This article will try to highlight players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected. 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. 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 and trade decisions. If you have any questions on specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter. (Note: There's a summary at the end of the article that lists all players mentioned).
DENVER @ KANSAS CITY
LB DeMarcus Ware, DEN (4 solos, 1 sack, 4 QH)
More was probably expected from Ware a year ago, but he still posted 10 sacks in his first year with the Broncos. Under new coordinator Wade Phillips, he’s off to a great start with a sack in each of his first two games. With Von Miller in top form as well, Ware should remain a very productive option in big play scoring systems.
CB Marcus Peters, KC (5 solos, 1 INT, 4 PD, 1 TD)
The rookie corner rule is in effect in Kansas City this year. Peters had another huge game this week as he was matched up primarily with Demaryius Thomas and came away with 5 solos, 4 passes defensed, as well as a 55-yard interception return. He’s probably the early leader for defensive rookie of the year.
S Eric Berry, KC (4 solos)
The numbers Berry put up this week were not remarkable, but what is more significant is the fact he returned to the starting lineup at free safety over Husain Abdullah. He was diagnosed with cancer in early December 2014, so it’s impressive that he was able to return so quickly and also reassuring that he managed to play the entire game.
CB Bradley Roby, DEN (1 FR, 1 TD)
Roby was a 1st round pick a year ago, and there was some speculation that the Broncos would move him to free safety to get him on the field as much as possible. Darian Stewart has held down that job, however, so Roby is currently playing as the team’s nickel corner. Although the matchups have not been favorable, he has only seen about half the snaps in each. He did have a fumble recovery touchdown this week, but has just 1 assist and no solo stops through 2 games.
NEW ENGLAND @ BUFFALO
DE Chandler Jones, NE (5 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 4 QH)
Jones didn’t emerge as expected a year ago when he was held to just 6 sacks in 10 games despite having an elite secondary to back him up. The secondary is weakened this year, but he showed it may not matter much as he dominated the Bills offensive line with a 3-sack performance. The Patriots are running more 4-3 fronts these days and Jones is playing just about every snap, which should result in a top-5 finish at the position.
CB Malcolm Butler, NE (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The Patriots secondary was depleted over the offseason, and that left Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler as their default #1 corner. He did not have a strong outing against the Steelers in week 1, but you have to expect that he will see plenty of targets each week given how productive the Patriots offense is. Butler bounced back a bit this week with 6 tackles and a diving interception in a win over the Bills, and he should remain a reliable fantasy starter going forward.
S Corey Graham, BUF (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH, 1 FR)
Graham was knocked out of the season opener on the very first play with a concussion. He returned to the starting lineup this week and posted an impressive 10 tackle game along with a QB hit and fumble recovery. The Patriots did have 38 pass completions in the game, so don’t expect these huge numbers regularly but he could be a decent option in deeper leagues.
S Aaron Williams, BUF (3 solos, 1 PD)
In a scary moment late in the game, Williams suffered a head and/or neck injury and was taken off the field in an ambulance. Thankfully, he apparently had full movement and was released from the hospital late on Sunday, but monitor the situation this week to see if he’ll be able to return to the lineup next week.
HOUSTON @ CAROLINA
LB Thomas Davis, CAR (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
With Luke Kuechly sitting out this week while recovering from a concussion, it was Davis who carried the load. He now has 13 solo tackles and 3 assists on the season to go along with an interception and sack that he picked up a week ago. He posted more tackles this week than the other two starting linebackers (A.J. Klein and Shaq Thompson) combined.
CB Charles Tillman, CAR (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Tillman’s days as an elite fantasy corner are likely over, as he is no longer playing in the same fantasy-friendly Tampa 2 scheme. Despite having a shutdown corner in Josh Norman playing opposite him, he still doesn’t seem to be getting enough targets to be relied upon. The Panthers also have a strong LB group, which figures to limit his responsibilities in run support and keep his tackles low.
