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 @ CHICAGO
LB Preston Smith, GB (2 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 PD)
LB Za'Darius Smith, GB (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
The Packers made a big splash in free agency when they signed both edge rushers to contracts that combined for $118 million with $36 million guaranteed. Neither was projected to have a big fantasy impact in balanced scoring leagues this year due to a lack of tackle opportunities, but their debut showing suggests otherwise. Each of them was on the field for at least 92% of the defensive snaps in the game with Preston playing a remarkable 72 of 73 snaps in the game, and they combined for 8 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 6 quarterback hits.
LB Leonard Floyd, CHI (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Khalil Mack gets most of the attention and deservedly so, but Leonard Floyd is another former 1st round pick who may be ready to finally reach his potential as an impact pass rusher. After showing improvement as a run defender last year, he put together a strong training camp and got the year off to a great start with a pair of sacks while playing just 3 fewer snaps than Mack. The Bears don’t have a lot of depth behind him so he should continue to see a heavy workload in the weeks to come.
CB Kevin King, GB (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
King missed the entire preseason while dealing with a hamstring injury but he returned to practice just in time to suit up in the opener. While he only saw 42 snaps (58%) in the game, he made his presence felt with 5 solo tackles plus a sack and a near-interception. Tramon Williams got the start at cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander, but he’s 36 years old and better suited to more of a limited role so King should be able to take his spot when fully healthy.
LOS ANGELES RAMS @ CAROLINA
LB Cory Littleton, LAR (8 solos, 6 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Littleton came into the year as a clear top-10 fantasy linebacker after posting 90+ solo tackles, 4 sacks, and 3 interceptions a year ago. There may have been some concern over whether the former undrafted player would be able to replicate those numbers, but we can likely put those behind us after seeing what he did in week 1. Littleton was all over the field and finished with 14 tackles out of 48 non-sack tackle opportunities while also generating two turnovers. The preseason injury to Micah Kiser also leaves very little depth behind Littleton at inside linebacker as special teamer Bryce Hager got the start but saw just 25 snaps (37%).
CB James Bradberry, CAR (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Bradberry has been a reliable fantasy option over the past several years due to above-average tackle numbers but he’s been held back by a lack of big plays. In three combined seasons as a starter, he has collected just 5 interceptions (with 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles) despite often matching up against the primary target for the opposing team. With two big plays in week 1, however, perhaps the shift to a more aggressive 3-4 base at times this year will help boost his playmaking numbers and make him a low-end CB1.
DE Mario Addison, CAR (0 tackles, 1 QH)
Addison has quietly averaged just under 10 sacks/season over the past three years and he appears to be a good fit for the new 3-4 hybrid defense the Panthers are trying to implement. Even though the Panthers were without a key player like Bruce Irvin in the opener, however, Addison saw just 48 snaps (62%) and was nearly invisible on the box score. In comparison, the rookie Brent Burns saw a similar workload and was credited with 2 tackles and 2 QB hits in his debut.
S Eric Weddle, LAR (2 solos, 4 asst)
The 13-year veteran Weddle figures to be a strong addition to the back end of the Rams defense this year, but he was forced to leave the game early this week following a blow to the head. He still finished with 6 combined tackles in just 26 snaps (39%) so there is reason for optimism once he clears the concussion protocol. Meanwhile, rookie Taylor Rapp (3 solos, 4 asst) also made his presence felt as the team’s third safety as he finished with 7 combined tackles on just 32 snaps. He’s too good to remain on the bench and figures to be a key piece of their subpackages even when Weddle is fully healthy.