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.
TENNESSEE @ PITTSBURGH
LB Vince Williams, PIT (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
The Steelers inside linebacker is getting plenty of blitzing opportunities this year and making the most of them. He came into this season with just 2.5 sacks over his 4-year career as a part-time player but picked up his 6th sack of the year this week while also being credited with 2 tackles for loss and 3 QB hits. Williams is averaging about 50 snaps per game over the past three games and has racked up 14 solos, 6 assists, and 2 sacks in that time period to make him a low-end LB2 in most leagues.
S Jonathan Cyprien, TEN (6 solos, 4 asst)
Cyprien returned to the lineup a few weeks ago but hadn't made much of an impact in the box scores until this week. He was on the field for 67 snaps this week finished 2nd on the team with 10 tackles. Would be reassuring to see him repeat this type of performance before but it was impressive when you consider that Wesley Woodyard wound up with just 2 tackles despite playing 9 more snaps than Cyprien did.
CB Adoree' Jackson, TEN (11 solos, 1 FF, 2 PD)
The Titans 1st round pick has been picked on a lot this year but has remained competitive. He was often left in single coverage on Antonio Brown, which may not have been a wise idea but at least shows the type of confidence the team has in him. Corners who play in the Dick Lebeau defense play a lot of zone coverage which allows them to keep their face to the quarterback and get more involved in run support. Jackson hasn't come up with his first interception yet but appears to be a reliable tackler and forced his second fumble of the year.
LB T.J. Watt, PIT (2 asst, 1 PD, BFG)
The Steelers rookie had 2 sacks in the season opener and 4 sacks in his first 6 games but he has gone cold since then. Over the last 3 games, he has collected 0 sacks while adding just 4 solos and 3 assists and some of that has come on special teams. Watt is playing nearly 60 snaps per game over that stretch but just isn't making much of an impact on defense. Note that he did block a field goal and pick up an assist on special teams this week though, which helped to offset his low output overall.
LB Wesley Woodyard, TEN (1 solo, 1 asst)
Woodyard was on the field for all 76 defensive snaps in the game and was the only Titans defender who could say that this week. For some reason, however, he just was not productive in the box score as he was credited with just 2 tackles despite a game script and stat crew that really should have led to a big game for him. Given the extensive playing time and the fact the Steelers only handed the ball off to Le'Veon Bell 12 times in the game, however, this was most likely just an outlier for Woodyard and he should bounce back next week against the Colts.
DETROIT @ CHICAGO
LB Tahir Whitehead, DET (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Whitehead saw his fantasy value drop when the Lions drafted Jarrad Davis in the first round this year but he has been the much more productive linebacker in recent weeks. Over the last 2 games, Whitehead has been credited with 15 solo tackles and 2 assists while Davis has just 5 solos and 3 assists. The Lions make frequent use of their nickel package that leaves just Whitehead and Davis on the field, and the experienced Whitehead looks more comfortable diagnosing plays and chasing down the ball carrier.
LB Christian Jones, CHI (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
While Jones was basically 4th on the depth chart at inside linebacker to start the season, he is making the most of his opportunity after the Bears were ravaged by injuries. Since week 5, he has collected 52 combined tackles (37 solos) for an average of 8.7 tackles per game. With that type of production, he's basically a must-start each week.
LB Leonard Floyd, CHI (4 solos, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Floyd had a slow start to the year but had been playing very well of late with 5.5 sacks over his previous 6 games. Unfortunately, he was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with a knee injury after a collision with a teammate. An MRI was scheduled for Monday but he's expected to be out for some time, which should open up an opportunity for Sam Acho opposite Pernell McPhee.
DE Mitch Unrein, CHI (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Unrein is a starter for the Bears on the defensive line but he is 30 years old and offers very little in the way of a pass rush. He has just 3.5 sacks in his career with 2 of those coming in his last 4 games. While he's a capable run stopper, don't expect him to repeat his performance from this week on any kind of regular basis.
