The first couple of weeks are arguably the most important for fantasy owners as those hidden/unexpected waiver wire gems are just sitting out there for the taking. Through careful research and a little bravado on your part, these early season pickups could be the difference in you winning your league or not.
Before we get to the waiver wire writeups for this week, let's take a brief moment to cover off on some important IDP notes from week 3:
Barrett Ruud once again disappointed owners with a ugly box score total of 2-3-0. Ruud is playing every down, but he doesn't seem to be playing with much aggressiveness and the Titans aren't receiving nearly the tackle opportunity they were last season. Until he proves otherwise, you have to consider Ruud an LB4. I have him as my LB3 in a couple of shallower IDP leagues and I play on dropping him this week.
In somewhat of a surprise move, the Chiefs switched up their passing down subpackages against the Chargers, using a 2-4-5 look with Jovan Belcher in the box instead of Jon McGraw. McGraw also missed a bunch of snaps with a bruised knee. These two factors led to a horrible fantasy day for McGraw owners. It's yet to be seen if the Chiefs will continue to use this 2-4-5 subpackage moving forward. If they do however, upgrade Belcher and downgrade McGraw.
DeMeco Ryans put up his best statline of the year with 6 solo tackles and seemed to be moving around the field a bit better. I still wouldn't trust him in your starting lineups, but definitely keep an eye on his production this week.
Pat Angerer put up a billion tackles on Sunday night against the Steelers (ok, it was only 21, but you get the point) and seemed to be in on every play. Granted, the Colts scorekeeper was quite generous in handing out assists. This performance has many thinking that Angerer is an LB1 for the rest of the season. Normally I would agree, but much of Angerer's value depends on how quickly Brackett returns to the starting lineup and his subsequent role when Brackett does return.
Matt Shaughnessy left the game against the Jets last week with a shoulder injury. The Raiders haven't released details on the severity of the injury yet, but considering how thin the defensive lineman waiver wire is in most leagues, I would wait until we get more specifics before dropping "Shag Nasty."
The much-discussed David Hawthorne rebounded in week 3 with 9 total tackles. He was still coming out of subpackages early in the game; however an injury to Matt McCoy allowed Hawthorne to stay on the field for the majority of the Seahawks subpackages in the 2nd half of the contest. He showed better lateral movement and made a couple of nice stops throughout the game. I still wouldn't fully trust him as anything more than a low-end LB3 at this point however until we get a better idea from the coaching staff if Hawthorne will be an every down linebacker or not moving forward.
With last week's notes out of the way, let's move on to the Guru's waiver wire selections for this week.
LDE Brian Robison (MIN) - I pumped up Robison all off-season, so I'm glad to see him starting to have some fantasy success. Granted, his two sacks last week did come against a struggling Detroit offensive line. However, his matchup this week against the Chiefs should bode similar results as the Chiefs have struggled to protect their quarterback as well. Robison doesn't hold up exceptionally well against the run, so don't expect big tackle numbers, but he has the pass rushing skills to put up a multiple sack game again this week for those in big play IDP leagues.
LDE Greg Hardy (CAR) - I mentioned Hardy in my waiver wire article a few weeks ago, but he's worth mentioning again here. With teammate Charles "Big Bully" Johnson registering a sack in each of the first three games of the season, teams are beginning to take notice and are bringing extra help/blockers to that side of the field. This is opening up Hardy to a lot of one-on-one matchups, which he's talented enough to win a fairly reasonable amount of the time. Look for Hardy to get after Jay Cutler this week as he faces a Bears offensive line that has allowed 14 sacks already this season.
RDE J.J. Watt (HOU) - I typically don't recommend picking up 3-4 rookie defensive ends, however Watt may be the exception. He has a nonstop motor and seems to have quickly established an understanding of his role and responsibility in Wade Phillips' 3-4, 1 gap scheme. He's been quite active in every game this season and he should be able to put up solid box score numbers against Big Ben this week as the Steelers are well-known for giving up a ton of fantasy points to defensive linemen.
RDE Will Smith (NO) - At the risk of sounding redundant, I'm going to go ahead and call out Will Smith again this week as a waiver wire pickup as this may be your last chance to roster him in many leagues. Smith has been a top 15 DL in 5 of his 7 seasons in the league and although he did have down year last season, he seems to be playing much better as he notched 6 total tackles in his first game back from suspension last week. If you're struggling to fill that DL3 spot, grab Smith now and don't look back.
DTs Ahtya Rubin/Phil Taylor (CLE) - For those in tackle-heavy or DT-required leagues, Rubin and Taylor are both dependable options. Taylor suffered a mild MCL sprain last week but appears to be fine. This position in Cleveland has yielded good fantasy numbers in years past dating back to Shaun Rogers. Consider both of these players low-end DT1s moving forward.
MLB Mason Foster (TB) - I recommended Foster last week as one of the better waiver wire pickups. However, my yearlong expectations were tempered a bit as it was still unclear if Foster would continue to play in subpackages once Quincy Black returned to the starting lineup. Thankfully, Coach Raheem Morris answered this question for us yesterday when he noted that Foster, not Black, would be the other every down linebacker next to Geno Hayes. Foster likely isn't available in a ton of leagues, but if he is, you should grab him and his LB2+ potential.
