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.
CAROLINA @ HOUSTON
LB Zach Cunningham, HOU (6 solos, 8 asst)
After a disciplinary action limited his workload last week, Cunningham returned to a full-time role as expected. He was one of 4 Texans players to play all 73 snaps and he was all over the field as he finished with 14 tackles out of 59 tackle opportunities.
CB Jaycee Horn, CAR (1 solo, 1 asst)
The Panthers had high hopes for Horn when they drafted him eighth overall this year but he suffered a broken foot in the game and could be looking at season-ending surgery. Rashaan Melvin replaced him in the game but A.J. Bouye is expected back next week and figures to be relied upon heavily. The Panthers also traded for former top-10 pick C.J. Henderson from Jacksonville on Monday.
WASHINGTON @ BUFFALO
LB Matt Milano, BUF (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD, 1 FR)
Milano is an underrated player who has yet to enjoy a true breakout season due to relatively low tackle production. He missed a lot of time to injuries last year but he is an excellent all-around player whose coverage ability and talent as a blitzer can help him put up big weeks even if he continues to average only about 5 tackles per game.
LB Cole Holcomb, WAS (10 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL)
Holcomb has played 100% of the snaps in all three games this and continues to stand out as he’s currently on pace to finish with well over 100 solo tackles. Washington’s defense has not played as well as many expected them to, which should lead to plenty of tackle opportunities each week. Meanwhile, rookie Jamin Davis continues to split time with Jon Bostic at the other inside linebacker spot.
DE Chase Young, WAS (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH)
There are no issues with Young’s workload as he’s played nearly 90% of the defensive snaps so far this year, but he is still looking for his first sack. There may not be a need to drop him down significantly given his talent, but with 6 solos, 3 assists, and 0 sacks through the first three games, he’s produced well below expectation thus far.
CHICAGO @ CLEVELAND
DE Myles Garrett, CLE (6 solos, 1 asst, 4.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 6 QH)
Garrett has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the league on a sacks per game basis but hasn’t had a true breakout year yet due to missed time. He was off to a slow start in the first two games yet took off with a thrashing of the Bears this week that included 9 sacks as a team. With Jadeveon Clowney also adding a pair of sacks this week, that will help keep offenses from sliding their blocking entirely to one side.
S John Johnson III, CLE (1 asst)
We can’t knock Johnson too much for his low output this week as the Bears offense only generated 6 completions and 28 tackle opportunities. This could become more of a pattern, however, as the Browns offense does a great job of controlling the pace of the game with their rushing attack and that limits snap counts and opportunities for the defense.
LB Alec Ogletree, CHI (4 solos)
Ogletree has been credited with 7 solos and 5 assists through the first 3 games while playing approximately 70% of the snaps. That doesn’t particularly stand out and he could be headed for a reduction soon as Danny Trevathan is eligible to be activated off I.R. this week.
BALTIMORE @ DETROIT
LB Alex Anzalone, DET (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
There haven’t been many IDP standouts in Detroit this year but Anzalone appears to be emerging as a reliable option at linebacker. He has played 100% of the defensive snaps through 3 games and has 15 solos and a sack.
S Chuck Clark, BAL (9 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
This game is almost certainly an outlier but is worth mentioning as Clark finished with 12 tackles, which was twice as much as the next highest Ravens defender. He’s been a starter for most of the past two seasons but has only averaged 50 solo tackles per year. The lack of outside threats on the Lions roster likely allowed him to play closer to the line of scrimmage than he will in most games this year.
LB Jamie Collins Sr, DET (DNP)
The Lions have not been happy with the play of Collins this year and are looking to trade him, so they decided to sit him out this week. Perhaps a change of scenery will help him but he has historically struggled when playing outside of a Patriots-style defensive scheme. His absence allowed rookie Derrick Barnes (48%) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (47%) to play much more than they had in the first two games of the year.
ARIZONA @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Jordan Hicks, ARI (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Hicks is turning out to be one of the better IDP values of the offseason. Many people wrote him off with the selection of Zaven Collins in the draft, but Hicks just went out and won back the starting job in camp. Through 3 games, Hicks has played 190 of 192 snaps and has 22 combined tackles while Collins has collected just 5 tackles on his 75 snaps.
S Andrew Wingard, JAX (4 solos, 3 asst)
Wingard had been splitting time with rookie Andre Cisco but appears to have taken over that spot for the time being as he played 100% of the snaps this week while Cisco was limited to special teams duties. On a poor team with limited talent, there should be plenty of tackle opportunities and he has been taking advantage with 13 solos, 8 assists, plus a sack and interception so far.
