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. When warranted, I'll also call out some players under No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. 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.
Green Bay @ Seattle
DE Rasheem Green, SEA (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The rookie pass rusher missed a lot of time with an injury this year but saw his most extensive work since Week 3 and picked up his first career sack. He was on the field for 20 snaps (41%) while filling in for Dion Jordan, who was inactive due to a knee injury. Green was a 3rd round pick this year and figures to see more work as a pass rush specialist now that he’s getting healthy.
LB Kyler Fackrell, GB (5 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 4 TFL, 4 QH)
Fackrell has mostly been a part-time player over his first two seasons but he is playing a bigger role and clearly taking advantage. He was dominant on Thursday night as he recorded all three sacks for the Packers. With Nick Perry injured, Fackrell has seen his playing time spike to 71% and 83% of snaps the past two games and he has 9 solos and 4 sacks in the same time period.
LB Austin Calitro, SEA (1 solo, 4 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Calitro filled in for the injured K.J. Wright and posted solid numbers while playing 43 snaps (88%). Seattle spent much of the game in their nickel package, so it appears Calitro is working ahead of Barkevious Mingo in clear passing situations and will benefit if Wright misses more time.
DE Dion Jordan, SEA (DNP)
Jordan just had his best game of the year against the Rams in Week 10 and looked like he was ready to start contributing, but he was a surprise inactive. Seems like he may have aggravated his previous knee injury in practice or perhaps the short week was to blame.
DALLAS @ ATLANTA
DE Demarcus Lawrence, DAL (3 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Lawrence saw his playing time fluctuate a bit earlier this season as he dealt with some nagging injuries but he’s now played more than 80% of the snaps in 3 of the past 4 games. During the same time frame, he’s been quite productive with 14 solos, 7 assists, and 2.5 sacks and appears back on track as an elite fantasy defensive end.
DE Vic Beasley Jr, ATL (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Beasley had a huge game this week with a pair of sacks but his performance to date suggests he’s unlikely to replicate this in the weeks ahead. He has often seen more than 70% of the defensive snaps this year but has just 8 solo tackles and 3 sacks in 10 games. Doesn’t help that Drew Brees is coming up next on the schedule either.
LB Jaylon Smith, DAL (2 asst)
Smith hasn’t seen any dropoff in terms of his playing time as he was on the field for every defensive snap over the past two games. In those games, however, he’s only been credited with 3 solos and 3 assists while fellow linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has collected 17 solos and 4 assists with a pair of interceptions. Smith may just be going through a bit of a slump here but it’s worth monitoring.
CINCINNATI @ BALTIMORE
S Shawn Williams, CIN (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Williams continues to post huge numbers on a sinking ship that is the Bengals defense. Over the past four games, the run stopping safety has collected 30 solo tackles, 11 assists, and 3 interceptions. The Bengals didn’t really have much of an answer for Lamar Jackson, who helped the Ravens generate 54 rush attempts and 69 tackle opportunities in the game.
LB Hardy Nickerson, CIN (8 solos, 3 asst)
Nickerson filled in for the injured Preston Brown and had a very productive game with 11 tackles while playing all 79 defensive snaps. With Vontaze Burfict returning to action this week and Nick Vigil hopefully returning soon, Nickerson will likely return to a reserve role next week.
CAROLINA @ DETROIT
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Unfortunately, injuries have limited Ansah to just 71 snaps over 4 games this year. He returned to the lineup a few weeks ago on a limited snap count but was up to 25 snaps (43%) this week and continues to generate pressure. The sample size is obviously very small but his pressure rate is higher than anybody in the league right now and has 3 sacks in 4 games played despite seeing no more than 25 snaps in any of them. Could play a big role in fantasy leagues down the stretch if his health holds up.
DE Julius Peppers, CAR (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Peppers is almost 39 years old but he’s still getting to the quarterback. His sack this week gives him 4 over his last 6 games, and he’s averaged a little under 60% of the defensive snaps each week. With some promising matchups coming up, he could be worth a look if you need short-term help at the position.
