What Now? – Daryl Washington & Sean Lee
Jeff Ratcliffe checks in on the fallout from Sean Lee's ACL injury and Daryl Washington suspensions, highlighting potential replacements DeVonte Holloman, Anthony Hitchens, Kevin Minter, and Larry Foote.
What Now? – Daryl Washington & Sean Lee
In the span of a little less than 72 hours, Sean Lee tore his ACL and Daryl Washington was suspended for “at least” one year. At this time last week both sat squarely in my elite LB1 tier, and now it looks almost certain that neither will play in 2014.
While Washington’s ban will sideline him for the entire season, there’s talk that Lee could return for the end of the season. However, with an 8-12 month timetable, it’s extremely unlikely he plays in 2014 and shouldn’t be stashed on redraft rosters.
Of course, we’ve seen this from Lee before. I’m never a fan of the “injury-prone” label, but the shoe seems to fit with Lee. There was even some talk of moving him to the weak side in an effort to prevent injury. Dallas didn’t go through with that plan, and they’re now left holding the bag.
Lee was fantastic before getting injured last season. He recorded 99 total tackles and four picks in essentially ten full games. Dallas first turned to Ernie Sims as Lee’s replacement in Weeks 10-13, but his play was predictably poor, especially against the run.
Rookie DeVonte Holloman started the Cowboys’ final three games, and put up decent fantasy numbers – 21 total tackles and two sacks. However, Holloman was nearly as bad as what we saw out of Sims.
Fast-forward to the present, and Holloman is the favorite to replace Lee in 2014 despite the deficiencies he displayed last season. At the same time, Twitter has been abuzz with talk of rookie Anthony Hitchens, who saw some first-team reps after Lee went down.
I didn’t give much thought to Hitchens in the predraft process, and barely looked at him after Dallas selected him in the fourth round. But he has good speed and showed decent ability as a tackler, though Hitchens is a tad undersized.
It would be really surprising if the Cowboys went with Hitchens over Holloman, especially given his somewhat suspect skills in coverage. So Holloman is the early favorite to man the middle in Big-D and would almost certainly play every down. As we saw last season, he’s not going to step right in and produce like Lee, but Holloman is worthy of LB3 consideration.
The Washington situation seems a little bit clearer. With his off-field history, the writing was on the wall for a suspension this season, and the Cards wisely signed Larry Foote after Karlos Dansby bounced for Cleveland and Jasper Brinkley headed back to Minnesota.
Foote is nothing special, but he’s a veteran presence opposite second-year man Kevin Minter. Foote missed most of last season with a torn biceps, but he played all but 19 of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps in 2012, finishing as fantasy’s No. 28 linebacker in our IDP scoring system.
Right now, Foote stands to step into an every-down role, though his ceiling is extremely limited. Kevin Minter is the player we really need to have an eye on. Minter was already slated to start in Dansby’s old spot, but Washington’s suspension gives the former second-rounder a huge opportunity to produce.
While it’s a stretch to assume a breakout season, Minter is a near-lock for LB3 numbers and his ceiling is much higher especially given the frequency at which the Todd Bowles blitzes his linebackers. In fact, no defense blitzed more frequently than Arizona did last season.
Dynasty owners of Lee and Washington should do what you can to get your hands on Holloman and/or Minter. However, as last week showed, us in the NFL (not for long) a lot of things can change between now and September.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.