This article tries 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.
INDIANAPOLIS @ HOUSTON
LB Bernardrick McKinney, HOU (6 solos, 1 asst)
The Texans drafted McKinney to upgrade the interior of their defense. While it took him a little while to get into the lineup, he has now played 40+ snaps for 2 weeks in a row and looks to be getting more comfortable. He posted 7 tackles on Thursday night against the Colts, but that is likely his upside as long as he remains in a 2-down role.
CB Greg Toler, IND (8 solos)
Toler returned to action from a neck injury this week and was able to play all 76 defensive snaps in the game. A reliable tackler, he should continue to see plenty of targets as long as he plays opposite Vontae Davis.
LB Robert Mathis, IND (1 asst)
Mathis is 34 years old and coming back from a serious injury. It’s amazing that he was able to avoid the PUP list, but he is not making a significant contribution right now. The Colts are using many different players in their OLB rotation, so Mathis is only getting about 20 to 30 snaps per game. He won’t be a viable fantasy option until he gets more playing time, and he may not get that if he doesn’t prove to be more effective with the limited snaps he does get.
WASHINGTON @ ATLANTA
LB Ryan Kerrigan, WAS (3 solos, 2 sacks)
Kerrigan wasn’t fully healthy at the start of the season, but he has been showing marked improvement over the past two weeks. Despite temporarily leaving the game with a hip pointer, he posted 4 solos and 1 sack a week ago against the Eagles, and then followed it up with a 2-sack outing against the Falcons.
LB Paul Worrilow, ATL (8 solos, 1 asst)
Worrilow saw his numbers slide during the previous 3 weeks as Justin Durant seemed to emerge as the focal point of the Falcons defense. Durant missed the game this week, and that seemed to help Worrilow return to his expected levels of performance. He’s still a marginal talent holding the spot warm until they find someone better, but there’s not a lot of competition in the Atlanta LB group yet.
CB Bashaud Breeland, WAS (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 4 PD)
Washington lost their starting two corners to injuries, so they are turning to Breeland as their #1 CB right now. He came up big this week and helped keep Julio Jones in check while also picking off Matt Ryan.
DL Vic Beasley Jr, ATL (1 solo)
Beasley looked impressive earlier this year when he posted a sack in back to back games, but he has seen his playing time and production slip of late. While he’s clearly capable of putting pressure on opposing QBs, there is still work to be done in terms of his work against the run. Low tackle production is likely going to keep his fantasy value low for the time being.
LB Keenan Robinson, WAS (3 solos, 1 asst)
Robinson enjoyed a very productive first year as a starter in 2014 and looked like a player who could possibly emerge as a LB1 for fantasy purposes. Through 5 weeks of 2015, however, his numbers have been generally underwhelming. He did have a 13-tackle game against the Giants in week 3, but has only managed 4 solos and 3 assists in the 2 games since then. He should bounce back against the Jets next week though.
CLEVELAND @ BALTIMORE
DT Lawrence Guy, BAL (3 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks)
Guy is probably not likely to replicate a game like this again, but he played nearly 50 snaps in this overtime game while filling in for Chris Canty and was quite effective with 6 tackles and a pair of sacks. Unfortunately, he also cost his team an interception when he was flagged for roughing the passer on a late shove of the Browns QB.
LB Nate Orchard, CLE (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
The Browns made some changes at linebacker this week to try and improve one of the worst defenses in the league. Orchard was the team’s 2nd round pick and he saw 61% of the snaps this week while Paul Kruger saw a drop to just 40%. He could see a bigger role going forward.
LB Christian Kirksey, CLE (1 solo, 2 asst)
While it looked like Kirksey would finally get a great opportunity to showcase himself this week, he didn’t even play half the defensive snaps in the game. Tank Carder saw a huge increase in playing time with 42 snaps that came in both the base and nickel packages.
