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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. 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. I'm also going to try and group edge rushers together with the understanding that classification as a defensive end or linebacker will depend on your league setup/host. If you have any questions about specific players or situations, please email me or reach out via Twitter.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN/EDGE RUSHERS
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (5 solos, 3 asst, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH on 94% of snaps)
Hunter was one of the elite fantasy options in 2018 and 2019 when he posted 50 solos and 14 sacks in consecutive seasons. After his career was briefly derailed by injuries, he bounced back last year and looks poised to improve even further under new coordinator Brian Flores. Through two games, he's already up to 15 combined tackles and 4 sacks while averaging over 60 snaps/game.
DE Alex Highsmith, PIT (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Highsmith often works in the shadow of T.J. Watt, but both put on a show on Monday night. Highsmith started the game off with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown and then came up with a strip-sack late in the game that Watt picked up and returned for a touchdown. These two are going to cause a lot of problems for offenses throughout the year.
DE Kwity Paye, IND (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FR on 65% of snaps)
The former first-round pick has shown steady improvement over the past two years and could be on his way to a breakout season. With another solid game against the Texans this week, he now has sacks in consecutive games and has been productive against the run as well.
DE Chase Young, WAS (2 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH on 71% of snaps)
Young wound up playing a limited number of snaps late in the 2022 season and hadn't registered a sack since week 6 in 2021. He made his debut on Sunday, however, and looked good while playing 71% of the snaps. Montez Sweat (1.5 sacks) and DaRon Payne (1 sack) are heating up as well, which should make next week's game against the Bills more interesting.
DE Byron Young, LAR (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 QH on 91% of snaps)
It was likely that someone was going to emerge from the Rams group of edge rushers since Aaron Donald tends to make their jobs much easier. Through 2 games, the rookie Young has gotten off to a great start with 9 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks.
DE Bradley Chubb, MIA (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF on 91% of snaps)
Chubb finished with 8 sacks last year but has often struggled to live up to his potential. There is some hope that Vic Fangio will be able to help him do that this year, however, and he provided support for that idea on Sunday. He gave the Patriots trouble and finished with 7 tackles plus a sack and forced fumble, all while playing without the Dolphins' best pass rusher in Jaelan Phillips.
DE Jonathan Cooper, DEN (3 solos, 5 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF on 71% of snaps)
Most likely this will turn out to be a flash in the pan, but Cooper warrants a mention here, coming off a 2-sack performance with 8 tackles. Zach Allen has seen the heaviest workload on the defensive line so far, but Cooper ranks 2nd and has averaged 45 snaps/game.
DE Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, TB (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH on 53% on snaps)
Tampa drafted Tryon-Shoyinka in the first round in 2021, and he's mostly been a solid starter who doesn't stand out much from a fantasy perspective due to limited upside. Tampa appears to be using a rotation up front so his workload has remained relatively low, but he took advantage of a favorable matchup this week and added two sacks on just 28 snaps.
DT Chris Jones, KC (1 solo, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD on 51% of snaps)
Jones ended his contract holdout after signing a 1-year deal and quickly demonstrated his value with a clutch effort against the Jaguars. Despite missing all of training camp and only going through 3 practice sessions last week, Jones managed to pick up 1.5 sacks and generated plenty of pressure on his 24 snaps. Expect his production and playing time to ramp up in the weeks ahead.
DT Harrison Phillips, MIN (7 solos, 6 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH on 78% of snaps)
Phillips warrants another upgrade this week following his 13-tackle effort against the Eagles on Thursday night. Despite the short week, he still managed to play 60 snaps for the second week in a row and looks like an early breakout candidate in DT-required leagues. Note that his numbers were clearly helped by an Eagles offense that generated 48 rush attempts and 70 tackle opportunities in this game.
LB Frankie Luvu, CAR (4 solos, 5 asst, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH on 100% of snaps)
Luvu had a mini-breakout last year and what helped set him apart from most other inside linebackers was his 7 sacks. We weren't sure if that could be replicated this year under a new coaching staff and defensive scheme, but he's already up to 3 sacks in just 2 games this year. He has a chance to finish among the top 12 fantasy linebackers this year if he can stay healthy. Kamu Grugier-Hill will also become a viable fantasy option in the near term while filling in for the injured Shaq Thompson.
