This article attempts to immediately highlight defensive players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected for the prior week of games. Note there is sometimes limited information available when this article is written, but I will try to give everyone an early look at players who are moving up or down in value among IDP circles. I've also added a section this year called No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading for some players. It’s difficult to give waiver advice for IDPs since there is such a wide variety of lineups and scoring systems, but hopefully, the information provided can help inform your waiver, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions on specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
CHICAGO @ GREEN BAY
S Adrian Amos, CHI (7 solos, 1 asst)
With Quintin Demps now on injured reserve, former starter Adrian Amos moved back into the lineup. He was exposed in coverage last year and offers little as a playmaker, but is a very sure tackler. He showed off his potential on Thursday with 8 tackles compared to just 1 for free safety Eddie Jackson. Jackson is better suited to work deep in coverage, which should allow Amos to play near the line and take advantage of the Bears depleted depth at inside linebacker.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, GB (8 solos, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Clinton-Dix doesn't belong among the elite fantasy safeties of the league, but he has been a high-end #2 safety in most leagues over the past two seasons. He puts up more tackles than most free safeties and gets plenty of interception opportunities.
LB Danny Trevathan, CHI (6 solos, 7 asst)
Trevathan was everywhere in this game and led all players with 13 tackles on 55 snaps. Unfortunately, he was given a 2-game suspension for a vicious and dangerous helmet-to-helmet hit that took out Packers receiver Davante Adams. John Timu figures to replace him as the next man up, who was just signed off their practice squad last week.
CB Marcus Cooper, CHI (1 solo)
Cooper got the start at corner this week, but it seems likely that his days in that role could be numbered. He was only on the field for 29 snaps (53%) while Prince Amukamara (27 snaps this week) should be ready to play a full game in week 5 with the extra days of rest. Bryce Callahan figures to keep his job as the nickel corner.
S Josh Jones, GB (2 solos, 1 asst)
Jones was shutout until late in the game, but only 3 defensive players for the Packers had more snaps than his 51. The Bears stuck to their run-heavy game plan and couldn't sustain much offense until the game was well out of reach. Jones will likely have some up and down weeks but is worth holding onto given his great potential.
NEW ORLEANS @ MIAMI (In London)
DE Cameron Wake, DE, MIA (3 solos, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
The 35-year old Wake is off to a strong start this year with 8 solos and 2 sacks through his first 3 games. While he's probably not a DE1 any longer, he is coming off a 12-sack season and is helped by playing alongside Ndamukong Suh.
LB Lawrence Timmons, MIA (6 solos, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Timmons was welcomed back by the team last week and finally made his debut for the Dolphins in week 4. He was given an every-down role right away, which bumped Mike Hull out of the nickel packages, and likely has LB2 upside.
LB Alex Anzalone, NO (1 solo)
Anzalone left the game early in the first quarter (lasted just 3 snaps) with a shoulder injury and did not return. Craig Robertson replaced him and posted 3 solo tackles in 49 snaps.
LB Manti Teo, NO (0 tackles)
Te'o wasn't in the starting lineup this week as the Saints went with a big nickel package that included three safeties. Despite the early injury to Anzalone though, Te'o (7 snaps) did not receive a bump in playing time.
LB Mike Hull, MIA (3 solos)
Lawrence Timmons replaced Hull in the team's nickel packages this week, and that resulted in a huge drop in playing time. While a matchup against the Saints resulted in more nickel than we might see in most weeks, Hull was only on the field for 25 snaps (34%) in this game and can likely be dropped in most leagues.
CB Byron Maxwell, MIA (DNP)
Maxwell was a late scratch on Sunday due to a hamstring injury suffered during warmups. That bumped rookie Cordrea Tankersley (5 solos, 1 PD) into the starting lineup. Alterraun Verner also returned to action this week and could be a threat to Maxwell's starting role.
BUFFALO @ ATLANTA
DE Eddie Yarbrough, BUF (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Yarbrough was highly productive in college and developed on the Broncos practice squad before finding a home with the Bills. He was a breakout player in the preseason and earned a job as the top reserve at defensive end. With Shaq Lawson inactive this week due to injury, Yarbrough got a start and looked like he clearly belongs.
S Micah Hyde, BUF (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PD)
The Bills secondary was helped by injuries to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, but Hyde still took full advantage of the situation. The first interception was a very poorly thrown ball by Matt Ryan, but he added an impressive diving interception in the fourth quarter that was upheld after video review.
LB Ramon Humber, BUF (3 solos, 3 asst)
Humber came into the game as one of the leading tacklers in the league with 25 solos through 3 weeks. Unfortunately, he left the game with a broken thumb and there was a noticeable dropoff in play when rookie Matt Milano replaced him. He's expected to undergo surgery and will be out indefinitely, although some speculation indicated that might be around a month.
