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.
HOUSTON @ CINCINNATI
DE Chris Smith, CIN (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Smith is a former fifth-round pick of the Jaguars, who the Bengals traded for in the offseason. He posted 3 sacks as a little-used rookie but never really got a chance to establish himself in Jacksonville. After a strong training camp, an injury to Michael Johnson has created an opportunity for him and rookie Jordan Willis to see more playing time.
CB Kareem Jackson, HOU (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The 8-year veteran had one of the best games of his career on Thursday night as he terrorized the Bengals. He led the Texans with 7 tackles while also contributing a sack and forced fumble. Injuries took out both starting corners Kevin Johnson and Jonathan Joseph in this game, so Jackson should take on a much heavier workload moving forward.
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (2 solos, 2 asst)
It's disappointing that Dunlap wasn't able to get more pressure on the QB this week given he was facing an offensive line that gave up 10 sacks the week before and starting a rookie under center. He's still seeing plenty of playing time (53 snaps, 80%) so should rebound soon, but the slow start is a concern for a player expected to post DE1 numbers.
LB Kevin Minter, CIN (1 solo, 1 asst)
The Bengals spent most of the night in their nickel package, which left Minter on the sideline. He wound up playing just 19 snaps (29%sing ) and was predictably quiet on the stat sheet as a result.
CB Kevin Johnson, HOU (3 solos, 1 asst)
Johnson suffered a sprained MCL in the game which limited him to just 47 snaps (73%). The injury is expected to keep him out for 4 to 6 weeks, which will create a significant hole in the Texans secondary although his fantasy value has been minimal.
CLEVELAND @ BALTIMORE
LB Tyus Bowser, BAL (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The Ravens took Bowser in the 2nd round of this year's draft, so they clearly have high hopes for him. He's playing limited snaps right now (35 snaps, 49%) behind starters Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon, but his performance this week likely earned himself a bigger role. Bowser came up with a key interception at the end of the first half when he dropped into zone coverage and nearly had a safety on the first sack of his career.
CB Jamar Taylor, CLE (8 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL)
Taylor posted solid numbers a year ago and is off to a great start in 2017 with 15 tackles through 2 games. Jason McCourty is the more established player, but the trade of Joe Haden has opened up a full-time role for Taylor and he looks like he will be a consistent source of tackles with some big-play potential.
S Derrick Kindred, CLE (6 solos, 1 asst, 3 TFL)
Jabrill Peppers came into the league with a lot more hype, but Kindred is playing the more appealing strong safety position. Given that the Browns are likely to spend a lot of time playing from behind each week, he should see plenty of time lined up in the box for run support. Kindred posted 3 tackles for a loss this week after adding an interception last week and is worth a look if you need help at the position.
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, CLE (1 PD)
Ogbah was expected to pair up with Myles Garrett this year to give the Browns a young and promising pass-rush tandem. Garrett has missed the first two games with an ankle injury, however, and Ogbah has been nearly invisible. Through 2 games, he has just 1 solo tackle and 1 pass defensed despite playing 96 defensive snaps.
BUFFALO @ CAROLINA
DE Julius Peppers, CAR (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Peppers was expected to see limited playing time this year as his career starts to wind down. While it's true he has only average about 30 snaps/game through 2 weeks, he still looks like he could potentially be the most productive defensive linemen in Carolina this year. He abused the Bills for 2 sacks this week, although he figures to have a tougher time chasing down Drew Brees and Tom Brady in the next two games.
S Jordan Poyer, BUF (7 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 3 PD)
Poyer's huge game on Sunday warrants an upgrade for the second week in a row. Strong safety Micah Hyde looked like the better target among Bills safeties, but it has been Poyer who appears headed for a huge breakout season. Through 2 games, he has already collected 14 tackles, 2 sacks, an interception, and 5 passes defensed.
S Micah Hyde, BUF (0 tackles)
Hyde was on the field for 66 of 68 defensive snaps this week but somehow managed to be kept completely off the score sheet. He did come up with an interception last week, but that helps mask the fact he has been credited with just 3 tackles in 124 defensive snaps that were all played in front of very generous stat crews.
ARIZONA @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Chandler Jones, ARI (5 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Through 2 games this year, Jones has been on the field for 138 of 142 snaps (97%). The Cardinals are struggling on offense this year, which should mean more snaps for the defense in general and that increase in playing time could take him to a new level of production.
LB Jeremiah George, IND (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
After seeing just 8 defensive snaps a week ago, George got the start at ILB next to Jon Bostic and played 52 snaps (79%) in place of Antonio Morrison. While we have seen enough from Bostic to know he's a below-average NFL starter, George is a former special teams player who looked pretty good in this game and could earn more playing time going forward.
