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 @ GREEN BAY
LB Blake Martinez, GB (10 solos, 5 asst)
Martinez came into the year as a likely top-10 fantasy linebacker but he’s on pace to potentially finish as one of the elites. Through 4 games, he has already been credited with 33 solo tackles and 14 assists which puts him on pace for 132 solo tackles and 56 assists. This Packers defense defends the pass very well but is struggling against the run and that’s creating plenty of tackle opportunities for Martinez each week.
CB Avonte Maddox, PHI (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
The Eagles lost another corner to injury as Maddox was taken off on a stretcher after a hit to the head from his teammate Andrew Sendejo. He’s expected to miss a few weeks with a neck injury, which could force Craig James or newly signed Orlando Scandrick into a key role as starter Sidney Jones also left the game with a hamstring injury. They could also use a big nickel approach with Malcolm Jenkins taking on more coverage duties as their #3 safety Sendejo saw 80% of the snaps this week.
TENNESSEE @ ATLANTA
LB De'Vondre Campbell, ATL (7 solos, 10 asst, 2 TFL, 2 FF)
Deion Jones may be the leader and focal point of the Falcons defense, but Campbell is quietly emerging as a core piece as well. Despite battling a rib injury that limited him in practice this week, he was by far the most productive player in the game. He finished with 17 combined tackles on 58 snaps (91%) and forced a pair of fumbles in the game.
LB Rashaan Evans, TEN (5 solos, 5 asst, .5 sack, 2 QH)
Evans helped limit Devonta Freeman to just 28 yards on 12 carries and finished with his most productive game of the year thus far. He remains a promising building block of this defense with clear upside if he can remain in a full-time role, but it’s worth noting that his playing time appeared to drop this week. He was on the field for 78% of the snaps this week after seeing 94% and 98% in each of the past two games. Wesley Woodyard (26%) saw more time than usual as the Titans tried to protect their lead and Atlanta finished with 53 pass attempts.
CLEVELAND @ BALTIMORE
LB Joe Schobert, CLE (9 solos, 8 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Schobert is playing like a top-5 fantasy linebacker once again and was all over the field this week. He was credited with 17 combined tackles on 57 tackle opportunities that were generated by the Ravens offense. Rookie Mack Wilson also played all 69 defensive snaps this week and finished with just 7 combined tackles. The lack of competition for tackles behind a very strong defensive line should help keep Schobert among the most valuable IDPs in the league.
S Jordan Whitehead, CLE (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF)
Whitehead got his second consecutive start at strong safety this week in place of the injured Morgan Burnett. In addition to finishing 2nd on the team in tackles with 8, he also contributed to all 3 takeaways in the game. He forced a fumble by Mark Ingram, picked off a deep pass in the fourth quarter, and also hit the arm of Lamar Jackson as he threw the ball to result in another interception. Burnett has not been the most reliable option in recent years so it’s possible Whitehead could hold onto this job even after he returns.
NEW ENGLAND @ BUFFALO
DE John Simon, NE (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Many expected Michael Bennett to replace Trey Flowers in the Patriots defense, but Simon appears to be emerging as a key player instead. His playing time has steadily risen from 42% to 59% to 69% of the defensive snaps over the past three games, while Bennett and the other defensive ends appear stuck in a timeshare.
LB Kyle Van Noy, NE (6 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 2 FF)
The Patriots defense continues to play at a very high level this year as they rank among the league leaders in sacks (18) and interceptions (10). Jamie Collins Sr has been leading the way but his fellow linebacker Van Noy showed that he has more to give as well. The Patriots relied heavily on blitzes to keep Josh Allen off balance and Van Noy capitalized with a pair of sacks and forced fumbles. He played all defensive snaps for the second week in a row and seems secure in his established role as an every-down player.
S Devin McCourty, NE (5 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
McCourty has often put up better tackle numbers than expected for a free safety but a lack of interceptions and big plays have often limited his fantasy value. Over his last 6 seasons combined, he has collected just 7 interceptions. Things appear to have changed this year, however, as Sunday marked his fourth straight game with an interception. Given how well the defense is playing in front of him, he could beat his rookie season total of 7 when he was still playing cornerback.
