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.
MIAMI @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Myles Jack, JAX (7 solos, 4 asst)
It took some time and some outside help but Jack appears poised to reach his fantasy potential this year. Jack’s production early in his career was often underwhelming as he played alongside fantasy studs like Telvin Smith Sr and Paul Posluszny on one of the league’s best defenses. Now that the defensive talent around him has been decimated, however, he’s taking full advantage with 10+ combined tackles in all three games this year and looks like a potential LB1.
CB Nik Needham, MIA (0 tackles)
One week after posting 12 tackles, Needham found himself on the bench this week as his only snap in the game came on special teams. This is the risky nature of fantasy cornerbacks as the bad ones tend to post good numbers but are also the ones most likely to lose their spot in the lineup. Jamal Perry (3 solos, 3 asst) replaced him and put up solid numbers against a Jaguars team that continues to pile up numbers in garbage time.
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, MIA (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Grugier-Hill put up a very impressive stat line this week, but don’t rush out to add him to your team just yet. He remains a situational player who continues to only see about 20 snaps/game so this type of output is not sustainable.
CHICAGO @ ATLANTA
LB Mykal Walker, ATL (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The rookie 4th round pick got to start this week in place of the injured Foye Oluokun. While the outcome of the game was crushing for Atlanta, he was highly productive while playing 72 of 82 snaps (88%) and graded out with an elite coverage grade by Pro Football Focus. Even if he returns to a reserve role in the short-term, Walker could pay off long term and is worth stashing in dynasty leagues.
DE Dante Fowler Jr, ATL (1 QH)
Fowler signed with the Falcons after posting 11.5 sacks with the Rams a year ago. He had a solid start with a partial sack in each of the first two games but was listed as questionable on the injury report this week with an ankle injury. Although he was able to play, he saw just 28 of 82 snaps (34%) in a quiet showing despite the Falcons defense facing 51 pass attempts from the Bears offense.
LA RAMS @ BUFFALO
DE Aaron Donald, LAR (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Donald continues to prove that he’s one of the most valuable IDPs in the league with another outstanding showing this week. While he was held to just 2 tackles in the first half, he exploded for 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble and recovery in the second half as the Rams nearly completed a 25-point comeback.
LB Matt Milano, BUF (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Milano often flies under the radar given that middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was a high first-round pick, but he’s a critical part of this defense. Edmunds looked to be playing at less than 100% this week, which allowed Milano to stand out as he collected 8 tackles plus a sack and pass deflection. In addition to being one of the better cover linebackers in the league, Milano is also sound against the run and an underrated blitzer.
S Jordan Fuller, LAR (0 tackles)
The rookie got another start this week but was limited to just 8 snaps (13%) before leaving with a shoulder injury. Taylor Rapp (6 solos, 1 asst) replaced him in the lineup and posted solid numbers while playing 55 snaps (89%).
WASHINGTON @ CLEVELAND
DE Myles Garrett, CLE (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Garrett only saw 77% of the defensive snaps this week, which represented his lowest total of the year thus far. That didn’t stop him from getting to the quarterback though as he picked up two sacks including a forced fumble/recovery while also generating consistent pressure that led to several turnovers. Garrett was in the mix for defensive player of the year in 2019 before getting hit with a 6-game suspension, so hopefully, he can stay on the field this year.
DT Jonathan Allen, WAS (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Allen has seen a steady increase in playing time each week from 53% to 65% to 79% of the defensive snaps. While the increase in workload was partly due to injuries, he showed that it was well deserved with his performance as he led the team with 9 tackles and added a sack.
DT Matthew Ioannidis, WAS (0 tackles)
Ioannidis quietly posted a top-10 season among defensive tackles last year as he topped 40 solo tackles and 8 sacks. The added depth up front this year had reduced his workload already but he lasted just 9 snaps (14%) this week before suffering a torn biceps that will end his season prematurely. 2nd overall pick Chase Young (21%) also left the game early with a groin injury, but it wasn’t expected to keep him out long-term.
TENNESSEE @ MINNESOTA
DT Jeffery Simmons, TEN (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Simmons is one of the rare defensive tackles who gets to play a heavy workload for his team. After playing about 80% of the defensive snaps over the first two games, he was on the field for 60 of 65 snaps (92%) this week. Last year’s first-round pick has the talent and opportunity to be one of this year’s breakouts at a relatively shallow tackle position.
LB Jadeveon Clowney, TEN (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TDL, 2 QH)
While he was a late signing and likely needs time to get acclimated to his new team, Clowney often leaves fantasy players wanting more. Through three games and 164 defensive snaps, he has been credited with just 5 solos, 2 assists, and 1 pass deflection.
LAS VEGAS @ NEW ENGLAND
LB Nicholas Morrow, LVR (7 solos, 2 asst)
While it’s likely Morrow will return to a two-down role once Nick Kwiatkoski returns from injury, his production over the last two weeks warrants an upgrade. He’s played 100% of the defensive snaps alongside Cory Littleton in the last two games but has 14 solo tackles (with 2 assists and an interception) to show for it compared to just 6 solos (and 3 assists) for Littleton.
