This article tries 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.
BALTIMORE @ PITTSBURGH
DE Stephon Tuitt, PIT (10 solos, 0 asst, 1 sack)
Tuitt posted his third strong game in a row to prove this is no fluke. He’s playing nearly the entire game and making a huge impact on the field as well. He posted an incredible stat line this week with 10 solo tackles plus a sack. While he may not finish as a top-5 DE, he’s certainly looking like an everyweek starter and great find for dynasty owners who got him early.
LB Daryl Smith, BAL (10 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack)
Smith may be one of the older linebackers in the league at 33, but he is remarkably consistent from week to week. He’s also able to post some huge stat lines occasionally, as he showed this week with 13 tackles and a sack.
LB Elvis Dumervil, BAL (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Dumervil posted 17 sacks a year ago but probably had little value apart from leagues heavily weighted towards big-plays. As a linebacker, his tackle numbers have been extremely underwhelming in the past, but he is getting a chance to play a full-time role now that Terrell Suggs is on IR. If he can put up more games like this one, he’ll be a viable starter in just about every type of IDP league.
LB Ryan Shazier, PIT (DNP)
Shazier sat out for the second week in a row with a neck and shoulder injury. The early Thursday game likely made it tougher for him to return this week, but he has missed 9 games in his brief career already so hopefully he can put these injuries behind him and show what he’s capable of.
DE Tim Jernigan, BAL (1 solo)
Jernigan was expected to take on a bigger role this year following the departure of Haloti Ngata. However, through 3 games he has made very little impact and he was only on the field for 27% of the snaps this week. Tough to count on him as a fantasy option until his playing time improves.
NY JETS @ MIAMI
DE Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ (3 solos, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Wilkerson is headed for free agency after this season, and most people thought the Jets would let him walk after drafting Leonard Williams in the 1st round. Regardless of where he winds up, he’s probably making himself a lot of extra money with his current play (21 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks through 4 games). Jets have a bye coming up, but should also get Sheldon Richardson back afterwards.
DE Olivier Vernon, MIA (2 solos)
The Dolphins continue to be a mess on both sides of the ball, but the pass rush may be suffering the most. Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, and Olivier Vernon have combined for 0 sacks through the first 4 weeks of the season. Even this week, the Jets had 43 rush attempts and Vernon couldn’t do any better than 2 solo tackles, so that’s not a good sign for his prospects going forward.
LB Jelani Jenkins, MIA (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
After a breakout year in 2014, Jenkins seemed headed for a huge year. He had a strong start with 16 solos and 7 assists in the first two weeks of this season, but was a non-factor against the Bills last week and then left early with a neck injury this week after a hard tackle.
S Calvin Pryor, NYJ (3 solos)
Pryor blew up the box scores earlier this year, and looked like he could emerge as a stud safety who spends a lot of time up in the box. Recent matchups against spread offenses seem to have limited his production, however, and then he also left the game early this week with a knee injury (although he will have the upcoming bye week to rest up if it’s not serious).
CB Brent Grimes, MIA (2 solos)
Grimes has generally played well this year, but it’s not translating to the stat sheets for him. Apart from a 6 tackle game in week 2, he has not topped 2 tackles in any other games. He was getting beaten early by Brandon Marshall in this game, and then left early with a knee injury. With the bye week coming up, it might not be a bad time to look for a more productive CB option as the Dolphins problems don’t seem likely to be solved soon.
HOUSTON @ ATLANTA
LB Brian Cushing, HOU (7 solos, 4 asst)
Cushing has missed a lot of playing time in the past few years, and even last year he seemed to play hurt during most of the second half. While he has yet to make any big plays, he has at least become a reliable source of tackles. Through 4 weeks, he’s up to 20 solo tackles and 13 assists. Fortunately for him, the Texans don’t really have anyone else to consistently compete with him for tackles in the middle either.
