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.
CLEVELAND @ BALTIMORE
LB Christian Kirksey, CLE (8 solos, 5 asst, 1 PD)
Even with the addition of Jamie Collins Sr, Kirksey continues to play every snap for the Browns so he should remain a productive everyweek starter. He’s certainly going to be helped by a Browns team that often plays from behind and has trouble keeping their defense off the field.
LB Demario Davis, CLE (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Davis has held onto a larger role than expected as he still saw 42 snaps (51%) this week, but that’s probably not enough to count on him in most weeks. We can likely expect to see quite a bit of fluctuation in his playing time and production, and it’s unlikely he’ll provide many sacks like he did this week to offset low tackle numbers.
S Derrick Kindred, CLE (1 solo)
The rookie safety appeared to be benched this week as he only saw 9 defensive snaps (11%) while another young safety Ed Reynolds saw 74 (90%). The Browns are trying to give a lot of guys playing time to evaluate what talent they have and decide which guys they can build around, so look for more moves like this in the weeks ahead.
KANSAS CITY AT CAROLINA
LB Ramik Wilson, KC (3 solos, 2 asst)
His numbers don’t jump out, but note that he played 67 snaps (93%) while Derrick Johnson at less than 100% was only on the field for 54 snaps. Wilson has done a very nice job defending the run since he returned in week 7, and as a 24 year old he still has a chance to develop into a reliable fantasy option.
S Eric Berry, KC (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Berry has not put up great numbers this year, but he showed what he is capable of on Sunday. He led all players in the game with 9 tackles while also adding the 4th interception touchdown of his career. It came at a huge time too as the Chiefs were trailing in the 4th quarter, but that play helped spark them to a comeback win.
HOUSTON AT JACKSONVILLE
CB Kareem Jackson, HOU (6 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
The former 1st round pick has had some ups and downs, but appears to be playing well since he missed a couple games earlier this year. Over his last 2 games, he has collected 11 solo tackles but he took things to a new level with a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped the Texans take early control of their game this week.
CB A.J. Bouye, HOU (DNP)
Bouye is having a breakout season, but was held out this week after suffering a minor ankle sprain during Friday’s practice. Tough break for the Texans, and likely contributed to the big game we saw from Allen Robinson. Appears likely that he’ll be back in the lineup next week though.
DENVER AT NEW ORLEANS
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
After hitting double digit sacks in 2 of the past 3 years, Jordan is not quite on pace to reach it again this year. If he continues to play like he did on Sunday though, he will blow past that number. He was dominant against the Broncos while piling up 8 solo tackles (including 3 behind the line of scrimmage) and a sack. With a pretty favorable schedule coming up, look for him to build on this especially as the Saints play at cornerback has been stabilizing.
LB Dannell Ellerbe, NO (2 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Ellerbe finally got a full week of practice in and managed to play nearly the entire game for the Saints this week. As one of their best cover linebackers, he has a strong hold on a 3-down job as long as he can stay healthy. If he holds up, he could put up solid numbers down the stretch and is worth consideration as a waiver wire pickup.
S Darian Stewart, DEN (2 solos, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 FR)
Stewart collected 3 interceptions during his first 6 seasons in the league, but he has now matched that total over his last 3 games. While he is known as more of a run defender and in the box safety, Stewart has more coverage responsibilities in Denver due to the presence of T.J. Ward. He’s making the most of it this year, and combining solid tackle numbers with a new found knack for making big plays.
LB Nathan Stupar, NO (1 asst)
Stupar emerged as a surprise starter earlier this year and put up impressive numbers due to the extensive playing time he received. Now that Ellerbe is back, however, it looks like he’s going to be relegated to more of a part-time role as he was on the field for just 18 snaps (21%) this week.
S Kenny Vaccaro, NO (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 QH, 1 INT, 2 PD)
It’s hard to downgrade a player who put up a stat line like this, but Vaccaro is facing a suspension from the league for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. Pay attention to any changes in his status, but it also may be wise to look for a backup plan with the fantasy playoffs drawing close.
LOS ANGELES AT NY JETS
DT Steve McClendon, NYJ (3 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
While not the run stopper Damon Harrison was with the Jets, McClendon brings some added quickness to the nose tackle position. He posted 2 sacks in the opener and another 1.5 this week, so there is clearly some potential for big games here if you need help in DT-required leagues.
LB David Harris, NYJ (8 solos, 3 asst, .5 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Harris hasn’t looked like himself for much of the year, but he did on Sunday as he piled up 11 tackles and a half sack. He used to be one of the best blitzing inside linebackers in the league, but hasn’t gotten many opportunities so far this year. With that way things have been going for the Jets, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Harris post a few more big games like this in the weeks ahead.
