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.
DALLAS @ MINNESOTA
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (3 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Hunter was a popular sleeper choice coming into this season, but it wasn’t clear if he’d get enough playing time to reach his full potential. Although he’s still playing primarily as a pass rush specialist though, he has blown up with 9.5 sacks through 12 games and 5.5 have come in the last 4. Everson Griffen also had a strong game this week, but he’s been held without a sack for his last 4 games.
S Barry Church, DAL (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH)
Church returned to action with a cast on his broken arm after sitting out the past 4 games. He played 72 snaps (97%) and was very active while finishing with 9 tackles. As one of the most productive safeties in the league, getting him healthy will provide a nice boost for some fantasy owners as the playoffs approach.
KANSAS CITY @ ATLANTA
MIAMI @ BALTIMORE
S Isa Abdul-Quddus, MIA (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
Feels like it’s been awhile since someone other than Reshad Jones or Kiko Alonso led the Dolphins in tackles. This was an ugly loss for the Dolphins, but Abdul-Quddus was one of the few Dolphins defenders who got a productive day out of it. He lacks big play ability, but has been a steady source of tackles this year.
LB C.J. Mosley, BAL (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 QH)
This has been a strange year for Mosley. He posted 3 interceptions in the first 5 games of the year and looked ready to stake a claim as one of the league’s best linebackers. Then he missed a couple games with a hamstring injury, and his overall production just hasn’t been the same since. Over the last 5 games, Mosley has been credited with just 17 solos and 7 assists with no big plays. For a player that had LB1 potential coming into the season, that’s a huge disappointment. Meanwhile, his fellow ILB Zachary Orr has 35 solos and 14 assists in the same span for double the production.
SAN FRANCISCO @ CHICAGO
DE Akiem Hicks, CHI (8 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
The veteran was a key pickup for the Bears this offeseason as he figured to help them complete the transition to a 3-4 front. He has been quiet at times, which is to be expected from a 3-4 end, but he’s also posted some huge games like he did this week against the 49ers. With 6 sacks in his last 9 games, his fantasy value has been better than expected.
LB Nick Kwiatkoski, CHI (9 solos, 2 TFL, 2 PD)
With Danny Trevathan on injured reserve, the Bears are giving their rookie an audition as a full-time player. He played all 58 snaps in the game and finished with 9 tackles and 2 passes defensed, which is a nice start even though it only came against the 49ers. There were some rough spots where he took poor angles and missed tackles as a result, but he looked pretty comfortable overall and gave us some reason to be encouraged about his future.
S Adrian Amos, CHI (DNP)
Amos missed the game this week with a foot injury. He has not played well this year, but has been a solid source of tackles when in the lineup. His replacement Harold Jones-Quartey finished the game with 7 solos and 2 assists, but it looks like this is a position the Bears may look to upgrade in the offseason.
PHILADELPHIA @ CINCINNATI
LB Vontaze Burfict, CIN (10 solos, 5 asst, 2 INT, 4 PD)
The controversial player doesn’t make many friends on the field and is always a risk to miss time due to suspension, but he is pretty clearly a LB1 when he plays. Over his last 5 games, Burfict has posted 50 solo tackles to go along with 2 interceptions with a sack and forced fumble.
DT Fletcher Cox, PHI (2 asst, 1 PD)
The Eagles were probably expecting a bit more from Cox after signing him to a 6-year, $103 million contract this offseason. He had 4 sacks in his first 4 games, but has now gone 8 games without adding to that total. To make matters worse, Cox only has 10 solo tackles (plus 11 assists) in those 8 games. I’m sure many owners have stuck with him in hopes that it would turn around, but that seems unlikely at this point.
HOUSTON @ GREEN BAY
LB Julius Peppers, GB (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
At 36 years of age, Peppers was reduced to a part-time role earlier this season. Due to some injuries, however, he’s seen a recent uptick in playing time and is making the most of it. Peppers recorded a sack for the third week in a row and also set a season-high with 58 snaps (88%). With a big game next week against Seattle and their rebuilt offensive line, he has a good chance to keep his streak alive.
LB Nick Perry, GB (3 solos, 1 asst)
Snap counts indicate that Perry was only on the field for 12 plays this week, so he was pretty remarkably productive during those snaps. However, he left the game with a hand injury and briefly returned with a club-like cast on his hand that limited his effectiveness. With 8 sacks on the year, Perry has been their best edge player but watch the injury reports to see if he’ll be able to play effectively with whatever hand injury he has.
DENVER @ JACKSONVILLE
CB Bradley Roby, DEN (3 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Roby has a reputation for being the weak link among the Broncos great CB trio, but he’s a former 1st round pick and still pretty good in his own right. His numbers earlier this season were rarely good enough to consider starting him, but he’s been more of a playmaker lately. He had a pick-6 this week, which was his 2nd in the past 5 games. During that span, he also has a sack and forced fumble to go along with 18 solo tackles. With the Titans and Patriots up next on the schedule, Roby looks like a pretty solid fantasy starter now.
LOS ANGELES @ NEW ENGLAND
CB Logan Ryan, NE (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Ryan fell out of favor with the Patriots coaches earlier this year, but he has responded well to the brief demotion. With 10 solos and a sack over his last 2 games, Ryan looks like he’s back to being a reliable fantasy starter. A physical corner, Ryan tends to see more targets than his counterpart Malcolm Butler.