DE Jerry Hughes, BUF (1 solo, 1 asst)
Hughes hasn’t played poorly but he’s once again at a point where his true value on the field isn’t necessarily reflected on his stat sheet. This was a tough matchup given how quickly Tom Brady gets rid of the ball, but Hughes is only averaging about two-thirds of the defensive snaps each week and has just 1 solo, 4 asst, and 0 sacks over his last 3 games.
KANSAS CITY @ DETROIT
DT Derrick Nnadi, KC (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Chris Jones stood out more in this game for his disruptive play but his counterpart Nnadi had a much more productive game on the stat sheet. He was credited with 8 tackles (on 40 snaps) and registered the first sack of his career while stripping the ball from Matthew Stafford deep in Chiefs territory. While the run-stopper has received just 52% of defensive snaps over the past two games, more efforts like this could keep him on the field in some passing situations.
S Tavon Wilson, DET (11 solos, 1 TFL)
Tracy Walker has been a revelation in the Lions secondary this year with 32 solo tackles through just 4 games, but Tavon Wilson could also have some value. He was in the starting lineup this week and wound up playing a much bigger role than expected after Quandre Diggs left with a hamstring injury. Wilson was credited with 10 solo tackles on 66 defensive snaps (94%) and would be in line to play strong safety if Diggs isn’t recovered following a week 5 bye.
S Quandre Diggs, DET (0 tackles)
The converted corner put up very solid numbers across the board as the team’s strong safety a year ago, but he’s been overshadowed by Tracy Walker this year. Diggs was credited with just 13 solo stops through the first three games and was shut out this week before leaving early with a hamstring injury. Tracy Walker is much more physical and therefore better suited to play up in the box, which will likely result in fewer tackle opportunities for Diggs in most weeks.
CAROLINA @ HOUSTON
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Thompson put up another huge game this week as he was credited with 12 combined tackles with a sack and pass deflection in a game where the Texans offense only generated 49 tackle opportunities. While Luke Kuechly has long been the gold standard among fantasy linebackers, Thompson is keeping pace with him this year and putting up LB1 numbers.
S Justin Reid, HOU (9 solos, 1 asst)
While both Texans inside linebackers were credited with huge tackle numbers in this game, it was Reid who led the way with 9 solo tackles. That gives him 26 on the season and he’s now posted 7 solos or more in 3 of the 4 games played. While he has yet to make any big splash plays, he’s proven to be one of the most consistent fantasy safeties due to his tackle numbers. Much of the work this week came while chasing down Christian McCaffrey who finished with an amazing 37 touches.
OAKLAND @ INDIANAPOLIS
S Khari Willis, IND (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
The rookie safety had been pushing Clayton Geathers for playing time at strong safety but got a chance to start at free safety this week. Normal starter Malik Hooker missed the game with a torn meniscus that could keep him out for several more games. Willis has been quite productive with limited snaps and wound up tied with Geathers for tackles this week.
LB Vontaze Burfict, OAK (1 solo)
Burfict only lasted 17 plays (22%) this week before he was ejected for a dirty hit that targeted a player’s head. The league also announced on Monday that he would be suspended for the rest of the season pending an appeal, but it certainly looks like his fantasy value is close to zero at this point. Tahir Whitehead should see a boost as he’ll have less competition and Nicholas Morrow (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD) looks like he’ll move into a 3-down role as he saw a season-high 79% of the defensive snaps this week.
LA CHARGERS @ MIAMI
DE Taco Charlton, MIA (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
The former 1st round pick of the Cowboys was claimed off waivers by Miami less than two weeks ago and already has sacks in back-to-back games. On a team starved for talent, he has an excellent opportunity to see a heavy workload right away as he was on the field for 48 snaps (72%) this week. Charles Harris was expected to take another step in his development but he has been invisible and saw his playing time dropped to just 26 snaps this week (39%) after playing more than 90% in the past two games.
