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.
LA RAMS @ SEATTLE
LB Jordyn Brooks, SEA (5 solos, 6 asst, 1 TFL)
After playing just 67% of the snaps over the prior two games, Brooks saw his playing time increase to a season-high 91% this week. He took full advantage of the opportunity and was credited with a game-high 11 tackles on 61 snaps while Bobby Wagner only managed 4 on his 67 snaps.
LB Kenny Young, LAR (4 asst)
Young has been remarkably productive this year but he saw a dip in playing time this week that could be cause for some concern going forward. He wound up playing only 65% of the defensive snaps while Troy Reeder played 78%. This may have just been a matchup-driven decision, but Young’s hold on the full-time role may also be slipping.
NY JETS @ ATLANTA
LB Quincy Williams, NYJ (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH, 2 FF)
The former Jaguars player has quickly emerged as one of the most productive linebackers in the league. Playing behind his brother, he has been credited with 20 solo tackles, 6 assists, 3 forced fumbles, and a sack over the last 3 games.
CB Bryce Hall, NYJ (6 solos, 1 asst, 2 PD)
CB Brandin Echols, NYJ (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
The Jets have one of the weaker pairs of starting corners in the league but that can be a strength for fantasy purposes. Hall is the standout and now has 5 passes defensed over the past two games along with strong tackle numbers. The rookie Echols was a sixth-round pick and should continue to be tested by opposing quarterbacks each week.
LB Dante Fowler Jr, ATL (1 solo)
Fowler has played well for Atlanta this year and collected 2 sacks in the last 3 games, but he also saw a surprising drop in playing time this week. After playing over 70% of the defensive snaps in the first four games combined, he was only out there for 45% of the snaps this week. Rookie Adetokunbo Ogundeji was the biggest beneficiary as he saw his workload jump from 24% to 54% and also added his first sack.
PHILADELPHIA @ CAROLINA
DE Haason Reddick, CAR (6 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
With another huge game this week, Reddick is starting to establish himself as one of the truly elite IDPs in the league. The Panthers also boosted their secondary with a trade for Stephon Gilmore, which should help make things easier for the pass rushers up front once he’s healthy enough to play.
CB Darius Slay, PHI (3 solos, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Slay is at his best playing man coverage, which sometimes limits his opportunities. He’s been surprisingly consistent with the Eagles so far though and has been credited with at least 3 solo tackles in all 5 games. With Tampa coming up next on the schedule, he should remain active and could climb the ranks if he can put together some more big plays like he did this week.
LB Eric Wilson, PHI (1 asst)
Wilson has been quite productive during his first four weeks with the Eagles and just posted 11 tackles with an interception a week ago. His playing time took a big hit this week, however, as he was only on the field for 41% of the snaps. Even Alex Singleton only wound up playing 75% of the snaps this week but he was highly productive and finished with 13 tackles on 53 snaps.
GREEN BAY @ CINCINNATI
DE Trey Hendrickson, CIN (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Hendrickson has provided an immediate upgrade to the Bengals pass rush after signing a big free-agent contract this summer. With 2 more sacks this week, he’s up to 4.5 in just 5 games played. Unfortunately, he only has 10 tackles on the year so he’s not offering much help against the run but he has added value in big-play scoring systems.
CB Eli Apple, CIN (1 solo)
Apple had played nearly every snap through the first four games of the season, but he saw his snap count drop to 44% this week. With the return of Chidobe Awuzie and Trae Waynes, it looks like he’s fourth on the depth chart behind nickel back Mile Hilton.
LB Krys Barnes, GB (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Barnes had a very productive day with 6 tackles plus a sack, but it’s worth noting that it came on a very limited workload. He was only on the field for 23 snaps (34%) as he continues to split time with Oren Burks. There’s also a good chance that newly signed Jaylon Smith will fill that spot in the lineup next to De'Vondre Campbell.
NEW ENGLAND @ HOUSTON
S Kyle Dugger, NE (5 solos, 5 asst)
The Patriots had high hopes for Dugger when they drafted him early in the second round a year ago. He needed some time to adjust to the NFL from a small school in Lenoir-Rhyne University but he has star potential. He has looked impressive against the run with 11 solos and 6 assists over the past two games but still needs improvement from a coverage perspective.
LB Zach Cunningham, HOU (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Cunningham missed the game last week due to Covid protocols but was activated during the week and expected to return to his normal role. It looks like the coaches kept him out of their nickel packages, however, as he only saw 52% of the snaps while Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill both played the entire game. As one of the highest-paid linebackers in the league, this bears watching to see if he’s going to be limited to a 2-down role going forward.
