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. I've also added a section this year called No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading for some players. 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, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions on specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
KANSAS CITY @ NEW ENGLAND
DE Trey Flowers, NE (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Flowers played all 69 defensive snaps, which is a great sign for his fantasy prospects this year. The Patriots didn't get much of a pass rush, but their strength at corner should lead to plenty of coverage sacks for Flowers.
S Daniel Sorensen, KC (3 solos)
The devastating injury to Eric Berry should open up more playing time for Sorensen, who had already carved out a role as a LB in clear passing situations. Converted corner Eric Murray will also be in the mix but seems better suited to taking on some of Berry's coverage duties.
S Eric Berry, KC (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
Berry had been doing a masterful job covering Rob Gronkowski in the game but suffered a ruptured Achilles that will end his season. While he was probably more valuable in real life than fantasy football, it's a huge blow for the Chiefs secondary. Daniel Sorensen is most likely to replace him, but the Chiefs also like Eric Murray and Steven Terrell.
DE Allen Bailey, KC (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Bailey had 2 sacks in the 2015 season opener before finishing the year with just 4 sacks in 12 games. He's a solid 3-4 defensive end, but has limited upside.
S Ron Parker, KC (10 solos, 1 asst)
Parker is the team's free safety but also versatile enough to play nickel corner or come up in the box for extra run support when needed. That can lead to some big tackle numbers if everything falls into place for him, like it did here, but it's likely this 11-tackle game is just an outlier.
S Devin McCourty, NE (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 2 PD)
Given how much the Patriots front seven was abused by the Chiefs offense in this game, there was a lot more work for McCourty to clean up than usual. He typically patrols the deep secondary, so big tackle games like this should be few and far between.
NY JETS @ BUFFALO
LB Demario Davis, NYJ (8 solos, 6 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Both Jets linebackers had productive outings this week, but their poor play contributed to the Bills putting up nearly 200 yards on 42 carries. Davis was on the field for all 77 defensive snaps, so clearly has the trust of the coaches and figures to see plenty of tackle opportunities each week.
LB Ramon Humber, BUF (12 solos, 1 asst)
Humber benefited from the defensive linemen playing well and allowing him to chase down plays without having to sift through much traffic. He played all but 1 snap and helped limit the Jets to 38 rush yards on 15 attempts. Certainly looks like he has breakout potential after spending most of his career to this point on special teams.
S Jordan Poyer, BUF (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 2 PD)
With a sack and interception in his first game with the Bills, Poyer showed off his big play potential. The tackle numbers may underwhelm at times, but the cornerbacks on this team are rather weak so Poyer could see more tackle opportunities than most free safeties.
DE Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ (2 solos, 1 asst)
Wilkerson struggled in 2016 and it was mostly written off to injuries, but he's healthy now and was a non-factor in this game. He was on the field for 68 snaps (88%) and the Bills rang up 42 rush attempts for 190 yards, which should have resulted in a lot more production than this.
DT Marcell Dareus, BUF (0 tackles)
The Bills rotated their defensive tackles frequently, which led to Dareus seeing just 34 snaps (59%) in the game. Per the coaches, that will continue to be the plan going forward as well so it seems as though he may not have a chance for the huge rebound season many were hoping for.
LB Lorenzo Alexander, BUF (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Alexander had an incredible year in 2016 while playing DE but has shifted to a hybrid OLB/DE role in the Bills new defense. The switch to LB took a big hit out of his value, however, and it's unlikely he'll be able to make a significant contribution if he continues to see less than 50% of the defensive snaps as he did here.
LB Preston Brown, BUF (1 solo, 2 asst)
The Jets running game averaged just 2.5 yards per carry thanks to a strong effort from the Bills defensive line. That left Brown with limited opportunities, but he was on the field for all 58 defensive snaps and should bounce back with better numbers in the games to come.
ATLANTA @ CHICAGO
DE Brooks Reed, ATL (5 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
The Falcons opened up with Reed and Derrick Shelby at DE, but Vic Beasley Jr and Adrian Clayborn also saw time as pass rushers. Reed stood out the most, however, with a pair of sacks including one on the last play of the game.
DE Akiem Hicks, CHI (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
The Bears front seven is the strength of their defense, and Hicks is likely to play a huge role. He was on the field for 49 of 59 defensive snaps and posted a pair of sacks. He signed a 4-year contract extension on Saturday that included $30 million guaranteed, which points to the big plans the team has for him.
LB Danny Trevathan, CHI (2 solos, 1 QH)
Trevathan missed the entire preseason as he recovered from a torn patellar tendon in his knee. While the team announced he was "full speed" for the opener, it seems unlikely that he'll return to his former level of play right away. He saw 42 snaps (71%) in the game, which probably means he should stick to your bench for the time being.