JACKSONVILLE @ CLEVELAND
DE Yannick Ngakoue, JAX (2 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks, 1 QH, 2 FF)
The amazing roller coaster of a season for Ngakoue continued this week as he posted his fourth multi-sack game of the season. He has collected 9 sacks in those 4 games but has 0 sacks and just 7 combined tackles in the other 6 games. Note that his huge sack games have come against some of the weakest teams in the league (HOU, NYJ, IND, and CLE) and he has upcoming matchups with the Colts, Texans, and 49ers to look forward to.
LB James Burgess, CLE (7 solos, 9 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH)
Burgess has been productive while filling in for Jamie Collins Sr this year, and he proved that again on Sunday. He played 71 snaps (91%) as the Browns kept 3 linebackers on the field for nearly the entire game again, and wound up leading the team in tackles with 16 while also picking up his 3rd sack of the year. While the tackle numbers for all Browns linebackers were boosted here due to the 44 rush attempts from the Jaguars, Burgess looks like a clear fantasy starter now that Collins is out for the rest of the year.
LB Myles Jack, JAX (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Jack is clearly a talented player who has locked down an every-down role for the Jaguars, but his production has been more inconsistent than you'd normally like from a fantasy starter. He has several factors working against him. The Jaguars have a tough stat crew that doesn't hand out many assists, and they have a dominant defense that isn't allowing offenses to generate many tackle opportunities against them. Additionally, you have an elite linebacker in Telvin Smith Sr who is generally quicker to the ball and soaks up most of the tackles. This week the Browns offense only generated 18 rush attempts and 39 tackle opportunities but MLB Posluszny finished with 5 tackles (on just 13 snaps) compared to 2 tackles for Jack (on 55 snaps).
S Barry Church, JAX (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH)
Church suffers for some of the same reasons that Jack does. He's playing in front of a defense that isn't allowing many plays to reach the second level due to their pass rush and improved run defense. Church was always very productive in Dallas while playing on some weak defenses that didn't have much help in front of him. In Jacksonville, there is talent at every position and that added competition plus reduced opportunity is resulting in a disappointing season for him (35 solos through 10 games).
CB Jason McCourty, CLE (1 solo, 1 PD)
McCourty sat out several weeks and also had a bye in week 9 to recover from an ankle injury before returning to action in week 10. In the past two games, however, he has not shown the same level of production we were seeing prior to the injury. In those games he has been credited with just 3 solo tackles, 1 assist, and 1 pass defensed while he posted 17 solos, 3 INTs, 2 FF and 9 passes defensed in the 5 games prior to his injury.
BALTIMORE @ GREEN BAY
DE/DT Willie Henry, BAL (5 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Henry had seen a drop in his playing time when Brandon Williams returned to the lineup a few weeks ago but he has played extensively in the past two games. He was on the field for 83% of snaps in week 9 before the bye and was out there for 76% of snaps this week, which was by far the most among all Ravens defensive linemen. He obviously rewarded the coaches faith in him by picking up a pair of sacks and generally controlling the line of scrimmage in an easy win for the Ravens.
LB Patrick Onwuasor, BAL (8 solos, 2 asst, 1 FR)
While Onwuasor hasn't fully emerged as a full-time player yet, he's still seeing about 70% of the snaps. He was extremely active this week in helping to shut down the Packers running game as Jamaal Williams picked up just 57 yards on 18 carries. Despite playing just 46 snaps (69%), Onwuasor led all players in the game with 10 tackles including 8 solo stops while also contributing a fumble recovery.
LB Matt Judon, BAL (6 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Judon exploded for a 2-sack game back in week 6 and looked like he was ready to emerge as a key piece of this Ravens defense. He had some underwhelming weeks right after that which made it look like a fluke but he added a sack last week and two more this week to give him 5 sacks over his last 5 games. That certainly starts to make him look like a legit fantasy option, and he has the track record based on the fact he led all college players in the nation with 20 sacks during his senior year at Grand Valley State.
