Week 1 wasn’t so great for IDP owners, as two of the league’s brightest stars were lost for the season when Jon Beason tore his Achilles’ tendon and Eric Berry went down with a torn ACL.
While Jon McGraw doesn’t figure to be a great IDP option as Berry’s replacement in Kansas City, Dan Connor is worth adding in many scenarios in place of Beason. Connor showed triple-digit tackle ability when he was on the field last year.
Meanwhile, injuries are also holding back Elvis Dumervil (shoulder), Gary Brackett (shoulder) and Ernie Sims (knee). The latter two injuries help raise the value of second-year linebacker Pat Angerer in Indianapolis, though Angerer’s stock was clearly pointed upward anyway.
One other important injury to monitor is Daryl Washington’s calf issue. The TCU product may be turning into an elite linebacker, so his absence would hurt Arizona quite a bit. Consider Washington the top ‘riser’ if he’s healthy, though—he finished Week 1 with eight tackles (six solo), a sack, an interception, and another interception that was nullified by a penalty from a fellow Cardinal defender.
Dan Connor, LB, CAR
Connor lands on the riser list due to Jon Beason’s season-ending Achilles’ injury, which pushes Connor into a starting role at middle linebacker. It’s not the most glorious way to rise to prominence, but he’ll be useful to IDP owners nonetheless. While he’s not likely to produce quite on the level of outside linebackers James Anderson and Thomas Davis, he still totaled six tackles (five solo) as a replacement in Week 1, and he finished his seven-game span as a starter last year with 47 stops (33 solo).
Pat Angerer, LB, IND
Angerer got off to a very fast start in Week 1, finishing with 13 tackles (nine solo) and recovering a fumble against the Texans. He was clearly a starter to begin with, but his prominence in the defense is further ensured in the short term with Gary Brackett (shoulder), Ernie Sims (knee) and Kavell Conner (foot) all hurt, and Brackett and Sims already ruled out for Week 2.
Sean Lee, LB, DAL
Lee has been very fragile to this point in his pro and college career, but he constantly impresses when he’s on the field. He appears to have quietly moved past Keith Brooking on the Dallas depth chart, and the result was 12 tackles (10 solo) and an interception. Lee was great in coverage as a rookie, too, picking off two passes and returning one for a touchdown despite only playing occasionally. If he can stay on the field, he could emerge as one of the league’s best linebackers.
Jason Babin, DE, PHI
As a potential one-year wonder in a rotation-heavy defensive line, Babin was a risky IDP option heading into this year. If Week 1 was any indication, though, neither concern is likely to hold up. Babin finished his first game as an Eagle with four solo stops and two sacks, and with Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins playing on the same line, it’s unlikely that he’ll deal with many double teams this year.
J.J. Watt, DE, HOU
Despite the fact that the Colts only ran the ball 15 times against the Texans, Watt led the Houston defense with five solo tackles. If that debut is an indication of what’s to come, Watt should post standout tackle numbers this year on the defensive line. He might be the most athletic 3-4 lineman in the league, and he can match any player’s on-field intensity. He’s even more intriguing in systems that reward points for pass deflections. Watt can really jump—he knocked down seven passes at Wisconsin last year.
Stewart Bradley, LB, ARZ
Most teams make sure that they can actually use a player before they hand over a five-year, $25 million contract with a $10 million signing bonus, but the Cardinals are different. As of Week 1, Bradley was fourth on the depth chart at inside linebacker, behind all of Daryl Washington, Paris Lenon and Reggie Walker. The reason given was that Bradley didn’t know the defense fully, but it’s not as if he signed his contract the day before the game. He’s been a Cardinal since the end of July.
Bradie James, LB, DAL
Conventional thought had James playing nearly every down at inside linebacker for Dallas this year, with Sean Lee and Keith Brooking rotating at the other spot. Against the Jets, however, it was Lee who didn’t come off the field, and it was James who rotated with Brooking. Besides the fact he’s looking at less snaps this year, James’ value is further damaged by the simple fact that Lee is easily the better player and will get to ballcarriers sooner than James.
Dwight Freeney, DE, IND
Freeney is almost exclusively a pass rusher, so the sad display by the Indianapolis offense in Week 1 is bad news for his already limited IDP prospects. A big reason why he’s been a perennial double-digit sack threat his whole career is because Peyton Manning put a lot of points on the board, forcing Indianapolis’ opponents to throw the ball in an attempt to catch up. Kerry Collins appears incapable of engineering a similar offense, so the Colts may be forced to run the ball more than in past years. Though fellow linemen Robert Mathis, Eric Foster, Drake Nevis Fili Moala and Jamaal Anderson combined for 15 tackles (11 solo) in Week 1, Freeney’s stat sheet featured nothing but goose eggs.
Robert Quinn, DE, STL
Quinn wasn’t really on the IDP radar at the moment anyway, but the fact that he wasn’t even active in Week 1 might indicate that he’s not a good bet to get there at any point this year. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Quinn was inactive merely because he did not play college football last year, but that hasn’t stopped Greg Little from playing for Cleveland. Anyway, Quinn is still worth holding onto in dynasty leagues due to his rare potential, but he’s barely worth keeping an eye on in 2011.
Elvis Dumervil, DE, DEN
Dumervil would probably be a beast again if he was healthy, but a shoulder strain made him a non-factor against the Raiders on Monday and has his Week 2 availability in question. It’s tough to hold onto IDPs who are on the shelf, so Dumervil’s owners in a tough spot right now.