CB Brian Poole, ATL (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Poole enjoyed a strong rookie season in 2016 after being forced into a bigger role than anticipated with the injury to Desmond Trufant. He's now playing as the team's nickel corner, which figures to limit his opportunities and lead to some week to week inconsistency.
BALTIMORE @ CINCINNATI
LB Terrell Suggs, BAL (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD, 1 FF)
Suggs turns 35 years old this year and had gone sackless in his last 5 games of the 2016 season so it seemed like his career might be winding down. Based on what we saw this week, however, it looks like he could be rejuvenated by a revamped secondary.
LB Nick Vigil, CIN (5 solos, 4 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Vigil has taken over the strongside linebacker position for the Bengals and appears to be headed for a big season. He was on the field for every meaningful defensive snap and came up with the team's only interception in a game when their offense kept putting the defense back on the field.
DE Michael Johnson, CIN (1 solo)
Johnson suffered a concussion in the game, which resulted in him playing just 36% of the total defensive snaps. The Bengals have also dramatically upgraded their depth at defensive end this year, which could make it difficult for Johnson to get back his full-time role when he's cleared.
LB Kamalei Correa, BAL (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Correa is trying to fill in for last year's breakout player Zachary Orr, who retired early due to a spinal condition. The Ravens used an ILB rotation this week, however, as Correa played just 27 snaps (44%) while Patrick Onwuasor played 20. Correa added several tackles on special teams, which inflated his numbers slightly.
LB Kevin Minter, CIN (4 solos, 6 asst)
The Ravens offense had 42 rush attempts in this game so there were plenty of opportunities for the linebackers to pile up tackles. Minter can be productive in run defense, but he played just 58% of the snaps and sits in nickel situations which suggests 10-tackle games like this will not be a regular occurrence.
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (1 asst, 1 QH)
Dunlap is the Bengals primary pass rusher and a strong threat for a double digit sack season. While some additional tackles in run support would have been nice to see here given the game script, it was still an encouraging sign to see him get 83% of the snaps, which ranked 5th on the team.
PITTSBURGH @ CLEVELAND
LB Joe Schobert, CLE (4 solos, 5 asst)
Schobert has emerged as a 3-down middle linebacker for the Browns this year, despite the presence of more proven players like Jamie Collins Sr and Christian Kirksey flanking him. The Browns surprisingly used all 3 linebackers on all but 1 defensive snap in the game, which points to all 3 of them potentially being viable fantasy starters.
LB T.J. Watt, PIT (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
LB Anthony Chickillo, PIT (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 TD)
With Bud Dupree a surprise inactive due to a shoulder injury suffered last week, the Steelers had to rely heavily on both players. Chickillo was on the field for 62 (94%) defensive snaps in which he posted a pair of sacks, while also adding a touchdown return on a punt block. Not to be outdone, rookie T.J. Watt also saw 62 defensive snaps and added a pair of sacks as well as an interception.
DE Stephon Tuitt, PIT (1 solo, 1 TFL)
Tuitt played just 2 defensive snaps before leaving with a biceps injury. It was originally speculated that his season could be over, but reports on Monday suggested he may actually be able to play through the tear. While he's more of a depth fantasy option anyway, he's shown in the past that he can play a heavy workload and put up solid stats.
ARIZONA @ DETROIT
LB Haason Reddick, ARI (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
With Deone Bucannon inactive this week, the rookie got a start at ILB and made the most of it. He was only on the field for 41 defensive snaps (58%), but was all over the ball and managed to finish 2nd on the team in tackles with 8. The injury to David Johnson could place a lot more pressure on this defense, and it's only a matter of time before Reddick surpasses veteran Karlos Dansby on the depth chart.
S Tyvon Branch, ARI (9 solos, 1 asst, 2 PD)
As we saw in the preseason, Branch got the start at strong safety over Antoine Bethea. While Bethea still saw 60 snaps (85%) as part of the team's big nickel package, it certainly looks like Branch is taking over for the departed Tony Jefferson. He's been limited by injuries since posting huge numbers with the Raiders early in his career, but clearly can produce when given an opportunity.
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET (1 solo)
Ansah was recently taken off the PUP list after missing training camp with a knee injury. The coaches limited him to just 34 snaps (45%) this week and he'll probably need some time to get back close to full strength. Given his limited effectiveness though, it's probably best to bench him until we see more.
LB Deone Bucannon, ARI (DNP)
Bucannon was expected to be healthy in time for week 1 after undergoing offseason ankle surgery but re-injured the ankle in his first practice. It sounds like he could be out for a few weeks now, which leaves a pretty big hole in the middle of the Cardinals defense.
