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. 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.
HOUSTON @ NEW ENGLAND
LB Bernardrick McKinney, HOU (6 solos, 10 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The Patriots had 39 rush attempts in the game so the game script was very favorable, but McKinney still had a monster outing. He posted 16 combined tackles on 61 defensive snaps played (95%), but also added the lone sack for a Texans pass rush that was completely stymied by the Patriots offensive line.
DE Jabaal Sheard, NE (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The Texans trailed for nearly the entire game, so there were plenty of pass rush opportunities for Sheard this week. He responded with a pair of sacks to get his 2016 season back on track after a slow start.
DE Chris Long, NE (2 asst, 1 PD)
Long played 55 snaps (77%) in the game but did not appear to get much pressure on Osweiler. He was thrust into a bigger role than expected with the 4-game suspension to Rob Ninkovich, but hasn’t been able to take advantage in any meaningful way.
ARIZONA @ BUFFALO
S Tony Jefferson, ARI (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Jefferson continues his breakout season with another strong effort. The Bills only had 14 pass completions this week, but they ran the ball early and often which played right into the hands of Jefferson. He has been one of the very best safeties in run support this year, but also contributed some big plays with a sack and forced fumble.
LB Zack Brown, BUF (10 solos, 2 asst)
Many expected the Bills run defense to struggle following the season-ending injury to rookie Reggie Ragland and 4-game suspension to Marcell Dareus. That has actually been the strength of the team through 3 games, however, and Brown has been a big reason why. Despite washing out of Tennessee and being considered undersized to play inside linebacker, Brown is chasing down plays all over the field each week. He only played 49 snaps (60%) this week but finished with 3 times as many tackles as Preston Brown who was on the field for all 82 snaps.
LB Deone Bucannon, ARI (3 solos, 2 asst)
Bucannon added one of his 3 solo stops on special teams, but it has been a pretty quiet beginning to the season. Since he’s no longer classified as a safety in most fantasy scoring systems, he needs more consistent production to be worthy of starting every week with some big plays scattered in. For this week at least, it wasn’t a matter of opportunity as he played all 64 defensive snaps and the Bills ran the ball over 30 times.
MINNESOTA @ CAROLINA
DE Everson Griffen, MIN (3 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 4 QH)
The Vikings defense has been one of the best in the league this year, and they were led this week by a ferocious pass rush that sacked Cam Newton 8 times. Griffen was once again the leader of that group as he got to Newton 3 times. He has a good chance to post top-5 DE numbers this year and join the ranks of the elite at the position.
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (0 tackles)
Last year’s 1st round pick had limited expectations playing alongside Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, but he still should be able to get on the stat sheet. He was held without any tackles this week despite playing 34 snaps (63%) in a game where the Panthers trailed for much of the second half.
DENVER @ CINCINNATI
LB Shane Ray, DEN (3 solos, 3 asst, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Last year’s first round pick had his coming out party this week with 3 sacks in a big road win for the Broncos. Ray was kind of a luxury pick for Denver given how much pass rush talent they already had, but he’s filling some of the gap created by injuries to DeMarcus Ware and the loss of Malik Jackson in free agency. While he could have been limited to a pass-rush specialist role, Ray saw 49 snaps this week which was only 4 fewer than Von Miller. Those two combined with the great CB group here are going to make things very tough on opposing QBs.
LB Karlos Dansby, CIN (1 solo, 1 PD, 1 FR)
The stats made it seem that Dansby wasn’t on the field that often, but he just wasn’t very productive in his 50 snaps (75%). MLB Rey Maualuga saw nearly as many snaps as Dansby this week, and there are some legit concerns about his playing time once Vontaze Burfict returns from his suspension. Despite his all-around ability, Dansby could be reduced to a 2-down role.
DETROIT @ GREEN BAY
DT Kerry Hyder, DET (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The injury to Ezekiel Ansah created an opportunity for Hyder to start at DE this week. He continued his strong start to the year with another sack, and looks like a very nice find for the Lions up front.
LB Nick Perry, GB (6 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
The Packers were missing several key players on defense, including their best pass rusher in Clay Matthews. It wound up not mattering much though as Perry contributed 2 sacks and 7 tackles overall. He played 75% of the snaps, and could post better than expected tackle numbers for a 3-4 OLB.
