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.
MINNESOTA @ DETROIT
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET (2 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Ansah returned to the lineup this week after sitting out the last two games with a back injury that has bothered him all season. While he hasn't fulfilled expectations, he showed this week that he can still be productive at less than 100% in a part-time role. He saw 32 snaps this week (44%) and added his 5th sack of the year. If his back holds up, there are certainly some favorable matchups coming up on the schedule that he should be able to take advantage of.
LB Tahir Whitehead, DET (10 solos, 3 asst)
Whitehead has been one of the most productive players in the league over the past month with 30 solo tackles in his last 4 games. He played all 73 snaps for Detroit this week while rookie middle linebacker Jarrad Davis was removed from the team's nickel packages. Assuming that trend continues, Whitehead should be able to continue piling up tackles week after week.
LB Eric Kendricks, MIN (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 QH)
This was the second disappointing week in a row for Kendricks so it's worth mentioning. From week 6 to week 10, he made 29 solo tackles and assisted on 13 others over a 4-game stretch. In the two games since then, however, he has just 2 solo tackles and 4 assists. While the opponent didn't do him any favors here with just 15 rush attempts for the Lions, fantasy owners need to hope this cold streak doesn't last until the playoffs.
LB Jarrad Davis, DET (6 solos, 1 asst)
Davis has been great against the run for the Lions but has struggled in coverage, which is pretty normal among rookies. Unfortunately, the Lions started removing him from the field during obvious passing situations this week, which reduced his workload this week to 54 snaps (74%). If he remains a 2-down middle linebacker, his value and production will clearly take a hit. His 7 tackles this week were the most he's put up since week 9 but were clearly boosted by the 41 rush attempts the Vikings generated.
L.A. CHARGERS @ DALLAS
CB Desmond King, LAC (5 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
The rookie 5th round pick continues to play at a high level and make big plays for the Chargers. King serves as the team's nickel corner and gets plenty of targets thanks to the strong play of the Chargers outside corners. His tackle numbers have been very consistent of late (26 solos over last 6 games with 3 or more in each of them), and he now has 2 sacks and a pick-6 over his last 4 games.
DE Melvin Ingram III, LAC (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Ingram looked like a defensive player of the year candidate not too long ago with 8.5 sacks in his first 7 games. Unfortunately, he's now gone 4 straight games without a sack and hasn't made up for it with his run defense either with just 6 solos and 1 assist in that same span. While he did return a fumble for a touchdown last week against the Bills, that only helped to mask the underlying slump.
DT David Irving, DAL (0 tackles)
Irving blew up once he joined the Cowboys lineup in week 5 with 6 sacks over his first four games of the season. Since then, the Cowboys offense has struggled without Ezekiel Elliott and it has spread to the defensive side of the ball as well. Over his last 3 games, he's been credited with just 2 solos, 3 assists, and 0 sacks.
LB Jatavis Brown, LAC (1 asst)
Brown came into this week with 10 combined tackles over his previous two games, but he was limited to just 3 snaps on defense and 8 on special teams. At this point, it seems unlikely his health problems are going to be resolved during this season so the Chargers will likely continue to rely heavily on safety Adrian Phillips, who played nearly the entire game as a linebacker.
LB Jaylon Smith, DAL (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Smith had a very productive outing and led the team with 8 tackles this week but it came on just 38 defensive snaps (56%). He continues to sit in passing situations, which makes it nearly impossible to rely on him as the fantasy playoffs approach.
N.Y. GIANTS @ WASHINGTON
LB Kelvin Sheppard, NYG (5 solos, 2 asst)
Sheppard started 11 games at middle linebacker for the Giants last year but wasn't brought back. After injuries took their toll on the position, he was re-signed a few weeks ago and has now started two games. He played 66 of 71 defensive snaps (92%) this week to lead all Giants linebackers. B.J. Goodson was supposed to handle the middle linebacker job this year but injuries to him and other players have resulted in a revolving door at the position.
S Deshazor Everett, WAS (5 solos, 2 asst)
DeAngelo Hall struggled against the Saints last week and was benched. He was replaced in the lineup by Deshazor Everett who played all 57 snaps in the game as the team's new strong safety. While it came against the Giants, Everett played a strong game and will likely get an additional opportunity next week at Dallas.
