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.
ATLANTA @ CAROLINA
S Tre Boston, CAR (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Jeremy Chinn (10 tackles) and Shaq Thompson (6 tackles) collect most of the tackles on this team but Boston ranks third with 32 solo tackles and 15 assists through eight games played. That puts him on pace to finish with the best tackle numbers of his seven-year career and he’s been trending up following the injury to Juston Burris with 16 solos and 7 assists over his last three games.
CB Kendall Sheffield, ATL (1 solo)
Sheffield replaced Darqueze Denard in Week 4 and has played nearly every snap until this week. He was injured on his first snap and left to be checked for a head injury. Sheffield briefly returned to the game only to suffer a second head injury that kept him out for good. He wound up playing just 20 snaps (37%) in the game and was replaced by Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who came up with a game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter.
PITTSBURGH @ BALTIMORE
DE Stephon Tuitt, PIT (8 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
With another huge game this week, Tuitt is clearly on the way to the best season of his seven-year career. He finished second on the team in tackles this week with nine combined while also adding a pair of sacks. With six sacks in seven games, he’s only a half-sack behind T.J. Watt for the team lead.
LB Robert Spillane, PIT (10 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 FR, 1 TD)
Spillane opened up the game with a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown and took full advantage of a matchup that saw the Ravens offense generate 47 rush attempts and 64 tackle opportunities overall. He played 71 of 82 snaps (87%) and was extremely productive with 11 tackles plus a fumble recovery and another pass breakup. The Steelers did add Avery Williamson at the trade deadline so Spillane’s hold on a starting job may not be as secure as it was previously.
CB Marlon Humphrey, BAL (2 solos, 2 asst)
The Steelers offense only generated 39 tackle opportunities in this game so numbers were down for most Ravens defenders through no fault of their own. Humphrey has been an elite fantasy corner all season but he announced on Monday that he tested positive for Covid and therefore is likely to miss a game or two.
NEW ENGLAND @ BUFFALO
S Jordan Poyer, BUF (11 solos, 1 QH)
The Bills strong safety continues to lead the way as he nearly doubled the tackle numbers of middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds this week. Even without Micah Hyde in the lineup and Matt Milano only playing 23% of the snaps, Poyer did what he’s done all season. With 53 solo tackles through 8 games, he’s on pace to break 100 after averaging 70 during his first three years in Buffalo.
DE Chase Winovich, NE (1 solo)
Winovich had a great start to the year with 2.5 sacks over his first four games, but he’s seen a big drop in playing time since the Patriots had a bye in Week 5. He was only on the field for 5 defensive snaps (9%) this week and his only tackle came on special teams. Anfernee Jennings also surprisingly went from getting 53 snaps (80%) last week to seeing 0 snaps on defense this week.
TENNESSEE @ CINCINNATI
CB Malcolm Butler, TEN (5 solos, 3 asst, 2 PD)
Through the first eight weeks of the season, Butler ranks as the highest-scoring fantasy corner in the league. Last year, the same could be said for Logan Ryan when he was a member of the Titans and Jason McCourty had his most productive years with the Titans as well. Something about this team seems to churn out elite fantasy cornerbacks and Butler is currently on pace to finish with 96 solo tackles and 20 passes defensed.
LB Jadeveon Clowney, TEN (1 solo)
Clowney has played in all seven games for the Titans this year but has just 11 solo tackles with 0 sacks. After regularly seeing more than 80% of the snaps early on, his playing time is also trending down to the point he played a season-low 45 snaps (62%) this week. Even in leagues that classify him as a defensive end, his fantasy value has to be quite low, and there is little reason to think he’ll suddenly turn things around.
LAS VEGAS @ CLEVELAND
LB Mack Wilson, CLE (4 solos, 2 asst)
Wilson has slowly been working his way back into more of a three-down role since suffering a knee injury in the off-season. He had mostly been playing in base packages over the past few games but saw an increase in workload this week as he was on the field for 52 of 72 snaps (72%). Malcolm Smith saw a big drop to just 20 snaps (28%) as a result. Wilson did not play particularly well, however, so we’ll have to see if this trend continues after the upcoming bye.