LB Cory Littleton, LVR (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Littleton came into the year as a projected top-10 fantasy linebacker so seeing him with 8 solos and 6 assists through the first 3 games is quite surprising. There is no issue with playing time as he’s been on the field for every defensive snap this year. There also isn’t much of an explanation in terms of matchups as the Patriots generated 38 rush attempts this week. Given that his fellow Raiders linebackers have been quite productive, it’s even more confusing but holding onto him a bit longer seems wise given that he’s locked into a full-time role.
SAN FRANCISCO @ NY GIANTS
DE Leonard Williams, NYG (2 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
His numbers this week were boosted by the game script as the 49ers offense ran the ball 35 times and generated 62 tackle opportunities. What is more encouraging, however, is the fact Williams already picked up his second sack of the season. That’s better than his entire output from 2019 and matches his total from 2017.
CB Julian Love, NYG (10 solos, 1 asst)
Love was replaced in the starting lineup at free safety by Logan Ryan this week, but that was short-lived as Jabrill Peppers left the game early with an ankle injury. Love filled in for Peppers at strong safety and wound up leading the team in tackles as his 10 solo stops were 6 more than anyone else on the team had. If Peppers is forced to miss some time, Love should be in for a short-term boost.
S Jabrill Peppers, NYG (1 solo, 1 asst)
Peppers only lasted 9 snaps (12%) before leaving the game with a sprained ankle. It was diagnosed as a low-ankle sprain but may still keep him out for a week or two.
LB Kwon Alexander, SF (1 solo)
Be careful not to overreact to low tackle output from many of the 49ers IDPs this week. The Giants offense was ineffective and only able to generate 15 rush attempts and 34 tackle opportunities in total. That left very few opportunities for players like Alexander and others to fill up the box score.
CINCINNATI @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Carl Lawson, CIN (4 solos, 4 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Lawson is the Bengals top reserve defensive end behind Carlos Dunlap (9 solos) and Sam Hubbard (4 solos, 1 sack) so he doesn’t typically see enough playing time to be a reliable every-week option. He’s showing, however, that he can still be productive given the right matchup as he collected 8 tackles and a pair of sacks against a depleted Eagles offensive line. While the game did go a full extra quarter and end in a tie, his snap count this week of 47 (52%) was pretty consistent with his snap count in prior games and he now has 3 sacks on the year.
DE Derek Barnett, PHI (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The Eagles defense piled up 8 sacks in this game and Barnett led the way along with Brandon Graham with 2 each. After sitting out the opener, Barnett should be able to carve out a bigger role following the injury to Vinny Curry. but appears to be splitting time with Josh Sweat (2 tackles, 1 sack) following the injury to Vinny Curry. Graham is the best option here as he saw 81% of the snaps compared to 53% for Barnett
LB Josh Bynes, CIN (4 solos, 3 asst)
Bynes still had a productive game but he may be starting to lose his grasp on a full-time role. He saw his playing time reduced from 86% of the snaps a week ago to 73% this week. Meanwhile, rookie Logan Wilson saw his playing time increase from 24% last week to 32% and he also stood out with 5 solos plus an interception.
HOUSTON @ PITTSBURGH
CB Steven Nelson, PIT (1 solo)
Nelson is one of the rare cornerbacks who puts up consistent numbers every year. He’s posted at least 50 solo tackles in three of the past four years and the other year he was on pace to break that if he didn’t miss time to injury. He’s been quiet on the stat sheets this year, however, as he now has just 6 solo tackles and 1 pass defensed through the first three games. Matchups have been part of it but things don’t look much better with the Titans and Eagles coming up next on the schedule.
LB Benardrick McKinney, HOU (8 solos, 3 asst)
The Steelers offense generated 38 rush attempts and 63 tackle opportunities in this game so there were plenty of tackles to go around. McKinney has gotten off to a productive start this year but he’s been helped by some favorable matchups and favorable game scripts. He’s still a solid low-end starter but now has double-digit tackles in the past two games when he only did it twice in all of 2019.
NY JETS @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Avery Williamson, NYJ (5 solos, 4 asst)
The Jets have seen a rotating door of inside linebackers over the years but Williamson was quite productive in 2018 before he suffered a torn ACL and missed all of 2019. It took him a few weeks to get ready to play but Williamson got the start this week and played nearly the entire game (57 of 60 snaps). If his health holds up, he is likely a high-end LB3 at worst.
LB Anthony Walker, IND (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH)
Walker opened the game as a starter in the Colts nickel package but wound up seeing a reduced workload for the second week in a row. After seeing 86% of the snaps in the opener, he saw just 56% in week 2 and only 44% this week. Meanwhile, 2nd year pro Bobby Okereke saw 85% of the snaps last week and 81% again this week. Much of that was driven by game scripts as the Colts won both games easily but it’s a sign that the coaches prefer Okereke in coverage or clear passing situations.
