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.
TENNESSEE @ JACKSONVILLE
DE Calais Campbell, JAX (7 solos, 3 sacks, 4 TFL, 5 QH)
Campbell has been one of the elites at his position since joining Jacksonville and he showed why again on Thursday night. He led the way with 3 sacks as the Jaguars got to Mariota 9 times and finished with 7 solos and 5 quarterback hits while playing just 54 snaps (68%).
LB Myles Jack, JAX (2 solos, 1 TFL)
Unfortunately, Jack had to leave the game early after suffering a concussion. He was limited to just 38 snaps (48%) and was injured by a knee to the head while making a tackle on Derrick Henry. Jack also missed most of week 1 after being ejected for throwing a punch so his season is off to a rough start.
CINCINNATI @ BUFFALO
S Jordan Poyer, BUF (10 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Poyer continues to play at a very high level for an underrated Bills secondary. He finished with 10 solo stops in the game, which was twice as much as anyone else on the team, and also added a forced fumble with recovery. The Bengals offense only generated 41 tackle opportunities in the game, which makes his 11 tackle effort even more impressive.
CB TreDavious White, BUF (1 solo, 1 TFL, 2 INTs, 2 PD)
White has been an above-average corner since entering the league but his fantasy value has been limited due to a lack of interceptions and big plays. While he’s fully capable of playing shutdown defense in man coverage, the Bills also employ a lot of zone coverages. He’s been spending extra time working on his ball skills and it paid off with two key interceptions in the second half this week.
MIAMI @ DALLAS
LB Sam Eguavoen, MIA (7 solos, 1 asst)
Eguavoen is a former CFL standout who is originally from Dallas and played at Texas Tech so this was a homecoming for him. He and fellow linebacker Jerome Baker were the only two Dolphins defenders to play all 72 defensive snaps in the game, but he outpaced Baker 8 tackles to 3. Despite a quiet start to the year, Eguavoen is in an ideal situation for fantasy production as a 3-down linebacker on the league’s worst team.
CB Byron Jones, DAL (0 tackles)
Jones has been remarkably consistent early in his career and has averaged nearly 60 solo tackles per season. After posting 8 solo stops against Washington last week, he looked to be fully recovered from offseason hip surgery. Unfortunately, Miami’s quarterbacks didn’t seem very willing to throw in his direction this week and that kept him off the stat sheet. The blowout win also contributed to a drop in his workload, as he wound up playing just 44 defensive snaps (61%).
DENVER @ GREEN BAY
LB Preston Smith, GB (4 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith have both proven to be excellent fits for the Packers defense this year. They combined for 5 sacks this week and are consistently seeing 80+% of the defensive snaps each week, which should bode well for their overall consistency.
CB Jaire Alexander, GB (5 solos, 2 asst, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Alexander has taken on the role of facing the other team’s top receiver and has often been up to the task. While he hasn’t yet picked off a pass, he has been credited with 2 passes defensed in all 3 games and also ripped the ball out of Noah Fant’s hands to create a turnover this week. The improved pass rush is allowing him to be more aggressive in coverage, which should lead to more games like this.
LB Von Miller, DEN (3 solos)
Three games into the season and the Broncos have yet to record a single sack this year, despite boasting two of the most talented pass rushers in the league. While the addition of Vic Fangio was expected to provide a boost to this defense, the team appears to need more time to adjust. It also doesn’t help that there have been quite a few coverage lapses in the secondary, but it’s looking like Miller will regress considerably from his 14-sack total a year ago.
ATLANTA @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Anthony Walker, IND (11 solos, 3 asst, 2 TFL)
Darius Leonard sat out with a concussion this week and was replaced by rookie Bobby Okereke (6 solos, 2 asst), but it was Walker who benefited the most. He was one of just two Colts defenders to play all 61 defensive snaps in the game and he finished with 14 combined tackles on just 49 tackle opportunities that the Falcons offense generated. That meant he was involved in about 1 out of every 3.5 plays with a tackle opportunity.
S Keanu Neal, ATL (2 solos, 2 asst)
Neal suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the game this week that will end his season. He also missed nearly the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL that he suffered in the first game of the year. Most likely, Damontae Kazee will likely slide over to free safety where he’s a better fit than he has shown as the team’s nickel back. That will bump Ricardo Allen up to the strong safety role, and potentially move rookie corner Kendall Sheffield into the nickel role.
