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.
LOS ANGELES @ SEATTLE
DE William Hayes, LA (2 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 3 QH)
In just 34 snaps (56%), Hayes managed to collect 6 tackles with a sack and 3 QB hits. That gives him 10 tackles and 2 sacks in his last 2 games, and suggests the 31-year old vet still has some good years left. Could be a sleeper in next week’s matchup with the 49ers at least.
DE Michael Bennett, SEA (1 solo, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Bennett has averaged a little more than 40 snaps/game since returning to the lineup in week 13. He has just 3 solos and 2 assists in that span, but did have a sack wiped out by a penalty this week. Initial reports said he suffered a concussion in the 4th quarter, but that was later updated to a neck injury. Either way, looks like he’s a tough player to rely on if you are still alive in the fantasy playoffs.
MIAMI @ NY JETS
DE Cameron Wake, MIA (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF, 3 QH, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Wake had a monster performance on Saturday night. Early in the game with the Jets up 7-0 and looking to score again, Wake came up with a strip sack that helped change the game’s momentum. Later on, he added the first interception of his career. With 10 sacks in his last 9 games, the 34 year old has made a remarkable recovery from the Achilles injury that ended his 2015 season early.
CB Byron Maxwell, MIA (0 tackles)
Maxwell has enjoyed a resurgence with the Dolphins this year and has been putting up the best numbers of his career. He suffered an ankle injury early in the game this week, however, and was limited to just 8 defensive snaps. If he can’t go next week against the Bills, rookie Xavien Howard would take his place.
PHILADELPHIA @ BALTIMORE
LB C.J. Mosley, BAL (8 solos, 5 asst, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Mosley hasn’t quite been himself since suffering an injury early this season. The Ravens strong run defense has played a key role, but they had trouble stopping the Eagles on Sunday and that contributed to a big game from Mosley. He had only been averaging 3 solos per game over the last 6 weeks, but he was credited with 13 in this game and he’ll look to build on that with a key matchup in Pittsburgh next week.
LB Connor Barwin, PHI (1 solo)
Barwin is only 2 years away from his impressive 14.5 sack season. There was hope that Jim Schwartz would help him get back to that level this year, but he’s only picked up 4 sacks through 14 games and has 0 in his last 5. In addition to underwhelming sack numbers, his tackle stats are way down as well. He’s no longer an obvious choice to hold onto in deep leagues with balanced scoring systems.
CLEVELAND @ BUFFALO
LB Lorenzo Alexander, BUF (8 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Alexander continues to be one of the year’s biggest surprises. He had gone sackless for the past 4 games and looked like perhaps his luck had run out, but he was everywhere against the Browns this week. He led all Bills defenders in tackles with 7 on defense, 3 on special teams where he played for most of his career, and added 1.5 sacks as well. The 33 year old will be a free agent after this year, but he’s earned himself a lot of money with an 11.5 sack season.
GREEN BAY @ CHICAGO
LB Pernell McPhee, CHI (3 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
This has been mostly a wasted season for McPhee as he missed about half of it while recovering from an injury. He can be a difference maker for the Bears though, as he showed on Sunday with 2 sacks of Aaron Rodgers. With him, Willie Young, and rookie Leonard Floyd, the Bears pass rush should be in good hands.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, GB (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 INT, 2 PD)
Clinton-Dix has been a very productive player since the Packers drafted him in the 1st round of the 2014 draft. While his tackle numbers have fallen this year due to some improved play from the run defense in front of him, he has taken on more responsibility in coverage and made more big plays as a result. He picked off 2 passes this week to give him 5 on the year, and all of them have come in the last 7 games.
LB Nick Kwiatkoski, CHI (5 solos, 1 TFL)
The rookie has taken over a full-time role at ILB of late, but figures to see a drop in his production. Jerrell Freeman will return from his 4-game suspension and should soak up most of the tackle opportunities as well as any dime package snaps.
PITTSBURGH @ CINCINNATI
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (3 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Dunlap and the Bengals haven’t had the year they expected to, but there have been some bright spots. For example, Dunbar was credited with his 15th pass defense of the year, which is a remarkable number for a defensive end and not far off the leaders in the league who are almost all cornerbacks.
DE Stephon Tuitt, PIT (1 solo)
Tuitt was limited to just 3 snaps in this game before leaving with a knee injury. The Steelers were already shorthanded at the position, so that could be a significant loss for their defensive front if he’s out for any extended period of time.
JACKSONVILLE @ HOUSTON
S Quintin Demps, HOU (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Demps is a journeyman vet who has bounced around the league over the years, but he has found a home in Houston. With 14 solos and 3 interceptions in his last 4 games, he’s one of the hottest safeties in the league and probably a free agent in most leagues.
CB Jalen Ramsey, JAX (4 solos, 1 FF, 1 INT, 5 PD)
A lot is expected of Ramsey since he entered the league as a 5th overall pick. He looked the part this week as he picked off the first pass of his career, forced a fumble, and was credited with 5 passes defensed. Ramsey has been playing lockdown defense while often shadowing the opposing team’s #1 WR and looks like a clear building block for the Jaguars as they begin the process of finding a new coach.
DE Yannick Ngakoue, JAX (1 solo, 1 QH)
The rookie looked like a candidate for defensive rookie of the year early on when he had 4 sacks in the first 5 games. He’s cooled off considerably since then, however, and has just 8 solos and 2 sacks in his last 9 games combined.
