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.
L.A. Chargers @ KANSAS CITY
DE Chris Jones, KC (2 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 8 QH, 1 PD)
Jones has to be one of the biggest breakout surprises on the IDP side of things this season. While he was a 2nd round pick, he was also quite raw and inconsistent. He posted 6.5 sacks in 2017 but got off to a slow start this year with no sacks in his first four games. Since then, he’s dominated with a 10-game sack streak in which he’s posted 14 sacks overall. That basically puts him at the same level as Aaron Donald and he showed why this week with an incredible 2.5 sack game that also saw him credited with 8 quarterback hits.
S Adrian Phillips, LAC (5 solos, 5 asst, 1 QH)
Despite this game being played on Thursday night, the Chargers shortened their bench and relied heavily on their core players. 7 different defenders played all 60 defensive snaps in the game and two more (Melvin Ingram III and Joey Bosa) were over 80% each. With nearly the same group of players out there for the entire game, Phillips played as a 3-down linebacker and he led the team in tackles.
HOUSTON @ N.Y. JETS
DE J.J. Watt, HOU (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
While it was certainly apparent that Watt was back to normal long before this week, it’s reassuring that he’s been able to keep up his level of play this late into the season. He continues to average over 90% of the defensive snaps and now has 14.5 sacks with just 2 games without any sacks over his last 12. With 41 solo tackles, he’s also close to a 50-solo tackle pace and clearly looks like he has more to come for dynasty players.
DE Henry Anderson, NYJ (3 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 4 QH)
Anderson has been a nice pickup for the Jets this year after injuries derailed his career in Indianapolis. After a nice start to the season that saw him collect 2.5 sacks in the first 4 games, he went sackless for 8 straight games before picking up a partial sack last week against the Bills. He took advantage of a favorable matchup this week, however, and piled on 3 sacks against Deshaun Watson. Clearly, he’s not consistent enough to rely on for most fantasy teams, but he’s outperformed Leonard Williams this year and likely done enough to earn himself some money in free agency.
LB Avery Williamson, NYJ (2 solos, 2 asst)
Williamson has been one of the most productive tacklers all season long but he’s seen a noticeable dropoff the past couple weeks with just 6 solos and 3 assists combined. While it may just be a coincidence, the fact it aligns with the suspension to Darron Lee may be a sign that he’s seeing more attention from opposing blockers.
CLEVELAND @ DENVER
DE Adam Gotsis, DEN (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
The third-year pro had likely his best game as a pro this week with 6 tackles and a strip sack as well as a pass deflection. He’s likely been the most effective defensive lineman for the Broncos over the past month, although it hasn’t always shown up in the box score as much as it did this week.
S Jabrill Peppers, CLE (6 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
While he hasn’t been the playmaker many expected him to be thus far, Peppers came up huge this week. He stopped a touchdown with an interception in the first half and then added his first career sack to seal the win on 4th down late in the game. This is a good sign for his development and suggests he may be ready for a breakout season in 2019.
ARIZONA @ ATLANTA
DE Vic Beasley Jr, ATL (3 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 2 PD)
Despite heavy playing time earlier this year, Beasley only managed to collect 1 sack over his first 9 games. With just 5 solo tackles in that same span, he was pretty much worthless from a fantasy perspective and was likely cut in most leagues. Over his last 5 games, however, he’s shown signs of life with 10 solo tackles and 4 sacks plus a fumble recovery touchdown and several passes defended.
DT Grady Jarrett, ATL (4 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Jarrett topped out at 4 sacks in each of the past two years but is one of those players who clearly has some untapped potential. He flashed it several times this year and took full advantage of the matchup this week as he led the Falcons in tackles while also adding a pair of sacks. That gives him 6 sacks in his last 8 games, but he also has 10 solos with 6 assists and 3 forced fumbles over his last 3 games.
DE Chandler Jones, ARI (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Jones has been close to an elite defensive end all season long after posting 12 sacks in his first 12 games, but he picked a poor time to go cold. Over his last two games, which are fantasy playoff weeks for most leagues, he’s been credited with just 2 solo tackles and 1 assist with no sacks.
