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.
WASHINGTON @ MINNESOTA
DE Jonathan Allen, WAS (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The former 1st round pick quietly put together a productive season last year with 61 combined tackles and 8 sacks. After a slow start to the season, he’s been one of the most productive edge players in the league over the past month. In his last 4 games, he has been credited with 15 solos, 7 assists, and 4 sacks.
CB Quinton Dunbar, WAS (2 solos, 1 asst)
Dunbar was forced to leave the game early with a hamstring injury. He still managed to collect 3 tackles on his 17 snaps (24%) and has been a productive player with 21 solos and 3 interceptions over 6 games. With a bye week coming in week 10, there’s a chance he may not be back until week 11.
SEATTLE @ ATLANTA
DT Grady Jarrett, ATL (3 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
As we near the midway point of the season, Jarrett ranks 1st among all fantasy defensive tackles. While he has been dominant at times during his career, he mostly lacked consistency. Through 8 games, he’s well on his way to a breakout season thanks in part to the struggles of the team around him as he’s averaging 5.5 combined tackles per game.
S Marquise Blair, SEA (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF)
Blair is a rookie 2nd round pick who has been thrust into a full-time role because of an injury to Bradley McDougald. Seattle obviously felt they needed some help at safety when they made a trade for Quandre Diggs, but it looks like they might be in good hands with Blair. He was everywhere on Sunday and now has 19 combined tackles with a forced fumble over two starts. McDougald did see 11 defensive snaps in the game and could reclaim his starting job next week, but Blair has likely earned a larger role.
S Kemal Ishmael, ATL (0 tackles)
Ishmael was in the starting lineup but only saw 18 defensive snaps (30%) in the game and was shut out from the box score. Last week, he split time at strong safety with Jamal Carter so it certainly looks like the coaches are trying to find a better option for the role he was playing.
PHILADELPHIA @ BUFFALO
DE Brandon Graham, PHI (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Graham has climbed into the DE1 conversation with his improved production over the past month. After going without a sack for the first 4 games of the season, he has gotten back on track with 5 over his last 4 games. He’s seen a corresponding boost to his tackle numbers as well with 10 tackles (8 solo) in the first 4 games and 19 tackles (13 solos) in the last 4 games.
LB Matt Milano, BUF (10 solos, 3 asst, 3 TFL)
After they let Miami run all over them a week ago, the Bills welcomed Matt Milano back to the lineup this week. The Eagles still were able to roll up 218 yards on 41 carries in the game thanks in part to a 65-yard run by Miles Sanders but Milano was a key part of keeping the game close early on. He played all 73 snaps and finished with 4 more tackles than middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds or strong safety Jordan Poyer.
CB Rasul Douglas, PHI (0 tackles)
Douglas had played nearly every snap over the previous four games but the healthy return of Ronald Darby this week pushed him back to a backup role. He only saw 6 snaps on defense this week and served as the #4 cornerback behind Darby, Jalen Mills, and nickel back Sidney Jones.
LA CHARGERS @ CHICAGO
DE Melvin Ingram III, LAC (3 solos, 1 TFL, 1 FR)
Ingram missed most of the past four games with a hamstring injury and was listed as questionable on this week’s injury report. Although he didn’t make a big impact on the stat sheet, it was very encouraging that he was able to play 81 of 82 defensive snaps. Looks like he is back to a must-start candidate in most leagues. Uchenna Nwosu saw his playing time drop the most as he went from seeing 63% of the snaps a week ago to just 20% this week.
S Roderic Teamer, LAC (8 solos, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Teamer has played every snap and put up top-10 safety numbers since entering the starting lineup in week 3. While not much was expected of the undrafted rookie free agent, he has been a nice find and an excellent fill-in for the injured Derwin James and Adrian Phillips.