LB Benardrick McKinney, HOU (2 solos, 1 asst)
With Mike Mohamed going on IR last week, it appears that McKinney has a great chance for regular playing time. It may not be the great opportunity it appears, however, as Mohamed was considered their best coverage linebacker while McKinney is not yet strong enough in that aspect to play in the team’s nickel package. With 35 rush attempts from Atlanta who was playing with a lead almost the entire game, it also seems like McKinney should have done better here.
LB Justin Durant, ATL (0 tackles)
Durant had been one of the early breakout IDPs with 21 solos through the first 3 games, but he was shut out this week and left early with an elbow injury. The severity was not immediately known, so watch the injury reports to see if he’s likely to play in next week’s great matchup with Washington.
NY GIANTS @ BUFFALO
S Corey Graham, BUF (8 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack)
While there were plenty of other players in Buffalo’s defense that got more attention this offseason, it is Graham who is quietly emerging as the most valuable IDP thus far. He was knocked out on the opening play in week 1 with a concussion, but has come back to post amazing numbers since. Over the last 3 games, he has 25 solo tackles, 10 assists, plus a sack and fumble recovery. Pretty impressive work for a converted corner, and the expected return of Aaron Williams shouldn’t slow him down.
CB Prince Amukamara, NYG (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 PD)
Amukamara showed off his great potential in 2013 when he finished with 76 solo tackles in a full season. He was on a similar pace last year but missed half the year with a torn bicep. Now healthy again, he has picked up right where he left off. Through 4 games this year, he already has 21 solo tackles and 6 passes defensed to rank him among the leaders at the position. He’s likely still underrated as a fantasy corner because of a lack of big plays, but he’s off to a good start there as well.
LB Uani Unga, NYG (1 solo, 1 asst)
Unga split time with Jon Beason at MLB and also played in the nickel package, but it wasn’t enough. Despite the relatively favorable situation, he was only credited with 2 tackles in the game. Chances are he will have more games like this along with some productive games mixed in, making him too unreliable to start.
DT Kyle Williams, BUF (1 solo, 2 asst)
Williams is not the only member of the vaunted Bills front 4 that is putting up disappointing numbers so far. He doesn’t get the attention of the others, but is still considered one of the better defensive tackles in the league for fantasy purposed. Through 4 games, however, he has just 3 solo tackles and 6 assists.
OAKLAND @ CHICAGO
LB Malcolm Smith, OAK (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The Raiders helped open things up for Smith when they shipped out Sio Moore to the Colts just before the season started. Smith was always a valuable reserve player during his time in Seattle, but now he’s getting a chance to play every down and taking full advantage. Through 4 games, he has yet to post a weak start and is averaging 7 solos and 2 assists per game.
LB Aldon Smith, OAK (6 solos, 1 sack, 1 PD)
The Raiders picked up Aldon Smith very late, but are starting to turn him loose on opposing QBs. With Khalil Mack on the other side, the Raiders now have the potential for a great pass rush and the two should work together to make each other more effective.
CB David Amerson, OAK (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Amerson was picked up off waivers after he was released by Washington, and he’s already worked his way into the starting lineup for Oakland. He had his struggles in the past, but the former 2nd round pick does have some talent and looked pretty good this week with 7 tackles and a forced fumble. Next week, look for the Broncos to go at him and likely push his numbers up even higher.
KANSAS CITY @ CINCINNATI
DT Dontari Poe, KC (2 solos, 2 asst)
Jaye Howard has gotten off to a great start this year, but Poe has seen his playing time increase to the point that he played 87% of the snaps this week. With an average of 40 solo tackles and 5 sacks over the past 2 years, Poe is a proven performer at the DT position and it looks like he is recovered from the back surgery he had in July.
DT Geno Atkins, CIN (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Since posting 12.5 sacks in 2012, Atkins wasn’t the same player over the last 2 seasons. It certainly looks like he is back to his old self again, however, as he picked up his 3rd sack in 4 games this week.
LB Vincent Rey, CIN (10 solos, 5 asst)
While the Bengals would certainly like to get Vontaze Burfict back in their lineup, Rey is doing everything he can to make sure they don’t miss him too much. As the only everydown linebacker in Cincinnati, he is putting up great tackle numbers with 22 solos and 14 assists through 4 weeks. His next two matchups are against run-heavy teams in Seattle and Buffalo so he should be able to build on this 15 tackle effort.
