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.
CHICAGO @ DETROIT
S Dean Marlowe, DET (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 PD)
The Lions were missing their starting nickel back A.J. Parker this week so they moved safety Will Harris inside. That created an opening at safety, which was filled by Marlowe for all 70 snaps as he led the team in tackles. Given that Parker was placed on IR, this is a change that could continue next week against the Vikings.
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (3 solos)
Smith is having an incredible season but was knocked out of the game after just 18 snaps (37%) this week with a hamstring injury. While it doesn’t appear to be serious, there is a chance he could miss a game or aggravate the injury just as the fantasy playoffs are approaching. With Danny Trevathan on IR, Alec Ogletree (84%) and Christian Jones (53%) picked up the slack.
S DeAndre Houston-Carson, CHI (2 solos)
With Eddie Jackson back in the lineup, Houston-Carson saw his playing time plummet to just 6 snaps this week. He played well when called upon but is clearly the #3 safety and will likely need another injury to become relevant.
LAS VEGAS @ DALLAS
LB Keanu Neal, DAL (6 solos, 6 asst, 1 TFL)
The Lions have moved Micah Parsons back to defensive end, which has allowed Neal to take over as a full-time linebacker the past two games. While playing 100% and 94% of the snaps, he has been much more productive and has 10 solos and 9 assists. The former safety has yet to break through in the big play columns though.
DE Maxx Crosby, LVR (1 asst, 1 QH)
Crosby played a season-high 66 snaps on Thanksgiving but was only credited with 1 assisted tackle and a quarterback hit in the game. Since posting 3 sacks against the Broncos in week 6, he’s gone 5 straight games without recording even a partial sack. His tackle production is also underwhelming given his consistently high workload each week.
BUFFALO @ NEW ORLEANS
DT Ed Oliver, BUF (3 solos, 1 asst, .5 sack, 2 QH)
Oliver has not made many of the plays that show up in the box score but has shown noticeable improvement in recent weeks. He’s solid against the run and has also been generating consistent pressure from the interior of the defensive line. He stood out this week with a sack and 2 quarterback hits though and will try to keep that momentum going next week on Monday night against the Patriots.
CB TreDavious White, BUF (1 PD)
While this hasn’t been a great statistical year for White, he was playing extremely well for the Bills and shutting down opposing receivers. He left the game early with a knee injury that was later confirmed to be a torn ACL and will be lost for the season. Dane Jackson (2 solos, 1 asst) will try to fill in for him but is a huge downgrade and will likely be targeted often by opposing quarterbacks.
PITTSBURGH @ CINCINNATI
S Minkah Fitzpatrick, PIT (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Fitzpatrick returned from the Covid list this week to post another strong tackle game while also adding his first interception of the season. He’s averaging 5 solos and 2 assists per game, which are linebacker-type numbers, and seems due for some positive regression in terms of big plays given his history.
LB Devin Bush, PIT (1 solo, 3 asst)
Bush came into the league with very high expectations as a top-10 draft pick and seemed headed for stardom after a great rookie season. Last year was lost to injury, but he hasn’t been the same player this year. While there have been some flashes, his tackle numbers have been very underwhelming in most games. Despite playing a 3-down role, he’s averaging just 3 solo tackles and 2 assists per game.
NY JETS @ HOUSTON
DE John Franklin-Myers, NYJ (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Franklin-Myers had been very quiet since his strong start so he probably wasn’t in many starting lineups this week. He showed off his upside, however, with a monster game against the Texans in a rare win for the Jets. With 2 sacks, he’s now up to 6 on the year and should get close to double digits with a favorable schedule remaining.
CB Tavierre Thomas, HOU (3 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Thomas serves as the nickel back in Houston so he’s not quite a full-time player, but he’s been very productive of late. The former undrafted free agent picked off the first pass of his career this week and has now averaged 7 tackles per game over his last 4.
TAMPA BAY @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Shaquil Barrett, TB (5 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Barrett snapped his cold streak with a huge effort in a comeback win over the Colts. He had gone sackless over the past 3 games but helped wake up the Bucs defense with a 2-sack game that also included a forced fumble and recovery.
