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.
OAKLAND @ KANSAS CITY
LB Ramik Wilson, KC (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Wilson has been putting up very consistent numbers since being activated off the practice squad in week 7, despite only seeing about 50 snaps/week. The season-ending injury to Derrick Johnson likely means an increase in playing time and responsibility for the 2nd year pro. He took over the communication headset after Johnson left the game, which suggests he’ll be in line for a full-time role. D.J. Alexander should also see a bump in playing time, but he’s a bit more raw at this point and may only see a 2-down role as the Chiefs like to play safety Daniel Sorenson as a LB in their nickel packages.
LB Derrick Johnson, KC (1 solo)
Johnson was limited to just 23 snaps (31%) this week before suffering a tear to his left Achilles. It was just two years ago when he had the same injury to his other leg, so this figures to be a tough recovery for the 34-year old. It would also be wise for the Chiefs to start looking for a potential long-term replacement this offseason.
PITTSBURGH @ BUFFALO
LB Bud Dupree, PIT (5 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
Last year’s 1st round pick was activated a few weeks ago and looks like he’ll provide a spark to the Steelers pass rush as they make a push for the playoffs. Dupree was in the starting lineup and played for all but 1 defensive snap this week. While he’s likely rostered in most dynasty/keeper leagues, he could be a popular pickup in redraft formats.
S Sean Davis, PIT (6 solos, 1 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
Davis began the year covering slot receivers for the Steelers, so he has some impressive cover skills for a rookie safety. With an interception last week and 1.5 sacks this week, he’s proving to be a multi-dimensional player who can contribute in a variety of ways. Looks like the Steelers have potentially found a long-term solution at safety.
LB Jerry Hughes, BUF (2 solos, 3 asst)
Hughes has established himself as a very good player since joining the Bills, but he has struggled to make any type of impact over the past several months. After posting 4 sacks in his first 4 games this year, Hughes has just 1 sack in his last 9. He was benched this week in favor of rookie Shaq Lawson and only saw 30 snaps (40%). The reason for the benching was apparently an argument with head coach Rex Ryan, as the Bills players are growing frustrated with another disappointing season.
SAN DIEGO @ CAROLINA
DT Kawann Short, CAR (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF)
Short had a breakout season last year with 11 sacks and looked like he’d establish himself as one of the league’s best interior pass rushers. While he hasn’t quite lived up to that expectation this year, he’s also been limited by the team around him at times. Despite the lost season for Carolina, Short posted his first multi-sack game of the year this week and looks set to finish strong.
CB Daryl Worley, CAR (8 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The rookie corner continues to post some impressive numbers. He is likely being picked on by opposing CBs, but it’s doing wonders for his fantasy value. Since the Panthers bye week, Worley has averaged nearly 6.5 solo tackles/game in the past 7 weeks. With Washington and Atlanta next on the schedule, you’ll want to keep him in your lineup.
CINCINNATI @ CLEVELAND
LB Karlos Dansby, CIN (11 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Don’t overreact to this stat line too much, but it’s worth mentioning. Dansby saw a relatively normal workload of 41 snaps (76%), but he was credited with an impressive 12 tackles along with recording a sack. In comparison, Vontaze Burfict played all 54 defensive snaps and was only credited with a single solo tackle (plus a QB hit).
LB Emmanuel Ogbah, CLE (3 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH)
The rookie pass rusher had been pretty quiet in recent weeks, but he was very effective against the Bengals this week. He posted 1.5 sacks and was credited with 3 QB hits and looks like a potential player for the Browns to build around.
CHICAGO @ DETROIT
LB DeAndre Levy, DET (3 solos, 1 asst)
Levy only played 18 snaps (32%) in the game, but he looked good while registering 4 tackles. It’s been a long time since he was on the field, so he needs to work off the rust and build up his endurance but this is a positive sign. The Lions could certainly use his cover skills in their playoff push.
