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.
LA RAMS @ SEATTLE
LB Troy Reeder, LAR (8 solos, 5 asst)
Reeder is an undrafted rookie free agent who was pressed into starting duty this week while Bryce Hager sat out with an injury. All Reeder did is lead the team in tackles with 13 while playing 73% of the defensive snaps. This was partly due to the matchup, but Hager had yet to see even 40% of the snaps in any game this season. The Rams don’t have much depth at linebacker so Reeder has a chance to earn more of a regular role moving forward.
LB Clay Matthews, LAR (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Matthews has been an excellent addition for the Rams defense and collected his 6th sack of the year this week. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken jaw late in the game and is expected to miss the next 4 weeks. That should result in more playing time for Samson Ebukam (1 asst, 1 QH), but he has yet to record a sack despite averaging over 50% of the snaps each week.
JACKSONVILLE @ CAROLINA
DE Yannick Ngakoue, JAX (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Apart from missing week 2 with an injury, Ngakoue has averaged about 80% of the defensive snaps this year. Despite the heavy workload, he had yet to record a sack before exploding for a pair against Carolina this week. He’s always been a feast-or-famine type and the emergence of Josh Allen (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH) hasn’t impacted his playing time thus far.
S Eric Reid, CAR (5 solos, 5 asst, 2 PD, 1 FR)
Reid has put together three strong games in a row and is emerging as a reliable every-week option. While safeties who play behind Luke Kuechly have not always gotten enough opportunities, Reid is proving to be a multi-dimensional threat who can contribute in multiple ways. In addition to posting 15 solo tackles and 7 assists in his last 3 games, he has also added a sack, 2 fumble recoveries, and 3 passes defensed.
LB Quincy Williams, JAX (1 solo, 2 asst)
The Jaguars had no answers for Christian McCaffrey in this game as he ran for 176 yards on just 19 carries. Williams had been productive leading up to this game but looked like a rookie here as he finished with just 3 tackles on 48 snaps. Not sure if it was performance-related, but he also saw his lowest snap count since week 1 as he was only on the field for 48 snaps (74%).
ARIZONA @ CINCINNATI
DE Jonathan Bullard, ARI (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Bullard was a 3rd round pick of the Bears who only collected 2 sacks in 3 full seasons as a part-time player. He appears to have found new life in Arizona, however, as he was claimed off waivers and has made an immediate impact during his first two games with his new team. He has played about half of the defensive snaps and followed up a 3 tackle/1 sack game last week with a 7 tackle game this week.
LB Nick Vigil, CIN (6 solos, 7 asst)
Vigil got off to a slow start this year but now has 14 solo tackles and 10 assists in his last two games combined. He’s yet to play a full game but is the closest thing to a full-time linebacker the Bengals have. With the way they are struggling, he is likely a high-end LB2 in most scoring systems.
CB Byron Murphy, ARI (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
The rookie corner rule appears to be in effect here as Murphy is averaging nearly 5 solo tackles per game in his brief career. With Patrick Peterson expected to return soon from his 6-game suspension, Murphy could see even more targets on his side of the field.
S Shawn Williams, CIN (10 solos, 2 asst)
Williams posted 9 of his 12 tackles in the first half but suffered a thigh injury and missed most of the second half. He’s been highly productive (31 solos and 12 assists through 5 games) all year but could be at risk for missing next week’s game against the Ravens.
ATLANTA @ HOUSTON
DT D.J. Reader, HOU (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Reader is a 350-pound nose tackle, who typically only plays about half of the game. That’s not a profile you normally associated with a productive fantasy option, but he’s making it work anyway. Over his last 4 games, Reader has been credited with 9 solos, 9 assists, and 2.5 sacks making him a quality starting option in DT-required leagues.
S Jonathan Cyprien, ATL (1 solo, 1 asst)
Cyprien was just acquired in a trade with the Eagles a week ago and was already in the starting lineup this week. He wound up seeing just 24% of the defensive snaps this week. While he may need some time to get familiar with the playbook, the Falcons have a clear need for a run stopper at safety following the injury to Keanu Neal. Ricardo Allen (5 solos, 3 asst) is taking on most of the responsibility right now but is better suited at free safety. Damontae Kazee was also limited to just 42% of the snaps this week before leaving with a concussion.
S Jahleel Addae, HOU (9 solos, 1 asst)
Addae stood out this week with a team-leading 10 tackles, including 9 solo stops. However, that’s probably not sustainable when you consider that he was only on the field for 35 snaps (47%) and the two starting safeties played the entire game. This game was unusual with 85 points scored by both teams combined and the Falcons finished with 32 completions on 46 pass attempts.
