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.
CINCINNATI @ CLEVELAND
LB Germaine Pratt, CIN (1 solo, 1 asst)
Even though he was on the field for 43 defensive snaps (74%), Pratt was basically a non-factor in the game. The Browns ran the ball 35 times, but Pratt had difficulty shedding blockers and often took poor angles to the ball. As a result, he was credited with just 2 tackles in the game while middle linebacker Josh Bynes had 8 (with a slightly higher workload).
CB Tavierre Thomas, CLE (9 solos)
Thomas got a chance to play due to some injuries in the Browns secondary and made the most of them. After posting a sack in week 1, he followed it up with a 9-solo tackle effort this week while starting and playing 83% of the snaps. Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson returned to practice on Monday though, so Thomas will likely return to a reserve role.
NY GIANTS @ CHICAGO
CB James Bradberry, NYG (4 solos, 1 INT, 4 PD)
Bradberry has long been among the more productive fantasy corners in the league and he’s proving to be a strong addition to the Giants defense. He was targeted six times in the game but only gave up a single catch for 14 yards. While not known as a playmaker, he came down with an interception and deflected another pass that was picked off and his 6 passes defensed currently lead the league.
LB Danny Trevathan, CHI (1 solo, 1 asst)
Trevathan appears to be losing his grasp on a three-down role. He struggled in week 1 and saw his playing time reduced to just 31 of 65 snaps (48%) this week. Game script played a role as the Bears got out to an early lead, which led to backup safety Deon Bush (38% of snaps) seeing additional work. Trevathan recently signed a 3-year contract extension and is considered a team leader, but his fantasy value may be more matchup-dependent than anticipated.
ATLANTA @ DALLAS
LB Joe Thomas, DAL (6 solos, 6 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
There were times on Sunday where Thomas looked like the best linebacker on the field. Although he’s spent much of his career as a backup to this point, he’s experienced and looks like a perfectly capable fill-in for Leighton Vander Esch (and Sean Lee) as a nickel partner for Jaylon Smith.
DE Demarcus Lawrence, DAL (2 solos, 3 asst)
Lawrence had a productive outing with 5 tackles but they all came in the first half. What’s more concerning is that he played very little in the second half and finished with just 37% of the defensive snaps due to a knee injury. Overall, the Cowboys pass rush has been a disappointment with just 2 sacks on the year and the limited effectiveness from an injured Lawrence is a big reason why.
LB Foye Oluokun, ATL (5 solos, 1 asst, 3 FF)
Oluokun appears poised for a breakout season and he got off to a great start on Sunday with 6 tackles and 3 forced fumbles. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave the game after just 18 snaps (22%) and ruled out with a hamstring injury. It’s not expected to keep him out long term but seems like the type of injury that could linger.
DETROIT @ GREEN BAY
CB Jeff Okudah, DET (7 solos)
After sitting out last week, the rookie certainly didn’t look good in his debut, but that’s not necessarily a bad sign for his fantasy value. He allowed 7 catches on 10 targets for 121 yards, which should encourage opposing quarterbacks to pick on him in the weeks ahead. As the 3rd overall player drafted this year, he’s also very unlikely to be benched anytime soon.
DE Trey Flowers, DET (0 tackles)
Just a week after posting 6 tackles with a sack, Flowers was completely shut out by the Packers offense. He played just 43 of 73 snaps (59%) in the game, which ranked 13th among Lions defenders. The Lions continue to make some very strange choices with playing time as safety Tracy Walker also played just 53% of the snaps in this one.
S Adrian Amos, GB (1 solo, 1 asst)
Amos is a highly regarded safety but he’s gotten off to a slow start this year. Although he’s played nearly every snap, he’s been credited with just 5 combined tackles through two games. He also missed several tackles in this game, which suggests there should be better days ahead if he can clean that up.
MINNESOTA @ INDIANAPOLIS
CB Holton Hill, MIN (7 solos, 1 sack)
The Vikings lost both of their long-term starting cornerbacks in free agency this year and they are seeing the impact of that disruption early on. Holton Hill has taken over as the starter at right cornerback for Xavier Rhodes and has struggled in pass coverage. That bodes well for his fantasy value though as he now has 14 solos and a sack through just two starts.
LB Anthony Barr, MIN (0 tackles)
Barr only lasted 16 snaps (22%) in the game before leaving with an injury that was later revealed to be a torn pectoral muscle. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday, which will create some new opportunities here. Eric Wilson played 92% of the snaps on Sunday while rookie backup Troy Dye (29%) and former Giant Ryan Connelly could also see more playing time going forward.
S Malik Hooker, IND (2 solos)
Hooker has not had much luck with injuries and it looks like he’s suffered another setback to a promising career. He lasted just 20 snaps (37%) this week before suffering a torn Achilles that will bring his 4th year to an end. While his fantasy value has never been great, his presence in the deep secondary makes it easier for players around him to do their jobs. Julian Blackmon (2 solos, 2 PD) replaced him in the lineup and is expected to start going forward.