ARIZONA @ CHICAGO
S Tony Jefferson, ARI (9 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
The Cardinals continue to find ways to use all 4 of their safeties each week, and it was Jefferson who stood out the most this week. His 9 solo stops in the game were 3 more than any other player, and he also contributed a touchdown on a 26-yard interception return of Jay Cutler.
CB Kyle Fuller, CHI (1 solo)
Fuller was a 1st round pick who showed great promise a year ago, but he has regressed and was benched during the game this week in favor of Terrance Mitchell. Fuller was flagged for a 42-yard pass interference penalty early in the game, and could not help the Bears contain Larry Fitzgerald who exploded for 3 touchdowns.
SAN DIEGO @ CINCINNATI
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (3 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 QH)
Dunlap has long been considered a breakout player but he hasn’t been able to take the final step. As a pass rusher, he has the talent to finish among the league leaders in sacks, but the 8.5 sacks he posted in 2014 were a career high. Through 2 games, he’s already up to 2.5 sacks and it appears he could finally be headed for a top-10 finish.
LB Manti Te’o, SD (5 solos, 5 asst, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Te’o appears to have an everydown role for the Chargers this year, and that alone should help him post LB3 type numbers. He still has some flaws that limit his upside, but opportunity is a huge part of IDP value and he’s in a great situation right now.
CB Adam Jones, CIN (7 solos, 2 asst, 2 PD)
After posting 10 solo stops a week ago, Jones showed it wasn’t a fluke with a 9 tackle game this week in a win over the Chargers. The former high draft pick was reduced to a nickel CB job not too long ago, but he looks like a quality starter now and is off to a great start this year.
CB Jason Verrett, SD (1 solo)
Verrett came into the year with high expectations and many thought he could have an Antoine Winfield-type impact at the corner position. He picked up 4 tackles a week ago, but was held to just a single solo stop this week. The Bengals did have just 16 pass completions in the game as they relied heavily on the running game, so it’s very possible he will bounce back when he gets a better matchup.
TENNESSEE @ CLEVELAND
LB Derrick Morgan, TEN (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Morgan came through with his second huge game of the year in a loss to the Browns. He posted 2 sacks a week ago and added another this week on a strip sack of Johnny Manziel. Dick LeBeau has a long history of productive pass rushing OLBs in his 3-4 defense, and it seems his coaching is helping bring out the best from Morgan this year.
LB Armonty Bryant, CLE (3 solos, 3 asst, 2.5 sacks, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Bryant is a former defensive end who made the switch to outside linebacker this year. The early ankle injury to Scott Solomon and disappointing play of Barkevious Mingo has created more opportunity for him, and he took full advantage with a 2.5 sack performance. There’s some pass rushing potential here, but the question is whether he can get enough snaps each week to put it to use.
DE Jurrell Casey, TEN (0 tackles)
Casey has been one of the most consistently productive 3-4 defensive ends in the league. Despite his history, there are still going to be days like this due to the nature of the position he plays. It’s a bit surprising that he was shut out completely, however, when you consider that the Browns had 30 rush attempts in the game.
S Da’Norris Searcy, TEN (2 solos, 1 asst)
The Titans have boasted some very productive players in their secondary over the years, but Searcy has to be one of the bigger disappointments so far. He was productive in a part-time role with the Bills and signed a big contract with the Titans to be their full-time strong safety. It’s only two games, but he has just 5 solos and 2 assists. His tackle opportunities have been limited in both games though, so don’t overreact as things will probably get better.
DETROIT @ MINNESOTA
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH)
Ansah was very raw when he entered the league, but he has been showing steady progress and could be ready for a huge breakout in year 3. He picked up a sack in the opener last week, and then followed it up with another sack this week. The Lions like to use a rotation up front, which limits his snap count but if he can play the run this well every week they are going to want to keep him on the field as much as possible.