DT Johnathan Hankins, IND (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Hankins lost his DT eligibility in some fantasy leagues this year since the Colts have been using him primarily as a 3-4 DE. While he's good against the run, he hasn't really shown much as a pass rusher of late and he was only on the field for 31 defensive snaps (47%) this week.
LB Josh Bynes, ARI (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Don't be misled by the impressive stat line for Bynes this week as he was only on the field for 15 defensive snaps (21%). He picked up a sack towards the end of a long drive, and also tacked on a pair of solos on special teams coverage.
TENNESSEE @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Telvin Smith Sr, JAX (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Smith rebounded from an off week in the opener to lead the team in tackles while also picking off a pass. He played all 68 defensive snaps this week as did Myles Jack, who built on his big game last week with a sack here. Expect more of the same from these two as they are both talented full-time players who should put up solid numbers almost every week.
DE Dante Fowler Jr, JAX (0 tackles)
Fowler had a sack and fumble return for a touchdown last week so it seemed like he was back on track and headed for great things. The former 3rd overall pick from the 2015 draft only saw 21 defensive snaps this week, however, as the Jaguars went with a heavier front to try and slow down the Titans running game.
DE Jurrell Casey, TEN (2 solos, 2 QH)
Casey has been dealing with a back injury that could be limiting his effectiveness, but through 2 games he has just 2 solo tackles in 90 snaps. The switch to a 3-4 base in Tennessee hasn't done his fantasy value any favors, as he just doesn't get the tackles or sacks to be considered more than a bench option in deeper leagues.
LB Wesley Woodyard, TEN (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Through 2 games, Woodyard has posted 11 solos, 6 assists, and a sack which makes him look like a perfectly viable LB2 for fantasy purposes. Keep in mind, however, that he was only on the field for 44 snaps (66%) this week, while his counterpart Avery Williamson played 60 (90%). The Titans also like the potential of rookie Jayon Brown, who saw 30 snaps this week while working primarily in the team's nickel packages and could eventually work his way into a bigger role.
PHILADELPHIA @ KANSAS CITY
DE Chris Jones, KC (4 solos, 3 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD, 2 FF)
Jones had a rookie season that mostly went unnoticed as he was credited with just 2 sacks on 573 snaps. He was actually more effective than those numbers indicate, however, and he showed off his huge potential in a dominant showing against the Eagles this week. His stat line was even more impressive when you consider that he was only on the field for 32 snaps (44%) and sat during plenty of clear passing situations as the coaches wanted to use a rotation to keep players fresh.
LB Ramik Wilson, KC (4 solos, 2 TFL)
Wilson plays on early downs but sits in the Chiefs nickel package. While he posted solid numbers here, it came on just 14 snaps (19%). Combined with last week, he's at 39 snaps through 2 games which means he probably needs an injury to Derrick Johnson to have any real value.
S Rodney McLeod, PHI (1 solo, 1 asst)
McLeod was limited to just 12 snaps in this game as he left early with a hamstring injury and did not return. It's reportedly a relatively minor strain so may not keep him out for long, but Corey Graham would take his place if he's unable to go in week 3.
NEW ENGLAND @ NEW ORLEANS
S Patrick Chung, NE (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
The Patriots used four safeties for over half the snaps in their opener against the Chiefs, and this week they used 3 of them for more than 80% of the snaps. Chung was on the field for all but 2 snaps and seemed to play a key role in their defensive game plan. If he can hold onto a full-time job here, there is certainly some interesting potential given the questions at linebacker.
CB P.J. Williams, NO (8 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Williams isn't particularly strong in coverage, but he has really helped his fantasy numbers by coming up and making tackles in run support. Through 2 weeks, he has been credited with 12 solos and 6 assists.
S Kenny Vaccaro, NO (5 solos)
The Saints have been trying to find some answers to solve their secondary issues, and it appears Vaccaro's hold on a starting job could be slipping away. He was benched for Vonn Bell in the second half and wound up playing just 49 snaps (64%). Bell recently lost his job to rookie Marcus Williams but hasn't been nearly the liability that Vaccaro has been.
LB Elandon Roberts, NE (7 solos, 1 asst)
Roberts posted an impressive stat line that may lead many IDP owners to run out and grab him on waivers this week. Keep in mind those 8 tackles came on just 36 snaps (55%) as he played primarily on early downs, although he did help contain the Saints running game. There's certainly a concern he could go back to the bench with the potential return of Dont'a Hightower next week.
