This article attempts to highlight players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected. 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’s difficult 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 and trade decisions. If you have any questions on specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
PHILADELPHIA @ DETROIT
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET (3 solos, 1 asst, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Ansah has been one of the few bright spots for the Lions this year, and he is helping to turn their dismal season around. He was simply dominant on Thanksgiving as he posted 3.5 sacks to bring him up to 11.5 for the season, which ranks him just behind J.J. Watt for the league lead. Ansah was very raw coming out of college, but he has quickly developed into one of the league’s elite pass rushers and is still just 26 years old.
DT Bennie Logan, PHI (5 solos)
Logan continues to be one of the most productive defensive tackles in the league. He posted 5 solo tackles this week to bring him up to 14 in the past 3 weeks. After posting 45 solo tackles a year ago, he’s on pace to top that this year.
S Glover Quin, DET (0 tackles)
Quin was limited to just 21 snaps this week as he left early with an ankle injury. He was replaced by James Ihedigbo, but it’s not clear yet if the injury will keep Quin out next week when they face the Packers.
CB Nolan Carroll, PHI (1 asst)
Carroll left the game after just 18 snaps with a broken ankle. He was placed on injured reserve so his season is over and the Eagles will likely turn to Eric Rowe. The rookie 2nd round pick was picked on by the Lions as he gave up 2 touchdowns, and he should continue to see plenty of targets.
CAROLINA @ DALLAS
LB Luke Kuechly, CAR (2 solos, 5 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Since missing three games earlier this year, Kuechly has been making up for lost time. With 2 interceptions this week, he’s got 3 for the year and he’s also posted 68 combined tackles over the past 7 games. In most balanced scoring systems, he’s likely the top fantasy IDP on a points per game basis, which is right around where he was expected to be.
LB Rolando McClain, DAL (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 PD)
The Cowboys had a rough Thanksgiving, but McClain did his best to try and slow down the Panthers running game. He’s seen a spike in his production over the past three games as he’s collected 16 solos, 7 assists, and an interception returned for a touchdown.
DE Greg Hardy, DAL (0 tackles)
Hardy has seen a slight reduction in playing time over the past two games as Dallas has worked more players into the DE rotation. The added rest isn’t helping his productivity either as he’s been credited with just 2 solos, 1 assist, and a half sack in the last 3 games combined.
S Barry Church, DAL (2 solos, 2 asst)
Church has been trying to play through a high ankle sprain, that didn’t seem to bother him at first but his numbers have tailed off of late. He put up just 4 tackles last week and 4 more this week before leaving the game early. Church has some impressive tackle numbers on the season, but he has yet to make any other type of big play and doesn’t even have a single pass defensed.
CHICAGO @ GREEN BAY
LB Lamarr Houston, CHI (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FR)
The Bears are finally healthy at the OLB position, which is making it tough for some of the players to get enough playing time to make an impact. Houston saw less action than Willie Young and Pernell McPhee this week, but still made the most of his 38 snaps as he picked up 7 tackles with a sack and fumble recovery. That gives him 4 sacks in the past 4 games despite seeing very limited snaps in 2 of those games.
S Adrian Amos, CHI (8 solos, 1 asst)
The rookie was playing well earlier this year, but it wasn’t translating to production in the box scores. That has changed in the past two weeks as he posted 15 solos and a sack. The Bears feel pretty good about his long-term prospects.
LB Clay Matthews, GB (4 solos, 2 asst)
Matthews continues to post solid tackle numbers so he’s remained a viable fantasy option, but his sackless streak has now reached 6 games. Considering he posted 4.5 sacks in a 3-game stretch earlier this year, it’s rather disappointing for him to go this long without adding to that total.
MINNESOTA @ ATLANTA
LB Anthony Barr, MIN (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 FF, 1 PD)
Barr recently confirmed that he’s been playing through a broken hand, which possibly explains why his numbers have been so underwhelming this year. He was a dominant force against the Falcons this week, however, as he picked up 8 tackles with a sack and a couple forced fumbles. If he’s healthy now, then we should see more games like this from him.