S Quandre Diggs, DET (2 solos)
Diggs beat out Tavon Wilson for the strong safety job in Detroit this year and seemed poised for big things after scoring a pick-6 in the season opener. Apart from some flashes of productivity like his 9-solo game against the Packers in Week 5 though, it hasn’t really worked out. Over his past three games, he has been particularly quiet with just 8 solo tackles and 1 pass defensed.
TENNESSEE @ INDIANAPOLIS
CB Adoree' Jackson, TEN (9 solos)
The former 1st round pick had been playing very well and was being asked to shadow the opposing team’s top receiver. After an excellent game against Josh Gordon last week, he was assigned to shadow T.Y. Hilton this week. While Hilton torched him for a 68-yard touchdown catch in the first half and finished with 9 catches on the day, it did allow Jackson to lead the team in tackles. As a young player, the coaches will certainly give him a longer leash so we may see a repeat assignment next week against DeAndre Hopkins.
CB Kenny Moore II, IND (9 solos, 1 asst, .5 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)|
While the cornerbacks are certainly not a strength of the Colts, Moore has clearly emerged as a key player. He is strong in zone coverage and has plenty of opportunities to play with his face to the quarterback but also has proven very effective in run support as a willing and sound tackler. Moore has 5 or more solo tackles in 4 of his last 5 games and has 15 solo tackles in his last 2.
PITTSBURGH @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Vince Williams, PIT (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Williams had seen his playing time drop to a season-low 56% of snaps back in Week 9 and looked like maybe he was losing his grasp on a 3-down role. He made some huge plays last week while seeing 75% of the snaps, however, and followed that up with 82% this week. While Williams does struggle in coverage, he excels as a blitz option and now has 3.5 sacks in his last 5 games.
CB Jalen Ramsey, JAX (8 solos, 2 INT, 3 PD)
Ramsey hasn’t always played up to the dominant standard he set for himself last year but he’s still clearly one of the elite players at his position. While often matched up against Antonio Brown this week, he did just about all he could to secure the win while piling up 8 solo tackles and a pair of interceptions. A.J. Bouye also returned to action this week after sitting out a couple games, which could help push more targets to Ramsey.
TAMPA BAY @ N.Y. GIANTS
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, TB (4 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
After two very disappointing weeks that saw him credited with just a pair of assisted tackles, Pierre-Paul bounced back with a huge game against the Giants. This is his third game of the year with more than 1 sack and he’s now just a half sack away from posting the third double-digit sack season of his 9-year career.
LB Alec Ogletree, NYG (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Ogletree hasn’t been nearly as productive with the Giants as he was during his time with the Rams, but he’s still playing at a 75-solo tackle pace. Although he missed a game, he has not missed a single snap in any other game he’s played this year so that type of playing time should lead to more weeks like this one.
LB Olivier Vernon, NYG (0 tackles)
The Giants expected to get more of a boost from their top pass rusher after he posted a sack in his first game of the year back in Week 6. Since then, he’s often topped 80% of the defensive snaps but has just 4 solos, 1 assist, and 0 sacks in his last 4 games.
HOUSTON @ WASHINGTON
LB Mason Foster, WAS (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FR)
Foster has been remarkably consistent all year to the point that he still produced at least 5 combined tackles in his lowest output games of the year. He’s emerged as the focal point instead of Zach Brown and is on a pace that could see him get to 100 solo tackles with 29 over his last four games.
S Justin Reid, HOU (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
S Kareem Jackson, HOU (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Earlier this year, injuries forced the Texans to move Kareem Jackson from safety back out to cornerback. That created an opening for the rookie Reid to take over as the team’s starting strong safety. Since that move, both players have been two of the most productive players in the secondary and they have picked it up over the past three games in particular. With a pick-6 this week, Reid has two interceptions in his last three games along with 22 combined tackles (16 solos). Jackson also has 22 combined tackles (19 solos) with a sack and three passes defensed in the same time period.
