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.
PITTSBURGH @ MINNESOTA
LB Eric Kendricks, MIN (5 solos, 6 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Kendricks sat out last week with an arm injury but returned to a full workload on Thursday night with 74 snaps alongside fellow linebacker Anthony Barr. Kendricks has been an elite fantasy linebacker all year, thanks to newfound success as a blitzer. Since collecting 4 sacks as a rookie back in 2015, he had just 5 sacks over his next 5 seasons combined but now has 5 in 12 games played this year (along with career-high tackle numbers).
LB T.J. Watt, PIT (1 asst, 1 QH)
Watt played just 25 snaps (36%) this week as he was forced to leave the game early with a groin injury. Initial reports indicated he avoided a serious injury and he could be available next week against the Titans, but he may also be at risk for aggravating the injury and seeing a limited workload again.
ATLANTA @ CAROLINA
S Jeremy Chinn, CAR (8 solos, 5 asst)
Chinn had an unexpected quiet start to the season, which suggested the move back to safety from mostly playing linebacker a year ago was hurting his value. Over the past 8 games, however, he’s put up elite numbers and once again looks like a top-5 option.
CB A.J. Bouye, CAR (1 solo)
The Panthers loaded up at cornerback this year with two big acquisitions in Stephon Gilmore and C.J. Henderson. With Donte Jackson placed on IR with a season-ending injury, there could have been an opening for Bouye but they started C.J. Henderson over him. While Henderson only played 26% of the snaps, Bouye was also limited to 25% himself as he left the game with a foot injury.
LB Mykal Walker, ATL (1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Walker stood out this week thanks to a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the Falcons an early lead. He remains a promising young player but is still blocked by the presence of Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun as Walker only played 5 defensive snaps in the game.
BALTIMORE @ CLEVELAND
CB Chris Westry, BAL (6 solos, 1 PD)
The Ravens were without Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith this week but welcomed back Westry, who sat out the past two games with a thigh injury. He’s listed at 6’4” but very unproven at this point and figures to be picked on by most opposing teams. The Browns aren’t a great matchup for outside cornerbacks but he still finished as the 2nd leading tackler on the Ravens this week and now has the Packers looming next week.
S Grant Delpit, CLE (11 solos, 1 QH)
Ronnie Harrison sat out this week with an ankle injury, which allowed Delpit a chance to see his highest workload of the year. He played all 74 defensive snaps and wound up leading the Browns in tackles with 11 solo stops. As a 2nd round pick from last year’s draft, expectations are high but he’s had trouble separating himself so perhaps this game will help in that regard.
DE Calais Campbell, BAL (1 asst)
Campbell was limited to just 6 snaps this week before leaving the game with a thigh injury. He’s already shown some clear signs of slowing down at 35 years of age, so he may be seeing the end of his fantasy relevance.
SEATTLE @ HOUSTON
S Ryan Neal, SEA (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL)
With Jamal Adams done for the season, Neal moved into the starting lineup at strong safety this week. While Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks tend to soak up most of the tackles in this group, the struggles in the secondary should keep Neal quite active next week against the Rams.
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, HOU (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL, 1 PD)
Grugier-Hill has been one of the most productive linebackers in the league over the past month, but he was limited to just 28 snaps (46%) this week with a knee injury. That left his status for next week in doubt even before he was placed on the Covid list on Monday. Neville Hewitt took his place and collected 3 tackles on 32 snaps.
LAS VEGAS @ KANSAS CITY
CB Mike Hughes, KC (8 solos, 1 asst, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD)
L'Jarius Sneed was a late scratch due to a personal tragedy, which opened up a spot for Hughes to start this week. He got the Chiefs off to a great start as he picked up a fumble and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game. The game quickly turned into a blowout, which resulted in a lopsided game script that left the Raiders with just 12 rush attempts and 45 pass attempts and helped Hughes put up some of the best numbers of the weekend.
CB Brandon Facyson, LV (1 solo, 1 asst)
Facyson has mostly been a productive player for the Raiders this year but he was sent back to a reserve role this week with the return of Trayvon Mullen. Mullen wound up starting and playing 61% of the snaps while Facyson played the remaining 39%, but that split could shift further in Mullen’s favor next week.
NEW ORLEANS @ NY JETS
LB Kwon Alexander, NO (4 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Alexander hasn’t posted great tackle numbers this year, but he’s made up for it with a handful of big plays. He collected 2 sacks this week to give him 3 plus an interception in the last 8 games. While he’s not the LB1 he was earlier in his career, he’s proving to be a steady LB3-type.
S Elijah Riley, NYJ (4 solos, 6 asst)
While filling in for the injured Marcus Maye over the past month, Riley has started to emerge as a quality fantasy starter. He played 89% of the snaps a week ago and was up to 97% this week while being credited with 17 tackles and a sack in those games.
DT Quinnen Willliams, NYJ (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Williams suffered a shoulder injury this week that limited him to a lighter workload than normal. He played 50% of the snaps and came back into the game with a harness after suffering the injury. After undergoing an MRI, he said he plans to play through the injury but his effectiveness may suffer as a result.