TENNESSEE @ KANSAS CITY
S Ron Parker (9 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The loss of Derrick Johnson at ILB figures to boost the production of both Chiefs safeties. Eric Berry came through with 10 solos while Parker added 9 plus an interception. The Broncos and their new pass-heavy offense are next on the schedule, so Parker could be in line for another strong game.
INDIANAPOLIS @ MINNESOTA
DT Linval Joseph, MIN (7 solos, 6 asst)
Joseph has been inconsistent this year, like most interior defensive linemen, but a 13-tackle effort from a DT certainly warrants an upgrade. Note that he was helped by the 61 tackle opportunities the Colts offense generated (including 40 rush attempts), but the top 3 Des (Griffen, Hunter, Robison) combined for just 1 solo and 2 assists in the game.
DETROIT @ NY GIANTS
DE Olivier Vernon, NYG (3 solos, 2 asst, .5 sack, 1 FR, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Vernon was one of three Giants players to play all 62 defensive snaps this week, and the other two were defensive backs. That’s remarkable endurance for a defensive end, and he didn’t show any loss of effectiveness either. With 7 sacks in his last 7 games, he’s clearly a must start every week.
LB Tahir Whitehead, DET (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Whitehead missed a game but still has a strong chance to finish the season with 100 solo tackles. He’s averaged nearly 7 solo tackles per game this year, and didn’t show any dropoff this week. Despite playing just 46 snaps (72%), he still piled up 12 tackles.
NEW ORLEANS @ ARIZONA
DE Calais Campbell, ARI (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FR, 1 TD)
This hasn’t been a great year for Campbell, but he may be heating up just as the fantasy season games reach their highest importance. With 2 sacks and a defensive touchdown, he probably won some matchups on his own.
LB Sio Moore, ARI (11 solos, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Moore was signed off the street less than a month ago and is now starting and playing basically a full-time role for the Cardinals. With Deone Bucannon going on injured reserve with an ankle injury, there was an opening at LB and Moore’s experience as a starter made him a natural fit. Moore has a history of being productive when he plays, but he’s also on his third team this season so it may not last for longer than the next two weeks.
SAN FRANCISCO @ ATLANTA
LB Michael Wilhoite, SF (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Wilhoite didn’t get the opportunity many expected this year, but the 49ers haven’t exactly played well without him. He’ll now get an opportunity to showcase himself since starter Nick Bellore was placed on I.R.
S Keanu Neal, ATL (5 solos, 5 asst, 1 FR, 2 PD)
Since joining the starting lineup in week 3, Neal has not finished with less than 3 solos in any game all year. He’s been remarkably consistent for a rookie safety, and has shown the type of all-around skills to be a perennial top-10 fantasy safety.
LB Nick Bellore, SF (1 asst)
Bellore only lasted 3 snaps before leaving the game with an elbow injury. He’s been very productive since taking over for Navarro Bowman at ILB, but now it looks like Michael Wilhoite will be the main tackle producer in this defense over the last 2 weeks.
NEW ENGLAND @ DENVER
LB Kyle Van Noy, NE (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
The tackle numbers don’t jump out, but Van Noy played 51 snaps (82%) this week, which was tops among Patriots linebackers and 9 more than Dont'a Hightower. The Lions castoff appears to have found a home in New England and has earned the trust of Bill Belichick. With just 17 rush attempts from the Broncos this week, his tackle opportunities were limited but he should be in line for better games ahead if the playing time trends continue.
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (2 solos, 1 PD)
Wolfe was limited to just 16 snaps (21%) this week due to a neck injury he sustained early on in a loss to the Patriots. Initial reports suggested he was day-to-day so may be able to play next week against the Chiefs. Rookie Adam Gotsis took his place and would be in line for a significant role if Wolfe can’t go.
OAKLAND @ SAN DIEGO
LB Bruce Irvin, OAK (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Irvin is on quite a tear since the Raiders had their bye in week 10. With a dominating performance against the Chargers this week, he’s now up to 24 solos and 5 sacks in his last 5 games. That type of output makes him a starter in all scoring systems.
LB Korey Toomer, SD (3 solos)
Toomer had been filling in as a starter due to injuries, but saw his snap count drop this week with Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman both healthy again. He still made 2 solo stops on 11 defensive snaps, and added an additional solo tackle on special teams.
TAMPA BAY @ DALLAS
LB Kwon Alexander, TB (11 solos, 10 asst, 1 FF, 2 TFL)
Alexander piled up an amazing 21 combined tackles on 74 defensive snaps. The Cowboys offense generated 67 tackle opportunities, so that plus a generous stat crew certainly helped, but Alexander has been pretty consistent all year and ranks first in the league with 98 solo tackles.
DE William Gholston, TB (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Gholston has been very reliable for Tampa this year, but he has seen a drop in playing time of late due to the emergence of rookie Noah Spence. He had a very productive game this week, but was knocked out with a dislocated elbow that’s expected to keep him out of the lineup next week against the Saints.
CAROLINA @ WASHINGTON
LB Martrell Spaight, WAS (11 solos, 4 asst)
Despite coming into the game with a questionable status due to a shoulder injury, Spraight wound up starting and playing all 73 defensive snaps plus 13 more on special teams. The 2nd year pro hadn’t shown much to this point, but received the promotion due to a rash of injuries at the ILB position.
S Kurt Coleman, CAR (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Coleman missed a game in week 13 with an injury, but has otherwise been one of the hottest IDPs in the league over the past month. He picked off a pass this week for the 3rd time in his last 4 games, and also has been putting up LB-type tackles numbers of late (26 solos, 11 assists in last 4 games combined).