DE Allen Bailey, KC (2 solos, 1 asst)
Bailey blew up with 2 sacks in the opener and likely found his way onto a lot of IDP rosters as a result. Since then, however, he’s only managed 4 solos and 2 assists in the last 3 games. He’s a solid player who will have some good weeks, but his upside is probably not much more than 30 solos and 6 or 7 sacks.
LB Derrick Johnson, KC (1 solo, 1 asst)
Johnson has had an up and down start to the year as he posted 2 strong games and 2 weak games. His numbers this week were disappointing since he played 100% of the snaps. The Bengals offense, however, provided a low number of tackle opportunities in the game so don’t overreact too much here, but Johnson’s production is looking to be a bit more matchup-dependent than expected.
CB Adam Jones, CIN (1 asst)
Jones came into the game this week listed as questionable on the injury report while dealing with an elbow injury. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish the game and may have suffered a groin injury as well. He’s been one of the biggest surprises of the year with 21 solo tackles in the first 3 weeks, but not sure he can keep up that pace for long even after he recovers.
JACKSONVILLE @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB D’Qwell Jackson, IND (10 solos, 7 asst)
With Jerrell Freeman leaving the game very early on, it was the D’Qwell Jackson show as he piled up 17 tackles in an overtime win over the Jaguars. Despite not always playing in the team’s dime packages, Jackson still posted 30 combined tackles in the first 3 games so he remains a very reliable and productive fantasy option in most balanced scoring systems.
S Johnathan Cyprien, JAX (11 solos, 3 asst, 1 FR)
Cyprien has a high floor in most weeks due to his great tackle numbers, but the young safety has yet to show much upside as a playmaker. Regardless, he returned from a calf injury this week and looked great while playing the entire game in an OT loss to the Colts. He’s likely a DB1 when healthy.
DE Jared Odrick, JAX (1 asst)
Odrick averages about 60 snaps per game, which should make him a more reliable fantasy option. Over the past 2 games, however, he has just 2 solos and 1 assist to show for his effort. You would have figured Matt Hasselbeck throwing 47 pass attempts behind a porous Colts offensive line was a great matchup, but Odrick couldn’t take advantage.
LB Jerrell Freeman, IND (1 solo)
Freeman loses some value due to having to compete with D’Qwell Jackson for tackles all the time, but he was knocked out of the game very early this week with a groin injury. He only managed 3 snaps in the game, so pay attention to the injury report to see if he can play next week against the Texans. His replacement Josh McNary posted 4 solos and 2 assists.
CAROLINA @ TAMPA BAY
DE Ryan Delaire, CAR (5 solos, 2 sacks)
Delaire was signed off the practice squad from Washington a week ago and gave him 40 snaps as part of a DE rotation. He came up huge with 2 sacks, which provided a spark for a pass rush that had been mostly non-existent. The trade for Jared Allen may crowd things a bit, but Charles Johnson is out for a while and Kony Ealy has yet to do much so there is an opportunity here for someone to emerge.
CB Josh Norman, CAR (4 solos, 2 INT, 3 PD, 1 TD)
Norman not only has become one of the league’s elite cover corners, but he is also proving to be a tremendous playmaker as well. We are only 4 games into the season and he already has 4 interceptions with 2 returned for touchdowns. At this point, it would be tough to pick anyone else for defensive MVP.
S Chris Conte, TB (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Although Conte is underwhelming from a talent perspective, you can’t argue with his production thus far. He has 25 solo tackles plus an interception and 2 forced fumbles on the season to rank as one of the most productive safeties in the league.
LB Luke Kuechly, CAR (DNP)
Kuechly has now missed 3 games and has yet to be cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol. That’s certainly not a great sign and cause for some concern that he could be out even after the team returns from their upcoming bye week.
LB Lavonte David, TB (2 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
David was expected to finish as one of the top 2 tacklers in the league this year, but he’s only up to 12 solo tackles through 4 games. Apart from an 11-assist game against the Texans, he hasn’t had too many of those either. David is playing every snap along with rookie MLB Kwon Alexander, but he just hasn’t been as productive as expected thus far.
