Paul Worrilow, OLB, ATL
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Worrilow – he’s an undrafted rookie out of Delaware who had just 11 tackles in Atlanta’s first six games – but in his last two games he has gone off for a ridiculous total of 38 tackles (19 solo). Even if he’s still relatively unproven, numbers like that make him a mandatory LB2 at the least, and a worthwhile gamble as an LB1 in plenty of cases, too. Worrilow is very athletic for a linebacker and should be locked into a nickel role for Atlanta going forward, even as Sean Weatherspoon returns from his foot injury. Worrilow played more snaps than fellow linebackers Akeem Dent and Joplo Bartu over the last two weeks, so it should be Dent and Bartu whose snap counts suffer from Weatherspoon’s return.
Robert Quinn, DE, STL
There was a time when Quinn was regarded as just as good a prospect as San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, if not better, and it appears that Quinn has officially arrived as a talent comparable to his in-division foe. After finishing 2012 with 10.5 sacks, Quinn has taken the next step in his development in 2013, and he already has 12 sacks in 10 games. He has at least one sack in all but three games this year, so he hasn't been hit-or-miss with his production, either. Despite his modest tackle total of 31, Quinn is in DL1 territory until further notice.
Vincent Rey, MLB, CIN
No official lineup change has been made, but it’s difficult to see how Cincinnati can justify playing Rey Maualuga ahead of Rey after Rey lit up the Ravens on Sunday for an incredible box score of 15 tackles, three sacks and an interception. Rey had the enhanced role Sunday because Maualuga sat out with a sprained MCL, but even when Maualuga does get healthy, Rey should stay locked into a three-down role if he keeps playing well. Vontaze Burfict is one clear nickel linebacker for the Bengals, but Maualuga has never been a great performer in coverage, and Rey can provide at least LB2 potential if he can displace Maualuga.
Ernie Sims, OLB, DAL
Tackle machine -- and the lone competent Dallas linebacker -- Sean Lee will miss 3-to-4 games with a hamstring injury, opening up an opportunity for both snaps and tackles in a Dallas defense that could be historically bad against the run going forward. Given that fellow linebacker Justin Durant will also sit out a few weeks with a hamstring injury, and 2011 second-round pick Bruce Carter is a mess on the field who barely resembles a football player, Sims looks like the heir of those snaps and tackles by default. Sims isn’t a very good linebacker and therefore likely won’t be very efficient, but he should put up a lot of cheap tackles over the next month or so.
Patrick Chung, S, PHI
Rookie fifth-round pick Earl Wolff is week-to-week due to a knee injury, creating an opportunity for Chung to return to the starting lineup for the Eagles. Wolff started six of Philadelphia’s last seven games, totaling 33 tackles over that span, so his absence should allow Chung to pile up a good number of tackles. Chung had 12 tackles over that same time span despite missing four games with an injury. There’s good plug-in potential here for owners in deep leagues looking for defensive back assistance.
Dion Jordan, DE, MIA
It’s not often that teams trade up to the third pick in the NFL Draft just to pick a player they don’t actually plan to use, but the Dolphins walk to the beat of their own, poorly-played drum. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Tuesday that the Dolphins won't add to Jordan’s workload in upcoming games, and they’ll instead keep Jordan off the field except for a handful of obvious passing downs each game. Jordan played just nine snaps against the Buccaneers on Monday, and he heads into his 10th game with just 11 tackles and one sack on the year. Jordan likely has no value in redraft leagues, but he could be a good buy-low target in dynasty leagues, because the next Miami management team will likely utilize Jordan better than the Jeff Ireland-Joe Philbin regime has.
Rey Maualuga, OLB, CIN
Maualuga was expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks due to a sprained MCL suffered on Oct. 27, but his long-term productivity might be more threatened by a teammate, who somewhat ironically goes by the name (Vincent) Rey. Surname Rey started against Baltimore on Sunday as Maualuga sat, and he posted a box score of 15 tackles, three sacks and an interception. You don’t want to put numbers like that on the bench, so it’s fair to suspect that Maualuga will see a reduced role even when he’s healthy. It took 68 games for Maualuga to make it to the three-sack mark, and it looks like he’s the lesser player of the two at this point.
Akeem Dent, MLB, ATL
Although he’s a former third-round pick, Dent has been utterly unable to establish himself as anything other than a one-dimensional run-stuffing linebacker, as he has been yanked from the field on passing downs this year in favor of the little known undrafted rookie duo of Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. It’s obviously not good for your long-term job prospects when you can barely compete with guys who none of the 32 teams thought were worth drafting back in April. Dent is not an IDP consideration at all, particularly with top Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon set to return from a foot injury.
DeMarcus Ware, DE, DAL
Ware somehow managed to post a sack in Sunday’s game against Drew Brees and his quick release, but the tape tells a tale of a player who probably shouldn’t have been on the field at all. Ware was clearly limited by his quadriceps injury, and even elementary football movements seemed like a challenge for him. Dallas’ bye week is well-timed for Ware, but it’s fair to wonder whether he will still be hobbled when the Cowboys take the field again.
Mychal Kendricks, (3-4) ILB, PHI
Kendricks’ knee injury from Sunday’s game against Green Bay isn’t believed to be serious, but his status for this week’s game against Washington is still in doubt. If the injury is a mere bruise, Kendricks might miss only one game, but a multi-week absence is likely if a ligament was harmed. Unfortunately, coach Chip Kelly is unlikely to provide IDP owners with clarification on that matter. Owners who were hoping to capitalize on Kendricks after his 22-tackle spree from Weeks 8 and 9 should probably arrange alternatives.