CB Ross Cockrell, NYG (5 solos)
Cockrell started opposite Janoris Jenkins this week and played the entire game. He's seen heavy snaps in 3 of the last 4 games and has put up 5 solo tackles in each. Cockrell played well in the past for the Steelers and can likely contribute to a fantasy team down the stretch considering all the injuries the Giants are dealing with.
CB Janoris Jenkins, NYG (1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Jenkins is one of the best cover corners in the league and he was coming on strong with an interception in his last two games. Unfortunately, he appears to have injured his ankle on the touchdown return this week and it seems likely that he will be shut down for the rest of the season. The injury has been present for some time but was aggravated this week and likely requires surgery to correct it.
TAMPA BAY @ ATLANTA
CB Ryan Smith, TB (8 solos)
Due to injuries and poor play of others, the 2nd year pro has seen over 60 snaps for 5 straight weeks and has been productive with 4+ solos in each game and 27 over all 5 games combined. He started and played all 64 snaps this week while often matched up against Julio Jones. Obviously, that didn't go very well for him as Jones went off for 12/253/2 in the game. Vernon Hargreaves was out injured again this week, but as long as Smith remains in the lineup we should probably expect him to be picked on by opposing quarterbacks.
DE Adrian Clayborn, ATL (2 QH)
Clayborn did manage several QB hits in the game, but he's having trouble living up to new expectations created by the 6-sack game he posted in week 10. He did recover a fumble for a touchdown last week but otherwise has just 1 solo and 1 assist to show for his past two games. The lack of tackles makes him tough to rely on, and furthermore, the Falcons only played him a little more than half of the snaps as they continue to rotate their defensive ends heavily.
CB Desmond Trufant, ATL (2 solos, 2 asst)
While he hasn't always put up the best fantasy numbers since quarterbacks shy away from the shutdown corner, Trufant continues to play at a high level. He was coming off a 5 solo, 1 INT, 3 PD game and on his way to another strong game this week, however, before leaving with a concussion after just 25 snaps. C.J. Goodwin took over for Trufant at corner and posted 4 solo tackles in 47 snaps.
CB Brian Poole, ATL (1 solo)
As the Falcons slot corner, Poole often plays as many snaps as the starters and he sees plenty of targets due to the strength of their outside coverage. His production seemed to tail off recently after a great start to the season, but he lasted just 11 snaps this week before leaving with a back injury. With two of their top 3 corners out, the Falcons went with a big nickel package. Ricardo Allen took over for Poole in the slot while rookie Damontae Kazee came in at free safety.
CINCINNATI @ CLEVELAND
DE Carl Nassib, CLE (3 asst)
While the stat line won't impress anyone, Nassib is back in line for a heavy workload after Emmanuel Ogbah was placed on I.R. with a foot injury. With just 2 sacks on 421 snaps this year, Nassib has limited upside but he'll likely see a lot of rush attempts the rest of the way and should be on the field for about 80% of the defensive snaps alongside Myles Garrett.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CIN (7 solos, 2 asst, 2 PD)
Kirkpatrick led his team in tackles this week and is one of the hottest IDPs in the league right now. Over the past 5 weeks, he has made 25 solo tackles while also contributing an interception, a sack, a forced fumble, and 6 passes defensed. With a great matchup looming against the Steelers next week, he looks like a clear CB1.
LB Nick Vigil, CIN (1 asst)
Vigil has been a huge contributor for the Bengals this year although he hasn't produced any big plays since posting an interception and sack in the first four games. He was limited to just 32 snaps (46%) this week and only picked up a single assist before injuring his ankle. It appears to be a significant injury, which likely means the Bengals will need to make some adjustments next week. Vincent Rey was inactive this week so Jordan Evans appeared to take over for Vigil in the team's nickel package and posted 5 solos and 1 assist on 38 snaps.
TENNESSEE @ INDIANAPOLIS
DE DaQuan Jones, TEN (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
There wasn't much of a change in the role for Jones this week, but he finally had some success after a mostly disappointing season. He had played almost 400 snaps this year before this week but recorded his first sack of the year and then added another later in the game as the Titans sacked Jacoby Brissett an impressive 8 times in the game. As a 3-4 defensive end, he's mostly a space-clogger but the upcoming schedule looks favorable so he may be able to build on this performance.