S James Ihedigbo, DET (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF)
Ihedigbo had a rough game in week 1 when the Chargers shredded the Lions secondary, but he bounced back with a huge game this week. As one of the better all-around safeties in the league, we can likely expect him to remain a reliable starter and push for a top-5 safety finish.
LB DeAndre Levy, DET (DNP)
Levy has been out of action for a month now, and recently mentioned that it was a hip injury which has been limiting him. He sat out this week and his status for next weekend’s home opener still appears in doubt. The Lions defense has not played very well without him, but it’s tough to know what to expect from him given that he’s missed so much time and may not be 100% healthy when he does return.
LB Chad Greenway, MIN (2 solos)
Greenway got the start on the strongside this week, but saw a huge reduction in snaps because he was not part of the team’s nickel package. So, at this point he appears to be a 2-down linebacker and probably someone you can’t start unless he’s facing a very run-heavy offense (like the 49ers in week 1). The nickel linebackers were Anthony Barr and rookie Eric Kendricks (although Kendricks did not play in the base defense yet).
TAMPA BAY @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Jacquies Smith, TB (3 solos, 3 sacks, 2 FF)
Smith seemed to come out of nowhere a year ago as a pass rush specialist for Tampa, but he has emerged as a full-time player now. After picking up a sack last week, he added 3 more this week along with a pair of forced fumbles. His tackle numbers will probably remain low, as he’s not that strong against the run but he can pile up sacks in bunches if the coverage in the secondary holds up.
LB Hau’oli Kikaha, NO (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Kikaha didn’t draw a ton of attention from IDP folks this offseason despite being drafted in round 2, but he could wind up being one of the most productive rookies of the year. He is playing a near full-time role for the Saints and is likely going to provide a nice complementary pass rusher for Cameron Jordan. Through 2 games, he has already recorded 8 solos, 4 assists, plus a sack and 2 forced fumbles. His value is obviously dependent on your scoring system, but he looks like a nice find for the Saints so far.
S Chris Conte, TB (5 solos, 1 FF, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Conte appears to have the trust of Lovie Smith, who he played under during their time together in Chicago. Although not a very reliable tackler, Conte does tend to be around the ball a lot and he is lining up as the starting strong safety for Tampa. That should lead to plenty of tackle opportunities for him in most weeks, and he showed off some playmaking this week as well so he could be a nice short-term pick up.
DE George Johnson, TB (2 asst)
Johnson had a solid season with the Lions last year in a part-time role, and had his rights traded to Tampa in the offseason. He appeared headed for an increase in production given an expected increase in playing time. Through 2 weeks, however, that hasn’t materialized yet as he has just 1 solo and 2 assists (with a fumble recovery).
CB Brandon Browner, NO (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Browner has been a productive fantasy corner at times during his career, and the Saints signed him to help them defend against some of the league’s bigger receivers. Through 2 weeks though, he doesn’t appear to be off to a great start in his new home. Browner no longer has protection from Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis, takes too many penalties, and the Saints struggles on offense figure to limit his potential.
ATLANTA @ NY GIANTS
DE Vic Beasley Jr, ATL (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
The rookie was expected to make a big impact right away, but you can never be certain until they show it on the field. Beasley did that on Sunday as he helped keep Eli Manning in check with 5 tackles plus a sack and forced fumble. Even if he’s not the strongest run defender, he can more than make up for it with his relentless pressure on opposing QBs.
LB Justin Durant, ATL (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Durant doesn’t play the preferred MLB spot in Atlanta, but he is outplaying Paul Worrilow thus far. Both players are 3-down linebackers, but Durant posted 10 tackles this week compared to just 3 for Worrilow. Durant also has a bit more playmaking upside, so he could end up being the LB to own in Atlanta this year.
DE Damontre Moore, NYG (1 solo)
Moore seemed to have a great opportunity at extensive playing time this year due to the injury suffered by Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s serving primarily as a pass rush specialist which keeps his snap count down, and not having much luck getting to the QB thus far either. Robert Ayers and George Selvie look like better options here.