TAMPA BAY @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Marcus Davenport, NO (2 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Davenport is starting to emerge as the pass-rush threat the Saints hoped for when they traded up to select him in last year’s draft. He picked up two sacks, 3 quarterback hits, and a forced fumble against Jameis Winston this week. While he’s still developing as an all-around player, he’s on pace for a 10-sack year.
LB Kevin Minter, TB (9 solos, 1 asst)
Minter has been doing his best to fill in for an injured Devin White and his stat line this week may catch attention from some fantasy players. Keep in mind that White is very close to returning and could send Minter back to the bench as early as next week. White was actually active this week but did not see the field as the coaches said he wasn’t quite ready for a full workload.
LB Shaquil Barrett, TB (1 solo, 1 asst)|
Obviously, Barrett had to cool off at some point after posting 9 sacks in his first four games. He was not all that effective this week, although the matchup likely had something to do with it as the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in the league. Barrett will try to get back on track next week against the Panthers.
MINNESOTA @ NY GIANTS
DT Dexter Lawrence, NYG (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The Giants drafted Lawrence with their second first-round pick in this year’s draft and he’s already starting to emerge as a key part of their defense. He has 2 sacks over his last 3 games and has seen his playing time rise from 43% of the snaps in week 3 to 75% this week.
DT Linval Joseph, MIN (1 asst)
Joseph had a great start to the season with 2 sacks in the first two weeks but he’s gone cold since then. Over his last 3 games, Joseph has been credited with just 4 solos and 1 assist and doesn’t appear to be getting as many snaps in the team’s nickel packages.
CHICAGO @ OAKLAND
LB Nicholas Morrow, OAK (4 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Morrow has replaced Vontaze Burfict in the lineup and was on the field for 56 of 58 defensive snaps this week. He came up with one of two interceptions on Chase Daniel in the game and the low tackle output is less of a concern given the Bears offense only ran the ball 17 times and generated 43 tackle opportunities.
LB Leonard Floyd, CHI (1 solo)
Floyd had a pair of sacks in the season opener but has not been able to build off that performance. In the four games since, he has been credited with just 4 solos, 3 assists, and 0 sacks. The Bears defense as a whole has been rather underwhelming but Floyd stands out given how quiet he tends to be despite playing close to 90% of the defensive snaps in the past two games.
NY JETS @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Brandon Graham, PHI (4 solos, 2 asst, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 5 QH)
Graham has often been held back by a lack of playing time as the Eagles have often believed in a rotational approach. He remains the best pass rusher on the team, however, and showed why with a 3-sack game against a hapless Jets team. The Eagles defense registered 10 sacks in the game and Graham led the way while also leading the team in tackles.
LB Neville Hewitt, NYJ (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
C.J. Mosley remains out of the lineup with a groin injury, which is allowing Hewitt to remain as a fantasy starter. He should continue to pile up tackles like he did this week when the Jets are overmatched, but he also contributed some big plays with 2 sacks and an interception in just 4 games.
DE Leonard Williams, NYJ (1 solo)
Williams has been credited with just 4 solo tackles (and 7 assists) with zero sacks over the first four games, despite often playing 80% of the defensive snaps. There was some hope a new coaching staff and scheme might be able to get more out of him, but he managed just 1 solo in a game following the bye when the Eagles ran the ball 29 times.
BALTIMORE @ PITTSBURGH
LB Josh Bynes, BAL (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Bynes was just added to the Ravens last week and was immediately added to the starting lineup. He wound up playing 43 snaps (72%) and provided a spark with an interception off Jaylen Samuels. Bynes spent the early part of his career with the Ravens before bouncing around the league and can help solidify the middle of the Ravens defense.
LB Vince Williams, PIT (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Williams missed most of the past three games with a hamstring injury but returned to a key role this week. He led all Steelers with 9 tackles in the game while also adding one of the team’s 5 sacks. Although he wasn’t in the starting lineup, Williams is a better run defender than both Mark Barron (2 solos, 2 asst) and rookie Devin Bush (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD). Barron left the game with a hamstring injury of his own though so Williams could be back in the mix for a three-down role in the short-term at least.
S Tony Jefferson, BAL (1 asst, 1 PD)
Jefferson never quite made the impact he was expected to in Baltimore but he was a solid depth option for fantasy players. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL this week and will be done for the season. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are expected to share the job of replacing him, which will likely keep both from fantasy relevance.
BUFFALO @ TENNESSEE
LB Harold Landry, TEN (7 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Landry had a slow start to his rookie season last year, but the former 2nd round pick is starting to establish himself as one of the better young pass rushers in the league. He picked up two sacks last week and now has 4 in his last 4 games while playing over 80% of the defensive snaps each week.
