasy points to opposing 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.
Troy Hill, Los Angeles Rams (at New Orleans): Streaming in CB-required IDP leagues is all about playing the matchups. Hill has shown this season that he can take advantage of a good one, and it doesn't get much better than facing Drew Brees and the high-octane Saints in the Superdome. Take the over in this game. And then some.