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.
SEATTLE @ ARIZONA
DE Dion Jordan, SEA (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Jordan hasn't played in the NFL since 2014 and looks like the latest reclamation project to find a home in Seattle. He made his debut with the Seahawks this week and posted a sack while also leading the team with 3 QB hits. The former #3 overall pick didn't show much during his brief time in Miami, but there's clearly some interesting potential here. He wound up playing 33 snaps (41%) and could see more given the fact that starter Frank Clark left the game early with a hamstring injury.
S Budda Baker (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
With Tyvon Branch's injury, Baker saw a huge increase in playing time this week. He had been seeing fewer than 10 snaps per game in a subpackage role but was on the field for 44 snaps (70%) this week and wound up leading his team in tackles. While he's not a traditional in-the-box safety like Branch or Antoine Bethea, he's a sound tackler with great instincts and range who should find a long-term in the safety-friendly Cardinals defense. Bethea also likely becomes a clear fantasy starter here as he should step right into the role that Branch was playing.
S Tyvon Branch, ARI (1 PD)
Branch only lasted 15 snaps in the game before leaving with a knee injury that was later confirmed to be a torn ACL. That's a huge blow to IDP owners who had been lucky enough to grab him earlier this year as he was well on his way to a 100+ solo tackle season, which is extremely rare for a defensive back. Veteran Antoine Bethea (5 solos, 1 sack) should take over for Branch but look for talented rookie Budda Baker (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD) to also see a large increase in playing time since the Cardinals use 3 safeties in their nickel packages.
CB Richard Sherman, SEA (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Sherman suffered a torn Achilles during the game after 46 snaps. While his fantasy value didn't always match his true-life value as a shutdown corner on one of the league's best defenses, he was a reliable starter at a position that goes through a lot of turnover from year to year. His absence will likely create a huge hole in the back of the Seattle defense and make it tougher for them to get off the field, potentially increasing the number of tackle opportunities they face each week.
NEW ORLEANS @ BUFFALO
DT Sheldon Rankins, NO (2 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
There were high expectations for Rankins after the Saints drafted him 12th overall in 2016. He had a promising 2nd half of 2016 with 4 sacks but hasn't been able to build on that so far this year despite seeing extensive playing time each week. He showed signs of life this week in an easy win over the Bills with a sack and interception so perhaps he can build on it in the weeks to come.
DE Jerry Hughes, BUF (0 tackles)
Hughes was limited to just 25 snaps (32%) this week as he left early with a shin injury. Despite a promising start to the season (3 sacks in first 4 games), Hughes has been mostly ineffective over the past month or so. The move back to a 4-3 base seemed likely to unlock his potential, but he appears to be slumping along with the rest of the defensive line who can't seem to stop the run anymore.
LB A.J. Klein, NO (0 tackles)
Klein injured his ankle very early in the game and only saw 9 defensive snaps as a result. Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges saw limited action in relief but it was mainly Manti Te'o and Craig Robertson in the nickel packages.
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (0 tackles)
Jordan has been one of the most productive fantasy linemen in the league this year but he had a very quiet showing this week. The Saints defense faced just 48 snaps and 33 tackle opportunities, and Jordan was given a rest after the game turned into a blowout. While this looked like a very favorable matchup for the Saints pass rush, the game script and ineffectiveness of the Bills offense really limited the chance for Jordan to do much.
GREEN BAY @ CHICAGO
LB Nick Perry, GB (6 solos, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
Perry posted 11 sacks a year ago and looked like he could emerge as a reliable fantasy option, but he's been a bit up and down this year. The coverage issues in the Packers secondary probably don't do him any favors, but he showed this week that he still has some untapped potential as a pass rusher. With 3 sacks in a divisional win over the rival Bears, he's now up to 7 on the year and has some favorable matchups coming up on the schedule that could help him get back to double digits again.
CB Davon House, GB (8 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
House keeps making plays for the Packers. Since returning to a full-time role in week 7, he has been credited with 21 solo tackles (including 3 for a loss) with an interception and a sack in just 3 games. That makes him one of the most productive corners in the league, and he brings a physical approach to the position that sets him apart from the other Packers corners.
