|ESPN.com: 2013||[Print without images]|
We've championed Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs a few times already this season, but his quietly amazing season merits much more attention (he's owned in just 53.2 percent of ESPN leagues). Not just from us fantasy nerds, but in a larger league-wide sense. With 60 tackles and nine sacks halfway into the campaign, the simple math suggests Suggs is trending toward the first season we have on record (using a database with defensive stats going back to 2001) with more than 100 tackles and more than 13 sacks. This exclusive triple-digit tackle and double-digit sack club Suggs is hoping to join might just be limited to AFC North defenders, as current Bengals linebacker and former Steelers stalwart James Harrison posted 100 tackles and 10.5 sacks in 2010 for Pittsburgh and Jamir Miller tallied 101 tackles and 13 sacks in 2001 for the Browns. Suggs has at least one sack in each game this season and has averaged more than nine tackles per game since Week 4. With a listless passing game and the league's most inefficient running game, this Ravens campaign seems to be a classic "Super Bowl hangover" season. Yet lost in this post-championship fog has been Suggs' epic efforts this fall. With an inviting schedule and awesome usage (Suggs rushes the passer on 89.5 percent of dropbacks while also capably containing the run on early downs), Suggs is a strong trade target and a simply amazing free-agent acquisition for the second half.
|Earl Thomas is enjoying a career year, including four interceptions and two forced fumbles already.|
Ball hawk: The Seahawks' secondary doesn't often require more attention or praise given that it's already widely acknowledged as the best secondary in all of football, if not the best position group in the league. While Richard Sherman's larcenous ways on the field have led to consideration as the best corner on the planet, he hasn't been a worthy fantasy commodity this season given the penchant for meager production, as opposing arms prefer to avoid challenging him. Sherman leads football in interceptions since Week 15 of last season, and just behind him is his teammate, safety Earl Thomas, with five picks to Sherman's six in that span. Unlike Sherman, Thomas has been a top fantasy contributor, as he's turning in a simply elite season in the statistical department. Thomas already has more tackles this season than he did in all of 2012 and is on pace for career highs in tackles (126) and turnovers forced (11) this season. The Texas product has already enjoyed All-Pro success, but the fantasy crowd needs to catch up (available in 35 percent of ESPN leagues).
Bust to boom: Eight years into the investment it might just be fact the Packers will never get the elite, game-changing presence they expected when taking A.J. Hawk with the fifth overall selection in the 2006 draft. Hawk has been a valuable pro in many ways, but when a team uses such a uniquely high pick on an inside linebacker, he essentially has to be Brian Urlacher in his prime to make good on the investment. It's simply not a premium position in the league these days, so the lofty investment was almost due to be a loss in some sense. All this said, Hawk has been a fantasy gem for much of this season (on pace for 134 tackles and six sacks) and yet is still available in nearly 75 percent of ESPN leagues. While his three sacks came in one game, Hawk is rushing the passer on 22.9 percent of opponents' dropbacks according to Pro Football Focus, good for the fourth-highest rate among qualifying inside linebackers. You didn't place a premium investment in Hawk's career, as Green Bay has, so you can easily profit on this largely free fantasy commodity.
Ward leader: After a somewhat slow start to the season for Browns safety T.J. Ward, the Oregon product has been brilliant over the past month, tied for third in all of football with Paul Posluszny with 30 tackles in the past four weeks. Ward enjoyed an awesome rookie campaign in 2010 (123 tackles), but was limited to just 22 injury-riddled games over the past two seasons. Now healthy and back to enforcing for a strong defensive group in Cleveland, Ward is trending toward triple-digit tackles and career-best marks in sacks and forced turnovers. The stout safety is available in more than 60 percent of IDP leagues and while the Browns are on bye in Week 10, Ward is a good bet to finish as a top-10 defensive back in nearly any format.
Vikings 'backer Erin Henderson is on pace for more than 140 tackles and could be kept busy Thursday night pursuing Redskins rushers. ... Atlanta linebacker Paul Worrilow has filled in admirably for Sean Weatherspoon. The undrafted Delaware product is coming off a 19-tackle gem versus the Panthers and faces the run-heavy Seahawks this Sunday. While it's not an enduring investment, it could be fun for at least one more week with Worrilow. ... Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans leads all defenders in snaps played this season and is being sent to rush the passer on 21.9 percent of opponents' dropbacks, just behind Green Bay's Hawk among inside men. ... At some point, you are going to want to forgive Denver's Danny Trevathan for his infamous goal-line gaffe earlier this season and realize that he's putting together a stellar overall season. ... Oldie-but-goodie Charles Woodson continues to compile numbers in the twilight of his career and faces a pass-happy Giants offense this Sunday.
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Solo tackle (0.5), Assisted tackle (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (4), Pass defended (0.5), Blocked kick (3).