Derrick Johnson, LB, KC - Johnson is having a great season, and with each game that passes it becomes increasingly odd that he was a backup last year. Johnson has 77 tackles (61 solo) through nine games for Kansas City, not to mention three forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown. Johnson has been especially valuable in leagues that reward pass deflections, as he somehow has 10 already this year. He looks like a must-start for the rest of 2010.
Julius Peppers, DE, CHI - He's still having a down season, but Thursday's three-sack performance gives Peppers an outside shot of finishing the season with respectable numbers. Chicago's remaining schedule features matchups against offensive tackles much worse than Miami's Jake Long, so it would be disappointing if Peppers couldn't at least get to the eight-sack mark before the fantasy playoffs are over.
Alterraun Verner, CB, TEN - Verner seems to have held off Jason McCourty for the starting cornerback spot in Tennessee, and the rookie is posting nice numbers in the role. He has 45 tackles (42 solo) through nine games, with 41 of those tackles coming in the last seven games. He also has two interceptions and eight pass deflections in those seven games. Verner’s status as a rookie makes him a popular target for opposing quarterbacks too, so he should keep getting a good amount of opportunities.
Cameron Wake, LB, MIA - It seems safe to say that Wake is one of the NFL’s best pass rushers, and Miami is looking smart for choosing him over Joey Porter. Wake has 9.5 sacks through 10 games this year, which places him second in the league behind Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, who has 10.5. One would expect Wake’s production to slow a bit given that he is the only pass-rushing threat on the Dolphins roster, but opposing offenses have presumably been zooming in on Wake in pass protection all along and they haven’t stopped him yet.
Marcus Benard, LB, CLE - In leagues that reward heavily for sack production, Benard has very quietly been worth starting all year. His role as a pass-rush specialist means his tackle production is low, but he has 5.5 sacks in eight games. It would be a big surprise if Benard reached double figures in sacks this year, but he has shown he has the ability to do it.
Kirk Morrison, LB, JAC - It looks like it’s officially time to write off Morrison for the rest of this year. After posting triple-digit tackle totals in all five previous seasons in his NFL career, Morrison has just 46 tackles through nine games this year, putting him on pace for just 82 by the end of the season. There’s no particular reason to expect things to improve.
Mario Williams, DE, HOU - After totaling five sacks in the first four games, Williams has been nearly invisible since. In the five games that have followed, Williams has totaled only a half-sack and 10 tackles (seven solo). Opposing offensive lines don’t concern themselves with the players next to Williams, so he will continue seeing a very disproportionate amount of attention from the blocking schemes he faces. His owners probably should probably hold onto him a while longer, but it seems safe to label Williams an IDP bust at this point in the season.
Clint Session, LB, IND - Session avoided the injury bug for a couple weeks, but accidents can only evade Session for so long. A broken arm is the latest ailment to keep Session off the field, though it looks like he will be back within two weeks from now. Still, it’s looking increasingly likely that Session is simply one of those guys who will always find a way to get hurt.
Charles Godfrey, S, CAR - Godfrey started off the season red hot, totaling 30 tackles (25 solo) and four interceptions in his first five games. Since then, however, he has intercepted no passes while totaling 17 tackles (16 solo) in four games. We’re guessing the majority of Godfrey’s production in the future will be a compromise between his early-season production and his recent slump. He’s still someone who should probably be held onto.
Brian Dawkins, S, DEN - Dawkins’ production in 2010 is hardly something to be ashamed of, but he’s falling short of the career-high numbers he posted in 2009, his first season in Denver. Dawkins is averaging 5.6 tackles per game this year after putting up 7.3 tackles per contest a year ago. Furthermore, the 37-year-old has missed two games this year, and at some point physical decline will take its toll.