CB Tyson Campbell, JAX (6 solos, 2 asst)
The Jaguars sat out former top-10 pick C.J. Henderson this week before trading him to the Panthers on Monday. That created an opening for rookie 2nd round pick Tyson Campbell to start outside, where he’s most comfortable. With the rookie corner rule in effect, we can likely expect more weeks like this one where he picked up 8 tackles on 28 completions from Arizona.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ KANSAS CITY
LB Nick Bolton, KC (3 solos, 4 asst)
The rookie linebacker continues to look comfortable in the Chiefs defense and he’s played about 80% of the defensive snaps thus far. The Chiefs still feel comfortable with veteran Anthony Hitchens but he is little more than a placeholder at this point. Bolton has been one of the few bright spots on defense and should be able to stay on the field even after Willie Gay Jr Jr. returns from I.R.
LB Kenneth Murray, LAC (2 solos, 1 asst)
The Chargers pulled off an upset over the Chiefs and it was surprising that one of their key players Murray was not a big part of it. He saw his playing time drop to 79% last week and fall even further to just 51% this week. Drue Tranquill (6 solos, 2 asst, .5 sack) was the biggest beneficiary as he saw his playing time jump from 18% last week to 43% this week. Even though Murray was a first-round pick, it looks like he’ll remain part of a rotation with Tranquill and Kyzir White.
NEW ORLEANS @ NEW ENGLAND
CB Marshon Lattimore, NO (8 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The Saints welcomed back Lattimore after thumb surgery and he only wound up missing a single game. The Patriots completed 30 of 51 passes against the Saints while playing from behind for most of the game and that led to some impressive numbers from Lattimore as well as other members of the secondary.
LB Dont'a Hightower, NE (1 solo, 1 asst)
Hightower has often played better than his fantasy numbers indicate and he’s proving once again to be a less than reliable fantasy option. His playing time in the first couple weeks was right around 80% but this week dropped to 69% as the Patriots relied more heavily on their safeties with both Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips seeing 93% of the snaps. Don’t get excited about the 7 tackle game from Ja'Whaun Bentley either as he put up those numbers despite seeing his workload drop from 93% last week to just 49% this week.
ATLANTA @ NEW YORK GIANTS
LB Tae Crowder, NYG (4 solos, 7 asst, 1 PD)
A season-ending injury to Blake Martinez has created a huge opportunity for Crowder. He went from playing 59% of the snaps last week to an every-down role as the defensive signal-caller once Martinez left the game. Reggie Ragland also saw his playing time increase to 65% of the snaps this week and should see more playing time on early downs.
LB Blake Martinez, NYG (2 asst)
The Giants defense suffered a big loss on Sunday when their top linebacker Blake Martinez left the game with a non-contact injury after playing just 5 snaps. It was later confirmed that he suffered a torn ACL and will be lost for the rest of the season. There aren’t many linebackers who have been more productive than him over the past four seasons as he averaged 93 solo tackles and 55 assists per year.
CINCINNATI @ PITTSBURGH
LB Logan Wilson, CIN (6 solos, 8 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Wilson has been a clear standout for the Bengals defense this year and gives them an every-down linebacker to build around. In addition to being credited with 14 combined tackles on just 67 snaps (81%), he also added a pair of interceptions to bring him up to 3 on the year. Even with his strong production thus far, there’s still room to grow if he can start playing 100% of the snaps each week.
LB Devin Bush, PIT (2 asst)
After sitting out last week with a groin injury, Bush returned to the starting lineup this week and managed just 2 assists on 38 snaps (81%). While he’s coming back from a torn ACL in 2020, he has not played very well thus far. The snap count was lopsided in favor of the Bengals defense this week but 2 assisted tackles on 24 rush attempts is still a disappointment.
INDIANAPOLIS @ TENNESSEE
S Julian Blackmon, IND (11 solos)
The Titans controlled most of this game with their offense but Blackmon was a standout as he finished with 11 solo stops and played great in coverage. The second-year free safety doesn’t come up in the box to support the run that often but he helped keep Derrick Henry in check this week.
LB Jayon Brown, TEN (1 asst)
After going through a full practice on Friday, Brown suffered a setback and was downgraded to questionable. He was active but only saw 10 snaps while his replacement David Long Jr had another strong game with 8 tackles. It seems unlikely Brown will lose his role here but Long may carve out a rotational role for himself with his solid play.
NEW YORK JETS @ DENVER
DT Quinnen Williams, NYJ (3 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Defensive tackle is not a very deep position for fantasy purposes so it was disappointing to see several of the league’s best at the position get off to slow starts. Williams had just 1 solo and 3 assists through the first two games and seemed like he might struggle to repeat his 2020 breakout. With 1.5 sacks this week, however, he appears to be back on track but it would be nice to see him get more playing time than the 52% of snaps he had.
