The season-opening game between the Giants and Cowboys on Wednesday saw a couple minor IDP developments, with the athletic second-year Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter taking clear control of the starting spot next to Sean Lee, while strong safety Barry Church was promising in his first career start.
Another NFC East defender whose stock is on the rise is Philadelphia safety Kurt Coleman. The Eagles let go of Oshiomogho Atogwe, Coleman's primary competition for snaps, so it appears that Coleman should stay on the field more consistently than he did a year ago.
Meanwhile, an oblique injury derailed what could have been a fast start for rookie Cleveland linebacker James-Michael Johnson, who was a favorite to start Week 1 with Scott Fujita (suspension) and Chris Gocong (Achilles) out. Things are going quite well for rookie second-round pick defensive linemen Derek Wolfe (Denver) and Andre Branch (Jacksonville), on the other hand, as both of the promising youngsters were named starters.
Kurt Coleman, S, PHI
The only threat to Coleman's IDP value has been the bench. Although he hasn't been consistently effective on the actual field, Coleman's IDP numbers have been reliably good as long as he's in a starting role, and Philadelphia's decision to head into 2012 with the unimpressive Jaiquawn Jarrett as the top backup at safety could mean more job security for Coleman, because Jarrett is by all accounts a player who hasn't shown promise to this point. After getting demoted in the first month of 2011, Coleman came off the bench to total 69 tackles (51 solo) and four interceptions in his next 10 starts.
Andre Branch, DE, JAC
Branch is looking like a solid investment in dynasty leagues at the least, as he heads into Week 1 with a starting defensive end role opposite Jeremy Mincey. He might be a bit raw, but Branch has major potential thanks to his rare explosiveness, and the big wingspan provided by his 34-inch arms is helpful, too. He's probably not much more than a bench stash in most formats for the time being, but Branch is a player to watch closely after totaling 77 tackles (36 solo) and 9.5 sacks in 14 games for Clemson last year.
Derek Wolfe, DE/DT, DEN
Although the general expectation was that Wolfe would start in Denver once the Broncos selected him 36th overall in the draft, it recently became official, so he's definitely on the IDP radar in pretty much any league format. He'll start at defensive end for Denver, presumably moving inside on passing downs. Although his 5.01-second 40-yard dash might imply a lack of pass-rushing potential, Wolfe is more disruptive than his speed would lead anyone to believe. He has immense functional strength, and he combines that with excellent leverage and explosiveness out of his stance, so he'll make his way into the backfield more than most defensive tackles.
Rolando McClain, MLB, OAK
McClain was sentenced to six months in jail due to an offseason assault charge, but the appeal process is under way and he will therefore avoid the slammer for the foreseeable future. There hasn't been any mention of a league-issued suspension, meanwhile, so it seems like McClain is in the clear for now. If he's on the field, McClain has the potential to turn into a good IDP, because he has flashed a lot of blitzing and coverage ability to this point. He has yet to hit the triple-digit mark as a tackler, but McClain has the talent to do it and will be more focused than ever now that he's under the gun.
Barry Church, S, DAL
Church is mostly just a player to keep an eye on outside of deep leagues, but he's looking like a promising player for Dallas in his first year as starter. Formerly no more than a special teams presence, Church has gone from an undrafted Toledo player to Dallas' clear-cut starter and strong safety with a strong offseason. Although his two tackles in the season opener won't turn any heads, he did recover a fumble and he has an extensive background as a run stopper. He totaled at least 92 tackles in each of his final three years at Toledo.
Brian Urlacher, MLB, CHI
You can bet that Urlacher won't miss a snap if playing with his deteriorating left knee is merely a matter of pain tolerance, but his toughness won't mean much to IDP owners if he doesn't have the range necessary to pursue ballcarriers. His August 14 surgery was more severe than a mere scope, as a cartilage issue was addressed in the procedure. It was one of at least two surgeries Urlacher had on the knee, so his health is a major concern. If Urlacher's trademark explosiveness is gone, much of his IDP appeal goes with it. He exceeded the 120-tackle mark just one in the last three full seasons he's played, so his value could be rather mediocre if he can't provide the coverage and pass rush production he typically does.
Louis Delmas, S, DET
Injuries have been a constant problem for Delmas in recent times, and the knee issue he's currently dealing with might be the most concerning one yet. Delmas underwent surgery on his left knee on Aug. 7, and he hasn't played or practiced since. The Lions always said Delmas was expected to be ready for Week 1, but it's not clear at the moment whether that expectation will turn out to be true. He didn't practice Thursday, so if he does play against the Rams on Sunday he'll be going in with a great deal of rust.
Brandon Meriweather, S, WAS
There appeared to be some hope of a comeback campaign for Meriweather as a starter for the Redskins, but any resurgence by the former first-round pick will have to wait due to an MCL sprain he suffered Monday. He's expected to miss at least two games and as many as four, and whatever upside he might have probably isn't big enough to justify holding a roster spot aside for him in IDP leagues. The knee is also a bit of a long-term concern for Meriweather, as he had an issue with it earlier in the preseason, too.
James-Michael Johnson, OLB, CLE
It wasn't long ago that Johnson looked like one of the league's best bets to provide IDP production as a rookie early in the year, as depth chart-topping outside linebackers Scott Fujita (suspension) and Chris Gocong (Achilles) are both unavailable, but an oblique injury suffered in Cleveland's preseason finale will likely keep him out for Week 1. L.J. Fort is expected to start in Johnson's place against the Eagles, and waiver pickup Tank Carder is also a threat to steal snaps once Johnson gets back on the field.
Dan Connor, (3-4) ILB, DAL
His IDP value never looked high to begin with, but if Wednesday's game against the Giants is any indication, Connor's usefulness at this point is right around zero in IDP leagues. Although Dallas signed Connor to a two-year deal in March worth over $6 million, second-year player Bruce Carter ran away with the starting inside linebacker role next to Sean Lee, and Connor finished Week 1 without a single tackle. Both Carter and Sean Lee have injury concerns, so Connor could very well see some starts this year, but until an injury strikes there just doesn't appear to be any potential with Connor.