CAROLINA @ LA CHARGERS
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (8 solos, 5 asst, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR)
One week after Thompson was held to just 2 tackles on 61 snaps, he exploded for 13 tackles and several big plays. You have to consider the context as the Chargers completed 31 passes to their running backs, tight ends, and primary slot receiver. That created a ton of opportunity for Thompson in this game but at least he was able to take full advantage.
CB Desmond King, LAC (0 tackles)
King has proven to be an effective and productive player in the past but he’s been bumped down the depth chart by the addition of Chris Harris Jr this year. After seeing close to 60% of the snaps in the first two games, he was held to just 33% of the snaps this week. He also recently voiced his frustration over his lack of playing time on twitter, which is surprising given the team is without their start safety in Derwin James.
DETROIT @ ARIZONA
S Tracy Walker, DET (10 solos, 2 asst)
The Lions finally started to make some sense with their use of Walker this week as he played all 65 defensive snaps after seeing just 53% of the snaps last week. He made a case for that to continue in the future as he was credited with 11 stops and the Lions won while fellow safety Will Harris was held to just 3 tackles on 29% of the snaps.
LB Jarrad Davis, DET (0 tackles)
Davis had seen about 60% of the defensive snaps through the first two games as he was considered a run stopper who struggled in coverage. The Lions made some changes this week, however, as he was removed from the starting lineup and saw just 15 snaps (23%) as a result. Jamie Collins Sr and Jahlani Tavai both played over 80% of the snaps as part of the nickel packages while Christian Jones (65%) and Reggie Ragland (29%) also saw regular playing time.
TAMPA BAY @ DENVER
LB Shaquil Barrett, TB (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
Barrett is coming off a 19-sack season when his previous career-high was 5.5 sacks back in 2015. Some regression was expected but I’m sure some fantasy players were worried when he went sackless for the first two games. With 2 sacks this week and 11 solo tackles on the year, he’s back on track and good enough to finish among the league leaders in sacks again.
CB Jamel Dean, TB (6 solos, 2 asst)
Dean has been working as the team’s nickel corner this year and that’s a role that often leads to some fantasy value as we saw with him collecting 12 solo stops through the first two games. This week, however, he also saw a season-high in snaps with 55 (87%) after starting corner Sean Murphy-Bunting left early with a groin injury. That pushed Dean outside with rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr Jr. moving over to play slot corner.
LB A.J. Johnson, DEN (2 solos, 1 asst)
Johnson has picked up where he left off last year with 20 combined tackles through the first two games. Despite playing all 68 defensive snaps and facing 49 tackle opportunities this week, however, he was credited with just 3 tackles. Apart from safety Justin Simmons and maybe fellow linebacker Josey Jewell though, Johnson doesn’t have much competition for tackles so he should bounce back next week against the Jets.
DALLAS @ SEATTLE
DE Aldon Smith, DAL (4 solos, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH, 1 PD)
Smith is quickly becoming the biggest comeback story of the year. He hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2015 season but is leading the league in sacks through the first three weeks with 4. Given the presence of players like Demarcus Lawrence and Everson Griffen, Smith was expected to play more of a specialist role but he’s seeing 80% of the snaps each week while Lawrence is closer to 40%.
CB Trevon Diggs, DAL (9 solos, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Diggs made all the highlight shows this week with his forced fumble on D.K. Metcalf to break up a long touchdown, but he was also heavily targeted and finished with 9 solo tackles. The rookie corner rule is in effect here and Diggs is going to see a lot of action each week as opponents look to keep pace with the Cowboys explosive offense.
S Jamal Adams, SEA (2 asst, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Adams had an incredible start with his new team before suffering a groin injury early in this game. He was initially considered day-to-day but there were some reports that it might keep him out for at least one game.
GREEN BAY @ NEW ORLEANS
LB Ty Summers, GB (6 solos, 3 asst)
Summers went from playing zero defensive snaps in the first two games to handling a full-time role this week. He was forced into action after Christian Kirksey left early with a shoulder injury. With Kirksey expected to miss at least one game and then get a bye week to heal up further, Summers should get a start next week on Monday night against the Falcons. He’s an impressive athlete who should make a nice short-term stopgap with a chance for more given the injury history that Kirksey has.
LB Christian Kirksey, GB (3 solos)
Kirksey hasn’t played particularly well in the middle of the Packers defense but he’s been productive with 15 solos and 9 assists in the first two games combined. He was forced to leave the game early (28% of snaps) this week after suffering a shoulder injury, however, and is expected to miss next week’s game against Atlanta. The Packers have a bye in week 5 so he may be able to return in week 6 against Tampa. Ty Summers replaced him in the lineup and finished with 9 tackles on just 44 snaps.