This article attempts to immediately highlight 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’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.
DENVER @ SAN DIEGO
LB Jatavis Brown, SD (13 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Played all 73 snaps (100%) and put forth a dominating effort against the defending Super Bowl champs. The undersized LB from Akron is quickly emerging as a strong candidate for defensive rookie of the year. Concerns about his size pushed him to the 4th round but he’s a great athlete with a knack for the ball who also excels in coverage and rushing the passer. Over the past 4 games, he has collected 30 solo tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles and looks like a potential LB1 already.
LB Denzel Perryman, SD (3 solos, 1 TFL)
Perryman was supposed to be the breakout candidate in the Chargers LB crew, but he was limited to just 23 snaps (32%) this week. Not even the season-ending injury to Manti Te’o was enough to vault him into a 3-down job as Jatavis Brown quickly passed him on the depth chart. Unless Perryman makes significant strides in coverage, it looks like his fantasy upside will remain limited for now.
SAN FRANCISCO @ BUFFALO
DE DeForest Buckner, SF (5 solos, 4 asst, 2 sacks, 3 QH, 1 FR)
Buckner sat out last week’s game with a foot injury, but returned to action this week and wound up playing 73 snaps (92%). That’s a very high number for a defensive lineman, and the rookie delivered with 9 combined tackles with a pair of sacks. He is a freak athlete and looks like a key building block for the 49ers defense.
CB Rashard Robinson, SF (5 solos)
The rookie corner had been playing well since entering the lineup a few weeks ago. However, he was forced to leave the game after just 44 snaps (56%) this week due to a concussion. May want to look for other streaming options next week if you were relying on him.
JACKSONVILLE @ CHICAGO
LB Willie Young, CHI (3 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Young followed up his 3-sack game a week ago with a 2-sack outing this week. He’s currently one of the hottest players in the league and is likely available in quite a few fantasy leagues given his designation as a LB despite posting DE-type numbers. Next week’s matchup against the Packers looks tough, but Young is clearly proving himself as one of the better pass rushers in the league.
CB Aaron Colvin, JAX (5 solos, 1 TFL)
Played 53 snaps (66%) in his first game back from a 4-game suspension and looked strong as the team’s nickel CB. He’s a very sound tackler who can serve as an extra defender near the line of scrimmage, and should have a chance to post solid numbers against teams that like to run a lot of 3WR sets.
LB Leonard Floyd, CHI (DNP)
The rookie was shut out in week 4 as he suffered a calf injury, which has now kept him out for 2 straight weeks. With the Bears season quickly sliding away, it’s looking like he may not get a chance to contribute much for them.
LOS ANGELES @ DETROIT
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET (1 solo, 1 TFL)
Ansah made his return to the lineup this week after sitting out the past 3 games. He isn’t quite 100% yet and was limited to just 32 snaps (55%), but it’s a good sign and he should be able to take on a heavier workload next week.
S T.J. McDonald, LA (1 solo, 3 asst)
McDonald looked like a future star when he posted 84 solos back in 2014, but he took a step back last year and is even less productive in 2016. The Rams defense hasn’t played up to their normal standards, but McDonald is only averaging about 3 solos/game.
DE Robert Quinn, LA (DNP)
Quinn looked like he was back to his old self with a sack in back to back games earlier this year, but he was inactive for the 2nd straight week as he tries to recover from a shoulder injury. Sounds like he should be close to returning, but the Rams only have 1 game against the Giants before their bye week so there’s a chance he could be held out longer to prevent any recurrence.
PITTSBURGH @ MIAMI
DE Andre Branch, MIA (3 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 QH)
The former Jaguar saw an increase in his workload this week as Mario Williams was effectively benched. Branch was on the field for 44 snaps (80%) and posted big numbers against the Steelers with 1.5 sacks and 4 tackles.
LB Tyler Matakevich, PIT (7 solos, 2 asst)
Despite only playing 18 defensive snaps (26%), Matakevich somehow managed to collect 8 tackles (plus 1 more on special teams) to lead both teams in tackles. Vince Williams suffered a leg injury late in the 3rd quarter and was replaced by Matakevich. With 8 tackles on 18 defensive snaps, he showed a knack for being around the ball just like he did in college at Temple, and is worth keeping on your radar.
CB Byron Maxwell, MIA (4 solos, 1 asst, 4 PD)
Maxwell was benched earlier this year and has a well-earned reputation for being one of the worst cover corners in the league. However, the Dolphins don’t have many better options at the position so he’s playing a full-time role and seeing a lot of targets as a result. He surprised with a strong game against Antonio Brown this week and has now collected 19 solo tackles, 6 assists, and 8 passes defensed through 5 games.