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (3 solos, 2 asst)
Smith was a top-10 draft pick a year ago and widely expected to develop into one of the league’s best young linebackers after a promising rookie season. While he does have a 3-down role and has put up some decent tackle numbers, he’s still not playing in every situation as the veteran Danny Trevathan holds a spot in the team’s dime package. Smith missed a game earlier this year for unclear reasons and just hasn’t flashed any of the big-play ability we expected to see from him. He had 5 sacks with an interception as a rookie under Vic Fangio last year but has yet to record a sack this year under Chuck Pagano and has just 1 pass defensed in 6 games.
NY GIANTS @ DETROIT
CB Grant Haley, NYG (7 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Haley is a second-year player who appears to be establishing himself as a quality nickel back for the Giants. In addition to posting his first career sack this week, he’s been very active in run support and has been credited with 6 or more solo tackles for the past three games. With Janoris Jenkins on the trade block, it’s even possible he could move into a bigger role if the Giants make a move at the trade deadline.
S Tracy Walker, DET (6 solos, 1 PD)
Walker has been one of the year’s biggest IDP surprises with 49 solo tackles in just 7 games played. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave the game early this week with a knee injury. He still collected 6 solo stops and a pass defensed in just 42 snaps (57%) but the severity of the injury remained unknown on Monday afternoon. The Lions recently traded Quandre Diggs to Seattle so the next man up would likely be former starter Tavon Wilson or the rookie Will Harris.
DENVER @ INDIANAPOLIS
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Wolfe had a 2-sack game against the Titans in week 6 that looked like a clear outlier since he hadn’t had any other sacks on the year. He followed that up with another 2-sack game this week against the Colts though, so 4 sacks in 3 games is certainly worthy of an upgrade. Wolfe has yet to top the 6 sacks he posted as a rookie back in 2012 so his upside is limited but he’s also currently tied with Von Miller for the team lead with 4.
S Khari Willis, IND (3 asst)
With the return of free safety Malik Hooker this week, Willis saw his playing time drop from 100% of the snaps the past three games to just 30%. He still collected 3 assists on 20 defensive snaps, but fellow safety Clayton Geathers received more high leverage snaps and finished with 8 tackles (7 solos) on 44 snaps (60%).
NY JETS @ JACKSONVILLE
DE Kyle Phillips, NYJ (3 solos, 2 asst, .5 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH)
The undrafted free agent has been filling in for an injured Henry Anderson and seems to get better each week. He now has 19 combined tackles (10 solos) over his past three games and also picked up the first partial sack of his career this week. The trade of Leonard Williams ensures he’ll remain a key part of the defensive line in the weeks ahead.
LB Austin Calitro, JAX (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Calitro had only seen one defensive snap all year before getting a start at linebacker this week thanks to injuries to Najee Goode and Quincy Williams. He wound up playing 50 snaps (82%) and led the team in tackles with 7 in a game where the Jets offense only generated 15 rush attempts and 44 tackle opportunities that included 8 sacks.
DE Leonard Williams, NYJ (2 solos, 2 asst)
Williams was traded to the Giants on Monday, which seems like it could hurt him as they have a pretty crowded group of interior linemen already. Given that he’ll likely have more competition for playing time with the Giants, it is hard to see much room for growth. The change of scenery may be good for him though as it would be hard to do worse than the 8 solo tackles and 0 sacks he’s put up so far this year.
S Ronnie Harrison, JAX (2 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Harrison has been very productive in the first half of the season, thanks in large part to his big plays with 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. Unfortunately, he was knocked out of the game in the 4th quarter this week with a neck injury. Cody Davis would likely be in line for a start if Harrison misses any time.
CINCINNATI @ LA RAMS
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (3 solos, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Dunlap missed the past two games with a knee injury and returned to practice on a limited basis this week. He was healthy enough to start, but the team appeared to ease him back into things with a workload of 39 snaps (63%). That should improve next week and he figures to remain a viable starter at defensive end opposite Sam Hubbard.