BALTIMORE @ KANSAS CITY
LB Kenny Young, BAL (6 solos, 2 TFL, 1 FF)
Young only saw 21 and 17 snaps in the first two games this season, but the Ravens increased his workload significantly this week against the high-powered Chiefs offense. He was on the field for 40 snaps (59%) and stood out with 6 solo tackles plus a forced fumble, while his competition for playing time Chris Board saw just 13 snaps (19%) in the game. If Young can hold onto a role in the nickel package and get 60+% of the snaps on a regularly, he should have some fantasy value as a quality backup at least.
CB Kendall Fuller, KC (7 solos, 1 asst)
As the Chiefs' nickel back, Fuller only sees about 80% of the defensive snaps each week but he’s been their most reliable fantasy option through 3 games. In addition to leading the team in tackles this week, he also added 7 tackles in the opener and 6 tackles plus a sack in week 2. While it would be even better if he played a full-time role, he’s already being put in favorable positions and his contributions against the run allow him to put up more tackles than most corners.
OAKLAND @ MINNESOTA
DT Jonathan Hankins, OAK (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 QH)
In leagues that breakout defensive tackles from defensive ends, Hankins is starting to look like a rather reliable starting option. Over his last two games, he has played just under 80% of the defensive snaps and has collected 7 solos and 5 assists. Maurice Hurst got most of the attention in the preseason but hasn’t shown much to this point and is seeing 15 to 20 fewer snaps per game.
LB Eric Wilson, MIN (7 solos, 4 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Wilson got the start at strongside linebacker in place of Anthony Barr, who sat out with a groin injury, and had a very memorable performance. He led all players in the game with 11 combined tackles while also contributing 2 of the 4 Vikings sacks in the game. Wilson has mostly been a special teams contributor during his young career but he has now started 6 of the last 11 Vikings games and has generally been very productive when given the opportunity.
S LaMarcus Joyner, OAK (1 solo)The Vikings got out to an early lead and were content to try and run out the clock for much of the second half. That led to a lot of 2-WR sets, which kept the Raiders nickel back Joyner on the bench for most of the game. He saw just 23 snaps (37%) this week after playing more than 90% of the total snaps in weeks 1 and 2 combined. Pass-rush specialist Benson Mayowa was also limited to just 16 snaps (26%) even though he came into the game with 3.5 sacks in the first two weeks. Have to be a bit concerned about these types of players if their playing time is going to be so matchup-dependent, especially given that the Raiders figure to play from behind rather often this season.
NEW YORK JETS @ NEW ENGLAND
LB Jamie Collins Sr, NE (5 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Collins continues to be one of the biggest IDP surprises of September. His playing time has shown a steady increase since the opener, but he was still at just 76% of the defensive snaps this week. Despite not even playing a full-time role, he’s managed to collect 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, with a touchdown. This week, Collins led the Patriots with 7 tackles on 39 snaps compared to Kyle Van Noy, who played all 51 snaps but was credited with just 3 tackles.
CB Darryl Roberts, NYJ (8 solos, 1 TFL)
Nickel back Brian Poole (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD) had the bigger stat line this week but his looks more like an outlier since he only collected 4 tackles in the first two games combined. Roberts has played every snap for the Jets this year, however, and leads the way with 18 combined tackles plus an interception. Those tackle numbers are driven by the fact that Roberts is being picked on by opposing quarterbacks and giving up far too many receptions, but that’s often a key driver for fantasy value among cornerbacks.
DE Michael Bennett, NE (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
While Bennett now has sacks in back to back games, there are reasons for concern. His snap count has dropped from 39 in the opener to 25 and just 19 in the last two games, as the Patriots have relied heavily on more of a rotational approach to rushing the passer. Adam Butler (3 asst, .5 sack) has started to emerge as a key contributor on the defensive line as the Patriots appear to have shifted back to using a 3-4 as their base formation, which seems like it could push Bennett into a smaller role than anticipated.