LB A.J. Johnson, DEN (5 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Johnson had a very quiet start to the year with just 6 tackles through 2 games but he stood out this week following the injury to Josey Jewell. He came into the week with just 1 sack in his career but doubled that number in a single game.
MIAMI @ LAS VEGAS
LB Jaelan Phillips, MIA (4 solos, 2 asst)
After playing just 29% of the snaps in the first two games, the first-round pick got his first career start and collected 6 tackles while playing 59% of the snaps. Even though he didn’t generate much pressure, it was a positive sign to see him produce in his first extensive action of the season. Andrew Van Ginkel took the hit as he only played 41% of the snaps after playing 70+% in the first two games.
DE Yannick Ngakoue, LV (1 asst, 1 QH)
Ngakoue saw a season-high 61 snaps (73%) this week after playing less than half the game in weeks 1 and 2 but only had a single assisted tackle to show for it. This felt like the type of matchup the Raiders should have been able to take advantage of as the Dolphins were ranked as one of the worst pass-blocking lines in the league, so it was disappointing to see them come away with just 2 sacks on 49 pass attempts for Jacoby Brissett. Maxx Crosby wasn’t much better as he finished with 1 assist in 2 quarterback hits on 62 snaps.
S Brandon Jones, MIA (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Jones filled up the box score with 6 tackles and a pair of sacks, which would suggest he’s a player to rush out and grab on waivers. A deeper look, however, shows that he did his damage while playing on just 43% of the snaps this week while Eric Rowe was back up to 78%. The Dolphins plan to use all three of their safeties in a rotation that can change on a weekly basis.
TAMPA BAY @ LOS ANGELES RAMS
LB Kenny Young, LAR (8 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Young is just the latest example of a player who seems to come out of nowhere to put up huge numbers in the middle of the Rams defense. He posted his second 10-tackle game of the year while also adding a sack and a forced fumble and the only thing that has held him back to this point was an ejection in week 2. With plenty of favorable matchups ahead, he should continue to post LB1-type numbers.
Tampa Bay Pass Rush
The pass rush was a huge part of the Buccaneers Super Bowl run last year but it has been surprisingly quiet so far in 2021. Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul (who sat out this week), and Devin White have combined for just a single sack through the first 3 games of the year. They have faced some veteran quarterbacks in Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford, but should bounce back in the next few weeks as the matchups improve.
SEATTLE @ MINNESOTA
DE Darrell Taylor, SEA (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Taylor was a second-round pick last year who missed his entire rookie season with an injury. He picked up a sack in the opener this year but was only playing about a third of the game in the first two weeks. This week, however, he saw his playing time jump to 49% and he came through with 5 tackles plus a strip-sack of Kirk Cousins. The Seahawks have a deep rotation of pass rushers this year so he might not get enough playing time to truly emerge but he’s a potent edge rusher with youth on his side.
S Harrison Smith, MIN (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Smith has long been considered one of the best safeties in the league, but limited tackle production has often held him back. That seems to be changing a bit this year, however, as he’s been credited with 23 tackles overall and 17 in the last two games alone.
DT Sheldon Richardson, MIN (1 QH)
Richardson has seen his playing time steadily rise over the last two weeks and was on the field for 49% of the defensive snaps against Seattle. With just 2 assisted tackles and no sacks through 3 games, it may be tough for him to find his footing in the tackle rotation. This week, the Vikings went to a lighter group up front as they had 3 defensive ends play more than 60% of the snaps as they tried to slow down Russell Wilson.
GREEN BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO
LB De'Vondre Campbell, GB (6 solos, 6 asst, 1 FR)
Campbell has proven to be a strong addition to the middle of the Packers defense. He has played every snap and has been a tackling machine with 21 solos and 10 assists through the first 3 games of the year. Fellow inside linebacker Krys Barnes left the game early with a concussion this week and was replaced by Oren Burks and Ty Summers.
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, SF (5 solos, 5 asst)
Even though Fred Warner draws most of the attention as the focal point of this defense, Al-Shaair is showing that he can be a productive counterpart. He’s only played 8 fewer snaps than Warner on the year and has 22 combined tackles.
CB Josh Norman, SF (1 solo, 1 FF)
Norman was forced into a starting role for the 49ers just a couple of weeks after they signed him off the street. He left the game early this week and had to spend the night in the hospital with a bruised lung. Nickel corner K'Waun Williams also was limited to just 6 snaps before leaving with a calf injury. This depleted secondary will have a tough time slowing down Seattle and Arizona over the next two weeks.