S Robert Blanton, MIN (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
With Harrison Smith sitting out this week, and Andrew Sendejo forced to leave early with an injury, Blanton got a chance to play a full-time role after mostly contributing on special teams all year. He was very active and picked up 9 tackles plus a pass defense in just 57 defensive snaps. If Smith and Sendejo are unable to play next, Blanton could be in for another solid outing against Seattle.
S Andrew Sendejo, MIN (2 solos, 1 asst)
Sendejo only lasted 7 snaps before leaving with a knee injury. He posted an impressive 3 tackles during his very limited playing time, but his status for next week is probably in doubt.
LB Justin Durant, ATL (1 solo, 1 asst)
Durant has been a solid fit for the Falcons and their most productive linebacker, but he was limited to just 18 snaps this week before leaving with an ankle injury. Philip Wheeler replaced him and posted 11 tackles (6 solos) in just 43 snaps.
ST LOUIS @ CINCINNATI
LB Akeem Ayers, STL (5 solos, 3 asst)
Ayers is playing a 2-down SLB role for the Rams so his production won’t be consistent from week to week. Despite not playing in passing situations, he showed that he can be productive in favorable matchups with 8 tackles on 35 snaps this week, and 6 tackles on 42 snaps vs the Bears a couple weeks ago.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CIN (9 solos, 1 asst, 3 PD)
The Bengals have quality depth at the cornerback position with four former 1st round picks, but Adam Jones has received most of the attention to this point. Leon Hall has also played well in the slot, which should leave Kirkpatrick as the weak link and the player that most QBs try to go after. That happened this week as he piled up 10 tackles and 3 passes defensed, and it’s surprising it hasn’t happened more.
DE Michael Johnson, CIN (0 tackles)
Johnson has been dealing with a back injury and was limited to just 35 snaps (48%) this week. The Rams fell behind early and only gave RB Todd Gurley 9 rush attempts so that likely contributed to Johnson getting shut out. While he’s had his moments this year, he has also been very inconsistent and is tough to rely on as a fantasy option.
NEW ORLEANS @ HOUSTON
S Kenny Vaccaro, NO (8 solos, 5 asst, 1 FF)
Although Vaccaro hasn’t lived up to expectations that come along with being a safety drafted 15th overall, he hasn’t been a bust. His numbers this year are lacking in the big play department, but he has 49 solos and 28 assists which puts him on pace for 70 solos and 40 assists.
S Jairus Byrd, NO (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The former Buffalo Bill earned a reputation as a playmaker, but this was his first interception in 2 injury-plagued seasons with the Saints. He also had a sack in the last game, and has 15 solo tackles over the past 3 games so it seems they are finally getting some return on their investment.
LB Brian Cushing, HOU (2 solos, 1 asst)
Cushing hasn’t seen a noticeable reduction in playing time, but his tackle numbers seem to be trending downwards. He had 38 solo stops and 31 assists in the first 8 games of the year for an average of 8.6 per game. In the last 3 games since the bye, however, he has only averaged 5 per game and he has yet to come up with any type of big play all season.
TAMPA BAY @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Erik Walden, IND (4 solos, 2 sacks)
Walden showed signs of improvement as a pass rusher last year when he finished with 6, but he had a rough start to 2015 with 0 sacks in his first 4 games. The Colts have been desperately searching for a pass rush this year and the expected candidates (i.e., Robert Mathis, Trent Cole) haven’t contributed as much as expected. There is an opportunity here for Walden to build on this 2-sack game and try to carve out a bigger role.
S Chris Conte, TB (1 asst)
Conte has been surprisingly productive in the Tampa secondary all year, but he was nearly shut out this week despite playing 71 snaps (96%). While it may turn out to be a fluke, it’s at least cause for some concern given that he’s not all that great of a player to begin with.
