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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.
NY JETS @ BALTIMORE
CB Marlon Humphrey, BAL (4 solos, 2 PD)
In a crowded and talented Ravens secondary, Humphrey has emerged as the only reliable fantasy option. He’s been a top-5 fantasy corner all year and has been remarkably consistent with just 2 low-scoring weeks.
DE Henry Anderson, NYJ (1 solo, 1 QH)
Anderson was a pleasant surprise for the Jets last year when he posted 7 sacks, but he regressed this year and has just 1 through 11 games played. The move to more of a 4-3 front under Gregg Williams seems like it should have created more pass-rush opportunities for him but it hasn’t worked out that way.
SEATTLE @ CAROLINA
DT Vernon Butler, CAR (2 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Butler is a former 1st round pick who contributed very little during the first three years of his career so the Panthers declined to pick up his 5th-year option. Injuries to Kawann Short and Dontari Poe have opened up more opportunities for him of late, however, and he’s been taking advantage. He has 12 combined tackles (with 5 for a loss) and 2 sacks over the last 3 weeks. His late breakout will likely help him earn a big contract in free agency and a significant role somewhere next year.
S Quandre Diggs, SEA (3 solos, 5 asst)
Diggs has provided a clear spark to the Seahawks defense since joining the team and he was on his way to another strong outing with 8 tackles on 35 snaps (49%). Unfortunately, he left the game with a sprained ankle that’s likely to keep him out for next week and possibly longer.
NEW ENGLAND @ CINCINNATI
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
After posting just 1 sack in his first 7 games this year, Dunlap has completely turned his year around. He has 5.5 sacks with 18 solos, 12 assists, and 5 passes defensed over the last 5 weeks. The strong finish is even more impressive given the Bengals record to this point and now he has a great matchup looming against the Dolphins.
LB Kyle Van Noy, NE (1 solo, 1 asst)
Van Noy has more competition at linebacker this year than he’s had in years past and both Jamie Collins and Donta Hightower have out-snapped him the past two weeks. While he’s getting more opportunities to play on the edge as a pass rusher and has responded with 6.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles, his tackle production has fallen off dramatically. He missed the opener with an injury but has just 35 solo tackles over 13 games, which makes him tough to count on outside of big-play scoring leagues.
TAMPA BAY @ DETROIT
LB Jahlani Tavai, DET (2 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The rookie got a chance to start at middle linebacker this week and should remain in a 3-down role for the rest of the season after Jarrad Davis went on I.R. Tampa’s offense generated 29 rush attempts and 59 tackle opportunities in the game so the 5 tackles for Tavai on 70 snaps (93%) were underwhelming but he made up for it with the first interception of his career.
CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, TB (8 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Tampa selected Murphy-Bunting early in the second round of this year’s draft out of Central Michigan. So, this was a homecoming for him playing in Michigan and he made the most of it as he led the Bucs in tackles with 8 solo stops while also adding a game-sealing interception that he returned 70 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
LB Devon Kennard, DET (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Kennard has regularly played more than 90% of the defensive snaps, which makes him one of the rare 3-4 outside linebackers that can still have fantasy value. He picked up the 4th sack in his last 6 games this week but left the game early with a hamstring injury. The Lions don’t have much to play for at this point so it may be smart to shut him down.
CHICAGO @ GREEN BAY
DT Kenny Clark, GB (6 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 QH)
For a player who was considered just outside the elite at his position, Clark had a surprisingly quiet season. He often put up enough tackles to remain a fantasy starter but went 10 games without a sack, which was surprising given all the pressure the Packers were creating with their outside linebackers. Clark has turned things around of late, however, and now has 3.5 sacks over his last two games.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, CHI (1 solo)
Clinton-Dix was disappointed at the interest he received in free agency last year coming off a season that saw him post 80 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. He signed a 1-year deal in Chicago hoping to find a better offer in 2020 but he likely hasn’t helped his case. Since posting 2 interceptions in week 3 and returning one for a touchdown, he has not come up with any big plays apart from a couple of fumble recoveries. Even with the Bears missing their top-2 inside linebackers this week, he was remarkably quiet against his former team and finished with just 1 tackle.
