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.
CHICAGO @ DETROIT
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (10 solos, 5 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Even though there were some bumps in the road leading up to this point, Smith is starting to emerge as the defensive focal point in Chicago. Big plays were lacking, but he picked off a pass in week 11 and added a pair of sacks this week. The injury to Danny Trevathan has created an opportunity for him and he’s now looking like a top-10 talent at the position.
LB Khalil Mack, CHI (2 solos)
Mack is the type of player who can get hot at any moment, but offenses have been able to limit his effectiveness of late. With just 10 solos and 1 sack over his last 5 games and some tough matchups ahead, he seems unlikely to reach double-digit sacks after doing so for the previous 4 years of his career.
BUFFALO @ DALLAS
DT Ed Oliver, BUF (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Oliver came into the league with very high expectations but needed some time to adjust. He only collected one sack (which came against a wide receiver) in his first 9 games and lost his starting job a month ago. Despite those setbacks, Oliver has been playing very well during the limited snaps he’s given and has 4 sacks over his last 3 games. The Bills like to rotate their defensive linemen but he’s earned more playing time down the stretch.
LB Sean Lee, DAL (9 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
With Leighton Vander Esch out indefinitely with a neck injury, Lee once again has a chance to play in the team’s nickel packages. He was on the field for 57 snaps (85%) this week and teamed up with Jaylon Smith for 15 solos and 11 assists combined. Lee is reportedly dealing with a strained pec but isn’t expected to miss any time.
DE Jerry Hughes, BUF (0 tackles)
Hughes is a very good player whose production rarely matches his level of play. He’s been on the field for 75% of the defensive snaps over the past four games but has just 2 solos and 1 sack to show for it. At this point, his fantasy value is pretty minimal despite the heavy workload he sees each week.
NEW ORLEANS @ ATLANTA
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (5 solos, 1 asst, 4 sacks, 4 TFL, 4 QH, 1 PD)
With 4 sacks of Matt Ryan this week (on just 70% of the snaps), Jordan surged into the league lead with 13.5 through 13 games. He’s regularly played more than 90% of the defensive snaps and looks like a strong candidate for defensive player of the year. The only potential knock against him is that he’s yet to force a fumble, but that’s consistent with his history as he has just 4 forced fumbles (on 63.5 sacks) since 2014.
DE Takkarist McKinley, ATL (1 asst)
McKinley had been dealing with a lingering shoulder injury but was not in the team’s injury report last week. Despite his apparent return to health, he wound up seeing just 25 snaps (50%) which wasn’t much more than the previous week. He’s been a clear disappointment this season with just 1.5 sacks on nearly 500 defensive snaps.
SAN FRANCISCO @ BALTIMORE
S Chuck Clark, BAL (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Clark has taken over for Tony Jefferson at strong safety in Baltimore and played every defensive snap for 7 games in a row. While his production hasn’t stood out prior to this week, he’s been reliable and held back somewhat by a lack of opportunities due to the overall strong play of the Ravens. He was a critical part of their win over the 49ers this week as he tied for the team lead in tackles and came up with a strip-sack.
DE Nick Bosa, SF (1 solo)
Bosa is going to be a strong candidate defensive rookie of the year, but he’s posted just 1 sack (with 8 solo tackles) over his last 5 games. The Ravens offense generated 38 rush attempts and 53 tackle opportunities this week but Bosa was only credited with a single solo tackle. Things also don’t get much easier with Drew Brees coming up next on the schedule.
WASHINGTON @ CAROLINA
LB Montez Sweat, WAS (2 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Ryan Kerrigan sat out this week while recovering from a concussion and the edge rush snaps were distributed across several players. Sweat added 1.5 sacks on just 33 snaps (44%) to give the 1st round specialist 3.5 over his last 4 games.
DE Chris Odom, WAS (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Odom was signed off the practice squad this weekend and picked up a pair of sacks in his Washington debut, including a strip-sack on the last play of the game.
CB Donte Jackson, CAR (2 asst)
Jackson has been one of the more productive fantasy corners since entering the league a year ago, but his numbers have been trending downward as the Panthers season has begun to unravel. He is averaging just 2.5 solo tackles per game this year but has none (with 5 assists) over his last two games.
NY JETS @ CINCINNATI
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (6 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 6 QH, 1 PD)
Dunlap has averaged just over 8 sacks per year during the first 9 years of his career with very little variability. He was struggling like the rest of the Bengals this year with just 1 through his first 7 games before turning things around over the last 3 games. In that span, he has been credited with 10 solos, 9 assists, and 4.5 sacks thanks to a dominant game against the Jets this week.
