Donte Whitner, S, SF
It still seems safe to say that Whitner wonít approach the 140 tackle (96 solo) total he had in Buffalo last year, but itís appearing more and more likely that heíll still be among the better IDP options in the secondary with San Francisco. The 49ers offense appears even more dysfunctional than expected, so Whitner and the rest of that defense should log a good number of snaps. In addition to that, Whitner is reportedly being fitted as a three-down player in San Francisco, playing as a LB/SS hybrid in passing formations. Itíd be a disappointment if Whitner didnít approach or surpass 100 tackles this year.
Brandon Spikes, LB, NE
Although he needs to get over his undisclosed injury to capitalize on the opportunity, Spikes is expected to be New Englandís starting middle linebacker in 4-3 alignments, which is in addition to his already clear role as the teamís top run-stuffing inside linebacker in 3-4 formations. Add in Spikesí rare coverage instincts, and he could be on the field for a surprising amount of snaps in 2011, health permitting.
Kurt Coleman, S, PHI
Coleman lost ground in his competition with Jaiquawn Jarrett last week when the rookie from Temple came down with a preseason interception. But Coleman came roaring back in Thursdayís preseason game against Pittsburgh, blowing the competition wide open again. Coleman finished the game with 11 tackles (seven solo), which easily led the team.
Andre Carter, DE, NE
Carter has been predictable throughout his career: when he plays in the 3-4, heís bad. When he plays in the 4-3, heís fairly good. After a strong showing against Tampa on Thursday, itís clear that New England knows how to use Carter, and he represents double-digit sack potential as long as heís playing with his hand on the ground. With the likes of Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth drawing blockers away from him, Carter should consistently receive favorable matchups on the edges.
Osi Umenyiora, DE, NYG
In an unexpected turn of events, Umenyiora will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery Friday and is expected to miss as much as 4-to-6 weeks. That makes him basically undraftable as an IDP in most cases, but he could be a priority in-season pickup in a lot of leagues. Still, with his lack of work in training camp and the fact that he needs to share the field with all of Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka means consistency should not be expected.
Jerod Mayo, LB, NE
Mayo is still a good IDP option, but the uncertainty posed by New Englandís formation shift means his production isnít predictable enough to warrant top IDP consideration. Heís expected to play on the weak side at outside linebacker, at least, which should leave him relatively free to roam the field and make plays; but it seems unlikely that heíll pass the 130-tackle mark.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, PHI
His four career touchdowns on interception returns aside, Rodgers-Cromartie wasn't the greatest IDP option to begin with. But things are looking even worse in Philadelphia, as he appears to be locked out of a starting role due to the presence of Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel. It seems like DRC might only be an IDP option in leagues that reward pass deflections.
Jaiquawn Jarrett, S, PHI
The competition for the starting strong safety spot in Philadelphia is far from over, but Jarrett lost ground in that competition thanks to Kurt Colemanís 11-tackle showing against the Steelers. Coleman is not as athletically gifted as Jarrett, but heís the more experienced player and has gotten this far on smarts more than natural talent, something that could hurt Jarrett as a result of the shortened offseason.