In 2011, Pro Football Focus introduced the Tamme Index, showing handcuffs at the important fantasy positions, but, it was only for the offensive positions. This year, I’m going to introduce the ‘Bishop Index’, showing the important handcuffs for the IDP positions, especially those elite IDPs.
This past season, two elite linebackers missed significant (by that I mean multiple games) playing time; Desmond Bishop and Patrick Willis. Their backups came in and produced respectable IDP digits for those savvy enough to grab them off the waiver wire. This year, we hope to prepare you for the unexpected and highlight some of the top backups for the elite positions. DL and DB can have more of a rotation at the position, depending on situations, but in the event of injury, the backup can see much more playing time. I should also mention that if you’re in a shallower league with abundant options on the wire, those IDPs take precedence. If you’re in a deeper league, these guys could make or break a season.
Last Updated: 7/24/2012
Bryan Scott, ILB, BUF – On Buffalo’s depth chart, he’s listed as Kelvin Sheppard’s backup even though he’s spent his career at safety. However, he does have experience starting at LB, as he made 6 starts in 2009 as WLB and notched 37 tackles. He started as SS in 2011, but was the team’s nickel backer and could have that role this season. He’ll be someone to keep an eye on in the event of a Sheppard injury, or poor play.
Gary Guyton, ILB, MIA – He’s listed as Kevin Burnett’s primary backup at WLB, but is certainly not a sexy name by any stretch of the imagination. He’s not an every-down backer, when he does get the start, but notches decent tackle numbers is someone that can make spot starts in deeper IDP leagues if Burnett misses any time. His career high in tackles is 69 during the 2009 season in 874 defensive snaps. Keep him on your watch list.
Demario Davis, ILB, NYJ – Davis is third on the ILB depth chart behind David Harris and Bart Scott. He was drafted to be Scott’s replacement come 2013, but he could be seeing significant playing time this season and could put a stranglehold on the starting spot if Scott underperforms or gets injured. He should be a top dynasty pick and is a nice sleeper for 2012.
James-Michael Johnson, ILB/OLB, CLE – He’s listed as Kaluka Maiava’s backup at weak-side and could press him for defensive snaps. Chris Gocong has moved over to SAM during Scott Fujita’s suspension. He’s impressed coaches during OTAs and will be Maiava’s competition, but he’s working as top reserve which would also give him top consideration for MIKE in the event of a D’Qwell Jackson injury.
Stevenson Sylvester, ILB, PIT – He only appeared in 37 snaps as a rookie, but is practicing and competing with Larry Foote at ILB next to Lawrence Timmons. He should be considered a handcuff to Foote and could outplay him during the offseason.
Jason Worilds, OLB, PIT – James Harrison is still considered one of the most feared OLBs, but he’s getting up there in age (just turned 34) and his play makes him a target for the league office, so you can almost assume he’ll miss a game or two due to suspension. Lamar Woodley is a bit younger, but missed 6 games in 2011 himself. Worilds makes a solid backup/handcuff to either Harrison or Woodley in bigger play leagues, as he graded out at a +4.4 overall (+5.3 in pass rushing) and finished with 30 total QB Pressures in 501 defensive snaps. Definitely someone to monitor.
Russell Allen, WLB, JAC – He’s competing with Clint Session for the starting job, but at the very least, he’ll be the top backup at all LB position for the Jags. In 6 starts, he compiled 37 tackles and graded out positively with a +3.3 in just 293 defensive snaps. Session has been battling concussion issues, and if Paul Posluszny suffers an injury, he’ll be immediately installed. Keep him on your radar.
Wesley Woodyard, ILB, DEN – He should be drafted in deeper leagues as he’ll get the starts for DJ Williams while he serves his suspension, but who knows what happens to DJ after that. Woodyard could hold on to the starting job, as he finished with 84 tackles playing both WLB and MLB in 664 defensive snaps.
Travis Goethel, ILB, OAK – Goethel will be someone to watch and is Rolando McClain’s backup at MIKE. McClain is dealing with legal issues and is in danger of missing regular season games, as he could wind up making several starts at the beginning of the season. So, if you’re drafting McClain, you might want to grab Goethel for insurance at the end of your draft.
