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This article has attempted 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.
TAMPA BAY @ ST LOUIS
DE William Gholston, TB (7 solos, 4 asst)
The young defensive end continues to play very well against the run and led all players in the game this week with 11 combined tackles. That’s even more impressive when you consider that he’s a lineman who was only on the field for 37 (71%) defensive snaps. Gholston has been one of the most consistent defensive ends in the league over the second half of the year due to his high tackle numbers.
DE Jacquies Smith, TB (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Tampa welcomed back their other starting defensive end this week. He had missed 4 of the last 6 games, but managed to play 41 (79%) defensive snaps and picked up another sack to give him 6.5 in 10 games played this year.
S Maurice Alexander, STL (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
With T.J. McDonald on IR, the Rams have turned to Alexander at strong safety. He was on the field for 100% of the defensive snaps this week and finished with a solid line of 7 tackles and one pass defensed. He’s an interesting prospect since he moved from DE to LB to S in college, and has a great combination of size and speed.
CB Marcus Roberson, STL (0 tackles)
The Rams opened up in a dime package with 6 defensive backs, but there was no room for Roberson who played every snap the past two weeks. The Rams started Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins and used Lamarcus Joyner as their nickel corner, so Roberson was limited to special teams duties this week.
CB Jude Adjei-Barimah, TB (0 tackles)
The rookie corner went from starting and playing 79 snaps a week ago to seeing just 9 this week. He began the game as a starter, but appeared to be benched after giving up a 60-yard touchdown to Kenny Britt and Johnthan Banks played the rest of the way.
NY JETS @ DALLAS
DE DeMarcus Larence, DAL (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Lawrence continues to be one of the hottest pass rushers in the league in the second half of the season. Over his last 3 games, he has dominated with 14 solo tackles and 4 sacks and should build on those numbers with a favorable matchup against the depleted Bills next week.
LB Anthony Hitchens, DAL (5 solos, 5 asst)
Rolando McClain missed the game this week while recovering from a concussion, so Hitchens got the start at MLB and played all 71 defensive snaps in the game. He finished as the leading tackler in the game with 10 combined stops.
LB David Harris, NYJ (2 solos)
Harris’s production has been trending down of late, but it was way down this week due to an injury. He left the game in the first quarter with a back injury, which opened the door for Demario Davis and Erin Henderson to both play close to a full-time role.
KANSAS CITY @ BALTIMORE
LB Za’Darius Smith, BAL (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks)
The Ravens pass rush has been a disappointment this year following the injury to Terrell Suggs, but the rookie Smith has shown progress. He had a 2-sack game back in week 4, and had another one this week. Given the loss of Pernell McPhee in free agency and the advancing age of core players like Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, there is a great opportunity for Smith to take on a bigger role next year.
CB Marcus Peters, KC (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 INT, 4 PD, 1 TD)
Peters has been in the defensive rookie of the year conversation since week 1, but he strengthened his case this week. He picked off 2 passes and returned one 90 yards for a touchdown. That gives him 7 interceptions and 2 touchdowns on the year, along with an impressive 23 passes defensed.
CB Jimmy Smith, BAL (0 tackles)
After posting 2 interceptions in the first 3 games, the former 1st round pick has none in the 11 games since. He also has zero passes defensed in the past 5 games as he has struggled in coverage for most of the year. This week, his numbers were down more than usual though as he left early with an injury and was limited to just 10 snaps.
HOUSTON @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Benardrick McKinney, HOU (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack)
The rookie was only on the field for 32 snaps (59%), but he was very productive as he tied for the team lead in tackles with 7 while also picking up his first sack of the year. McKinney has some limitations in coverage, but the 2nd round pick has looked pretty good at times and could earn a bigger role next year.
DE J.J. Watt, HOU (2 solos, 2 asst)
Watt has been playing through a broken hand, but hasn’t been as effective. After posting 9.5 sacks in a 5-game stretch, he has gone sackless in 3 straight games.
ATLANTA @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Paul Posluszny, JAX (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
After breaking his hand in week 13, Posluszny only missed 1 game and returned to action this week. He was able to play a full game and collected a game-high 10 tackle while also adding his third interception of the season. While Telvin Smith Sr has enjoyed a breakout year in Jacksonville, Posluszny has been very consistent and appears headed for his fourth 100 solo season in the past 6 years.