LB Nick Perry, GB (0 tackles, 3 QH)
Perry followed up his 3-sack game a week ago with a goose egg this week. He was credited with 3 QB hits in the game so he was able to generate pressure but just wasn't able to get home.
LB Clay Matthews, GB (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Matthews did have a sack in the game before leaving early with a groin injury after just 13 snaps. With just 3.5 sacks through 10 games and now a groin injury to deal with, he's probably not someone you want to count on as the fantasy playoffs near. In fact, he has only topped 1 solo tackle once in his past 5 games.
ARIZONA @ HOUSTON
S Budda Baker, ARI (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD, 2 FF, 1 FR)
While there was some doubt as to whether Baker would step right into the role vacated by Tyvon Branch, it's gone now. Baker picked up right where Branch left off as he made plays all over the field and led the team with 10 solo tackles while also adding a sack and 2 forced fumbles. He looks like a future star who landed in a system that perfectly suits his skillset.
LB Chandler Jones, ARI (0 tackles, 3 QH)
Jones has certainly earned the right to have an off game after posting 10 sacks in the first 9 games of the season. He was one of 6 Cardinals defenders to play all 70 defensive snaps this week but wasn't able to make his way into the box score apart from the 3 QB hits. That certainly suggests he was getting close but likely was a bit unlucky. He does have some tough matchups coming up on the schedule but likely doesn't move down in value after this.
TAMPA BAY @ MIAMI
DT Gerald McCoy, TB (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
McCoy has long been one of the best interior pass rushers in the league but hasn't always played up to expectations. Despite a disappointing season for Tampa, he is on a bit of a hot streak right now with 7 solos, 4 assists, and 3 sacks over his last 2 games.
DT Davon Godchaux, MIA (5 solos, 1 TFL)
The rookie has been sharing time with John Phillips at tackle next to Ndamukong Suh and seeing approximately 35 snaps per game over the past month. In his last 4 games, he has been credited with 18 combined tackles (13 solos) compared to 11 (4 solos) for Suh in the same span.
DT Ndamukong Suh, MIA (3 asst, 2 QH)
Suh continues to play a normal workload, averaging nearly 60 snaps per game but he has not been nearly as impactful of late. He did record a strip sack in week 9 for his only tackle of the game but has just 0 solos and 6 assists over the past two weeks. He's been missing practice with a knee injury lately so likely playing at well below full strength.
LB Rey Maualuga, MIA (cut)
Maualuga hasn't been particularly valuable from a fantasy perspective while playing a 2-down middle linebacker role for the Dolphins. He was arrested last week on a battery charge and the team decided to release him. They started Chase Allen at MLB this week but he didn't come up with any tackles on his 30 snaps. Mike Hull was active but only saw time on special teams. It's likely that Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons remain the only linebackers worth holding onto here.
L.A. RAMS @ MINNESOTA
S John Johnson III, LAR (8 solos)
The rookie safety took a little while to acclimate but he has been making a bigger contribution to the box scores since the Rams had their bye in week 8. He had 8 solos and 3 assists in his first 3 games after taking over for Mo Alexander but has 15 solos and 4 assists in his latest 3 games.
LB Anthony Barr, MIN (1 solo)
Barr has been a tough player to get a read on this year. He looked great early in the season when he was picking up tackles in bunches and looking like a clear LB2. While he often was asked to rush the passer in passing situations, he only has 1 sack on the season and has been spending a lot more time in coverage as evidenced by his 6 pass breakups. Over the past 2 or 3 games, however, his production has tailed off considerably. He had just 3 tackles in 75 snaps last week and added just 1 tackle on 46 snaps this week. The Vikings defense were limited to just 42 tackle opportunities in the game but this is a strong group that may see more games like that in the future.
CB Xavier Rhodes, MIN (2 solos)
Rhodes left the game briefly with a calf injury but returned and wound up seeing 45 snaps (76%) in the game. The shutdown corner may be doing too good of a job, however, as he's just not seeing many targets to his side of the field and that is limiting his production. With just 7 solos and 2 assists over his last 4 games, he's probably not all that useful for most fantasy leagues.
