Michael Johnson- Johnson is ticketed to start for Cincy and will likely be a 3-down DE for them. He will be a decent tackler in run defense and should have many one-on-one pass rushing opportunities opposite of Carlos Dunlap when it comes time to rush the quarterback. He offers some nice DL3 value with DL2 upside.
Related: IDP Sleepers 2011
Derrick Morgan- Tennessee seems to produce one or two great fantasy defensive linemen each year and this year might be Morgan’s turn. He is healthy and has looked solid so far this preseason. While he has not cracked the starting lineup over Jason Jones and Williams Hayes yet, he has a big opportunity to shine with Jones sidelined for the remainder of the preseason with an injured knee. If he can build on his three tackle, one sack effort from the first preseason game then Morgan could be starting before long.
Jason Pierre-Paul- Pierre-Paul showed signs of greatness late last year and he is picking up right where he left off. He had four tackles and two sacks in his first preseason game and with Osi Umenyiora out injured and looking to be traded, JPP has a great chance to start early in the year for the Giants. If he does, do not be surprised if he hangs on to the job and becomes a top-10 DL in almost all fantasy formats.
Brandon Spikes- Spikes has not played yet this preseason, but his value is still trending upwards. The Patriots seem dedicated to playing more 4-3 defense this year and have added personnel such as Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter that only fit in that scheme. The Pats currently have Jerod Mayo penciled in as the WLB in that scheme, leaving Spikes as the favorite to start the year as the MLB in NE. He could easily push 100+ tackles if he sticks there. Spikes posted 46 tackles in his 8 starts last year and none of them were as a 4-3 MLB where he was accustomed to playing in college either.
Thomas Davis- Davis’ talent is unquestioned. When he is healthy he is an elite fantasy LB. He has been hurt a whole lot lately, however. So far this preseason Davis has remained healthy and looked comfortable in his comeback. Combine this with Beason’s issues with his Achilles tendon, and Davis could be in for a very big year if he remains healthy and Beason remains dinged up.
D’Qwell Jackson- Jackson is back in the middle of a 4-3 scheme where he belongs. He has excelled there before and he is likely set to do so again. So far he has eight tackles (all solo) in his two preseason starts. If he can keep his chest healthy and in one piece, he will be a 120+ tackler again. He is also playing for a new contract, which adds even more motivation.
Sean Lee- Lee has finally, officially cracked the Dallas starting lineup as a replacement for the aging Keith Brooking. So far he has five total tackles in his two preseason appearances. A declining Brooking has been able to rack up 106 and 97 tackles in that spot next to Bradie James over the past two seasons. Lee should at least match that and could push 110 tackles if he stays on the field enough.
Jimmy Smith- Smith finally got on the field and started his first preseason game this week. He tallied three solo tackles in limited time and looked decent in coverage. He was moved around a lot and he was targeted early and often. He could have the recipe for fantasy success as a rookie CB that will be targeted often this season.
Kurt Coleman- Coleman has started both preseason games at FS for the Eagles. The second game, he put in a huge tackling effort as he totaled 11 tackles (seven solo). While Nate Allen was considered the front-runner to start at FS, Allen has currently been playing out of position at SS and Coleman has made the most of his opportunity. Allen is also admitting that he lacks burst and range of motion in his return from his injury to his patellar tendon. As such, Coleman may end up sticking as the starting FS. If he does he will have many chances to make plays as teams pick on the middle of the Eagles defense and try to stay away from their talented corners on the edges.
Aaron Ross & Corey Webster- Ross becomes a starter following Terrell Thomas’ season ending ACL injury. Webster now becomes the CB1 for the Giants. While rookie Prince Amukamara remains sidelined and with Bruce Johnson already out for the year, these two will get a ton of playing time and lots of balls thrown their way during the season.
Osi Umenyiora- Osi is still talented and a relative stud at the DL position. However, he has started shooting himself in the foot and killing his value in the process. First he demanded a contract. Then a trade. Then said his knee hurt. Then had surgery on the knee. Now he is out for a few weeks and the young kid (Jason Pierre-Paul) is doing a great job replacing him. Suddenly Osi is expendable and he knows it. Now he will have to fight for snaps and at a bare minimum will have fewer opportunities to rack up points then he had last season. His value is certainly trending down.
Mario Williams- Williams was already trending down as most fantasy software started officially listing him as a LB and not a DL. Now after seeing him a bit, I am not so certain his transition to OLB will be a smooth one. He doesn’t look comfortable standing up. He seems a bit out of place in space. I have yet to see the light go on rushing the passer from his OLB spot. Truthfully, the rookie Brooks Reed looks a lot better than Williams does. Williams may be in for a long year and will not justify being rostered as a LB until he starts looking like DeMarcus Ware. That may be a long time away, if ever.
Austen Lane- Lane was one of my favorites to be a nice sleeper and a breakout candidate. Well so far he has yet to record any statistics whatsoever this preseason. The Jags once again have no pass rush through the first couple games, and they have now tried to add Matt Roth to the mix to help their pass rush. Lane’s chances are dwindling and he may end up just being a situational player now, which will significantly limit his upside potential.
Casey Matthews- The clock might be ticking on Matthews’ time as the MLB in Philly. He has looked lost and has had a hard time shedding blocks so far this preseason. Pittsburgh abused Philly’s defense in week 2 and Matthews only has three total tackles in two preseason starts thus far. With a few solid free agents on the street (Lofa Tatupu, Kirk Morrison) and with a solid replacement in-house (Jamar Chaney), Matthews’ time might be numbered. Let someone else reach for him.
Justin Durant- When Durant first signed in Detroit he looked like he was poised to be a nice sleeper. He was destined to be a WLB in a Tampa-2 scheme and looked like he would have a chance to re-live his success from 2009 when he had 98 tackles in 13 starts in Jacksonville. However, once Detroit signed Stephen Tulloch, things began looking ominous. Now Tulloch is running at MLB, DeAndre Levy has been bumped over to WLB and Durant has become the new SLB in Detroit. Durant will have to fight Bobby Carpenter for time at SLB and on top of that there isn’t much in the way of fantasy success to be had as the SLB in Detroit anyhow.
Daryl Smith- Smith has been very successful as the SLB in Jacksonville for years. He has averaged 88 tackles per 16-game season over the past six seasons and he has racked up 106 and 97 tackles the past two years. This year, however, he has some serious talent around him that will steal his thunder. Paul Posluszny and Clint Session will not leave many tackles on the table for Smith and as a result his long-standing success as a contributing IDP from the SLB spot is in jeopardy.
Jaiquawn Jarrett- Jarrett was widely expected by many (myself included) to be destined to be the Eagles’ opening day starter at SS. Scrap that idea. Jarrett has been brought along slowly and the Eagles are now using Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman at safety. Allen has been starting at SS and even with Allen admitting he isn’t 100%, the Eagles are talking about giving more reps to Jarrad Page. Jarrett still has great dynasty value, but his re-draft value is going down.
Adrian Wilson- Depending who you listen to, either Wilson is “just hurt” (Wilson’s words) or he has a torn bicep tendon (Coach Wisenhunt’s words). Either way he is significantly less than 100% and is likely to miss the entire preseason and maybe even some regular season time. Let someone else take him early as their DB1. He isn’t worth much more than a DB3 right now.
Terrell Thomas- Thomas was widely considered the top overall fantasy CB and one of the best overall DBs in the game from a fantasy perspective. After the unfortunate leg-whip he sustained from Jason Pierre-Paul last night, Thomas tore his ACL and is now done for the season. As such, do not even consider him in re-drafts and only take a late round flyer as a stashing candidate in dynasty leagues.