BUFFALO @ MIAMI
DT Ed Oliver, BUF (4 solos, 1 sack, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Oliver saw a slight drop in playing time this week (48%) but he also left the game temporarily with an injury. While he still lacks the type of consistency and workload you’d expect from a top player, he’s showing signs of progress as he registered a sack, some quarterback hits, and some key stops in run defense.
LB Kyle Van Noy, MIA (4 solos, 1 FF, 1 PD)
After seeing just 64% of the defensive snaps last week, Van Noy was back up to his expected role this week. He ranked third on the team with 58 snap (95%), which was slightly higher than Jerome Baker. The Bills offense had more success moving the ball through the air this week, but both Dolphins linebackers should be solid starting options in most weeks.
CB Nik Needham, MIA (6 solos, 6 asst)
The Dolphins lost their big-ticket free agent signing Byron Jones early in the game to a groin injury. That put more pressure on nickel corner Needham as well as their rookie first round pick Noah Igbinoghene, who were no match for the Bills receivers this week. Given that Jones is unlikely to play on Thursday night against Jacksonville, Needham should be line for another solid game against Gardner Minshew.
SAN FRANCISCO @ NY JETS
DT Quinnen Williams, NYJ (4 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Williams had an underwhelming rookie season a year ago but has was a very high draft pick (3rd overall) for a reason. The talent is there for him to make a huge impact on the interior of the Jets line, despite a lack of help from the players around him. In addition to leading his team in tackles with 7, he also collected a pair of sacks and forced a fumble in an otherwise dismal showing from the Jets.
DE Nick Bosa, SF (0 tackles)
Bosa only lasted 11 snaps (17%) before suffering a torn ACL. That’s a huge loss for this defense and fantasy managers alike. The 49ers also lost Solomon Thomas (ACL) and Dee Ford to injuries in the game and signed Ezekiel Ansah on Monday. While he hasn’t been a picture of health himself, this could be a great spot for him to make an impact as a pass rusher.
CB Emmanuel Moseley, SF (1 solo, 1 asst, 2 PD)
One week after posting 15 combined tackles against DeAndre Hopkins, Mosely was due for a huge regression against a much worse matchup. As with most corners outside of a few elites, his value will rise and fall based on the matchup, although he could see a boost in targets once Richard Sherman returns to the lineup.
LA RAMS @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Micah Kiser, LAR (11 solos, 5 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
It’s obviously very early but the Rams appear to have found their replacement for Cory Littleton in the form of Micah Kiser. He picked up 7 tackles a week ago and added 16 more this week along with a forced fumble. Those 16 tackles came in a game where the Eagles offense generated 26 rush attempts and 52 tackle opportunities, which meant Kiser was involved in nearly one out of every three.
LB Duke Riley, PHI (0 tackles)
The Eagles have one of the weakest groups of linebackers in the league. Although Riley wasn’t in the starting lineup, he still played 49 of 69 snaps (71%) for a unit that faced 39 rushing attempts. To come out of the game with exactly zero credited tackles is a major concern. Nathan Gerry (3 solos, 4 asst) played every snap but also looked overmatched against the run and in coverage.
S Taylor Rapp, LAR (4 solos)
Rapp finished with 4 solo tackles but 2 of them came on special teams. It appears the 2019 second-round pick has lost his starting free safety job to rookie Jordan Fuller. Rapp has seen just 32 snaps combined over the first two weeks while Fuller (a rookie taken in the 6th round out of Ohio State) has 17 tackles, including 10 solo stops while playing every defensive snap.
DENVER @ PITTSBURGH
S Justin Simmons, DEN (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Simmons is playing on a franchise tag after the two sides could not agree on a long-term contract and looking to prove he deserves a long-term contract. He was very active against the Steelers this week as he tied for the game-high in tackles with 8 while also adding an interception of Ben Roethlisberger. While he doesn’t rank among the elites at the safety position, he’s not too far off after averaging just under 100 combined tackles the past two years.
CB Mike Hilton, PIT (8 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FR, 1 PD)
Hilton is the Steelers nickel corner so he doesn’t quite play a full-time role but his snaps tend to be more productive as he’s closer to the action than the outside corners. He is a smaller player so can be picked on in coverage at times, but that leads to more tackle opportunities for him as we saw this week when he was credited with 8 solo stops. What helps set him apart, however, are the blitz opportunities he gets as he just picked up his second sack in two games and had 4 back in 2017 as a rookie.
LB Bradley Chubb, DEN (3 solos, 1 TFL)
Through two games, Chubb has 3 solo tackles and 2 QB hits, which seems far below what’s expected of a player of his caliber. The absence of Von Miller figures to make things much more difficult as offenses will be able to focus more of their blocking attention on him.
CAROLINA @ TAMPA BAY
S Antoine Winfield Jr, TB (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
While Jordan Whitehead is a good box safety and entrenched as the team’s strong safety, Winfield may wind up being more productive. He’s a versatile player in the same mold as Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker, who can be effective in coverage or as an extra tackler in run support. He was all over the field this week as he generated 11 tackles with a sack and forced fumble.