S Sean Davis, PIT (0 tackles)
Saw 0 snaps on defense, but did play 12 on special teams so it doesn’t appear to be injury related. The Steelers used him as their nickel corner early this season, but moved 1st round pick CB Artie Burns into that role since he’s a natural corner. With both safety positions in good hands right now, it looks like Davis will get some time to learn and develop before he makes his way back into the lineup.
CINCINNATI @ NEW ENGLAND
LB Dont'a Hightower, NE (3 solos, 10 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 SF)
With Jamie Collins Sr inactive this week, Hightower took on a full-time role and showed that he is still plenty capable. He led all players in the game with 13 tackles while also contributing 1.5 sacks and a safety.
LB Jamie Collins Sr, NE (DNP)
Collins had an incredible start to the season and looked like a potential candidate for defensive player of the year. He cooled off a bit since then, and sat out this week with a hip injury. That created an opportunity for Hightower and Elandon Roberts to handle most of the work, and there has to be some concern that the hip problem will linger and limit his effectiveness.
CAROLINA @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 4 QH, 1 PD)
In leagues that don’t award points for stats like QB hits, Jordan’s game this week may not have drawn much attention. However, he was credited with 4 QB hits in the game and that’s a clear sign that he was generating a ton of heat on Cam Newton but was just unfortunate not to pick up a sack. With 2.5 sacks in the 3 games prior, he’s playing at a pretty high level but not getting much help from his teammates.
LB Craig Robertson, NO (4 solos, 8 asst, 1 QH)
Robertson was expected to be little more than a placeholder for the Saints this year, but here we are entering week 7 and he’s already looking like the last man standing. He played all 82 snaps this weekend and led all players with 12 tackles. With Dannell Ellerbe still not healthy, and Stephone Anthony in the doghouse, Robertson looks like he’s not going to be knocked out of the lineup anytime soon.
BALTIMORE @ NY GIANTS
LB Zachary Orr, BAL (9 solos, 4 asst, 1 FR)
Orr continues his breakout season as he piled up 13 combined tackles in a tough loss to the Giants this week. The Ravens were missing C.J. Mosely but Orr picked up the slack, and is currently on pace to finish the year with 100 solo tackles.
S Landon Collins, NYG (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
All Collins does every week is put up big tackle numbers. With 10 more solo stops this week, he now has 41 on the season and ranks right among the league leaders. The 2nd year safety came into the league as a great tackler and has not disappointed as a pro, but he’s also helped by playing behind one of the weakest LB groups in the league.
LB Keenan Robinson, NYG (3 solos)
Led all Giants LBs with 61 snaps (73%) but failed to make much of an impact on the box score. Meanwhile, Jonathan Casillas saw 56 snaps (67%) but was credited with 11 combined tackles. Tough to rely on either of these players but Casillas has been more consistent thus far.
CLEVELAND @ TENNESSEE
DT Danny Shelton, CLE (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Shelton is quietly developing into one of the league’s best interior run defenders. While that doesn’t always translate into great fantasy production, he’s showing some potential in that regard as well. With a big game against the Titans this week that included his first career sack, he’s now up to 15 solos and 13 assists on the year and could have some value in DT-required leagues.
CB Perrish Cox, TEN (6 solos, 3 PD)
Cox was a bust as a free agent pickup last year, and he’s not exactly playing well for the Titans this year either. However, he’s playing right at the line that you want from a fantasy corner – bad enough to see lots of targets, but good enough to not get benched. With 22 solos and 7 passes defensed, he makes a fine option for CB streamers.
S Jordan Poyer, CLE (3 solos)
Poyer was injured in the second quarter and had to be rushed to the hospital. He was hit on his blindside during an illegal block of a punt return, and likely suffered a concussion as well as a lacerated kidney that will probably end his season. Rookie Derrick Kindred figures to take over alongside Ibraheim Campbell.
PHILADELPHIA @ WASHINGTON
LB Ryan Kerrigan, WAS (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH)
The Eagles were missing RT Lane Johnson due to a 10-game suspension, and Kerrigan took full advantage of the rookie who made his first start to replace him. Both sacks came on the first drive of the game, and forced the Eagles to slide more protection to his side for the rest of the game.
