Zaviar Gooden, (3-4) ILB, TEN
With Zach Brown (pectoral) out for the year, the Titans have an opening at the three-down inside linebacker spot next to Wesley Woodyard. A third-round pick out of Missouri a year ago, Gooden is the top candidate to take up that role. Playing just 22 defensive snaps and 22 special teams snaps, Gooden finished Sunday's game against Kansas City with four tackles. Given that Woodyard played 57 snaps, it seems reasonable to hope for an average of 7-to-8 tackles per game from Gooden going forward. With sub-4.5 speed and great quickness, Gooden could be disruptive in Ray Horton's defense.
D.J. Swearinger, S, HOU
Swearinger had decent enough numbers as a rookie last year, posting 71 tackles and an interception as a 10-game starter, but his Week 1 showing against Washington makes it appear as if he's taken his game to the next level. He finished with eight tackles (six solo), a sack and a forced fumble, and now it appears as if he's a threat to become one of the most feared hitters in the league. It's hard to see why he should be considered anything less than a DB2 until further notice.
Larry Foote, (3-4) ILB, ARZ
The Arizona inside linebacker rotation was hit hard in the offseason when Daryl Washington earned a year-long suspension and Karlos Dansby headed to Cleveland as a free agent, but it looks like Foote is ready to pick up the slack. He played all of Arizona's 61 defensive snaps against the Chargers on Monday, finishing with eight solo tackles and a pass defense. Foote showed a bit of pass-rushing ability earlier in his career with the Steelers, posting 18.5 sacks over six starting seasons, so he might be able to provide some sack production to his owners going forward, too.
Brandon Marshall, OLB, DEN
Marshall appears to have earned himself a steady lead role in the Denver defense after bouncing around the league as a practice squad-type prospect the last two years. He played all of Denver's 74 defensive snaps against the Colts on Sunday, finishing with 10 tackles (eight solo) and a pass defense. Marshall is a good athlete and has a disruptive group of players around him, so he should continue to see plenty of opportunities to make plays. Even when Danny Trevathan returns from injury, Marshall should be able to stay on the LB3 radar. It's Nate Irving (38 snaps) and Lerentee McCray (18 snaps) who should head to the bench upon Trevathan's return.
Anthony Barr, OLB, MIN
Like fellow first-round edge defenders Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack, it was a disappointment to see a pass rusher as talented as Barr end up with an LB classification rather than the more valuable DL eligibility, but his Week 1 showing against the Rams made it appear as if Barr might be an IDP factor at LB, too. He tied Chad Greenway for the team lead in linebacker snaps, logging 59 plays on defense while tossing in eight special teams snaps. The final stats were encouraging, too, as he finished with seven tackles (six solo) and did a good job generating pressure as a pass rusher. The sacks will show up eventually with Barr, and if he's providing good tackle production in the meantime, there's a surprising amount of IDP upside here. He's mostly a player to monitor at the moment, though he's probably worth adding in a lot of deeper formats or leagues that reward heavily for sacks.
Derrick Johnson, (3-4) ILB, KC
Johnson suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon tear against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, a blow arguably more costly than the loss itself. Johnson is one of the league's top linebackers, and one could conservatively say that he's one of the five most important players on the Kansas City defense. Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson look like Kansas City's inside linebackers for now.
Justin Durant, OLB, DAL
Durant is expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks with a groin injury, which could result in him permanently losing his starting role if his backups perform well. Fourth-round pick rookie Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber are the top candidates to pick up Durant's snaps. Durant finished Sunday's game against San Francisco with eight tackles (seven solo).
John Cyprien, S, JAC
Cyprien is one of the league's most promising safeties and he should be a strong IDP when he's on the field, but his short-term availability is uncertain due to a concussion he suffered against Philadelphia on Sunday. Josh Evans would likely start if Cyprien is unable to play against Washington in Week 2.
Brian Cushing, (3-4) ILB, HOU
Cushing should only be a temporary member of the 'falling' list, but his short-term IDP utility is a bit questionable due to his light workload to start the year. The Texans are understandably being careful with their star inside linebacker, limiting his play count to ensure the health of his surgically-repaired knee. He played only 65 percent of Houston's defensive snaps in Week 1, finishing the game with just five tackles. Until he gets to at least 85 percent of the snaps in Houston, Cushing probably falls short of LB3 consideration in most cases.