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. When warranted, I'll also call out some players under No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. 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 about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
Philadelphia @ N.Y. Giants
LB Nigel Bradham, PHI (6 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Bradham’s playing time has increased over the past two games to the point that he is now basically an every-down player. He was on the field for 97% of the defensive snaps the past two weeks and has collected 11 solos, 2 assists, plus a sack and fumble recovery in those games. He’s a solid LB3 option in most scoring systems.
LB Olivier Vernon, NYG (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Vernon returned to the lineup this week and was healthy enough to play 54 snaps (76%). He gave Jason Peters some trouble and should upgrade the Giants pass rush significantly going forward. Unfortunately, his fantasy value obviously is weakened by the move to outside linebacker this year but he could still have some value in deeper leagues that place more value on sacks and big plays. Connor Barwin has done very little this year and saw his playing time reduced to just 11 snaps this week.
DE Brandon Graham, PHI (1 solo, 1 asst)
After seeing a bump in playing time to 84% of the defensive snaps a week ago, Graham was back to just 60% of the defensive snaps this week. Derek Barnett returned to action and saw 31 snaps (48%), but the biggest surprise was seeing Chris Long get 47 snaps against the Giants compared to just 39 for Graham.
LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, NYG (1 asst)
Armstrong picked up an assisted tackle on special teams but lasted just 2 defensive snaps before leaving the game with a concussion. B.J. Goodson responded with his most productive game of the year and Nathan Stupar also filled in at times.
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta
Foye Oluokun, ATL (7 solos, 2 asst)
Oluokun led the Falcons in tackles this week while also seeing a season-high in snap count with 40 (61%). The rookie appears to be taking over for Duke Riley, who has been struggling and saw his playing time drop from 84% of the snaps a week ago down to just 42% this week. Oluokun is a very athletic rookie out of Yale who has the speed to stay on the field in nickel situations.
DE Takkarist McKinley, ATL (0 tackles)
Since posting 3 sacks against the Bengals in week 4, McKinley has collected just 1 solo and 1 assist in his last 2 games while playing 59% and 77% of the defensive snaps. While he’s a pretty one-dimensional player whose primary focus is rushing the passer, he now has just 2 solos on the year that weren’t generated on sacks which makes it very difficult to rely on him despite the relatively high workload. The same can be said for Vic Beasley Jr who has 0 tackles the past two weeks despite seeing 62% and 73% of defensive snaps.
DT Gerald McCoy, TB (1 QH)
McCoy is one of the best and highest-paid defensive tackles in the league but his production has been rather underwhelming so far. He does have 1.5 sacks and 6 assists but has averaged just 1 solo per game prior to this week. He was limited to just 39 snaps (58%) this week due to a calf injury and was seen in a walking boot afterward so his status for next week is likely in question.
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
DE Cameron Heyward, PIT (0 tackles)
Heyward is one of the best two-way defensive ends in the league but it’s not all that uncommon for defensive ends, particularly those who play in a 3-4, to get shut out like this. He was still on the field for 49 snaps (80%), which is in line with the normal workload he’s seen each week so this is likely just an outlier that he’ll bounce back from after a week 7 bye.
LB Nick Vigil, CIN (2 asst)
Vigil has been one of the most productive linebackers in the league this year and came into the week averaging over 8 solos per game. He saw just 13 snaps this week, however, before suffering a knee injury. Initial reports indicated it was a sprained MCL that would likely keep him out for about a month. Vincent Rey saw a season-high 47 snaps (64%) this week but was credited with just 2 tackles.
S Sean Davis, PIT (1 solo)
Davis has proven to be a versatile member of the Steelers secondary as he contributed as a nickel corner during his rookie year and excelled at strong safety last year. It looks like the team is shifting him back to free safety, however, as he went from seeing 40 snaps in the box in week 4 to just 13 over the last two games combined. Rookie Terrell Edmunds has taken over the strong safety role and has 8 solos with 2 assists in the last two games.
L.A. Chargers @ Cleveland
S Jahleel Addae, LAC (7 solos, 2 asst)
Addae hasn’t been all that consistent from week to week but he played more of a traditional strong safety role this week and led the team in tackles as a result. Addae was in the box on about half of his 68 snaps while Derwin James spent the vast majority of the game at free safety. Inserting safety Adrian Phillips at linebacker also appears to be creating more tackle opportunities for Addae as well.
LB Joe Schobert, CLE (2 solos, 1 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Schobert has established himself as one of the most durable and productive linebackers in the league over the past season and a half. He had played every single defensive snap for the Browns since week 1 of the 2017 season before leaving the game early in the second half with a hamstring injury. Initial reports said he’d miss at least one game and possibly more. Most of his tackles will go to Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins Sr but James Burgess Jr should also see more work in base packages.
Buffalo @ Houston
DE Trent Murphy, BUF (1 solo, 2 asst, .5 sack, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Murphy has flown under the radar in Buffalo this year while Jerry Hughes continues to lead the way as a pass rusher. Murphy was a key free agent signing, however, and posted 7.5 sacks in 2016 with Washington before missing last year and most of the preseason with an injury. While he hasn’t been that productive from a tackle perspective (7 solos, 6 assists through 6 games), Murphy has at least a partial sack in 4 of 6 games and is consistently playing about 66% of the defensive snaps each week.
