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 about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
KANSAS CITY @ OAKLAND
LB Navorro Bowman, SF (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Given the way he was cut loose by his former team, it certainly appears as though Bowman was not in the long-term plans for the 49ers coaches. He only signed a 1-year deal in Oakland but he's moving to a team that had one of the worst linebacker groups in the league, so there should be less competition for tackles. Additionally, the Oakland stat crew this year has shown a huge shift from prior years and are now giving out almost twice as many assists as they used to while San Francisco still ranks among the bottom 10 teams.
CB Terrance Mitchell, KC (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Mitchell is a classic case of a corner whose struggles on the field are directly correlated to his fantasy success. Playing opposite Marcus Peters means plenty of targets to his side of the field and he has been giving up a lot of catches. That has helped him to be one of the most consistent and productive cornerbacks in the league this year. Through 6 games, he has only failed to reach 4 or more solo tackles once and ranks 3rd in the league with 10 passes defensed.
DE Mario Edwards Jr, OAK (1 asst)
Edwards had been seeing 40+ snaps per game over the past month. This week, however, Edwards' snap count was 28 compared to 46 for Denico Autry as he appeared to leave the game with an unspecified injury.
TAMPA BAY @ BUFFALO
LB Lavonte David, TB (12 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF, 1 FR)
David seems to have really turned back the clock this year as he has been one of the few bright spots for a defense that can't seem to do anything right. Although he has only played in 4 games this year and came back early from a high ankle sprain, David has averaged 7 solo tackles per game and now has 3 forced fumbles in his last 2 games.
LB Lorenzo Alexander, BUF (7 solos, 2 asst)
Alexander blew up last year with 12.5 sacks after spending most of his career as a special teamer. The Bills move to a 4-3 base figured to limit his fantasy value but his versatility has allowed him to stay on the field in all situations. At this point, he's on pace for nearly 80 solo tackles and 5+ sacks which would make him a strong fantasy starter in just about any scoring system.
DT Clinton McDonald, TB (0 tackles)
McDonald has seen a significant drop in playing time over the past two games. He saw just 25 snaps a week ago and was only on the field for 20 snaps this week. He has a pair of sacks in his last 3 games but probably isn't getting enough playing time to be relied upon as a consistent starter in DT-required leagues.
CB E.J. Gaines, BUF (5 solos, 1 PD)
Gaines was banged up with a groin injury coming into this game but he was forced to leave early with a hamstring injury. He's been a productive starter for the Bills this year and if he can't go, look for Shareece Wright to get picked on by opposing quarterbacks.
CB Vernon Hargreaves III, TB (1 asst, 2 PD)
Tampa is looking for answers on defense and it appears they have demoted their struggling former 1st-round pick Hargreaves. He went from being an every-down player to seeing just 36 snaps (53%) this week as Robert McClain (who has also struggled) replaced him in the team's base package and posted 8 tackles in 65 snaps.
S Jordan Poyer, BUF (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Poyer has been a huge upgrade for the Bills this year but he suffered a very unfortunate injury on the last play of the game when Tampa tried to lateral their way to a game-saving touchdown. Poyer had played every snap but sprained his MCL and will likely miss a week or two. Former Steeler safety Shamarko Thomas has only been on the team a few weeks but could be next in line given the lack of depth at the position.
S T.J. Ward, TB (2 solos, 2 asst)
Ward is not having a great time with his new team. Tampa's secondary can't seem to stop anybody and now Ward has started voicing his frustration with his role and lack of playing time. Rookie safety Justin Evans played the entire game this week while Ward (24 snaps) and Chris Conte (39 snaps) continued to platoon at strong safety. Ward was also beaten for a touchdown by Bills reserve tight end Logan Thomas in the game.
CAROLINA @ CHICAGO
DT Eddie Goldman, CHI (5 solos, 1 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Most nose tackles aren't viable fantasy options since their role is often to tie up blockers and make things easier for the players around them. Goldman is more than just a big body inside though, and he's seen a rise in playing time and production over the past two weeks. He saw 52 snaps (72%) this week and contributed to a dominant effort from the Bears defense.
LB Thomas Davis, CAR (1 solo)
There's not too much to downgrade Davis for here, but it was disappointing to see him finish with just 1 solo tackle while Shaq Thompson finished with 6 tackles. The Bears offense ran the ball 26 times but only generated 34 tackle opportunities in the game, so expect better numbers from Davis as the opportunities increase.