BALTIMORE @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Zachary Orr, BAL (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Orr has found a home at ILB for the Ravens this year. The former undrafted free agent made his first career start in week 1, and he’s played 100% of the defensive snaps in the past 2 games. C.J. Mosely gets most of the attention and hype due to his background as a high draft pick, but Orr has posted better tackle numbers in all 3 games.
S Ladarius Webb, BAL (1 solo, 1 PD)
Even though Webb rarely showed more than brief flashes of his big play ability, he was always pretty strong in coverage and a very reliable tackler. That combination has helped a player like Corey Graham and others become fantasy studs at safety, but it doesn’t look like Webb is headed down the same path. Since being converted from nickel corner a year ago to free safety this year, he has seen his production drop off significantly with just 6 solos through 3 games.
CLEVELAND @ MIAMI
S.Jordan Poyer, CLE (10 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
There was some concern early this year that Poyer might lose playing time at free safety to rookie Derrick Kindred. With Ibraheim Campbell suffering an injury, however, Kindred took over at strong safety instead. Poyer was very active against the Dolphins on Sunday as he led all players in the game with 13 tackles. That brings him up to 19 solos and 6 assists through 3 games, and the trend should probably continue given how weak the Browns are at ILB.
LB Jelani Jenkins, MIA (2 solos, 1 asst)
Most reports indicated that Jenkins production fell off last year due to injuries, but through 3 games we have yet to see the same player he was in 2014. Kiko Alonso is playing the only 3-down LB role in Miami it appears, while Jenkins only saw 68% of snaps this week against what should have been a favorable matchup. He did miss practice with a knee injury last week so perhaps he’s playing at considerably less than 100%, but 5 solos through 3 games is not very good.
WASHINGTON @ NY GIANTS
DT Damon Harrison, NYG (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
The former Jets player is obviously used to playing his home games in the Meadowlands, and he looked right at home on Sunday as he piled up 10 tackles. He was helped by the 30 rush attempts from Washington, but also played a key role in limiting them to just 3.0 yards per carry. Perhaps most impressive is that Harrison compiled those 10 combined tackles on just 43 snaps. He’s the rare NT who is a very capable fantasy option and it doesn’t hurt when he plays in front of a generous stat crew.
LB Will Compton, WAS (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Compton played 100% of the snaps but somehow was only credited with 2 tackles in the game. Given how generous the Giants stat crew generally is, this has to be considered a pretty big disappointment. Compton isn’t really anything special, but he should be expected to post solid tackle numbers each week (he had 9 solos and 14 assists through the first 2 games).
OAKLAND @ TENNESSEE
S Karl Joseph, OAK (6 solos, 4 asst)
The Raiders finally benched the underwhelming Keith McGill and turned loose their 1st round pick on the Titans. Considering they had been giving up a league high 400+ yards/game through the air in the first two weeks, it was impressive when they held Marcus Mariota to just 214 with a pair of interceptions. Joseph provided a spark to the Raiders defense with his team-leading 10 combined tackles, and the only Titans touchdown came on a series when Joseph was in the locker room being treated for cramping.
LB Cory James, OAK (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
The rookie 6th round pick is listed at just 6’1”, 229 pounds but he got the start at MLB for Oakland this week. Despite his small size, he’s the type of player who is just always around the ball. The Titans run game averaged over 6 yards per carry, but they have a power running game that is going to be a tough matchup for a lot of teams. In any event, James wound up playing nearly the entire game and the coaching staff has high hopes for him.
LB Ben Heeney, OAK (1 QH)
Heeney was benched in favor of Cory James, and wound up seeing just a single defensive snap. He did get credit for a QB hit on that play, but obviously his fantasy value is depleted if he’s not going to play a key role anymore.
DE Khalil Mack, OAK (1 solo, 1 asst)
Fantasy owners are likely starting to worry about Mack as he’s now gone 3 games without registering even a partial sack. That’s definitely cause for some concern given that he was expected to be one of the truly elite IDPs in the league. It looks like offenses are really focusing a lot of attention on him, so it will be up to him and the Raiders coaches to figure out ways to get him more sack opportunities.
SAN FRANCISCO @ SEATTLE
S Eric Reid, SF (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Reid showed a lot of promise as a rookie after the 49ers drafted him in the 1st round. For whatever reason, he really struggled to make an impact in 2014 and 2015 and many fantasy owners likely wrote him off. Through 3 games this year, however, he looks like a much different player already. He’s playing closer to the line of scrimmage and looks more confident and aggressive. He was all over the field this week and led all players in tackles with 12 (on 68 snaps).