DETROIT @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Trey Flowers, DET (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
It took him a few weeks to get going but Flowers demonstrated the type of impact he can have as he led all players in the game with tackles while also picking up his first sack as a member of the Lions. His snap count was still at just 71% this week, which suggests there is still some room to grow even though the Lions were also without DaShawn Hand and then Mike Daniels left the game early with a foot injury.
LB Jahlani Tavai, DET (1 solo, 1 asst)
With the return of Jarrad Davis this week, Tavai was reduced to a base-down role and saw just 27 snaps (36%) in the game. He was also outsnapped by Christian Jones (39 snaps, 51%), which suggests the rookie will need to continue to work on his play in coverage to earn more work in passing situations. That hasn’t exactly been a strength for Davis either, so dynasty managers certainly should be patient to see how this situation develops.
CB Darius Slay, DET (1 solo, 1 FR)
Slay has been an above-average NFL corner for some time, although his fantasy value has often been significantly lower than his real-life value. In any case, he suffered a hamstring injury this week and was forced to leave after just 44 snaps (58%). That pushed Mike Ford into regular duty and could leave the Lions short-handed next week in a tough matchup with the Chiefs.
CB Ronald Darby, PHI (6 solos)
On the other side of the game, the Eagles also saw one of their top cornerbacks suffer a hamstring injury. He was on his way to a huge game with 6 solos on just 23 snaps (36%), but the initial reports said the injury was significant and likely to keep him out for at least a few games. Darby was not playing well this year, but his injury will leave them rather thin at the position and mean more work for Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones.
CAROLINA @ ARIZONA
DE Brian Burns, CAR (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Burns is an interesting case study as he was expected to play outside linebacker with the Panthers moving to more of a 3-4 base this year. Most league hosting sites have kept him designated as a defensive end, however, and he’s starting to emerge as a key piece of the Panthers defense. His playing time has risen from 57% to 66% to 75% of the snaps over the past three weeks, and he has now recorded sacks in back to back games. Mario Addison is the proven veteran here and led the way with 3 sacks this week against a rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray, but Burns has more upside and seems to be trending up.
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Thompson hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in prior seasons, but this is the first time when Thomas Davis is no longer around and he has a solid hold on a full-time role. So far, he seems to be making the most of it with 19 solo stops and 9 assists plus a sack in just 3 games. Luke Kuechly obviously draws most of the attention here, but Thompson is still just 25 years old so maybe this is the year he finally puts it all together.
LB Chandler Jones, ARI (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 QH, 2 FF, 1 FR)
Jones may not have as much value at linebacker as he would at defensive end, but games like this are why you often need to keep him in your lineup. With 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, he was his normal dominant self and remains one of the best and likely most underrated pass rushers in the league.
DE Gerald McCoy, CAR (2 solos)
McCoy hasn’t looked like a great fit in the Panthers defense thus far. Through 3 games, he is playing about two-thirds of the defensive snaps on average and hasn’t been asked to get after the quarterback like he was during his time in Tampa. He has no sacks and just 7 combined tackles at this point, which could make him a reasonable player to cut if you need roster space now that the bye weeks are here.
NEW YORK GIANTS @ TAMPA BAY
LB Shaquil Barrett, TB (6 solos, 4 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH, 2 FF)
Here is your early favorite for defensive player of the year. After posting 3 sacks last week, Barrett topped that with 4 more this week while also adding two forced fumbles. He’s unlikely to maintain this pace, but with 8 sacks through only 3 games he’s well on his way to a breakout year.
LB Alec Ogletree, NYG (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Ogletree suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to leave the game after just 29 snaps (38%). The injury happened after he picked up what he thought was a lost fumble but was later blown dead. Fellow linebacker Tae Davis also left the game early with a concussion, which forced Ryan Connelly (2 solos, 5 asst, 1 INT) into a full-time role.
HOUSTON @ LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
S Roderic Teamer, LAC (6 solos, 1 asst)
The undrafted rookie made his NFL debut while filling in for the injured Adrian Phillips at strong safety. He had sat out the first two games with a hamstring injury but played every snap in this one and looked like an inexperienced rookie. He flashed some potential with 7 tackles in the game, which tied for the team lead but had some struggles in coverage that suggest he should continue to see plenty of targets from opposing quarterbacks in the weeks ahead.
