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IDP Analysis: Rookie LBs Rising

Mario Puig

Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.

The most newsworthy IDP items heading into Week 1 are the emergences of three rookie options and the injury uncertainty of two (previously, at least) elite veteran IDPs.

Fifth-overall pick Patrick Peterson was already a strong bet to get a huge workload on defense, but he got a nice boost to his value (especially in return-yardage leagues) with the announcement that he’ll be Arizona’s primary punt returner. The other two rookies are of considerably lesser profile, but are nonetheless top sleeper options as IDPs in the short term. Casey Matthews of Philadelphia and Greg Jones of the Giants both look to be starting middle linebackers for their respective teams, both of which carry very aggressive defensive schemes.

Justin Tuck, however, is not doing as well for the Giants at the moment. A neck issue has his Week 1 availability in question, and his effectiveness could be compromised even if he makes it on the field. But that’s generally a short-term concern that’s not nearly as worrisome as James Harrison’s back situation. Harrison recently hinted that he’s nowhere near full strength, which means he’s an IDP red flag heading into the season.


Casey Matthews, LB, PHI

The fourth-round pick struggled in the preseason, but the Eagles have said they have no plans to pursue veteran alternatives at linebacker. That could change if the struggles continue, but for the time being Matthews will start in the middle of an aggressive defense with what might be the best front four in the NFL.

Greg Jones, LB, NYG

Like Matthews, Jones’ long-term job security is not a given. But in the meantime, you can probably find worse bargains at linebacker. He’s expected to start at middle linebacker for the Giants now that Jon Goff is out for the year with a torn ACL. Just be aware that Kawika Mitchell and Keith Bulluck might be on the Giants’ speed dial.

Patrick Peterson, CB, ARZ

It’s not at all surprising that Peterson is starting for Arizona. Even before Greg Toler went down for the year with a torn ACL, Peterson would have been too talented to keep off the field. But one piece of recent news does raise Peterson’s IDP value in some leagues: he’s expected to be Arizona’s top punt returner. Peterson averaged 16.1 yards per punt return and scored two touchdowns at LSU last year, his first as a returner.

DeMeco Ryans, LB, HOU

Ryans’ Week 1 availability was previously in question due to an elbow issue, but it looks like the five-year veteran is ready to go against the Colts. While Ryans isn’t the threat to rush the passer or make plays in coverage that Brian Cushing is, he is a darkhorse candidate to lead the league in tackles in the middle of Houston’s 3-4. He posted 54 stops (32 solo) in six games last year before suffering a season-ending Achilles’ injury.

Jon Beason, LB, CAR

Tendinitis in Beason’s Achilles’ had him looking very doubtful for Week 1 not that long ago, but he heads into the weekend upgraded to questionable, with coach Ron Rivera expecting that he’ll play. Beason is still a risky start until he proves his health, but at least it looks like his issue shouldn’t linger on much longer. His immediate future looked quite uncertain as recently as a week ago.


James Harrison, LB, PIT

Since undergoing offseason back surgery, there have been plenty of reports questioning Harrison’s health and effectiveness. But considering Harrison himself said he’s only 75 or 80 percent healthy at this point, now there’s no doubt that something is wrong with him. He could be in for a rather serious drop-off this year.

Alterraun Verner, CB, TEN

Verner will open the season as Tennessee’s third corner, as Cortland Finnegan and Jason McCourty were named starters. It’s not an arrangement that’s particularly likely to last, as Verner was better than McCourty a year ago, but the current depth chart in Tennessee nonetheless limits Verner’s upside at the start of the season.

Dashon Goldson, S, SF

Although Goldson has been a favorite in IDP leagues the past two years, his production looks likely to drop a bit this season. He’s out for Week 1 with a knee injury, and the presence of Madieu Williams and Reggie Smith means he might have fewer snaps than he did in the last two years.

Justin Tuck, DE, NYG

Tuck is so good that he could be the top defensive line IDP even if he misses Week 1, but his problematic stinger threatens his immediate availability and effectiveness. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on, though Tuck’s owners shouldn’t consider selling him for anything lower than they would have if he were totally healthy.

Da’Quan Bowers, DE, TB

Bowers’ IDP stock was never particularly high, but it took another hit with the announcement that Michael Bennett, the brother of Dallas tight end Martellus Bennett, was named starter at Bowers’ expense. Bowers should still get on the field regularly, but it’s not easy to be a reliable IDP option as a part-time player.