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.
ARIZONA @ SEATTLE
DE Carlos Dunlap, SEA (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Dunlap made a big impact in this key divisional matchup while handling a season-high 76% of the snaps. In his three games with Seattle, he has played at least two-thirds of the defensive snaps in each and has averaged a sack per game. Compared with his time in Cincinnati this year when he had one sack in seven games and was benched on early downs, he’s back in consideration as an every-week starter for fantasy purposes.
LB Isaiah Simmons, ARI (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
De'Vondre Campbell was in the starting lineup this week but only played 26 snaps (39%) while dealing with a calf injury suffered in Week 10. That created an opening for the rookie Simmons to play a season-high 45 snaps (68%) and he was very active with 10 tackles plus his first career sack. As a top-10 pick, Simmons is the future starter at inside linebacker and appears ready for a bigger role so it will be interesting to see if the coaches stick with him even after Campbell returns to full strength.
LB De'Vondre Campbell, ARI (1 solo)
Campbell started but played at less than 100% while nursing a calf injury. He has been productive this year with 46 solo tackles and 17 assists through his first eight games, but the team invested a lot in Isaiah Simmons. Even if Campbell can hold onto the starting job when healthy, Simmons is likely to earn more playing time going forward and would be a natural fit in the nickel packages.
TENNESSEE @ BALTIMORE
LB Matt Judon, BAL (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Judon had a quiet start to the season as he only collected a sack in one of his first seven games played. Over his past three games, however, he appears to be heating up with 12 solos, 3 assists, and a pair of sacks.
LB Jayon Brown, TEN (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Brown was having a great year for the Titans and putting up LB1-type numbers but he left the game after just 32 snaps (49%). He suffered a dislocated and fractured elbow in the game and will miss the rest of the season as a result. Will Compton (three solos, three asst) replaced him in the lineup, but Rashaan Evans (five solos, four asst) is expected to take over the every-down role and will see a boost as well.
DETROIT @ CAROLINA
DE Brian Burns, CAR (2 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 4 QH, 1 PD)
Burns added a pair of sacks and four quarterback hits this week and continues to post strong numbers in his sophomore campaign. What’s most reassuring is how much the coaching staff trusts him to play a full-time role. He’s now played 80+% or more of the defensive snaps in five of the last six games and has played 68% or more of the snaps in every game but Week 5 when he left with an injury.
DE Everson Griffen, DET (1 PD)
Griffen wasn’t all that productive during his time in Dallas and there was a hope that he could play a bigger role in Detroit. While he did pick up a sack while playing 64% of the snaps last week, he saw his playing time reduced to just 37% of the defensive snaps this week and was held off the scoresheet except for a pass deflection. The Lions were playing from behind for most of the game, but that could be a regular occurrence for this team and suggests his value may be more variable from week to week than expected.
PHILADELPHIA @ CLEVELAND
DE Olivier Vernon, CLE (4 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH, 1 PD)
Vernon has been very streaky but was relied on heavily this week while Myles Garrett sat out due to COVID-19. All he did was come up with 3 sacks on 55 snaps (81%) to give him five sacks in his last three games after posting just 3.5 over his first 15 games with the Browns dating back to last season.
DT Fletcher Cox, PHI (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Cox had a strip-sack in the game where he pushed the pocket back and knocked the ball out of Baker Mayfield’s hand. That gives him a sack in three straight games but he did leave the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury that is worth monitoring.
LB Alex Singleton, PHI (8 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FR)
Singleton did not receive significant playing time until Week 6 but he has been quickly climbing the IDP ranks since then. In his first three games as a starter, he was credited with 14 solos and 9 assists for an average of just over seven combined tackles per game. In his last two starts since a Week 9 bye, he has exploded for 17 solos and 11 assists for an average of 14 tackles per game while also adding a sack and fumble recovery.
S Ronnie Harrison, CLE (1 asst)
Harrison had played nearly every snap over the past three games and collected 25 combined tackles. He suffered a knee injury very early in the game and was limited to just six snaps, but fortunately, the MRI results revealed that it was just a bone bruise. Sheldrick Redwine posted a single tackle on 47 snaps (69%) while Karl Joseph added two tackles on just 18 snaps (26%).
