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.
TAMPA BAY @ PHILADELPHIA
DE Josh Sweat, PHI (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The injury to Brandon Graham opened up more snaps for Sweat and he has been taking advantage of them. Over the past two games, he has played nearly 80% of the defensive snaps and has 10 tackles with a sack.
CB Richard Sherman, TB (1 solo)
Sherman played 98% of the snaps the prior two games but had to leave the game after just 6 snaps this week with a hamstring injury. Initial reports suggested he would miss a couple of weeks, which will further deplete the Buccaneers secondary.
MIAMI @ JACKSONVILLE
S Jevon Holland, MIA (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD
After being brought along slowly in the first month of the season, the rookie 2nd round pick seems to have claimed a full-time job in the back of the Dolphins secondary. He has played 100% of the snaps for two weeks in a row and has been productive with 9 solo stops and 4 assists over those two games. While some growing pains are still to be expected, the poor start for the team should ensure that he gets plenty of playing time going forward. The Dolphins were also playing without their top two corners this week but getting them healthy should help funnel more plays to Holland.
S Eric Rowe, MIA (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 PD)
The Dolphins have shown a pattern of changing their safety rotation each week but things appear to be stabilizing over the past two weeks. Unfortunately, Rowe looks like he’s the odd man out as he’s only been on the field for 30% of the snaps the past two games while Brandon Jones has seen his playing time increase to around 75%.
LB Damien Wilson, JAX (9 solos, 3 asst)
Wilson put up great numbers this week with 12 stops on just 51 snaps (73%). While his workload didn’t change from prior weeks, his numbers were likely inflated due to the absence of Myles Jack, who didn’t make the trip to London while resting a back injury.
LA CHARGERS @ BALTIMORE
LB Kyzir White, LAC (3 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 2 INT, 2 PD)
The Chargers are having trouble stopping the run this year, so there is likely value to be had among their linebackers. Unfortunately, Kenneth Murray and Drue Tranquill are both out with injuries, so that left White as a focal point of their defense. He played 100% of the snaps and came up with two interceptions while also adding in 8 tackles.
S DeShon Elliott, BAL (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 INT, 2 PD)
After sitting out the past two weeks with a quad injury, Elliott returned to the lineup this week and posted what was probably the best game of his 4-year career. He brought in the first interception of his career with an impressive catch while adding a sack and a key pass breakup on 3rd down to help the Ravens dominate a strong Chargers offense.
LB Patrick Queen, BAL (2 solos, 1 asst)
Queen came into the year with high expectations and started strong with 24 combined tackles and a sack over the first 3 games. Since then, he’s cooled off considerably and has just 12 combined tackles in the last 3 games with no big plays. His numbers this week were also hurt by the fact he played a season-low 19 snaps (34%) as he left the game temporarily with a thigh injury but was healthy enough to return to the game.
MINNESOTA @ CAROLINA
CB Keith Taylor, CAR (10 solos, 3 PD, 1 FF)
The rookie corner has been thrust into a prominent role the past two weeks and performed well. He was targeted often this week but held up well and finished with an impressive 10 solo tackles, 3 passes defensed, and a forced fumble while playing 65 snaps (73%). While this is quickly becoming a crowded depth chart and Stephon Gilmore’s expected return next week could push him to the bench, he did play ahead of C.J. Henderson (inactive) and Rashaan Melvin.
LB Nick Vigil, MIN (0 tackles)
Vigil was one of the highest-scoring fantasy linebackers through the first 3 weeks of the season and looked like he was going to be a huge part of the Vikings defense. Since Anthony Barr returned to the lineup last week, however, Vigil has seen his playing time reduced dramatically. After playing just 37% of the snaps a week ago, he saw just 9 snaps on defense this week. It also didn’t appear to be health-related since he led the Vikings with 25 snaps on special teams.
GREEN BAY @ CHICAGO
DT Kenny Clark, GB (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Clark has been a very good fantasy option for most of his career but has often ranked below the high-end options at defensive tackle. He’s in his 6th season as a pro but is still just 26 years old and could be headed for a breakout year. His 2 sacks this week give him 3 through 6 games and put him on pace to far exceed his career-high of 6.
