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.
CHICAGO @ GREEN BAY
LB Leonard Floyd, CHI (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD)
The Bears welcomed back veteran OLB Pernell McPhee from the PUP list this week, but their first round pick made a much bigger impact in his own return. Floyd showed flashes early this year, but then missed a couple games with a calf injury. He got the start this week and put up some remarkable numbers in just 35 snaps (40%) including a defensive touchdown on a strip sack of Aaron Rodgers.
LB Nick Perry, GB (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Perry continues his impressive breakout season for the Packers as he now has at least a partial sack in 5 of 6 games played. He also showed off his hands with an interception of a short pass at the end of the game.
LB Clay Matthews, GB (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH)
Matthews was limited like most Packers defenders this week because the Bears offense only generated 28 tackle opportunities. He played well during that time and was involved in the play that broke the arm of Brian Hoyer, but didn’t see much work in the second half as the coaches gave him a rest. With just 6 solos and 1 sack over the last 3 weeks, it certainly looks like he’s taking a back seat to Perry as the primary pass rush threat in this defense.
NY GIANTS @ LOS ANGELES
S Landon Collins, NYG (8 solos, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Collins continues to be the glue that holds this entire defense together. He’s one of the best pure tacklers in the game and plays the run like a linebacker, but his playmaking skills always seemed to be lacking. He changed that perception in a hurry with an impressive impressive 44-yard interception return that saw him weave through half the Rams defense and run over the rest near the goal line. Collins added another interception later in the game and likely ranks as the top-scoring overall IDP in most scoring systems right now.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, NYG (1 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Pierre-Paul continues to play an extremely high number of snaps (70+ snaps in 5 straight games), but his production is rather underwhelming. He has just 1.5 sacks through 7 games, and has picked up 3 or fewer tackles in 3 of his last 4 games. Seems likely the hand injury from last year is still limiting his overall effectiveness and preventing him from returning to the ranks of the elite at the position.
CLEVELAND @ CINCINNATI
LB Emmanuel Ogbah, CLE (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Ogbah was taken with the 1st pick of the 2nd round and the Browns hope he can develop into a core building block for their defense. He has seen a steady rise in his playing time over the past few weeks, and played 55 (90%) of the defensive snaps this week. The added playing time agreed with him as he finished 2nd on the team with 6 tackles and added 2 sacks to give him 3 over his last 2 games.
S Shawn Williams, CIN (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The Bengals strong safety has seen back to back games with 60+ snaps and his numbers show a clear uptick in production. He was credited with 9 combined tackles last week in New England, and this week managed to collect a sack and an interception (which he fumbled away). Also impressive were the 3 QB hits in the game, which is perhaps a sign of more sacks to come as the coaches get more aggressive with their blitzing strategies.
DT Geno Atkins, CIN (3 QH)
He was held without any tackles for the 2nd time in 3 games, so he probably earned zero points in many leagues. However, he was still on the field for 48 snaps (75%) and was credited with 3 QB hits as the Bengals beat up on rookie QB Kevin Hogan, so that’s a sign that he’s still creating pressure even if he’s quite as productive against the run.
WASHINGTON @ DETROIT
S Donte Whitner, WAS (4 solos, 4 asst)
The stat line here doesn’t stand out that much, but Whitner did actually lead his team in tackles. He also played all 53 defensive snaps in the game, and appears to have taken over as the full-time strong safety playing behind some questionable linebackers. Duke Ihenacho was limited to mostly dime packages and saw just 17 snaps.
CB Josh Norman, WAS (1 solo)
Norman was limited to just 28 snaps (53%) as he left the game early with a concussion. Despite a great start to the season (16 solos, 7 asst, 8 PD in his first 4 games), Norman now has just 2 solos and 2 assists in his last 2 games. For the most part, it appears that QBs may be avoiding his side of the field and taking their chances with whoever lines up opposite him.
OAKLAND @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Perry Riley, OAK (2 solos)
The numbers are certainly underwhelming, but that was driven in large part by the ineffectiveness of the Jaguars offense (just 16 rush attempts). Riley appears to have taken over as the Raiders full-time MLB as he played all 67 snaps while rookie Cory James only saw special teams duty. Although Riley doesn’t offer much in terms of his cover skills, the Raiders have been using him in nickel packages and a 3-down MLB should have value.
DE Dante Fowler, JAX (2 solos)
With 2 sacks in week 2, Fowler looked like he was ready to fulfill his immense potential after the Jaguars took him 3rd overall in 2015. Since then, however, he has done very little to build on that effort with just 6 solos and 0 sacks in the last 4 games. His snap count also keeps decreasing as he played just 30 snaps (42%) this week while 3 Jaguars DEs saw more time.
