Jon Bostic, MLB, CHI
Bostic was one of the league’s most exciting players in the preseason, but the rookie second-round pick out of Florida started the year buried on the Chicago depth chart behind all of Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams and James Anderson. That has changed in a hurry in recent weeks, however, because Williams (pectoral muscle) was lost for the season and Briggs (shoulder) is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks after suffering an injury against Washington on Sunday. That should force Bostic into a three-down role, making him at least an LB3 consideration for about the next month. In his first extended NFL showing Sunday, Bostic posted eight tackles (six solo) despite Briggs and Anderson combining for 16 tackles themselves.
Erin Henderson, MLB, MIN
Not to be confused with brother and fellow former Maryland and Viking star E.J. Henderson, Erin has gone from a merely rotational linebacker in Minnesota to a full-time player in 2013, and his box score has exploded as a result. He has been one of the elite IDPs in any format through six games in 2013, posting 54 tackles (44 solo), three sacks and two interceptions. His grade on the field isn’t as high as the ones he receives as an IDP, but Henderson still seems unchallenged for snaps in Minnesota, leaving him and Chad Greenway locked into three-down roles. Henderson is an LB1 in most cases until further notice.
Muhammad Wilkerson, (3-4) DE, NYJ
If it weren’t for the silly numbers posted by J.J. Watt over the last two years, a lot of NFL observers would probably be freaking out over the superb 3-4 defensive end production posted by Wilkerson this season. The third-year former first-round pick out of Temple has decisively established himself as one of the league’s elite defenders, as he heads into his eighth game with 26 tackles and six sacks in seven games. He’s also a primary reason why the Jets are allowing a league best 3.1 yards per rush this year. As far as 3-4 ends go, it’s worth noting that teammate Sheldon Richardson (35 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan (20 tackles, five sacks) are also in the midst of excellent seasons.
George Selvie, DE, DAL
Although he was briefly slowed by a concussion and a shoulder injury, Selvie got back on track in the Cowboys' victory over the Eagles on Sunday, posting two sacks in the three-tackle effort. It gives the former South Florida star and waiver wire regular five sacks and 19 tackles in 333 snaps. If not for injuries and the (brief) presence of Anthony Spencer taking away snaps, Selvie’s numbers would be even better. For some perspective on how productive Selvie has been on a per-snap basis, consider Mario Williams, the NFL's leading 4-3 sack source with 10, has played 453 snaps. Selvie would project to seven sacks over that workload. Selvie won’t see as many snaps per game as Williams, but his per-game stats could still improve as the season goes on – Selvie has 161 snaps over his last three games after posting just 172 in the first four.
Joe Mays, (3-4) ILB, HOU
Mays has never really posted big tackle numbers in his career, with his career high a mere 75-tackle showing as a 12-game starter for Denver back in 2011, but deep league IDP owners might want to gamble on him as he becomes the lead inside linebacker in Houston while Brian Cushing (knee) sits out the rest of the year. Mays' total of 26 tackles in seven starts obviously won't cut it, but he should almost never leave the field now that Houston’s linebacker depth is compromised, and the tackle opportunities previously hogged by Cushing (48 tackles in seven games) should largely fall into Mays' lap.
Eric Berry, S, KC
Injured players aside, Berry is perhaps the top IDP bust so far this year. He has just 30 tackles in seven games, though his box score is somewhat salvaged by his 1.5 sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown. Still, now two seasons removed from a torn ACL, the expectation was that Berry would post numbers more like his 92-tackle, four-interception rookie season back in 2010. Berry has been quite good on the field, as he plays a lead role in a pass defense that has allowed opponents to complete just 53.6 percent of their passes for six touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven games. Indeed, in a bit of an ironic twist, Berry's effectiveness in real football terms has harmed his IDP production. The Chiefs are allowing opposing offenses to convert on just 25 of their third-down attempts – a figure that is tops in the NFL – which kills drives but also limits Berry’s tackle opportunities.
Kam Chancellor, S, SEA
Chancellor hasn’t been quite as much of an IDP disappointment as Berry, but he has still been one of the bigger IDP letdowns so far, especially among defensive backs. He heads into his eighth game with just 34 tackles, a per-game rate (4.9) much lower than what he posted in 2011 (6.5) and 2012 (6.3). It’s still relatively early in the year, so Chancellor could boost his numbers with a well-timed tackle spree in the remaining weeks, but so far it seems like he might play second fiddle to fellow safety Earl Thomas in most categories. After posting just 66 tackles and three interceptions in 2012, Thomas is already up to 49 tackles and four interceptions in just seven games this year.
Robert Ayers, DE, DEN
Ayers was one of the more solid DL bargains in deeper IDP leagues in the first five weeks of the year, giving hope that he’d shed the ‘Bust’ label he’d acquired since the Broncos selected him 18th overall in the 2009 draft. However, his odds of producing at any noteworthy rate going forward appear very low. After posting 4.5 sacks in the first five weeks, Ayers would be lucky to add more than a couple more sacks before the year is over. Von Miller’s return from suspension is the main reason why – Miller obviously needs to be on the field as much as possible and, given that Shaun Phillips is also a better pass rusher than Ayers, it’s Ayers who is the odd man out when Phillips and Miller are on the field. Ayers played just 21 of Denver's 74 defensive snaps against Indianapolis.
Mychal Kendricks, (3-4) ILB, PHI
Kendricks started the year hot, posting 27 tackles in the first three games, and it appeared that he was set to post big numbers in the middle of Philadelphia’s 3-4 scheme. Since those three games, however, the second-year player out of California has just 17 tackles in four games. It’s possible that Kendricks’ low numbers are just a fluky showing in a small sample size, but it nonetheless seems safe to assume that fellow linebacker DeMeco Ryans will easily post the better numbers in 2013. Ryans has 36 tackles over Kendricks’ weak four-game span.
Elvis Dumervil, (3-4) OLB, BAL
Dumervil’s IDP appeal was limited heading into this year due to his position switch from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, but his production has been limited even further by his workload split with Courtney Upshaw. While Terrell Suggs is on the field for an extremely high percentage of the snaps on one side of the defense, the Ravens try to play the bulkier Upshaw on the other side during obvious run situations, leaving Dumervil with a lot of second- and third-down snaps. The arrangement was anticipated heading into this year, but it’s a little surprising that the Ravens haven’t been tempted to put Dumervil on the field more often given his vastly superior pass-rushing skills. Dumervil played just 33 of Baltimore's 57 snaps against Pittsburgh, while Upshaw ate up 34 snaps.