A bye is often a great thing for a real football team. It provides much needed rest, recovery and perspective. Injured players like Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward are afforded more time to heal, while struggling talents like Reggie Brown are given new plays and wrinkles to get them untracked.
In fantasy, it's tougher to appreciate the value of the bye. For those of us who didn't heed byes in the draft room, we are left scrambling for warm bodies to fill out our rosters in these lean weeks. As punishing as the bye can be to your fantasy team, take it as challenge to your depth as opposed to a forfeited week. Add, drop, trade and analyze, whatever it takes. A stolen win in a depleted week truly can make your season. When faced with a tough roster decision, especially that tricky short-term versus long-term scenario, consider the importance of a single win to your season's fate. Too often I see managers pass on a prime plug-in type player like Jon Beason or Bobby Engram because it requires dumping a supposedly more potential-laden player in the process. Don't believe the hype, if your team is any good to begin with you'll likely only need to utilize your depth in these bye-heavy weeks anyway. In essence, get the most out of your starting roster every week and go down swinging, even if it means cutting some valid depth in the process.
Consider using these players if you're in immediate need of impact defenders, especially in deep leagues.
Linebackers and linemen: Donnie Edwards, Derrick Johnson and Napoleon Harris form one of the most underrated linebacker corps in the league. Despite their steady production, DJ and Harris are available in nearly 60 percent of ESPN IDP leagues. Michael Boley, step into my office, you've been promoted to starter status. Boley was most added player in ESPN Individual Defense Player (IDP) leagues (plus 21.1 percent) this week thanks to his prolific 15-tackle, one interception performance against the Titans. Mathias Kiwanuka's numbers still are somewhat inflated by the Sunday night sack-fest against the Eagles in Week 4, but don't hold that against him. Kiwanuka has made a surprisingly fluid transition from defensive end to strongside linebacker and is an ideal bye week plug-in facing the reeling Falcons. Karlos Montez Dansby is among the most underrated defense talents in both real and fantasy regards. The man had 14 solo tackles last week! I threw in his middle name just to spice things up. He's appeared in this column every week and yet is still owned in less than half of ESPN IDP leagues.
Defensive backs: Atari "2600" Bigby continues to produce but is rostered in less than a quarter of ESPN IDP leagues. Madieu Williams saw his ownership dive last week thanks to his bye, scoop him up and enjoy the production, as he'll have a solid tackle game chasingLarry Johnson around on Sunday. Chris Harris is worthy of starting in 12-team leagues. Ty Law should have a nice tackle outing against the Bengal boys. Deon Grant and Sammy Knight remain solid and safe fantasy plays in deeper leagues. Marlon McCree should excel this week against a still suspect Raiders offense. Chris Hope simply has killed his owners so far after luring them with his elite 2006 numbers. Target him now, as he's an ideal buy low candidate given his deflated value.
Target these guys for depth and bye-week plug-ins with an eye on their potential to be full-fledged starters.
Linebackers and linemen: Rocky McIntosh is likely available in your league and deserves to be owned and started in nearly every format. Sadly, Dan Morgan likely will never regain the elite form that made him a coveted fantasy commodity a few years back. He has battled injuries his entire career and now it seems that the Panthers are handing the "Mike" spot to fellow Hurricane, rookie Jon Beason. In his first start in the middle last week, Beason showed great speed and instincts pursuing Reggie Bush on his way to 13 total tackles. Beason, owned in just 4.6 percent of ESPN IDP leagues, is a solid addition in both keeper and redraft formats. Much like the Raven defense, Bart Scott is off to a slow start after an elite 2006 campaign. Nevertheless, consider him as a valid depth addition in deeper leagues as it's simply too early to call him a bust. D'Qwell Jackson is good for solo tackles if you're in an injury or bye week bind. If you can afford the roster spot, John "It's not delivery it's" DiGiorgio is a solid add even though the Bills are off this week. Target John Abraham if you're looking for cheap sacks with fumble potential.
Defensive backs: Carolina's Richard Marshall is a legit playmaker on a defense in need of a spark. He's a solid spot-starter this week against a still evolving Cards' offense. Quentin Jammer should produce against a Raiders offense that will be playing from behind all day. Lito "He's for the show" Sheppard returns just in time to jump an under-thrown Chad Pennington ball for a pick-six. Sheppard has always been a major risk/reward fantasy play, but this week is as good as any to roll the dice. Leigh Bodden is another nice risk/reward play to consider as he faces the unripe Cleo Lemon this week. Not to be confused with Von Dutch or Von "Purple" Hayes, Von Hutchins has produced admirably in the depleted Houston secondary and deserves consideration in deeper leagues. C.C. Brown is a tackle-heavy bargain to target for depth.
Jim McCormick is an IDP analyst for ESPN.com Fantasy.