DT Kyle Williams, BUF (1 solo, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Williams may be nearing the end of his career but he’s proving that he can still be very effective at 34 years of age. With 2 sacks this week, he’s already up to 3.5 on the season despite playing on a team that has one of the worst offenses in the league. Having a true nose tackle like Star Lotulelei next to him is likely freeing up Williams to focus more on generating pressure this year than he was able to a year ago.
LB Benardrick McKinney, HOU (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
LB Zach Cunningham, HOU (9 solos, 4 asst)
Both Texans linebackers had very productive games this week against a Bills offense that hasn’t generated much all year. The Bills did have 27 rush attempts in the game but only generated 45 tackle opportunities overall, which is not far off the league average. Furthermore, both linebackers have been on the field for 100% of the defensive snaps the past two games, although that was probably due in part to limited nickel snaps against some run-heavy offenses. That may continue with the Jaguars, Dolphins, and Broncos coming up on the schedule though.
LB Jadeveon Clowney, HOU (1 solo, 1 TFL)
Clowney had 1 great game this year and one decent game, but he’s been relatively invisible in the other three games with just 5 solos and 1 assist in them combined. He had what appeared to be an ideal matchup this week against a rookie QB but only generated a few hurries. Tough to rely on him at this point when so few of his efforts are translating into fantasy stats, particularly now that he’s classified as a linebacker in most leagues.
Chicago @ Miami
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (6 solos, 7 asst)
Smith has had a slow start to his career since he missed most of the preseason to a holdout and injury, and also saw his production limited by a dominant defense that saw few snaps each week. The defense took a clear step back this week, however, as they allowed the Dolphins to pile up 541 yards of offense with a backup quarterback. Now they have a matchup with the Patriots coming up, which should provide plenty of tackle opportunities for Smith as well.
CB Kyle Fuller, MIA (6 solos, 1 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Fuller is coming off a strong season that saw him re-establish himself as one of the best fantasy corners in the league. Despite the strong efforts from Khalil Mack up front, he had just 1 pass deflection and 0 interceptions through 4 weeks before breaking through with a pair of interceptions against Brock Osweiler this week.
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (2 solos)
Baker had been gaining momentum as a 3-down linebacker for the Dolphins but the rookie seemed to take a step back this week. He was on the field for 44 snaps (63%) this week but was only credited with 2 tackles and had a rough day in coverage, including giving up a 50-yard reception to Tarik Cohen.
Arizona @ Minnesota
DT Corey Peters, ARI (2 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The Cardinals defense spends more time on the field than any other defense in the league this year, which has boosted the overall numbers for just about everyone in their lineup. Corey Peters got in on the action this week with a pair of sacks. He’s been in the league since 2010 and set his career-high for sacks back in 2013 with 5 so we probably shouldn’t expect too many games like this, but he is averaging over 50 snaps/game and could remain a viable starter in most DT-required leagues.
S George Iloka, MIN (7 solos, 1 asst)
Iloka got the start at strong safety this week while Andrew Sendejo sat out with a groin injury and played 43 of 58 snaps (74%). He mostly lined up at free safety with Harrison Smith playing closer to the box but he looked good and may warrant a longer look from the coaches since Sendejo has struggled with missed tackles this year.
CB Mike Hughes, MIN (1 solo)
The Vikings 1st round pick had been forced into action earlier than expected this year, but he saw his knee buckle on Sunday after just 12 snaps. It was revealed on Monday that he tore his ACL and will be lost for the year. That weakens their depth but he was working as the #4 cornerback this week so it shouldn’t impact any starters unless there is another injury.
Indianapolis @ N.Y. Jets
LB Darron Lee, NYJ (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Lee had struggled for the past month after opening the season with a great showing against the Lions. He remains weak against the run but is generally a sound tackler whose strength comes in coverage. He showed off his playmaking once again this week with an interception to bring him up to 3 on the year.
S Mike Mitchell, IND (3 solos, 3 asst)
The Colts lost two of their top-2 safeties to injuries last week in Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley (placed on IR) so they went out and signed Mitchell. He started at strong safety and wound up playing 54 of 71 snaps (76%) for them. Mitchell was never that productive during his time with the Steelers but he graded out very highly by Pro Football Focus this week and could be in line for a key role depending on how Geathers does in his recovery.
S Marcus Maye, NYJ (5 solos)
Maye had been playing well since returning to action in week 4 but he left the game this week after just 43 snaps (62%). He’s expected to miss 3 to 4 weeks with a broken thumb, which will leave the Jets secondary quite depleted as they were already missing two of their top two corners in Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine. Doug Middleton replaced Maye earlier this year but saw no defensive snaps this week so it’s not clear who will fill in next week yet.
SEATTLE @ OAKLAND (in London)
DE Frank Clark, SEA (3 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks, 3 QH, 2 FF)
Clark played a season-low 29 snaps (48%) this week but it didn’t matter as he dominated the Raiders rookie tackles this week with 2.5 sacks, including two that knocked the ball loose. He left the game in the second half with an illness, which probably kept him from adding another sack or two. Clark is one of the best young pass rushers in the league and looking at a huge raise when his rookie deal expires after this season.