DE Robert Quinn, LA (1 asst, 1 QH, 2 PD)
Quinn returned to the starting lineup this week and held up for 50 snaps (83%) in what looked like a great sign. Unfortunately, he checked himself into the hospital on Monday with what was described as a “non-football illness” so it seems his status for the future is in doubt once again.
ATLANTA AT PHILADELPHIA
LB Vic Beasley Jr, ATL (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The Falcons obviously had high hopes when they took Beasley with a top-10 pick a year ago, and he is starting to show why. With three multi-sack outings in his last 6 games, Beasley is joining the ranks of the best young pass rushers in the league. While the position switch to LB didn’t do any favors to his fantasy value this year, he’s proving to be a rare edge rusher that can still be a viable starter at LB in balanced scoring systems.
DE Adrian Clayborn, ATL (0 tackles)
Clayborn was on fire of late with 9 solos and 4 sacks in his last 3 games, but he went cold this week. Even more concerning was the fact the Eagles had 38 rush attempts and 36 pass attempts in the game, so there were plenty of opportunities for him to do something but he was shut out.
CHICAGO AT TAMPA BAY
DT Eddie Goldman, CHI (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Goldman made his return to the lineup this week and posted 4 tackles and a sack in 31 snaps (41%). He provides a big boost to the middle of the Bears defensive line, and that should help free up other people to make more plays as well. If you need help at DT, he could be worth a look as he’s flashed some big play potential in his brief career.
DE Robert Ayers, TB (5 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Take a look at what Ayers has done over the past few weeks. In week 8, he played 71 snaps (76%) against the Raiders and posted just 1 solo tackle. In week 9, he played 56 snaps (77%) against Atlanta and was credited with 2 assisted tackles. This week, he blew up against the Bears despite seeing just 27 snaps (48%). So, don’t count on him doing this regularly, but he does get a lot of snaps so there is clear potential there for him to be quite productive most weeks.
DE Noah Spence, TB (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The rookie pass rush specialist is starting to emerge as a consistent disruptive force. He has been getting some consistent playing time and has now posted a sack in 3 of his past 4 games. Spence was considered one of the top pass rushers in this year’s draft class, but he still has some work to do if he wants to develop into an all-around player.
LB Lavonte David, TB (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
The strange year of Lavonte David continues. He used to be one of the top-2 or 3 fantasy linebackers in the league and a consistent threat for 100+ solo tackles each year. With 9 games complete in 2016, however, he has just 36 solo tackles to his credit and he’s been held to 1 solo or fewer in 3 of those games. It’s not a question of playing time either as he was on the field for 86% of the snaps this week but still saw 7 teammates finish with more tackles than him.
GREEN BAY AT TENNESSEE
LB Blake Martinez, GB (7 solos, 3 asst)
The rookie 4th round pick has been posting solid numbers of late, despite not playing a full-time role. Even after Jake Ryan went down with an injury early in the first quarter this week, Martinez saw just 44 snaps (73%). While Joe Thomas saw 100% of the snaps as the better option in coverage, it has been Martinez who has been putting up the better numbers (18 solos and 6 assists in his last 3 games).
S Kevin Byard, TEN (8 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
If you are looking for a rookie player with upside that may be available on your waiver wire this week, Byard is a fine choice. He is playing heavy snaps for the Titans in a position that has a history of great production, and now has 17 solos, 7 assists, and a sack in his last 3 games.
LB Jake Ryan, GB (0 tackles)
In a very unfortunate turn of events, Ryan was injured on special teams before the Packers defense even had a chance to take the field. He was blocking on a punt play for the Packers, and had an opposing player crash into his legs. As the Packers best linebacker against the run, his absence was clearly felt as DeMarco Murray ripped off a 75-yard run right away.
MINNESOTA AT WASHINGTON
LB Preston Smith, WAS (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Smith was an early 2nd round pick a year ago who impressed while recording 8 sacks as a rookie. He hasn’t been able to match that type of production for much of this year, but seems to be heating up. His 2 sacks this week now give him 3.5 in his last 4 games and he should continue to form a potent combination with Ryan Kerrigan.
LB Eric Kendricks, MIN (1 asst, 1 PD)
Kendricks returned to the lineup this week, but suffered a hip injured early in the first quarter on a collision with teammate Anthony Barr. He was limited to just 11 snaps, and it seems his status for next week’s matchup with the Cardinals is in doubt.
MIAMI AT SAN DIEGO
CB Tony Lippett, MIA (7 solos, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Lippett is a tall corner at 6’3” that teams covet, as he will have less of a disadvantage against some of the leagues bigger WRs. Given his size, it’s not surprising that he’s a good physical corner, but he also showed off some big play ability this week when he collected his first two career interceptions. The Dolphins are in desperate need of some long-term stability at the position and hope that the 2nd year pro can grow into a long-term starter.
