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.
HOUSTON @ DETROIT
LB Tyrell Adams, HOU (14 solos, 3 asst, 2 FF, 1 PD)
Adams has been a very nice find for fantasy players since taking over for the injured Benardrick McKinney. He nearly doubled fellow inside linebacker Zach Cunningham this week with 17 tackles to 9 and also forced a pair of fumbles. Since entering the lineup in Week 5, he has put up elite numbers at the linebacker position.
CB Desmond Trufant, DET (1 solo, 1 PD)
Trufant has posted strong numbers since returning to the lineup in Week 9, but he left the game this week with a hamstring injury after just 27 snaps (48%). Rookie Jeff Okudah was also out, which forced the Lions to give safety Tracy Walker some reps at cornerback.
WASHINGTON @ DALLAS
DE Randy Gregory, DAL (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Gregory missed all of the 2019 season while serving a suspension related to substance abuse, but has been seeing regular playing time since Week 8. While he had been generating some pressure in prior weeks, he had a breakout game on Thanksgiving with a pair of sacks while playing just 29 snaps (42%). Aldon Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence should continue to handle most of the workload at defensive end, but the trade of Everson Griffen created more opportunities for Gregory to be a pass-rush specialist.
LB Cole Holcomb, WAS (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Holcomb seems to be emerging as the preferred every-down linebacker in Washington. He played 83% of the defensive snaps this week compared to just 64% for Jon Bostic. Washington relied heavily on their defensive line and had five linemen that played more than 50% of the snaps this week. The plan seemed to work as they held Ezekiel Elliott to 32 yards on 10 carries.
LAS VEGAS @ ATLANTA
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, ATL (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF, 2 FR)
Tuioti-Mariner was listed as a third-string defensive end but he played a season-high 73% of the snaps this week and stood out with five tackles plus a strip-sack and two fumble recoveries. This should earn him some more playing time going forward.
LB Nicholas Morrow, LVR (10 solos, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 2 PD)
The Raiders got Cory Littleton back this week from a two-game absence due to Covid, but he played just 58% of the defensive snaps and was limited to base packages. Morrow had played very well while filling in for him the past two weeks and kept his every-down role as a result. He never left the field for the third week in a row and has 20 solos with an interception and five passes defensed in that time.
DT Grady Jarrett, ATL (0 tackles)
Although he was shut out from the box score, Jarrett still played 75% of the defensive snaps, which tied him with Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen for 4th most on the team. The Raiders offense turned the ball over five times and only generated 14 rush attempts in the game so the opportunities were limited.
LA CHARGERS @ BUFFALO
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (7 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 5 QH, 1 FR, 1 PD)
Bosa was a one-man wrecking crew on Sunday as he tormented the Bills despite getting little help from his teammates. He played 85% of the snaps and collected 3 sacks of Josh Allen while also tying for second on the team with 8 tackles and recovering a fumble. Before this week, he was only averaging 2 solo tackles per week but it looks like he’s back in top form with some favorable matchups coming up for the fantasy playoffs.
LB A.J. Klein, BUF (10 solos, 4 asst, 1.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
The emergence of Klein over the past three games has been one of the biggest surprises of the year considering that he was close to being benched for poor performance early on. While Klein can still struggle in coverage, he is making up for it with his play against the run and as a blitzer. Over his past three games, he has played nearly every snap and has been credited with 25 solos, 5 assists, and an incredible 4.5 sacks.
DE Melvin Ingram III, LAC (DNP)
Ingram has not contributed much this year as he’s been plagued by injuries and posted 0 sacks and just 10 tackles in seven games played. He was placed on short-term IR over the weekend with a knee injury and won’t be eligible to return until Week 15 against the Raiders.
LB Denzel Perryman, LAC (2 solos, 2 asst)
Perryman played 93% of the defensive snaps last week due to the absence of Kyzir White, but he lasted just 22 snaps (35%) this week before leaving with a back injury. Nick Vigil replaced him and posted eight tackles plus a forced fumble on 41 snaps (66%). Initial reports on Monday indicated the injury wasn’t serious.