CB Rashaan Melvin, IND (1 INT, 1 PD)
Melvin has established himself as the Colts best corner this year and he picked off a pass early in the 2nd quarter before leaving the game with a hand injury. He was scheduled for an MRI on Monday so will need to wait for more details to be released. Kenny Moore replaced him and posted 3 solos on 32 defensive snaps.
LB Avery Williamson, TEN (2 solos, 7 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH)
Williamson had a solid stat line with 9 combined tackles and a sack this week, but notice that 7 of those tackles were assists and likely boosted by the generous stat crew in Indianapolis. He remains in a time-share with rookie Jayon Brown but saw a slight boost in snaps this week (41 snaps, 65%) as the Colts tried to control the game with their running attack.
S Clayton Geathers, IND (0 tackles)
Geathers had a sack on his first snap of the year but it was called back due to a defensive penalty in the secondary. He only played 4 defensive snaps in the game and didn't make it into the box score, but he's worth watching to see if he is able to take on a bigger role in the weeks ahead.
BUFFALO @ KANSAS CITY
DT Cedric Thornton, BUF (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
While it originally looked like Adolphus Washington would see the biggest boost following the trade of Marcell Dareus, it has actually been the experienced vet Thornton who has emerged. Over the past 4 games, he has posted 7 solos, 2 assists, and a pair of sacks. Compare that to Washington who has just 2 solo tackles and no sacks over the last 3 games despite similar playing time.
LB Reggie Ragland, KC (8 solos, 1 asst, 3 TFL)
While he remains limited in coverage, Ragland showed off his potential as a run stopper with 9 tackles and 3 for a loss. He started the game and played 42 snaps (60%) while helping to limit LeSean McCoy to just 49 yards on 22 carries. With 16 solo tackles over his last two games despite playing mainly a 2-down role, Ragland is starting to look like the heir apparent to Derrick Johnson provided he can improve his cover skills enough to stay on the field in passing situations.
CB Darrelle Revis, KC (DNP)
The Chiefs signed Revis last week in a desperate attempt to shore up their 3rd cornerback spot. Steven Nelson has upgraded their slot coverage, but the spot opposite Marcus Peters has been a problem all year long. Revis didn't look very good last year with the Jets but maybe the time off will help him get back close to his prior level.
LB Lorenzo Alexander, BUF (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Alexander was not part of the Bills nickel package so he only saw 20 snaps (34%) this week. He was still productive and added his third sack of the year while also contributing on special teams, but it looks like his role has been reduced over the past several games as the Bills have made some changes to try and shore up their defensive weaknesses.
MIAMI @ NEW ENGLAND
DE Cameron Wake, MIA (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 5 QH)
Wake was a beast on Sunday against the Patriots as he picked up a sack (the only one for Miami) and was credited with 5 hits on Brady overall. With a sack in back to back games, he's clearly back on track and likely to hit double-digit sacks at 35 years of age. William Hayes was also shut down for the year, but it looks like his early down snaps went to Terrence Fede so that shouldn't impact Andre Branch or Charles Harris much.
S Reshad Jones, MIA (9 solos, 3 asst, 1 FR, 1 TD)
Jones remains an elite fantasy safety and he proved it again this week with a huge game against the Patriots. He picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown early in the game and finished with 12 combined tackles. With 65 solo tackles through 11 games, he's on pace for the 2nd best season of his career and picked up where he left off after missing most of 2016 to a shoulder injury.
CB Jonathan Jones, NE (9 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The Patriots have been without their normal nickel corner Eric Rowe for most of the year now but Jones is doing a fine job in his place. While matched up with Jarvis Landry this week, he was extremely active and wound up leading the team in tackles while also contributing one of the team's seven sacks.
DE Trey Flowers, NE (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
This was perhaps the best game Flowers had all year, but he suffered a rib injury while recording a sack in the third quarter. He tried to play through it but eventually went to the locker room for treatment. As the Patriots only reliable pass rush threat this year, losing him would create a large hole in their lineup so watch the injury reports to check on his status later this week. Meanwhile, Eric Lee was just signed last week and contributed 4 solos with a sack on 25 snaps (41%) so he could possibly help out more than expected.
