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.
SAN FRANCISCO @ TENNESSEE
LB Samson Ebukam, SF (3 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
After posting just 1 sack over his first 12 games this season, the former Rams edge rusher is heating up at the right time of year. He’s working on a 3-game sack streak and appears to have a favorable matchup looming against the Texans next week.
DT Jeffery Simmons, TEN (2 solos)
Simmons has been a huge part of the Texans defense this year and recently posted 5 sacks in a two-game stretch that likely pushed him towards the top of the DT rankings. He’s failed to record another sack in 5 games since then, however, and was credited with just 3 solos (and a pass deflection) over his last 2 games combined despite playing more than 90% of the snaps.
CLEVELAND @ GREEN BAY
LB De'Vondre Campbell, GB (12 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
The incredible year for Campbell continues as he hit double-digit solo tackles for the third time this year. 12 solo stops were also a new career-high for him and leaves him just 6 short of 100 solo tackles on the year with two more games left to play.
CB M.J. Stewart, CLE (9 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL)
The Browns secondary has been decimated by injuries and Covid, which has pushed Stewart into a full-time role the past two weeks. He has lined up at safety as well as in the slot and has played remarkably well while piling up 17 solo tackles, 4 assists, and a forced fumble.
INDIANAPOLIS @ ARIZONA
S Budda Baker, ARI (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
These are the types of games that used to be commonplace for Baker but have been hard to come by this year. He reached double-digit tackles for the first time this season and picked up his first sack of the year as well. A matchup with the Cowboys next week should keep him quite busy and help him finish the year strong.
LB Darius Leonard, IND (DNP)
Leonard was a late addition to the Covid list after a positive test on Saturday before kickoff. As an unvaccinated player, he will also be forced to miss next week’s game against the Raiders. E.J. Speed (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD) took his place in the lineup and had a productive game while playing all 65 snaps.
DETROIT @ ATLANTA
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, DET (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
The Lions are a work in progress but Reeves-Maybin is one of the few players who may be playing himself into a starting role next year. The 26-year-old has arguably been the Lions' best linebacker and led the way this week with 8 stops plus a forced fumble late that gave his team a chance to win. He’s scheduled to be a free agent after the season, but look for the Lions to make re-signing him a priority.
LB Foye Oluokun, ATL (8 solos, 6 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Olukon posted 14 tackles this week, which tied for his third-best output of the season. With 166 combined tackles, he’s just 4 behind Bobby Wagner for the league lead and he’s also contributed a handful of big plays with 2 sacks and 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble. Quite impressive for a former sixth-round pick out of Yale.
TAMPA BAY @ CAROLINA
DE William Gholston, TB (2 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Gholston doesn’t typically play much more than 50% of the snaps but he warrants an upgrade this week given all the injuries in Tampa. After posting 6 tackles in 2 of the last 3 games, he exploded for 2.5 sacks this week in a blowout win over the Panthers.
LB Shaquil Barrett, TB (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 2 PD)
Barrett picked up his 10th sack of the season this week but left the game early with a knee injury. He wound up playing just 46% of the snaps and reports on Monday clarified that he had a sprained ACL and MCL and will miss the last two games. With Jason Pierre-Paul also out this week, the Buccaneers relied heavily on rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (1 QH) and Anthony Nelson (1 sack).
BALTIMORE @ CINCINNATI
S Tony Jefferson, BAL (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Jefferson signed with the Ravens practice squad 2 weeks ago and then quickly moved him into a key role this week. He only played 47 snaps (62%) on defense but tied for the team lead in tackles while also adding a sack. Although he hasn’t been fantasy-relevant since 2018, Jefferson is just 29 years old so may be able to play himself back into a key role.
CB Anthony Averett, BAL (2 solos)
The Ravens cornerback group used to be the deepest in the league but has been quickly depleted. Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith were out with injuries and then Averett also left the game after just 11 snaps this week with a broken rib. Kevin Seymour (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 PD) and Daryl Worley (5 solos) handled most of the work in the game but were overmatched with the Bengals passing game.
LA CHARGERS @ HOUSTON
LB Kyzir White, LAC (6 solos, 5 asst)
White has emerged as an LB1 with the Chargers this year and what has stood out most about him is his consistency. He has posted at least 8 combined tackles for the past 10 games in a row but has not made many big plays in that time, so his value is almost entirely dependent on tackle production.
LB Neville Hewitt, HOU (8 solos, 3 asst)
Hewitt has now played 100% of the snaps for the Texans the last 2 games and warrants a mention here. With 13 solos and 8 assists, he has done a solid job filling in. Christian Kirksey sat out last week due to Covid and was back this week, but only played 34% of the snaps.
CB Tavierre Thomas, HOU (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Thomas has quietly been playing very well for the Texans as their slot corner this year. The former undrafted free agent picked off his first pass in week 12 and then added another this week that he returned for a touchdown in the week’s biggest upset. In addition to those big plays, he’s been highly productive from a tackle perspective as well with 13 solos and 6 assists in the last two games.
LB Drue Tranquill, LAC (5 solos, 1 TFL)
Tranquill has established himself as the #2 linebacker with the Chargers this year with playing time that typically overs around 75% each week. He was on his way to a productive game this week with 5 solo tackles on 20 snaps but then was forced to leave with a leg injury. Kenneth Murray (2 asst) wound up playing 75% of the snaps as a result but had minimal impact.