NY GIANTS @ CINCINNATI
CB Logan Ryan, NYG (2 solos, 4 asst, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PD)
Despite changing teams and positions and signing just before the season started, Ryan is on pace to finish with 70+ solo tackles for the second year in a row. While an adjustment period was needed, it looks like he’s starting to get more comfortable as he’s collected 18 combined tackles with two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and an interception over his last three games combined. With favorable matchups coming against the Seahawks and Cardinals, Ryan should finish the year strong and repeat as a top-10 fantasy DB.
LB Kyler Fackrell, NYG (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 QH)
Even though he hasn’t registered a sack since Week 6, Fackrell had regularly played more than 90% of the defensive snaps until this week. He left the game after just 23 snaps (47%) due to a leg injury, but few details as to the severity were released as of Monday. Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin appear next in line for playing time if Fackrell misses time.
TENNESSEE @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Darius Leonard, IND (10 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Leonard had a slight drop in production over the prior two games with just 7 solos (and 8 assists) but he bounced back this week with 10 solos and 14 tackles. He also picked up his second sack in the past five games and looks like a strong consideration for the top-IDP once again. Note that he was helped by a matchup that saw the Titans offense generate 45 rush attempts.
S Kenny Vaccaro, TEN (7 solos, 2 asst)
Vaccaro returned after a one-week absence due to a concussion and led the team in tackles with 9 combined stops. He doesn’t offer a lot of upside in terms of big plays but has been a reliable source of tackles in most games this year and now has 17 tackles over his last two games combined.
LB Will Compton, TEN (2 solos, 1 asst)
Compton started in place of the injured Jayon Brown but rotated evenly with David Long Jr, who looked good while posting three tackles on 36 snaps (49%). As long as this remains a committee, there won’t be much value for either player. Also, note that Rashaan Evans didn’t see a change in his role as he played 81% of the snaps which was comparable to his workload before Brown was injured.
CLEVELAND @ JACKSONVILLE
None. Both offenses ran the ball well and protected the quarterback so the production was right around what would be expected. There were only two sacks and three total quarterback hits in the game with no interceptions so very few big plays were made and that kept the overall fantasy numbers down.
CAROLINA @ MINNESOTA
LB Jeremy Chinn, CAR (7 solos, 6 asst, 1 QH, 1 FF, 2 FR, 2 TD)
The rookie may have vaulted into the lead for defensive rookie of the year with this performance. In addition to posting 13 combined tackles, he added two fumble returns for touchdowns on consecutive plays in the third quarter.
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (2 solos, 1 asst)
Thompson has played nearly every snap for the Panthers this year but continues to underwhelm in terms of his fantasy production. With just 50 solo tackles through 12 games, he’s only on pace to finish with 67 and hasn’t contributed many big plays to help balance things out. This matchup looked great and the Vikings offense generated 24 rush attempts and 60 tackle opportunities but seven different Panthers players finished with more tackles than Thompson.
ARIZONA @ NEW ENGLAND
LB De'Vondre Campbell, ARI (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
One week after worrying that Isaiah Simmons was going to steal his job, Campbell played 96% of the snaps and posted a strong all-around game with six tackles and a sack. Simmons did still see 30% of the snaps in the game and picked up five tackles plus a sack on just 16 snaps, but it didn’t appear to come at the expense of Campbell or Jordan Hicks.
LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, NE (6 solos, 7 asst)
Bentley has been one of the most reliable fantasy players on the Patriots defense this year even though he’s likely more of a placeholder at middle linebacker until they can upgrade the position. He played 82% of the snaps this week and his 13 combined tackles nearly doubled the next highest total on the team (seven by Terez Hall).
S Budda Baker, ARI (2 solos, 2 asst)
Baker remains one of the top IDPs and fantasy safeties in the league but he’s seen a clear drop in his production while often playing at less than full strength. Since averaging eight solo tackles per game over his first 6 games, he has averaged fewer than four solo stops over his last four games.
MIAMI @ NY JETS
DT Quinnen Williams, NYJ (4 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 2 PD, 1 FF)
Last year’s third-overall pick has started to emerge as a strong fantasy option despite the difficult season the Jets are enduring. With a big game this week, he now has five sacks on the year and three have come in his last five games.
