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. When warranted, I'll also call out some players under No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. 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, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
OAKLAND @ SAN FRANCISCO
DE Cassius Marsh, SF (3 solos, 1 asst, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH)
Marsh has been in the league since 2014 but his career-high is just 3 sacks. He almost matched that number on Thursday night against the Raiders. The 49ers have been using a rotational approach on the defensive line but Marsh gets similar playing time as more heralded players like Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas. This group will get another chance to pad their stats next week against the Giants.
DE Arden Key, OAK (0 tackles)
Even though Bruce Irvin saw a huge drop in playing time the past two games, and was eventually released, Key also saw a drop in his numbers. He had been playing 70+% of the snaps prior to the Week 7 bye, but over the past two games, the rookie has been on the field for just 47% and 38% of defensive snaps. So, it appears his role is being reduced to more of a pass-rush specialist as the Raiders seek to improve their run defense.
LB Marquel Lee, OAK (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
Tough to figure out what the Raiders are doing in a lot of areas, but Marquel Lee has seen a clear drop in playing time after the release of Derrick Johnson. This week, Lee only saw 31 snaps (56%) and last week he was at 55%. With that type of usage, he’s not a reliable fantasy option.
PITTSBURGH @ BALTIMORE
LB Matt Judon, BAL (5 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 PD)
Judon emerged as a key edge defender for the Ravens last year but he got off to a slow start in 2018 with just 4 solo tackles, 2 assists, and a half sack in his first four games. Since then, however, his production has picked up considerably. Over his last 5 games, Judon has been credited with 16 solo tackles, 7 assists, 2 sacks, and 2 passes defended.
DE Cameron Heyward, PIT (1 asst, 2 QH)
While his playing time has remained consistent at nearly 80% of snaps every week, Heyward has seen a clear drop in his production. Over the last three games, he has been credited with just two assisted tackles. Despite posting 12 sacks in 15 games a year ago, he’s only put up 2.5 in 8 games this year.
CHICAGO @ BUFFALO
LB Roquan Smith, BUF (11 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF)
The rookie had his most productive game, which was helped in part by the 63 tackle opportunities generated by the Bills offense in the game. Smith had a rough day in coverage but many of the catches he allowed came while they were protecting a huge lead. Now that his playing time has stabilized with him seeing close to 90% of defensive snaps each week, Smith should be a very solid fantasy option for the rest of the year.
CB Kyle Fuller, CHI (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Fuller had a huge game on Sunday with an interception and two other pass deflections that led to interceptions by his teammates. He now has 4 interceptions and 8 passes defensed over his last 4 games and had a pretty favorable schedule ahead of him.
LB Julian Stanford, BUF (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Stanford had an impressive game filling in for Tremaine Edmunds at middle linebacker. He played all 51 defensive snaps, led the team in tackles and also added a strip sack. Edmunds missed the game with a concussion but will likely return soon and push Stanford back to a reserve role.
LB Khalil Mack, CHI (DNP)
Mack sat out a 2nd straight game to rest his ankle injury. While it probably makes sense for the Bears to rest him in an easy matchup like this, there has to be some concern about his health moving forward. After the first four weeks, he looked like one of the most valuable IDPs in the league but he hasn’t contributed anything to fantasy teams since week 4.
TAMPA BAY @ CAROLINA
DE Mario Addison, CAR (3 solos, 2 asst, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Addison has averaged 10 sacks per year over the last two seasons but he is well on his way to the best season of his career at 31 years old. He dominated Tampa this week and collected three sacks to bring him up to 7.5 in 8 games played.
DT Gerald McCoy, TB (2 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
McCoy returned to the lineup from a calf injury this week and was able to play 53 defensive snaps (85%). His production hasn’t always matched his talent, but his pass rush ability makes him a perfectly reasonable starter in DT-required leagues. Defensive end Vinny Curry also came back this week, which should help boost the overall pass rush.
CB Donte Jackson, CAR (5 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Jackson continued his impressive rookie season with an interception and 5 solo tackles this week. With James Bradberry shutting down Mike Evans, Jackson also did a good job on both Chris Godwin and DeSean Jackson. He’s now up to 34 solo tackles, 4 interceptions, and a sack through the first 8 games of his career.
KANSAS CITY @ CLEVELAND
DE Chris Jones, KC (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
With another sack this week, Jones extended his streak to 5 consecutive games. That’s really remarkable for a 3-4 defensive end, but he’s clearly helped by the historic Chiefs offense.
S Daniel Sorensen, KC (DNP)
Sorensen was eligible to return to the lineup from a broken leg in week 9 but the Chiefs decided to hold him out another week. He’s been practicing with the team and the team may work him in slowly but they could use an upgrade in the secondary. He’s likely worth a stash if you have an available roster spot.
LB Christian Kirksey, CLE (3 solos)
The Browns talented linebacker group is running out of options. Already playing without Joe Schobert, Kirksey lasted just 22 snaps (34%) before leaving with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Tanner Vallejo who posted 6 tackles on 39 defensive snaps.
CB Denzel Ward, CLE (1 solo)
Ward has been good and productive for the Browns this year, but he was knocked out of the game with a hip injury this week. He only saw 8 snaps and generated just a single solo tackle as a result. The Browns could certainly use him for their matchup with the Falcons next week.
N.Y. JETS @ MIAMI
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Baker has gone back and forth with Raekwon McMillan in a battle for playing time. After averaging less than 60% of defensive snaps over the past month, Baker was on the field for a season-high 82% this week. He made the most of it with a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown that turned out to be the only touchdown scored in the game.