S Darnell Savage, GB (3 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD
Savage picked off his first pass of the season on a nice play in the end zone but then suffered an injury while covering the opening kick of the second half. It was later confirmed to be a concussion so his availability for next week will depend on how quickly he clears the protocol.
CINCINNATI @ DETROIT
LB Derrick Barnes, DET (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
Barnes continues to play a part-time role for Detroit but the rookie is going to be hard to keep off the field with more games like this. He led the Lions with 8 tackles on just 32 snaps (44%) this week and also added a pass deflection as well as a special teams tackle. Jalen Reeves-Maybin is currently blocking his path to a full-time role but seems more likely to be a placeholder.
DE Sam Hubbard, CIN (1 solo, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Hubbard looked like a clear DE1-type player over the first 4 games of the year as he collected 14 solos, 9 assists, and 1.5 sacks. Over the past two weeks, however, he’s generated some pressure but has gone quiet on the stat sheet with just 1 solo and 1 assist on 91 snaps. What normally helps set him apart is his consistent tackle production so this is somewhat surprising, but he should also get a chance to turn things around next week against Baltimore.
HOUSTON @ INDIANAPOLIS
DE Jonathan Greenard, HOU (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
The young pass rusher missed the first two games of the season but has been making up for lost time since then. With 2 sacks this week, he now has 4 in 4 games played and is starting to look like a foundational piece of the Texans defense.
S Khari Willis, IND (5 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD, 1 FR)
The Colts defense had quite a few standouts this week but Willis stood out with his all-around performance. He played injured a week ago and was limited to just 26% of the snaps but was able to play 73 of 75 snaps this week. He was credited with 9 tackles, which included a sack on 3rd down, plus a pass deflection and a fumble recovery. Willis is one of the most productive safeties in the league on a per-snap basis.
LB Zach Cunningham, HOU (3 solos, 1 asst)
This situation is starting to feel similar to what we saw play out in Dallas with Jaylon Smith but the Texans don’t have a ready-made replacement to take over. Cunningham once again saw his playing time reduced and played just 14 snaps (29%) while Kamu Grugier-Hill played all 48 snaps and posted 7 combined tackles. The biggest issue for the Texans here is that Cunningham signed a 4-year, $58MM contract extension just a year ago so moving on from him will be quite costly.
LA RAMS @ NY GIANTS
LB Terrell Lewis, LAR (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Lewis has seen his playing time increase over the past few weeks since Justin Hollins went on IR. His snap count has gone from 47% in week 3 up to 72% this week and his 51 snaps ranked 6th on the team. While he hasn’t contributed much from a tackle perspective, he did record a sack for the third game in a row and has favorable matchups coming up against the Lions and Texans.
LB Tae Crowder, NYG (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
While Reggie Ragland has seen an uptick in playing time, Crowder is emerging as the focal point of the Giants defense since Blake Martinez went down with an injury. Over the past three games, Crowder has played 100% of the snaps and has been credited with 16 solos and 11 assists with no fewer than 8 tackles in any game. Reports on Monday indicated the Giants planned to sign Benardrick McKinney, who will provide additional depth.
KANSAS CITY @ WASHINGTON
LB Jamin Davis, WAS (5 solos, 6 asst, 1 QH)
While the workload for Davis this week remained disappointing (56%), he showed off his potential with a game-high 11 tackles on just 46 snaps. The coaches brought him along slowly but he was drafted in the first round for a reason so it makes sense to give him a longer leash here to see what he can do next to Cole Holcomb.
LB Anthony Hitchens, KC (1 asst)
The veteran middle linebacker came into the game with a knee injury but was able to start. Unfortunately, he only lasted 11 snaps (19%) before suffering an elbow injury that took him out of the game. This seemed like an opportunity for Willie Gay Jr, but instead, the Chiefs relied heavily on Ben Niemann who picked up 3 tackles on 43 snaps (73%).
S Daniel Sorensen, KC (1 solo)
The Chiefs defense has been a disaster for most of the season and they tried to change things up by benching Sorensen in favor of Juan Thornhill. Sorensen wasn’t in the starting lineup and wound up playing just 32% of the snaps in certain sub-packages. Thornhill (3 solos) is better against the pass than the run so won’t likely have as much value.