JACKSONVILLE @ TENNESSEE
DE Roy Robertson-Harris, JAX (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Very few things have gone well for the Jaguars of late, but Robertson-Harris has been a rare bright spot. He played a season-high 70% of the snaps this week and picked up a sack for the 3rd time in the last 4 weeks. With the Texans and Jets coming up next on the schedule, he’ll have a good chance to improve on those numbers too.
LB Zach Cunningham, TEN (DNP)
Cunningham was waived by the Texans and claimed by the Titans, so he should have a clearer path to playing time on his new team. He played for Vanderbilt in the same state and joins a team that has seen their linebacker depth depleted by injuries. It remains to be seen how they will incorporate him given that they still have Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans and could get David Long Jr back soon.
DALLAS @ WASHINGTON
CB Jourdan Lewis, DAL (6 solos, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PD)
The Cowboys nickel corner has played close to a full-time role of late and has been a steady source of tackles and big plays. He has at least 5 solo tackles in 4 of his last 7 games while also adding 1.5 sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
S Landon Collins, WAS (5 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Collins sat out last week with a foot injury but returned to the lineup this week and held up well while playing 71 snaps (84%). He’s proving to be a bit of a revelation at linebacker as he added a pair of sacks and an interception despite often struggling to make big plays when lined up as a safety.
DT Jonathan Allen, WAS (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Despite playing just 54% of the snaps this week, Allen had his most productive game in months with 7 tackles and a sack. He tested positive for Covid on Monday, however, and will need to clear protocols quickly to avoid missing any time.
DETROIT @ DENVER
DE Dre'Mont Jones, DEN (3 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Jones only played 38% of the snaps this week, but he made his presence felt with 2 sacks. There was one series in particular where he registered a sack on first down, a tackle for loss on second down, and then tipped a pass on 4th down to force a turnover. While the Broncos haven’t gotten much help from players like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb this year, Jones now has 5.5 sacks over his last 6 games.
LB Josh Woods, DET (10 solos, 3 asst, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Woods has seen a spike in playing time the past two weeks while filling in for injured players. He played 57% of the snaps a week ago in place of Jalen Reeves-Maybin and then saw his playing time increase to 94% this week after Alex Anzalone left with an injury. In those two games combined, he has 16 solo tackles and 5 assists.
LB Alex Anzalone, DET (0 tackles)
Anzalone has served as the Lions’ only full-time linebacker all year but he lasted just 15 snaps (22%) this week before leaving with an ankle injury. His production has been rather underwhelming in relation to his workload, but he did have 6 passes defensed over the previous 3 games.
NY GIANTS @ LA CHARGERS
CB Aaron Robinson, NYG (7 solos, 2 asst)
Giants have turned to their rookie 3rd round pick the past few weeks after Adoree' Jackson and Darnay Holmes both went down with injuries. In the three games where he’s played significant snaps, Robinson has been credited with 15 solo tackles and 7 assists for an average of 7 combined tackles per game.
DE Leonard Williams, NYG (2 solos, 1 asst)
Williams had seen a drop in production over the past few games but has been very effective as a two-way player since joining the Giants. Unfortunately, he had to leave the game after just 13 snaps this week after suffering a potentially serious elbow injury that could end his season.
SAN FRANCISCO @ CINCINNATI
DT B.J. Hill, CIN (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The Bengals started the game with 5 defensive linemen and Hill saw a season-high 73% of the snaps due to the matchup with the 49ers. He took advantage of the added playing time and sacked the quarterback for the third week in a row. With 5.5 sacks on the season, he’s proving to be more than just a run stopper.
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, SF (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 PD)
Fred Warner returned to the lineup this week and played all 67 snaps, but he suffered a sprained ankle in the game that he was able to play through. With his effectiveness somewhat limited, Al-Shaair still managed to post an impressive stat line with 11 tackles plus a sack and pass deflection despite only playing 42 snaps (63%).
DE Trey Hendrickson, CIN (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Hendrickson added another sack to give him 12.5 on the year, and perhaps more impressive is that he’s only played 2 games all year where he hasn’t recorded a sack. He was forced to leave the game after just 22 snaps (31%), however, with what were diagnosed as back spasms.
BUFFALO @ TAMPA BAY
CB Dane Jackson, BUF (7 solos, 2 PD)
Jackson filled in for the injured TreDavious White and saw plenty of targets but held up well. He finished with 7 solo tackles and a pair of pass deflections while nearly coming up with a diving interception. With the Bills only facing 3 pass attempts last week, he didn’t get a chance to show much but he figures to be tested often the rest of the year.
CHICAGO @ GREEN BAY
LB Preston Smith, GB (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Smith has been playing some of his best football of late and added two more sacks on Sunday night. That gives him 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles over his last 4 games. The Packers cornerbacks have played better than expected and that has helped make things easier for Smith and Rashan Gary, plus Za'Darius Smith seems like he could finally be close to returning.
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (4 solos, 5 asst)
Smith finished with 9 tackles in the game and remained quite active, but his solo numbers have trailed off in the past few weeks with just 11 in his last 3 games. What’s more concerning is that he only played 72% of the snaps after aggravating a hamstring injury that has been bothering him. Next week’s matchup against the Vikings looks promising but the injury history could make him a risky option.