S Taylor Rapp, LAR (9 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
This was just Rapp’s second start at strong safety but he showed off his range with 12 combined tackles in a game where the Bengals offense generated 59 tackle opportunities. With Jalen Ramsey potentially upgrading the perimeter coverage for this defense, more plays should get funneled towards Rapp and Eric Weddle in the middle.
LB Troy Reeder, LAR (0 tackles)
The Rams spent most of the game this week in their dime packages, which kept Reeder on the bench. He saw just 10 snaps on defense this week, which was down from 19 a week ago. While he had some productive games against the 49ers and Seahawks, it appears the coaches don’t fully trust the rookie in coverage situations yet.
ARIZONA @ NEW ORLEANS
S Budda Baker, ARI (7 solos, 7 asst, 1 TFL)
Baker has been a highly productive safety for some time but it’s still worth a mention anytime a defensive back is credited with 14 tackles in a game. The Saints offense generated 63 tackle opportunities in the game so there was plenty for everybody, but Baker was in nearly one out of every four. That brings him up to 40 solo tackles and 23 assists through the first 8 games, which is enough to make him a solid top-10 fantasy safety despite having no big plays yet this year.
DE Marcus Davenport, NO (0 tackles)
Davenport saw a season-low workload of 26 snaps (53%) this week with the return of Trey Hendrickson. While he had a 2-sack game in week 5, the former 1st round pick has mostly underwhelmed thus far against the run. In 8 games played this year, he has been credited with just 9 solo tackles (and 12 assists) with just 1 assist to show for his last two games on 70 combined snaps.
LB Haason Reddick, ARI (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH)
Reddick was limited by a knee injury in practice last week and that led to him seeing a season-low 36 snaps (47%) this week. He has a strong matchup against the run-heavy 49ers offense next week so watch the practice reports this week to see if he’s likely to play a full game or not.
TAMPA BAY @ TENNESSEE
LB Jason Pierre-Paul, TB (3 solos, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH)
Pierre-Paul was activated last week from the injured list after recovering from a neck injury and saw his first playing time of 2019 this week. He was able to play 43 snaps (68%) and picked up a sack, suggesting he’s safe to start moving forward. Unfortunately, Tampa switching to a 3-4 base defense may have changed his position designation from DE to LB so his fantasy value will primarily be determined by that. Note that Shaquil Barrett did see a drop in playing time to just 60% of the snaps this week but also added a sack to bring him up to 10 on the season.
LB Rashaan Evans, TEN (8 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL)
There may have been some concern for Evans with Jayon Brown coming back to the lineup this week but he put those to rest with another strong outing. He played 11 fewer snaps than Brown in the game but was much more active against the run and finished with 12 tackles compared to just 6 for Brown. Evans has now collected an impressive 29 solos and 11 assists over his last 4 games and will get an excellent matchup against Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers next week.
S Jordan Whitehead, TB (1 solo, 1 asst)
Tampa’s strong safety has posted solid numbers this year but hasn’t stood out much lately. He has been credited with 3 or fewer solo tackles in 5 of his last 6 starts and has just 6 combined tackles over his last two starts. The conservative Titans offense only generated 45 tackle opportunities in the game and few plays made their way past Lavonte Davis into the secondary.
CAROLINA @ SAN FRANCISCO
DT D.J. Jones, SF (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The 49ers have a very deep defensive line, which is led by DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa but also includes talented players like Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, and Dee Ford. It was their nose tackle Jones who had the 3rd most snaps along the defensive line this week and he finished with just one fewer tackle than their middle linebacker Fred Warner. The 71% of defensive snaps was a season-high for Jones and may have been matchup-based but the game quickly got out of hand and he still saw plenty of action.
LB Bruce Irvin, CAR (5 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
Brian Burns has seen a reduction in playing time while recovering from bye week wrist surgery and was only on the field for 22 defensive snaps this week. Meanwhile, Irvin has been at 65% of the snaps for three straight weeks and now has 3.5 sacks in just 4 games played. The Panthers pass rush has been one of the best in the league all year and Irvin is a better 2-way player than Burns at this point so he should continue to see more work on early downs.