CB David Amerson, ARI (1 solo)
Amerson was a viable fantasy starter since replacing Ben Benwikere in the lineup a few weeks ago, but he only lasted 6 snaps this week. He was forced to leave the game early with concussion symptoms and was replaced by Brandon Williams. The Cardinals have a solid matchup against the Rams next week but it will be difficult to rely on Amerson after this, assuming he clears the concussion protocol and is able to play.
TAMPA BAY @ BALTIMORE
DT Vita Vea, TB (6 solos, 3 asst)
Vea was taken 12th overall in the draft this year but got off to a slow start after missing most of training camp and the first several games with an injury. He’s started to show more consistent production and has played about 80% of the snaps over the last two games. With a matchup looming against the Cowboys, he should be in line for another productive start next week.
LB Lavonte David, TB (10 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FR)
David continues to post elite numbers since returning from injury in week 13. Over his last 3 games, he has been credited with 28 solo tackles and 6 assists with 3 sacks and a fumble recovery. Tampa Bay was without Adarius Taylor at middle linebacker this week as he stayed home with his wife for the birth of their child. Riley Bullough replaced him and posted 8 tackles (4 solos) on 63 snaps (82%).
LB Terrell Suggs, BAL (0 tackles)
Suggs was shut out on the stat sheet for the first time all season, but he still played 80% of the snaps. The biggest problem was a limited number of opportunities as the Ravens controlled the game with their running attack and limited Tampa to just 50 offensive snaps with 35 tackle opportunities. Suggs has remained effective with 7 sacks on the season, but he’s also 36 years old and has just 1.5 sacks over his last 7 games so he could be nearing the end of a great career.
DETROIT @ BUFFALO
LB Jarrad Davis, DET (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Davis was a disappointment for much of the season but he has turned things around the past two weeks. During that span, he has 13 solos and 4 assists plus a sack. With 5 sacks on the season, he’s proven to be a capable blitzer but still needs further improvement in coverage and against the run to become the defensive anchor he was drafted to be.
LB Lorenzo Alexander, BUF (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Alexander has been very effective rushing the passer this year and has a team-high 6.5 sacks despite playing far less than a full-time role. With the injury to Matt Milano, however, he took over as a nickel linebacker this week and saw his playing time spike to 53 snaps (93%). At 35 years of age, Alexander has been one of the team’s best players and has likely done enough to earn himself another contract in the offseason.
DE Jerry Hughes, BUF (0 tackles)
Hughes has had a great season and dominated early on with 3.5 sacks and plenty of pressures over his first 6 games. He’s cooled off since then, however, and has just 1.5 sacks over his last 8 games and none in his last 3. With Tom Brady and the Patriots coming up next on the schedule, he seems headed for a very quiet finish to the season.
GREEN BAY @ CHICAGO
LB Leonard Floyd, CHI (6 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
This is the type of game we had been waiting to see from Floyd all year long. After failing to record a single sack in his first 8 games of the season, he’s now recorded 4 in his last 6 games. Playing time has not been an issue, but the presence of Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks should continue to leave him with favorable matchups. If he heats up and starts playing to his potential, this defense could really be scary for opposing quarterbacks.
S Josh Jones, GB (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Jones has played more than 80% of the defensive snaps since week 9 and his production has been remarkably consistent. While he hasn’t made many big plays (1 sack), he has been a reliable source of tackles with 4 or 5 solo stops in 6 of 7 starts. The 2nd year pro should have a clear line to a full-time starting job as the strong safety next year and could be a prime breakout candidate. The Packers played the majority of the game this week in a dime package, which gave Jones plenty of chances to play close to the line of scrimmage.