JACKSONVILLE @ HOUSTON
DE Calais Campbell, JAX (4 solos, 2 asst, 4 sacks, 2 TFL, 5 QH)
The Jaguars made some big splashes in free agency this year, led primarily by the addition of Campbell at DE. He has long been an underappreciated player in Arizona, and he took full advantage of a Houston offensive line that was overmatched. The Jaguars defense finished the game with 10 sacks, so there was plenty of upgrades to go around from this group.
LB Myles Jack, JAX (8 solos, 6 asst, 1 TFL)
While Jack didn't stick at middle linebacker after some struggles in the preseason, he is still handling the play calling duties and playing every down. He showed off his great range with a 14-tackle game while his fellow starting linebackers collected just 4 tackles combined.
DE J.J. Watt, HOU (1 solo, 1 QH)
DE Jadeveon Clowney, HOU (1 solo)
The Texans were dominated on the offensive side of the ball, which left very few chances for their two star pass rushers to do much despite both seeing 50+ snaps. The move to Deshaun Watson at quarterback should help provide more balance and give both players more chances next week against the Bengals. Some more tackles certainly would have been nice though considering the Jaguars had 39 rush attempts in the game.
LB Telvin Smith Sr, JAX (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Smith has been highly productive for the Jaguars the past two years, and he's still a 3-down weakside linebacker. This looks like an outlier for him as he was on the field for all 79 defensive snaps but just wasn't around the ball as much as usual.
OAKLAND @ TENNESSEE
LB Tyrell Adams, OAK (4 solos, 3 asst)
Marquel Lee got the start but appeared to give way to Adams for the second half. Adams is the better player in coverage and finished with 41 snaps compared to just 21 for Lee, so it looks like Adams may have taken over.
S Kevin Byard, TEN (8 solos, 1 QH)
Byard was overshadowed by the addition of Jonathan Cyprien at strong safety, but the Titans appear to use both rather interchangeably. Byard has strong instincts and is a more natural playmaker, which should help him emerge as the safety to own here.
LB Marquel Lee, OAK (2 solos)
Lee emerged as the starting middle linebacker for the Raiders this preseason but didn't have a strong grasp on it to start the year. He was replaced by fellow rookie Tyrell Adams, who seems a bit better in coverage.
S Jonathan Cyprien, TEN (4 solos, 3 asst)
Cyprien never reached his full potential in Jacksonville but found a pretty good opportunity in Tennessee as a free agent. Unfortunately, he left the game early this week with a hamstring injury that could keep him out for a few weeks. That opens the door for Da'Norris Searcy, who has been underwhelming in previous opportunities.
CB Logan Ryan, TEN (1 solo)
The matchup with the Raiders looked very favorable for Ryan, who finished with just 1 solo tackle despite 11 catches on 20 targets for Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper combined. Ryan was on the field for all 66 snaps but often lined up in the slot which made it easier for the Raiders to avoid him.
PHILADELPHIA @ WASHINGTON
DE Brandon Graham, PHI (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Graham hasn't been able to fully tap into his potential as a pass rusher with a career high of just 6 sacks in 2015. Maybe this will finally be the year though, as he looked great on Sunday with a pair of sacks and a forced fumble.
CB Jalen Mills, PHI (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
The loss of a starting corner to injury was likely softened somewhat by the strong play of Mills. He held his own against Terrelle Pryor and came up with a crucial interception late in the game that helped put the game away.
CB Ronald Darby, PHI (1 solo)
Darby suffered a dislocated ankle and is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks. He was a key pickup for an Eagles defense that appears strong at every position besides cornerback. Look for Patrick Robinson, who has plenty of experience, to replace him for the time being.
INDIANAPOLIS @ LA RAMS
LB Jon Bostic, IND (5 solos, 2 asst)
The Colts don't have much left at inside linebacker so it looks like Bostic might be the last man standing. He played all 65 defensive snaps while Antonio Morrison saw 57. Given how much this defense is expected to struggle, there are likely plenty of opportunities here for someone to emerge even if none of the options are that inspiring.
S Matthias Farley, IND (8 solos, 2 asst)
With Clayton Geathers on the PUP list to start the season, and not particularly reliable anyway, Farley is taking over as the team's starting strong safety. Given the weak linebackers playing in front of him, he figures to see plenty of tackle opportunities each week and should be a solid #2 safety option.
LB Mark Barron, LAR (1 solo)
Barron has moved from safety to a 4-3 weakside linebacker, and now to a 3-4 inside linebacker. While the position may not be a perfect fit for him, this stat line was almost certainly an outlier. He played 41 defensive snaps (82%) before the starters were pulled in a blowout loss, but the Colts offense only provided 39 total tackle opportunities.