LB Christian Jones, CHI (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Jones played 58 snaps (81%) this week and led all players in the game with 11 tackles. He's one of the most experienced players on the team, but there's a chance he could lose his spot in the lineup to Nick Kwiatkoski who returned to practice last week but was held out of the game.
TENNESSEE @ CLEVELAND
LB Christian Kirksey, CLE (8 solos, 9 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF, 1 PD)
The return of a healthy Jamie Collins returned the Browns to their 3-LB nickel package this week. Collins is versatile enough to line up in a variety of positions and that leaves Kirksey and Joe Schobert to clean up most of the tackles. The numbers were probably inflated due to the 9 assists he piled up, but generating 17 combined tackles on 72 snaps while helping to limit the Titans to 80 yards on 32 carries is certainly worthy of an upgrade.
S Kevin Byard, TEN (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 3 INT, 3 PD)
Byard had a reputation as a playmaker but a 3-interception game is an extremely rare event so it's certainly worth mentioning. He's been a huge upgrade to the safety position in Tennessee this year and looks like a long-term keeper for fantasy owners as well.
S Jabrill Peppers, CLE (DNP)
Peppers sat out this week with a toe injury and was replaced by Ibraheim Campbell. There seemed to be a noticeable improvement in the Browns defensive play as they held the Titans to 9 points in an overtime loss. Peppers hasn't exactly been productive from a fantasy perspective either and would likely benefit from additional time to develop.
LB Avery Williamson, TEN (6 solos, 8 asst, 1 TFL)
Williamson continues to be just a part-time player for the Titans as he only saw the field for 35 snaps this week, which was 48% of the 73 snaps Wesley Woodyard saw (8 solos). While it's certainly impressive that he posted 14 combined tackles on those 35 snaps, it will be tough to count on him for consistent production if he's not a full-time player. Rookie Jayon Brown replaces him in the nickel packages and finished with 4 tackles on 38 snaps this week.
NEW ORLEANS @ GREEN BAY
DE Alex Okafor, NO (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The Saints defense was only on the field for 55 snaps this week and Okafor played 41 of those (75%). That was enough time for him to take advantage of a depleted Packers offensive line. He now has 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in his last 4 games and looks like a reliable DE2.
LB Blake Martinez, GB (13 solos, 3 asst)
This year just keeps getting better and better for Martinez. Looking back over his last 3 games, he has been credited with 12 tackles, 11 tackles, and then 16 this week and 28 of those 39 have been solos. While he hasn't shown much big-play potential thus far, those huge tackle numbers make him a clear LB1 in most scoring systems. The injury to Aaron Rodgers is also going to result in more snaps and rush attempts against for the Packers defense.
LB Jake Ryan GB (0 tackles)
Ryan only lasted 24 snaps (32%) this week before leaving with a migraine headache. That's likely not a long-term handicap and Green Bay has a bye week coming up but is unfortunate since he was expected to see an increase in workload due to the absence of Morgan Burnett. Assuming Burnett replaces him in the nickel packages after the bye, Ryan will go back to being just a 2-down player.
CB Davon House, GB (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
House returned to the lineup this week and did a great job while matched up primarily against Michael Thomas. It's been a disappointing and injury-plagued start to his latest time with the Packers, but perhaps he can build off this. Note that he did leave the game for some time and wound up playing just 67 snaps (88%) so his durability remains a concern.
JACKSONVILLE @ INDIANAPOLIS
DE Yannick Ngakoue, JAX (3 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 7 QH)
Just a week ago I downgraded Ngakoue as he had managed just 8 solo tackles in 6 games despite seeing extensive playing time. He showed again this week why it's important to be patient with defensive linemen though as he came through with his 3rd huge game of the season. He's now up to 6.5 sacks on the year which came in 3 games, while he's been credited with just 3 solos and 2 assists in the 4 other games combined.
DE Calais Campbell, JAX (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Campbell was always a very productive player during his time in Arizona but his fantasy value came primarily from tackles rather than sacks. During his first year with the Jaguars, he has already set a career high for sacks with 10 and he still has 9 more games to play.
LB Antonio Morrison, IND (8 solos, 5 asst)
Jon Bostic remains the only true 3-down linebacker for the Colts, but Morrison is better against the run and a much more productive player as a result. He posted 13 tackles this week on just 54 snaps and has 45 tackles on 340 snaps overall (1 tackle per 7.7 snaps). Compare that to Bostic's 49 tackles in 486 snaps (1 tackle per 10 snaps).