LB Darius Leonard, IND (12 solos, 3 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
While Leonard hadn’t looked like himself the past few weeks as he played through an ankle injury, but he may have turned a corner this week. He was everywhere against the Buccaneers this week and finished the game with 15 tackles, which was nearly double the total for any other player in the game.
CB Carlton Davis, TB (DNP)
Davis hasn’t played since week 4 due to a quad injury but he’s been activated from IR and looks like he could return to the lineup next week. That will be a nice boost to a secondary that has been ravaged by injuries this year and lost Jamel Dean to a shoulder injury after just 5 snaps this week.
LB Devin White, TB (3 solos)
White left the game temporarily this week with a hip injury but was able to come back in and finish it out. He wound up playing just 51% of the snaps overall and it looks like he could be limited again next week even if he’s able to play through it. Kevin Minter played the other 49% of the snaps this week and would be next in line if White misses any time.
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul, TB (1 solo)
Pierre-Paul has been playing injured with a torn rotator cuff that he says is the worst of his career. So the fact that he’s been able to handle close to a normal workload is incredibly impressive but it is also clear that he’s less effective than normal. In the last 3 games since their bye week, he’s collected just 3 solo tackles with a pass defensed and no sacks.
ATLANTA @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Mykal Walker, ATL (6 solos, 6 asst, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Walker has been seeing limited snaps in recent weeks when the Falcons rarely used 3 linebackers. With Deion Jones out injured this week, however, Walker got an opportunity to showcase himself as a full-time player. He took advantage of the opportunity and finished as the team leader with 11 tackles on defense while also adding a quarterback hit and pass deflection. His path to a big role is likely blocked, but he remains a promising young dynasty stash.
LB Damien Wilson, JAX (2 solos)
Wilson was coming off one of his better games of the year but suffered an ankle injury that limited him to just 63% of the snaps. His 38 snaps tied a season-low that he set back in week 2 and he becomes a risky option next week even if healthy enough to play.
CAROLINA @ MIAMI
LB Jaelan Phillips, MIA (3 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 4 QH, 1 PD)
The rookie is proving his worth as a high draft pick and exploded for a huge game against the Panthers this week. He had one sack against Cam Newton early in the game and then added two more on backup P.J. Walker in the fourth quarter. He’s now up to 5 sacks in his last 4 games and has matchups coming up against the Giants and Jets with a bye week mixed in.
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (10 solos, 3 asst)
The Panthers as a group were very productive this week, thanks in part to their struggles on offense and the fact the Dolphins offense generated 39 rush attempts and 68 tackle opportunities. Even still, Thompson stood out from the rest as he racked up 13 tackles compared to just 7 for Jeremy Chinn and 5 for Jermaine Carter.
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Baker’s tackle production has often disappointed despite playing such a heavy workload with minimal competition from the players around him. He was boosted up last year by a spike in sacks as he finished with 7 but he’s only picked up 1 through 11 games played this year. Additionally, he’s been credited with just 12 solo tackles and 8 assists over the last 4 games despite playing close to 100% of the snaps.
TENNESSEE @ NEW ENGLAND
LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, NE (5 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 2 FF)
Bentley continues to breakout for the Patriots and is becoming a standout fantasy option as well. One of the knocks against him in the past was his struggles against the pass but he’s always been good against the run and has improved his all-around play to the point he played 93% of the snaps this week while also adding a strip-sack in the 4th quarter that was recovered by the Titans.
S Kevin Byard, TEN (9 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Byard helped keep the Titans in the game until late in the second half and continued a remarkable season that could draw defensive player of the year consideration. Unfortunately, he was placed on the Covid list on Monday so he’ll have to clear the protocol before he can return to action. The Titans do have an upcoming bye, however, so he’ll get extra time to recover and hopefully avoid missing any games.
CB Elijah Molden, TEN (0 tackles)
The rookie corner has been very productive while filling in for Kristian Fulton and serving as the team’s primary nickel corner. He came into the game this week with a questionable tag, however, and wound up getting shut out on the box score despite playing 68% of the snaps. He’ll have a bye week to recover but is also third on the depth chart behind Janoris Jenkins and Kristian Fulton.