Jonas Mouton, ILB, SDC – Mouton missed the entire 2011 season with a shoulder injury and is now 100%. He’s now in contention to push Takeo Spikes for a starting job, but will be the primary handcuff to Spikes and Donald Butler if he doesn’t win the gig.
Others to Keep Tabs On
Miles Burris, OLB, OAK – Projected as backup WILL/SAM but is someone that the Raiders like. Keep an eye on him.
Jameel McClain, OLB, BAL – Starting WILL but filled in at MIKE when Ray Lewis was injured. If Lewis suffers an injury, McClain moves to MIKE.
Nate Irving, ILB, DEN – Listed behind Joe Mays, but I think he takes over sooner than later.
DJ Smith, ILB, GBP – There was a possibility of him earning more playing time, possibly starting in 2012, but it does appear that he’ll start the 2012 season as AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop’s backup. In 2011, Smith filled saw significant snaps with Bishop nursing an injury in week 12 and started weeks 13-15, finishing with a +5.7 grade. From an IDP standpoint, he notched 34 tackles, averaging 9 tackles per start, on his way to a solid tackle frequency of 12.7%. Keep an eye on him throughout the off-season, as there’s always the chance he beats Hawk for a starting role. If not, he’ll be a top handcuff should Hawk or Bishop go down.
Bruce Carter, ILB, DAL – I was hoping he’d have a chance to start next to Sean Lee, but Dallas signed Dan Connor to take those duties. Connor has been more of a two-down backer, and more significantly, hasn’t been the picture of health playing only full season in his career. Carter will be the top backup in Dallas should Lee or Connor suffer injuries.
Keith Rivers, OLB, NYG – Linebacker, especially MIKE, has been a weakness since Antonio Pierce retired a few seasons ago. Chase Blackburn has been working at MIKE, but Perry Fewell has played Rivers at MIKE, as well. Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka are the only starters, so keep an eye on Rivers, especially if you have already drafted Blackburn.
Casey Matthews, ILB, PHI – He’s bulked up this offseason, which is good, since he was trucked in the run game last season. He’s also participating in a full offseason program, which put him at a disadvantage last season due to the lockout. The numbers in 2011 were ugly, finishing with just 32 tackles (15 tackles in 3 starts) and graded out at a -10.6 and was just as bad in pass coverage (-7.3).
Tyrone McKenzie, ILB, MIN – He’s the backup to Jasper Brinkley and like I mentioned in my piece about him, he can’t stay healthy and is still nursing injuries. Not much tape or snaps to go on, but could be someone to keep an eye on in deeper leagues.
Mike Peterson, ILB, ATL – Now with Peterson, he could either be released or on IR by the time the first preseason game rolls around. Honestly, not a whole lot of upside here, but with Lofa Tatupu out for the year, he’s the next body on the depth chart at a productive position. Peterson has proved to be productive when he’s on the field, but I think the Falcons could’ve signed a much more productive LB, like EJ Henderson. Peterson should be looked at only in deeper leagues.
Stewart Bradley, ILB, ARI – Bradley took a pay cut this season. He’s been injury prone and never was able to grasp Ray Horton’s defense the short amount of time he had. Because of that, he never beat out Paris Lenon and appeared in just 235 defensive snaps and just 22 tackles. Lenon is coming off an unproductive season of 79 tackles in 1,127 snaps and graded out at a poor -15.8. Entering his age 35 season, Lenon should lose ground, and ultimately, his job to Bradley.
Larry Grant, ILB, SFO – Grant appeared in 232 defensive snaps and made 3 starts while Patrick Willis was out with a hamstring injury. Grant, like DJ Smith, was productive with his playing time, notching 9+ tackles in two out of his three starts, grading out at a +3.0. He enters the 2012 as Willis and Navorro Bowman’s backup and can make the spot starts if the 49′ers need him.
Others to Keep Tabs On
Rocky McIntosh, OLB, STL – Primary backup at WLB and has experience at the position with the Redskins.