PHILADELPHIA @ WASHINGTON
LB Brandon Graham, PHI (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Graham doesn’t see as many snaps as Connor Barwin but he’s still playing about two thirds of the snaps each week. Up until this week, he had little to show for it but there were some signs of life when looking at the pressures he was generating. It paid off this week, however, as he picked up 7 tackles along with a sack plus a forced fumble on TE Jordan Reed downfield.
LB Preston Smith, WAS (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 PD)
Smith has seen a steady increase in playing time as Washington tries to get more aggressive on defense. He’s a superior pass rusher to starter Trent Murphy and it may be only a matter of time before Smith emerges as close to an everydown player at OLB opposite Ryan Kerrigan here. The rookie picked up his second sack of the year this week and has a pretty favorable schedule coming up.
DE Jason Hatcher, WAS (0 tackles)
Hatcher appears to be the only member of the defensive line in Washington that doesn’t have his snap count limited by a rotation. Despite playing 40+ snaps per game, he only has 1 assisted tackle in the last 3 weeks to show for it. His 11-sack season back in 2013 with Dallas certainly looks like a fluke.
LB Mychal Kendricks, PHI (0 tackles)
Kendricks got the start, but only lasted 11 snaps before aggravating his hamstring injury and leaving the game. If he’s on your team, it might be wise to wait for him to get through a full game without aggravating it before putting him back in the starting lineup.
CB Byron Maxwell, PHI (1 solo)
Maxwell has been victimized quite often this year, which has helped him put up some very solid numbers. He left after just 7 snaps this week due to a quad injury though, so that may keep him out of the lineup or further hinder his effectiveness.
CLEVELAND @ SAN DIEGO
LB Christian Kirksey, CLE (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Some had high hopes for Kirksey last year to emerge as a focal point in the middle of the Browns defense, but he was beaten out by veteran Craig Robertson. The two have split snaps this year but Robertson sat out with an injury so Kirksey is getting a chance to showcase himself. He made a pretty solid impression here with 5 tackles and a sack while also playing every snap.
LB Manti Te’o, SD (13 solos)
Josh McCown completed 32 passes in this game, so the Chargers defense didn’t exactly do a great job of getting off the field. However, that turned out pretty well for Te’o who played 100% of the snaps and finished with 13 solo tackles. With Pittsburgh and Green Bay next on the schedule, he should remain very active.
LB Melvin Ingram III, SD (3 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Ingram is emerging as an everydown player for the Chargers this year, which is nice considering the former 1st round pick had done very little thus far. He’s been hurt by injuries in the past, but seems fully healthy now and may be ready to emerge as a pass rusher for a team who desperately needs help in that area.
CB Joe Haden, CLE (DNP)
Haden is off to a pretty rough start, although his fantasy numbers haven’t been terrible. He missed the game this week with a broken finger, however, which may limit his effectiveness if he tries to play through it next week.
LB Armonty Bryant, CLE (0 tackles)
Bryant got the start this week but only played 40% of the snaps as he was used primarily as a pass rush specialist. The Chargers offensive line was in very rough shape and Rivers attempted 38 passes, but Bryant was still not able to make much of an impact. There is some potential here for big-play leagues, but he’s likely going to be too inconsistent for consideration elsewhere.
ST LOUIS @ ARIZONA
DE Calais Campbell, ARI (10 solos, 1 asst, .5 sacks)
Campbell has averaged nearly 50 solo tackles over the past 5 seasons, which makes him one of the most productive defensive ends in the league. He was off to a slow start this year with just 10 solos and 0 sacks in the first 3 weeks, but he caught up in a hurry. Campbell saw 43 snaps in the game, but still managed to finish with an amazing 10 solo tackles plus part of a sack. Looks like he’s back.