OAKLAND @ ARIZONA
S Karl Joseph, OAK (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Joseph lost his starting job this year and missed some time to injury so he didn’t start seeing regular playing time until Week 8. He’s averaged nearly 75% of the defensive snaps over the past two games while Erik Harris and Reggie Nelson have seen their playing time reduced. While he may not be in the long-term plans of Jon Gruden, Joseph is still just 25 years old and a former 14th overall pick. It certainly looks like he’s getting an audition and he came through with an interception this week in a rare win.
LB Haason Reddick, KC (3 asst)
Reddick has only missed a handful of snaps the past four games but he has not taken advantage of the opportunity at all. Over that time period, he has been very underwhelming with just 7 solos and 6 assists while averaging over 60 defensive snaps per game. With Deone Bucannon only seeing a fraction of the workload each week, the Cardinals are in desperate need for an upgrade at linebacker this offseason.
DENVER @ L.A. CHARGERS
LB Bradley Chubb, DEN (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
While it appeared early on that Darius Leonard was going to run away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Chubb may have caught up to him at this point. He’s now up to 9 sacks on the season and 7.5 of them have come in just his last 5 games. Chubb is also averaging nearly 4 solo tackles per game and looks like a foundational piece for the Broncos to rebuild their defense around.
CB Chris Harris Jr, DEN (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Harris has long been considered one of the league’s elite shutdown corners and the fact he often works out of the slot typically means his tackle numbers are more consistent than most perimeter corners. The matchup with Keenan Allen this week helped him post a season-high 8 combined tackles and next week he’ll get to take on Antonio Brown and the Steelers so worth a pickup if he’s available.
PHILADELPHIA @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Alex Okafor, NO (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Surprisingly, Okafor is the only member of the Saints defense that has played every snap the past two weeks. The workload was light with 38 and 43 snaps but when the starters were rested late in blowouts, he kept getting chances to pad his stats although his sack this week came late in the first half.
DT Sheldon Rankins, NO (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The Saints offense is doing such a great job holding onto the football that the defense has not had very many snaps each week. That keeps the tackle numbers down across the board but its generally great news for pass rushers. Rankins is a talented interior rusher who is finally starting to reach his potential this year. With a sack this week that helped spark the blowout, he now has 6 on the year and 5 have come in his last 6 games.
LB Jordan Hicks, PHI (5 solos, 2 asst)
Hicks has been one of the year’s biggest fantasy IDP surprises this year but he left the game early this week with a calf injury after not missing a single snap all year. Initial reports listed him as week-to-week so it seems unlikely he’ll be ready to face the Giants in Week 12. Nathan Gerry figures to fill in on base downs with Kamu Grugier-Hill taking on nickel duties.
MINNESOTA @ CHICAGO
DE Akiem Hicks, CHI (6 solos, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 2 QH)
Hicks made a living in the Vikings backfield on Sunday night as he picked up a sack and 5 overall tackles for a loss. He hadn’t recorded a sack since Week 4 but has now played 50+ snaps for three straight games and should be headed for a strong finish with the Lions and Giants coming up next on the schedule.
S Anthony Harris, MIN (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 INT, 3 PD)
The Vikings have rotated through several safeties since Andrew Sendejo went down with an injury, but Harris is clearly emerging as a quality player. He’s been excellent in coverage (only one catch allowed all year), which has probably kept his overall production down but he also made several huge plays on Sunday with a pair of interceptions.
DT Eddie Goldman, CHI (0 tackles)
Don’t overreach to Goldman getting shut out this week as the Vikings only generated 14 rush attempts for 22 yards in the game. He was still on the field for a normal 51% of the snaps but simply didn’t have many opportunities given how ineffective the ground game was for Minnesota.
LB Eric Wilson, MIN (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Wilson has been filling in for an injured Anthony Barr and filled up the stat sheet this week with 7 tackles and the team’s only sack. He has graded out poorly due to some missed tackles and lapses in coverage, however, and figures to head back to the bench when Barr returns next week.