This article immediately highlights 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 to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. It isn’t easy 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, please email me or reach out via Twitter.
DALLAS @ TAMPA BAY
LB Keanu Neal, DAL (3 solos, 3 asst)
The Cowboys rebuilt their linebacking group this offseason and appear most comfortable with rookie Micah Parsons (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 PD) and the converted safety Keanu Neal in their nickel packages. The production may not have stood out much for either player this week, but they were on the field for nearly 80% of the snaps compared to just 25% or less for Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.
CB Jamel Dean, TB (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 PD)
Starting corner Sean Murphy-Bunting left the game early with a dislocated elbow. From that point forward, the Cowboys appeared to target Dean consistently, which helped him pile up 9 tackles on 76 snaps. Even if Murphy-Bunting returns to the lineup soon, Dean’s workload as the nickel back should remain high, and he could become a popular target for opposing quarterbacks.
LB Jaylon Smith, DAL (2 solos, 2 asst)
Smith rarely left the field in prior years, but it appears the coaches prefer to keep him in a 2-down role this season. He finished with 4 tackles in the game, but they came on just 16 snaps (25%), and it will be difficult to rely on him or Leighton Vander Esch (2 solos) if that continues.
S Donovan Wilson, DAL (1 QH)
Wilson got the start at strong safety and ranked third among all Cowboys defenders in snaps (85%) but was not credited with a single tackle. Considering Tampa generated 32 pass completions in the game, this was a rather disappointing start to the year for him.
PHILADELPHIA @ ATLANTA
DT Javon Hargrave, PHI (3 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Hargrave warrants an upgrade given his huge game, but it also is quite unlikely he’ll be able to replicate this performance in future weeks. He has been a low-end fantasy starter at defensive tackle during some of his years in Pittsburgh but also has a career-high of 5.5 sacks in a season and played just 56% of the snaps in week 1.
DT Grady Jarrett, ATL (0 tackles)
DT Fletcher Cox, PHI (0 tackles)
Both of these players were likely ranked as top-10 fantasy defensive tackles coming into the season but were shut out on the stat sheet in week 1. Cox might be more concerning given that he wound up playing just 57% of the snaps after regularly playing 70+% of the snaps in 2020. Jarrett still played 76% of the snaps but also had trouble slowing down an Eagles offense, generating 31 rush attempts and 59 tackle opportunities.
LB Alex Singleton, PHI (3 solos, 5 asst)
Singleton played well and put up a solid box score, but his workload/role is worth monitoring. He was not in the starting lineup and did not play in the base defense, so he was limited to nickel packages. The game script still allowed him to play 43 snaps (60%), but that type of situational role will limit his upside and reliability as a fantasy option.
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