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.
NEW ENGLAND @ LA RAMS
LB Kenny Young, LAR (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Young warrants an upgrade after his huge game this week as he led the Rams in tackles while also adding a sack and 79-yard pick-six. That being said, his production was boosted by the matchup against a run-heavy offense this week as he played 69% of the snaps for his highest total since Week 5. Micah Kiser could also return to the lineup soon and create a logjam given the strong play of Troy Reeder lately.
DE Chase Winovich, NE (2 solos)
Winovich had played more than 80% of the snaps for four straight games leading into this week, but he saw just 24 snaps (38%) this week with most in the second half after the game was out of reach. This seemed to backfire, however, as the Rams rushing attack had a lot of success so perhaps the Patriots will turn back to Winovich next week.
DENVER @ CAROLINA
LB Jeremy Chinn, CAR (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Chinn blew up with 13 tackles and two touchdowns in Week 12 and then followed that up after a bye in week 13 with another huge showing. While he was a productive tackler early in the season, the big plays were lacking but that has changed in a hurry and he’s now the highest-scoring rookie IDP in the league.
S Will Parks, DEN (6 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Parks was recently picked up after being waived by the Eagles and reportedly was in high demand as 6 teams submitted claims for him. He was awarded back to his former team the Broncos and made an immediate contribution given how depleted their depth has become at cornerback following an injury to Bryce Callahan and suspension to A.J. Bouye. Parks played 54 snaps (81%) and served as the team’s nickel back. Veteran De'Vante Bausby (5 solos, 1 PD) also went from playing 0 snaps last week to 100% this week at outside corner.
HOUSTON @ CHICAGO
S Eric Murray, HOU (10 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Murray warrants an upgrade but this level of production is unlikely to be repeated. He collected his first two sacks of the year on blitzes while also leading his team with 11 combined tackles. Murray came into the game with just 10 combined tackles in his last three games combined and his previous season-high mark was seven back in Weeks 1 and 2. The injury to Justin Reid should allow him to see more time up in the box in the weeks ahead though.
CB Keion Crossen, HOU (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Crossen is a high-energy player who was thrust into a full-time role this week and finished second to Murray on the Texans with nine tackles. Both he and Vernon Hargreaves III had their hands full with Allen Robinson but Crossen looked much better and should see more playing time going forward.
S Justin Reid, HOU (2 solo, 2 asst, 1 PD)
The Texans defense took another hit this week as Reid suffered a hand injury during the game and will be lost for the rest of the year. He was putting up strong numbers of late with 19 solos, 6 assists, and 2 sacks in his three games prior to this week. Reid actually returned to the game after suffering the injury and managed to play 49 of 60 snaps in the game, but it was announced on Monday that his year is over.
DE Mario Edwards Jr, CHI (2 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Edwards has served as a pass-rush specialist while playing only about one-third of the defensive snaps over the past month. He picked up two sacks this week as the Bears enjoyed an easy victory over the Texans but had just four solos and one assist over his previous three games combined.
DALLAS @ CINCINNATI
S Darian Thompson, DAL (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF)
Thompson has filled in for Donovan Wilson over the past two games and has been quite productive with nine solos, three assists, plus an interception and forced fumble. The Cowboys still allowed the Bengals, led mostly by backups on offense, to generate 60 tackle opportunities which helped elevate the production of many Cowboys IDPs this week.
DE Carl Lawson, CIN (1 asst, 1 QH)
The Bengals traded Carlos Dunlap because he had been replaced in the lineup for Lawson earlier this year. Apart from one good game against Washington in week 11, however, he’s been nearly invisible since then. Lawson played an encouraging 90% of the defensive snaps this week but only had one assist and one quarterback hit to show for it.
TENNESSEE @ JACKSONVILLE
LB David Long Jr, TEN (2 solos, 3 asst)
Long didn’t stand out on the stat sheet but what’s most encouraging is that he was on the field for all 71 defensive snaps. Meanwhile, Rashaan Evans saw his playing time reduced to 75% and Will Compton saw zero defensive snaps this week. If this trend continues, it appears that Long has emerged as the clear replacement for Jayon Brown.
S Kevin Byard, TEN (8 solos, 3 asst)
Byard has earned a reputation as a playmaker at safety but this year he has yet to record a single interception and his only forced fumble came in Week 1. Despite the lack of big plays, he remains a very reliably productive safety and has collected at least six tackles in nine straight games.