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (1 solo, 2 asst)
With the retirement of Luke Kuechly, Thompson should be the clear standout linebacker on this team but he often leaves you underwhelmed as he did this week. He played all 61 defensive snaps and was credited with just 3 tackles in a game where Tampa ran the ball 22 times and generated 45 tackle opportunities. Part of the problem is Tahir Whitehead is a much more inviting target in coverage, but he also needs to be better in run support.
JACKSONVILLE @ TENNESSEE
S Kenny Vaccaro, TEN (10 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 2 PD)
Despite his first-round pedigree and 7-year career as a starter, Vaccaro has often fallen just outside the range of reliable weekly starters at safety. Since his career year back in 2015 when he posted 70+ solo tackles and 3 sacks with the Saints, he’s hovered at or below the 50-solo mark. With a huge game on Sunday, however, he’s off to a great start this year and ranks as a top-5 safety with some favorable matchups ahead.
DE Josh Allen, JAX (2 QH)
Allen remains a very promising young talent but the Jaguars have gutted the team around him and thus limited his fantasy potential in the short-term. In addition to losing players like Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue up front, they also parted with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in the secondary. Allen may be playing through an injury but he has just 2 tackles with no sacks on 90 snaps to start the season.
WASHINGTON @ ARIZONA
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, WAS (10 solos, 5 asst, 1 FF)
It was likely that somebody would emerge at linebacker on this team but wasn’t clear in camp who that would be. After this week, however, it seems we may have a clear answer. Pierre-Louis has bounced around the league and is on his fifth team in the last 5 years but he stood out in a big way this week. He played 75 of 77 snaps (97%) and outpaced fellow nickel linebacker Jon Bostic 15 tackles to 7.
CB Byron Murphy, ARI (1 solo)
Murphy posted 66 solo tackles as a rookie last year and seemed likely to repeat as a top fantasy corner this year playing opposite Patrick Peterson. He’s off to a very slow start with just 3 combined tackles this year, including a single solo stop this week. In his defense, the matchups have been rough as the 49ers only completed 19 passes last week with just 4 to wide receivers and this week Washington also completed just 19 passes but only 6 went to receivers other than McLaurin (who was shadowed by Peterson).
BALTIMORE @ HOUSTON
CB Marlon Humphrey, BAL (6 solos, 1 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Marcus Peters is such a great playmaker that many quarterbacks might hesitate to throw in his direction, which could force them to throw more often at Humphrey. That’s not a great alternative though as he picked off a pass in week 1 and followed that up this week with a half-sack and a forced fumble, which was picked up and returned for a touchdown. Nickel corner Tavon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the game this week, which will likely result in Humphrey seeing more time in the slot and give him even more playmaking opportunities.
LB Matt Judon, BAL (1 asst, 1 QH)
Judon has averaged 9 sacks/year over the past three seasons and has been one of the most effective strongside 3-4 outside linebackers in the game. Through two games this year, however, he’s yet to show much and also seems to be playing less than he’s accustomed to. Last year, he often played closer to 80% of the defensive snaps while he’s seen just 60% of the defensive snaps through the first two games this year. If that heavy rotation continues, he could have a hard time remaining a viable choice in anything outside of big-play scoring systems.
KANSAS CITY @ LA CHARGERS
LB Kyzir White, LAC (5 solos, 4 asst, 1 QH)
White only saw 7 defensive snaps in week 1 but he was in the starting lineup this week and was one of just three Chargers defenders to play all 77 snaps in the game. He led the way with rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray (83%) and the two combined for 19 combined tackles in the game as the Chargers gave the Chiefs all they could handle.
DE Frank Clark, KC (1 solo, 1 asst)
Clark picked up a sack in the season opener last week but saw his workload limited this week due to illness. He wound up playing just 36 of 83 snaps (43%) and likely at less than full strength.
NEW ENGLAND @ SEATTLE
DE John Simon, NE (5 solos, 3 asst)
Simon is one of the only proven veteran edge rushers the Patriots have this year and he’s being relied upon heavily as a result. He played 89% of the defensive snaps this week while Chase Winovich (1 solo, 2 asst, .5 sack) saw 75% and the next highest was Deatrich Wise Jr at 32%. If that keeps up, Simon and Winovich could both be reliable low-end starters at the defensive end position.
S Ugo Amadi, SEA (8 solos, 1 TFL)
Amadi was supposed to be the nickel back in Seattle this year but was beaten out by Marquise Blair, who suffered a knee injury early in the game this week that will end his season prematurely. That should create an opening for Amadi to see regular playing time and he looked up for it on Sunday night as he finished with 8 solo tackles on 47 snaps (65%). Quandre Diggs also left early due to an ejection and was replaced by Lano Hill.
LB Bruce Irvin, SEA (2 solos, 1 QH)
Irvin was lining up as the team’s strongside linebacker on early downs and then shifting to a pass-rushing defensive end in nickel packages. He was seeing close to 80% of the defensive snaps through the first two games and seemed headed for a productive season. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury late in the game that will likely create an opening for rookie first-round pick Jordyn Brooks.
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