CB Xavien Howard, MIA (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Howard posted 4 interceptions in his first 6 games this year but may have gone unclaimed in fantasy leagues due to his low tackle output (eight solos) in that same period. Since the Dolphins' bye in Week 7, however, he’s been on a tear with three interceptions and 19 solos over his last five games.
S Ashtyn Davis, NYJ (2 solos, 1 asst)
One week after collecting 12 tackles against the Chargers, Davis reverted to his normal levels of production with a three-tackle outing. Note that his huge game last week came against an offense that generated 37 pass completions, including 16 to slot receiver Keenan Allen. It was always going to be unlikely that would be replicated in a more normal matchup like this week when the Dolphins generated 25 rush attempts and 24 completions and Davis tied for the 11th-most tackles on his own team.
NEW ORLEANS @ DENVER
DE DeMarcus Walker, DEN (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Walker wasn’t a regular part of the rotation until Week 7, but his two-sack game this week give him 3.5 over his last four games. He’s been playing about 60% of the snaps since Shelby Harris went down with an injury but Harris may be close to returning so he could see a reduction in playing time in the weeks ahead.
DE Trey Hendrickson, NO (0 tackles)
This was an unusual game given the quarterback issues for the Broncos and the Saints defense only faced 35 tackle opportunities on 43 defensive snaps. There were 33 rush attempts but few assists given out so many Saints IDPs had disappointing games. On the year, Hendrickson has 9.5 sacks and 20 tackles so this was a particularly poor matchup for him as he hasn’t been very productive against the run all year.
SAN FRANCISCO @ LA RAMS
LB Troy Reeder, LAR (12 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Reeder once again filled in for an injured Micah Kiser this week and once again put up some huge numbers. Back in Week 5, Reeder played 48 snaps (89%) and posted 11 tackles with 3 sacks. This week, he played 69 snaps (96%) and collected 15 tackles, which were eight more than the next highest player on the Rams. With Kiser on IR, Reeder should hold onto his full-time role with Kenny Young (46%) continuing to play on early downs.
CB Richard Sherman, SF (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Sherman returned to the lineup this week for the first time since suffering a calf injury in Week 1. He provided a big boost to the 49ers defense as he led the team in tackles with seven stops while also adding his first interception of the year. The upcoming matchups look very promising as well with plenty of star receivers that should help keep him busy.
CB Jalen Ramsey, LAR (2 asst, 1 QH)
Ramsey remains one of the best cornerbacks in the league but he’s not a particularly reliable option for fantasy purposes. Through 11 games played this year, he has collected just 25 solo tackles and 6 assists which puts him on pace for just 45 tackles. Despite playing behind Aaron Donald and a potent pass rush, he also has just one interception and three passes defensed on the season thus far.
KANSAS CITY @ TAMPA BAY
DE Frank Clark, KC (1 asst, 1 QH)
Tom Brady is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league to sack so it’s not a huge surprise that Clark came up empty this week despite 41 pass attempts from the Buccaneers offense. It’s becoming more of a common occurrence for Clark, however, as he now has just one sack over his last seven games combined. As a relatively one-dimensional player, he also has just seven solo tackles in those games (with five assists). Given the offense the Chiefs have, seeing him with only four sacks through 11 games is surprising and certainly hurts his value as the fantasy playoffs approach.
LB Damien Wilson, KC (2 asst)
Wilson’s workload has fluctuated throughout the year but he saw a large dropoff from 81% of the snaps last week to just 29% this week. The Chiefs got out to an early lead in this game, which shifted their defensive focus towards defending the pass and that kept Wilson on the bench in favor of an extra defensive back.
CHICAGO @ GREEN BAY
LB Danny Trevathan, CHI (8 solos, 2 asst)
While Trevathan only played 48 snaps (68%) this week, he made the most of them as he finished with 10 tackles in the game to rank second behind nickel back Buster Skrine. Even though Trevathan is no longer a full-time linebacker, he’s remained very productive with at least eight tackles in five of his last seven games.
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (5 asst)
Smith has been a strong LB1 all season long but this was a poor game from him. The Packers offense generated 39 rush attempts and 60 tackle opportunities but Smith was not credited with even a single solo stop despite playing all 71 snaps.
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