Reading the defense: Vikings rookie raising the Barr

Last week, I went out for a concert and an adult beverage during the week. To celebrate being out after dark on a "school night" I decided to take a selfie to commemorate the occasion. Out of nowhere, J.J. Watt appeared and tackled me in the middle of the sidewalk and told me that I needed to be more focused on the music. I have learned my lesson.

On the offensive side of the ball this season, I've been all about the #YearOfTheRookieWR. But it's worth noting that some first-year defensive players are also making quite an impact. Perhaps chief among them is Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr.

The former UCLA star was one of the headliners of Week 8 with a huge game that included a sack and ended with a forced fumble and a scoop-and-score for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. It also marked the second consecutive week that Barr has posted double-digit fantasy totals, which is forcing IDP owners to take notice.

There's a reason Barr went in the top 10 in the most recent NFL draft. He terrorized Pac-12 quarterbacks during his time in Westwood and while he hasn't quite been the same type of sack master in his very young NFL career, you get the distinct feeling that it's coming -- and probably very soon.

Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack were drafted earlier, but Barr has easily been better than both of them so far this season. If you don't know him, now's the time to get on board.

Awards (mid)season

Since we've hit the midway point of the season, it's time to hand out a little hardware to recognize the guys who have delighted and disappointed IDP owners so far in 2014.

MVP -- J.J. Watt, DL, Houston Texans: How could it not be? Watt is the only defensive lineman among the top 25 IDP scorers -- and the difference isn't close. With three total touchdowns this season (including a receiving score), Watt ranks ahead of a slew of big name offensive fantasy stars when it comes to trips to the end zone. Just a few of those names: Le'Veon Bell, Vernon Davis, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green. With a resume like that, he could be forgiven if he decides to take a few selfies of his own.

Biggest disappointment -- Earl Thomas, DB, Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks defense as a whole has been disappointing this year, but Thomas' struggles pretty much sum everything up. Last season, the Seattle safety was a top 10 fantasy defensive back. This season, he currently ranks 88th. That's not a misprint. Thomas has no sacks, no interceptions and has neither forced nor recovered a fumble. The Legion of Boom isn't scaring people this year and Thomas has been ghostly in the stat sheets.

Best rookie -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Baltimore Ravens: For as good as Barr has been this season, Mosley's been a little bit better. The Ravens rookie hasn't recorded a sack and has just a pair of interceptions, but he's been a tackling machine. Need proof? He leads all AFC players in tackles and is fourth in the NFL overall in that category. That puts him alongside guys like Luke Kuechly and Lavonte David -- not bad company for IDP enthusiasts.

Four downs

» The Colts got some good news on cornerback Vontae Davis, when the MRI on his knee came back negative. The injury forced Davis out of Sunday's loss to the Steelers and has left the corner as a day-to-day proposition. The Colts will certainly need him against the Giants next Monday night and his presence could pay dividends for IDP owners as well. By locking down one half of the field, Davis has allowed safety Mike Adams more freedom to make plays. As such, Adams is a top 25 fantasy defensive back. That might not happen if Davis isn't around.

» I'm certain Lamarr Houston's torn ACL is causing him a fair amount of pain. But he's also probably smarting from a bruised ego after losing the rest of his season while celebrating a sack in a game that had long since been decided. On the one hand, it's understandable that Houston would celebrate his first sack of the season. But on the other hand ... really? Houston hasn't been the most fantasy relevant defensive end, but his absence will just make it easier to neutralize Chicago's other threats along the defensive line.

» Richard Marshall's stint with the San Diego Chargers is over. The team released the veteran cornerback Monday after a pair of poor performances -- including Emmanuel Sanders' huge Thursday night contest. Marshall's release could mean that Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett are returning to full strength.

» It's another shortened season for Giants linebacker Jon Beason. For the third time in the past four seasons, the veteran will come up far short of playing a full schedule. This time, foot surgery will put him on the shelf for the remainder of the year. When all is well, Beason is one of the most consistent defensive players in the NFL. But his days of being a 100-tackle guy like he was early in his career with the Carolina Panthers seem to be all but finished.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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