CAROLINA @ N.Y. JETS
LB Demario Davis, NYJ (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Davis continues to have a very productive season in the middle of the Jets defense. He is on pace to destroy his career-best in tackles and already has topped his career high in sacks with 4.5 on the year. While he didn't show much during his one year in Cleveland and was traded back to the Jets, Davis has been one of this year's biggest breakouts and a clear LB1 in most scoring systems due to the great situation he's in.
LB Thomas Davis, CAR (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL)
Davis posted a season-high 9 tackles this week but suffered a hamstring injury late in the game that may leave his status for next week in doubt. The 34-year old linebacker has not missed a game to injury since 2014. If he can't go or is limited, Shaq Thompson should get promoted to the nickel packages and see a bump in value.
DE Leonard Williams, NYJ (2 QH)
Williams certainly hasn't had a year to remember, but this was the first game all year he was held without a tackle. He had shown signs of life in the previous two games before the bye with 6 solos, 3 assists, and 1.5 sacks but was mostly neutralized here despite 33 rush attempts from the Panthers. He was credited with 2 QB hits in the game and played 66 snaps (92%), however, so look for him to rebound next week against the Chiefs.
CHICAGO @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Jonathan Bullard, CHI (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Bullard was taken in the third round of last year's draft and seemed to be headed for a prominent role on the defensive line this year after a strong preseason. He's been limited to a reserve role in the defensive end rotation with an average close to 20 snaps/game until this week when his playing time spiked to a season-high 47 snaps (60%). The game was a blowout loss but he was productive with 3 tackles and a sack so the Bears may want to give the young pass rusher an extended look the rest of the way to see if he can be more productive in a bigger role.
DE Brandon Graham, PHI (5 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Graham is finally reaching his potential this year as he set a new career high with his 7th sack of the season and still has 5 more games left to build on that number. The explosive Eagles offense is giving the defensive end plenty of pass rush opportunities that weren't always there in previous years. He also was extremely efficient this week with 5 solo tackles out of the 29 total solo tackles collected by the entire Eagles defense in a dominating performance from the defense.
LB Nigel Bradham, PHI (1 asst)
Bradham played 80% of the snaps with the rest of the Eagles starters this week but was pulled early in a blowout win. He only finished with 1 assist but numbers were down across the board since the Bears offense only generated 33 tackle opportunities and 8 first downs in the game.
SEATTLE @ SAN FRANCISCO
DE Marcus Smith II, SEA (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Smith was a bust of a 1st round pick for the Eagles in 2014 but he appears to have found a home in the Seattle defense. They released Dwight Freeney (who was signed by the Lions) and left Dion Jordan inactive this week, which allowed Smith to play 39 snaps (55%) and he added his second sack of the year.
S Eric Reid, SF (7 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The 49ers lost three of safeties in a matter of weeks so Reid is basically the last man standing but he was expected to be their best safety coming into the year. With 16 solos, 4 assists, 2 INTs, and an FR over the past 3 games he is certainly showing his potential as a fantasy force in this defense. He was everywhere on Sunday and led the 49ers in tackles while also picking off a pass on the very first play of the game.
S Bradley McDougald, SEA (6 solos, 2 asst)
With Kam Chancellor done for the season with a neck injury, McDougald is taking over as the team's strong safety. He tied with Bobby Wanger for the team lead in tackles with 8 this week. He posted 80 solos as a starter in Tampa last year so obviously has the experience and track record to be productive when given a full-time role.
JACKSONVILLE @ ARIZONA
LB Chandler Jones, ARI (6 solos, 2 sacks, 5 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Jones has been a very productive pass rusher in the league since he joined the league in 2012 as a 1st round pick of the Patriots. Even though the Cardinals lost Calais Campbell in free agency and Markus Golden to injury early this season, Jones is having the best season of his career. He's now up to 12 sacks in 11 games and is tied with Everson Griffen for the lead among all players this year.
S Barry Church, JAX (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
While Church hasn't received many tackle opportunities in the back of a tough Jaguars defense, things seemed to open up a bit for him this week. He led all players with 9 tackles and picked off his second interception of the year. The Cardinals offense generated 54 tackle opportunities and Church was often matched up against Ricky Seals-Jones (who burned them for 72 yards on 4 catches) or Adrian Peterson (99 yards on 24 touches).