WILB Donald Butler (SD) - In the final update of my 2011 IDP Draft Guide, I had Butler ranked #32 and wrote the following about him : "[Butler's] an above average talent who is currently slotted to be the every-down WILB within a system that has been good about supplying ample fantasy opportunity to that specific position (e.g. Donnie Edwards). Butler is definitely a linebacker to target late in your drafts. Consider him a LB3+ with significant upside." So far, Butler has lived up to my hype and seems to be getting better as the season wears on. He doesn't have the upside of a Mason Foster, but he's a steady producer who can be counted on for 6-8 total tackles game in and game out. If you're struggling to find consistency at your LB3 spot, Butler is a solid choice.
MLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (NO) - Dunbar filled in nicely for the injured Jonathan Vilma in the middle of New Orleans' defense. He had 10 total tackles last week against the high powered offense of the Texans. It's yet to be determined if Vilma will miss another game due to his knee injury. However, given his history with knee injuries, the Saints may elect to be a bit more cautious in letting him return to the field too soon. If Vilma is indeed out again this week, Dunbar becomes a solid LB3+ against the run-heavy Jacksonville Jaguars.
WLB Jason Williams (CAR) - When Thomas Davis went down for the year with a torn ACL, most people (including myself) assumed that MLB Dan Connor would become an every down linebacker alongside SLB James Anderson. However, it was Jason Williams in the majority of nickel packages in Week 4, not Connor. When you really sit down and think about it, the move isn't that much of a shocker. Williams is an underrated talent who has shown flashes of above average potential in his brief spurts of on-the-field play. More importantly, he's been better in coverage than Connor when he has seen action. If this trend continues, Williams remains a LB3/4 matchup type play with James Anderson getting a bump up into the LB2+ with upside range.
LB Jacquin Williams (NYG) - For the 2nd week in a row, Williams led the Giants linebackers in tackles. In week 2, he posted a solid 5-2-0 statline followed by 10-0-0 statline in week 3 against the Eagles. In an attempt to slow down Michael Vick, the Giants played a majority of the game in nickel and dime subpackages with only two linebackers roaming the field. It was veteran Michael Boley and the rookie Williams at linebacker in these instances. With this said, Williams was on the field for a significant percentage of the team's snaps which gave him ample tackle opportunity in an environment with reduced tackle competition. My suggestion is to hold off on rostering Williams unless you have bench space for him as a LB4 matchup-type play as he will likely only put up these type of numbers in certain circumstances (e.g. teams that run a lot of multiple receiver sets). Regardless, he's definitely a player to keep a close eye on next week.
FS Matt Giordano (OAK) - With Michael Huff suffering a concussion in last week's game, Giordano came in and racked up 6 tackles in limited playing time. Huff is likely to be inactive for this week's game against the pass-heavy Patriots offense, which means Giordano could be in a line for a huge fantasy day. According to our IDP Points Allowed by Position Tool, the Pats have given up more points to DBs through the first three weeks of the season than any other team in the NFL. More specifically, free safeties have averaged 12 tackles a game against the Patriots so far this season. Consider this the sneaky pickup of the week. I'm expecting 10+ tackles from Giordano if he starts this week.
LCB Tim Jennings (CHI) - Jennings has posted three solid weeks in a row from his cornerback position opposite veteran Charles "Peanut" Tillman. Over this time span, Jennings has averaged 8 total tackles per game. Look for this type of production to continue over the course of the season. The Bears tend to use a lot of Cover 2 looks within their defensive scheme which requires their cornerbacks to play closer to the line of scrimmage and be willing to come up and stop the run. Jennings should make for a solid low-end DB3, CB-1 for the remainder of the season.
FS Rashean Mathis - Much like Matt Giordano above, Mathis isn't an extremely excitable player from an on-the-field skills perspective. However, he has been towards the top of the Jaguars box scores in all three of their games this season and has a great matchup against Drew Brees and the Saints this week. If you are in need of a DB3 injury fill-in, Mathis is a good option this week.
SS Jordan Babineaux (TEN) - Although not a household commodity to many NFL fans, Babineaux's name has some resonance with IDP owners as he had over 100 total tackles with Seattle back in 2009. At this point in his career, he's not NFL starter-caliber material. However, an injury to incumbent starting strong safety Chris Hope has sprung Babineaux into the starting lineup. He posted 8 total tackles last week (6 solos) and figures to be a suitable DB3/4 filler for those in very deep leagues as long as he continues to be the starter.
FS Dashon Goldson (SF) - Week 3 marked the first week in which Goldson was active and starting for the 49ers this year (he had been recovering from a knee injury). He was the 49ers second leading tackler last week behind up and coming stud Navorro Bowman. Honestly, I'm not the biggest fan of Goldson, but he did have a top 20 year two seasons ago and is likely available on the waiver wire in most league formats. With the 49ers struggling on offense, Goldson should see a good amount of point scoring opportunity and although he doesn't provide owners with top notch tackle numbers, he has shown a propensity for making big plays. Consider him a DB4 with upside for now.
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Last Updated: September 27, 2011