At its core, fantasy football is a game of information. Knowing more than your opponents is key and can give you that edge you need on draft day. With a week of training camp in the books, here are 10 situations folks in IDP leagues need to keep a close eye on.
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1. Will Emmanuel Lamur play three downs for Cincinnati?
After missing the entire 2013 season with a shoulder injury, Lamur drew rave reviews in the offseason and is penciled in as the starting strong side linebacker. The question is ultimately if the Bengals’ coaching staff envision Lamur as a candidate for their nickel subpackages?
At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Lamur is a specimen who has the body type to hold up to an every-down role. He also has sideline-to-sideline speed and the ability to cover tight ends. At this point there’s little indication out of Bengals camp regarding their plans for Lamur, but we can read the tealeaves to get an indication of what to expect.
Here’s what we know: Rey Maualuga struggles in coverage. Actually, that might be an understatement. When the Bengals last experimented with Maualuga in an every-down role in 2012, he graded out as the league’s worst inside linebacker in coverage out of 53 qualifiers over at Pro Football Focus. Despite playing more of a two-down role, he was nearly as bad last season, allowing receivers to catch 34-of-41 balls thrown into his coverage.
Needless to say, it would be wise for the Bengals to explore other options, and Lamur seems to fit the bill. From an IDP standpoint, Lamur is the great unknown. He passes the eye test, but his limited resume and ambiguous subpackage role are reason to proceed with caution. Still, he’s currently going undrafted while Bengals backup LB Vincent Rey is the No. 68 in ADP. That just makes no sense. Despite his uncertainties, Lamur’s high fantasy ceiling makes him an extremely intriguing option who will be available late in IDP drafts.
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2. What are the Patriots’ plans for Jamie Collins?
Like Lamur, we’re not quite sure how Collins will be used in 2014. However, we do have a lot more of an indication how he’ll play. Collins was arguably the most impressive New England defender in the playoffs last season, showing versatility one wouldn’t expect of a man Collins’ size. He’s seemingly equally adept at rushing the passer and in coverage.
Last season, Collins played mainly a situational role until the post season when he saw all but three of the Patriots’ playoff snaps. With Brandon Spikes now in Buffalo, the door is open for Collins to start, but will he get a three-down role?
Early indication out of Patriots camp is that he will. In fact, ESPNBoston reported that Collins “put on a show with his coverage skills” this week in camp. That same piece also touted Dont'a Hightower’s ability to stop the run. It’s not a lead pipe lock, but Collins sounds like an extremely strong bet for three downs.
Right now, Collins is the No. 41 linebacker in ADP, which is an absolute steal if he earns an every-down gig. With his ability to do essentially everything, the sky is the limit for Collins’ fantasy value. He’s a player who needs to be on all of your IDP rosters. That is, unless you’re in a league with me, because he’s going to be on my roster.
3. Is Nigel Bradham going to replace Kiko Alonso?
There has been a lot of speculation as to who will replace Alonso after the second-year man tore his ACL in early-July. Some suggested rookie Preston Brown would get the nod, but when Bills camp opened up Bradham was running with the first team. However, first team snaps in the base defense and subpackage snaps are two entirely different beasts.
While Bradham took Alonso’s spot on the weak side, he needs to be playing every down in order to be a viable IDP option. Keep in mind that Jim Schwartz’s defense tends to funnel everything to the weak side ‘backer. Last season we saw this position end up being very productive for DeAndre Levy, so Bradham could have strong fantasy value if he plays three downs.
So far, the word out of Bills camp is that Bradham is in fact getting the first-team nickel snaps and Schwartz has praised Bradham’s play. Now, keep in mind that Bradham is suspended for the first game of the season, but don’t let this news dissuade you. Bradham is another IDP currently going undrafted who could produce LB3 numbers or better this season.
4. Staying in Buffalo, will Da’Norris Searcy finally get a shot?
The ripple effect from Alonso’s injury is far-reaching in this Bills defense and could also impact the safeties. Currently Aaron Williams is locked into the starting job at free safety, but there’s been a lot of talk regarding who will play beside him. Off-season reports have mentioned Searcy, Duke Williams and even Jonathan Meeks as all having a shot at the job.
Searcy currently sits atop the depth chart, but the question isn’t whether he’s a starter. It’s whether he stays on the field in passing situations. Searcy has shown to be a solid run defender, but he’s struggled in coverage at the pro level. As a result, he's has seen a majority of his snaps in the box.
With Alonso sidelined, there are a lot of question marks regarding the Bills subpackages. This is especially important because Schwartz’s used his subpackages over 70 percent of the time with the Lions last season. One possibility we could see is a Big Nickel where the Bills deploy three safeties with Searcy playing a hybrid linebacker spot. We’ve seen this out of the Bills in the past when they used Bryan Scott in a similar role.
There’s little clarity yet, but this situation as something to monitor closely as we get into the preseason games. Searcy has shown oodles of fantasy upside in the past, and an every-down role will give him DB2-plus fantasy value, especially with the extremely tackle-friendly Bills home stat crew.