RotoWire Partners

IDP Analysis: Bucs Rookie Rises to the Top

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Chip Kelly, James Harrison and David Bowie.

Star defensive end Elvis Dumervil (shoulder) appears is questionable for Sunday's game against San Diego, but his injury is less severe than what some might have feared when he left last week's game against the Panthers. Dumervil has a history of pectoral issues, so the look of an upper-body injury is always frightening with him. Meanwhile, the status of Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) is still in the air, as he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, but there's been no mention of a high-ankle sprain diagnosis, and so he should be nearing a return after missing two games already with the injury.

Ahtyba Rubin (calf) appears ready to make his return for the Brown after missing three games with the ailment. He should pair well with 2011 first-round pick Phil Taylor, a fellow mountain on the interior who is making his return from a torn pectoral muscle that cost him the first eight weeks.

There's less clarity regarding the status of Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril, who is questionable due to a concussion. Avril's concussion is compounded by the fact that he was limited in the first place by a back injury. One pass rusher who will definitely be out this week is Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, who is expected to potentially miss multiple games with a hamstring injury.

RISING

Lavonte David, OLB, TB

Along with Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner in particular, David is one of the rising stars of the 2012 linebacker draft class, and through his first nine NFL games David has the look of a clear LB1. Although he started off at a modest pace, making 19 tackles in the first three weeks, David has been on fire since then, totaling 62 tackles in six games. He's up to 8.5 tackles for loss on the season, too, and there's no doubt that he's one of the primary reasons why the Buccaneers possess a dominant run defense this year. Thanks to his safety-like athleticism, David's owners can safely expect him to play nearly every defensive snap in the upcoming years.

Bruce Carter, (3-4) ILB, DAL

Carter continues to spread his wings with Sean Lee (toe) out of the lineup, and the standout athlete and former second-round pick appears to be turning the corner as far as instincts and play recognition go. With his athleticism and a full snap count, that should continue to mean strong IDP numbers for Carter. After making 10 tackles (all solo) against Philadelphia on Sunday, Carter is up to 20 tackles (19 solo) the last two weeks, including three tackles for a loss. Carter will continue to get all the snaps he can handle - he plays all of Dallas' defensive snaps, and he even gets a few more plays on special teams coverage.

Cary Williams, CB, BAL

Williams has come on strong lately in the Baltimore secondary, at least from an IDP standpoint, hogging most of the stats to be had with Lardarius Webb (ACL) out. Now Jimmy Smith (groin) is out, too, so Williams is a lock for a big snap count the rest of the year. After totaling 78 tackles and defending 18 passes in 2011, Williams is rounding out his box score with some interceptions this year, picking off four passes (returning one for a touchdown) while making 48 tackles in nine games. He's on pace of roughly 85 tackles and seven interceptions on the year.

Aqib Talib, CB, NE

Although he's mostly just a player to monitor since he's not guaranteed a full-time snap count, Talib is back on the IDP radar as he prepares to make his debut for the Patriots against the Colts on Sunday. The Patriots clearly need an upgrade at cornerback, so while Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington are generally established commodities, Talib will have the opportunity to earn a starting role if he plays up to his capability. If he earns such a role, Talib could make an IDP impact because he's a proven playmaker - he defended 54 passes in 58 career games, intercepting 18 and returning three for touchdowns. It also helps that the Patriots see 36.9 pass attempts per game.

Brandon Graham, DE, PHI

Even if Andy Reid manages to stick around in Philadelphia beyond this year, it seems like a near certainty that an overhaul of defensive coaches will occur. If that's the case, it can be assumed that defensive line coach Jim Washburn and his spread-out wide-nine front will be sent out of town after proving to be an immense failure this year. If Washburn goes, there's a good chance that Jason Babin gets dropped, too - Babin has never remotely succeeded anywhere but under Washburn's watch, and even now Babin's role is being reduced. That means a bigger role for Graham, who has shown some signs of life as he attempts to make his way back from a rookie year knee injury. He played 22 snaps against the Cowboys on Sunday, and he played 21 against the Saints the week before, largely at the expense of what was previously a starter's snap count for Babin. He's primarily a dynasty league investment for now - Babin is still a big obstacle to Graham in the meantime - but Graham was an exceptional player in college and could be ready to break out with a bigger role and improved health in 2013.

FALLING

Kelvin Sheppard, MLB, BUF

There was some hope that Sheppard would break out for Buffalo as a second-year starter, but his season couldn't be much more disappointing. Thursday's 53-yard outing from Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush aside, the Buffalo run defense has been an abomination this year, allowing 153.3 yards per game and giving up a league-high 16 touchdowns on the ground. What's frightening for Sheppard is the fact that, even on such a bad defense, he hasn't been able to reliably earn a starter's snap count. Bryan Scott and rookie Nigel Bradham have both stolen a large number of snaps at Sheppard's expense, and as a result he has just 47 tackles (30 solo) in 10 games. He shouldn't be owned outside perhaps dynasty leagues.

James Harrison, (3-4) OLB, PIT

Although a self-made player like Harrison never relies on raw athleticism as much as sheer aggressiveness, it appears that physical decline is occurring with Harrison, and it might be to a drastic extent. He's getting all the snaps he can handle, but the 34-year-old hasn't been able to remotely approach the numbers he's reliably posted in past years, and it looks like the old version might not be coming back. Harrison has just 25 tackles (14 solo) and one sack in six games this year - a sharp drop from the 59 tackles and nine sacks he had in 11 games last year. At this point it's difficult to argue that Harrison should be owned in any IDP format, and he's certainly not a starting option.

Jamarca Sanford, S, MIN

Sanford quietly was a nice IDP option in the Minnesota secondary earlier this year when Mistral Raymond went down with an ankle injury against San Francisco in Week 3, totaling 46 tackles, five passes defended and four forced fumbles in seven games since, but it appears that Raymond's return last week could cause Sanford's numbers to drop. Although he held on to his starting role despite the return of Raymond, Sanford saw his snap count decrease a significant amount against the Lions on Sunday, playing just 38 snaps (Raymond played 25) after playing all of Minnesota's 75 snaps the week before.

Gerald McCoy, DT, TB

It seems safe to say that McCoy is more effective in real football terms than he is in IDP leagues, but he's nonetheless been a major statistical disappointment so far in his career. He started fast in 2012, making eight tackles (seven solo) and three sacks in the first three weeks, but apparently a corner was not actually turned. He has just 10 tackles and no sacks in the six games since, which dooms him to the waiver wire in nearly all IDP formats. McCoy certainly is a big reason why the Buccaneers are allowing a league-low 80.1 yards per game on the ground, but that number is of no use to IDP owners.

Jerraud Powers, CB, IND

Powers has a fairly extensive history of producing well in an IDP role, but he has an equally lengthy history of injury troubles, and it looks like his owners in dynasty leagues can cut bait without losing much. Powers will miss the rest of the year with a toe issue, which means he's landed on IR three years in a row. Powers has never played more than 12 games in his four NFL seasons and was active for just 42 games over that span. He'll be a free agent after this year and, with that sort of injury history, he'll struggle to find a big role. Even before he was hurt, Darius Butler displaced Powers on the depth chart.