LB Dont'a Hightower, NE (1 solos, 1 asst)
Hightower saw a bump in production immediately following the trade of Jamie Collins Sr, but he’s been a non-factor for the past 2 games now. The low output this week was likely driven in part by the fact the game was a blowout, so it appears the coaches rested him with just 33 snaps (63%). Even so, it’s hard to count on him for consistent production when he puts up just 3 solos and 2 assists over 2 weeks.
DETROIT @ NEW ORLEANS
LB Josh Bynes, DET (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
With Tahir Whitehead inactive this week, Bynes moved into his everydown role and saw a corresponding increase in production as well. Whitehead and possibly even DeAndre Levy could return soon, so chances are this will be short-lived but it’s worth noting.
CB Quandre Diggs, DET (1 solo, 1 QH)
Diggs has been the primary nickel corner for the Lions all year, but he suffered a torn pectoral muscle this week that will end his season. He’s been a weak spot in terms of his coverage, but that has also contributed to him seeing plenty of targets most weeks. It’s likely the Lions may want to go with more 3 and 4-safety packages to offset this loss as they have limited CB depth.
BUFFALO @ OAKLAND
DE Kyle Williams, BUF (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH)
Williams continues to play at a remarkably high level for the Bills. He isn’t likely to ever come close to the 10 sacks he posted in 2013, but he is getting it done against the run and his high tackle numbers make him a very reliable starter each week.
LB Perry Riley, OAK (8 solos, 2 asst)
With the matchup against the run-heavy Bills offense, the Raiders played all 3 of their linebackers for basically the entire game. Riley hadn’t been very productive with his snaps in earlier games this year, but he was very active this week and that could be a good sign with the Chiefs and Chargers coming up on the schedule.
WASHINGTON @ ARIZONA
S Tyvon Branch, ARI (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 PD)
Washington only generated 41 tackle opportunities in this game, so there weren’t many big numbers from any Cardinals IDPs. Branch is worth mentioning though since he was activated off I.R. and took 51 snaps (85%) as the team’s primary nickel back in place of the injured Tyrann Mathieu.
LB Preston Smith, WAS (2 solos, 1 QH)
Smith looked like he was gaining momentum a month ago when he posted 3.5 sacks in a 4-game span, but he has gone cold since. Over his last 3 games, Smith has been credited with just 3 solos, 1 assist, and 0 sacks. The 2nd year pro is still developing his overall game and is getting enough playing time (58 snaps this week), so he’s worth holding onto as a reserve option.
NY GIANTS @ PITTSBURGH
DE Olivier Vernon, NYG (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Earlier this year, Vernon stood out as one of the players who was generating a lot of pressure on opposing QBs but not being rewarded with sacks. That has shifted dramatically in the 2nd half of the season, however, as he is currently riding a 5-game sack streak with 3.5 sacks in his last 2 games. The Giants rebuilt their defensive line in free agency this offseason and it appears to be working out well for them.
LB Ryan Shazier, PIT (3 solos, 1 PD)
This marks the second disappointing game in a row for Shazier, who is the Steelers best linebacker. He was on the field for all 60 defensive snaps, but the Giants only had 13 rush attempts so he had limited tackle opportunities. No need to overreact here as he should bounce back with a strong game next week in a matchup against the run-heavy Bills offense.
TAMPA BAY @ SAN DIEGO
S Jahleel Addae, SD (8 solos, 2 asst)
Addae suffered a broken clavicle back in week 2 that forced him to miss 8 games. He returned to action last week, and has been very active with 14 solos and 2 assists in the last 2 games. The 10 tackles this week tied him for game-high, and he should see another favorable matchup with Greg Olsen next week.
S Chris Conte, TB (DNP)
Conte missed the game with a chest injury, which was apparently serious enough for the team to bring back Major Wright last week. His spot in the lineup this week was taken by Keith Tandy, who had seen limited playing time all year but came through with a game-sealing interception in the end zone.
CAROLINA @ SEATTLE
S Michael Griffin, CAR (7 solos, 7 asst)
With Kurt Coleman in the league’s concussion protocol, Griffin got the start this week and piled up 14 tackles in the process. The veteran safety has seen very limited playing time in subpackages this year, but it looks like any safety here can put up numbers as long as Luke Kuechly remains out with his own concussion.
S Earl Thomas, SEA (2 solos, 1 PD)
Thomas suffered a broken leg in the game which will end his season prematurely. It’s a big blow for the Seattle defense, but less so for fantasy owners as he has not been quite as productive this year. Initial reports said he was contemplating retirement at just 27 years old, which would leave a huge hole in the Seattle secondary.
INDIANAPOLIS @ NY JETS
DE Leonard Williams, NYJ (3 solos, 7 asst, .5 sacks, 3 QH)
Williams hadn’t been very productive in recent weeks, but he showed early on this year that he can be a productive fantasy starter with 4.5 sacks in his first 5 games. He led all Jets players in tackles this week, and was credited with several QB hits in addition to recording a partial sack, that was his first since week 5. Look for him to build on that next week against the 49ers.
LB D’Qwell Jackson, IND (2 solos, 2 asst)
Jackson suffered a concussion in the game against the Jets, and was limited to just 31 defensive snaps. He will be entered in the league’s concussion protocol so his availability for next week’s big game against the Texans is in doubt.