Welcome back, IDP Nerds. I’m back again this season to give you start and sit options for the 2021 season. I had fun bringing you this article last season, and I will return to provide you with some small nuggets of information to help you make those tough lineup decisions just a little bit easier for you.
The IDP123 scoring system is the foundation of our weekly recommendations. Players will be broken down by the three major positions (DL, LB, DB), with one defensive player per game. It’s common knowledge that you start your studs every week, which doesn’t change on the defensive side of the ball.
There will be an emphasis on holding myself accountable this year. Each article will open with a review of the previous week’s recommendations. I have settled on a ‘hit’ as a 10-point week and a ‘miss’ as anything under double-digit points. Last season 236 players finished with a scoring average of over 10 fantasy points per game, according to Sleeper. In most common IDP leagues, you should be starting 9-11 defensive players, with 12 dynasty managers that leave rough 132 IDPs starting weekly. The top 140 IDPs last season averaged at least 12 points per game.
Here’s the cast and the position groups they’ll be covering to help you win your week. Follow their socials, and be sure to check out their picks for this week as well.
- QB: Jayson Snyder (@Spydes78)
- RB: Gage Bridgford (@gbridgfordnfl)
- WR: Tristan Cook (@tristancook_)
- TE: Jake Oliver (@darthDbacks)
- FLEX: Ethan Wyatt (@ethanAwyatt)
- IDP: Jon Glosser (@Glosser13)
Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk some Week 1 NFL football. God, it feels good to be able to say that again.
Seattle Seahawks vs Indianapolis Colts
Bobby Okereke LB Indianapolis Colts
The time is now for Bobby Okereke to step up to be Darius Leonard’s running mate at LB. Anthony Walker left in free agency after playing 68% of defensive snaps for the Colts last season. Okereke played 76% of snaps a season ago. He recorded six straight double-digit games from Week 4 to Week 10.
Bobby Okereke was not great in coverage last season, but he did play a ton on passing downs even with Anthony Walker on the team last season. The Colts did use 2LB packages on nearly 80% of snaps last season. If Okereke can stay on the field, he should produce solid numbers for dynasty managers. In 2020 he recorded 10+ points in 7 of 8 games where he played at least 50 snaps.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Houston Texans
Christian Kirksey LB Houston Texans
I don’t feel great about this one but finding something positive in this early AFC South divisional matchup isn’t easy. Christian Kirksey has been a reliable fantasy producer when healthy. Kirksey averaged 19.5 points per game over his first two games of 2020. When he returned from injury in Week 10, he recorded 10+ points in 6 of 7 games to finish the season.
The Houston defense should see a healthy number of snaps every week. Let’s not forget last season veteran LB Tyrell Adams played this position alongside Zach Cunningham and finished the season as an LB2. Dynasty managers who held onto Kirksey through the off-season and roster cuts could reap the rewards if he plays even 75% of games this season.
Philadelphia Eagles vs Atlanta Falcons
Brandon Graham DL Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles brought in new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon who came from Minnesota under Mike Zimmer’s defensive philosophies. The Eagles have depth among their defensive line, but it’s mostly a veteran group of guys.
Brandon Graham has been the most consistent outside rusher. He will be 33 years old this season on a one-year deal. Graham racked up 7 sacks in his first eight games of 2020, but from Week 10 on, he only managed one sack. He had ten fantasy points or more just three times in the final seven games. Let’s wait for a few games before we see how the DL rotation shakes out for the new-look Eagles defense before we start anyone with confidence.
Los Angeles Chargers vs Washington Football Team
Kenneth Murray LB Los Angeles Chargers
I’m all in on Kenneth Murray making himself a household name for IDP managers in 2021. Understandably he struggled out of the gates as a rookie last season. Murray should not come off the field this season, and I expect him to have a solid season. Sleeper IDP projections have Murray currently projected over 16 fantasy points in every matchup this season. The Chargers LB led the defense in snaps played as a rookie and averaged 19.5 fantasy points per game over the season’s final month.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Buffalo Bills
Minkah Fitzpatrick DB Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have struggled with the Bills over the past two seasons, losing two straight games in the final month of both the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Minkah Fitzpatrick has had two of his more disappointing fantasy weeks during these games. The Steelers safety is coming off a career-high in solo tackles (60) and passes defended (11). The return of LB Devin Bush should affect his tackle numbers, and with an explosive Buffalo offense, I would expect him to be in a deep safety role for most of this matchup.
