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.
IDP Upgrades – Week 6, 2020
TAMPA BAY @ CHICAGO
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, TB (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
While some leagues classify Pierre-Paul as an outside linebacker and limit his fantasy value, he’s proving to be one of the most reliable edge rushers in the league. While his tackle numbers haven’t been great lately, he has recorded one sack in 4 of 5 games this year and has 12.5 sacks over his last 15 games played.
CB Carlton Davis, TB (7 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Davis came into the season with just one interception over his first 29 games as a pro, but now is tied for the league lead with 3 in just 5 games. He showed excellent ball skills on his interception this week as he tipped the ball up in the air on a deep pass, caught the deflection, and returned the ball 34 yards. The young cornerback also wound up leading the team in tackles this week with 7 solo stops as he spent most of the game matched up against Allen Robinson.
DT Vita Vea, TB (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Vea was starting to come on as a fantasy option with a pair of sacks in his last 3 games, but he suffered a broken ankle on Thursday night. The injury came late in the game after he had played 70% of the snaps and is expected to end his season prematurely. Look for Rakeem Nunez-Sanchez to see a bigger role going forward.
CAROLINA @ ATLANTA
LB Foye Oluokun, ATL (12 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Deion Jones gets most of the attention as the centerpiece of Atlanta’s defense but Oluokun has nearly doubled his tackle production on a per-snap basis this year. They both played a full game this week, but Jones was only credited with 5 solo tackles compared to 12 for Oluokun.
DE Brian Burns, CAR (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Burns played 80+% of the defensive snaps over the prior two games and was off to another strong start this week with a sack and forced fumble in the second quarter. Unfortunately, he was limited to just 16 snaps (25%) before leaving with a concussion. Efe Obada (2 asst, 1 QH on 33 snaps) appeared to see the biggest increase in playing time as a result.
CB Donte Jackson, CAR (0 tackles)
Jackson has been a productive playmaker at the cornerback position since entering the league in 2018. He was off to a solid start again this year with a pair of interceptions but left the game this week after playing a single snap due to a toe injury.
CINCINNATI @ BALTIMORE
LB Patrick Queen, BAL (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 TD)
Queen currently ranks as the highest-scoring IDP in most balanced scoring systems, which is somewhat unexpected. While his tackle numbers (30 solos, 12 assists) are good, they aren’t the main reason for his current status. He’s been boosted by several big plays, including a pair of sacks, forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery touchdown this week. Perhaps even more impressive is that he’s doing this while only playing about 75% of the defensive snaps on the year.
LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, CIN (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Logan Wilson has received most of the attention here and he picked off his second pass in as many games this week. It was fellow rookie Davis-Gaither, however, that led all Bengals linebackers in playing time this week. His most snaps before this week were 25 back in week 3 but he was on the field for 50 (79%) snaps against the Ravens. The Bengals defense played well against the Ravens and it may be time
DE Sam Hubbard, CIN (3 asst, 1 QH)
Hubbard got the start this week but was forced to leave the game early in the second half with an elbow injury. He played just 38 snaps (60%) while Carlos Dunlap (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH) also saw just 46% of the snaps in this game as he lost his spot in the starting lineup to Carl Lawson in an attempt to strengthen their run defense.
JACKSONVILLE @ HOUSTON
LB Tyrell Adams, HOU (7 solos, 6 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FR)
Adams has primarily been a special-teams player throughout his 4-year career but he was inserted into the starting lineup this week in place of an injured Benardrick McKinney. Although McKinney was listed as questionable for the game and later left inactive, reports on Monday indicated he would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
LB Joe Schobert, JAX (3 solos, 1 asst)
Schobert was a clear LB1 at times in Cleveland but he doesn’t seem likely to replicate that success with his new team. The Jaguars were without Myles Jack this week but Schobert still only managed to pick up 4 combined tackles on 57 snaps, which left him on pace for just 74 solo tackles.
S Josh Jones, JAX (2 solos)
Jones has been a nice addition in Jacksonville this year and came into this week averaging just under 6 solo tackles per game. He was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Brandin Cooks though and wound up playing just 30 snaps (52%) as a result.
LAS VEGAS @ KANSAS CITY
LB Willie Gay Jr, KC (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The Chiefs have been taking things slow with their rookie linebacker but he is starting to see a gradual increase in playing time. He has seen his role grow from 9 snaps (16%) in week 3 up to 33 snaps (47%) this week. Anthony Hitchens had a productive day with 9 tackles but also saw just 67% of the snaps as they start to work Gay in more.
LB Nick Kwiatkoski, LVR (2 solos, 1 PD)
After posting 6 tackles on just 22 snaps in the season opener, Kwiatkoski missed several games with an injury. He returned to the lineup last week and saw 88% of the snaps in a loss to the Bills before being seeing just 64% of the snaps this week. In both games combined, he was credited with just 5 tackles on 99 defensive snaps. Cory Littleton may be the only safe linebacker option here but even he is not putting up the type of numbers that were expected.
