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.
WASHINGTON @ NY GIANTS
LB Keenan Robinson, WAS (10 solos, 3 asst)
Robinson has taken over the London Fletcher role here and should have quite a few big tackle games like this ahead of him. He got off to a slower start than expected in part because the defense wasn’t on the field much, but this game seemed to hint that the offense and defense may not be quite as good as they seemed. Perry Riley missed the game, and was replaced by Will Compton who recorded 11 tackles.
LB Uani Unga, NYG (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Unga was expected to lose his role in the defense with the return of Jon Beason, but he may be playing well enough to stick. The Giants like what he brings in coverage so will likely keep him in the team’s nickel packages, and they may also find a home for him in some base packages at strongside linebacker. Plus, Beason isn’t exactly a picture of health so you may want to hold onto Unga a bit longer.
CB DeAngelo Hall, WAS (3 solos, 1 asst)
Hall was forced to leave the game early in the third quarter with a toe injury. Initial reports indicated he would likely miss 3 to 4 weeks, but it could also be longer. He wasn’t quite the same player yet after recovering from an Achilles injury last year, and this setback drops his value even further.
LB Jon Beason, NYG (0 tackles)
Beason got the start at MLB and reportedly didn’t suffer any setbacks, but the team limited him to just 28 snaps in the game. Given the struggles Washington had early in the game, he didn’t get many tackle opportunities but still finished without a tackle. The Giants gave significant playing time to 5 different linebackers in their rotation this week and may use Unga over Beason in the nickel, which could limit him to a 2-down role and cap his upside.
CINCINNATI @ BALTIMORE
DT Brandon Williams, BAL (4 solos, 4 asst)
Williams is an underrated nose tackle, and he’s off to a solid start despite the loss of Haloti Ngata. Through 3 weeks, his snap count has been consistently high and he’s been credited with 11 solo tackles and 5 assists. You’re not going to get much help in the pass rush stats here, but he’s looking like a solid source of tackles for owners who play in DT-required leagues.
S Will Hill, BAL (4 solos, 1 sack, 1QH)
Hill is a talented player who has had an up and down career, but he appears to have found a home in Baltimore. Through 3 games this year, he’s been very consistent with 4 or 5 tackles in each game and he’s also added a sack and interception. The Steelers are next on the schedule and should provide another favorable matchup.
DE Michael Johnson, CIN (1 asst, 1 QH)
Johnson flopped with Tampa Bay and tried to come back home to Cincinnati, but he doesn’t appear to be having any more success. Through 3 games, he has yet to record a sack and has only been credited with 5 tackles.
NEW ORLEANS @ CAROLINA
LB Hau’oli Kikaha, NO (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1QH)
The rookie has played nearly 90% of the defensive snaps for the Saints this year, and has impressed with his all-around game and consistency. Through 3 weeks, he already has 12 solos, 6 assists, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH)
The Panthers took Thompson in the first round this year even though they were already strong at LB. Thompson has seen a steady increase in playing time thus far, and has played well enough to earn a bigger role. The expected return of Luke Kuechly may limit his upside in the short-term, but his cover skills point to a 3-down role eventually while A.J. Klein is the player more likely to return to the bench.
CB Charles Tillman, CAR (6 solos, 3 asst)
Tillman didn’t post great numbers in the first two weeks despite seeing plenty of snaps, but he was very active this week with 9 tackles. Given that Josh Norman is emerging as a shutdown corner on the other side, it stands to reason that Tillman should continue to see plenty of targets each week.
LB Stephone Anthony, NO (3 solos, 2 asst)
The rookie MLB was expected to be one of this year’s breakout candidates from a fantasy perspective, but he is off to a rough start. He’s only missed 1 snap for the Saints so far this year, but his production and play in coverage has been underwhelming thus far. May just be going through some growing pains as he adjusts to a tough position, so don’t write him off yet but expectations can probably be lowered in the short-term.
DE Charles Johnson, CAR (1 asst)
Johnson has become a high sack/low tackle player in recent years, and he’s done little this year to suggest that will change. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave the game early this week with a hamstring injury and has already been ruled out for next week. The Panthers have a bye in week 5 so the earliest he might return is week 6, but the injury sounds rather serious and may limit him even longer.
OAKLAND @ CLEVELAND
LB Khalil Mack, OAK (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Mack has drawn a lot of attention from fantasy owners this offseason regarding his position designation. As a DE, he was projected to be an elite player even though he didn’t post many sacks a year ago. Although he was kept at LB, many were probably wondering why he hadn’t done much in the first two weeks. He showed this week what he’s capable of, however, and you should likely expect plenty more games like from in the future.