S Rodney McLeod, PHI (11 solos, 2 asst)
McLeod doesn’t typically draw a lot of attention, but he’s been remarkably consistent over the past 3 years with the Rams as a free safety. He’s still playing a similar role with the Eagles but is often closer to the line of scrimmage and that’s allowing him to be much more active. He has at least 4 solo tackles in all 5 games this year, with an amazing 20 solos over the past 2 weeks combined.
S Duke Ihenacho, WAS (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Ihenacho got the start at strong safety, but only saw 19 snaps (37%) while the recently signed Donte Whitner played 40 snaps (77%). Meanwhile, Will Blackmon got the start at FS and played the entire game. Ihenacho hasn’t played poorly, but it seems the team may prefer to get the more experienced Whitner into the lineup.
LB Mychal Kendricks, PHI (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Not much new here, but Kendricks is apparently healthy now and still playing little more than a part-time role for the Eagles. With Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham locked into the nickel packages, Kendricks was only on the field for 22 snaps (30%).
KANSAS CITY @ OAKLAND
LB Dee Ford, KC (4 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
The former 1st round pick has been buried behind Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, but he is finally starting to emerge as a legit starter himself. He was great against the Raiders this week and had likely his best game as a pro while piling up 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble.
S Karl Joseph, OAK (7 solos, 2 asst)
The rookie has been highly productive since entering the starting lineup in week 3. Over his last 4 games, Joseph has 21 solo tackles and 12 assists plus an interception and fumble recovery. Given some of the issues the Raiders are having at LB, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he put up DB1 numbers the rest of the year.
S Eric Berry, KC (1 solo, 1 asst)
Berry hasn’t seen a reduction in playing time, but the dropoff in his production does stand out a bit. He was on the field for 55 defensive snaps (98%) this week, but somehow only managed to pick up 2 tackles. Similarly, he had 3 tackles against the Steelers in 58 snaps during his last game. He’s certainly not helped by playing home games in front of a very tough stat crew, but he probably is somewhat underrated from a fantasy perspective.
DALLAS @ GREEN BAY
DE David Irving, DAL (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 3 FF, 1 FR, 1 PD)
Irving only played 19 snaps (27%), which was 4th most among Cowboys defensive ends but the other 3 combined for just 2 assists and a single QB hit. He’s basically playing as a pass rush specialist, but a game like this may be just the spark needed to earn a bigger role for the 2nd year undrafted pro.
CB Anthony Brown, DAL (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
The rookie 6th round pick has filled in for Orlando Scandrick at nickel corner and looked perfectly capable despite having limited experience playing inside. He drew high praise from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who compared him to Ronde Barber.
DE Demarcus Lawrence, DAL (0 tackles)
Lawrence saw 17 snaps on defense a week ago and 29 this week, but he has yet to find his way onto the stat sheets. While the sample size is obviously limited, it’s concerning that he’s not able to make more of an impact. The Cowboys are enjoying a remarkable season, but are getting very little help from their pass rush and likely need Lawrence to pick things up.
ATLANTA @ SEATTLE
DE Cliff Avril, SEA (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
The problem with Avril as a fantasy option is that he tends to provide little else besides sacks. His tackles per snap have to rank among the worst in the league among defensive ends, and that can make it frustrating to see him post low scores from time to time. When he’s on though, he can make a huge difference as he did this week with a pair of sacks. That brings him up to 5 sacks in 5 games in 2016 and point towards more big things to come.
S Keanu Neal, ATL (5 solos, 5 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
The rookie has helped provide a strong presence in the back of the Falcons defense. Head coach Dan Quinn wanted to build his defense in the same style used by the Seahawks so Neal figures to take on the Kam Chancellor role. With 17 solos and 10 assists in his last 3 games along with a pair of forced fumbles, he is well on his way.
CB Deshawn Shead, SEA (7 solos, 1 asst, 3 PD)
Playing across from Richard Sherman is often a great formula for fantasy production and that’s working pretty well for Shead this year. He was very active this week and has been credited with 22 solo tackles and 6 passes defensed over his last 4 games. Should have a couple of good matchups coming up against the Cardinals and Saints too.
INDIANAPOLIS @ HOUSTON
LB Benardrick McKinney, HOU (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
McKinney continues his ascension to LB1 status with another huge game this week. With 28 solos and 32 assists, he’s one of the most productive tacklers in the entire league. What helps set him apart even further are the 3 sacks he’s posted already.
CB Kevin Johnson, HOU (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Johnson enjoyed a huge game this week while matched up frequently with T.Y. Hilton, but unfortunately he suffered a broken foot. That injury is expected to land the 2015 1st round pick on I.R. and thus end his season prematurely.