Jared Allen, DE, MIN - After a miserable seven-game stretch to start to the season, Allen has looked possessed in his last five games. He has recorded 24 tackles (16 solo) and 7.5 sacks in those games, and it’s hard to bet on him slowing down at this point. Assuming those IDP owners who spent a high pick on him were able to win despite his poor production earlier this year, Allen should pay off during the fantasy playoff stretch.
Abram Elam, S, CLE - It’d be surprising if he could keep it up, but in leagues that reward pass breakups, Elam has been a monster in the last seven games. He has totaled 42 tackles (34 solo), two sacks, eight passes defensed, two interceptions and two forced fumbles during that stretch. Those numbers would project to 96 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions, 18 passes defensed and four forced fumbles over a 16-game span, so the odds of him carrying this pace are not in his favor. Still, if you need help in the secondary, you might as well go with a player who is hot instead of one that isn’t.
Joe Haden, CB, CLE - Like Elam, Haden has a beast lately. Despite playing in a nickel role for the vast majority of the season, Haden has 46 tackles (40 solo), five interceptions and 15 passes defensed in 12 games. Four of those interceptions and 10 of those pass breakups have come in the past four games, leaving coach Eric Mangini with no choice but to install Haden as a starter two weeks ago. Haden is looking like one of the league’s better cornerbacks already, and it should be interesting to see what he can do now that his role has expanded.
Alterraun Verner, CB, TEN - The rookie corner has started nine of Tennessee’s last 10 games, and he has been one of the more productive IDP options in the secondary during that span. The ‘rookie’ label almost invariably puts a bullseye on a cornerback, meaning he gets targeted often and get lots of opportunities to pile up tackles. Verner has been doing just that, as those 10 games have yielded 61 tackles (54 solo) as well as nine passes defensed and two interceptions. Verner’s value might fade a bit in upcoming years, but as long as he is ‘the new guy’ he should be active on the stat sheet.
Paul Posluszny, LB, BUF - Acknowledging a lucky injury stretch for Poz should only be done while knocking on wood with both hands and feet, if ever, but it’s hard not to notice how huge his production has been this year. He has 111 tackles (77 solo) in just 10 games and is almost a lock for double-digit tackle totals on a weekly basis. Besides a Week 1 game that he left early due to a knee injury, Posluszny has reached double-digit tackles in all but two of his other nine games. It’s a shame that he couldn’t stay healthy all year, because his current production would have put him on pace for a staggering total of 176 tackles.
DeAndre Levy, LB, DET - Levy received a lot of hype in the preseason after being moved to middle linebacker, with no shortage of that hype coming from the Lions organization itself. But he just hasn’t been productive this year, though injuries have had a great deal to do with that. Still, Levy’s ankle and groin issues provide no solace for IDP owners as they’ve watched Levy total just 36 tackles (27 solo) in his last six starts. Moreover, 10 of those tackles (nine solo) came in just one game, so the other 26 tackles, spread over five games, were basically useless in an IDP context.
James Laurinaitis, LB, STL - There’s still a bit of time left, but it’s looking highly unlikely that Laurinaitis will be able to match his 2009 production. After totaling 120 tackles (107 solo) as a rookie last year, Laurinaitis has just 79 tackles (67 solo) through 12 games this year. That leaves him on pace for 105 (89 solo) by this season’s end. It’s looking like time is too short for Laurinaitis to provide a full return on the relatively high draft pick it took to secure him in most IDP leagues this year.
Keith Brooking, LB, DAL - With 82 tackles (61 solo) in 12 games, Brooking had been a solid IDP bargain for most of the 2010 season. With Sean Lee’s two interceptions against Indianapolis on Sunday, that bargain status may have expired. Lee undoubtedly earned more playing time with that performance, and it might come at the expense of Brooking, the player who Lee will most likely replace in 2011. Brooking should still see the majority of early-down work, assuming his bad foot recovers in time for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia, but it would be a surprise if Lee didn’t handle most of the nickel and dime snaps.
Darren Sharper, S, NO - As expected, there appears to be little room in the New Orleans secondary for Sharper. Roman Harper is locked into the starting strong safety role, and 2009 first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins has a strong grip on a large portion of the snaps at free safety. With Harper and Jenkins playing well and potentially serving as the team’s future at the two positions, the Saints just don’t have much of a reason to put the 35-year-old Sharper on the field. In his first game back from a hamstring injury, Sharper picked up just four tackles (two solo).
Derrick Johnson, LB, KC – There is probably no reason to panic, but Johnson’s production has dropped off a bit during the last three weeks. After averaging 8.6 tackles per game in his first nine outings, the past three weeks have yielded just 13 tackles (seven solo). He did have a sack and forced fumble during that span, but this development is still a slight concern given the fact he totaled eight or more tackles in all but two of his first nine games. Surveying his season as a whole, however, Johnson is still having a superb year. He has 90 tackles (69 solo), one sack, 11 passes defensed, one interception, four forced fumbles and a touchdown in 12 games.