S Josh Jones, JAX (1 solo, 2 asst)
One week after returning to the lineup, Jones exited early with a shoulder injury. Reports indicated it was minor but he saw just 16 snaps (24%) in the game and Andrew Wingard added 3 tackles on his 50 snaps.
KANSAS CITY @ MIAMI
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (5 solos, 3 asst, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
This has been an up-and-down year for Baker as he got off to a strong start before seeing a drop in playing time in November. He was back up to 98% of the snaps this week though and looked very impressive as he collected 8 tackles with 2.5 sacks against the league’s best offense.
LB Anthony Hitchens, KC (2 solos)
Hitchens has not been able to establish himself as a full-time linebacker as he normally plays closer to two-thirds of the defensive snaps. Despite the absence of Damien Wilson (knee) this week, however, Hitchens actually saw a drop in playing time to just 54% of the defensive snaps. Meanwhile, Ben Niemann (four solos) surprisingly played 90% of the snaps after averaging close to 33% over the prior three games combined.
ARIZONA @ NY GIANTS
LB Haason Reddick, ARI (5 solos, 5 sacks, 2 TFL, 6 QH, 3 FF)
Reddick had trouble finding a home as the team moved him back and forth between inside and outside linebacker. Many had written him off as a first-round bust coming into this season but he emerged as a valuable contributor with five sacks over his first seven games. Despite going sackless in the past five games, he was playing nearly every snap and collected 20 tackles to remain a viable fantasy option. While he won’t likely replicate this five-sack/three-forced-fumble game anytime soon, it does suggest that his breakout is legit.
S Jabrill Peppers, NYG (8 solos, 5 asst, 2 TFL, 1 FF)
Peppers continues to post big numbers nearly every week as he likely warrants consideration as a top-five fantasy safety. Over his last seven games, he has 37 solo tackles, 16 assists, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, and 9 passes defensed.
MINNESOTA @ TAMPA BAY
S Antoine Winfield Jr, TB (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
On a team with two of the most productive linebackers in the league, it’s impressive that a rookie safety like Winfield has been so productive as well. He led the way with 12 tackles this week while adding his third sack of the year and now has 20 solos with 9 assists over his past three games combined. Certainly seems like quite a few teams will regret passing on him in this year’s draft.
INDIANAPOLIS @ LAS VEGAS
S Khari Willis, IND (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Willis sat out last week while recovering from an injury but was able to play 100% of the snaps. The second-year pro has been a reliable source of tackles during most weeks this year and he showed off his big-play ability with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown.
DE Clelin Ferrell, LV (1 asst)
One week after his breakout game against the Jets, Ferrell lasted just seven snaps before leaving with a shoulder injury. Arden Key filled in for him but wasn’t able to do much as he was credited with just 1 solo tackle on 37 snaps.
S Jonathan Abram, LV (7 solos, 6 asst)
The former first-round pick is developing into a fantasy force as he now has 34 solo tackles and 15 assists over his prior five games. He sat out last week with a knee injury but was back and able to play 95% of the defensive snaps this week. Unfortunately, it was announced on Monday that he suffered a concussion and it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to clear the protocol in time for Thursday night’s game against the Chargers.
NY JETS @ SEATTLE
CB Blessuan Austin, NYJ (7 solos)
Austin returned from IR this week and played 68 of 73 snaps while collecting 7 solo tackles against a tough Seahawks receiver group. While he hadn’t played since week 9 since suffering a neck injury in practice, that now gives him 22 solo tackles over his last three games played and he should be busy against the Rams offense next week too.
LB Jordyn Brooks, SEA (0 tackles)
This was a tough matchup for Brooks as the Jets fell behind early and their offense only generated 23 rush attempts and 40 tackle opportunities overall. Still, Brooks went from playing 77% of the snaps a week ago in a loss to the Giants to just 35% this week. Making matters worse, he was shut out on his 18 snaps. The first-round pick hasn’t had much of a chance to showcase himself behind Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright but could emerge down the road.
GREEN BAY @ DETROIT
S Darnell Savage, GB (8 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
As a free safety, Savage is expected to see more variance in his tackle numbers, but his eight solo stops this week were a season-high. What’s more encouraging is how many big plays he’s been making of late as he added his first sack of the year this week and now has three interceptions, a sack, fumble recovery, and six passes defensed over his last five games.