LB Kaden Elliss, ATL (6 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH on 100% of snaps)
The Falcons played without Troy Andersen (concussion) this week, which meant Elliss was paired up with a less experienced player in Nate Landman. That didn't slow him down, however, as Ellis added 6 more solo stops plus his first sack of the year as the Falcons defense shut down the Packers in the fourth quarter to help spark the comeback win.
LB Quay Walker, GB (8 solos, 9 asst, 1 QH, 1 PD on 100% of snaps)
Walker cleared the concussion protocol in time to play against the Falcons and managed to play all 82 snaps. The Falcons offense generated 45 rush attempts, which helped provide enough opportunities for Walker to pick up 17 tackles in the game. DeVondre Campbell also added 14 tackles in the game, but it's worth mentioning that Walker out-snapped Campbell by 14 snaps.
LB Tremaine Edmunds, CHI (8 solos, 8 asst on 100% of snaps)
While it's only been two games, it is starting to look like the Bears are a team whose defense will see a lot of snaps and rush attempts in most weeks. They had no answers for an offense led by Baker Mayfield and Rachaad White this week, and that helped Edmunds and T.J. Edwards combine for 28 tackles. Both players might wind up as #1 fantasy linebackers if this keeps up.
LB Robert Spillane, LV (9 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH on 100% of snaps)
Spillane was an under-the-radar signing for the Raiders this offseason. He has now played 100% of the snaps on defense through two games and looks like a breakout candidate. He was often buried on the depth chart in Pittsburgh but is an instinctive player who can pick up tackles in bunches. He was helped by a matchup that saw the Bills offense generate 35 rush attempts and 68 tackle opportunities overall, but he should remain a solid fantasy starter as long as he holds onto a 3-down role.
LB Devin Lloyd, JAX (5 solos, 6 asst, 2 PD on 99% of snaps)
Lloyd bounced back from a quiet showing in week 1 to post 11 tackles this week in a disappointing loss to the Chiefs. While Foyesade Oluokun will remain the focal point, Lloyd has also played every snap but one and will likely be a solid LB3 in most scoring systems.
LB Terrell Bernard, BUF (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD on 85% of snaps)
The Bills defense struggled to contain the run against the Jets last week, but they were able to bottle up Josh Jacobs and hold him to negative 2 yards on 9 carries this week. While the defense only faced 15 rush attempts and 39 tackle opportunities overall, Bernard proved up to the task this week with 6 tackles and an interception on a deflected throw. He was pulled early with the rest of the starters this week, but he has played a full-time role so far and looks like he'll get a longer leash as the MLB replacement for Tremaine Edmunds.
LB Kenneth Murray, LAC (5 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH on 100% of snaps)
Eric Kendricks sat out the game this week with a hamstring injury, and his coach said there was no timeline for a return. That allowed Murray to play a full-time role and also opened up more playing time for Nick Niemann (5 solos, 4 asst). Rookie Daiyan Henley also missed week 2 with a hamstring injury, so he didn't get a chance to play after a strong preseason.
LB Nicholas Morrow, PHI (3 solos, 1 QH on 95% of snaps)
With Nakobe Dean suffering a foot injury in week 1 and landing on IR, the Eagles signed Morrow to their active roster to replace him. He was a surprise cut after the preseason but knows the defense well and was able to play 95% of the snaps despite limited practice time. He posted 83 solo tackles with the Bears last year and is a capable fill-in. The Eagles also released Rashaan Evans a few days after signing him to their practice squad.
LB Krys Barnes, ARI (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD on 82% of snaps)
Josh Woods beat out Barnes for a starting linebacker job in the preseason but suffered an ankle injury in week 1 that kept him out this week. That created an opening for Barnes, who put together a solid line with 7 tackles and a pass defensed on 56 snaps.
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