LB Paul Worrilow, ATL (2 solos, 1 asst)
Worrilow left the game early this week with a calf injury and is considered day-to-day. He’s been very productive at times since joining the starting lineup, but it’s almost been by default because Atlanta had so few quality players in their front 7. Durant has provided some competition this year, and Worrilow’s production could suffer as a result.
SAN FRANCISCO @ PITTSBURGH
LB Ryan Shazier, PIT (11 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Shazier didn’t put up huge numbers as a rookie in 2014 because he missed about half the season to injuries. This year, he is making up for lost time and making everybody take notice. In 74 snaps, he was credited with an amazing 15 tackles along with a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. He left early with a shoulder injury that was not believed to be serious.
CB Antwon Blake, PIT (11 solos, 1 PD)
Blake was victimized badly in an opening night loss to the Patriots, but that can happen to any cornerback. He responded with a physical game against the 49ers this week and was credited with 11 solo tackles. Despite his small size, he is generally a reliable tackler and the Steelers look like they will be involved in a lot of shootouts this year which should give their corners plenty of playmaking opportunities.
The 49ers defense saw very few tackle opportunities in this game, so many of their stats were underwhelming. Similarly, the Steelers defense was on the field for most of the game and their defenders put up some pretty big numbers across the board. Navorro Bowman only wound up with 4 assisted tackles in the game, but it had more to do with the Steelers avoiding him than anything else.
ST LOUIS @ WASHINGTON
LB Alec Ogletree, STL (8 solos, 8 asst)
The Rams do not have a very generous stat crew, which means that they tend to hand out very few assists. The crew in Washington tends to hand out many more, which looks obvious when you see that Ogletree had 8 assists this week and only 11 in 8 home games combined last year. He earned the big numbers this week, but keep this in mind when deciding whether to start him in home vs road games.
LB Perry Riley, WAS (2 solos, 2 asst)
Riley is a quality run stopper at the ILB position, but he can struggle in coverage. He was an everydown player a week ago but only managed 3 tackles against the Dolphins. This week, Riley was forced to leave the game early with a calf injury and finished with just 4 tackles. It used to be that you could start Riley as long as he played at home where the crew was very favorable, but both games so far have been at home and his numbers are underwhelming. Keenan Robinson should remain the most productive tackler in this defense.
MIAMI @ JACKSONVILLE
DE Jared Odrick, JAX (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Odrick was drafted by the Dolphins and allowed to walk in free agency this summer, so the game this week had extra meaning for him. He flashed some potential early in his career with Miami as an interior pass rusher, but the former 1st round pick never quite emerged as a core player there. He’ll provide solid 2-way play for the Jaguars and could probably make a decent DE3 given how many snaps he figures to get this year.
DE Cameron Wake, MIA (0 tackles)
Wake is off to a terrible start this year, with 0 tackles through 2 games. This week, he was limited to just 15 snaps as the coaches kept him on the sideline to rest a hamstring injury for the entire second half. The addition of DT Ndamukong Suh was expected to elevate the entire defense, and particularly someone like Wake, but it looks like he will need to get healthy before he can really take advantage.
BALTIMORE @ OAKLAND
LB Curtis Lofton, OAK (7 solos, 6 asst, 1 FR)
Lofton’s value dropped coming into the season as he was not part of the Raiders nickel package in preseason and thus appeared headed for a 2-down role. This week, the Raiders kept him on the field in their subpackages while sitting Ray-Ray Armstrong and his production soared. Coverage has never been a strength for Lofton, but if he can stay in the nickel defense he could put up LB2 numbers.
LB Courtney Upshaw, BAL (1 solo, 1 asst)
Upshaw was already headed for more playing time this year, but the injury to Suggs placed even more pressure on him to produce. Unfortunately, he is off to a very slow start and not taking advantage of the added playing time. He has generated almost no pressure as a pass rusher and is also contributing very little against the run.