DENVER @ KANSAS CITY
S Justin Simmons, DEN (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Simmons enjoyed a breakout season last year when he finished with 70 solo tackles and 3 interceptions, but he looks like he’ll finish with even better numbers this year. He picked off his 4th pass of the year this week and has an impressive 14 passes defensed, which ranks 1st among NFL safeties.
DE Alex Okafor, KC (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Okafor played 81% of the snaps last week and seemed ready to handle a heavy workload into the NFL playoffs but he lasted just 5 snaps this week. He picked up 2 tackles and a sack on those snaps but reports on Monday suggested he may have torn his Pec and was undergoing an MRI. His injury further depleted the Chiefs line and resulted in Frank Clark and Tanoh Kpassagnon both playing a heavy workload. They claimed Terrell Suggs off waivers on Monday but he didn’t appear to have much left when released by Arizona.
MIAMI @ NY GIANTS
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (6 solos, 6 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Baker hasn’t always been as productive as you’d expect given his role as an every-down linebacker on one of the league’s worst teams. He has very limited competition for tackles though and games like this have been closer to the norm for him over the second half of the season. At 22 years of age, he is one of the few building blocks they have in place and an upgrade of surrounding talent should allow him to become more of a playmaker next year.
CB Sam Beal, NYG (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Beal made his first career start this week in place of Janoris Jenkins, who was waived due to comments he made on Twitter. Beal also played 87 snaps a week ago and now has 14 solos plus 4 assists in his last two games.
CB Janoris Jenkins, NYG (waived)
The Giants waived Jenkins over the weekend as his play had fallen off and they were no longer willing to put up with the headaches he was causing them off the field. The Saints claimed him on waivers to add depth for the playoffs and perhaps the move to a winning environment will help him turn things around.
HOUSTON @ TENNESSEE
LB Kamalei Correa, TEN (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Correa isn’t a prototypical 3-4 edge rusher but he’s been forced to take on more of that role once Cameron Wake went on I.R. Despite often playing just about half of the defensive snaps, however, he has been surprisingly productive and picked up a sack for the 3rd game in a row.
LB Benardrick McKinney, HOU (5 solos, 4 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
McKinney has taken a clear backseat to Zach Cunningham in the Texans defense but he has remained a low-end starter at times. He had one of his better games of the year this week with 9 tackles plus a partial sack, but unfortunately left the game late with a concussion. The Texans play Tampa on Saturday so he may not be cleared in time to play.
WASHINGTON @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Ryan Anderson, WAS (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 3 FF)
Anderson had been building towards this type of game the past few weeks despite only playing about 50% of the snaps each week. The injury to Ryan Kerrigan as well as the game script that led to 43 pass attempts for Carson Wentz contributed to him playing a season-high 64 snaps (83%) this week. He took full advantage and made a case for a bigger role going forward as he collected 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles.
CB Danny Johnson, WAS (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Despite a less than favorable matchup against a depleted Eagles receiver group this week, Johnson still managed to lead Washington in tackles with 10. He was recently activated from the PUP list and went right into the starting lineup since Quinton Dunbar was out injured. Jimmy Moreland left the game with an injury so Johnson will likely remain in the lineup for another week.
CLEVELAND @ ARIZONA
LB Mack Wilson, CLE (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The rookie 5th rounder wound up playing a larger role than anticipated this year and has played almost every defensive snap since Christian Kirksey went down with an injury in week 2. While Joe Schobert tends to collect most of the tackles here, Wilson has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks. He’s averaging 5 solos and 2 assists per game over the past three weeks and has a forced fumble and interception in that same span.
CB Patrick Peterson, ARI (7 solos, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Peterson has earned his reputation as a shutdown corner and hasn’t averaged 3 or more solo tackles/game or topped 3 interceptions since 2012. This year, however, he’s been much more active and is averaging 4.6 solos/game and has 2 interceptions in just 8 games played. Perhaps he’s slipping and allowing more separation than before, but it is doing wonders for his fantasy value.