LB Paul Worrilow, ATL (DNP)
Worrilow was inactive this week while dealing with a knee injury. Nate Stupar replaced him in the lineup and played every snap, while putting up 6 combined tackles and a pass defensed.
CHICAGO @ MINNESOTA
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (4 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks)
Injuries on the Vikings defense have created playing time opportunity for some young and lesser known players. Hunter is a rookie 3rd round pick out of LSU who picked up a sack last week and then added another 1.5 sacks this week. He saw 75% of the snaps this week while veteran Everson Griffen was only out there for 48% due to the shoulder injury he is playing through.
LB John Timu, CHI (8 solos, 1 asst)
The undrafted rookie got a start at ILB and made the most of the opportunity. He led the Bears in tackles with 9 despite playing just 38 snaps (61%). He seemed to have a knack for being around the ball and likely earned more playing time next week after this performance.
TENNESSEE @ NEW ENGLAND
DE Chandler Jones, NE (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 FF)
After going sackless for the past 4 games, Jones came through with a big game against the Titans in an easy win for the Patriots. It was his fourth multi-sack game of the year and brings him up to 12.5, which puts him into the top-5 in the NFL.
LB Jamie Collins, NE (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Collins is back to being a LB1-quality player after his huge game this week. While playing every defensive snap, he managed to lead his team in tackles while also adding a sack and interception. He is one of the best playmakers at the LB position with 5.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and an interception on the year despite only playing in 10 games thus far.
CAROLINA @ NY GIANTS
DE Robert Ayers, NYG (5 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks)
Ayers continues to play very well for the Giants this year, and he has been one of the only players on the team able to get to the QB. He collected 1.5 sacks this week to give him 4.5 in his last 3 games, and 6.5 in 10 games played this season.
CB Charles Tillman, CAR (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Tillman returned to the starting lineup this week after missing the last 4 with a knee injury and clearly made his presence felt. He played all 75 snaps in the game and came through with several big plays, including the 44th forced fumble of his career as well as an interception.
BUFFALO @ WASHINGTON
DE Jerry Hughes, BUF (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack)
In what continues to be a disappointing season for the Bills defense, Hughes has looked like a bright spot of late. He has 11 solos, 5 assists, and 2 sacks in his last 3 games.
CB DeAngelo Hall, WAS (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Washington has moved Hall to safety after he came back from injury last month. It figures to provide a boost to his fantasy value as he now has 14 solo tackles over the past 2 games. Since most fantasy leagues won’t change his position designation midseason, he should continue to be one of the most productive corners the rest of this year.
DE Mario Williams, BUF (1 asst)
There were reports out of Buffalo that Williams could become a scapegoat for the Bills struggles this year. He may be asked to take a pay cut or simply cut outright to save space under the cap. With just 13 solo tackles and 4 sacks, he has looked like a poor fit for the Bills new defense under Rex Ryan.
GREEN BAY @ OAKLAND
LB Julius Peppers, GB (3 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks)
At 35 years of age, after being written off by most following a disappointing end to his time with the Bears, Peppers has found a great fit at OLB with the Packers. He picked up 2.5 sacks against the Raiders this week to get to double digit sacks for the first time since 2012.
CB David Amerson, OAK (6 solos, 1 INT, 3 PD)
After being discarded by Washington, Amerson has enjoyed a surprisingly strong season in Oakland. He has emerged as their best corner, and added his third interception in the past 7 games this week.
LB Clay Matthews, GB (0 tackles)
Matthews was dealing with an ankle injury this week, but still was active and on the field for 72 defensive snaps. Unfortunately, he was kept completely off the stat sheet after picking up just his first sack in 8 games a week ago.
CLEVELAND @ SEATTLE
DE Desmond Bryant, CLE (1 solo, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks)
Although not known as a pass rusher with a career high of just 5 sacks set last year, Bryant is quietly putting together a decent year for the Browns. He didn’t record his first sack of the year until week 7, but he has picked up 6 in the 8 games since then including 3 in his last 2.