DALLAS @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Sean Lee, DAL (9 solos, 5 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
It’s clear that Lee can be an elite fantasy linebacker as long as he’s able to stay healthy. He combines great range with a knack for big plays, so the only real knock on him has been his durability. Now that the Cowboys are without their two best players on offense for awhile, that will put even more pressure on the defense to keep them in games and Lee could be headed for a huge season.
LB Jordan Hicks, PHI (7 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF)
With injuries to Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks on Sunday, rookie Jordan Hicks was pressed into action. He responded with a strip sack of Romo that wound up knocking him out for a couple months, and also added 6 more solo tackles in the game. If Alonso and/or Kendricks are out for a length of time, Hicks could join the ILB rotation with DeMeco Ryans who also has some health concerns coming off an Achilles injury last year.
LB Kiko Alonso, PHI (1 solo)
Kiko Alonso only managed to play 17 snaps this week as he left early with a knee injury. Early reports were concerned that he may have torn his ACL, which would obviously be a big blow to the Eagles defense. Alonso is an excellent cover linebacker and still very young, but two missed seasons in a row would be tough to come back from.
SEATTLE @ GREEN BAY
DE Cliff Avril, SEA (2 solos, 1 asst)
There isn’t anything about Avril’s standard stats so far this year that help him stand out, but he has been one of the highest graded defensive ends in the league according to Pro Football Focus. They credited him with 9 QB hurries on 30 pass rushes this week, and last week he had 5 pressures (with 4 hits) on 27 rushes. Anyone generating that type of pressure is going to get to the QB eventually.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, GB (7 solos, 2 asst)
This marked the second week in a row that Clinton-Dix led the Packers in tackles. He’s not playing up in the box very much, but has been surprisingly active in run defense. The Packers are playing Clay Matthews at ILB much of the time, but it still looks like a potential weak spot of their defense and should help both safeties put up big tackle numbers this year.
CB Richard Sherman, SEA (0 tackles)
There were reports that Seattle would allow Sherman to shadow the #1 WR of the opponent each week, but through two games he has just 3 tackles and 1 pass defensed. It certainly looks like QBs are doing what they can to avoid throwing in his direction thus far, which could limit his production quite a bit if the trend continues.
Summary (in alphabetic order)
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET
DE Cliff Avril, SEA
DE Vic Beasley Jr, ATL
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN
DE Chandler Jones, NE
DE Jared Odrick, JAX
DE Jacquies Smith, TB
LB Armonty Bryant, CLE
LB Justin Durant, ATL
LB Thomas Davis, CAR
LB Jordan Hicks, PHI
LB Hau’oli Kikaha, NO
LB Sean Lee, DAL
LB Curtis Lofton, OAK
LB Derrick Morgan, TEN
LB Alec Ogletree, STL
LB Ryan Shazier, PIT
LB Manti Te’o, SD
LB DeMarcus Ware, DEN
S Eric Berry, KC
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, GB
S Chris Conte, TB
S Corey Graham, BUF
S James Ihedigbo, DET
S Tony Jefferson, ARI
CB Antwon Blake, PIT
CB Malcolm Butler, NE
CB Adam Jones, CIN
CB Marcus Peters, KC
DE Jurrell Casey, TEN
DE George Johnson, TB
DE Damontre Moore, NYG
DE Cameron Wake, MIA
LB Kiko Alonso, PHI
LB Chad Greenway, MIN
LB DeAndre Levy, DET
LB Perry Riley, WAS
LB Courtney Upshaw, BAL
LB Paul Worrilow, ATL
S Da’Norris Searcy, TEN
S Aaron Williams, BUF
CB Brandon Browner, NO
CB Kyle Fuller, CHI
CB Bradley Roby, DEN
CB Richard Sherman, SEA
CB Charles Tillman, CAR
CB Jason Verrett, SD
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