Injuries are taking their toll and players are stepping in that will be productive for you as you pursue your league championship. There are some guys really stepping up - some of these may even be on your waivers and if they are, they need to be pursued aggressively. I will focus on players whose stock is increasing, and next week I will delve more into players that are decreasing and need to be moved. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter and I will attach my personal rankings at the end of the article!
Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Cleveland Browns
Ogunjobi is a rising star on the defensive front of the Browns line, he has been disruptive and a force to reckon with. He tallied 8 tackles (4 solos) against the Jets and really sets the tone for the pass rushers on the edge as well as the entire defense. Ogunjobi is tough to handle in the middle, as the 8 tackles in the stat column don’t highlight how many plays he directly affected. I have moved him up into my third tier of defensive lineman and he is a top three defensive tackle for me.
Derek Barnett, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Barnett is a player I had huge hopes for going into 2018 and he finally had a game he was capable of - he sacked Andrew Luck one and a half times and also notched 5 tackles (3 solos). Barnett is averaging just over 37 snaps a game, only 60% of defensive snaps, and his production can be capped a little by the snap count he plays. He is still a safe start and an absolute dominating player. If someone on the line goes down - Barnett could produce DL1 numbers on a consistent basis.
Kenny Clark, DT, Green Bay Packers
Clark is entering his third season and still is only 22 years old; he is on a pace to destroy his sophomore season production (55 tackles, 32 solo, and 4.5 sacks). Nose tackles don’t typically put up the numbers this young behemoth has and the sky's the limit for his production. Against the Redskins, Clark destroyed the offensive line and raked in 9 tackles (6 solos). His game is improving - a scary thought for this young defensive tackle.
Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts
Unless you are living under the Rock of IDP Gibraltar you have heard of the exploits of this young linebacker. Against the Eagles in Week 3, Leonard posted 13 tackles (9 solos) and also 2 sacks. The pace he is on is absolutely historic; he may end up being the second rookie to lead the league in tackles (Luke Kuechly was the first). Leonard is on pace for 217 tackles and more than 10 sacks, he would be the likely Defensive Player of the Year at said clip. He has been moved near the top of my second tier of linebackers and could end up in the top tier by the end of 2018.
Nick Vigil, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
Vigil once again led the Bengals in tackles, this time gathering in 12 total tackles (9 solos) in the Week 3 loss to Carolina. He has played 100% of the snaps thus far and is taking huge strides in productivity; he has earned a spot in the linebacking corps even with Vontaze Burfict coming back in Week 5 and Preston Brown working toward a healthy return. Someone may get antsy with the return of those linebackers and a buy low window may open - I am confident Vigil will remain a productive linebacker.
Kenny Young, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Young was phenomenal in Week 3, corralling in 10 tackles (8 solos) versus the Broncos despite only being on the field for 64.7% of the defensive snaps. Young was all over the field, and I believe he has earned more playing time even when C.J. Mosley returns. Young has great instincts, on many plays he was the first defender to reach the ball carrier. Baltimore has a history of finding linebackers - Young was drafted in the fourth round from UCLA - and will be one of the next good Ravens linebackers.
Josey Jewell, LB, Denver Broncos
Jewell came out of the University of Iowa, where he averaged over 127 tackles his final three seasons, and entered a Broncos linebacker corps which seriously needed a play-maker to step in. In Week 3 against the Ravens, Jewell was on the field for 52.8% of the defensive snaps and responded with 8 tackles (4 solos) and has likely earned his way into more time and snaps. Jewell is a classic tackling linebacker who likely will notch close to 10 tackles a game and not much else. He’ll provide a solid, consistent floor as an LB2 for your fantasy squad.
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Vander Esch was on the field for only 47.8% of the snaps in the Cowboys’ Week 3 loss to the Seahawks but he was able to contribute 11 tackles (9 solos) in that short time. He was a player I profiled before the draft and was impressed with. He can cover receivers out of the backfield, and as his time on the field increased, his awareness and instincts got better as well. Vander Esch is one of the next great linebackers and the time to grab him is running out.
Clayton Geathers, S, Indianapolis Colts
Geathers possesses top-level talent but has struggled to stay on the field to showcase that talent. Through three weeks he has 30 combined tackles (21 solos) and is finally staying on the field, playing 100% of the defensive snaps thus far, and tackling seemingly everything which gets past Darius Leonard. Geathers is a must add and must start, capable of producing at a good floor and having huge games which can win a week for fantasy owners.
Demontae Kazee, S, Atlanta Falcons
Kazee appeared to be the add after Keanu Neal’s season-ending injury, but only played 20% of snaps in Week 2 as Ricardo Allen stepped into the vacated strong safety role. Allen then went down with his own season-ending injury and Kazee stepped up, playing 91.1% of defensive snaps and contributing 10 tackles (8 solos). Kazee is now the undeniable starter and will likely produce DB2 numbers for the rest of the season. He may still be available on your waiver wire.