Minnesota Vikings vs Cincinnati Bengals
Vonn Bell DB Cincinnati Bengals
Vonn Bell continues to be one of the most underappreciated fantasy producers at the defensive back position. The former Ohio State Buckeye has recorded 80+ tackles and 60+ solo tackles in five straight seasons. Bell will be asked again to help a week LB group and play box snaps where he excels. The Bengals will need all the help they can get this week going against one of the game’s best in Dalvin Cook.
New York Jets vs Carolina Panthers
Jermaine Carter LB Carolina Panthers
All the off-season hype has been around Carter’s play and him securing a starting role. This is another case of believing it when I see it, Shaq Thompson remains the most talented LB on the Panthers roster. As a veteran IDP manager, I’ve been burned one too many times on believing coach speak and preseason hype. Let’s make Carter show us some consistent production before we start putting him in the lineup.
Arizona Cardinals vs Tennessee Titans
Jeffrey Simmons DL Tennessee Titans
This is a no-brainer in DT-required leagues but for those DL leagues, I still like Simmons this week. The star interior defender for the Titans racked up a sack, forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries in matchups against NFC opponent’s last season. Simmons posted a career-high 21 pressures and 11 QB knockdowns in 2020. The Arizona offensive line allowed 29 sacks last season a matchup with the Titans should be quite the challenge to start the 2021 season.
Cleveland Browns vs Kansas City Chiefs
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah LB Cleveland Browns
The Browns didn’t have an LB finish with 200 fantasy points a season ago. The team drafted JOK in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The addition of JOK appears to be the Browns solution to covering opposing TEs. By his accounts, he will be ready for Travis Kelce on Sunday. I don’t think it will take much time for the Browns to realize how talented Owusu-Koamoah is, and he should be the team’s main coverage LB. JOK being a rookie will means he will be tested early, and often, his speed from sideline to sideline could see him have a very productive rookie season.
Miami Dolphins vs New England Patriots
Emanuel Ogbah DL Miami Dolphins
I’ll be straightforward with you guys there are maybe three players total in this matchup that I have any confidence in. The Dolphins and Patriots are very similar from a defensive perspective, and neither are great for fantasy football. Manny Ogbah led all Miami defensive linemen with 76% of snaps played, and he registered at least ½ sack in 8 straight games. He struggled down the stretch, recording just one sack from Week 11 on. He also finished with only one double-digit fantasy week. I wouldn’t count on the New England Patriots to allow the Dolphins best pass rusher to get after their young QB and wreck the game plan.
Denver Broncos vs New York Giants
Josey Jewell LB Denver Broncos
Starting Josey Jewell felt like a rollercoaster last season. Often it was a potential week-winning performance or a waste of a start. The Broncos defense looks so talented on paper that a player like Jewell seems beyond replaceable, especially with second-year LB Justin Strnad and rookie Baron Browning being much more complete players. Josey Jewell is coming off a career-high in tackles (113). Still, his lack of versatility will eventually hurt the Broncos defense, and that might show in week 1 with the potential to see him matched up on Saquon Barkley out of the backfield.
Green Bay Packers vs New Orleans Saints
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson DB New Orleans Saints
The Saints defense faces a huge challenge to start their season with the 2020 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers coming to town. The Saints, by default, will have several defensive backs on the field playing against the Packers, who lined up in 3 WR sets 55% of the time last season. CGJ played 82% of snaps last season, which was 5th best on the defense. He totaled six tackles on his way to a 12-fantasy point performance against Green Bay last season.
Chicago Bears vs Los Angeles Rams
Troy Reeder LB Los Angeles Rams
Listen, people, Troy Reeder isn’t very good, but he’s playing LB behind Aaron Donald, and there are endless opportunities to roam free and make tackles. The Rams LB group is among the worst in the NFL, but Reeder has the history of being the most productive. Reeder only played nine games in 2020. He registered 10 tackles or more in five of those nine games. His fantasy production is dependent on his tackle numbers which I expect to be solid if he remains a starter.
Baltimore Ravens vs Las Vegas Raiders
Cory Littleton LB Las Vegas Raiders
Cory Littleton is coming off a disappointing LB77 in 2020. He struggled with zero preseason and injuries that kept him out of two games last season. I still believe in Littleton as a reliable IDP should see a high volume of snaps against the run-heavy Ravens offense. Cory Littleton should see a rise in value if he can put together another LB2 or LB1 season.
Good luck this week, my fellow Dynasty Nerds. I hope you guys enjoy the content and the games this weekend. I speak for us all when I say I’m glad football is back. Make sure to help manage your dynasty teams using the awesome tools on the Dynasty GM dashboard.