LA RAMS @ MINNESOTA
LB Anthony Barr, MIN (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Barr has not always played up to his talent level and the impact plays have been lacking at times, but he has been trending up of late. Over his last 5 games, he has 20 solos and 19 assists for an average of nearly 8 combined tackles per game. He also came into the game with just 3 career interceptions and picked off two this week.
LB Ernest Jones, LAR (2 solos)
The rookie has played close to an every-down role for the Rams in the last 3 games coming into this week. Unfortunately, he left after just 11 snaps (17%) this week with what was believed to be a high-ankle sprain. That will put more pressure on Troy Reeder (6 solos on 86% workload) and Travin Howard (4 tackles with an interception on 38% workload) if Jones can’t play next week against the Ravens.
BUFFALO @ NEW ENGLAND
S Micah Hyde, BUF (3 solos, 3 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Hyde’s importance to the Bills defense often goes unnoticed because he is best at preventing big plays but that doesn’t always lead to production on the stat sheet. He picked off two passes this week, however, to give him 5 on the season which ties a career-high that he set back in 2017 during his first year with the Bills. Additionally, he’s seen a recent uptick in his tackle numbers as well with 14 solos and 6 assists in the last 3 games.
S Kyle Dugger, NE (4 solos, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Dugger has been a breakout player and a key component of a strong Patriots defense this year, but he’s also seen a visible downtick in playing time the past two weeks. He sat out week 13 due to Covid and then had a bye in week 14, but just played 56% and 63% of defensive snaps in losses to the Colts and Bills. While he still collected 10 combined tackles in those games, his upside is quite limited if those trends continue.
JACKSONVILLE @ NY JETS
LB C.J. Mosley, NYJ (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Despite some disappointing games early in the year, Mosley has once again established himself as an elite fantasy producer. Since sitting out week 7, he has played 9 games in a row and has averaged 6.6 solo tackles and 4 assists per game. Big plays have mostly been lacking but he did add a strip-sack this week.
LB K'Lavon Chaisson, JAX (2 solos)
Chaisson got the start this week in place of Josh Allen but still only played 31 snaps (53%) and was mostly ineffective. He was outplayed by Jihad Ward (5 tackles, 1 sack on 59% workload) in the game and the former 1st-round pick was added to the Covid list on Monday. With just 1 sack all year and 2 in his 2-year career, it’s looking more likely that he will wind up a draft bust.
NY GIANTS @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Jaylon Smith, NYG (3 asst)
There wasn’t much to get excited about in the stat sheet for Smith but it’s worth noting that he started at weakside linebacker and played 75% of the defensive snaps. Tae Crowder (1 solo, 3 asst) played all 63 snaps and didn’t do much better, but Smith appears ahead of Reggie Ragland and Benardrick McKinney and will likely get a chance to prove himself the last two weeks.
LB Alex Singleton, PHI (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
LB T.J. Edwards, PHI (6 solos, 10 asst, 1 PD)
Both Singleton and T.J. Edwards played at least 90% of the snaps this week, which stood out given that the game got out of hand and no other Eagles defender played more than 67%. That helped them both put up huge games as they combined for 16 solos and 12 assists with a defensive touchdown. It’s becoming apparent that both are pretty reliable LB2 options.
CHICAGO @ SEATTLE
DE Carlos Dunlap, SEA (5 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Dunlap hasn’t been the impact pass rusher many expected him to be in Seattle, but he’s doing his best to turn things around with a late-season surge. With a huge game this week that included 5 solos, a pair of sacks, and a forced fumble on just 33 snaps (45%), he’s now recorded 6 sacks in the last 4 games. He’ll turn 33 in February and seems best suited to a situational role at this point.
DE Rasheem Green, SEA (2 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH)
The young edge rusher continues to emerge as the leading pass rusher for Seattle. He’s played at least 73% of the defensive snaps in 5 of the last 6 games and picked up 2 sacks to give him 3.5 in his last 3 games and 6.5 on the year. There hasn’t been a lot to get excited about for Seattle this year, and unfortunately, his solid year is coming just as he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
PITTSBURGH @ KANSAS CITY
LB Robert Spillane, PIT (5 solos, 8 asst)
With Devin Bush out due to Covid this week, Spillane got a rare chance to start. The game quickly got away from the Steelers, which probably contributed to him playing 96% of the snaps while Joe Schobert (4 solos, 6 asst) only played 87%.
CB Dicaprio Bootle, KC (6 solos, 2 asst)
The rookie corner wound up leading the Chiefs in tackles this week, but note that he only played 27 snaps (38%). He managed to pick up 8 tackles during garbage time but should head back to the bench next week.
DENVER @ LAS VEGAS
LB Jonas Griffith, DEN (6 solos, 7 asst, 2 TFL)
The Broncos traded for Griffith in late August due in large part to his special teams talent, but he has looked impressive during the past two weeks as a starting inside linebacker. He has been credited with 14 solos and 8 assists while playing 80% of the defensive snaps and may turn out to be a hidden gem.
DE Yannick Ngakoue, LV (1 solo, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
While this has been a solid year for Ngakoue thanks to his 9 sacks, he’s once again showing his limitations as a fantasy option. Over the past 4 games, he has 1 sack with just 2 solos and 3 assists and should have a tough matchup coming against the Colts.
WASHINGTON @ DALLAS
CB Jeremy Reaves, CB, WAS (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL)
This game was ugly but Reaves put together his second productive game in a row. He began the year on the practice squad but was promoted to a full-time player last week and has now played 128 of 144 snaps in the last two games combined. He picked up 12 tackles last week against the Eagles and added 10 more this week, although his spot in the lineup is far from locked up.