DE Brooks Reed, ATL (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
The Falcons relied mostly on Adrian Clayborn and Takkarist McKinley at defensive end against the Lions last week, while this week it was Brooks Reed (36 snaps) and Derrick Shelby (35 snaps) who saw more work. So, it looks like the Falcons will adjust their personnel to match the offense they are facing. That likely makes it tough to rely on any of these players as their playing time and production can shift based on matchups and game scripts.
S Damontrae Kazee, ATL (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 FF)
The rookie safety got a start this week in place of Ricardo Allen, who sat out while going through the concussion protocol. Kazee was productive with 8 tackles and a forced fumble, but it seems likely he'll head back to the bench soon.
PITTSBURGH @ BALTIMORE
DE Cameron Heyward, PIT (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Heyward has been a very good player since he became a full-time starter in 2013, but his potential and production has been limited by the 3-4 scheme he plays in. It certainly looks like he could be taking his game to a new level in 2017 though. He was playing well the past few weeks but not always being rewarded, and that changed this week in a big week as he dominated the Ravens in a key divisional win.
LB Ryan Shazier, PIT (10 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Shazier has an incredible combination of size, speed, and talent that allows him to do just about anything on the field. Now that Lawrence Timmons has moved on, Shazier is serving as the focal point of the Steelers defense. With 21 solo tackles, 1 INT, and 2 forced fumbles in the past two weeks, he's on a huge tear right now and should keep it going with a matchup against Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars coming up.
LB Terrell Suggs, BAL (1 asst)
The Steelers have a tough offensive line, but they ran the ball 42 times in this game so it seems rather inexcusable that Suggs could finish with just a single assisted tackle. Although he looked rejuvenated with 3 sacks in the first two games of the year, Suggs has been nearly invisible the past two games.
CINCINNATI @ CLEVELAND
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, CLE (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 FF, 1 FR)
After posting just 1 solo tackle in the first two games of the season, Ogbah has exploded over the past two games. He's compiled 6 solos, 6 assists, and 2 sacks with a pair of forced fumbles. Maybe he just needed some time to adjust to the new defense under Gregg Williams, but it looks like he could be very productive going forward.
LB Nick Vigil, CIN (8 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH)
The return of Vontaze Burfict to the lineup certainly didn't do anything to slow down Vigil's breakout season. The Browns offense only provided 40 tackle opportunities in this game and Vigil was involved in 12 of them. While that's not sustainable, it's an indication of how much he is around the ball, which is one of Burfict's best traits.
LB Kevin Minter, CIN (0 tackles)
The Bengals used their nickel package most of the game this week, which left Minter without a clear role to play. As a result, he was only on the field for clear run downs and that resulted in just 9 snaps for him.
S Derrick Kindred, CLE (1 solo, 1 asst)
Kindred has been playing great against the run this year, but he somehow was limited to just 36 snaps (56%) this week. That ranked 12th among all Browns defenders, so it appears as though they used 3 corners and 1 safety most of the time to try and slow down Andy Dalton.
LA RAMS @ DALLAS
LB Mark Barron, LAR (8 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Barron had a very quiet opener with just 1 solo tackle against the overmatched Colts. Since then, however, he's posted 24 solos with an interception. That puts him on pace for 100 solo tackles through the first month of the year. Amazingly, he has just 1 assist on the year so it's unlikely his tackle numbers are inflated.
LB Robert Quinn, LAR (1 solo, 1 asst)
While there was plenty of hope that Quinn would be able to find a role in the new Rams defense under Wade Phillips, it doesn't seem likely at this point. The matchup against the Cowboys offensive line this week was certainly difficult, but Quinn has now gone 4 games as a 3-4 outside linebacker and has just 4 solos, 3 assists, and 1.5 sacks to show for it. That's likely not going to cut it for a fantasy linebacker in most leagues.
LB Sean Lee, DAL (DNP)
Lee was inactive this week while recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered in week 3 against the Cardinals. Jaylon Smith (7 solos, 3 asst) tried to pick up the slack while Justin Durant replaced him at MLB, but they had no answers for Todd Gurley who piled up 200+ yards on 30 touches.
TENNESSEE @ HOUSTON
DE Jurrell Casey, TEN (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Casey was one of the few bright spots for the Titans this week with a sack and multiple pressures on Deshaun Watson. After a quiet start to the year, he now has 12 tackles (9 solo) and a sack over his last two games and is starting to look like a viable fantasy option once again.
S Kevin Byard, TEN (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Byard continues his strong play for the Titans secondary, although it wasn't enough to slow down the Texans in this game. In addition to his 9 tackles on the day, he added the first interception and there should be more to come with an upcoming schedule that includes the Dolphins, Colts, and Browns.
