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.
ATLANTA @ TAMPA BAY
LB De’Vondre Campbell, ATL (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
The rookie linebacker led all players in the game with 9 tackles while also contributing his first big play with a forced fumble. He was on the field for all but 2 defensive snaps, and looks like another good young building block for the Falcons defense.
LB Kwon Alexander, TB (3 solos, 3 asst)
Alexander has been one of the most productive linebackers in the league ever since he was taken in the 4th round last year. He has been very durable during his brief career, but was knocked out of the game early this week with a shoulder injury. Alexander saw 43 snaps in the game, but is expected to be healthy enough to play in week 10 vs the Bears. Daryl Smith filled in at MLB and in the nickel packages, while Adarius Glanton filled in at SLB (and posted 6 solos in just 14 snaps).
CB Desmond Trufant, ATL (4 solos, 1 FF)
Trufant has been one of the better shutdown corners in the league, but he tends to get enough targets and make enough plays to still be a valuable fantasy option. He was on his way to another strong game this week with a matchup against Mike Evans, but was forced to leave after just 31 snaps (39%) due to a shoulder injury.
PITTSBURGH @ BALTIMORE
LB James Harrison, PIT (6 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
At 38 years of age, Harrison isn’t the same player he used to be. He can still post big games from time to time though, and this was certainly one of those as he was credited with 2 sacks and a forced fumble. They were his first two sacks of the year, but he does have some favorable matchups coming up on the schedule soon.
LB Ryan Shazier, PIT (6 solos, 3 asst, .5 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
After sitting out 3 games and seeing limited action in a 4th, Shazier got more time to rest over the bye week and returned to a full-time role. He brings some much needed range and playmaking to the middle of the Steelers defense, and filled up the stat sheet this week. He has plenty of fantasy upside, but just can’t seem to stay healthy long enough to realize it.
S Robert Golden, PIT (2 solos)
Golden only saw 43 snaps (61%) this week as he split time with rookie Sean Davis. While Golden had some positive moments this year and has not necessarily been a liability, it’s clear the Steelers would like to upgrade that position and are likely grooming Davis to take over at some point. Meanwhile, FS Michael Mitchell was on the field for all 70 defensive snaps but only finished the game with a single assisted tackle.
DALLAS @ CLEVELAND
DT Maliek Collins, DAL (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The rookie 3rd round pick out of Nebraska has seen regular playing time in almost every game this year, but he had produced very little until this week. It seems like there’s always a new defensive lineman in Dallas that stands out each week, but it’s rarely the same player so it’s tough to count on any of them. In any event, Collins is now on the radar and he has good quickness for an interior player.
S Barry Church, DAL (DNP)
Church is still recovering from a broken arm, and is expected to miss the next 3 to 5 weeks. That could keep him out until the fantasy playoffs are underway. J.J. Wilcox took over the strong safety job, but was only credited with 2 assists on 44 defensive snaps as the Browns offense provided very few opportunities.
JACKSONVILLE @ KANSAS CITY
CB Phillip Gaines, KC (7 solos, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Gaines missed some time earlier this year, but he’s been consistently productive when starting opposite Marcus Peters. In the past two weeks, he has 11 solo tackles plus an interception, forced fumble, and 3 passes defensed. As long as teams keep throwing away from Peters, he should make a solid option in CB required leagues.
DE Yannick Ngakoue, JAX (1 solo, 3 QH)
Note that Ngakoue was credited with 3 QB hits in this game, so it’s likely that he’s been a victim of bad luck lately. However, the rookie has gone cold in most scoring systems with just 3 solos and 0 sacks over his last 3 games combined (after posting 8 solos and 4 sacks in the previous 4 games).
NY JETS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS
DE Cameron Wake, MIA (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 QH, 2 FF)
It took him a little while to get going this year, but Wake is clearly heating up. With 2 sacks this week, he’s up to 3.5 in his last 2 games and 4 in his last 3 games. It’s probably not a coincidence that he has performed better as the Dolphins offense has shown improvement and given the team a chance to play with a lead.
DETROIT @ MINNESOTA
DT Kerry Hyder, DET (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The amazing season of Hyder continued with 2 more sacks this week. That brings him up to 7 for the year, despite coming into the season as a relatively known undrafted free agent. His playing time dropped slightly this week (36 snaps, 51%) as the Lions reduced his work inside at DT, but that may have kept him fresher for the snaps he got at DE.
DE Everson Griffen, MIN (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Griffen continues to be a workhorse for the Vikings, and he has started to reap the rewards with 2 big games in a row. He normally played about 50 or so snaps per game, but was up to 62 (94%) this week as the game went into overtime. It was his second game in a row with 5 solos and a sack, which suggests he’s back to being a legit DE1 consideration.
LB Eric Kendricks, MIN (DNP)
Kendricks sat out this week while recovering from a concussion. Chad Greenway picked up much of his work in the nickel package and responded with 6 combined tackle plus an interception. Hopefully, Kendricks will be cleared soon, but it’s worth monitoring given the position he plays and the likelihood of a recurrence if he comes back to soon.