LB Cory James, OAK (1 asst)
James looked like a potential steal for fantasy owners as a rookie 3-down MLB, but he was benched this week in favor of the veteran Perry Riley. James only playing time came on special teams where he picked up a single assisted tackle. Don’t write him off though, as Riley doesn’t figure to hold onto the job for very long and James did flash some impressive potential that suggest he has a legitimate future.
NEW ORLEANS @ KANSAS CITY
LB Nathan Stupar, NO (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
In a game without many standout candidates, Stupar managed to rise to the top with 8 tackles and a pass defensed. Given the matchup against the run-heavy Chiefs, New Orleans spent most of the game in their base formation. Stupar and Craig Robertson were out there with an extra safety most of the time, while James Laurinaitis failed to record a single defensive snap for the 2nd week in a row. Looks like Stupar has a solid grasp on the MLB job with 19 solos and 4 assists over his last 3 games.
S Daniel Sorenson, KC (6 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Sorenson has primarily been a special teams standout, but he has earned a larger role on defense in subpackages as the team’s #3 safety. Last week, he posted 5 tackles in just 36 snaps and this week he was even better with 6 tackles on 43 snaps (58%). What set him apart though were the big plays as picked off a tipped ball and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown, and then followed that up with a key sack on the very next drive to take all the momentum away from Drew Brees and the Saints.
BUFFALO BILLS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS
S Michael Thomas, MIA (2 solos, 2 asst)
Thomas isn’t half the player Reshad Jones is, but he’ll take over for him at strong safety in the back of the Dolphins defense. That should lead to a large increase in playing time and potentially make him a back of roster candidate in deeper leagues.
S Reshad Jones, MIA (IR)
I missed the severity of Jones’ injury last week, but he was placed on IR with a shoulder injury on Wednesday and will be lost for the season. That’s a big blow to some fantasy owners given that he posted 107 solos and 5 interceptions a year ago and was consistently one of the very best safeties in the league. His absence should create some additional opportunities for the surrounding players in the Miami defense though.
BALTIMORE @ NY JETS
DE Sheldon Richardson, NYJ (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
The Jets were missing Muhammad Wilkerson this week, but it didn’t seem to matter as Richardson helped hold the Ravens to just 6 yards on 12 carries. In addition to leading his team with tackles (8 tackles on 38 tackle opportunities), Richardson also added a sack and an additional QB hit in the game. That gives him 13 solos, 2 assists, and a sack in his last 2 games with another favorable matchup with the Browns next week.
DT Brandon Williams, BAL (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 BK)
Williams had a solid campaign in 2015, but he got off to a slow start this year. Although his numbers were helped this week by the Jets running the ball 38 times, he did contribute a sack and block a FG attempt as well. Ravens have their bye next week, but he could have some value again in DT-required leagues.
MINNESOTA @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Jordan Hicks, PHI (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 QH, 2 PD)
It didn’t appear to always be driven by lack of playing time, but Hicks was not nearly as productive this year as he was a year ago. As one of the two 3-down linebackers for the Eagles (alongside Nigel Bradham), more was expected of him and he certainly delivered this week. He led all players in the game with 11 combined tackles while also contributing a sack, and 2 passes defensed as the Eagles handed the Vikings their first loss of the year.
DE Everson Griffen, MIN (1 solo)
After he posted 3 sacks in week 3, Griffen seemed ready to join the ranks of the elite fantasy defensive ends. Since then, however, he’s been practically invisible with just 2 solos and 2 assists in 3 games. The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league, but they are a lot less fearsome if he’s not playing at his normal level.
DT Fletcher Cox, PHI (2 solos, 1 TFL)
Cox seemed headed for a huge year under the new Eagles defensive scheme, and he was well on his way with 4 sacks in his first 4 games. He appears to have hit a bit of a speed bump, however, as he was shut out last week at Washington and then held to just 2 tackles this week in a game when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford 6 times. It’s likely he’s drawing a lot of attention from opposing blockers, but more was expected of him after he signed a $100+ million contract.
INDIANAPOLIS @ TENNESSEE
LB Derrick Morgan, TEN (2 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
The Titans pass rush has been heating up of late, and Morgan has played a big role in that resurgence. He posted 1.5 sacks this week to give him 4.5 in his last 3 games. He’s likely worth a pickup in some deeper leagues if somehow still available and the scoring system gives a decent bonus for sacks.