S Anthony Harris, MIN (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Harris got another start in place of the injured Andrew Sendejo. This marked the third time he started in the past 5 games but he was not very productive in the two prior starts. He came up with a big forced fumble this week and led the team in tackles but it's likely that he'll head back to the bench soon.
WASHINGTON @ NEW ORLEANS
S D.J. Swearinger Sr, WAS (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
We are seeing the transformation of Swearinger here as he now has 3 interceptions over his last 2 games despite coming into the game with 6 in the previous 67 games of his career. He has a great chance to keep the streak alive with the Giants coming up next on the schedule.
S Vonn Bell, NO (10 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Bell has been in and out of the lineup for the Saints but it certainly seems clear that he should stick after his game this week. He was everywhere on the field and finished with 13 combined tackles with a sack and forced fumble. The Saints have a deep group of safeties now that help offset the weakness at linebacker so there's likely a spot for Bell even after Kenny Vaccaro returns from his injury.
DE Alex Okafor, NO (1 solo, 5 asst, 1 QH)
Okafor has been a huge pickup for a Saints defense that was desperate to find a complementary pass rusher for Cameron Jordan. With 4.5 sacks on the year, he was certainly providing all that while also making strong contributions against the run. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn Achilles and will be lost for the rest of the season. Rookie 3rd round pick Trey Hendrickson is expected to step in for him and could certainly be worth a look as a prospective add this week.
LB Craig Robertson, NO (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Robertson was on the field for all 69 snaps this week so his 3 combined tackles have to be considered a disappointment coming against a Redskins offense that generated 33 rush attempts and 57 tackle opportunities. After a surprisingly productive season in 2016, the Saints tried to upgrade their linebacker group but injuries have pushed him back into a major role. The improvements they have made in the secondary have resulted in the defense facing a lot fewer snaps each week though, and he's no longer making much of an impact with the chances he does get.
CB Marshon Lattimore, NO (1 PD)
The Saints rookie corner has been a revelation and almost single-handedly improved their long-struggling defense. He only lasted 6 snaps this week before leaving with an ankle injury, so it will be important to see how he does in practice before relying on him in week 12 against the Rams.
KANSAS CITY @ N.Y. GIANTS
LB Reggie Ragland, KC (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Ragland got the start next to Derrick Johnson this week and saw 47 snaps (68%). The Chiefs traded for him earlier this year after he couldn't find a home in the Bills new defense. While he hadn't shown much to this point, he certainly looked like a capable run stopper this week while leading the team with 9 tackles. Johnson appears to have clearly lost a step at this point in his career so the Chiefs probably are hoping for Ragland to emerge as a viable long-term replacement.
LB Calvin Munson, NYG (8 solos, 5 asst)
The Giants linebackers have been decimated by injuries but Munson is one of the few remaining options for them. He got the start at middle linebacker and played nearly the entire game after being used primarily as a base linebacker in the two previous weeks. With 13 combined tackles here and 8 tackles back in week 2 when he also saw 60+ snaps, he's shown that he can produce when given an opportunity. Will have to see if B.J. Goodson can return to claim this spot back but the rookie Munson likely earned a longer look.
S Landon Collins, NYG (11 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT)
There were some reports that the Giants defenders had quit on their head coach and Collins was one player singled out for not always giving full effort on the field. He looked like his old self this week, however, as the Giants pulled off a huge overtime upset of the Chiefs. With 15 tackles and an interception, he's clearly back on track to finish as the top fantasy safety.
DE Olivier Vernon, NYG (3 solos)
Vernon returned to action last week from an ankle injury that caused him to miss 4 games. He lasted 62 snaps (83%) this week before suffering a shoulder injury that probably leaves his status for next week in doubt. Avery Moss saw 25 snaps and recorded a solo plus a QB hit in the game.