DT Jarran Reed, SEA (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FR)
Just like Clark, Reed saw a season-low workload this week with just 53% of the snaps while he’s normally been well over 80%. He’s on his way to a breakout season though as he now has 4 sacks in his last 4 games and is on pace to finish with 50+ solo tackles.
CB Rashaan Melvin, OAK (1 solo)
Melvin found himself on the bench this week as the Raiders continue to search for answers at cornerback. He was only on the field for 7 defensive snaps this week while Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie and Daryl Worley handled the majority of snaps outside with Leon Hall covering the slot.
Carolina @ Washington
LB Thomas Davis, CAR (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 PD)
Davis returned to action this week and was once again back in a 3-down role. He saw 62 snaps (89%) on defense while Shaq Thompson only saw 37 (53%). Davis is 35 years old but apparently still good enough to keep the 24-year old Thompson in a 2-down role.
LB Zach Brown, WAS (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Brown averaged just under 90 solo tackles per year over the last two seasons and seemed likely to repeat as a top-10 fantasy linebacker once again. He’s not playing a full-time role this year, however, and therefore his numbers are rather underwhelming compared to what was expected from him. He’s been credited with 20 solo tackles in 5 starts, which puts him on pace for just 64 solos and he has yet to make any big plays.
L.A. Rams @ Denver
LB Bradley Chubb, DEN (4 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
Chubb came into the game with a relatively quiet 1.5 sacks in his first 5 games before exploding for 3 of them against the Rams on Sunday. He was a top-5 pick for a reason and figures to provide a great long-term bookend opposite Von Miller. Upcoming matchups against the Cardinals and Texans will give him more opportunities to build on this as well.
S Darian Stewart, DEN (8 solos, 1 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Stewart warrants a mention here following his huge game against the Rams. He missed some practice time last week with a foot injury but was healthy enough to lead his team in tackles while also adding a partial sack, forced fumble, and interception. He lined up in the box on over half of his 72 snaps but couldn’t do much to slow down Todd Gurley on his 200+ yard day.
LB Mark Barron, LAR (1 asst)
Barron went from playing 80% of the snaps last week to just 61% this week and he was credited with just a single assist. The temperature at kickoff was 25 degrees and there were reports prior to the game that the cold weather might affect the Achilles injury that Barron is recovering from. Fortunately, the only possible cold weather game the Rams have to look forward to this year is week 14 in Chicago.
Jacksonville @ Dallas
DE Yannick Ngakoue, JAX (4 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
Ngakoue has been a streaky player who collects sacks in bunches and it looks like he’s starting to heat up. After going sackless in his first 3 games, he has registered 4 sacks in his last 3 games. The matchup looming with the Texans next week also looks very favorable for him and the Jaguars pass rush after what the Bills just did to them.
DE Demarcus Lawrence, DAL (1 asst)
It was a very quiet game for Lawrence this week as he played a season-low 24 snaps (33%). When combined with his disappointing game last week against the Texans, he appears to be in a bit of a slump with just 2 assists. Dallas appeared to use a heavy rotation this week to try and keep everybody fresh after the game turned into a blowout. They welcomed back David Irving and had 8 different defensive linemen play at least 27% of the snaps.
Baltimore @ Tennessee
DE Za'Darius Smith, BAL (4 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
The Ravens dominated the Titans and posted an incredible 11 sacks in this game. They were led by Smith, who posted 5 tackles and 3 sacks while playing just 21 snaps (48%) in the game. The 4th year pro has already tied his career-high of 5.5 sacks that he set as a rookie and now has at least a partial sack in 4 of 6 games this year.
LB Derrick Morgan, TEN (0 tackles)
Morgan has averaged 7 sacks per year over the last 5 seasons but he has yet to record a sack this year. He was limited to just 19 snaps (25%) this week with a shoulder injury that is expected to keep him out for a few weeks. That should open up more opportunities for rookie Harold Landry and Kamalei Correa.
Kansas City @ New England
DE Chris Jones, KC (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Jones has been a big-play machine the past two weeks. After posting a sack and returning an interception for a touchdown last week, he added a strip sack of Tom Brady this week. Given how explosive this Chiefs offense is, Jones should continue to see plenty of pass rush opportunities.
S Jordan Lucas, KC (4 solos, 6 asst, 1 PD)
Lucas replaced Eric Murray and wound up seeing about half of his snaps lined up in the box or close to the line of scrimmage. He was credited with 10 tackles in the game and most of them came in run support as the Patriots ran the ball 38 times in the game. Most teams will probably try a similar approach against the Chiefs to try and keep their offense off the field as much as possible.
DE Deatrich Wise Jr, NE (0 tackles)
Wise came into the year with quite a bit of promise and potential as a pass rusher. He started out strong with 2.5 sacks in his first two games but he has done very little since then. Over his last three games, Wise has seen a significant drop in playing time and has just 1 solo and 1 assist to his name.