There may be no crying in baseball, but there sure is complaining in fantasy football.
Take Rashied Davis, for example. Not only is Davis a middling, spot-start wide receiver, he's also a pretty good cornerback. But only in fantasy. In real football, Davis hasn't played defensive back in some time. The former San Jose SaberCat was given eligibility at both wide receiver and cornerback this year in ESPN leagues (and other formats), and it has caused quite a controversy in our nerdy little IDP realm. Davis owners have enjoyed offensive production from a defensive player, and I've received several e-mails throughout either celebrating or deriding this eligibility error.
Get over it. Strange position-eligibility scenarios have happened before, and they'll occur again. Marques Colston was eligible at tight end in some formats during his amazing rookie season because he was projected by some to play that position after he was drafted. Thus, Colston's big numbers looked even better as a tight end than as a receiver. Chris Cooley was a RB/TE that same season. The people who didn't own them complained then, and they'll complain now. The point is you can't control these things, just like you can't control injuries or demotions. Is it fair? I'm not sure that matters. Read AJ Mass' The Commish's Court and you'll find more glaring "unfair" scenarios cropping up in fantasy leagues than the Davis situation.
What you can control is your roster. With trade deadlines and fantasy playoffs looming, focus on condensing your talent and preparing for glory, not on goofy loopholes.
Consider using these players if you are in immediate need of impact defenders, especially in deep leagues:
Linebackers and linemen: AJ Hawk's disappointing season could turn around rapidly now that he's been named the starting middle linebacker with Nick Barnett out for the season. Hawk is owned in just 31 percent of ESPN leagues and provides instant production to your lineup. There's this guy named Julius Peppers. Word on the street is that he's pretty good. He had three sacks and two forced fumbles last week against the Raiders. Just imagine what he'll do to the NFC version of the Raiders, the Daunte Culpepper-led Lions. Peppers is available in 42 percent of ESPN leagues; please join the majority on this one. Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu are two Seattle linebackers who are widely available and will finish the season with strong numbers because of a favorable schedule and the fact that they play behind a porous defensive line, which allows them to pile up tackles. Paul Posluszny's numbers are steadier than Wii sales, and both are great gifts just in time for the holidays. The Bills' defense has worn down some over the past month and is getting dominated in time of possession (thanks in part to their reeling offense), which keeps "Poz" on the field racking up tackles. Justin Smith has dual position eligibility at LB and DE in some formats and is a great addition this week because of his sweet matchup versus the Rams. Aaron Kampman has had little help on the defensive line in Green Bay, resulting in endless double-teams. Despite the attention, he's still posting some quality numbers, and could be a nice sack option against an ailing Kyle Orton.
Defensive backs: Adrian Wilson would have had a huge game for his few fantasy owners had his pick six, or "T.A.I.N.T" (touchdown after interception) as Bill Simmons calls it, not been negated by an offsides call. I unabashedly love Wilson's game in both real and fantasy football; he's a punishing player and a big-play option for your fantasy team. The numbers should continue against a recovering Seahawks offense. Yeremiah Bell is on pace for 126 tackles this season. That's really good, if you were wondering. Brian Dawkins is no longer the fantasy stud we all once coveted but he is still a valid option. While he's been prone to some weak games, I envision he'll pile up some nice tackle numbers against the heavily targeted Bengals wideouts, with some nice turnover potential, to boot. Speaking of position eligibility, Thomas Davis is a full-time OLB for Carolina who was considered a safety/linebacker 'tweener out of Georgia. Davis has eligibility at safety and linebacker and provides great value to those using him in the DB slot. Oshiomogho Atogwe has a nose for the ball, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't take part in a Shaun Hill turnover this week. Eric Weddle's fantasy owners benefit from the lack of a pass rush in San Diego. That allows QBs to connect over the middle regularly, giving Weddle a volume of tackle opportunities.
Target these guys for depth with an eye on their potential to be full-fledged starters:
Linebackers and linemen: Wesley Woodyard sounds like a linebacker's name, at least to me. Well, he is a linebacker after all, and he's getting time behind that anemic Denver line, which leads to some really nice tackle potential. Same goes for Jamie Winborn, who is also filling in for the depleted Denver linebacker corps. Bradie James and Paris Lenon are two steady stat producers who have been passed over by fantasy managers for bigger names. Numbers, not names, are what really matters. Chris Long and Leonard Little are back together and have played well when both are in the lineup. Juqua Parker and Trent Cole have tallied sacks in bunches, and the Bengals seem mighty bunch-worthy. If you can't afford the car, you can always add Kevin Bentley, who has filled in admirably in Houston and should hold down the gig for the remainder of the season.
Jim McCormick is an analyst for ESPN.com fantasy football.