DT Maurice Hurst, LVR (0 tackles)
Hurst showed some signs of progress early this season but has not made much of an impact of late. He was kept off the stat sheet last week while playing 31 snaps and then lasted just 6 snaps (12%) this week before leaving with an ankle sprain. Johnathan Hankins and Maliek Collins handled most of the work inside in a game where the Browns offense only generated 34 tackle opportunities.
DE Myles Garrett, CLE (3 asst)
Garrett played a season-low 33 snaps (46%) this week as he left the game with a knee injury that required an MRI. Fortunately, the test showed no structural damage and the expectation is that he’ll be able to play in Week 10 following an upcoming bye week. Meanwhile, Olivier Vernon posted his first two sacks of the year this week.
INDIANAPOLIS @ DETROIT
DE Romeo Okwara, DET (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The Lions pass rush has not been a strength but Okwara is doing his best to turn things around for them. He followed up a two-sack game last week with another productive outing that included five solo tackles and another sack to give him five in his last five games. The upcoming schedule also looks favorable and he is likely a strong DE2 at this point, although the loss of Trey Flowers may bring more attention his way.
LB Darius Leonard, IND (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Leonard returned to the lineup this week after missing most of the prior three games. Even though the Lions offense only generated 13 rush attempts and 42 tackle opportunities in the game, Leonard still managed to put up excellent numbers across the board. Anthony Walker (1 solo) saw his playing time take a hit as Bobby Okereke (6 solos, 1 asst) out-snapped him 48 to 26.
DE Trey Flowers, DET (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Flowers hasn’t lived up to the contract he signed but he has regularly taken 70+% of the defensive snaps in Detroit. Unfortunately, he left the game after just 38 snaps (49%) this week with a wrist injury and is headed for short-term IR. That means he will miss at least three weeks and could return in week 12 to face the Texans.
MINNESOTA @ GREEN BAY
DT Kenny Clark, GB (4 solos)
There weren’t many standouts in this game but Clark warrants an upgrade based on workload. He’s potentially a top-5 fantasy defensive tackle when healthy but suffered an injury in the opener that kept him out until Week 6. He played about 60% of the snaps in Week 6 and Week 7 before handling 88% of the snaps this week.
Packers inside linebackers
Krys Barnes (1 solo, 3 asst) and Kamal Martin (1 solo, 2 asst) were surprisingly unproductive despite facing a Vikings offense that generated 34 rush attempts in the game. Strong safety Adrian Amos (8 tackles) wound up leading the team in tackles. Meanwhile, Christian Kirksey has returned to practice and could be back in a full-time role next week against the 49ers.
NY JETS @ KANSAS CITY
DT Tershawn Wharton, KC (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The undrafted rookie brings a lot of energy to the Chiefs defensive line and he’s been rewarded with regular playing time of late. He has averaged over 60% of the snaps over the past two games and has been productive with a forced fumble and recovery last week and then contributed the only sack of the game this week. Chris Jones had a quiet game with just 1 solo tackle but he was credited with three quarterback hits.
S Daniel Sorensen, KC (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF)
The Chiefs have made regular use of a 3-safety formation for much of this year with Sorensen and Juan Thornhill often playing at or near a full-time role. Sorensen is capable of playing more of a linebacker role in their nickel packages, which tends to keep him very active and productive. With 23 combined tackles plus a pair of interceptions (with a touchdown) and a forced fumble in his last three games, he is playing like a top-10 fantasy safety.
LA RAMS @ MIAMI
S Eric Rowe, MIA (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 5 PD)
Rowe is a converted corner playing safety who continues to hold off rookie Brandon Jones with his solid play. He was credited with 5 passes defended this week out of 13 the Dolphins had as a team and now has 22 solo tackles over his last four games combined.
S John Johnson III, LAR (2 asst)
Johnson was one of three Rams to play all 49 defensive snaps this week but he was surprisingly quiet in the box score as he was credited with just two assisted tackles. The Dolphins offense generated just 38 tackle opportunities with 12 pass completions and only averaged 3.0 yards per offensive play so there really many opportunities for him to get involved.