S Charles Woodson, OAK (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Woodson suffered a dislocated shoulder in the season opener, but returned the following week to play 81 of 82 snaps. For a 39 year old player, he is holding up remarkably well and showing that he can still be a very productive fantasy safety.
LB Paul Kruger, CLE (2 asst)
Kruger has been a streaky player, but he posted 12 sacks with the Browns a year ago and seemed headed for another productive season. Through 3 games, however, he’s only managed half of a sack and just 3 solo tackles. Given the high number of snaps he’s playing each week, this is definitely cause for some concern as he had some pretty favorable matchups already (Jets, Titans, Raiders).
ATLANTA @ DALLAS
S William Moore, ATL (4 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Moore has been playing up near the line of scrimmage very often this year, which gives him plenty of chances to defend the run and boost his tackle stats. He’s also been targeted rather heavily in the passing game, which has helped contribute to his 2 interceptions thus far. As long as he stays healthy, he’s likely to wind up as a top-12 safety this year.
CB Desmond Trufant, ATL (2 solos, 1 asst)
Trufant doesn’t warrant a downgrade because of poor play on his part. He’s actually played very well, but as a result he has seen an extremely low number of passes thrown in his direction. Through 3 games, PFF has him with just 7 targets and only 3 catches allowed on those targets. That likely explains why he has just 3 solos and 3 assists with only 1 PD so far. Tough to rely on a fantasy corner who doesn’t get a chance to make plays.
DT Tyrone Crawford, DAL (0 tackles)
Crawford was recently signed to a huge contract that made him one of the highest paid players in the league at his position. Since posting 5 tackles and a sack in the opener, however, he has disappeared with 0 tackles and very little pressure over the last two games. Given the struggles the Falcons have had up front, it was particularly disappointing to see him come up empty here while Devonta Freeman ran wild.
TAMPA BAY @ HOUSTON
LB Kwon Alexander, TB (5 solos, 5 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
The rookie 4th round pick has played all 230 snaps for the Buccaneers on defense this year, and his play is showing signs of improvement as he gets more comfortable. His tackle numbers have gone from 5 to 8 to 10, and he’s also made plays in coverage with 4 passes defensed and an interception.
S Quintin Demps, HOU (4 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Demps emerged from training camp as the starting strong safety for the Texans and that opportunity alone should make him a viable fantasy starter. He’s not a highly regarded player and has bounced around the league a bit over his 8 seasons, but he can produce when given a chance. Through 3 games, he’s posted 10 solos, 7 assists, with an interception, and half a sack.
CB Johnthan Banks, TB (2 asst)
Banks was a high pick a couple years ago and put up some solid numbers during his first two years as a starter. This year has gotten off to a rough start, however, as he’s managed just 8 combined tackles through 3 games and left the game this week with a knee injury.
LB Jadeveon Clowney, HOU (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 QH)
The former #1 overall pick saw 95% of the snaps this week so that is a very positive sign, but he could not generate much pressure. He hasn’t been bad, but fantasy owners were probably expecting more given his potential. Through 3 games, he has 6 solos, 2 assists, and no sacks.
LB Whitney Mercilus, HOU (1 solo, 1 asst)
Mercilus is a former 1st round pick who has shown flashes of becoming a productive pass rusher from the OLB spot in Houston. Unfortunately, he has yet to record a sack this year and posted just 1 in his 6 games a year ago. With JJ Watt drawing tons of attention, it’s pretty strange that he can’t find more ways to make an impact.
SAN DIEGO @ MINNESOTA
DE Everson Griffen, MIN (4 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 5 QH, 1 PD)
Griffen was already considered a potential top-5 fantasy DE coming into the season, but he is proving that last year’s performance was no fluke. Through 3 games, he has already posted 2.5 sacks and he might have a chance to improve on last year’s breakout 12 sack total.
LB Donald Butler, SD (1 solo, 3 asst)
Butler is playing a 3-down role for the Chargers, but he just hasn’t been very productive this year and that continues a trend that we saw from him last year as well. Despite facing a Vikings team that ran the ball 31 times, Butler only picked up 4 tackles in the game.
JACKSONVILLE @ NEW ENGLAND
DE Jabaal Sheard, NE (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 QH)
Sheard played 84% of the snaps this week, which was higher than usual because of the way the game played out. Despite playing primarily as a rotational pass rusher, he is seeing as many snaps as some starters at the position and is producing with 6 solo tackles, 2 assists, and 2 sacks. With the Patriots likely to score in bunches, he will get plenty of chances to rush the passer.