TENNESSEE @ JACKSONVILLE
DE Josh Allen, JAX (5 solos, 2 asst, .5 sack, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Allen struggled in 2020 but has bounced back nicely this year. While most of his value has come from sacks, it was encouraging to see him post a stat line with 7 tackles this week. He’s also been credited with at least a partial sack in three of five games played and once again looks like a building block for a young Jaguars defense. K'Lavon Chaisson also got back on track this week with 6 tackles, a sack, and 3 quarterback hits.
S Kevin Byard, TEN (8 solo, 2 asst, 1 FR, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Byard earned a reputation as a playmaker early in his career but he struggled in that department last year as he only managed 1 interception in 2020 while his tackle numbers spiked. His all-around potential makes him an intriguing fantasy option though as he showed this week with a 10-tackle game that also included a fumble return for a touchdown and an interception.
LB Rashaan Evans, TEN (1 asst)
Jayon Brown has not played a significant role since week 1, but Evans has not been able to take advantage. David Long Jr has emerged as the full-time linebacker here and with Brown now on IR there was a chance for Evans to take on more work. Unfortunately, he suffered a quad injury and was limited to a season-low 46% of the snaps this week.
DETROIT @ MINNESOTA
DE Everson Griffen, MIN (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Griffen had been playing well and was rewarded by the coaches with a place in the starting lineup this week over D.J. Wonnum. He wound up playing a season-high 72% of the snaps and made the coaches look great with 4 tackles and a pair of sacks to give him 4 in the last 3 games.
S Tracy Walker, DET (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
After seeing his playing time reduced the past two games, Walker was back up to nearly a full-time role this week (84%). He tied for the team lead in tackles and his pass deflection directly led to an interception. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s been one of the best safeties in the league this year, but he’s better playing in space rather than up in the box so his fantasy numbers won’t always reflect his true impact.
DENVER @ PITTSBURGH
LB Malik Reed, DEN (4 solo, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
With Bradley Chubb not expected back from ankle surgery until November, Reed has taken over as a full-time player opposite Von Miller. He’s played over 90% of the snaps in each of the past three games and has 6 solos, 4 assists, and 2 sacks to show for it.
LB Devin Bush, PIT (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Bush got the start but had to leave the game early after seeing just 25 snaps (42%). He suffered a leg injury and did not return, which led to Robert Spillane playing 40% of the snaps.
CB James Pierre, PIT (6 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Pierre got the start and played all but 1 snap in place of the injured Cameron Sutton. He was picked on by the Broncos, which contributed to solid numbers this week, but he could just as easily return to a reserve role next week if Sutton is healthy.
MIAMI @ TAMPA BAY
LB Jaelan Phillips, MIA (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The rookie edge rusher saw a season-high 57 snaps (79%) and had a productive game, finishing with 4 tackles plus a sack. He should get an opportunity to build on that performance next week in Jacksonville.
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, MIA (1 asst)
Ogbah was quite productive last year in Miami as he set a new career-high with 9 sacks and seemed likely to repeat as the Dolphins' best pass rusher this year. Through the first 5 games, however, he’s been rather underwhelming and has just 1.5 sacks to his credit. What’s more concerning though is that his playing time has dropped to just over 50% of the snaps in each of the past two games after regularly topping 75%.
LB Lavonte David, TB (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 sck, 1 QH)
Tampa lost a key member of their defense this week when David left after just 28 snaps (52%) and didn’t return. He’s expected to miss the Eagles game on Thursday this week at minimum, and will likely be replaced by Kevin Minter who put up 3 tackles on 26 snaps.
NEW ORLEANS @ WASHINGTON
LB Pete Werner, NO (8 solos, 5 asst)
The rookie was expected to develop behind Kwon Alexander and even Zach Baun, but he has taken on a bigger role due to injuries. After posting 10 tackles on 40 snaps (63%) a week ago, he saw his playing time increase to 82 snaps this week and all he did was lead the team in tackles with 13 combined stops. Even if a healthy Kwon Alexander bumps him out of the lineup in the short term, Werner appears to be a long-term fit at weakside linebacker.
LB Jamin Davis, WAS (2 solos)
With an injury to Jon Bostic, it was widely assumed that the rookie first-round pick would take his place in the lineup this week. Instead, Davis was only on the field for 13 out of 56 snaps (23%) as Washington relied more heavily on a group with 5 defensive linemen and 3 safeties. The explanation is that Davis is still getting comfortable, which seems like cause for some concern.