CB Johnathan Joseph, HOU (8 solos, 1 asst, 2 PD)
At 35 years of age, Joseph continues to play a key role for the Texans. He’s played all but a handful of snaps thus far and has been credited with 19 solos and 4 assists with at least 7 combined tackles in each game. Most of his tackles this week came against Keenan Allen, who finished with a remarkable 13 catches on 17 targets.
LB Kyzir White, LAC (0 tackles)
White was no longer in the starting lineup for the Chargers and saw his playing time reduced to just 7 defensive snaps (12%) this week. Denzel Perryman replaced him in the starting lineup and saw 38 snaps (63%), which suggests that Thomas Davis is the only reliable fantasy option among this position group right now. The move seems curious as White has played well thus far and Perryman is mainly just an early-down run-stopper, but the coaches think a fully healthy Perryman can provide a boost.
NEW ORLEANS @ SEATTLE
CB Marshon Lattimore, NO (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Lattimore may not be the shutdown specialist he looked like during much of his rookie season, but that’s actually better for his fantasy value. Even though Tyler Lockett stood out in this game with 11 catches on 14 targets, only 2 of Lattimore’s 12 tackles came against him. Most of them were spread around as he was very active in coverage and in run support.
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (2 asst)
While it was likely disappointing to see Jordan finish with only 2 assisted tackles in a game where the Seattle offense generated 58 tackle opportunities, there was no concern over his usage or playing time. Jordan was on the field for an incredible 82 of 84 defensive snaps (98%), but Russell Wilson did a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly to avoid taking any sacks.
DE Jadeveon Clowney, SEA (1 asst)
While it was expected that Clowney wouldn’t play a full-time role right away as he needed time to adjust to a new defense, there has to be some concern at this point that his workload has remained right around 66% in all three games. In fact, his actual snap count has decreased from 48 to 39 to 37 in that same period. Seattle did get Ezekiel Ansah on the field for 19 snaps this week, but this sure seemed like another missed opportunity for Clowney, especially since the Saints were starting Teddy Bridgewater instead of Drew Brees.
PITTSBURGH @ SAN FRANCISCO
DT DeForest Buckner, SF (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Buckner came into this week with just 3 solo tackles and a sack through the first two games, which was well below expectations for one of the league’s elite IDPs. He bounced back in a big way this week, however, as he led the 49ers in tackles and also added a clutch 3rd down sack late in the game to help seal the victory.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick, PIT (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF)
Fitzpatrick certainly made a favorable impression with his new team as he helped create two turnovers with an interception on a tipped pass and a forced fumble that was later recovered. Sean Davis went on I.R. last week with a shoulder injury, which created an opening for Fitzpatrick at free safety. Davis wasn’t exactly a liability, but Fitzpatrick likely provides an immediate upgrade due to his ability to generate big plays.
LB Mark Barron, PIT (1 solo)
Tough to reconcile what happened with Mark Barron this week. He was on the field for all 79 defensive snaps in a game where the 49ers ran the ball 40 times and generated 64 tackle opportunities, yet was only credited with a single solo tackle in the game. Meanwhile, fellow inside linebacker Devin Bush finished with 11 tackles and strong safety Terrell Edmunds finished with 10. Barron was often disappointing with the Rams last year as well, so this is becoming something of a trend for him.
LOS ANGELES RAMS @ CLEVELAND
LB Clay Matthews, LAR (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD, 1 FF)
While the Browns had very little answers for Aaron Donald, they often had to resort to double-teaming him to try and slow him down and that helped free up other players like Matthews. He continues to play about two-thirds of the game each week, but now has at least a sack in all 3 games and 4 total. He’s proving to be a nice addition to this Rams defense, and some improved play in the secondary is also helping the effectiveness of the pass rush up front.
LB Christian Kirksey, CLE (IR)
The Browns announced on Saturday morning that Kirksey would be placed on injured reserve with a chest injury. There is a chance he could return after 8 games, but this is now the second year in a row that he will miss a large chunk of the season to injury. Rookie Mack Wilson (3 solos, 2 asst), who was taken in the 5th round out of Alabama, took his place in the lineup this week and wound up playing all 66 snaps in the game.