DE J.J. Watt, HOU (1 QH, 1 PD)
Watt just doesn't appear to be the same player he was prior to the back injury that wiped out most of his 2016 season. Through 4 games this year, he has yet to record a single sack and he was almost completely shut out in this game when the Texans were able to play with a big lead. In fairness, however, the Titans have a great offensive line and their offense only generated 20 pass attempts and 31 tackle opportunities.
S Andre Hal, HOU (1 solo, 3 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Hal had a strong game with a pair of interceptions, but his weekly production at the back of the Texans defense will likely remain inconsistent.
DETROIT @ MINNESOTA
DT Linval Joseph, MIN (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Joseph was nearly shut out in last week's blowout win over the Buccaneers, but he came through in a big way this week with 9 tackles and a sack. He has been one of the most consistent fantasy options from the defensive tackle position since 2011 despite having a career high of just 4 sacks.
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Owners who were patient with Hunter were rewarded this week as he looked dominant against the Lions. He finished with 2 sacks but had several other pressures as well and should be able to keep it going when the Vikings face rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky in his first start next week.
DE Anthony Zettel, DET (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH, 1 FR)
Last year, Kerry Hyder seemingly came out of nowhere to post 8 sacks for the Lions. When he went down with an Achilles injury this preseason, many wondered how the Lions would be able to replace him. Through 4 weeks, it looks like the rookie Zettel is doing just fine as he added 2 more sacks this week to bring him up to 4 on the year.
S Andrew Sendejo, MIN (5 solos, 6 asst)
Sendejo has been very productive to start this year with 20 solos and 12 assists through 4 games. For a 30-year-old player who has yet to top 60 solo tackles or 2 interceptions though, it does seem unlikely that he can keep this up given all the surrounding talent.
CAROLINA @ NEW ENGLAND
DE Julius Peppers, CAR (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Peppers was a late addition to the injury report this week with a shoulder injury, but he was very effective on his 34 snaps. The 37-year-old was shutout last week against the Saints but already has a pair of 2-sack games this season and is providing a huge boost to the Panthers pass rush.
LB Thomas Davis, CAR (2 solos)
Davis was in the starting lineup but had been dealing with a rib injury that limited his participation in practice last week. He wound up playing just 37 snaps (53%) while Shaq Thompson (9 solos, 1 asst) replaced him in the team's nickel packages and had a productive game for the second week in a row.
CB Stephon Gilmore, NE (3 solos, 1 asst)
Gilmore was benched in the Patriots base defense in the second half and replaced by Eric Rowe. An injury to Rowe quickly brought him back into the game so he didn't miss much time, but the big free agent signing has not impressed with his new team thus far. Malcolm Butler (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD) continues to play at a very high level on the other side.
DE Mario Addison, CAR (0 tackles)
Addison was shut out completely this week but was on the field for 45 snaps (64%). He is off to a productive start this season, and it's likely this game is just an outlier for him.
JACKSONVILLE @ NY JETS
DE David Bass, NYJ (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
With Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson struggling to start the season, Bass has been a pleasant surprise. The journeyman was waived by Seattle a couple weeks ago but saw 62% of the defensive snaps for the Jets this week and picked up his second sack in two weeks.
DE Yannick Ngakoue, JAX (2 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
The 2nd year defensive end has been getting more playing time than #3 overall pick Dante Fowler. He was on the field for 59 snaps this week and collected a pair of sacks in an overtime loss to the Jets. The week to week consistency hasn't been there for him, but this was already his second multi-sack game of the year so he has added value in big play leagues.
LB Paul Posluszny, JAX (1 solo, 1 asst)
The Jaguars considered moving Myles Jack to middle linebacker this year but gave up on that experiment during the preseason. Even though Posluszny doesn't play in the team's nickel package, there was a chance he could still produce enough tackles on early downs to remain viable as a fantasy option. Through 4 games, however, the Jaguars are getting shredded in their run defense and Posluszny has just 12 combined tackles (9 solos). Despite 32 rush attempts from the Jets this week, he was only on the field for 24 snaps (34%) so it's probably safe to move on.
SAN FRANCISCO @ ARIZONA
CB Rashard Robinson, SF (6 solos, 4 PD)
Robinson was picked on repeatedly by Carson Palmer this week, which helped him collect 6 solo tackles while also adding 4 passes defended. The 49ers aren't getting great play from their secondary and Robinson is emerging as the most consistent fantasy option.
LB Haason Reddick, ARI (2 solos)
The rookie linebacker hasn't impressed much during the first month of the season and likely needs some time to develop. Deone Bucannon returned to action this week and played 42 snaps (50%), while Reddick was on the field for 48 snaps (57%). We can probably assume that Bucannon will move into a full-time role soon, which should result in Reddick taking a step back as he waits for another opportunity behind Karlos Dansby.
