It’s Chris Borland’s world. We’re all just living in it.
Since the rookie entered the starting lineup for the San Francisco 49ers a few weeks ago, all he’s done is average 16 total tackles a game, pick off two passes, recover a game-clinching fumble and rank as fantasy football’s top linebacker by a staggering margin.
Other than that though, the kid’s done spit.
Borland’s 13 stops and two picks in last week’s win over the New York Giants netted the former Wisconsin standout NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors and drew raves from the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah.
“He’s just dripping with instincts,” Jeremiah said. “We like to say in scouting, ‘You really want a linebacker to shoot his gun and make a decision.’ … And he does that.”
Unfortunately, there is but one Borland, so for those of us left sifting through mere mortals for our Week 12 IDP options, here’s a look at the top 10 players at each position and a couple of under-the-radar picks.
Who knows? Maybe one will be the next Chris Borland.
- J.J. Watt – DE, HOU (vs. CIN)
- Robert Quinn – DE, STL (at SD)
- DeMarcus Ware – DE, DEN (vs. MIA)
- Cameron Wake – DE, MIA (at DEN)
- Mario Williams – DE, BUF (vs. NYJ)
- Muhammad Wilkerson – DE, NYJ (at BUF)
- Jason Pierre-Paul – DE, NYG (vs. DAL)
- Everson Griffen – DE, MIN (vs. GB)
- Rob Ninkovich – DE, NE (vs. DET)
- Calais Campbell – DE, AZ (at SEA)
Marcell Dareus – DT, Buffalo Bills (vs. NYJ)
Sunday’s Jets-Bills game (which may not be played Sunday thanks to the several feet of snow dumped on Western New York this week) may be light on offensive firepower, but it’s a bonanza on the defensive side. That includes Dareus, who has been propelled to the top spot among defensive tackles in Fantasy Throwdown Scoring by a huge margin with 10 sacks in as many games. Add in a matchup with a Jets team allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to defensive linemen, and both Dareus and end Jerry Hughes are rock-solid fantasy options in Week 12.
Jacquies Smith – DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at CHI)
Calling Dareus an “under-the-radar” IDP option may be stretching it, but until last week Smith wasn’t even on the radar. However, after racking up a pair of sacks last week against Washington, it’s another story altogether. Head coach Lovie Smith told Pat Yasinskas of ESPN that Smith’s play has earned the 24-year-old journeyman a larger role moving forward. “He has continued to get more plays based on his play,” Smith said. “He’s come a long ways from being cut by the Bills and coming down here and now really being a factor.”
- Lavonte David – OLB, TB (at CHI)
- Paul Worrilow – ILB, ATL (vs. CLE)
- Chris Borland – ILB, SF (vs. WAS)
- DeAndre Levy – OLB, DET (at NE)
- Jamie Collins – ILB, NE (vs. DET)
- C.J. Mosley – ILB, BAL (at NO)
- Brandon Marshall – OLB, DEN (vs. MIA)
- Chad Greenway – OLB, MIN (vs. GB)
- James Laurinaitis – MLB, STL (at SD)
- Mychal Kendricks – ILB, PHI (vs. TEN)
Christian Kirksey – ILB, Cleveland Browns (at ATL)
In Week 11 Karlos Dansby of the Cleveland Browns became the 28th top 25 linebacker (yes, you heard me – screw math) to get hurt in 2014, suffering an MCL sprain that will cost the veteran a month or more. Dansby insists he might still play against the Atlanta Falcons this week, but the odds of that actually happening are slim. That means full-time roles for Craig Robertson and Christian Kirksey against the Falcons, with the rookie having the higher IDP ceiling as the more dynamic and explosive player of the two.
Vincent Rey – OLB, Cincinnati Bengals (at HOU)
Rey has become the equivalent of the best pinch-hitters in baseball – a reserve who would start for more than a few teams across the NFL. Just as he did last year, Rey is putting up big numbers in 2014 in a relief role, this time in place of the injured Vontaze Burfict. In Week 12 that could make Rey a sneaky-great play against the Houston Texans, who have surrendered the most fantasy points per game to linebackers this season.
- Reshad Jones – SS, MIA (at DEN)
- Jonathan Cyprien – SS, JAX (at IND)
- Charles Woodson – SS, OAK (vs. KC)
- Harrison Smith – FS, MIN (vs. GB)
- Morgan Burnett – SS, GB (at MIN)
- Antrel Rolle – FS, NYG (vs. DAL)
- Barry Church – SS, DAL (at NYG)
- Eric Berry – SS, KC (at OAK)
- Eric Weddle – FS, SD (vs. STL)
- Antoine Bethea – SS, SF (vs. WAS)
Michael Griffin – FS, Tennessee Titans (at PHI)
Griffin is the poster child for the boom/bust defensive back, and has been throughout his eight-year NFL career. One week Griffin will explode and single-handedly win you a weekly matchup, the next he’ll completely disappear and cost your squad a loss. It makes Griffin a risky play, especially in weekly formats. However, while the 29-year-old may be all over the place Griffin also ranks as a top-five fantasy defensive back in most scoring systems this year, and no team has allowed more fantasy points to the position in 2014 than the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kemal Ishmael – SS, Atlanta Falcons (vs. CLE)
It pays to have a very short memory where defensive backs are concerned in fantasy football. In Week 10, it looked like Kemal Ishmael was falling out of favor in Atlanta, as the second-year pro lost snaps to Dezman Southward. William Moore is off short-term injured reserve and expected to return in Week 13, which could send Ishmael right back to the bench. However, for Week 12 at least Ishmael will be on the field as an every-down player, fresh off a Week 11 performance that saw him finish the week seventh among defensive backs with 12.5 fantasy points in Throwdown Scoring.
Have a question regarding a specific player or game? Hit me up on Twitter and I’ll do my best to help!
Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America. Gary’s work has been featured in a number of national print publications and on both satellite and terrestrial radio, and he was a finalist for the FSWA Web Article of the Year in 2013.