S Jamal Adams, NYJ (1 asst)
Adams played 65 of 66 defensive snaps in the game but didn’t appear to be his normal self as he was only credited with a single assisted tackle on an early 5-yard run by Joe Mixon. The Bengals offense generated 48 tackle opportunities in the game, so it wasn’t a lack of opportunity but reports on Monday suggested he was playing through an ankle sprain. Adam Gase said he’s considered “week-to-week” so it looks like he could miss some time.
TENNESSEE @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Anthony Walker, IND (8 solos, 4 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Although Bobby Okereke is still a long-term threat to Walker at middle linebacker, the Colts have been playing the rookie on the strong side in their base packages. That leaves Walker with a clear 3-down role at middle linebacker and he’s been regularly seeing 80+% of the defensive snaps as a result. He led the Colts in tackles with 12, which included a forced fumble by Derrick Henry on the first play of the game, and later came up with a partial sack to force a punt as well.
LB Rashaan Evans, TEN (2 asst, 1 QH)
Evans has seen his lowest workloads in each of the past two weeks with 67% and 76% of the defensive snaps. That’s still enough for him to be a viable fantasy starter in most leagues but his production has taken a dive as well. He averaged 5 solo tackles/game over the first 10 games of the year but has just 1 (with 4 assists) over his last two games, although the solo also came on a sack.
CB Adoree' Jackson, TEN (2 solos)
Jackson was coming off a 10-solo effort in week 12 but he was knocked out of the game early this week with a knee injury. He posted 2 solo tackles on 15 snaps (21%) and Tye Smith (5 solos, 2 asst) filled in for him the rest of the way.
TAMPA BAY @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Donald Payne, JAX (6 solos, 7 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Myles Jack sat out the game this week with a knee injury, so the Jaguars turned to Donald Payne at middle linebacker. He is a former undrafted free agent who spent most of his time on special teams to this point, but he was very productive and led all players in the game with 13 tackles including a sack. Assuming Jack is healthy enough to return next week though, Payne figures to return to his previous role. Jake Ryan was also recently activated and could see some playing time.
S Andrew Wingard, JAX (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Ronnie Harrison missed the game with a concussion, which created an opportunity for the undrafted rookie Wingard to start. He was on the field for 57 of 76 snaps (75%) while sharing time with Marcus Gilchrist, who was just signed a week ago.
DT Vita Vea, TB (0 tackles)
Tampa has been very difficult to run against thanks to the play of Vea up front, but his fantasy value has been very inconsistent. After posting a sack (and catching a touchdown pass) a week ago, he was invisible this week despite playing over half of the snaps against what looked like a favorable matchup. Overall, he has just 15 solo tackles through 12 games and therefore is unlikely to be of much value in any given week.
PHILADELPHIA @ MIAMI
DE Derek Barnett, PHI (6 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 4 QH)
Barnett hasn’t quite had the breakout season many were hoping to see, but he’s averaging 50+ snaps per game. So, the opportunity is there for him, but he just needs to become more consistent and string a few more games like this together.
CB Eric Rowe, MIA (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Rowe has been converted from cornerback to safety and played all 71 defensive snaps in a tough matchup with the Eagles tight ends this week. His production hasn’t stood out so his fantasy value is still rather weak but the Dolphins signed him to a 3-year contract extension and clearly see him as a key piece of their defense moving forward.
GREEN BAY @ NY GIANTS
CB Julian Love, NYG (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 FF)
Love is a rookie 4th round pick out of Notre Dame who saw just 3 defensive snaps in the team’s first 10 games. He played corner in college but has mostly been used at safety as a pro and the injury to Jabrill Peppers created an opening for him last week. He picked off a pass last week and then followed that up with another strong game this week, suggesting that he could become a building block in this secondary.
LB Preston Smith, GB (1 solo)
Smith has been an excellent addition for the Packers with 30 solo tackles and 10.5 sacks, but he’s been relatively quiet the past two games. That’s not surprising for a 3-4 outside linebacker but is worth noting since he posted just a single solo tackle (with no quarterback hits) this week on 57 snaps (85%). Meanwhile, Za'Darius Smith was credited with 4 tackles and 5 quarterback hits in the game.
CLEVELAND @ PITTSBURGH
DE Olivier Vernon, CLE (1 solo, 1 QH)
Vernon returned to action this week after missing the previous 3 games with a knee injury. The Browns kept his workload low as he only saw 12 snaps (19%), but he did register a quarterback hit. With the Bengals and Cardinals coming up next on the schedule, Vernon could be a factor in the fantasy playoffs.