CB Jimmie Ward, SF (1 solo, 1 PD)
Ward got the start at CB this week, but he suffered a quad injury early in the game and was unable to return. He was limited to just 25 snaps and finished with a disappointing stat line as the Seahawks exploded for 233 passing yards in the first half. The 49ers don’t have much depth at the position, so he should be able to get back on track once healthy.
LOS ANGELES @ TAMPA BAY
CB Troy Hill, LA (11 solos)
Hill is not a particularly good player so he’s going to continue to be tested by opposing QBs. He took over as the #3 CB after Coty Sensabaugh was benched, and was targeted by Jameis Winston early and often this week. The Buccaneers QB finished with 36 completions and 405 yards in the game, and most of those came when throwing at Hill. With a matchup against the Cardinals next week, Hill is worth a look for CB streamers.
DE Robert Quinn, LA (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Quinn established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the league when he posted 19 sacks back in 2013. He was limited by injuries last year, but is starting to look like his old self with sacks in back to back games. On his sack this week, he used his speed around the edge to beat the tackle cleanly and then finished it with a strip of Jameis Winston.
SAN DIEGO @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Denzel Perryman, SD (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
LB Jatavis Brown, SD (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 PD, 1 FF)
The Chargers had been using Manti Te’o as their sole 3-down linebacker this year, but he suffered a torn Achilles this week after just 15 snaps. As a result, Perryman wound up playing basically the entire game and posted his first strong outing of the season. Meanwhile, Jatavis Brown is a rookie 6th round pick who has looked great in limited playing time who should see a big boost as well.
LB Manti Te’o, SD (2 solos, 1 asst)
Unfortunately, Te’o left the game early this week with what was later reported to be a torn Achilles injury. He will be placed on Injured Reserve and lost for the year while also facing a long recovery process. At this point, it’s not exactly a certainty that a starting ILB spot will be there for him when he returns either.
NY JETS @ KANSAS CITY
LB Derrick Johnson, KC (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
In a game where the Jets only ran the ball 22 times, Johnson still managed an amazing 11 tackles while also contributing a 55-yard interception return that put the game away in the 4th quarter. Although he will turn 34 years old later this year and should be winding down his career, Johnson continues to play at a very high level.
LB Darron Lee, NYJ (5 solos, 1 asst, .5 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
The rookie 1st round pick was expected to be a bit of a project who would need some time to adjust to playing LB in the NFL. The Jets don’t appear to share that view, however, as he wound up playing all 63 defensive snaps alongside fellow ILB David Harris this week. The Jets defense played well but were victimized by an offense that turned the ball over 8 times. In any event, it looks like Lee’s time as a full-time player is here ahead of schedule and his speed and playmaking ability should be a welcome addition.
LB Justin March-Lillard, KC (1 PD)
March looked like a nice pickup earlier this year, but he showed how matchup-dependent his value is this week. Facing a Jets offense that likes to run 3-WR and 4-WR formations, he started the game but only saw the field on 24 of 68 defensive snaps as the Chiefs relied more heavily on their nickel and dime packages. As a 2-down LB, March-Lillard is going to see his playing time fluctuate heavily depending on the matchup and game scripts.
PITTSBURGH @ PHILADELPHIA
DT Fletcher Cox, PHI (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Given how few elite fantasy DTs there are around the league, it’s nice to see one of them living up to expectations. Cox signed a huge contract and is proving his worth with 3 sacks through the first 3 games of the year.
LB Lawrence Timmons, PIT (1 asst)
Timmons was limited to just 17 snaps in the game as he suffered a leg injury and did not return. He didn’t play particularly well before that, and there was no immediate word of the severity after the game.
LB Mychal Kendricks, PHI (2 solos)
Kendricks has not topped 20 defensive snaps in any game this year. He’s been dealing with some injuries, but appears to be clearly behind both Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks for snaps in passing situations. As a result, his fantasy upside is limited until one of those players suffers an injury.
CHICAGO @ DALLAS
CB Jacoby Glenn, CHI (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD, 1 FF)
Glenn has been forced into the starting lineup for the Bears due to the injury to Kyle Fuller, and he’s been making the most of it. He has held up pretty well through 3 weeks despite being targeted frequently by opposing QBs. Glenn has been credited with at least 5 solo tackles in all 3 games, and also ranks among the league leaders with 5 passes defensed.