SAN DIEGO @ JACKSONVILLE
DT Roy Miller, JAX (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Miller had a great start to the year when he posted 3 sacks in the first 5 games. He went 5 games after that without recording another, until this week when he came through with one of the best games of any DT around the league.
LB Denzel Perryman, SD (6 solos, 1 asst)
Perryman got his second career start this week and led all Chargers in tackles with 7. He still sat during nickel situations and was limited to just 43 snaps (61%), but there is clearly some potential here for him to eventually take over an everydown role.
DE Corey Liuget, SD (0 tackles)
LB Melvin Ingram III, SD (0 tackles)
Both players have been productive players for the Chargers all year long, but they were shut out by a Jacksonville offense that put up over 400 yards of offense and ran 70 plays. Liuget has been dealing with a foot injury, but still posted a strong game a week ago. Meanwhile, Ingram was on the field for 69 snaps and still came away empty. Disappointing, but both players will have a chance to bounce back next week against Denver.
BUFFALO @ KANSAS CITY
LB Tamba Hali, KC (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
After posting just 1 sack in his first 6 games, Hali was likely forgotten about by most fantasy owners. After a disappointing season in 2014 that saw him finish with just 6 sacks while Justin Houston threatened the all-time record, it seemed like Hali may have lost a step. He has been rejuvenated since then, however, and has 5.5 sacks in his last 5 games.
LB Josh Mauga, KC (9 solos)
Mauga is not anything special as a talent, but he saw 50 snaps (69%) this week and led all the players in tackles with 9 solo stops. When combined with his 7 tackle/1 sack game a week ago, it seems like maybe we should start paying more attention to him.
DE Jerry Hughes, BUF (2 solos)
DE Mario Williams, BUF (DNP)
Both players are likely pretty high on the list of most disappointing IDPs in 2015. Hughes has played well at times, but it doesn’t always translate to the box score and he takes a lot of really bad penalties that wind up hurting his team. With just 3 sacks on the year and none in the last 3 games, he is going to have a tough time even getting to 5 on the year. Meanwhile, Mario Williams had been one of the most consistent fantasy defensive ends in the league but he is stuck on just 11 solo tackles and 3 sacks and now dealing with a foot injury that is considered “week to week”.
LB Justin Houston, KC (0 tackles)
Houston was forced to leave the game with a knee injury after seeing just 14 snaps this week. It looked like it might be serious at first, but initial reports suggest a more minor injury that might not keep him out long. Watch for updates later this week.
MIAMI @ NY JETS
DE Olivier Vernon, NYJ (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Vernon has really turned his season around after a dismal start. Since the Dolphins cleaned house earlier this year, Vernon has 20 solos and 4 sacks in 7 games. While not quite a DE1, he’s playing like a very solid DE2.
LB Kelvin Sheppard, MIA (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 PD)
The game script likely helped him this week, but Sheppard surprisingly led all Dolphins linebackers in snaps with 64 (85%) and led the team in tackles with 9 combined. That gives him a remarkable 23 solos and 12 assists in just the last 3 games. Meanwhile, Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi each played less than 50% of the snaps.
DE Leonard Williams, NYJ (2 asst)
The rookie saw his lowest snap count of the season as he was only on the field for 35 plays this week. It was surprising to see Mike Catapano get more playing time (41 snaps), but it was mostly driven by how the game played out. The Jets wanted more speed on the edge during passing situations, so they used Wilkerson and Richardson inside and Catapano and Mauldin on the outside. After jumping out to a big lead, the Dolphins went to a pass-heavy offense early on and that limited the chances for Williams who has been solid but hasn’t made many big plays as a pass rusher.
OAKLAND @ TENNESEE
LB Khalil Mack, OAK (3 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks)
Mack hasn’t been as consistent as fantasy owners would like, but he is clearly a player on the rise. He had his second multi-sack game of the year this week and is now up to 7 for the season with 4 in the past 5 games.