LB Blake Martinez, GB (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Martinez played all 60 snaps in the game so his low output this week wasn't due to a lack of playing time or injury. The Bears offense just wasn't able to generate many tackle opportunities as Jordan Howard couldn't get much going in the ground game. That being said, 2 tackles on 43 opportunities in a large dropoff from what Martinez had been showing thus far.
LB Nick Kwiatkoski, CHI (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Kwiatkoski posted an impressive stat line despite seeing just 36 snaps (55%) on defense. He was helped by the 37 rush attempts from the Packers and his sack came on an unblocked blitz when the Packers didn't pick him up. Christian Jones was the only every-down linebacker for the Bears, and it's likely that Danny Trevathan will return from his calf injury next week and push Kwiatkoski back to the bench.
CLEVELAND @ DETROIT
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, CLE (3 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
Ogbah played almost the same exact workload as Myles Garrett but was much more productive this week. After going 4 games without a sack, Ogbah bounced back with a huge game against a Lions offensive line that had been struggling a bit of late.
DE Cornelius Washington, DET (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The Lions continue to search for help rushing the passer and this week it was Washington who got an increased opportunity with a start in place of the injured Ziggy Ansah. Washington's workload doubled from 24 snaps a week ago to 48 this week and he made the most of it with a pair of sacks that were his first of the season.
LB Tahir Whitehead, DET (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Whitehead was on the field for nearly 20 fewer snaps than Jarrad Davis but out-tackled him 8 to 4 in the game to post his second strong game in a row. The Browns generated 33 rush attempts in the game so there were plenty of tackle opportunities but Davis had a bit more trouble shedding blockers.
LB Jamie Collins Sr, CLE (1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Collins was knocked out of the game after just 7 snaps (13%) with a knee injury that was later revealed to be an MCL sprain. It's likely he will miss some time, which creates an opportunity for James Burgess who had just 2 assists this week on 31 snaps.
DE Myles Garrett, CLE (1 solo, 1 QH)
Garrett was on the field for 38 snaps (73%) but just couldn't generate much pressure on Matthew Stafford. The rookie had some time to rest up during the team's bye last week and should bounce back with a more productive game next week against Jacksonville.
PITTSBURGH @ INDIANAPOLIS
CB Pierre Desir, IND (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
The Colts shook things up last week when they released the struggling Vontae Davis. Desir has been given a chance to start and is making the most of it despite matching up against A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins, and Antonio Brown the past three weeks. The Colts have a bye coming up in week 11 but it looks like he has likely earned a chance to start the rest of the way and could make a nice option for owners who like to stream cornerbacks.
CB Joe Haden, PIT (0 tackles)
Haden only lasted 10 plays in the game this week before leaving with a broken leg. The injury apparently won't require surgery but he will likely miss 5 weeks or so. That probably won't impact fantasy owners too much as he wasn't all that productive, but it could make Coty Sensabaugh (3 solos, 1 PD in 48 snaps) a very popular target for opposing QBs.
LA CHARGERS @ JACKSONVILLE
DT Malik Jackson, JAX (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
While Jackson hasn't always played up to expectations, he's been coming through for fantasy owners much more over the past few weeks. In his last 3 games, he has been credited with 7 solos, 2.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. The addition of Marcell Dareus doesn't appear to have changed his playing time as he was still out there for 57 snaps (83%) this week.
LB Denzel Perryman, LAC (8 solos, 1 asst)
Perryman made his season debut for the Chargers this week and was on the field for 46 of 84 snaps (55%). Despite only playing about half the game he still managed to lead the team in tackles and helped limit Leonard Fournette to just 33 yards on 17 carries. The Chargers need some stability at linebacker and Perryman has proven to be very productive in a part-time role in the past so he could provide a nice boost to fantasy teams the rest of this year.