DT Jordan Phillips, BUF (3 solos, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
Phillips is more of a run stopper than pass rusher but can be disruptive like he was on Sunday against the Titans. He recorded 3 sacks in the game while taking advantage of some poor guard play and that gives him 4 sacks in his last 3 games. Despite a recent boost in playing time, Phillips still sees less than 50% of the snaps each week and isn’t likely to sustain this type of production.
TE Jurrell Casey, TEN (0 tackles)
Casey hasn’t played up to his normal level so far this year but did post a strong game just a week ago. However, the fact that he finished with 0 tackles despite playing 55 snaps (85%) in a game where the Bills offense generated 54 tackle opportunities is certainly disappointing.
LB Matt Milano, BUF (1 solo, 3 asst, 1 QH)
Milano has played well for the Bills this year even though it hasn’t necessarily shown up on the box scores. He left the game after just 45 snaps (73%) this week with a hamstring injury. Fortunately, the Bills have a bye week coming up which will give him some extra time to rest and recover.
NEW ENGLAND @ WASHINGTON
S Montae Nicholson, WAS (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The sample size is small, but Nicholson has been more valuable than his much more expensive teammate Landon Collins. Through 5 games, Nicholson has 23 solos, 8 assists, and 2 interceptions compared to 30 solos, 12 assists, and no big plays for Collins.
DE John Simon, NE (0 tackles)
One week after seeing his playing time spike to 69% of the snaps, Simon only saw 12 snaps (23%) this week. The Patriots like to use a heavy rotation with their defensive ends and spread the playing time across 5 or 6 different players, which makes it difficult to rely on any of them in a given week.
LB Kyle Van Noy, NE (1 QH, 1 PD)
With the return of Dont'a Hightower (5 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 PD) this week, Van Noy saw his snap percentage drop to 83%. That may not be significant over the long-term but he finished with no tackles on his 44 snaps while Jamie Collins Sr (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR) and Hightower had very productive games.
DENVER @ LA CHARGERS
LB A.J. Johnson, DEN (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Johnson replaced Josey Jewell in the starting lineup this week and provide the defensive spark the Broncos had been looking for. He came up with key plays throughout the game, including an interception in the end zone and another stop on Austin Ekeler just short of the goal line. There is a clear opening in the middle of this defense and Johnson may just be the player to fill it if he can put together some more games like this one.
LB Uchenna Nwosu, LAC (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Nwosu was a second-round pick a year ago and but hasn’t had an opportunity for significant playing time until now. He saw 79% of the defensive snaps a week ago and 93% this week, thanks to an injury to Melvin Ingram III. If he can put together some more games like this, the Chargers will likely need to find a bigger role for him even after Ingram returns.
LB Denzel Perryman, LAC (3 solos, 1 asst)
Perryman appeared to get benched after several mistakes early in the game that let the Broncos score two quick touchdowns. Rookie Drue Tranquill replaced him at middle linebacker and looked good, which could lead to more opportunities in the weeks ahead. The linebacker group was a revolving door this week as five linebackers saw at least 20% of the snaps, not including Nwosu who moved up to end. Thomas Davis remains the only reliable option here but Tranquill is a player to watch.
GREEN BAY @ DALLAS
CB Kevin King, GB (6 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 FF)
King was not expected to play in the game but made a surprising recovery from a groin injury and managed to come up with a key interception late in the game. He only wound up seeing 37 snaps (51%) in the game but still finished 2nd on the team with 6 solo tackles and also forced a fumble from Tavon Austin.
S Darnell Savage, GB (1 asst)
The rookie and 1st round pick Savage had been showing signs of progress but lasted just 19 snaps (26%) this week before suffering a high ankle sprain. Will Redmond took his place and added 6 solo stops on 55 defensive snaps.
INDIANAPOLIS @ KANSAS CITY
LB Damien Wilson, KC (7 solos, 5 asst)
The Colts dominated the game on the ground with 45 rushing attempts so there were plenty of tackles to go around. Anthony Hitchens left the game after just 11 snaps with a groin injury and was replaced by Ben Niemann (6 solos, 4 asst on 70 snaps). Meanwhile, Wilson continues to see very consistent playing time as a 3-down linebacker and has 20 combined tackles over his last two games. The injuries should keep him very busy next week against the Texans as well.
DE Kemoko Turay, IND (2 asst, .5 sack, 3 QH)
Turay was having a great game and generating plenty of pressure on Patrick Mahomes II before suffering a broken ankle. That figures to create more opportunities for Al-Quadin Muhammad and possibly the rookie Ben Banogu.
DT Chris Jones, KC (1 solo, 2 QH)
Jones only lasted 38 snaps (47%) before suffering a groin injury. Initial reports indicated he is considered “week to week” and likely to miss some time. That creates a huge hole in the middle of the Chiefs defense as fellow defensive tackle Xavier Williams was also injured in the game.