CB Rashaan Melvin, IND (1 asst)
Melvin's production had cooled off after a hot start, but he was limited to just 7 snaps this week before leaving with a concussion.
S Malik Hooker, IND (2 solos)
The 1st round pick showed off his impressive playmaking instincts with 3 interceptions in his first 4 games as a pro. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL and MCL this week and will be lost for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, the Colts could get some reinforcements back from Clayton Geathers who is scheduled to return to practice this week.
ARIZONA @ LA RAMS (in London)
S Lamarcus Joyner, LAR (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Joyner sat out the past 3 games but returned to the starting lineup and played every snap until the starters were pulled in a blowout loss. While the tackle numbers weren't great, that was a function of the fact the Cardinals offense only generated 30 opportunities. Joyner did add his 2nd interception in 4 games this year though and has some favorable matchups looming after the bye next week.
LB Karlos Dansby, ARI (2 solos)
Dansby played 62 snaps (78%) and the Rams ran the ball 40 times against them, so it was disappointing to see him finish with just 2 tackles while Deone Bucannon and Antoine Bethea each hit double digits. Dansby was questionable on the team's injury report with a hamstring injury and also left the game briefly with a hand injury so it seems likely he was playing at well below full strength.
CB Justin Bethel, ARI (1 solo)
Playing opposite the amazing Patrick Peterson has resulted in Bethel being picked on often by opposing quarterbacks this year. That has helped spike his numbers as well but the team benched him this week in favor of 34-year old Tramon Williams. Bethel wound up seeing 0 snaps on defense and generated his only tackle on special teams.
CB Tramon Williams, ARI (10 solos)
The Cardinals finally benched the struggling Justin Bethel this week and replaced him with Tramon Williams. It didn't seem to help much as they were shut out 33-0 to the Rams in London, but Williams is a vet with a ton of experience and a very capable tackler. At 34 years old, however, it's pretty clear that he's not going to be in their long-term plans.
NY JETS @ MIAMI
S Jamal Adams, NYJ (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
It's taking more time than expected but Adams is gradually establishing himself as a key player for the Jets and a productive fantasy option. He posted 9 tackles against the Browns in week 5 and added 7 tackles this week, including his second sack of the year.
DE Leonard Williams, NYJ (1 solo, 1 asst, 3 QH)
Williams looked like a future star a year ago, but he has now become almost invisible for the Jets. Through 7 games, he has just 8 solo tackles and has yet to record even a partial sack despite seeing 60+ snaps per week. Note that he was credited with 3 QB hits this week, so maybe he's just been unlucky but fantasy owners likely want to keep him out of their lineups if possible until he shows some signs of turning things around.
BALTIMORE @ MINNESOTA
DE Everson Griffen, MIN (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Griffen is having an incredible year that probably isn't getting as much attention as it deserves. With 2 sacks this week, he's now posted a sack or more in all 7 games this year to give him 9 in 7 games. He has averaged 10 sacks/year over the past 3 seasons and seems likely to push for 15+.
LB Patrick Onwuasor, BAL (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Although he started the season in a platoon with Kamala Correa, Onwuasor is emerging as an almost every-down linebacker. He saw 66 snaps (82%) last week and 56 (85%) this week. A potential caveat though is the Ravens faced 54 rush attempts last week and 33 this week so perhaps we should have expected a bit more than 10 solo tackles in those 2 games combined.
LB Anthony Barr, MIN (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Barr bounced back from his concussion-shortened game a week ago to post a huge line against the Ravens this week. In addition to the 11 tackles, he showed off his versatility with a sack and an active streak of 4 games with a pass defensed.
DT Willie Henry, BAL (0 tackles)
Brandon Williams returned to the lineup this week, which bumped Henry back to a reserve role. He was only on the field for 11 snaps (17%) and was shut out on the stat sheet as a result.
DALLAS @ SAN FRANCISCO
DT David Irving, DAL (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD, 1 FF)
Since serving a 4-game suspension, Irving now has 3 sacks in 2 games. He's part of a rotation in Dallas and likely won't see a huge number of snaps each week, but he played 55% this week and got plenty of chances to rush the passer.
LB Anthony Hitchens, DAL (8 solos, 3 TFL)
Sean Lee returned to the lineup this week and was an every-down linebacker. Hitchens also saw time in the nickel packages and finished with 41 snaps (62%) before being pulled late with the other starters in a blowout win. That extra playing time should make him more consistent than Jaylon Smith who only played 32 snaps this week but did add a sack.