LB Deone Bucannon, ARI (1 asst)
One week after posting 13 tackles against the Texans, Bucannon only lasted 5 snaps against the Jaguars before leaving with an ankle injury. Josh Bynes took his place and led the team in tackles with 8 (7 solos) while also forcing a fumble on 58 snaps (91%).
NEW ORLEANS @ L.A. RAMS
S Vonn Bell, NO (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
Kenny Vaccaro returned to the lineup this week but the Saints were without their top two corners so they used 3 safeties on nearly every snap. Bell was once again the standout as he led the team in tackles while also adding a sack to give him 2.5 in his last 4 games. With back to back huge games, he's making up for some of the weaknesses elsewhere on this defense.
CB Trumaine Johnson, LAR (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Johnson is often asked to shadow the opposing team's best receiver and that was the case this week as he followed Michael Thomas all over the field. That helps him post more consistent numbers each week as teams still want to get the ball to their best players. Over his last 4 games, he has posted exactly 5 solo tackles in each of them which is impressive for a cornerback and has helped push him up to the elite at the position this year.
LB Connor Barwin, LAR (1 QH)
Barwin only lasted 17 snaps (30%) this week before leaving the game with an arm injury. The severity of the injury wasn't clear but he had not been very productive of late with just 1 solo and 1 assist over his two previous games combined. Rookie Samson Ebukam added a sack (his 2nd in the past 3 weeks) and could see an increased role if Barwin is out.
DENVER @ OAKLAND
DE Denico Autry, OAK (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Autry had his best game of the year with 2 sacks on 39 snaps. Mario Edwards has been more productive than him despite both often seeing a similar amount of playing time, but both are capable of getting to the quarterback as offenses focus most of their blocking attention on Khalil Mack.
S Sean Smith, OAK (4 solos, 1 QH)
The Raiders went back to Smith as a starting corner this week and he had a strong game under their new defensive coordinator. Meanwhile, Obi Melifonwu went from starting the game at corner last week to seeing just a single snap this week.
DT Domata Peko Sr, DEN (2 solos, 4 asst)
Peko has put together two strong games with 7 solos and 5 assists the past two weeks. Unfortunately, he'll miss the next week or two with a sprained MCL.
LB Cory James, OAK (2 solos, 1 asst)
James only played 15 snaps (25%) while fellow linebacker Nicholas Morrow took his place and wound up with 43 snaps (73%). I couldn't find any notes of an injury and James did come up with a big stop on Devonate Booker at the goalline.
CB Aqib Talib, DEN (0 tackles)
Talib only lasted 5 snaps in the game before being ejected for fighting Michael Crabtree. It sounds like no suspensions are expected to be handed out, but the Broncos could also choose to discipline him themselves.
GREEN BAY @ PITTSBURGH
DE Cameron Heyward, PIT (3 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Heyward set a new career high with his 8th and 9th sacks of the year on Sunday night. That also gives him 4 over his last two games and makes him a near lock to reach double digits. Amazingly, it would be the first time for a Steelers defensive lineman to reach that total since 1986.
LB Blake Martinez, GB (12 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FR)
Martinez had one down week and one average week, which may have raised some concerns that he was starting to slip. He put those fears to rest for good this week as he exploded for 15 tackles and two takeaways under the national spotlight. He's already at 99 combined tackles (73 solos) and still has 5 more games to try and beat out Bobby Wagner for the NFL lead. It has been a remarkable season for the 2nd year pro and his combination of youth and production point to him being perhaps the #1 overall linebacker in dynasty leagues right now.
S Morgan Burnett, GB (9 solos, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
Burnett returned to the starting lineup after sitting out 4 of the previous 5 games. He managed to play 73 of 74 defensive snaps and finished with his best stat line of the season. Rookie Josh Jones saw his workload decreased to just 26 snaps as a result.
S Mike Mitchell, PIT (2 solos)
Mitchell has topped 50 solo tackles for the past four seasons but has never hit 60. Just as we saw this week when he posted only 2 solo tackles while playing 55 of 55 defensive snaps, he's a limited player who doesn't do much to help fantasy owners even when given plenty of playing time.
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