LB Jatavis Brown, SD (DNP)
The defensive rookie of the year candidate missed his second straight game with a knee injury. Korey Toomer filled in as the everydown linebacker and posted 10 solos with 3 tackles for loss. The Chargers now have a bye this week, so that should help him get back to health hopefully but the Chargers inside linebackers group has been ravaged by injuries all year.
SAN FRANCISCO AT ARIZONA
LB Chandler Jones, ARI (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
With 2 more sacks this week, Jones now has 7 in 9 games. His tackle numbers have been inconsistent, but part of that is driven by the tough stat crews he has been graded by. In any event, his big play potential makes him a decent LB3 candidate in most leagues, but he would be a clear DE1 if he still had that designation.
CB Jimmie Ward, SF (7 solos, 4 PD)
As the 49ers primary slot corner, Ward was matched up primarily with Larry Fitzgerald this week. He gave up plenty of catches, but also made a fair share of plays with 4 passes defensed and 7 solo tackles. Next week, he’ll get to go against Julian Edelman and the Patriots and then sees Jarvis Landry the week after, so he could be a strong pickup for CB streamers.
DALLAS AT PITTSBURGH
LB Bud Dupree, PIT (DNP)
Dupree has been practicing with the Steelers and looks like he could be activated prior to next week’s game against the Browns. Last year’s 1st round pick could provide a boost to the lethargic Steelers pass rush.
S Byron Jones, DAL (11 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
While J.J. Wilcox replaced injured starter Barry Church at strong safety, it was Jones who stood out this week with 12 combined tackles to lead all players in the game. In a wild game that saw 4 touchdowns scored in the last 8 minutes, Jones chased down plays all over the field. The former 1st round pick has lots of potential and appears to be developing nicely.
S Michael Mitchell, PIT (5 asst)
Mitchell was on the field for all 65 defensive snaps, but seemed helpless to slow down the Cowboys offense late in the game. As a full-time player for the Steelers, it’s rather disappointing to see him with just 6 solos and 6 assists in the last 4 games combined. With zero big plays to his resume this year and plenty of lapses in coverage, it’s not always clear why the Steelers are sticking with him over their high draft pick Sean Davis.
SEATTLE AT NEW ENGLAND
DE Trey Flowers, NE (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Flowers got the start this week and played 61 snaps (87%), while Jabaal Sheard spent most of the game on the bench (just 16 defensive snaps). It looks like the Patriots are very impressed with the effort and tenacity of Flowers, who picked up 2 sacks this week to give him 4 in his last 2 games. Looks like just another great find for the Patriots, who selected him in the 4th round of the draft last year.
S Kam Chancellor, SEA (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
While he was targeted often in his return to the lineup, Chancellor came up big against the Patriots two-TE formations. In his first action since week 4, he was healthy enough to play all 67 snaps and prevented Rob Gronkowski from scoring the winning touchdown at the end of the game.
CB Eric Rowe, NE (DNP)
It’s always hard to predict what Belichick is going to do in any given week, and he showed that again this week by making Rowe a healthy scratch. Rowe had replaced Logan Ryan in the starting lineup during the prior two games, but apparently did not play well enough to stay in the lineup.
CINCINNATI AT NY GIANTS
DE Olivier Vernon, NYG (4 solos, 6 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Vernon had a slow start to the year with just 1 sack in his first 7 games with the Giants, but he was generating consistent pressure and it seemed like just a matter of time before he started connecting. Over his last 3 games, he has been very productive with 13 solos, 7 assists, a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. He’s starting to live up to the big contract he signed and looks like a DE1 again.
LB Vincent Rey, CIN (10 solos, 5 asst)
With MLB Rey Maualuga inactive this week, the Bengals turned back to Vincent Rey. He started the game and played 44 snaps (59%), which was slightly ahead of Karlos Dansby (35, 47%). Rey tends to see time in the nickel package, so he was the better option this week against the 3 or 4-WR sets the Giants relied on. In those 44 snaps, Rey produced a remarkable 14 tackles with 1 more added on special teams. Unfortunately, his value is matchup-dependent but he tends to be very productive when given an opportunity.
LB Keenan Robinson, NYG (2 asst)
This stat line is strange because Robinson led all Giants linebackers with 44 snaps (76%) in the game, the Bengals ran the ball 23 times, and the Giants stat crew is among the most favorable in the league. Seems like one of those games where he just wasn’t around the ball much, and the blockers did a good job of keeping him neutralized. He still looks like the best of a weak group of linebackers to target here.
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