ARIZONA @ CLEVELAND
DE J.J. Watt, ARI (1 solo, 4 asst, 1 sack, 2 QH, 1 PD, 1 FF)
It took longer than probably anyone expected but Watt finally picked up his first sack as a member of the Cardinals this week. He has been playing 80+% of the defensive snaps most weeks but his fantasy production has often been underwhelming. At 32 years of age, he’s probably lost a step or two but he’ll get a chance to build on this further with a matchup against his former team the Texans next week.
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, CLE (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
The rookie linebacker played 91% of the defensive snaps last week and was on his way to a similar showing this week before leaving the game late with an ankle injury. He’s expected to be placed on injured reserve, which will keep him out for about a month and increase the workload for Anthony Walker (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD).
S Budda Baker, ARI (1 solo, 1 asst)
Baker came into this week averaging 5 solo tackles and 2 assists per game but he came surprisingly close to being shut out on the box score. There was no drop in playing time and the most likely reason was an ineffective Browns offense that struggled to move the ball consistently.
LAS VEGAS @ DENVER
DE Maxx Crosby, LV (2 solos, 4 asst, 3 sacks, 1 TFL, 5 QH, 1 PD)
Since posting 2 sacks in the opening week, Crosby had gone quiet with just 4 tackles and 0 sacks across a 4-game span. He terrorized the Broncos this week, however, and showed off his high-end upside with a 3-sack, 5 QB hit performance.
LB Cory Littleton, LV (7 solos, 4 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Denzel Perryman continues to impress with a league-leading 72 combined tackles through 6 games, but Littleton is quietly posting strong numbers as well. With 11 more tackles this week, he’s now been credited with 32 solos and 23 assists. What’s even more incredible is that neither of these linebackers is playing full-time roles as Littleton only played 56 snaps (69%) this week. The Broncos offense generated 63 tackle opportunities this week, which led to some high tackle numbers across the board for the Raiders defense.
LB A.J. Johnson, DEN (3 solos, 1 asst)
Johnson had started to play up to expectations the past few weeks and looked like a clear LB2 option. Unfortunately, he left the game early this week with a pectoral injury that appears to be season-ending. That should put even more pressure on Justin Strnad (3 solos on 45 snaps) and Micah Kiser (1 solo, 2 asst on 18 snaps) on Thursday against the Browns with rookie Baron Browning joining the mix when he returns from a concussion he just suffered.
DALLAS @ NEW ENGLAND
DE Randy Gregory, DAL (3 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Gregory continues to come up huge for the Cowboys as he posted his second two-sack game in the past three weeks. While they aren’t getting much pressure on the quarterback from the rest of the defensive line, Gregory still looks unstoppable at times.
LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, NE (12 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
Bentley left the game early this week with a rib injury so that monitor his status during the week, but he warrants an upgrade after this showing. He was credited with a remarkable 12 solo stops on just 40 snaps (45%) and also forced a fumble by Dak Prescott at the goal line right before halftime. Bentley is good against the run and has been productive when in the lineup.
SEATTLE @ PITTSBURGH
CB D.J. Reed, SEA (7 solos, 2 asst, 2 PD)
Seattle has been struggling to find some answers at the cornerback position this year. Tre Flowers was released and Sidney Jones hadn’t shown much as a starter before suffering an injury this week, but rookie Tre Brown got a chance to play and looked good. Reed may not be a long-term answer at the other corner spot but he is a physical tackler who can also line up in the slot or at safety and should continue to be targeted often each week. He now has 13 solos, 2 assists, and 3 passes defensed over the past two games.
LB Joe Schobert, PIT (1 solo, 1 asst)
Schobert emerged as a star with the Browns and followed that up with a highly productive season in Jacksonville last year. Unfortunately, he’s not finding nearly as much success with the Steelers this year. He has yet to make any splash plays and his overall tackle numbers have often been underwhelming with just 21 solo tackles (and 15 assists) through 6 games. He struggled particularly against the run in the matchup this week as Seattle ran the ball 27 times and he only managed a pair of tackles on his 50 snaps.