It was a mixed bag for rookie IDPs in Week 1, with first-round stars Luke Kuechly (four tackles) and Mark Barron (three tackles) giving their owners slight cause for concern while the likes of Miles Burris, Chandler Jones, Derek Wolfe and Janoris Jenkins had big games. Jones and Wolfe both posted a sack in their respective first games, Burris totaled nine tackles and Jenkins made six tackles while reeling in an interception. Jones finds himself on the Rising list this week.
Meanwhile, two of the league's most established veterans in Darrelle Revis (concussion) and Dwight Freeney (high ankle sprain) suffered injuries Sunday. Revis is expected to be ready for this week's game against the Steelers, but Freeney likely will miss at least a couple games due to his issue. Freeney's teammate, Robert Mathis, landed on the Rising list, on the other hand, because a position-listing technicality has him available at defensive end in most leagues despite playing outside linebacker in Indianapolis' 3-4 - a position that affords him more tackling opportunities than he had in the past.
Also, second-year linebacker Colin McCarthy suffered an ankle injury in Tennessee's opener, and his status is in the air as Sunday approaches. Rookie second-round pick Zach Brown should start for Tennessee if McCarthy is out.
Robert Mathis, (3-4) OLB/DE, IND
Mathis has for a long time been one of the most reliable defensive line IDPs, but his value was threatened heading into this year by the possibility of fantasy leagues classifying him as a linebacker as Indianapolis implemented a 3-4. As a defensive lineman his numbers are quite good, but 50 tackles and 10 sacks won't be of much use in IDP leagues if he can only be started at linebacker, a position where it's easy to find a 100-tackle player. Luckily for Mathis' owners, as well as Freeney's owners when he gets back on the field, it appears that the Colts outside linebackers have been classified as defensive ends, making them eligible for defensive line starts. Playing as a linebacker on the actual field should result in more tackles for Mathis, meanwhile, giving him a good chance to best his career-high 65 tackles from 2006. He posted five tackles and two sacks against the Bears in Week 1.
Mychal Kendricks, OLB, PHI
Eagles coaches implied in the preseason that Kendricks would only see a part-time role as a rookie, but in Sunday's game against Cleveland the second-round pick rarely left the field. Although he finished with a modest total of five tackles (four solo), Kendricks played 55 of the team's 62 snaps. When you combine that workload with Kendricks' excellent pedigree, there's good reason to believe the numbers will improve. With his defensive back speed, Kendricks has the potential to stand out in coverage and as a blitzer.
Chandler Jones, DE, NE
It appears Jones has already surpassed sleeper status and made his way into the top tiers of defensive line IDPs. The first-round pick from Syracuse finished Sunday's game against Tennessee with five tackles (three solo), one sack and one forced fumble. He was on the field for 58 of New England's 65 snaps, showing he will more than likely have a prominent role the entire season. He's a strong candidate to finish this year as the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Atari Bigby, S, SD
Bigby hasn't been all that reliable on the actual football field ost of his career, but he has shown a consistent ability to produce as an IDP with a starting role. Third-round pick Brandon Taylor figures to take Bigby's job eventually, but for the time being he's a starter in San Diego, and that means he's worth owning in most IDP leagues. He posted eight tackles (seven solo) and deflected one pass in Monday's game against Oakland, and his 2007 season in Green Bay (86 tackles, five interceptions) gives reason to believe that he'll keep producing.
Cameron Jordan, DE, NO
Jordan was puzzlingly ineffective as a rookie last year, finishing with just 31 tackles and one sack despite starting 15 games. He consistently displayed exceptional strength and an ability to disengage from blockers throughout college, however, and if Sunday's game against Washington is any indication, Jordan might have figured out how to do that at the NFL level, too. He played every snap for New Orleans and finished the game with 11 tackles (five solo) - a number that is unsustainable but nonetheless convincing for the most part. He's worth a gamble in most formats.
Akeem Dent, MLB, ATL
Dent is very close to off the IDP radar in most formats, and probably no more than an LB4 option. He failed to record a single statistic in Atlanta's season opener against Kansas City, playing just 11 snaps on defense as the Falcons almost exclusively utilized their nickel and dime defenses, formations in which Dent does not play. The Falcons could use more base defense now that cornerback Brent Grimes (Achilles) is out for the year, but Dent is close to useless until that happens.
Luke Kuechly, OLB, CAR
There's no way his owners should consider replacing him outside of the absolute shallowest of IDP leagues, but it looks like Kuechly might not get off to as fast a start as expected. He only played 46 of 67 snaps, apparently leaving the field to make room for Thomas Davis, who played 12 snaps. The expectation entering fall was Kuechly would rarely leave the field, yet he saw the third-most snaps behind Jon Beason (66) and James Anderson (55). Kuechly's role will almost certainly expand as the season progresses, but until that happens his owners might want to keep him on the bench.
Taylor Mays, S, CIN
Mays entered this year as Cincinnati's starter at strong safety, but he may have already lost the role. He's huge and very fast, but Mays just doesn't seem capable of coverage at the NFL level. It showed against the Ravens on Monday, with the lowlight being Anquan Boldin's 34-yard touchdown catch. Mays lost playing time as the game progressed, finishing with just 34 snaps while backup Jeromy Miles picked up 22 in Mays' place. It looks like Mays shouldn't be owned outside of deep leagues.
Jordan Babineaux, S, TEN
It appeared during training camp that Tennessee was in the process of replacing Babineaux as the team's starting strong safety, and the season opener against New England confirmed that suspicion. Although he posts good numbers and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time for turnovers, Babineaux has always been a liability as a starter, and the Titans looked to Robert Johnson to replace Babineaux on Sunday. Babineaux looks like no more than a special teams player, as he logged more snaps in special teams coverage (16) than on defense (15) against the Patriots.
Mark Barron, S, TB
Just like Kuechly, Barron's owners can't think of letting go of him yet in most leagues. There's still every reason to believe he's a top talent, and he played every snap for Tampa Bay on Sunday, making big plays on the real field. The problem is that Barron, for whatever reason, did not pile up stats. Ronde Barber and even Ahmad Black stole the show, with Barber totaling five tackles (three solo), one sack and one interception while Black also intercepted a pass. Barron, on the other hand, had just three solo tackles and two passes defended. It's possible the Buccaneers will look to utilize Barron's talent in coverage more than in the box, because despite the strong safety label Barron is much more athletic than Barber and Black.