NEW ENGLAND @ HOUSTON
S Justin Reid, HOU (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
Reid has provided reliable production from the strong safety position in Houston this year but has seen his upside capped due to lack of any big plays. He may have turned the corner this weekend though as he posted nine tackles and the first sack of his career. With the Lions and Bears coming up in two of the next three games, there is a good opportunity for him to continue this momentum.
LB Whitney Mercilus, HOU (1 solo)
Mercilus posted 7.5 sacks last year, but five of them came in his first four games. Since then, he’s collected just 5.5 sacks in 21 games. To make matters worse, he’s also been extremely unproductive against the run with just 11 solo tackles and 7 assists on 438 snaps this year.
PITTSBURGH @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Joe Schobert, JAX (8 solos, 5 asst)
It may have taken him a little while to get adjusted to his new surroundings but Schobert is starting to look like the LB1 he was during his years in Cleveland. Over his last five games, he has been credited with 27 solo tackles and 21 assists for an average of nearly 10 combined tackles per game. The big plays are still lacking but that’s likely driven in part by how bad the team is around him.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick, PIT (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Fitzpatrick is heating up as the fantasy playoffs draw closer. Over his last four games, he has been credited with 18 solos, 6 assists, and 3 interceptions.
DE Josh Allen, JAX (0 tackles)
It has mostly been a forgettable season for Allen this year but things took a turn for the worse this week. He was shut out on the box score and left the game after playing 37 snaps (49%) with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out for a little while. Rookie K'Lavon Chaisson and Dawuane Smoot figure to handle most of the work at defensive end, although neither has shown much to get excited about this year.
ATLANTA @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (4 solos, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
Things haven’t gone Jordan’s way for most of this year but he more than doubled his sack output in a single game to try and get back on track. With the Saints missing Drew Brees, the defense helped pick them up led by a huge performance from Jordan as he contributed 3 of the 8 sacks the Saints had in the game. That gives him 5.5 sacks on the year but he has another matchup with the Saints coming up in Week 13.
DT Grady Jarrett, ATL (4 solos, 3 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Jarrett had a strong start to the year with 2.5 sacks in his first 3 games before going six straight games without posting another. He looked more like himself this week though as he picked up a half-sack while also finishing second on the team in tackles with seven. He remains a No. 1 fantasy defensive tackle due to his talent and consistent workload as he regularly played 90% or more or of the defensive snaps.
CINCINNATI @ WASHINGTON
S Vonn Bell, CIN (8 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Despite the terrible season the Bengals are enduring, there have been surprisingly few bright spots among their IDPs. A lack of talent at linebacker has often kept both safeties very busy, however, and Bell led the way this week with 13 tackles while the next highest total on the team came from cornerback LeShaun Sims with just six. Unfortunately, Bell doesn’t offer much besides tackles so his fantasy upside is limited but he does have five passes defensed in his last five games.
CB Ronald Darby, WAS (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 FR, 4 PD)
Darby has been a very productive fantasy corner in previous years but he had a quiet start to his career in Washington with just 9 solo tackles in his first four games. He’s been much more active in recent weeks, however, and has been credited with 18 solos in his last four games. The Bengals had very limited success throwing at him this week as he picked up four pass deflections while also recovering a fumble. Upcoming favorable matchups against the Cowboys and Steelers should help keep his positive momentum going.
LB Jon Bostic, WAS (3 solos, 1 TFL)
While Bostic had played nearly every snap for Washington leading up to this week, the team moved to more of a committee approach at linebacker. Cole Holcomb led the way with 63% of the snaps while Bostic (53%), Kevin-Pierre Louis (53%), and Thomas Davis (28%) also saw regular playing time. If that trend continues, it will be nearly impossible to rely on any of them for consistent fantasy production.