LA CHARGERS @ DENVER
S Kareem Jackson, DEN (8 solos, 4 asst)
Jackson bounced back from a disappointing game last week that saw him pick up just 2 assisted tackles. He led all players in the game with 12 tackles this week while playing 86 snaps in a game where the Chargers offense generated 38 rush attempts and 69 tackle opportunities.
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Despite posting 4 sacks in his first 5 games, Bosa has not always played up to expectations this year, especially after signing a 5-year, $135 million contract extension. To make matters worse, he left the game this week with a concussion after playing just 30 snaps (46%) and could not help prevent the Broncos comeback win.
LB Kenneth Murray, LAC (3 solos, 1 asst)
The rookie has played all 204 defensive snaps for the Chargers in the past three games but has only been credited with 8 solos and 6 assists with 1 pass defensed. The first-round pick still has a bright future but he’s going through an adjustment period like most rookies.
NEW ORLEANS @ CHICAGO
DE Marcus Davenport, NO (2 solos, 2 asst, .5 sack, 2 QH)
Trey Hendrickson has contributed 5.5 sacks in 7 games and now the Saints are adding another important pass rusher to their rotation. Davenport missed the first four games of the year but has seen his playing time increase from 30% to 50% to 64% of the snaps over the past three games. A knee injury to defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins this week could also make it easier to keep both players in the lineup for most of the game.
S Eddie Jackson, CHI (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Jackson has been having a productive year as a tackler but the big plays he’s known for had been lacking until recently. Over his past three games, however, Jackson has two forced fumbles as well as a fumble recovery for a touchdown to climb the ranks and return to consideration as a top-10 fantasy safety.
CB Marshon Lattimore, NO (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Lattimore has earned a reputation as a shutdown corner but he still allows enough receptions when shadowing someone to remain a reliable starter for fantasy players. With a big game this week against Allen Robinson including his first interception of the season, he now has 27 solo tackles over his past five games.
SAN FRANCISCO @ SEATTLE
LB Bobby Wagner, SEA (6 solos, 5 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 4 QH)
Wagner came up big in a key divisional matchup once again as he collected 11 tackles plus a pair of sacks. Seattle traded for Carlos Dunlap to upgrade their pass rush and were still without Jamal Adams this week but Wagner tried to pick up the slack himself. Over the past four games, Wagner has been credited with 28 solo tackles and 20 assists to reclaim his spot among the elite IDPs.
LB Dre Greenlaw, SF (7 solos, 1 asst)
Greenlaw showed what he could do as a 3-down player last year but was returned to a two-down role when Kwon Alexander was healthy. Since Alexander went out with an injury three weeks ago, however, Greenlaw has been excellent again. He has 18 solos, 4 assists, and a sack in his last three games and should remain in a full-time role following the trade of Alexander to New Orleans.
DALLAS @ PHILADELPHIA
LB T.J. Edwards, PHI (6 solos, 6 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Edwards returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. He played a career-high 62 snaps (78%), which tied with Alex Singleton for most among Eagles linebackers and had a huge impact on the game. In addition to leading the team in tackles with 12, he also came up with a strip-sack that was picked up and returned for a touchdown to clinch the game in the fourth quarter.
CB Trevon Diggs, DAL (6 solos, 1 asst, 2 INT, 4 PD)
The rookie corner rule is clearly in effect with Diggs so he’s regularly picked on by opposing quarterbacks but he’s also making plenty of plays. He had a huge game on national television this week and picked off his first two passes of the year. With 4 passes defensed in the game, he now has 10 on the year and is tied with fellow rookie Jaylon Johnson for fourth in the league.
LB Nathan Gerry, PHI (DNP)
Gerry has been the closet thing the Eagles have had to an every-down linebacker this year but he was placed on injured reserve before the Sunday night matchup. He’s reportedly been playing through a foot injury and will use the time away to try and heal up. There’s a chance he could lose his starting spot when he returns though if T.J. Edwards and Alex Singleton continue to play well in the weeks ahead.