CB Cre’von LeBlanc, CHI (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 4 PD, 1 TD)
LeBlanc thought he had a game-winning interception return for a touchdown, but the Lions came back to win. Regardless, it was a solid performance from the undrafted rookie corner who played all 72 defensive snaps and was credited with 4 passes defensed on a day the Bears held Matthew Stafford to one of his worst performances of the year.
DT Eddie Goldman, CHI (1 asst)
Goldman only lasted for 15 snaps (21%) as he aggravated an ankle injury and didn’t return. His status for next week is in doubt, but he had been playing really well with 9 solos and 2 sacks in his 3 previous games.
HOUSTON @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Antonio Morrison, IND (3 solos, 6 asst)
Morrison got the start at middle linebacker in place of D’Qwell Jackson as expected. Although he only played a 2-down role, it was still good for 49 snaps (67%) and he was productive with 9 combined tackles. He was certainly helped by the Texans running the ball 41 times and providing nearly 60 tackle opportunities, but he could be an option if you are desperate at LB next week.
MINNESOTA @ JACKSONVILLE
S Johnathan Cyprien, JAX (10 solos, 4 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
The Jaguars strong safety was everywhere on Sunday as he piled up 10 solo tackles and 14 overall. He’s now up to 75 solo tackles for the season with 3 games to go, which gives him a great chance at finishing with 90+. That production makes him a reliable starter every week, but he’s also added some big plays of late with a forced fumble this week and a sack back in week 12.
DE Dante Fowler, JAX (1 solo)
Fowler earned some positive press last week for his help in stopping the Broncos running game. He hasn’t been consistent enough in that area, however, to offset his weakness as an edge rusher. This week, Fowler was questionable with a shoulder injury and only played 24 defensive snaps (36%). There wasn’t much to like about his performance as he posted only 1 tackle despite taking on a backup offensive tackle most of the time.
ARIZONA @ MIAMI
LB Mike Hull, MIA (2 solos, 6 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Hull started at MLB in place of the injured Kiko Alonso and had quite the game. In his first career start while facing a very talented RB in David Johnson, Hull held his own and also contributed an interception early on that helped set the tone of the game. Alonso has played well for Miami, but is dealing with several injuries so the Dolphins may need to rely on Hull next week against the Jets.
WASHINGTON @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Mason Foster, WAS (12 solo, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH)
The Washington linebacker crew lost two key players this weekend with injuries to Su’a Cravens and Will Compton. That leaves Foster as the last man standing so he should expect to see a heavy workload going forward. He wound up playing 76 snaps (97%) this week and blew up with 12 solos and a sack.
CB Leodis McKelvin, PHI (5 solos, 1 INT, 4 PD, 1 TD)
McKelvin came into the league as a 1st round pick way back in 2008. He’s a good tackler who can provide physical press coverage, but often had limited fantasy value due to poor ball skills. He picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown this week though, and that was his second INT in 5 games. Been seeing quite a few targets lately and could be worth a look for CB streamers.
LB Will Compton, WAS (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Compton has been the most reliable fantasy LB in Washington this year, but he suffered a sprained PCL and left after 40 snaps. His status for next week is in doubt, and it looks like 2nd year pro Martrell Spaight could be in line to try and fill his role with Terrance Garvin possibly seeing work in nickel packages.
DENVER @ TENNESSEE
LB Corey Nelson, DEN (5 solos, 1 asst)
Nelson started at ILB in place of the injured Brandon Marshall this week and finished tied for 2nd on the team in tackles. His biggest strength is in coverage, so he has held onto a role as a nickel LB even after losing the starting job to Todd Davis in the preseason. He was on the field for all but 1 defensive snap this week and helped hold Delanie Walker to just 2 catches on 7 targets.
CB Antwon Blake, TEN (6 solos, 1 PD)
Blake was productive as a starter for the Steelers last year, but it was often because of how poorly he played so teams kept throwing in his direction. He didn’t start the game this week, but wound up seeing 60 snaps (92%) as the replacement for Perrish Cox who was waived during the bye week. As long as Blake continues to play heavy snaps for the Titans, we can probably expect him to put up above average fantasy numbers.
