Duke Ihenacho, S, DEN
As an undrafted rookie out of San Jose State in 2012, Ihenacho was let go by Denver in the final cuts prior to Week 1. A year later, he's set to serve as starting strong safety in Thursday's season opener. Ihenacho displayed a good combination of tackling and playmaking ability in his college days, scoring three touchdowns over his three final seasons while totaling 228 tackles over those 36 games. Ihenacho should work as Denver's in-the-box safety this year, making him an intriguing candidate to provide tackles to owners who gamble on him in deeper IDP formats.
Alterraun Verner, CB TEN
Verner was named Tennessee's starting cornerback opposite Jason McCourty, holding off the likes of Tommy Campbell and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The starting cornerbacks for Tennessee have provided standout IDP production in recent years, with McCourty totaling 195 tackles and six interceptions over the last two years, and Verner finishing his two seasons as a starter (2012 and 2010) with 182 tackles and five interceptions.
David Hawthorne, (3-4) ILB, NO
Jonathan Vilma (knee) was placed on the Designated to Return IR, which would seem to leave just Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton to battle for snaps on the inside of New Orleans' 3-4 defense. New Orleans' backup inside linebackers, Will Herring and Ramon Humber, don't seem like good bets to steal nickel snaps from Hawthorne, who was a standout IDP for Seattle prior to signing with New Orleans in free agency before the 2012 season. For the duration of Vilmaís inactivity, Hawthorne should produce at a 100-tackle pace after posting 38 tackles in 322 defensive snaps last year.
Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, NYG
Kiwanuka is likely to have elevated fantasy value for just one or two weeks while Jason Pierre-Paul completes his recovery from offseason back surgery, but those who could use a rental DL should grant Kiwanuka serious consideration in the short term. Heís set to serve as the Giantsí starting right defensive end while JPP works on his conditioning. Kiwanuka was once a top defensive end prospect, entering the league as a first-round pick out of Boston College. The only reason he was ever moved to linebacker was because the Giants had an abundance of defensive ends Ė a luxury they no longer possess.
Alec Ogletree, OLB, STL
Veteran Will Witherspoon might start out the year as St. Louis' second nickel linebacker next to James Laurinaitis, but Witherspoon has bounced around the league the last few years due to his mediocrity, and he probably can't hold off a talented first-round pick like Ogletree for long. Coach Jeff Fisher likely envisions Ogletree as his new Keith Bulluck, who was an elite defender for Fisher in Tennessee back in the day. After Kiko Alonso in Buffalo, Ogletree is the second-best bet to turn into a standout IDP at linebacker as a rookie.
Jairus Byrd, S, BUF
Byrd is dealing with plantar fasciitis, an injury that rarely cooperates, and he may not be in a big hurry to get back on the field while dealing with a standoff over a long-term deal. Itís easy to see both Byrd and the Bills in no rush, with the Bills wanting to preserve his health to make a trade easier, and Byrd with little incentive to gut it out while injured, particularly if the Bills don't even want him to play. Itís a difficult situation for IDP owners to handle Ė Byrd has standout DB1 upside if heís on the field, but itís not clear how soon his owners might be able to fully capitalize. Byrd is considered questionable for Week 1 for now.
Anthony Spencer, DE, DAL
Spencer has insisted since his July knee surgery that he would be ready to play in Week 1, but with Dallas' season-opening game against the Giants nearing, it's still not clear whether Spencer will be able to suit up. He was just cleared to run Aug. 26, and he wasn't in practice as of Wednesday. If Spencer can't play against the Giants, George Selvie could make a decent one-week rental in very deep IDP formats.
Desmond Bishop, OLB, MIN
It appears that Bishop should be able to hold onto a roster spot with the Vikings despite coach Leslie Frazier showing relatively little enthusiasm about Bishop; but even if he does stick on the roster, Bishop seems far away from earning a nickel role and appears poised to begin the year as backup to Marvin Mitchell at one of the outside linebacker spots. Bishop will struggle for IDP relevance if he doesn't displace Erin Henderson as the nickel linebacker next to Chad Greenway, and he'll be even further off the radar if he canít steal the starting spot from Mitchell.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, OLB, FA
Already suspended for four games due to violating the NFLís performance-enhancing substance policy, Dunbar was surprisingly cut by the Rams on Tuesday. It's a rather remarkable fall for a player who totaled 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two interceptions as a starter last year, and the fact that St. Louis abandoned him so soon suggests that he could have landed in coach Jeff Fishers doghouse, regardless of the suspension. The whole episode casts a shadow on Dunbar's long-term IDP prospects, though it would be a surprise if he didnít catch on elsewhere in some capacity.
Jacquian Williams, OLB, NYG
Williams is an athletic linebacker who made a mark as an off-the-bench defender for the Giants since 2011, so he headed into the fall as a logical starting fit for a Giants defense that needed replacements after the departures of Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn. Instead, second-year player Spencer Paysinger and unheralded free agent Dan Connor will head into Week 1 as the Giantsí new starters at linebacker, leaving Williams with another year on the bench. He's off the fantasy radar for now, though Paysinger and Connor are worth monitoring.