OAKLAND @ CINCINNATI
DE Sam Hubbard, CIN (2 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Hubbard clearly looks like a player on the rise after posting 2 more sacks this week to give him 5 over his last 7 games. The rookie has seen his playing time hover closer to 40% of the defensive snaps in most weeks but he saw a bump up to 61% this week and took advantage. While things haven’t gone well for the Bengals, they do appear to have hit on several strong rookie picks like Hubbard and safety Jessie Bates III.
DT Geno Atkins, CIN (5 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 4 TFL, 3 QH)
Atkins had been extremely quiet of late with just 1 solo and 3 assists in his previous 3 games before exploding for 3 sacks against the Raiders this week. That brings him up to 10 sacks on the year but 7 of them have come in just 3 games so a lack of consistency has been a problem for him this year. He clearly still remains one of the most effective interior pass rushers in the league and will remain a high-end fantasy defensive tackle in 2019.
LB Tahir Whitehead, OAK (1 solo, 3 asst)
Whitehead has been one of the most consistent fantasy linebackers all year but his stat line this week is a clear disappointment. The Bengals ran the ball 41 times in the game and generated 56 tackle opportunities but he could only muster 1 solo stop and 4 tackles overall, which ranked him tied for 6th on his team despite being one of only two Raiders defenders to play all 80 snaps.
DALLAS @ INDIANAPOLIS
DE Tyquan Lewis, IND (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The rookie pass rusher had a promising debut in week 10 but didn’t really build on it and had gone 5 straight games without a sack. The floodgates opened for him this week, however, as he recorded the first two sacks of his career. He’s played close to 70% of the snaps since coming off injured reserve and still looks like a nice dynasty stash.
DE Taco Charlton, DAL (DNP)
Charlton was a first round pick last year who played a high percentage of defensive snaps for the first month of the season. Then he suffered a shoulder injury and missed a few games, which coincided with the Cowboys going on a winning streak. He returned to face the Saints in week 13 but only saw 4 snaps and has been a healthy scratch in the two weeks since then. Doesn’t look like he’s currently part of the team’s plans for whatever reason.
WASHINGTON @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Ryan Kerrigan, WAS (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Kerrigan had a very slow start to the season with 1 sack in his first 5 games, but he’s turned it way up since then. With 2 sacks this week, he’s now posted 10 sacks over his last 9 games. While his tackle numbers have fallen off from where they were earlier in his career, he remains one of the most consistent sack producers in the league with 7.5 or more in 8 straight seasons.
S Ronnie Harrison, JAX (0 tackles)
Harrison only lasted 2 snaps this week before suffering a knee injury that forced the team to place him on injured reserve. They also recently waived Barry Church, which left them shorthanded at safety. Jarrod Wilson replaced him this week but also left with an ankle injury, so their depth has quickly been depleted.
MIAMI @ MINNESOTA
DE Robert Quinn, MIA (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Quinn was likely released by fantasy managers who grew frustrated with him after he posted just 14 solos and 1 sack in his first 9 games. He’s turned things around since then, however, and emerged as a reliable every week starter with a sack in four of his last 5 games.
LB Anthony Barr, MIN (5 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Barr missed a month with a hamstring injury earlier this year but has been much more productive over the last three weeks. He has 16 solo tackles, 3 assists, and 3 sacks in that span and once again looks like a decent LB3 option.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick, MIA (6 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Fitzpatrick has played close to a full-time role for most of the year in Miami despite not having a clear best fit position-wise. He’s worked as a third safety, nickel corner, and outside corner at times and played well at all of them. While his production doesn’t jump out with 45 solos, 28 assists, and 2 interceptions, the potential is clearly there for him to become more of a focal point given that Reshad Jones is 30 years old and set to carry a $17 million cap hit next year.
TENNESSEE @ N.Y. GIANTS
S Kevin Byard, TEN (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Byard was a strong candidate for regression after he posted an NFL-leading 8 interceptions last season. He’s a talented young playmaker though and has 3 interceptions on the year with a pair of sacks over his last two games.