LB C.J. Mosley, BAL (1 solo, 1 asst)
When you look at the stat line, one might expect that Mosley missed quite a bit of time here. That’s not the case, however, as he was on the field for an incredible 88 defensive snaps in a game that went deep into overtime. Despite all those snaps, the Browns only ran the ball 25 times and it seems like Mosley just wasn’t around the ball much. With just 8 solos and 6 assists in his last 3 games, Mosley’s not producing like the elite LB many expected.
SEATTLE @ CINCINNATI
DE Michael Bennett, SEA (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Bennett is playing great right now and is on pace to set career highs across the board. He now has a sack in 3 of 5 games and is on pace for 45 solo tackles. It was thought that he might lose some value with the move from DT to DE, but he’s putting up DE1 numbers. Note that he also played an impressive 72 snaps in this game, which was nearly 20 more than he had in any of the previous 4 games.
CB Adam Jones, CIN (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Despite facing an offense that doesn’t tend to rely that heavily on their outside passing game, Jones still managed to post an exceptional stat line. Despite coming into the game banged up, he managed to play every snap and added a sack and interception to another strong day in coverage.
S Earl Thomas, SEA (2 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Thomas did manage to come up with the first interception for the Seahawks defense this year, but he’s just not as involved this year as he was the past two years. He averaged 100 combined tackles the past two seasons, but this year he’s only on pace for 67.
ST LOUIS @ GREEN BAY
LB James Laurinaitis, STL (3 solos, 5 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The injury to Alec Ogletree should provide a big boost to the value and production of Laurinaitis. He’s still not likely to get back to the 100+ solo pace that we used to expect earlier in his career, but 8+ tackles with a big play every other week or so should become the new expectation.
LB Nick Perry, GB (2 asst, .5 sack)
Perry has been quite productive of late with 3 sacks in his previous two games despite playing less than half the snaps. This week, he once again added a partial sack in his role as a pass rush specialist, but he was forced to leave the game early with a shoulder injury.
CHICAGO @ KANSAS CITY
DT Jay Ratliff, CHI (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH)
Ratliff sat out the first 3 games while serving a suspension, but he wasn’t healthy enough to play in week 4 due to an ankle injury. He returned to the starting lineup this week, however, and provided a nice boost to the Bears defense. Ratliff can be a productive player and may be worth a look in DT-required leagues.
DT Jaye Howard, KC (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
We are only 5 games into the season, and Howard has nearly matched his production from the 16 games he played in 2014. He is in a contract year and looks like a dominant force nearly every week. Although he wasn’t credited with it, Howard helped force a fumble by Jay Cutler on a sack that the Chiefs recovered for a touchdown. The Chiefs are struggling a bit on defense right now, but Howard looks like a core player.
LB Ramik Wilson, KC (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 FR, 1 TD)
During the preseason, Wilson appeared headed for the starting ILB job next to Derrick Johnson this year. When the season began, however, that job went to Josh Mauga. An injury to Mauga created an opportunity for Wilson to start this week and he managed to pick up a touchdown fumble recovery early on. Although still just a 2-down player, he could eventually work himself into a bigger role so he might be a target in deeper leagues.
LB Justin Houston, KC (2 solos)
Houston is coming off a 22-sack season, so any time he goes without a sack for 3 straight weeks like he has now it’s likely that fantasy owners are getting concerned. There hasn’t been a drop in playing time, but the corner play hasn’t always been great and offenses are focusing extra attention on keeping him in check.
CB Ron Parker, KC (1 solo)
The Chiefs started the season with Parker at strong safety and he looked like a potential everyweek starter for fantasy purposes. The converted cornerback hasn’t necessarily been bad thus far, but he’s not making any big plays and his tackle stats have been just decent until this week when he was held to a single solo tackle on 78 snaps.
NEW ORLEANS @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Fletcher Cox, PHI (6 solos, 3 sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR)
With just 2 solos, 5 assists and 1 sack in the first 3 games, it looked like Cox was headed for a disappointing season. He picked up 5 tackles last week, and then blew up the Saints this week with the most impressive performance of his career. As a 3-4 DE, he probably won’t have another game like this but he is capable of steady DE2 type production.