S Kelcie McCray, SEA (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
With SS Kam Chancellor inactive this week due to an injury, McCray got the start. He looked good last week while filling in, and kept it up here while playing every snap. Seattle traded for him in the preseason and he’s been great on special teams, but he also had some playing experience from his time in Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
DE Cliff Avril, SEA (1 solo)
Avril is still playing close to a full-time role, but he has seen quite a dropoff in his production the past few weeks. During the last 3 games, he has just 2 solo tackles, 1 assist, and no sacks. He has teamed up with Michael Bennett to give Seattle one of the best DE tandems in the league this year, but he seems to be less effective now.
DENVER @ PITTSBURGH
DE Malik Jackson, DEN (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks)
Jackson had a tremendous start to the year with 4 sacks in his first 6 games, but he failed to add another until this week when he collected a pair. The 3-4 DE position is notorious for inconsistency, but he still looks like the type who can be counted on for steady fantasy production.
LB Von Miller, DEN (0 tackles)
Miller was on the field for 60 defensive snaps this week but somehow managed to get shut out completely. It was probably driven in part by the Steelers giving him extra attention from blockers, but that likely happens in most weeks. In any event, this was only the 5th game all year when he failed to record a sack.
MIAMI @ SAN DIEGO
LB Melvin Ingram III, SD (4 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Ingram has had injury issues and generally been underwhelming since the Chargers picked him in the first round of the 2012 draft. He has finally developed into the player the Chargers were hoping for, however, as he added 2 more sacks this week to bring him up to 8 on the year. With 12 solos and 4 sacks in his last 3 games, he is playing his best at the most important time for fantasy owners as well.
S Michael Thomas, MIA (13 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Thomas is a weak spot of the Dolphins secondary, but that just means teams will throw at him regularly. Also, the front 7 has issues of it’s own which leads to the safeties making more tackles than they normally would on another defense. Thomas piled up 10 solos on defense and added 3 more on special teams this week. This is almost certainly a position the Dolphins will want to upgrade in the offseason though.
LB Koa Misi, MIA (3 solos, 1 asst)
Even though Jelani Jenkins did not play this week and MLB Kelvin Sheppard seemed to be picked on by the Chargers, Misi was only on the field for 62% of the snaps this week. He has shown promise at times, but has been rather disappointing all year and probably isn’t worth holding onto unless the league is extremely deep.
CINCINNATI @ SAN FRANCISCO
DT Geno Atkins, CIN (4 solos, 2 sacks)
After a couple of games where Atkins failed to make much of an impact, he dominated the 49ers this week. He collected two sacks to get him up to 10 on the year and 3 of his 4 solo tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. The 27 year old looks back and should remain an elite fantasy DT for the next few years as long as he can stay healthy.
LB Gerald Hodges, SF (9 solos, 1 asst)
With Michael Wilhoite out injured, Hodges got a second straight start at ILB next to Navarro Bowman. He didn’t play in all situations, but was very productive with 10 tackles in 54 snaps. He showed during his time with the Vikings that he can certainly produce when given an opportunity for playing time.
CB Tramaine Brock, SF (0 tackles)
Brock may not have been highly regarded from a fantasy perspective but he does have 3 interceptions on the year along with solid tackle numbers. However, he has now been shut out for two weeks in a row. It wasn’t a question of playing time either as he was on the field for all 64 defensive snaps this week. There were only 15 completions on 21 attempts from the Bengals though, which limited his opportunities.
ARIZONA @ PHILADELPHIA
S Deone Bucannon, ARI (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
The young safety came up with his first career touchdown on a 39-yard interception return while also adding 11 tackles to lead all players in the game. While the injury to Mathieu may not impact him too much, there should be some more opportunity created by taking a player with 80 solo tackles out of the lineup.
S Tyrann Mathieu, ARI (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
This has been a great season for Mathieu, but unfortunately it came to an end as he suffered a torn ACL on Sunday night. It will be a significant loss for the Cardinals just as they clinched a playoff spot. It should open up more playing time for Rashad Johnson who sat out this week and Tony Jefferson, but neither can cover slot receivers the way that Mathieu did.