PHILADELPHIA @ NY GIANTS
S Andrew Adams, NYG (9 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Adams is a 23 year old undrafted rookie for the Giants, and he was perhaps the best player on the field in this game. He played 73 snaps (97%) while making his fifth start of the year, and piled up 9 solo tackles while also adding an interception and another pass breakup.
S Malcolm Jenkins, PHI (2 solos, 1 asst)
Few players have seen as much of a dropoff in their production as Jenkins has. He finished the 2015 season with 91 solo tackles, but has just 23 solos through the first 8 games of 2016. The Eagles have improved on both sides of the ball and that has led to fewer snaps, but he also seems to be spending more time in deep coverage while fellow safety Rodney McLeod is seeing a lot more time around the ball (and has 49 solos to show for it).
CAROLINA @ LOS ANGELES
LB Thomas Davis, CAR (10 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Davis can be a frustrating player for fantasy owners as he will often put up underwhelming numbers for several weeks in a row before blowing up with a monster effort like this one. He was everywhere on Sunday and finished with one of the best all-around games you will see from a linebacker as he was credited with 10 solo tackles, a sack, and an interception.
NEW ORLEANS @ SAN FRANCISCO
LB Gerald Hodges, SF (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH)
Hodges only played 54 defensive snaps (62%), but he still managed to lead all players in the game with 11 combined tackles. He also contributed a sack, and looks like he’ll be seeing plenty of chances in the middle of the 49ers defense since they can’t really stop the run.
S Kenny Vaccaro, NO (9 solos, 1 FF, 1 FR)
The Saints used all 3 of their safeties in a full-time role as Vaccaro, Vonn Bell, and Jairus Byrd all saw 100% of the defensive snaps. Given that personnel package, Vaccaro often gets a chance to play up in the box as an extra linebacker and that should lead to more games like this one.
DE Arik Armstead, SF (1 asst)
Armstead came into this game on a roll with 6 solos, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in his last two games before the bye. He was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury after just 6 snaps though, and that seemed to help Glenn Dorsey post his best numbers of the year.
INDIANAPOLIS @ GREEN BAY
LB Jake Ryan, GB (11 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Ryan has typically been a 2-down linebacker this year who plays on early downs but gets pulled in clear passing situations. Given that the Colts were playing with a lead for the entire game here, Ryan saw a bit more snaps than usual (55 snaps, 81%) and made a strong case to be left on the field. He led all players with 11 tackles on defense and helped limit Frank Gore to an average of 3.2 yards on 19 attempts.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, GB (1 solo, 2 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Things haven’t quite gone as planned for Clinton-Dix this year, as the Packers have seen their CB group decimated by injuries and poor play. That has forced him to be more responsible in the secondary and allowed him fewer playmaking and tackling opportunities. Clinton-Dix also doesn’t have a reputation for being a great playmaker, but he came through this week with 2 first half interceptions of Andrew Luck.
TENNESSEE @ SAN DIEGO
LB Korey Toomer, SD (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF)
With the Chargers missing their top-3 inside linebackers to injury this week, Toomer was asked to play every snap and held up very well. Not only did he lead the team in tackles, but he also knocked the ball away from Marcus Mariota on a run that led to a 36-yard defensive touchdown.
S Kevin Byard, TEN (5 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
The Titans drafted Byard with the first pick of the 3rd round and are likely hoping to groom him to become their strong safety of the future. An injury to Rashad Johnson the past couple weeks has given Byard a chance for significant playing time and he’s posted 9 solos and 7 assists. There is plenty of room for him to develop before he’s ready for a bigger role, but he’s a player to keep in mind for the future.
LB Melvin Ingram III, SD (1 solo)
Ingram has been pretty consistent all year so he was likely due for a clunker of a game like this. He still played 55 snaps (85%) in what wound up being a very wide open game, but it looks like the Titans offensive line was able to keep him in check.
DENVER @ OAKLAND
LB Malcolm Smith, OAK (8 solos)
There were some bumps along the way, but it looks like Smith is back to playing at the level we saw from him a year ago when he finished with 99 solo tackles. He’s picked up 20 solo tackles over his last 3 games and is back to chasing down plays all over the field. His 8 solos this week were particularly impressive when you consider that the Broncos only managed 12 rush attempts in the game.
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (1 solo, 1 asst)
Wolfe looked like he was really headed for a huge season when he posted 12 solos and 4 sacks in a 3-game stretch. He’s gone sackless for 5 straight games now, however, and also has just 7 solo tackles in that same span. Making matters worse, he was limited to just 40 snaps (45%) this week as he suffered an elbow injury. It’s not clear how severe the injury is, but he could miss some time or be less effective if he tries to play through it.
S Karl Joseph, OAK (1 PD)
There’s probably not a lot to read into this one as the rookie was averaging over 5 solo tackles/game since entering the starting lineup. He was shut out from the tackle columns this week, however, as the Broncos offense only managed to generate 32 tackle opportunities in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.
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