LB Christian Kirksey, GB (1 solo, 3 asst)
Kirksey played 100% of the defensive snaps in each of the past four games but he was only on the field for 68% of the snaps this week. His strength is against the run but the Lions only ran the ball 15 times, so the Packers may have felt comfortable giving extra playing time to Krys Barnes as they tried to protect their lead in the second half.
ATLANTA @ LA CHARGERS
LB Kyzir White, LAC (5 solos, 2 asst)
White returned to the lineup this week and played 43 snaps (75%) while Nick Vigil (4 solos) saw his playing time reduced down to 37%. That matchup didn’t help much though as the Falcons offense generated just 20 rush attempts and 44 tackle opportunities in the game.
CB A.J. Terrell, ATL (13 solos, 1 FF, 1 PD)
The rookie corner enjoyed another huge game this week as he forced a fumble for the third time in four games. His tackling ability is a strength of his game and he now has 21 solo tackles over his last two games with the Buccaneers and Chiefs coming up on the schedule.
DE Stephen Means, ATL (0 tackles)
Means came into this week with three sacks over his last two games but he was shut out on his 44 snaps (60%) this week. The Chargers offense generated 26 rush attempts and 63 tackle opportunities but the Falcons defensive ends weren’t able to take advantage as Dante Fowler Jr collected just 2 tackles on 55 snaps.
NEW ORLEANS @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Josh Sweat, PHI (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Sweat regularly sees less than 50% of the defensive snaps and plays primarily as a pass-rush specialist. With two more sacks this week, however, he’s now up to six on the season to rank third on the team behind full-time players Brandon Graham (7) and Fletcher Dox (6.5). The young defensive end is making a case for more playing time but the Eagles have often used a rotational approach on their defensive line.
LB Kwon Alexander, NO (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Alexander only played 48% of the snaps a week ago but saw a big increase this week to all 69 snaps in the game, likely due in large part to the matchup against a run-heavy Eagles offense. He tied for the team lead in tackles with seven stops while also adding a forced fumble that was recovered by the Saints as they tried to push for a late comeback.
S Rodney McLeod, PHI (1 solo, 1 asst)
McLeod hasn’t been much of a fantasy factor of late, but he left the game after just 35 snaps (56%) this week with a knee injury. It was later confirmed to be a torn ACL, which will bring his year to an end. Marcus Epps replaced him in the game and added two more tackles on 35 snaps.
WASHINGTON @ SAN FRANCISCO
S Kamren Curl, WAS (7 solos, 1 QH, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Curl wasn’t on many people’s radar coming into the season as a seventh-round pick who figured to learn behind Landon Collins. He just keeps putting up big numbers every week though and now has 36 solo tackles, 16 assists, 2 sacks, and an interception touchdown in just six starts, which makes him the highest-scoring safety in the league during that span.
LB Fred Warner, SF (4 solos 1 asst)
Warner hasn’t been producing up to his normal standards of late but he lasted just 33 snaps (52%) this week before leaving with shoulder/neck injuries. With the 49ers sitting at 5-8 and going through a rough year that was derailed by injuries, there likely isn’t a reason to rush him back. Even when healthy he had collected just eight solos and nine assists over his previous three games combined. Azeez Al-Shaair filled in for him and added 5 tackles on 36 snaps.
PITTSBURGH @ BUFFALO
LB Avery Williamson, PIT (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH)
The Steelers have been ravaged by injuries, particularly at inside linebacker with Devin Bush, Vince Williams, and Robert Spillane all out. That created an opportunity for Williamson to take on a full-time role and he made the most of it as he was credited with 11 tackles and 9 solo stops on 67 snaps (89%).
CB Taron Johnson, BUF (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD
As the Bills' nickel corner, Johnson has been one of the most productive cornerbacks in the league all year. He’s often been picked on by opposing teams in coverage but he is a capable and willing tackler, which is a nice combination for fantasy value at the position. In addition to collecting 28 tackles over his last four games, he’s started making more big plays with a sack, forced fumble, and a pick-six in the same span.
DE Stephon Tuitt, PIT (0 tackles)
Tuitt is having a great season with 8 sacks but he was very quiet in this game as he was kept completely off the score sheet despite playing 54 snaps (72%). While this is somewhat normal given how dominant the Steelers can be against the run, the Bills actually took control of the game in the second half and ran the ball 27 times. Tuitt now has one or fewer solo tackle in four of his last five games, which makes him tougher to count on as his value relies so heavily on sacks now.