MIAMI @ DENVER
DE Dre'Mont Jones, DEN (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH)
The relentless pass rush for the Broncos this weekend helped them chase Tua Tagovailoa from the game as they racked up six sacks and plenty of pressure. While Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed get most of the sacks, they also got contributions from Jones as well as nose tackle DeShawn Williams up front. Jones was a third-round pick in 2019 who has played more than 60% of the defensive snaps over the past five games and has picked up three sacks with 12 solo tackles in that time.
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (1 solo, 1 asst)
Since the bye in Week 7, Baker has slowly been phased out of the defensive game plans in Miami. He played every defensive snap in the weeks leading up to the bye but has seen his snap count drop from a season-high 75 (79%) in Week 8 to a season-low 20 (31%) this week. Kyle Van Noy (92%) and Elandon Roberts (78%) took the majority of snaps.
NY JETS @ LA CHARGERS
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (2 asst, 5 QH)
Bosa returned to the lineup after sitting out the last two games with a concussion. Although he had a surprisingly quiet game (in most scoring systems) despite a great matchup, there were still encouraging signs to be found. In addition to holding up to a full workload with 90% of the snaps, he was credited with five quarterback hits while seeing two sacks taken away (one by replay review and another due to a roughing the passer penalty).
LB Harvey Langi, NYJ (8 solos, 3 asst)
With the trade of Avery Williamson and injury to Blake Cashman, Langi has gotten a chance to start and play a full-time role at inside linebacker the past two games. In that time, all he’s done is pile up 17 solo tackles and 4 assists. He’s primarily been a special teams player to this point in his career but has some ability and is making the most of his opportunity thus far. Most of the Jets' totals were inflated this week as the Chargers offense generated 66 tackle opportunities against them.
GREEN BAY @ INDIANAPOLIS
DT Kenny Clark, GB (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Clark missed time earlier this year with a groin injury and didn’t produce much once he returned to the lineup. He’s one of the best interior tackles in the game though so it seemed like only a matter of time before his efforts started getting rewarded in the box score. Over his past two games, he has played more than 80% of the defensive snaps and has eight solos, three assists, and a sack with several favorable matchups coming up on the schedule.
LB Bobby Okereke, IND (1 solos)
There’s no reason to panic on Okereke but this game suggests his value is a bit more matchup-dependent than previously thought. He was on the field for 39 snaps (65%) and out-snapped Anthony Walker (42%) once again but was credited with just a single tackle. Much of that had to do with the lopsided game script as the Packers offense only generated 18 rush attempts and 46 tackle opportunities.
DALLAS @ MINNESOTA
S Donovan Wilson, DAL (2 solos, 7 asst, .5 sack, 2 FF, 1 FR)
Wilson was a relative unknown coming into the season but he has quickly emerged as one of the top playmakers for this Cowboys defense over the past few games. He made a huge impact this week as he collected nine tackles while also taking the ball away from Kirk Cousins and knocking the ball loose after laying a big hit on Dalvin Cook. While he has lapses in coverage, Wilson makes up for it with his physical play in the box and playmaking instincts.
DT Jaleel Johnson, MIN (3 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Johnson had a very busy game this week as he was credited with eight tackles plus a sack while seeing 76% of the defensive snaps, which was his highest workload since Week 3. Despite all that, this game is likely to be an outlier more than the start of a trend since he had eight tackles in his last four games combined.
KANSAS CITY @ LAS VEGAS
S Johnathan Abram, LV (7 solos, 2 asst)
Last year’s top pick has spent some time on the Covid list this year due to close contact with teammates who tested positive but fortunately only missed a single game himself. While he hasn’t posted the type of big tackle numbers that many were hoping for and had some quiet games early this season, he’s certainly been trending in the right direction of late. With a team-leading nine tackles this week, he now has 18 solos and 7 assists over his last three games to make him more of a reliable every-week starter.
S Juan Thornhill, KC (1 solo)
Even though Thornhill has been playing primarily as a deep safety so his production has been very limited, his playing time dropped off dramatically this week. He went from playing 81% of the snaps in the week before the bye to just 19% of the snaps this week. Daniel Sorensen has taken on a full-time role opposite Tyrann Mathieu but it looks like Thornhill is being reduced to a situational player who could see wild swings in playing time depending on the matchup.