MINNESOTA @ LA CHARGERS
S Derwin James, LAC (6 solos, 3 asst)
The Chargers rotated heavily in this game and the only two defenders to play all 65 snaps were the two starting safeties, James and Rayshawn Jenkins. Thanks to 7 turnovers from the Chargers offense, the Vikings offense generated 37 rushing attempts and James wound up leading the team with 9 tackles.
LB Drue Tranquill, LAC (3 solos, 1 asst)
Tranquill saw 80% of the defensive snaps the past two games but was out of the starting lineup this week and limited to just 35 snaps (55%). Denzel Perryman replaced him on early downs and had a productive showing with 6 tackles on just 27 snaps (42%). If the time-share situation continues, that could make Tranquill’s value more matchup-dependent than it had been of late.
JACKSONVILLE @ OAKLAND
DE Yannick Ngakoue, JAX (5 solos, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Ngakoue has been a very streaky pass rusher in the past and offered little help in the way of run support with an average of 1.5 solo tackles/game during his first 3 years in the league. He is taking on more responsibility this year, however, and is up to 2.7 solos/game. The sack numbers are still streaky though as he has 8 sacks in his last 10 games but 6 have come in three separate 2-sack games.
LB Donald Payne, JAX (11 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Payne continues to pile up tackles in big numbers as he reached double-digit combined tackles for the third week in a row. He now has 24 solos and 17 assists plus a sack over the last 3 weeks. The Jaguars turned things around in the second half to pull off a comeback win but they have not played well of late. While he doesn’t have the pedigree of Myles Jack as an all-around player, he’s been much more active since taking over.
LB Will Compton, OAK (5 solos, 4 asst)
The Raiders elevated Compton to their top linebacker spot this week as he was on the field for all 57 defensive snaps. Tahir Whitehead was next with 34 snaps (60%) while Nick Morrow only saw 22 snaps (39%) and newly activated Marquel Lee saw 19 (33%). They did limit Leonard Fournette to 42 yards on 15 carries so it appears to have worked even if the game didn’t go their way.
LA RAMS @ DALLAS COWBOYS
LB Sean Lee, DAL (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Lee has had two knocks against him for much of his career: he’s injury-prone and rarely made any big plays. Since taking over in nickel packages following the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, he’s been banged up at times but able to play through it. He also came through with some rare big plays in an easy win over the Rams this week with a sack and interception. It was his first full sack and second interception since 2015. At 33 years of age, he’s showing that he still has something left to give.
CB Jalen Ramsey, LAR (1 solo)
Ramsey was productive in the weeks immediately following his trade from the Jaguars, but he has gone cold of late. He was shut out in week 13 against Arizona and then posted just a single solo tackle this week in a matchup with Amari Cooper and the Cowboys. He also hasn’t intercepted a pass and has just 3 credited passes defensed in 11 games played this year.
ATLANTA @ SAN FRANCISCO
S Marcell Harris, SF (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 PD)
Harris has taken over for the injured Jaquiski Tartt at strong safety in the 49ers defense and posted solid numbers for three weeks in a row. Over his last 3 games, he has been credited with 8 solos, 9 assists, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 passes defensed.
DE Takkarist McKinley, ATL (1 asst)
McKinley only lasted 4 snaps in the game this week before leaving with a shoulder injury. It was announced on Monday they would shut him down for the year. While he had 2 sacks a week ago, this year was very disappointing for him overall.
BUFFALO @ PITTSBURGH
CB TreDavious White, BUF (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PD)
White left the game briefly with a shoulder injury but returned and came up with his second interception of the game. He’s tied with Stephon Gilmore for the NFL lead with 6 interceptions and ranks 1 off the lead in passes defensed with 17. One knock on him before this year was a lack of interceptions, but he’s changed that in a big way and now ranks among the top-5 fantasy corners.
LB Mark Barron, PIT (2 solos, 1 asst)
Barron had played over 70% of the defensive snaps for the past 6 weeks but was only on the field for 24 snaps (37%) this week. He wasn’t in the starting lineup but was on the field when the Bills scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Barron did miss practice time last week for what was listed as non-football reasons so perhaps that explained his limited role. In any case, neither he nor Devin Bush (4 solos on 54 snaps) was able to capitalize on the 38 rush attempts generated by the Bills offense.