ARIZONA @ NY JETS
CB Pierre Desir, NYJ (8 solos, 3 asst)
Desir hasn’t played all that well this year and continues to see a steady dose of targets each week as a result. He is tied for the league lead in interceptions this year with 3 and now has 15 solo tackles over his past two games. The Jets don’t have many better options in what looks like a lost season for them so Desir appears to be a solid #1 fantasy corner.
LB Chandler Jones, ARI (1 solo)
After posting 19 sacks a year ago, Jones is having a tough time getting to the quarterback this year with just 1 sack through 5 games. While he was still generating pressure and likely to turn things around soon, he suffered a biceps injury this week that limited him to just 29 snaps (42%). He was headed for an MRI on Monday but initial reports feared it was likely season-ending. Dennis Gardek posted 2 sacks on just 10 snaps this week after not playing at all in the first four weeks.
PHILADELPHIA @ PITTSBURGH
DE Stephon Tuitt, PIT (2 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Tuitt is often overshadowed by his teammate Cameron Heyward or T.J. Watt but he’s quietly gotten off to a solid start. With 1.5 sacks this week, he now has 3.5 on the year in just 4 games played and seems well on his way to topping his previous career-high of 6.5 sacks set back in 2015.
LB Duke Riley, PHI (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
This may wind up being a one-week fluke but Riley warrants an upgrade given the 12-tackle game as well as the lack of talent in the Eagles linebacking unit. There’s an opportunity for Riley to emerge as a fantasy-relevant player if he can string some strong games together like this one. The Steelers offense generated 32 rush attempts and 60 tackle opportunities and Riley was involved in one of out every 5 tackles despite playing only 75% of the defensive snaps.
LA RAMS @ WASHINGTON
LB Troy Reeder, LAR (8 solos, 3 asst, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Reeder started in place of the injured Micah Kiser this week and played 89% of the snaps while fellow linebacker Kenny Young saw a slight increase in playing time. In addition to seeing more playing time, Reeder made a much bigger impact on the game as he collected 11 tackles with 3 sacks. It is starting to look like any linebacker who gets plugged into this system can put up big numbers, likely driven by all the attention that Aaron Donald (4 sacks) attracts on the defensive line.
LB Thomas Davis, WAS (1 PD)
Davis saw a season-high 33 snaps (49%) this week as part of a package to slow down the Rams run game, but he was not very effective. At 37 years old, he may not have much left and is likely better suited to a reserve role. Washington doesn’t have great alternatives but it doesn’t look like he’s ready to take anyone’s starting job.
MIAMI @ SAN FRANCISCO
LB Andrew Van Ginkel, MIA (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Van Ginkel saw some playing time late in the 2019 season but returned to a reserve role this year. Through the first four games of the season, he saw no more than 20 snaps in each but had collected 1.5 sacks as part of a rotation. This week, however, he saw his playing time spike to 46 snaps (73%) and put together a strong showing with 6 combined tackles plus a memorable strip-sack. Five different Dolphins linebackers played at least 50% of the snaps this week, which was likely driven by the matchup with a run-heavy offense.
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Just a week after seeing his playing drop to 70%, Baker was back up to playing 100% of the snaps in an easy win over the 49ers. He was excellent against both the run and pass and should return to his full-time role in the middle of the defense. Kamu Gruger-Hill also played a bigger role this week as the Dolphins went with some different packages and looks to try and make it harder for the 49ers to read what they were doing.
INDIANAPOLIS @ CLEVELAND
LB Bobby Okereke, IND (8 solo, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Okereke got the start in place of Darius Leonard and showed off some of his exciting potential. He made plays all over the field and wound up leading the Colts in tackles while also adding the first interception of his career. Although the Leonard injury has created some new opportunities for him, Okereke has played 85% or more snaps for four straight games. Anthony Walker also put up excellent numbers this week with 7 tackle and an interception.
NY GIANTS @ DALLAS
DE Demarcus Lawrence, DAL (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Lawrence hasn’t played up to expectations this year and has been frequently outplayed and out-snapped by Aldon Smith. Lawrence finally picked up his first sack of the year, however, and also saw a season-high snap count with 47 (69%).
S Jabrill Peppers, NYG (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Peppers wasn’t in the starting lineup but was healthy enough to play 23 snaps (35%) in the game after coming back from an ankle injury. He was very efficient on those snaps as he collected 5 tackles, with 4 of them coming in run support.
LB Lorenzo Carter, NYG (1 QH)
Carter had cooled off the past couple of games after a solid start to the year, but he left the game after just 10 snaps this week with a ruptured Achilles. That will bring his year to an end and give more playing time to Markus Golden, who picked up a half-sack while playing 57 snaps (86%) this week.
MINNESOTA @ SEATTLE
LB Cody Barton, SEA (9 solos, 5 asst)
Barton warrants a mention after being credited with 14 combined tackles, which tied with Bobby Wagner for the team lead. He put up those numbers while playing just 59 snaps (68%) while K.J. Wright collected just 3 combined tackles on 86 snaps. Barton was filling in for Jordyn Brooks, who hasn’t seen more than 14 snaps in a game all year.
CB Holton Hill, MIN (DNP)
Hill was questionable this week with a foot injury but wound up being left on the inactive list. He’s been highly productive when forced into action but should be headed back to the bench when healthy now that the team’s top-3 corners are all back in the lineup.