LB Markus Golden, ARI (3 solos)
Golden had an amazing 12.5 sack season in 2016 but had yet to record a sack through 4 games in 2017. He managed to play most of the game this week but left with a knee injury that early reports feared was a torn ACL. If that is confirmed, he would obviously head to I.R. and the Cardinals will turn to Kareem Martin.
LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, SF (8 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF)
This was one of the most impressive games in the league this week from any position. Unfortunately, Armstrong's time as a starter is likely drawing to an end soon as Reuben Foster appears to be very close to returning from his high ankle sprain.
PHILADELPHIA @ LA CHARGERS
LB Jordan Hicks, PHI (8 solos, 1 asst)
Hicks bounced back from the ankle injury that limited him last week and paced the Eagles with 9 tackles as they held Melvin Gordon to just 22 yards on 10 carries.
CB Trevor Williams, LAC (7 solos, 1 PD)
With Casey Hayward playing lockdown defense on the other side and Jason Verrett lost to an injury, Williams moves into the spotlight for the Chargers. He figures to see a lot of targets to his side of the field in most weeks and could be worth a pickup with matchups against some very good WR groups coming up on the schedule.
DE Brandon Graham, PHI (1 solo, 1 QH)
Graham had a great start to the season with 8 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his first two games. He has just 2 tackles and 0 sacks in his last 2 games, however, and that type of inconsistency makes it tough to rely on him.
NY GIANTS @ TAMPA BAY
LB Kendell Beckwith, TB (9 solos)
Pro Football Focus grades the rookie as the 3rd best linebacker in the league this year, behind only Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly. That's some really impressive company, and it makes you wonder what Tampa is going to do when they have a fully healthy linebacker group. For the time being, however, Beckwith looks like he'll remain a full-time player as Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David were both out this week.
CB Vernon Hargreaves, TB (9 solos, 1 PD)
Fantasy cornerbacks can be rather counterintuitive as you typically want to target the lesser player. That's the case in Tampa as Brent Grimes is playing at a high level, which drives most of the targets to Hargreaves side of the field. Last year's first-round pick has really struggled in coverage, which has helped him average nearly 6 solo tackles per game thus far. Look for Tom Brady to go after him again next week as well.
DE Noah Spence, TB (2 asst)
Spence had what looked to be a great matchup this week against a Giants offensive line that was under fire. Despite playing 54 snaps and facing an offense that had 49 pass attempts in the game, however, Spence could not seem to generate any real pressure.
DE Olivier Vernon, NYG (1 asst)
Vernon tried to play through an ankle injury that kept him out of practice last week, but he only lasted 22 snaps before aggravating it. May want to sit him until we see him get through a full game at this point, although reports from practice will likely give an indication of how ready he is to resume a full workload.
OAKLAND @ DENVER
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Wolfe got his first sack of the season in a tough matchup against the Raiders offensive line. While his production hasn't been great to start out the year, he's averaging nearly 50 defensive snaps per game. That type of workload should lead to more weeks like this one given the great corners playing behind him.
LB Todd Davis, DEN (1 solo, 1 asst)
Davis posted 10 combined tackles a week ago against the Bills but now has just 5 combined tackles in the other 3 games of 2017. He played over half the snaps this week but wasn't very involved as the Broncos seemed to use more of a big nickel package that included #3 safety Will Parks (5 solos on 30 snaps).
CB David Amerson, OAK (2 solos)
Amerson has been one of the more consistently productive cornerbacks in the league since moving from Washington to Oakland. He has good size and sees plenty of targets in most weeks, but he left the game early with a concussion this week and only lasted 9 snaps. Sean Smith replaced him and added 3 solo tackles.
INDIANAPOLIS @ SEATTLE
LB Jabaal Sheard, IND (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
The Seattle offensive line has given up a lot of pressure this year, but Sheard was the only Colts defender this week who was able to take advantage. In addition to his sack and several pressures, he also held up well against the run. His fantasy upside at linebacker is somewhat limited, but he is a proven performer who figures to get plenty of opportunities in a depleted Colts linebacker group.
DE Cliff Avril, SEA (0 tackles)
Avril was off to a slow start this year with just 2 tackles and 1 sack through 3 games, but he left this game after just 11 snaps with a neck injury. If he's out for any length of time, that should mean more snaps for Frank Clark who broke out with 10 sacks a year ago.
CB Jeremy Lane, SEA (0 tackles)
Lane may not be that fantasy relevant, but he left the game after just 5 snaps with a hamstring injury. That moved rookie Shaq Griffin (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD) back into the lineup who has been productive with limited playing time this year.