BUFFALO @ L.A. CHARGERS
CB E.J. Gaines, BUF (8 solos, 1 asst)
After sitting out the past 3 games with a hamstring injury, Gaines returned to the starting lineup this week and had another productive game. He now has 26 solo tackles over 6 games which is nearly a 70 solo tackle pace over a full season. The Bills defense hasn't been stopping anybody of late but Gaines should provide an upgrade over Shareece Wright.
S Jordan Poyer, BUF (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 2 PD)
Poyer showed off his playmaking early this season with 2 INTs and 2 sacks over the first four games. While that trend hasn't continued, he has more than made up for it with his tackle production as the entire Bills defense has collapsed. Over the last 3 games, Poyer has collected 21 solo tackles and 7 assists.
LB Jatavis Brown, LAC (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH)
The stat line doesn't indicate any issues with Brown but it's concerning that he wasn't part of the starting lineup this week and was only on the field for 18 snaps (28%). After pulling out to an early lead, the Chargers spent most of the game in their nickel or dime packages and that sent Brown to the bench. Meanwhile, Denzel Perryman was the only linebacker to see significant playing time (44 snaps, 68%) while safety Adrian Phillips played the 3rd most snaps of any Chargers defender this week in his role as a nickel linebacker.
CINCINNATI @ DENVER
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (5 solos, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
Wolfe had just 1 sack in first 9 games and was looking like a bust for IDP owners. He showed signs of life this week, however, as he took advantage of a weak Bengals offensive line for a sack and 5 solo tackles. The Bengals offense only generated 43 tackle opportunities in the game so the fact that Wolfe was involved in 5 of them points to how active he was this week.
LB Vontaze Burfict, CIN (11 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
A week after getting ejected but avoiding a suspension, Burfict showed why he's one of the most valuable linebackers in the league when he stays out of trouble. Out of just 7 games where he's been active this year, this was his second outing with 10 or more solo tackles and a sack.
CB Darqueze Dennard, CIN (8 solos, 1 PD)
Dennard is normally the nickel back for the Bengals but he has been moved outside to fill in for Adam Jones, who missed the game with a concussion. With Dre Kirkpatrick playing very well on the other side, opponents are likely to continue throwing to Dennard's side of the field. The Broncos did that this week and it led to an 8 solo game while he added his first interception of the season last week. The Browns are next on the schedule and should present a favorable matchup for him to pick off another pass.
LB Vincent Rey, CIN (2 solos)
Rey has remained a somewhat useful player despite a crowded Bengals linebacker group. He was limited to just 10 snaps this week, however, as he suffered a hamstring injury early in the game and could not return. Even when healthy, he typically sees about 30 snaps per game though so likely isn't anything more than a depth option in deeper leagues.
NEW ENGLAND @ OAKLAND (in Mexico City)
S Patrick Chung, NE (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 FR)
Chung is a versatile component of the Patriots secondary who can be used up in the box as an extra linebacker at times or in coverage on tight ends or slot receivers. He doesn't play every snap but sees enough to be considered a full-time player. While he doesn't make many splash plays that can help take him to a new level, he does have a generally a reliable source of tackles. He was very active this week and now has 12 solos with an interception and fumble recovery over his past two games.
DE Mario Edwards Jr Jr (0 tackles)
Edwards was shut out this week in a tough matchup but continues to see a heavy workload. He was on the field for 44 defensive snaps (73%), which typically gives him enough tackle opportunities to be productive even when he's not getting to the passer. However, with just a half sack over his last 6 games, he's not exactly showing the upside you want to see from a fantasy starter.
S Devin McCourty, NE (0 tackles)
McCourty was on the field for all 74 defensive snaps this week but didn't manage to make his way onto the stat sheet. The Raiders offense generated 50 tackle opportunities, including 28 on pass completions, but McCourty just wasn't around the ball as much as he had been. While the 0 tackle game is likely an outlier, it's also unlikely that McCourty was going to keep up the pace that he was on earlier this year when he posted 9 or more solos in 3 of the first 5 games of the season. He's put up numbers of a #1 fantasy safety so far on the strength of those early weeks but is likely best used as a #3 safety or so going forward.
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