NY JETS @ SAN FRANCISCO
DE DeForest Buckner, SF (10 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH)
Buckner is an athletic freak, but it far from certain that he’d be able to translate that athleticism into production on the field. Through 13 games as a rookie on one of the league’s worst teams, it’s starting to look pretty clear that he’s a key building block in the 49ers rebuilding process. His huge effort this week against the Jets puts him in range for a 50+ solo tackle and 6+ sack rookie year, which should make him a defensive rookie of the year candidate.
CB Jimmie Ward, SF (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 3 PD)
The Jets offense provided 70 tackle opportunities in this game, so numbers were up almost across the board. Ward still stood out thanks to his all-around effort with 11 combined tackles with a sack, interception, and several other passes defensed. The 3rd year pro is comfortable playing inside so that tends to give him more tackle opportunities than most outside corners.
SEATTLE @ GREEN BAY
LB Joe Thomas, GB (8 solos, 2 asst)
Thomas has been solid in coverage, but a weak spot defending the run. Despite those struggles, he was a full-time player this week and that meant 71 snaps and 10 tackles as Seattle had success running right at him. The Packers had Jake Ryan available, but he only saw 8 defensive snaps so that left more chances for Thomas.
CB Damarious Randall, GB (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Randall returned to action a few weeks ago, but didn’t quite look to be fully healthy. He looked much more comfortable this week as seen by his two interceptions, and could provide a big boost if he can return to the form that he showed during his impressive rookie season in 2015.
ATLANTA @ LOS ANGELES
LB Vic Beasley Jr, ATL (3 solos, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD)
Beasley may have put himself into the defensive player of the year conversation with this performance. He’s now up to 13.5 sacks on the year with 6 forced fumbles. Very impressive performance for the 2nd year pro and it looks like he may soon join the ranks of Von Miller and Khalil Mack among the ranks of the league’s best edge rushers.
LB De’Vondre Campbell, ATL (1 solo, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
The rookie WLB showed some flashes earlier this year, but has cooled off with just 9 solos over the last 4 games. He’s offset that with his plays in coverage (1 INT, 5 PD), but is not playing a full 3-down role so that will continue to limit his upside.
NEW ORLEANS @ TAMPA BAY
LB Stephone Anthony, NO (7 solos, 2 asst)
Anthony had become a forgotten man in New Orleans this year, but he got the start at MLB this week in place of the injured Craig Robertson. While he can still struggle in coverage, he once again proved to be very productive when given a chance. The Saints moved him outside this year, but he never quite got comfortable and it seems like his best long-term fit is definitely playing inside.
S Keith Tandy, TB (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Tandy has been filling in for Chris Conte and continues to make big plays for the Buccaneers. Over the past 2 games, he has collected 12 solos, 2 interceptions, and 4 passes defensed. Conte seems very replaceable as a player, and Tandy is showing that he deserves a bigger role.
S Kenny Vaccaro, NO (DNP)
While it was announced several weeks ago, Vaccaro dropped his appeal and began serving his 4-game suspension this week. That will effectively end his season, and the Saints replaced him with Roman Harper (7 solos, 1 asst).
DALLAS @ NY GIANTS
DE Romeo Okwara, NYG (3 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 PD)
The undrafted rookie linemen out of Notre Dame filled in for the injured Jason Pierre-Paul and saw his playing time increase dramatically. He typically saw between 10 and 20 snaps in most games this year, but he was on the field for 60 snaps (91%) while facing one of the league’s best offensive lines. All he did was respond with 8 tackles to lead the team while also adding a sack and 3 QB hits and a pass defensed.
LB Sean Lee, DAL (11 solos, 7 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FR)
Lee hasn’t been able to post huge numbers in quite a few games this week because Dallas has done such a good job of limiting snaps for their defense. The Giants offense provided 53 tackle opportunities this week, which is a pretty high number, but Lee finished with an incredible 18 tackles on those plays. Still doesn’t have any big plays on his resume this year, but he has a chance to finish with 100 solo tackles and blow his prior career high of 76 (set last year) out of the water.