DE Melvin Ingram III, LAC (1 solo)
Ingram lasted just 8 snaps (15%) before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. There were some conflicting reports about the severity of the injury, but he could miss some time which would further deplete a defense that is already missing two key players in Derwin James and Adrian Phillips. Uchenna Nwosu (3 solos, 1 TFL) saw a season-high 79% of the defensive snaps in his place.
CB Brandon Facyson, LAC (0 tackles)
Facyson was benched this week with the return of Michael Davis (3 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD) at cornerback. While he was productive as a starter, his play left a lot to be desired and Davis should provide a clear upgrade. Nickel back Desmond King remains the most productive cornerback on the team as he added 4 tackles and 2.5 sacks on just 39 snaps.
WASHINGTON @ NY GIANTS
CB Quinton Dunbar, WAS (3 solos, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Dunbar sat out the last two games while recovering from a knee injury suffered in week 1. He played 65 snaps (83%) but managed to pick off 2 passes Daniel Jones. While he won’t get to face a rookie quarterback each week, his year is off to a great start with 10 solos and 2 interceptions in just two starts.
LB Ryan Connelly, NYG (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Connely was looking like a nice find as a rookie 5th round pick in the middle of the Giants defense before unfortunately suffering a torn ACL this week. He was having a huge game with a sack and interception but suffered the injury in the second half and was placed on IR on Monday. The Giants hope to get Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis back from injuries soon but may have to rely on David Mayo (4 solos, 4 asst) in the short-term.
SEATTLE @ ARIZONA
DE Ezekiel Ansah, SEA (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
While Jadeveon Clowney gets most of the hype, he’s yet to make much of an impact on his new team with just 2 solos, 4 assists, and 1 sack through 4 games while never playing 70+% of the defensive snaps in a game. Ansah, however, was already up to 62% of the snaps this week and made his presence felt with 5 solos and a sack this week. He’s a better pass rusher and fantasy option, but as always, the main question for him is whether he can stay healthy.
LB Mychal Kendricks, SEA (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Despite facing an offense like the Cardinals that often relies on 3WR or 4WR sets, Seattle often stuck with their base 4-3 defense on Sunday. They felt more comfortable with Kendricks out there in passing situations given his contributions as a blitzer, as evidenced by the 2 sacks he collected against Kyler Murray. Kendricks played 53 snaps (84%) this week and has been on the field almost as much as K.J. Wright this year.
DE Zach Allen, ARI (0 tackles)
The rookie was averaging over 60% of the defensive snaps through the first three weeks of the season but he was forced to leave the game early this week with a shoulder injury. He lasted just 3 snaps and was replaced primarily by former Bear Jonathan Bullard, who picked up a sack on his 34 snaps. Allen had yet to record a sack and is probably more of a long-term hold in dynasty leagues anyway.
TAMPA BAY @ LA RAMS
S Eric Weddle, LAR (10 solos, 5 asst, 2 PD)
Weddle has always been one of the most productive free safeties in the league, dating back to the early years of his career with the Chargers. He appears to be continuing the trend with his new team as well since he has been credited with at least 6 combined tackles in every game this year. This game was probably a bit of an outlier, but he still managed to collect 15 tackles on 60 tackle opportunities generated by the Tampa offense. If the Rams defense continues to give up big plays like they did this week, he should remain very active all year.
CB Vernon Hargreaves III, TB (2 solos)
Hargreaves has cooled off after a great start to the season and has just 3 solos over his last 2 games. His low output this week is particularly disappointing considering he played 96 snaps in a game where the opposing quarterback completed 45 of 68 passes for 517 yards with 3 interceptions.
MINNESOTA @ CHICAGO
DE Nick Williams, CHI (3 solos, 4 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FR)
Williams has seen a steady rise in playing time this year from 22% of the snaps in the opener to a starting job and 60% of the snaps this week. He was helped by the absence of Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols but is making the most of his opportunity as he added 2 more sacks to give him a 3-game sack streak. As a 29-year-old who was out of football in 2017, he’s probably not a must-add but still worth mentioning given the way his career is trending.