MINNESOTA @ PITTSBURGH
LB Anthony Barr, MIN (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Barr's production dropped way off in 2016, but it didn't appear to be tied to any issues with playing time or even how he was being used. Through 2 games this year, however, it certainly looks like he could be back to being a useful fantasy option again. He only missed one snap this week and posted his first 8-solo game since week 1 of the 2015 season.
S Sean Davis, PIT (7 solos, 1 asst)
Davis isn't a prototypical in the box strong safety, but his cover skills allow the Steelers to use him in a variety of ways. He may have some weeks where they decide to use him more in coverage, but he showed yesterday that he can certainly fill up the box score when allowed to come up and support the run.
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (4 asst)
I'd still preach patience for a player who came into the season with top-5 expectations, but seeing Hunter with 0 solo tackles and 0 sacks through two weeks is concerning. It stands out even more when you see that Everson Griffen has 7 solos, 3 assists, and 3 sacks at the same point. With 50+ snaps in both games (which were tough matchups), Hunter is getting enough opportunities and should have some big games ahead.
LB T.J. Watt, PIT (2 asst, 1 PD)
Watt got the start opposite Bud Dupree at outside linebacker this week but was knocked out after just 20 snaps (30%) with a groin injury. Anthony Chickillo replaced him and would be in line for more playing time if Watt is limited next week.
CHICAGO @ TAMPA BAY
LB Lavonte David, TB (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FR)
The game was a blowout, but David still looked impressive as he finished with 9 tackles and a fumble recovery on just 53 snaps. He was likely helped by the absence of MLB Kwon Alexander, however, who only lasted 17 snaps before leaving with a hamstring injury. That injury isn't expected to keep Alexander out long but does have a chance of recurring.
S Eddie Jackson, CHI (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
The Bears have been decimated at inside linebacker, which should continue to create more opportunities for their safeties. The rookie Jackson and the veteran Quintin Demps combined to pace the team in tackles with 13 solos and should continue to see an uptick in production.
LB Nick Kwiatkoski, CHI (4 solos)
After replacing Jerrell Freeman in the starting lineup, Kwiatkoski only lasted 16 snaps before he getting knocked out with a pectoral injury. Initial reports indicated that it was likely torn and would put a premature end to his season. Christian Jones took over and posted 6 tackles in 47 snaps.
S Chris Conte, TB (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Conte has managed to hold onto a starting job for far longer than many expected, but the signing of T.J. Ward late in camp should put an end to that at some point soon. Ward isn't without flaws himself but is a more traditional strong safety and the team gave him a $4 million contract after he was cut loose by Denver. Conte out-snapped Ward 57 to 28 in this game, but that will likely shift as Ward gets more comfortable with his new team.
MIAMI @ LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
LB Mike Hull, MIA (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Hull wasn't really expected to fill a 3-down role for the Dolphins, but he was forced into it after Lawrence Timmons disappeared on Saturday. With the future of Timmons in Miami now in serious doubt, it looks like Hull could be headed for a ton of playing time. He played the entire game here and helped limit Melvin Gordon III to just 13 yards on 9 carries.
LB Hayes Pullard, LAC (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Pullard has been given a surprisingly large role for the Chargers to start the year as he started this game at middle linebacker. He played 42 snaps (62%) and added to his tackle numbers with several stops on special teams. Meanwhile, Korey Toomer was limited to just 12 snaps in the game so it certainly looks like this could be Pullard's job until Perryman comes off I.R. later this year.
LB Lawrence Timmons, MIA (DNP)
In a very strange story, Timmons left the team while on the road in Los Angeles and the team filed a missing persons report when they couldn't locate him. He was reportedly dealing with a personal matter and it's not clear if the team will welcome him back or what his status is going forward.
S Tre Boston, LAC (6 solos, 3 asst)
Like many of the Chargers back seven, Boston's numbers were likely inflated here by the fact that Jarvis Landry finished with 13 receptions on 15 targets. They limited the damage as he only gained 78 yards on those plays, but it's unlikely the Chargers free safety will be this active in most weeks so don't overreact.
NY JETS @ OAKLAND
DE Mario Edwards Jr, OAK (2 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Edwards missed almost the entire 2016 season to injury but was a very productive player in college and a 2nd round pick in 2015. He only saw 24 snaps (43%) this week but was able to take advantage of a poor Jets line that focused most of their attention on Khalil Mack. That could be a regular occurrence this year, which could leave Edwards and Denico Autry with plenty of favorable matchups.