LB Alec Ogletree, STL (9 solos, 1 asst)
Ogletree was having another hugely productive day before leaving the game with an ankle injury. Reports on Monday indicated that it was a fracture and would require surgery, so it looks like he’s going to be out for an extended period of time. Huge blow to the Rams defense, and should result in upgrades for MLB James Laurinaitis and SS T.J. McDonald.
LB Alex Okafor, ARI (0 tackles, 2 QH)
Okafor is an everydown player for the Cardinals, but he is used primarily as a pass rusher so his tackle stats are going to be inconsistent. He was on the field for 96% of the snaps this week but was shut out despite getting a couple hits on Nick Foles. Tough to rely on this type of player in fantasy leagues since their big games tend to be few and far between.
MINNESTOA @ DENVER
LB Eric Kendricks, MIN (4 solos, 1 sack)
Kendricks is only working as a 2-down linebacker still but he had a very productive game last week, and then followed it up with another strong game this week that included a sack of Peyton Manning. You can clearly see that he is a player who is very active when on the field, and should only be a matter of time before he becomes a full-time player.
S T.J. Ward, DEN (6 solos, 2 sacks, 1 FF)
Ward has been coming on strong and showing improvement each week. He had 9 tackles a week ago, and then came through with 2 sacks this week. He’s a great run defender who is most comfortable playing up in the box, and Wade Phillips figures to make great use of him as a blitzer given all the other pass rush weapons the team has.
DT Sharrif Floyd, MIN (1 asst)
The former 1st round pick finished as a low-end DT1 a year ago with 28 solos and 5 sacks. He figured to show continued improvement in year 3, but so far his production has been very underwhelming. Through 4 games, he has just 1 solo tackle, 5 assists, and half a sack.
GREEN BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO
LB Aaron Lynch, SF (4 solos, 2 sacks)
Like most 3-4 OLBs, Lynch doesn’t generally put up enough tackles to be used as an everyweek starter in most leagues, but weeks like this are always a possibility with him too. He is playing most of the snaps each week and his 2 sacks this week already bring him up to 3 on the year.
S Morgan Burnett, GB (DNP)
Burnett has now missed 3 of the first 4 weeks of the season while trying to recover from a calf injury. He was one of the few players considered to be an elite fantasy safety coming into the season, so his owners have likely started to move on to other options at this point. In the meantime, his absence has likely helped Ha Ha Clinton-Dix get off to a great start with 25 solos through 4 games.
DALLAS @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Greg Hardy, DAL (suspended)
Hardy is eligible to return to the lineup this week. He has a tough matchup against the Patriots right away and then the bye, but he figures to make a big impact in IDP leagues soon enough.
LB Anthony Hitchens, DAL (8 solos, 3 asst, .5 sack)
Hitchens snap count has risen the past two weeks and his production has spiked as well. In that time span, he has been credited with 13 solo tackles, 5 assists, and a half sack. Sean Lee left the game early this week, which helped him but the team does get Rolando McClain back so this upgrade may only be slight.
LB Hau’oli Kikaha, NO (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack)
The rookie posted 19 sacks as a senior in college last year, and NFL offenses are having a hard time slowing him down as well. He plays with a non-stop motor and has posted 4 solos plus a sack in 3 straight games now. Kikaha could be the rare 3-4 OLB who contributes enough tackles to be a reliable starter in most leagues.
LB Stephone Anthony, NO (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
The other Saints rookie linebacker came into the year with high expectations. While he has taken some time to get comfortable, he looked rather impressive on Sunday night and finished with 7 tackles plus a sack and should continue to get better.
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (1 solo)
Coming into the year, the Saints coaches talked about moving Jordan around to get him into more advantageous situations. Through 4 games, however, he’s only managed 6 solo tackles and 1 sack. He was limited in practice last week with a back injury, but still managed to play 100% of the snaps in the game.
LB Sean Lee, DAL (2 solos, 1 asst)
Lee is one of the most frustrating players to watch and own in fantasy leagues, as he clearly has star potential but has had a lot of trouble staying on the field. He hasn’t played close to a full season since 2011, and missed all of 2014 with a knee injury. He left the game on Sunday night early with a concussion, which is yet another in a long list of things that have caused him to miss time.