SAN DIEGO @ ATLANTA
LB Melvin Ingram III, SD (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Ingram broke out with 10 sacks last year and he’s backing it up with another very strong year. He led the Chargers in tackles this week with 9 and also picked up his 4th sack of the year. The former 1st round pick suffered through some disappointing seasons early in his career, but he’s making up for lost time now.
LB De’Vondre Campbell, ATL (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL)
Most of the attention in Atlanta has gone to fellow rookies LB Deion Jones and S Keanu Neal, but Campbell is another intriguing player. The 4th round pick out of Minnesota wont the starting WLB job out of camp but then suffered a severe ankle injury that kept him out for a month. After making a brief cameo appearance last week, he was on the field for all 75 defensive snaps this week and managed to lead all players in the game with 10 combined tackles.
LB Jatavis Brown, SD (1 solo, 1 asst)
The rookie sensation was probably due for a down game eventually, but it’s surprising that he only managed 2 tackles despite playing all 65 defensive snaps. We likely have enough history on him to believe this is a one-week outlier, but hopefully it doesn’t become a trend.
TAMPA BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO
LB Gerald Hodges, SF (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Hodges was benched the past few weeks but returned to the starting lineup this week and responded with 7 tackles in 61 snaps along with an interception. He’s always proven to be a productive player when he gets an opportunity to play, so it will be interesting to see if he’s able to hold off Michael Wilhoite and hold onto the ILB spot next to Nick Bellore.
S Bradley McDougald, TB (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Most of the usual suspects had big games for Tampa this week (Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David), but McDougald is likely well under the radar. He’s playing a full-time role as the team’s strong safety and quietly puts up pretty consistent tackle numbers every week. When he adds an interception like he did this week, that helps bump his value up to the point where he can be considered a potential starter and not just a good backup option.
LB Michael Wilhoite, SF (1 solo)
In a surprise move, the 49ers benched sent Wilhoite back to the bench and elevated Gerald Hodges back to the starting lineup. The 49ers run defense had been a disaster in the previous few games, so they likely hoped that Hodges would help them shore things up. Didn’t seem to matter though as Tampa rolled up 249 yards on 41 attempts.
NEW ENGLAND @ PITTSBURGH
LB Lawrence Timmons, PIT (11 solos, 1 TFL)
There was some concern Timmons could lose some playing time in subpackages due to the return of Ryan Shazier this week. That never happened, however, as it was Shazier who was eased back into things with just 32 snaps (56%) and Timmons led all players in tackles with 11 solo stops in a strong outing. He can struggle in coverage at times, but remains a productive defender and fantasy option.
S Patrick Chung, NE (6 solos, 4 asst, 2 PD)
Chung is a very versatile player for the Patriots as they can use him as a slot corner at times or move him up into the box to stop the run depending on the matchup. This week, it was more of the latter as the Steelers were shorthanded and relied heavily on their running game and short passes. With 14 solos and 9 assists in his last 3 games, Chung is providing consistent production and is worth consideration as a DB2 or 3.
CB Logan Ryan, NE (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
In a very surprising move, the Patriots started Eric Rowe at CB over Logan Ryan and kept him out there the entire game. Ryan served as the team’s #3 CB and wound up playing 31 snaps (42%). Ryan was one of the leading tacklers at the CB position in the league, but Rowe has a bit more size and is a player the team traded for earlier this season so they likely wanted to see what he could do with the opportunity.
SEATTLE @ ARIZONA
DE Cliff Avril, SEA (3 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 6 QH, 2 PD)
The Seattle defense was on the field for an incredible 95 snaps in this game, so there are some big numbers throughout their lineup. Avril stands out from the crowd though as he was responsible for 2.5 sacks of Carson Palmer after picking up a pair last week too. He now has 5.5 sacks in his last 3 games and is appears to be headed for a huge year that should surpass his career high of 11 sacks set back in 2011.
LB Deone Bucannon, ARI (11 solos, 2 asst)
Bucannon had a slow start to the season and is often hurt somewhat by playing his home game in front of a very difficult stat crew. He was the best player for Arizona on Sunday night, however, as he collected 13 tackles in a game where the Seahawks offense only provided 44 tackle opportunities. He also posted a 14 tackle game back in week 5 so this gives him 25 solos and 7 assists in his last 3 games.
DE Calais Campbell, ARI (2 solos, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Campbell has been one of the most consistent fantasy options in the league for nearly a decade, but he is surprisingly having a down year. He picked up 2 sacks in week 5 against the 49ers, but has gone sackless in the rest and has just 15 solos and 3 assists through 7 games. He was probably considered a low-end DE1 to start the year, but is underperforming by a considerable amount.