S Tre Boston, LAC (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 3 PD)
Boston mostly plays the deep safety role for the Chargers so he doesn't get the tackle opportunities you'd like to see from a fantasy safety. He does benefit, however, from a great pass rush up front and a solid group of corners that help funnel plays to the middle of the field. That contributed to his huge 2-INT game on Sunday.
S Adrian Phillips, LAC (0 tackles)
Phillips did not lose his role with the return of Denzel Perryman this week as he was still on the field for 42 snaps (50%). He was mainly used in coverage though and just wasn't around the ball much, which led to the empty box score. If Jatavis Brown continues to play more (53 snaps this week) and Perryman stays healthy though, there likely won't be enough snaps for Phillips to remain a viable fantasy option.
NY JETS @ TAMPA BAY
DE Robert Ayers, TB (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 4 QH)
Ayers snap counts haven't changed much following some of the injuries that have depleted the depth for Tampa. Despite little change in playing time or his role, he has been much more successful at getting to the quarterback of late. All 3 of his sacks on the year have come in the last 4 games and he's also been more productive against the run with 8 solos over his last two games.
S Chris Conte, TB (1 asst, 1 PD)
Not much changed here as Conte continues to split time with T.J. Ward at strong safety. He saw 38 snaps this week compared to 31 for Ward but was simply not very active due mostly to the struggles of the Jets passing attack.
CB Darryl Roberts, NYJ (8 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Morris Claiborne left the game early with a foot injury, which led to more playing time for Roberts. He was targeted often by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the game and finished with 8 tackles and an interception on 64 snaps. The Jets have a bye coming up that could allow Claiborne to get healthy, so he may not be the best target for fantasy owners desperate for CB help despite his 14 solos and 4 passes defensed over the last two games.
CINCINNATI @ TENNESSEE
CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CIN (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF)
Kirkpatrick is a former 1st round pick of the Bengals but he hasn't been a very useful player for fantasy purposes for most of his career. His production appears to be trending up in recent weeks, however, as he now has 14 solos with a sack and forced fumble over his last 3 games. With some turnover-prone quarterbacks coming up on the schedule and a healthy Adam Jones in the lineup, he could make a nice short-term pickup.
LB Vontaze Burfict, CIN (1 solo, 2 asst)
The Bengals shifted Burfict over to middle linebacker in response to Kevin Minter's injury. That was unlikely to have much of an impact on his production, but the bigger concern is his tendency to get himself into trouble for disciplinary reasons. He was ejected this week after just 29 snaps for making contact with an official, although early reports indicated he would not face a suspension from the league.
LB Avery Williamson, TEN (0 tackles)
Williamson continues to split time with Jayon Brown at linebacker, but he saw a season-low 22 snaps (43%) this week. The Bengals offense only generated 14 rush attempts and 35 tackle opportunities in the game, which didn't leave much opportunity for any Titans defenders this week.
MINNESOTA @ WASHINGTON
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
This year hasn't been a total loss for Hunter as he continues to see plenty of snaps each week. With Everson Griffen sitting out this week with an injury, Hunter helped pick up the slack with one of his best games of the season. The sack brings him up to 4 on the year and he does have a promising schedule lined up for the fantasy playoffs.
S D.J. Swearinger Sr, WAS (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PD)
DeAngelo Hall got the start next to Swearinger but only lasted 21 snaps this week. That gave him added opportunity to make plays in the middle of the field and he responded with a 2-interception game, which is out of character for the normally run-focused box safety.
LB Will Compton, WAS (1 solo)
Compton did get the start at inside linebacker this week, but unfortunately, he only wound up playing 32 snaps (52%). He was still platooning with Martrell Spaight (29 snaps), who wound up having a much more productive day (2 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL). The timeshare basically kills the fantasy value for both.
LB Preston Smith, WAS (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 QH)
Smith continues to see heavy snaps on the strong side of the Washington defense opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Despite the great start he had to this season (4.5 sacks in first 5 games), he not been very productive of late. Over his last 3 games combined, he has just 2 solo tackles and 2 assists with 0 sacks and now has to take on the nearly unsackable Drew Brees in week 11.