SEATTLE @ GREEN BAY
DE Mike Daniels, GB (5 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 4 QH, 1 FF)
Daniels stood out on Sunday with a dominating performance against the Seahawks. On Seattle's first drive of the second half, he split a sack with Nick Perry on 1st down and then finished it off with a solo sack on 3rd and 18 where he forced a fumble that was recovered by Green Bay and led to an easy touchdown to put his team ahead.
CB Shaquill Griffin, SEA (10 solos, 1 PD)
Griffin was expected to serve as the team's nickel corner but he was forced into full-time duty after Jeremy Lane was ejected in the first quarter. The 3rd round rookie was picked on repeatedly by Aaron Rodgers, but he was mostly up to the task and finished with a game-high 10 solo tackles.
LB Jake Ryan, GB (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Ryan was expected to serve as a 3-down linebacker for the Packers, but he wound up seeing just 5 defensive snaps. The Packers made frequent use of their sub packages, which apparently Ryan is not a part of so it looks like his role and production will be heavily matchup-dependent.
CAROLINA @ SAN FRANCISCO
S Jaquiski Tartt, SF (7 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Tartt got the start at free safety due to the injury to Jimmie Ward and made one of the biggest plays of the game with a one-handed interception that he returned 37 yards. While the strong safety job held by Eric Reid is more attractive for fantasy owners, Tartt has typically done well when given an opportunity.
LB Reuben Foster, SF (3 solos, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Foster was a very highly rated prospect who fell in the draft due to some health concerns. Unfortunately, he suffered a high ankle sprain in the season opener and now will likely be lost for a few weeks at least. Ray-Ray Armstrong took over and posted 6 tackles in 45 snaps.
NY GIANTS @ DALLAS
DE Demarcus Lawrence, DAL (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
The Cowboys rotate their defensive ends, so it's unlikely any of them will get a chance to put up big tackle numbers each week. Lawrence led them all with 34 snaps (61%) this week, however, and looks like the best pass rush option they have. He posted 8 sacks in 2015 and should be able to improve on that number as long as he stays healthy.
LB B.J. Goodson, NYG (14 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL)
Goodson was expected to take over as the Giants sole 3-down linebacker this year, but not sure anyone expected 18 combined tackles. The Cowboys offense only provided 56 tackle opportunities, which means that Goodson was involved in just about one-third of them. The Giants haven't had a long-term starter at middle linebacker since the days of Antonio Pierce from 2005 to 2009, but it looks like Goodson could change that.
CB Orlando Scandrick, DAL (1 solo, 1 asst)
Scandrick is the Cowboys best corner, but he fractured in his hand while making a tackle early in the second quarter. That should keep him out for at least a week or two, and likely creates an opportunity for Anthony Brown who played 50 snaps and came up with the game's only interception.
NEW ORLEANS @ MINNESOTA
LB A.J. Klein, NO (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
There was some concerns over how the linebackers here would shake out, but Klein stands out as the player to have right now. He was on the field for all 65 defensive snaps, and showed good range chasing down plays all over the field.
CB Trae Waynes, MIN (9 solos, 2 asst)
Waynes was named a starter opposite Xavier Rhodes, who tends to take on the toughest matchups each week. The former high draft pick hasn’t lived up to expectations, but he’s been given a starting role this year and will likely be picked on by most quarterbacks as he was this week.
LB Manti Te'o, NO (4 solos, 2 asst)
Te’o posted 6 tackles in just 16 snaps. Since he’s not part of the team’s nickel package, his production will fluctuate considerably and is likely not reliable enough to count on without an injury.
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (1 asst, 1 QH)
Drew Brees is a tough matchup who gets rid of the ball quickly, so the Vikings only managed one sack on 37 pass attempts here. Hunter still played over 80% of the defensive snaps, and should be more active in run support in the weeks ahead.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ DENVER
LB Jatavis Brown, LAC (11 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH)
Brown was highly productive when he played in 2016, but there was likely some concern whether he’d be able to replicate it under a new scheme. There shouldn’t be any doubt after this game as he collected 14 tackles on 57 tackle opportunities. The return of Denzel Perryman may take some tackles away, but Brown looks like a natural 4-3 weakside linebacker who can run and chase with abandon.
S Darian Stewart, DEN (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Stewart left the game late with a groin injury but he’s expected to be ready to play in week 2. With the move to release T.J. Ward late in the preseason, Stewart has taken his place and should see a boost in his fantasy value. Justin Simmons also looked good as the team’s new free safety.
LB Korey Toomer, LAC (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Toomer filled in for the injured Denzel Perryman at middle linebacker, but only played 27 snaps (39%) in the game. He was productive during those snaps, but it’s concerning that a player like Hayes Pullard who was signed a week ago off waivers, actually saw more playing time (and looked terrible in coverage).