S Walter Thurmond, PHI (4 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Thurmond is averaging almost 80 snaps per game on an Eagles defense that is having trouble slowing down most opponents. He was originally signed to be the team’s nickel corner, but they moved him to safety out of desperation. Despite being undersized for the position, he has been a great fit thanks to his cover skills, reliable tackling, and playmaking (3 INTs in 5 games).
LB DeMeco Ryans, PHI (1 solo, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Ryans looks like a shell of his former self, so it’s not likely that he’ll improve enough to take on a full-time role. Despite Mychal Kendricks missing the game, Ryans only managed to play 58% of the snaps as he is a liability in coverage. He did manage to force a fumble in the game and knock down a pass, but those types of plays were never his strength anyway.
LB Connor Barwin, PHI (2 solos)
Barwin is coming off a great season that saw him post 14.5 sacks, but that he only managed 7 sacks combined in the two seasons before that. He’s a very streaky player who can get hot at times, but then will also go long stretches without producing. It looks like he’s slumping a bit at the moment with just 3 solos and 1 assist in his last 2 games combined.
LB Hau’oli Kikaha, NO (1 solo)
The incredible start that Kikaha had to this year (16 solos, 10 assists, 3 sacks, and 2 FF through 4 games) was not really sustainable. He picked up a solo tackle late but was very close to getting shut out by the Eagles despite playing 72 snaps. Look for him to pick things back up next week against Atlanta.
JACKSONVILLE @ TAMPA BAY
LB Telvin Smith Sr, JAX (13 solos, 1 asst)
MLB Paul Posluszny is likely out for some time with a high ankle sprain, and that is great news for Telvin Smith Sr owners. He was off to a strong start already, but his 14 tackles on 67 snaps this week were quite impressive.
LB Lavonte David, TB (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 PD)
David got off to a slow start this season with just 12 solo tackles over his first 4 games, but he looked like himself this week. Tampa has a bye coming up next week, but hopefully he can build on this and return to LB1 production the rest of the year.
CB Aaron Colvin, JAX (5 solos, 1 sack)
It’s tough to get excited about a Jaguars corner as they haven’t had much success there of late, but Colvin looks like he could be a nice find. He fell to the 4th round of the draft last year due to injury concerns, but the coaches like his ability to play up near the line of scrimmage in press coverage. That keeps him involved, and also helps them use him as a blitzer as seen by his posting a sack in back to back games.
S Chris Conte, TB (2 solos, 1 asst)
Conte has been one of the most productive safeties in the league this year, but he left the game early with an ankle injury this week. He’ll get a chance to rest up over the bye week, but could also be pushed by Major Wright who returned to action this week.
BUFFALO @ TENNESSEE
DT Kyle Williams, BUF (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
It took him some time to get going, but Williams was one of the best players for the Bills this week as he manhandled the interior of the Titans offensive line. He still has the capacity to post solid numbers in most weeks, but looks more matchup-dependent than we expected.
LB Avery Williamson, TEN (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
The Titans benched Zach Brown this week in favor of Wesley Woodyard, and that seemed to help Williamson get more involved than he had been in the first 3 games. That’s probably a good sign for his long-term prospects, but note that he did suffer a leg injury in the game and was scheduled for an MRI to examine the severity.
CB Jason McCourty, TEN (1 solo)
The single solo tackle in the game doesn’t necessarily warrant an upgrade, but a closer look at the box score shows that he played 100% of the defensive snaps after sitting out the first 3 games with a groin injury. The Bills only completed 11 passes in the game so that limited his tackle opportunities, but McCourty has been one of the most consistently productive fantasy corners in the league so it’s a good sign that he was able to play the entire game in his return to action.
LB Zach Brown, TEN (2 solos, 1 asst)
The Titans must not have been that impressed with the play of Brown earlier this year as they took him out of the starting lineup after their bye week. Wesley Woodyard took his place and played 55% of the snaps, but the coaches suggested this could be a rotation that they continue to use going forward which likely limits the value for both players.