LB Paul Posluszny, JAX (14 solos, 4 asst)
Jacksonville’s defense has shown some improvement under Gus Bradley, but they still look like a unit that will be on the field a lot each week. Through 3 games, Posluszny has now posted 29 solo tackles which puts him on pace for 150+. If he can stay healthy, he should have a great chance to lead the league in tackles this year.
DE Chris Clemons, JAX (0 tackles)
Clemons has always been streaky as his fantasy value relies almost entirely on his pass rush ability. Sometimes, he creates pressure and piles up sacks and other times he comes out of a game with no tackles and no pressure. Tom Brady is a tough matchup for any edge rusher, so Clemons will try to rebound next week against Andrew Luck and the Colts leaky offensive line.
LB Dont’a Hightower, NE (1 solo)
Hightower came into the game this week banged up but still managed to play 41 of 57 snaps. He wasn’t nearly as effective as usual, and there weren’t many tackle opportunities given that Jacksonville played with a big deficit in the second half. One bad game isn’t anything to worry about too much and he’ll have next week’s bye to rest up his injured shoulder.
LB Jerod Mayo, NE (1 solo)
Since Mayo doesn’t play regularly in the nickel packages, his snap count has been extremely low this year. It’s a far cry from the days when he was considered a solid LB1 just a few years ago. Through 3 games, he has just 3 solo tackles and 2 assists and he’ll probably need an injury from someone else to change that trend.
S Patrick Chung, NE (2 solos)
Last year, Chung seemed to turn the corner as he saw more playing time and posted better tackle numbers than he had in a long time. The Patriots don’t have great depth in the secondary anymore, but they are still sitting him quite a bit in some of their subpackages since he can struggle in coverage. With 6 solos and 4 assists through 3 games, he’s not a viable fantasy option right now.
PHILADELPHIA @ NY JETS
LB Jordan Hicks, PHI (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FR)
The rookie filled in for Kiko Alonso this week and blew up the box score. The Eagles were also missing Mychal Kendricks, but Hicks played over DeMeco Ryans in the dime package and looks like a very promising buy in both redraft and dynasty leagues.
CB Byron Maxwell, PHI (6 solos, 2 asst)
Maxwell was considered a quality pickup by the Eagles this offseason, but he has been getting abused by whatever WR he faces each week. So, you have a great combination here of a CB who can’t seem to cover anybody and a defense that is on the field a lot each week.
LB Demario Davis, NYJ (6 solos, 7 asst, 1 FR)
Davis had a slow start to the year with just 6 solos and 4 assists in the first two games, but he just needed a game like this to get back on track. The Jets crew tends to be very favorable and credited him with 7 assists, but he will have plenty more games in front of generous crews.
LB Quinton Coples, NYJ (2 solo, 2 asst)
Coples wasn’t in the starting lineup for the Jets this week as they opened in their nickel package against the spread attack of the Eagles. He wound up seeing fewer than 50% of the snaps in the game, and did very little with those plays. Through 3 games, the former 1st round pick has just 2 solos and 4 assists with no sacks.
PITTSBURGH @ ST LOUIS
DE Stephon Tuitt, PIT (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH)
Tuitt is one of the early surprises this year as he has been getting after the QB and now has 2.5 sacks and 10 combined tackles in his last 2 games. Paired up with Cameron Heyward, the Steelers appear to have a strong DE tandem to build around.
S Will Allen, PIT (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Allen has gone from a little used player for most of his career to a strong safety playing just about every snap each week. That’s impressive for a 33 year old player, and he is playing well despite plenty of breakdowns from the guys around him. Through 3 games, Allen has 16 solo tackles with a sack and interception to rank him among the best at his position.
CB Janoris Jenkins, STL (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Jenkins is off to a great start this year with 17 solo tackles and 4 assists along with an interception this week. He’s mostly performed like a CB1 throughout his 4-year career so this isn’t a surprise, but players with that type of consistency are pretty rare at the position.
DT Nick Fairley, STL (0 tackles)
Much was made of the Rams signing another 1st round pick to their defensive line, but Fairley has yet to make much of an impact. He’s not even playing a third of the defensive snaps each week, so his fantasy value and production are going to be limited due to the great depth the Rams have up front.