LB B.J. Goodson, NYG (9 solos, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Don’t overreact to the stat line for Goodson this week. While he was impressive and posted 9 solo tackles on just 46 snaps, the fact he only played 66% of the defensive snaps suggests he’s not likely to repeat this performance in the weeks ahead. He normally plays even less than less but likely got a boost due to the matchup as the team tried to slow down Derrick Henry on his way to a 33-carry, 170-yard day.
S Kenny Vaccaro, TEN (0 tackles)
While he’s mostly been a productive player for the Titans this year, he hasn’t exactly risen to a must-start player like he was during parts of his Saints tenure. In any event, he came into this week’s game with just 4 solos, 2 assists, and 2 passes defensed over his last two games and then had to leave the Giants matchup after just 11 snaps with a concussion.
SEATTLE @ SAN FRANCISCO
DT DeForest Buckner, SF (7 solos, 4 asst, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 3 QH)
With a huge game this week, Buckner continued a pretty incredible run over the past month. Since the 49ers had a late bye in week 11, he’s come back and put up 18 solos, 8 assists, plus 5 sacks in his last 4 games. He came into the year as the top-ranked defensive tackle and looks like he’ll probably finish that way if he can hold off Damon Harrison over the next two weeks.
LB Elijah Lee, SF (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Lee was given the start at weakside linebacker over Malcolm Smith for the second week in a row and performed well with 10 combined tackles on 75 snaps (100%). With Reuben Foster released and Malcolm Smith seemingly falling out of favor, Lee certainly has a chance to claim a starting job in 2019 with a strong finish.
LB Austin Calitro, SEA (6 solos, 2 asst)
With Mychal Kendricks placed on I.R. with a broken leg right after he returned from a suspension, Calitro returned to a full-time role this week. He played 53 snaps (85%) and registered a team-high 8 tackles to give him 18 combined tackles in his last two games with significant playing time. The rookie has been pretty efficient with 31 solos and 13 assists on just 284 snaps for a tackle rate of 15.5%.
CB Akhello Witherspoon, SF (1 asst)
Witherspoon left the game early after just 6 snaps this week with a knee injury that was later revealed to be a PCL sprain. He was placed on injured reserve on Monday, thus ending his season and will be replaced in the lineup by Tarvarius Moore who posted 7 tackles and 2 passes defensed on 67 snaps.
NEW ENGLAND @ PITTSBURGH
CB Joe Haden, PIT (8 solos, 4 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
While his fantasy value hasn’t reached the peaks from early in his career when he used to post 50+ solo tackles, 3+ interceptions, and 20 passes defensed with some regularity, Haden enjoyed a bounce-back season this year. He’s emerged as the clear #1 cornerback for the Steelers and regularly takes on the opposing team’s best receiver. He was extremely active this week while often matched up against Julian Edelman and that led to a strong 12 tackle game plus an impressive leaping interception in the fourth quarter.
LB L.J. Fort, PIT (0 tackles)
Fort had played 83% and 79% of the defensive snaps over the past two weeks so it looked like he had a solid grasp on a 3-down role. In a big matchup with the Patriots, however, he went back to being a reserve with just 3 snaps while Jon Bostic saw just 15 (24%). Safety Morgan Burnett saw the biggest increase in workload with 77% of the snaps and his highest since week 2. That may have been part of their plan to slow down Rob Gronkowski, which worked since he was held to just 2 catches for 21 yards.
PHILADELPHIA @ L.A. RAMS
S John Johnson III, LAR (11 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
This has been an impressive breakout season for Johnson and he has seen a drastic rise in his production as the Rams offense has started to show signs of struggling. Over the past four games, which includes the Chiefs game in week 11, Johnson has been credited with 35 solo tackles, 8 assists, plus an interception. With Mark Barron struggling for much of the year, Johnson has helped pick up the slack.
CB Rasul Douglas, PHI (11 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
A rash of injuries at the position has forced Douglas into a full-time role. Over the last three weeks, he has played every defensive snap and has been credited with 26 solo tackles, 4 assists, and an interception. Look for him to be tested regularly again next week in a matchup with DeAndre Hopkins and the Texans.