4 IDP Fantasy Football Targets for Week 8
Individual Defensive Player (IDP) has to be my favorite format in fantasy football. If you’ve felt satisfaction at a job well done with just offensive players, there’s truly nothing else like getting to field a full team – offense and defense – on the virtual gridiron and watching them grind your best friends into dust. You may not realize, but IDP have been in the fantasy game since the original fantasy league was formed back in Oakland in 1962, with two defensive back/linebacker slots and two slots for defensive linemen. IDP are an institution in fantasy football, and we aim to treat them as such in this column.
Each week this season, in honor of the four-IDP requirement in the OG fantasy league, I will identify four targets widely available on waiver wires (15% or less rostership on Yahoo!) that you should be aiming for in your IDP leagues. These recommendations are based on a balanced 3:1 big play-to-tackle scoring ratio. We’ll examine their matchups and their snap count trends while helping you figure out the best fit for your IDP rosters.
It’s the Week 8 IDP waiver wire. Here are your four targets:
James Smith-Williams, DL, Washington Commanders
vs. Indianapolis Colts
Roster Percentage: 0%
Another week, another defensive line recommendation playing against the Indianapolis Colts -- that’s the 2022 season in a nutshell for this column. Maybe it’s hubris after watching last week’s recommendation go off for six tackles, a sack, and two tackles for a loss against the Horseshoes, but we’re gonna heat-check ourselves with an even deeper flier for Week 8.
Last week saw Washington Commanders edge rusher James Smith-Williams play more than 75% of his team’s defensive snaps for the first time this season and only the fifth time in his short 34-game career. That might not seem like a major deal, but at such a heavily-rotated position, that's a startable mark for IDP fantasy football.
Even better, he has started six of the Commanders’ seven games in 2022 and has already more than doubled his career pressure mark and nearly doubled his career sack total. JSW is averaging just over two tackles per appearance, which is a fairly low floor, but he is also virtually unrostered, and his Week 8 matchup makes for a stellar streaming opportunity.
The Colts have so far allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing edge rushers this year, and JSW should find himself the beneficiary of that. Through seven weeks, 10.5 sacks have been gifted to pass-rushers by Indianapolis, and despite washed-up veteran Matt Ryan being benched indefinitely, newly-anointed started Sam Ehlinger could take some time to find his footing.
In two preseasons since being drafted in the sixth round, Ehlinger has absorbed 22 pressures (6 of them sacks) on just 76 drop backs for a pressure rate of 28.9% and sack conversion rate of 27.3% – basically right in line with Ryan’s marks.
Our model projects Smith-Williams for 4.1 tackles and a 42% chance for a sack for 5.6 fantasy points. He’s a mid-range DL2 in fantasy this week, but the poor blocking of the Colts’ offensive line and the rawness of Ehlinger give Smith-Williams some underrated upside.
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Buffalo Bills
vs. Green Bay Packers
Roster Percentage: 12%
The Green Bay Packers have fallen mightily from their previous position as offensive juggernauts in the NFL. Per our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, the Pack are in the bottom half of the league in passing value generated. They also have two wide receivers with the most unrealized air yards in the league through seven weeks, per Rich Hribar of Sharp Football Analysis.
In short, if Green Bay wants to steal a win on the road in Week 8, they need to get their ground game going early and often because the air isn’t working.
Edmunds has just two games with fewer than nine total tackles this season, has played every defensive snap for the team since a blowout win in Week 2, and has even added some big-play upside in the form of four tackles for a loss, one sack, and two quarterback hits.
He typically falls into the category of a high-floor tackle racker, but -- should the massive underdog Packers get any designs on throwing to come back -- we could see Bills head coach Sean McDermott send Edmunds on blitzes up the middle to squash their hopes.
Our model projects Edmunds for 8.2 tackles and a 27% chance for a pass defended, totaling 8.8 fantasy points. He comes in as our LB23 in fantasy this week, but his tackle rate suggests a high-floor outlook despite the mediocre matchup.
Christian Kirksey, LB, Houston Texans
vs. Tennessee Titans
Roster Percentage: 11%
Linebacker in IDP leagues this year has largely been a flat tier of tackle production, with the real difference-makers in the box score emerging due to flukier, unpredictable big plays.
How we address this as fantasy managers is to find guys in good situations for establishing a tackle-based floor and then hope that the big plays fall into their hands from there. With this kind of strategy, Houston Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey fits the mold.
Kirksey has been eminently startable for his whole career when healthy, and 2022 is no different. Through six games, Kirksey has 44 total tackles (7.5 per game), adding 2 tackles for a loss and an interception on top.
He also has a very stable role as the LB1 for the Texans, being one of very few linebackers in the modern era to accrue 95% or more of his team’s defensive snaps. With this kind of steadiness as a baseline, we can turn to his matchup for the upside.
Kirksey getting to take on the Tennessee Titans is a classic streamer situation, as the Titans have the third-lowest pass rate over expected in the league. With such a run-heavy approach and the Texans obviously underdogs in this matchup, we should expect running back Derrick Henry to pound the ball up the middle right into Kirksey’s arms repeatedly this week. Sure, there may be less ceiling to this than we hope if Tennessee stays conservative in their play calling, but I’ll take the potential for 10 tackles any week and hope the rest sifts out from there.
Our model projects Kirksey for 7.5 tackles and a 37% chance for a pass defended, good for 8.5 fantasy points this week. Tennessee runs the ball early and often, however, so his projection as a low-end LB3 for the week feels more like the baseline than his ceiling.
Ryan Neal, DB, Seattle Seahawks
vs. New York Giants
Roster Percentage: 6%
Whenever we can find a safety playing a significant number of snaps in the box who's eligible for this column, I feel like we’ve hacked the source code for IDP fantasy football.
This week, that’s Seattle Seahawks defensive back Ryan Neal, who has been in the box, slot, or on the defensive line for 68.5% of his snaps since becoming a full-time player in Week 5. Due to that uptick in snaps, Neal has produced three consecutive seven-tackle performances; he also added a sack, a tackle for a loss, and an interception, as well as averaging two passes defended as a starter.
This week, he gets a tasty matchup with the New York Giants, who are in the league's top quarter in pace of play as well as the bottom quarter in pass rate over expected. The G-Men should run the ball a lot and run a lot of plays, so Neal will be waiting to help drag down either quarterback Daniel Jones or running back Saquon Barkley. As a minimally rostered player, Neal is a perfect streamer in this situation, and he could end up as an every-week fantasy option if this role holds.
Our model projects Neal for 6.4 tackles, an 11% chance for a sack, and a 41% chance for a pass defended, totaling 7.6 fantasy points. He’s our DB10 overall in this matchup.