PHILADELPHIA @ NY GIANTS
LB Alex Singleton, PHI (8 solos, 4 asst, 3 TFL, 1 PD)
Singleton saw his playing time reduced to just 10 snaps in weeks 9 and 10 but an injury to Davion Taylor last week created a new opening for him. Singleton saw 89% of the snaps last week and 97% this week while piling up 12 solos and 7 assists in both games combined with a pair of pass deflections.
CB Adoree' Jackson, NYG (1 solo, 1 PD)
Jackson has been posting solid numbers for most of the year but he was limited to just 19 snaps (28%) this week. He left the game early with a quad injury and did not return, which allowed rookie third-round pick Aaron Robinson (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH, 2 PD on 45 snaps) to see his most extensive action of the year.
LA CHARGERS @ DENVER
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Bosa was coming off a down year in 2020 and looking to reclaim his spot among the elites at defensive end. Despite a slow start, he’s been very consistent over the past couple of months and is putting together a strong season that will likely see him finish among the top-10. He’s now posted a sack in 4 straight games and has at least a partial sack in 8 of 11 games played.
CB Patrick Surtain II, DEN (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
The Broncos surprised people when they drafted Surtain over a quarterback like Josh Fields in this year’s draft. While he hasn’t made a huge impact, that’s to be expected for a young corner. It’s also expected that young corners will be tested by most quarterbacks they face and Surtain has held up well. He had his coming-out party this week, however, with 2 interceptions including a pick-6 in a big win over the Chargers.
LA RAMS @ GREEN BAY
LB Troy Reeder, LAR (6 solos, 7 asst, 1 TFL)
Reeder posted 11 tackles (3 solos) in week 10 leading into the Rams bye week and then followed that up with a huge game this week as well. He was extremely active throughout the game and was credited with 13 tackles, which was far more than any other player on the Rams defense. He also saw just 4 more snaps than fellow linebacker Ernest Jones, who finished with only 5 tackles in the game.
LB Terrell Lewis, LAR (1 asst)
Lewis was a third-round pick a year ago with strong potential as an edge rusher who started to make an impact earlier this year with a 3-game sack streak. Since the addition of Von Miller at the trade deadline, however, his playing time has seen a steep decline as expected. Lewis played 42 snaps (74%) in week 9 but has seen just 45 snaps over the past two games combined.
LB Krys Barnes, GB (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD, 1 FR)
Barnes had a very productive game with 9 stops as well as a fumble recovery that came on special teams. He likely doesn’t warrant a significant upgrade though as his playing time remained relatively low. Barnes was on the field for 38 snaps (61%), which was consistent with his playing time in prior weeks while De'Vondre Campbell remains at 100% each week.
MINNESOTA @ SAN FRANCISCO
S Harrison Smith, MIN (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Smith missed two games recently due to Covid but has otherwise been one of the elite safeties in the league. His fantasy points per game rank second among safeties behind Derwin James, which is quite surprising even though he’s always been a very talented player. He’s on a pace that would get him to 100 solo tackles this year if he played all 17 games even though he hasn’t topped 70 solo tackles since 2014 and his career-high of 73 was set as a rookie nearly 10 years ago.
LB Fred Warner, SF (1 solo, 2 asst)
Warner has played like an LB1 for most of the season but he left the game early this week with a hamstring injury. He was limited to just 33 snaps (60%) and the injury wasn’t described as serious but expect him to miss at least next week’s game against Seattle. Fortunately for the 49ers, Dre Greenlaw returned to action this week and posted 3 tackles on just 13 snaps.
CLEVELAND @ BALTIMORE
S Ronnie Harrison, CLE (11 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Harrison hasn’t always played up to his potential and sat out the first defensive series last week in a disciplinary move, but he was very productive on Sunday night. He picked off his first pass of the year as the Browns intercepted four passes from Lamar Jackson and came up with 14 tackles to lead all players in the game.
CB Anthony Averett, BAL (0 tackles)
Averett came into this week’s game with a questionable tag due to a groin injury that kept him out last week. While he was healthy enough to start and actually play all 60 snaps, he was completely shut out on the box score. The Browns offense did not generate much with 18 completions and 38 tackle opportunities as the Ravens smothered them, but this was his second low-scoring game in the past 3 after a highly productive first 7 games.