S Marcus Maye, NYJ (6 solos, 1 asst)
While Adams got most of the attention on draft day, Maye has looked more impressive to this point. Even though he plays free safety, the Jets front seven is letting a lot plays into the secondary so he is seeing plenty of tackle opportunities.
LB Tyrell Adams, OAK (3 solos)
Adams got most of the playing time at middle linebacker last week, but the Raiders coaches changed things up again. Marquel Lee got the start but only played 10 snaps, while Adams saw just 21 snaps. It was another rookie Nicholas Morrow who led the way with 25 snaps (45%). This situation is just too crowded right now, and Cory James looks like the only safe 3-down option to consider for fantasy purposes.
DALLAS @ DENVER
DE Demarcus Lawrence, DAL (5 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Lawrence was forgotten by many after he picked up just 1 sack in 13 games last year, but he had 8 the year before. Through 2 games, he is leading the league in sacks with 4 and looks like he could provide the Cowboys with the impact pass rusher they have been desperate to find.
LB Brandon Marshall, DEN (6 solos, 1 asst)
Marshall often underwhelmed last year despite seeing plenty of playing time. Through two games in 2017, however, there appears to be a noticeable increase as he has posted 11 solo tackles in a little over 100 snaps.
LB Jaylon Smith, DAL (3 solos, 7 asst)
Smith fell in the draft due to medical concerns, but there was little doubt he had the talent to produce if he's healthy. He saw a limited workload in week 1, but was on the field for 68 snaps this week (88%) and was very active.
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Wolfe has been quite productive the past two seasons in Denver, but he is off to a slow start in 2017. Through 2 games, he has just 2 solo tackles and 2 assists despite playing over 70% of the snaps in each.
WASHINGTON @ LOS ANGELES RAMS
S Lamarcus Joyner, LAR (8 solos, 1 asst)
Joyner has moved from cornerback to safety this year and is off to a tremendous start with 12 solos and a touchdown on an interception return through the first two games. The Rams pass rush figures to get a boost with the return of Aaron Donald, which should make things easier for the secondary as well.
CB Bashaud Breeland, WAS (2 solos)
Breeland averaged 60 solo tackles per year over his entire 3-year career, so he came into 2017 as one of the most consistent fantasy cornerbacks. Playing opposite Josh Norman, he figured to see plenty of targets once again but he's been credited with just 3 solos and 1 pass defensed in the first two games.
SAN FRANCISCO @ SEATTLE
DE Arik Armstead, SF (1 solo, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Armstead played 67 defensive snaps (82%) in this game, which was the same amount as DeForest Buckner. With that much playing time as a 4-3 defensive end, he should have an opportunity to post much better numbers than we've seen so far in his career.
S Eric Reid, SF (5 solos, 2 asst)
Reid was just starting to produce when he suffered a knee injury that will likely keep him out for the next several games. He tried to return to the game after the initial x-rays were negative but soon left the game for good. Jaquiski Tartt started as part of the team's nickel package and wound up playing all 82 snaps, so it's likely he'll take over at strong safety. Jimmie Ward also returned to the lineup this week at free safety but was limited to about half the snaps.
DT Sheldon Richardson, SEA (2 asst)
I wouldn't worry too much about Richardson yet as he is still getting comfortable with his role in this defense. In this particular week, the 49ers offense could not really get going and only provided 36 tackle opportunities. With Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright having their normally productive days, there weren't a lot of scraps leftover for the rest of the team.
GREEN BAY @ ATLANTA
LB De'Vondre Campbell, ATL (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Many wrote Campbell off this preseason after the team moved Duke Riley into their starting lineup at weakside linebacker. With Vic Beasley Jr still around, it wasn't clear exactly what type of role would be left for Campbell. For this week, however, Campbell looked like one of their best defenders as he piled up 8 tackles with a sack while playing 71% of the snaps compared to just 42% for Riley. The injury to Vic Beasley Jr should also create more time for him in the weeks ahead.
DE Mike Daniels, GB (0 tackles)
After a great opening game, Daniels left this game early with a hamstring injury. He only lasted 7 snaps in the game so didn't get a chance to do much. Fortunately, the MRI revealed just a strain so it seems likely that he will return to action soon.
LB Vic Beasley Jr, ATL (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Beasley led the league in sacks last year but obviously lost some value with the move to linebacker. The Falcons have been using a heavy rotation of pass rushers to start the year, which was limiting his snap count. Making matters worse, he was knocked out of the game this week with a slight hamstring tear that is expected to keep him out for at least a month. Look for rookie Takkarist McKinley to get more opportunities as he saw 44 snaps in the game and created a lot of pressure.