HOUSTON @ LA RAMS
DT Michael Brockers, LAR (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Brockers continues to be one of the more productive nose tackles in fantasy football this year. He's now up to 3 sacks over his last 6 games and is averaging over 3 solo tackles per game.
LB Bernardrick McKinney, HOU (3 solos, 1 QH, 1 PD)
While the Texans have certainly been hurt by a rash of injuries to key players this year, it remains a mystery why McKinney continues to be so unproductive. After posting 128 tackles in 920 snaps (13.9%), he's only been credited with 51 tackles in 488 snaps (10.5%) this year. With no big plays since week 2, he just isn't giving owners any reason to start him despite all the playing time he gets each week.
DALLAS @ ATLANTA
DE Adrian Clayborn, ATL (6 solos, 6 sacks, 3 TFL, 7 QH, 2 FF, 1 FR)
Clayborn recorded 6 sacks on Sunday, which was one of the more surprising things we've seen in the league this year. The feat hadn't been done since Osi Umenyiora posted a 6-sack game against the Eagles in 2007. Clayborn isn't exactly a sack master (23 sacks in 73 regular season games prior) but his career has been derailed by numerous season-ending injuries. The Cowboys also normally have one of the best offensive lines and least sacked quarterbacks in the league this year but they were playing without their left tackle Tyron Smith, and backup Chaz Green was embarrassed here.
LB De'Vondre Campbell, ATL (11 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Campbell has been playing well but his previous career-high for a game was 8 solo tackles. Perhaps even more impressive is that the Dallas offense only generated 21 rush attempts and 20 completions in the game so Campbell was involved in 13 of 41 plays non-sack tackle opportunities or roughly one out of every three.
LB Sean Lee, DAL (1 asst)
Lee has never been a picture of health and his injury woes continued this week as he left the game after just 8 snaps (12%) with a hamstring injury. Just as we saw earlier this year when he was injured, Dallas used Damien Wilson over Jaylon Smith in their nickel packages. Lee is expected to miss several games with this injury so Anthony Hitchens looks like he may be the only safe option for the immediate future.
NY GIANTS @ SAN FRANCISCO
DE Olivier Vernon, NYG (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
After sitting out 4 games over 5 weeks, Vernon returned to the starting lineup and played 54 snaps (89%). It didn't help much as the Giants still lost to the winless 49ers but Vernon certainly did his part, including an interception on a poorly thrown screen pass that he tipped to himself.
DT Ronald Blair III, SF (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
The 49ers activated Blair off their injured reserve list prior to last week's game so this was only his second game of the year. Given all the injuries they have had on defense, he should continue to see a steady dose of snaps particularly after coming up with 2 sacks this week. It looks like Tank Carradine and Solomon Thomas are also close to returning to the 49ers should get some reinforcements up front soon.
LB Kelvin Sheppard, NYG (5 solos, 1 asst)
Sheppard was just signed off the street a week ago and he wound up playing a key role for the Giants right away. Due to a rash of injuries at the position, he started and played in the team's nickel packages but had to leave after just 26 snaps (43%) with a groin injury. With 6 tackles in those 26 snaps, he was certainly productive but his run as a starter could be very short-lived.
NEW ENGLAND @ DENVER
S Justin Simmons, DEN (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Simmons was the only Broncos defender to play all 70 snaps this week and he tied for the team lead in tackles with 10 while adding the team's only sack of Brady on a blitz. Few things have gone well for the Broncos this year but Simmons certainly looks like a nice find from the 3rd round of last year's draft. He is capable in coverage but also has the size and temperament to move up into a strong safety role.
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (4 asst, 1 QH)
There's not really anything wrong with Wolfe's stat line here but it is disappointing that he has played 417 snaps over 9 games and only has 13 solo tackles and 1 sack to show for it. With the corners in Denver and the presence of a player like Von Miller to draw most of the attention, it has usually been easy for a high-energy player like Wolfe to fall into a few sacks by accident but the struggles on offense aren't giving Denver many opportunities to rush the passer this year.