CLEVELAND @ LA CHARGERS
S Derwin James, LAC (9 solos, 8 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
In a crazy game that saw both offenses march down the field with little resistance, James stood out and finished with a remarkable stat line of 17 tackles (on 72 snaps) with a sack and forced fumble. The Browns offense generated 59 tackle opportunities in total and James was involved on nearly 30% of them. If he can stay healthy, he has a great chance to finish as the top-scoring fantasy safety in the league after missing most of the past two seasons to injuries.
LB Malcolm Smith, CLE (1 solo)
Smith played a big role the past three weeks in place of the injured Anthony Walker but saw his playing time reduced to just 3 snaps this week. Walker returned to his role in the middle of the defense and should remain a 3-down option alongside the rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
CB Denzel Ward, CLE (1 solo)
Ward came into the game with a questionable tag as he was dealing with a neck injury. He only played 9 snaps before aggravating the injury and being forced to leave early. Without him in the lineup, the Browns defense could not slow down Justin Herbert and the Chargers but Greedy Williams did stand out with 10 tackles and a forced fumble.
CHICAGO @ LAS VEGAS
LB Denzel Perryman, LV (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH)
Even though Perryman typically only plays 80% of the defensive snaps each week, he continues to be one of the most productive fantasy IDPs in the league. Through 5 games, he has been credited with an amazing 39 solo tackles and 21 assists. If he could keep that up over a 17-game season, he’d finish with over 200 combined tackles.
LB Alec Ogletree, CHI (6 solos)
Even though he had another productive outing with 6 solo stops, they came on a season-low 52% of the defensive snaps. Danny Trevathan was activated from IR this week and played 15% of the snaps while Christian Jones also played 27%. Ogletree often struggles in coverage so he figures to be limited to a 2-down role at best.
SAN FRANCISCO @ ARIZONA
DE Zach Allen, ARI (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Allen doesn’t get nearly as much attention as J.J. Watt but he saw a season-high workload this week with 68% of the snaps. Probably not a coincidence that he posted his best fantasy numbers of the season with 5 tackles and a sack.
LB Chandler Jones, ARI (0 tackles)
Ever since he posted 5 sacks in week 1, Jones has been quiet. He had a solid game in week 3 with 3 solo stops and a fumble recovery but otherwise failed to pick up even an assisted tackle in weeks 2, 4, and 5. His playing time dropped to 71% this week but he had played 90% or more of the game for the prior 3 weeks.
NY GIANTS @ DALLAS
DT Austin Johnson, NYG (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
On a defensive line that also includes Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, Johnson will likely not draw much attention. He’s been playing around 60% of the snaps in recent weeks and has been surprisingly productive with 12 solos, 12 assists, and 3 sacks.
LB Micah Parsons, DAL (6 solos, 2 asst, 3 QH)
Now that Jaylon Smith is gone and Parsons has been moved back to linebacker, it appears we will get a good opportunity to see what he can do. This week was a strong start as he led the Cowboys with 8 tackles in a game where the Giants offense only generated 46 tackle opportunities. He also generated pressure on blitzes and was credited with 3 quarterback hits in the game.
LB Reggie Ragland, NYG (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 FR)
Ragland has played just under 80% of the defensive snaps over the past two games since Blake Martinez was injured, and he’s been credited with 9 solos and 6 assists. His strength is against the run and given all the injuries the Giants have suffered in recent weeks, this defense figures to be seeing a lot of rushes against them.
LB Leighton Vander Esch, DAL (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Even with Jaylon Smith being released, Vander Esch only saw 46% of the defensive snaps this week as he continued to split time with Keanu Neal. The player to watch here is likely rookie Jabril Cox, who only played 4 snaps this week but stood out when he came up with a goal-line stop on Daniel Jones.
BUFFALO @ KANSAS CITY
DE Gregory Rousseau, BUF (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Rousseau continues to impress and he came up with two huge plays on Sunday night, including a sack and a pass that he deflected to himself for an interception. The Bills are comfortable using a rotational approach at defensive end, but Rousseau already has 15 solos, 3 assists, and 3 sacks while only playing basically a part-time role.
CB Taron Johnson, BUF (8 solos, 4 asst, 1 PD)
Johnson has been quite productive as a nickel corner but there was always some concern that he could lose his job. He is excellent against the run and a physical tackler but can be picked on in coverage. That combination is great for fantasy purposes though and he seems secure in his role after signing a 3-year contract extension last week.
DT Jarran Reed, KC (0 tackles)
Very little has been going right for the Chiefs defense this year and Reed has been a significant disappointment. He posted 20 sacks over the prior 3 seasons combined with Seattle but has just 4 solo tackles, 2 assists, and 0 sacks through his first 5 games with the Chiefs.