LB Reuben Foster, SF (2 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Foster sat out the previous 5 games while recovering from an ankle sprain. He was healthy enough to start this week, but apparently suffered a rib injury that limited him to 53 snaps (71%). Apparently he was cleared to return to the game but the coaches held him out as the game was well out of reach, so hopefully, he'll be able to play through the entire game next week in Philadelphia.
DENVER @ LA CHARGERS
DE Chris McCain, LAC (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 QH, 2 FF)
McCain is a pass-rush specialist for the Chargers, who already have two of the best defensive ends in football. He doesn't get much playing time (averaging 20/game), but with 2 sacks this week he's now up to 5 on the season to make him one of the most efficiently productive pass rushers in the league.
LB Hayes Pullard, LAC (8 solos)
With Jatavis Brown hobbled and only able to play 18 snaps this week, Pullard was once again the primary 3-down linebacker. While Denzel Perryman could be back soon, Pullard is playing well enough to possibly hold onto the job. Over his last 3 games, he has collected 17 solos and 9 assists with an interception.
LB Jatavis Brown, LAC (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 FR)
Brown recovered a fumble but dropped what should have been an easy interception. More of concern is the fact he's only been able to play a limited number of snaps the past two weeks while dealing with an ankle injury. He was on the field for 20 snaps against Oakland last week and saw just 18 snaps this week.
SEATTLE @ NY GIANTS
DT Jarran Reed, SEA (7 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Reed was a highly regarded defensive tackle in this year's draft who Seattle landed in round 2. It took him a little while to emerge, but he had the type of game this week that many were expecting to see from Sheldon Richardson. While there wasn't any change in his playing time or role, Reed exploded for 7 tackles and helped limit the Giants to a 2.7 yards per carry average on the ground while also contributing the team's only sack of the game.
DE Michael Bennett, SEA (0 tackles, 2 QH)
While Bennett got the start and played 52 snaps (88%), he was completely shut out on the stat sheet. He was considered questionable coming into the game with a foot injury and that likely limited his effectiveness.
LB B.J. Goodson, NYG (3 solos, 1 asst)
Goodson suffered an ankle injury in the game and was forced to leave after just 41 snaps (54%). Curtis Grant replaced him in the base defense and posted 5 tackles in 34 snaps. Keenan Robinson (6 solos, 3 asst) remained in the nickel packages and may be emerging as the safest option here.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, NYG (1 solo, 1 TFL)
Rodgers-Cromartie has his indefinite suspension removed after just 1 game, but he only saw 16 snaps (21%) this week as he tries to work his way out of the doghouse for leaving the team a couple weeks ago.
CINCINNATI @ PITTSBURGH
DT Tyson Alualu, PIT (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The former Jaguar started in place of an injured Stephon Tuitt, who missed the game with a back injury. The Bengals offense wasn't able to generate much but Alualu played 80% of the snaps and contributed one of 4 Steelers sacks in the game.
LB Vontaze Burfict, CIN (2 solos, 2 asst)
This was a very strange game as Burfict was on the field for all 69 defensive snaps and the Steelers ran the ball 40 times, but he only finished with 4 tackles. Meanwhile, Vincent Rey who typically plays in the nickel only finished with 8 tackles on just 32 snaps. This just looks like an outlier game for Burfict and I'd expect him to bounce back next week.
ATLANTA @ NEW ENGLAND
DT Grady Jarrett, ATL (4 solos, 1 asst)
Jarrett had 3 sacks in the Super Bowl last year but he is still searching for his first sack of the 2017 season. Despite the lack of sacks, however, he's making his presence felt against the run. Over the last 4 games, he's collected 13 solo tackles and 7 assists.
LB DeVondre Campbell, ATL (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Campbell played a season-high 72 snaps as the Falcons offense could not sustain much offense in the game. Rookie Duke Riley had to leave the game early with a knee injury, but Campbell had already taken over as the team's nickel linebacker.
LB Duke Riley, ATL (1 solo)
Riley had to leave the game after just 7 snaps due to a knee injury. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI but the severity of the injury wasn't immediately known. He started off the year great but had lost his role in the team's nickel package and likely needs a bit more time to develop into a full-time player.
LB Donta Hightower, NE (1 solo)
Hightower played 34 snaps (60%) and wasn't very productive before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Given his injury history, this is certainly not unexpected and it was veteran David Harris who replaced him since Elandon Roberts was out injured.