DE Dee Ford, SF (0 tackles)
In a blowout win that saw rookie Nick Bosa collect 3 sacks and the team put up 7 overall, it was very disappointing to see Ford finish with 0 tackles. Despite the ideal game script for a pure pass rusher like Ford, he saw just 21 snaps (38%) and that was right in line with his normal workload since week 2. He’s playing through an injury that is clearly limiting his effectiveness but until he is able to handle a bigger workload, it’s hard to count on him for fantasy purposes.
OAKLAND @ HOUSTON
DE Maxx Crosby, OAK (6 solos, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The rookie had the best game of his young career and starting to emerge as a key piece of the Raiders defense. He played 74 defensive snaps (89%) this week and was as high as 98% back in week 5. With that type of workload, we can likely expect some more games like this one but he also has a pair of sacks in his last 3 games.
DE J.J. Watt, HOU (3 solos, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Watt hasn’t been his normal dominant self this season but he did have 4 sacks over a recent 3-game stretch. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the game this week and will be lost for the rest of the season. This marks his third season-ending injury in the past four seasons, which has to be frustrating for Watt and fantasy players alike. Look for Charles Omenihu and Carlos Watkins to see more playing time but neither can replace Watt and most likely won’t have much fantasy value either.
CLEVELAND @ NEW ENGLAND
DE Olivier Vernon, CLE (6 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Vernon hasn’t made the type of impact he was expected to thus far, but there are signs of better things to come. The strongest indicator is his playing time as Vernon was on the field for all 69 defensive snaps this week and has regularly seen close to 90% this year. Additionally, the schedule has been very difficult to this point but it figures to lighten up the rest of the way with games coming up against the Broncos, Bills, Steelers, and Dolphins.
CB Denzel Ward, CLE (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 PD, 1 BK)
Ward returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the lineup for 4 games plus the bye week. He has the potential to be a very strong cover corner who can still make enough plays to be a viable fantasy option and had a strong return with two passes defended and a blocked field goal attempt.
S Devin McCourty, NE (1 solo, 1 FR)
McCourty had 4 interceptions in the first four games of the season and seemed headed for a top-10 finish among fantasy safeties. Since then, however, he’s gone ice cold. Over his last 4 games, he did add one more interception but has been credited with just 5 solos and 3 assists. Probably safe to move on from him if there are better options available.
GREEN BAY @ KANSAS CITY
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, KC (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Ogbah has seen an increase in his playing time over the past four games and it went to an even higher level this week (90%) due to the absence of Frank Clark, who sat out with a neck injury. Over his last 4 games combined, he has been credited with 13 solos, 5 assists, 2 sacks, and 2 passes defensed. With 4.5 sacks on the year, he’s clearly become a valuable piece of the Chiefs' new rebuilt defense. Tanoh Kpassanon also added a pair of sacks this week while playing 74% of the defensive snaps.
LB Za'Darius Smith, GB (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Smith continues to make things uncomfortable for opposing quarterbacks this year. With 2 more sacks this week, he’s now up to 8 in 8 games and this was also his third multi-sack game of the year. He doesn’t offer much else as he’s yet to force a fumble and only has 17 tackles that weren’t sack-related on the year, but those big-play numbers make it easier to handle the low tackle production.
S Darnell Savage, GB (6 solos, 1 asst)
Savage practiced on a limited basis last week and was listed as questionable on the injury report but he returned to the lineup after a 2-week absence due to an ankle injury and played all 59 snaps. Even though he didn’t make any splash plays this week, he still managed to tie Blake Martinez for the team lead in tackles. The rookie was drafted in the first round due to his cover skills and playmaking ability but he’s also a sound tackler who can come up and support the run when asked to.