LB Eric Kendricks, MIN (8 solos, 4 asst)
Despite being a former high draft pick and excellent all-around middle linebacker, Kendricks has often underwhelmed as a fantasy option. He has yet to top the 73 solo tackles he posted as a rookie in 2015 and is often held back by the talented team around him as he tends to see fewer snaps and tackle opportunities than most of the top fantasy linebackers. Things seem to be going differently for him this year, however, as he’s posted at least 6 solo tackles in all 4 games and has 26 through 4 games to put him on pace for 100+.
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (DNP)
Many were caught completely off guard on Sunday afternoon when the Bears announced Smith’s name in the list of inactive players for a key divisional matchup. The explanation provided was “personal reasons” but he watched the game from the sidelines and the Bears did not provide any additional details. Nick Kwiatkoski (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF) had a huge game in his place despite playing just 34 defensive snaps (55%) and remains a viable option if Smith misses any more time.
LB Eric Wilson, MIN (0 tackles)
The return of Anthony Barr pushed Wilson back to a reserve role and he wound up playing just 1 defensive snap with the bulk of his contributions coming on special teams. He remains a quality NFL backup who has shown he can produce when given an opportunity but probably isn’t worth a fantasy roster space.
JACKSONVILLE @ DENVER
LB Todd Davis, DEN (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 QH)
Davis returned to the lineup last week but had a quiet debut with just 3 combined tackles on 56 snaps. He was much more active this week, however, as he collected 12 combined tackles while facing a Jaguars offense that generated 38 rush attempts and 62 tackle opportunities. As the only three-down off-ball linebacker on this Broncos defense, Davis should be considered a very reliable LB3.
LB Von Miller, DEN (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH)
Miller wasn’t going to be held back for long as the Broncos went three games without recording even a single sack on defense. Miller will miss Bradley Chubb - who is out with an ACL tear - but will likely still finish the year among the best edge rush players in the league despite the slow start.
LB Myles Jack, JAX (3 solos, 3 asst)
While Jack has yet to have a breakout type game now that he’s the focal point of the Jaguars defense, don’t overreact to his low output this week. He finished with 6 combined tackles in the game but the Denver offense only generated 15 rush attempts and 37 tackle opportunities, so there wasn’t a whole lot of chances for him to make an impact.
LB Bradley Chubb, DEN (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Chubb had his first sack of the season and turned in a fantastic game but also tore his ACL in Week 4.
DALLAS @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Robert Quinn, DAL (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH, 1 PD)
After sitting out the first two games of the year to serve a substance use suspension, Quinn has been excellent over the last two games. The Cowboys like to use a rotational approach at defensive end and have one of the league’s elite pass rushers in Demarcus Lawrence, but Quinn has carved out a role right away. He saw 50 snaps (70%) this week, which was more than Lawrence had, and added a pair of sacks to give him 3 in his two games played. If the Cowboys secondary can improve, this defense has all the makings of an elite group and Quinn seems poised to do some big things.
S Vonn Bell, NO (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD, 1 FF, 2 FR)
It took Bell a few years to separate from the pack and establish himself as a full-time player in New Orleans. He has shown flashes in the past but lacked consistency, which made him frustrating to rely on from a fantasy perspective. While the sample size is still small, he appears headed for a breakout season and now has 12 solos, 7 assists, and 3 fumble recoveries (with a touchdown) in the last two weeks.
DE Trey Hendrickson, NO (0 tackles)
When the Saints traded up for Marcus Davenport (1 asst, 3 QH) last year, it took much of the attention away from Hendrickson but he’s a good young pass rusher as well. He got off to a strong start as the team’s #3 edge rusher this year with 3 sacks in the first two weeks and was averaging nearly 60% of the snaps each week. Unfortunately, however, he was forced to leave the game after just 8 snaps (14%) with a neck injury so his status for next week is unclear.