S Da’Norris Searcy, TEN (1 solo)
Once again, this looked like a nice matchup for Searcy and he failed to do much in the box score. The Titans have had a surprisingly low number of snaps and tackle opportunities in all 4 games this year, which is keeping the numbers down for most of their players. Searcy has arguably hurt the most, however, with just 9 solos and 3 assists through 4 games.
ARIZONA @ DETROIT
CB Jerraud Powers, ARI (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 PD)
With Patrick Peterson playing lockdown defense across the field, Powers is getting plenty of targets and playmaking opportunities each week. He added to his numbers this week while matched up with Golden Tate, and also added a sack early in the third quarter.
LB Alex Okafor, ARI (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Okafor had been seeing a lot of playing time but not doing much with it. He was forced to leave the game early this week, however, and is expected to miss the next 2 to 4 weeks with a calf injury. The Cardinals don’t have great depth at OLB but could give more playing time to Lamarr Woodley.
LB DeAndre Levy, DET (0 tackles)
Levy returned to action this week, but only lasted 17 snaps before aggravating the hip injury that had kept him out all season. Now it seems that the Lions might have to seriously consider shutting him down for the year as they are 0-5 and looking at a lost season anyway.
NEW ENGLAND @ DALLAS
DE Greg Hardy, DAL (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 FF)
Despite the tough matchup, Hardy came up with 2 sacks of Tom Brady in his return from suspension. He has a bye coming up but showed that he can obviously still put up elite numbers regardless of who he’s facing.
LB Rolando McClain, DAL (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack)
McClain also returned to the lineup following his suspension and played 88% of the snaps. Looks like he’ll play in the nickel along with Sean Lee and make a nice LB2. Meanwhile, Anthony Hitchens only saw 17% of the snaps here and looks like he’ll need a run-heavy matchup or an injury to make an impact.
DE Rob Ninkovich, NE (1 asst, 1 PD)
Ninkovich played 75% of the snaps here but posted his second weak output in a row. He’s averaged 40 solo tackles/year for the past 5 seasons, but has just 1 in his last 2 games. With Jabaal Sheard showing more as a pass rusher, Ninkovich’s fantasy value is on the decline.
DENVER @ OAKLAND
S Charles Woodson, OAK (1 solo, 3 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Woodson continues to play at a relatively high level despite turning 39 years old last week. He picked off Peyton Manning twice this week to give him 4 interceptions in his last 3 games. Given the struggles the Raiders are having in the secondary, it’s really amazing that Woodson is still able to make this many plays.
LB DeMarcus Ware, DEN (1 solo, 2 asst)
Very few players were playing better than Ware this year, but he left the game with a back injury and was held to his lowest output of the season. Fortunately, it sounds like it was just a strain and may only keep him out for 1 game as the Broncos have a bye coming up in week 7. Rookie Shane Ray has a sack in back to back games and should see more playing time against the Browns next week.
LB Curtis Lofton, OAK (1 solo, 3 asst)
Lofton saw his playing time drop from an average of around 70 snaps per game the past 3 weeks to just 22 this week against Denver. It appears they just couldn’t tolerate his deficiencies in coverage and benched him in the team’s nickel packages again. He still posted 4 tackles in his 22 snaps, but without a 3-down role it’s difficult to count on him.
SAN FRANCISCO @ NY GIANTS
LB Michael Wilhoite, SF (11 solos, 5 asst)
The 49ers defense had 62 tackle opportunities in the game, so there were some big numbers posted across the board but the 16 tackles by Wilhoite stood out. He’s in a great situation following the early retirement of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, but opportunity is sometimes more important than talent in fantasy football.
LB Jon Beason, NYG (0 tackles)
Beason got the start at MLB and looked to have a great matchup against the run-heavy 49ers offense. Unfortunately, he left early with a suspected concussion after a huge collision with Carlos Hyde. The comeback season was supposed to go a lot better for Beason, but his absence is helping Uani Unga care out a role.
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