LB Avery Williamson, TEN (7 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack)
Williamson continues to play very well for the Titans as he has been piling up tackles and sacks. Over his past 3 games, Williamson has been credited with 17 solos, 13 assists, and 2.5 sacks. As the everydown linebacker in the middle of the Titans defense, he is starting to live up to his huge potential.
CB D.J. Hayden, OAK (0 tackles)
Hayden has been putting up solid numbers this year, but it was mainly due to how poorly he was playing. The Raiders appear to have finally acknowledged that as they benched him this week. He was limited to just 5 defensive snaps in the game while David Amerson and T.J. Carrie handled the bulk of the work with Neiko Thorpe taking over as the nickel corner. Meanwhile, Amerson had 6 passes defensed in the game, which matches Hayden’s number for the entire season to date.
NY GIANTS @ WASHINGTON
LB Devon Kennard, NYG (5 solo, 5 asst)
The Giants have churned through some linebackers this year, but Kennard may wind up as the last man standing. His playing time has remained fairly consistent throughout the year and he’s a consistent source of tackles, but more was expected from his as a pass rusher (0 sacks this year) so there is still some potential upside.
LB Perry Riley, WAS (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Riley has a reputation for being strong against the run and not so great against the pass, but he has made teams pay for throwing at him with 2 interceptions in the past 3 games. Given the tendencies of the stat crew in D.C., it’s also generally a good idea to start him when he plays at home.
ARIZONA @ SAN FRANCISCO
S Tyrann Mathieu, ARI (11 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Mathieu continues to have an amazing breakout season in his 3rd year as a pro. Despite what looked like a less than favorable matchup here, he exploded for 13 combined tackles along with his 4th interception of the year. The versatile player often plays like a slot corner but he is on a 90+ solo tackle pace and one of the most valuable IDPs in the league at just 23 years old.
CB Kenneth Acker, SF (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
After a recent benching, Acker was back in the starting lineup this week to match up with the impressive WR group of the Cardinals. He was tested regularly and held up pretty well, but he has put up solid numbers most of the year because QBs think he’s vulnerable.
PITTSBURGH @ SEATTLE
S Deshawn Shead, SEA (8 solos, 2 asst, 4 PD)
With CB Cary Williams out this week, it was the normal slot corner Shead who was pressed into a full-time role against one of the best WR tandems in the league. The Steelers went after him often and he responded with a strong 10 tackle game that also included 4 pass deflections.
LB Ryan Shazier, PIT (1 asst)
Shazier was forced to leave the game after just 11 snaps this week after suffering a concussion. He’s now in the league’s concussion protocol so his status for next week will depend on how quickly he is symptom-free.
NEW ENGLAND @ DENVER
DE Rob Ninkovich, NE (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
Ninkovich looked like he was in danger of being phased out earlier this year when he had just 1 sack in the first 6 games. His tackle numbers were also surprisingly low at the time, but he has been playing like his old self since with 14 solos, 8 assists, and 4.5 sacks in the last 5 games.
LB Jonathan Freeny, NE (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack)
The Patriots linebacker group has been decimated with injuries, so Freeny is taking on a full-time role in place of Jamie Collins Sr. He’s more athletic than Jerod Mayo, and he is making the most of his opportunity with 15 solos, 11 assists, with a sack and fumble recovery over the last 3 games.
LB Dont'a Hightower, NE (2 solos, 1 asst)
Hightower suffered a knee injury in the game and was forced to leave after just 32 snaps. He actually made a tackle after the injury so the severity may not be too bad, but it would be a crushing blow to a team that has already lost a large number of key players on both sides of the ball.
S T.J. Ward, DEN (1 solo)
Ward only saw 10 snaps in the game before leaving with a high-ankle sprain. Although it’s possible he could be back sooner than expected, most injuries of this type take some time to heal so he may not be effective even if he tries to play through the pain.