LB Bud Dupree, PIT (4 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward draw most of the attention in Pittsburgh, but Dupree has quietly been putting together a breakout season himself. The former 1st round pick is averaging a remarkable 65 defensive snaps per game and has 4 forced fumbles with 8.5 sacks (7.5 of which have come in his last 9 games).
S Damarious Randall, CLE (DNP)
Randall has been one of the more productive safeties in the league since joining the Browns last year. He’s missed 4 games with injuries this year, but was a healthy scratch on Sunday due to a “coach’s decision”. Sheldrick Redwine (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD) started in his place and had a productive game while playing 61 of 62 snaps.
LA RAMS @ ARIZONA
LB Joe Walker, ARI (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
The stat line for Walker won’t stand out to many but his playing time should. He had been splitting time with Haason Reddick in recent weeks but this week Walker saw all 79 defensive snaps while Reddick only played 1. The 4 tackles for Walker were underwhelming considering the Rams offense generated 30 rush attempts and 64 tackle opportunities in the game, but Jordan Hicks (3 solos, 2 asst) also had a quiet game.
CB Jalen Ramsey, LAR (0 tackles)
Ramsey and most of the Rams starters were pulled in the 3rd quarter of a blowout win, so there weren’t enough opportunities for everyone this week. Other members of the secondary like Eric Weddle (1 asst), Taylor Rapp (2 solos), and Troy Hill (1 solo, 2 asst) also had quiet games.
LB Haason Reddick, ARI (0 tackles)
Reddick played one defensive snap in the game but he slipped in coverage and allowed a touchdown to Tyler Higbee on the play. That was it for him, and it appears the team may look at moving him back to outside linebacker, which would likely wipe out any remaining fantasy value he had left.
LA CHARGERS @ DENVER
S Derwin James, LAC (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
James made his 2019 debut this week after spending the rest of the year on injured reserve while recovering from a stress fracture in his foot that required surgery. He didn’t want to leave the field and wound up playing 56 of 57 snaps in the game. Expect his production to increase as he knocks off some rush and gets back up to game speed. Adrian Phillips (2 solos, 2 asst) also returned to action this week and saw 23 snaps (40%) in a reserve role.
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (1 asst)
After posting 8.5 sacks in the first 9 games of the year, Bosa has none over his last 3. In that span, he has seen over 50 snaps in each game but has just 3 solos and 2 assists to show for it. This week’s low output was particularly disappointing since the Broncos were starting a rookie quarterback and had allowed 21 sacks over their previous 5 games.
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (2 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Wolfe had just put together his 3rd multi-sack performance in his last 7 games before leaving the game with a dislocated elbow after just 42 snaps. Unfortunately, he was placed on injured reserve on Monday and will be done for the season. The Broncos have solid depth up front and will likely rely on a committee approach to replace him.
OAKLAND @ KANSAS CITY
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, KC (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
While his production has not been very consistent from week to week, his playing time has. Kpassagnon has often seen 80% of the defensive snaps at defensive end due to a rash of injuries at the position. Alex Okafor returned this week and saw 40 snaps (67%) but Frank Clark only saw 55% of the snaps before leaving with a shoulder injury.
LB Tahir Whitehead, OAK (1 solo, 1 asst)
Whitehead continues to play a full-time role as he hasn’t missed a single defensive snap since Week 4, but his production has tailed off. After averaging just under 6 solo tackles/game in the first 9 games of the year, he has just 9 solos and 2 assists over the last 3 games combined.
NEW ENGLAND @ HOUSTON
DE Jacob Martin, HOU (1 solo, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Martin registered his first sack of the year last week against the Colts on just 24 snaps. He followed that up on Sunday night with 1.5 sacks and 3 quarterback hits while seeing a huge boost in playing time to 45 snaps (52%). He was acquired from Seattle in the trade for Jadeveon Clowney and looks like he could start to pay dividends for the Texans as a pass-rush specialist.
CB Bradley Roby, HOU (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Roby hadn’t played since week 6 due to a hamstring injury, but he returned to the starting lineup this week and played 85 of 87 snaps in the game. The former Bronco came up huge in the game with a sack and interception and gets to face his former team next week. Vernon Hargreaves III (4 solos, 2 asst) remained active as the #3 corner and played 84% of the snaps.
DT Adam Butler, NE (0 tackles)
Earlier this season, Butler was regularly playing more than half the snaps for the Patriots and even saw 70+% snaps on several occasions. While he has an impressive 5.5 sacks on the year, he’s clearly fallen behind Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton at the defensive tackle position and has just 1 solo and 1 sack over the past 4 games.