LB Jarvis Jones, PIT (1 solo, 1 asst)
Jones was taken 17th overall in the 2013 draft and many observers thought he would be next in a long line of dominant Steelers edge rushers. He’s been limited by injuries in the past, but seemed poised for a breakout in 2015. Through 3 games, however, he’s yet to record even a partial sack and he’s playing less than 50% of the defensive snaps as part of a rotation.
INDIANAPOLIS @ TENNESSEE
LB Avery Williamson, TEN (4 solos, 4 asst)
Williamson isn’t quite an everydown player for the Titans in the middle of their defense, but his snap count was a bit lower than expected earlier this year. That, combined with some better overall defense from the Titans, helped keep his opportunities down somewhat and may have caused some owners to get concerned. His 8 tackles in 53 snaps this week were reassuring and likely a sign of better days to come.
SAN FRANCISCO @ ARIZONA
CB Kenneth Acker, SF (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Both 49ers corners are struggling this year, but Acker has been the more productive of the two. Thrust into a starting spot following all the free agent defections this offseason, he is seeing a lot more playing time than he’s probably ready for. That’s a good thing for fantasy owners, however, and he showed off some playmaking ability with an interception this week.
LB Kevin Minter, ARI (7 solos, 1 asst)
We are now 3 games into the season, and Minter has played in 84% of the defensive snaps for the Cardinals. It certainly looks like the 3-down linebacker role is his to lose, and he had a remarkably productive outing on Sunday with 8 tackles in just 42 snaps.
S Tony Jefferson, ARI (1 solo)
Last week, Jefferson looked like he was back on top with 9 solos and a pick 6, but this year he was the odd man out as he saw just 19 defensive snaps. The Cardinals can mix and match their safeties in a variety of ways, and it looks like Jefferson is the player most susceptible to the variance. The other three safeties have had a much more consistent role from week to week.
BUFFALO @ MIAMI
S Corey Graham, BUF (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH)
Graham has made a smooth transition from corner to safety this year, and he’s been one of the most productive players on the Bills defense. He posted 10 tackles a week ago, and then added 12 more this week. While the Buffalo stat crew tends to inflate the numbers, this came on the road in Miami where they are much less generous.
DE Mario Williams, BUF (1 QH)
We’ve all seen this before from Williams, as he will have more than his share of games when he finishes with no stats in the boxscore. He is a solid run defender, but his pass rush this year has been a bit disappointing at times. Ryan Tannehill had 49 pass attempts in the game, so it’s not like there weren’t plenty of opportunities here.
CHICAGO @ SEATTLE
OLB Pernell McPhee, CHI (6 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 4 QH)
The Bears made a wise investment in McPhee this offseason as he looks like a great fit for their new defense thus far. He took advantage of a poor Seahawks offensive line to pile up 7 tackles and his first two sacks of the year. There isn’t a lot going right for Chicago, but he has been a bright spot.
DE Jarvis Jenkins, CHI (4 solos, 6 asst, 2 sacks, 2 QH)
Jenkins is one of the few players in Chicago with experience playing in a 3-4 defense, but he had just 2 career sacks prior to this season. He had a huge game on Sunday, however, and may be worth a look if you are desperate for help at the DE position.
LB Jared Allen, CHI (1 asst, 1 QH)
Allen was traded to the Panthers on Monday, which should allow him to move back to his natural DE position. The Bears will take a huge cap hit as a result, but this could push Allen back up into a DE2 type role as he was nearly worthless as a linebacker.
S Earl Thomas, SEA (0 tackles)
Thomas started the game and played every snap, but he was just not around the ball much and finished the game with no tackles. The return of Kam Chancellor should allow him to play more aggressively, but it also may keep him deeper in the secondary and limit his tackle opportunities at times.
DENVER @ DETROIT
LB Brandon Marshall, DEN (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH)
Most of his tackles came late in the game, but Marshall has emerged as the clear everydown linebacker for Denver. He posted 91 solos last season, and may have a chance to top that number in 2015 with a handful of big plays thrown in as well.
S T.J. Ward, DEN (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 PD)
After sitting out week 1 due to a suspension, Ward was back to an everydown role this week and he saw quite a bit of time playing up in the box in run support. His production has been somewhat disappointing in Denver, but he is capable of filling up the box score with tackles at times.
LB Stephen Tulloch, DET (7 solos, 4 asst)
Don’t be fooled by the 11 tackle game here. While Tulloch was remarkably productive, he only saw 31 snaps in the game as he’s been removed from the Lions’ nickel packages due to his struggles in coverage. When DeAndre Levy comes back, there should be even fewer tackles to go around in the base package.
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