LB Raekwon McMillan, MIA (2 solos, 1 TFL)
McMillan seemed to be turning the corner of late with 18 solo tackles over his previous three games. His playing time dropped from 85% of defensive snaps the past two weeks to just 55% this week though and he had his lowest output of the year.
S Reshad Jones, MIA (1 solo)
In what appears to be a very strange situation, Jones only played 10 defensive snaps this week before pulling himself out of the game. The team said it wasn’t injury-related and Jones apparently remained on the sideline for the rest of the game. Reports on Monday said he’d play in next week’s game but no additional details were reported to explain what happened.
DETROIT @ MINNESOTA
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (6 solos, 3 asst, 3.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 4 QH, 1 FR, 1 TD)
Hunter bounced back from a rough outing against the Saints to post perhaps the best game we’ll see from an IDP all year. The Vikings sacked Matthew Stafford 10 times in the game, led by 3.5 from Hunter and 2.5 from DT Tom Johnson. This brings Hunter up to 11.5 sacks through 9 games and puts him on pace for a 20-sack season.
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET (1 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Ansah finally returned to action this week and posted a sack on his 12 snaps (24%). That gives him two sacks in two games played, and hopefully, he'll be able to take on more of a full workload next week.
LB Jarrad Davis, DET (1 solo)
Davis had a very strange game this week as he played every snap for the Lions but finished with just a single tackle. The Vikings offense only generated 46 tackle opportunities, but Davis really struggled shedding blockers in run defense. Nevertheless, he’s been putting up consistent tackle numbers in the weeks leading up to this game and should return to form next week against the Bears.
DT DaShawn Hand, DET (1 solo)
Hand remains a solid player for the Lions but his production has dried up of late. Over his last three games, he has been credited with just 3 solos and 1 assist. With Ezekiel Ansah returning to action, Hand also figures to see a reduction in playing time as he was only on the field for 24 snaps (49%) this week.
ATLANTA @ WASHINGTON
DE/DT Matt Ioannidis, WAS (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Ionnaidis has seen an increase in his playing time over the past two weeks and he has backed that up with perhaps the best two games of his career. He’s been credited with 10 solo tackles and 3.5 sacks over the last two games while playing 70% of the defensive snaps.
DT Jack Crawford, ATL (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Crawford is not a particularly reliable fantasy option but his two sacks this week give him 4 over his last 3 games. With the Browns next on the schedule, he’s worthy of consideration as a short-term pickup.
CB Quinton Dunbar, WAS (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Dunbar has been very productive all year but he missed the past two games with a shin injury and only played 26 snaps (38%) in the game this week. Despite the limited workload, he still managed to post impressive numbers all around.
S D.J. Swearinger Sr, WAS (0 tackles)
Swearinger was on the field for all 68 defensive snaps this week and spent a considerable portion of those playing in the box, but finished the game with 0 tackles. Newcomer Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was added to the lineup this week but lined up at free safety as expected. Definitely a disappointing game from Swearinger given that Atlanta generated 24 rush attempts and 52 tackle opportunities overall.
HOUSTON @ DENVER
Sua Cravens, DEN (2 solos, 1 asst)
The Broncos activated Cravens off injured reserve last week and he saw 27 snaps (44%) against the Texans. He was flagged for a holding call on third-and-11 but could have some value here if he is given a larger role in the weeks ahead.
S Justin Reid, HOU (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 FR)
Injuries at cornerback forced Houston to shift Kareem Jackson outside, which created an opening at safety that Reid has been able to fill. Over his past two games, coinciding with the injury to ILB Zach Cunningham, Reid has blown up with 14 solo tackles and 5 assists with an interception.
L.A. Chargers @ SEATTLE
LB Jatavis Brown, LAC (7 solos, 4 asst)
Brown and the Chargers have burned fantasy players before but he warrants a small upgrade after his performance this week. He was on the field for 51 defensive snaps (63%) and was credited with 11 tackles, including 7 solo stops.
CB Michael Davis, LAC (7 solos, 1 asst)
Davis is a former undrafted free agent who has apparently surpassed Trevor Williams as a starting cornerback for the Chargers. In his first start, he was targeted often by Russell Wilson but held up well and finished with 8 tackles. Playing opposite Casey Hayward should also lead to a steady dose of targets to his side of the field.
LB Denzel Perryman, LAC (2 solos, 2 asst)
Perryman has seen his playing time fluctuate from week to week but he saw a season-low 57% of the defensive snaps this week. It may have been matchup-dependent, but given that this came after the bye week it’s also possible they changed up their strategy and are relying more on sub-packages since six defensive backs played at least 80% of the defensive snaps this week.
S Bradley McDougald, SEA (0 tackles)
McDougald was questionable coming into the game with a knee injury but tried to play through it. The injury tightened up on him, however, and limited him to just 27 uneventful snaps (53%).
L.A. RAMS @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Dante Fowler, LAR (1 solo, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Don’t worry too much about what the stats show for Fowler this week as this was a tough matchup for edge rushers. The important takeaway here is that he saw 44 snaps (62%) with his new team, which is about 20 more than he had been getting in Jacksonville. Those additional snaps, plus the move to a team with a better offense, could make Fowler a valuable commodity the rest of the way.
CB P.J. Williams, NO (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 3 PD)
Williams is being picked on by opposing quarterbacks but it is creating a lot of opportunities for him to make plays. That led to his huge game last week and he followed it up with another productive outing this week as he registered 6 tackles and 3 passes defensed. Should remain busy for the next couple weeks with Tyler Boyd and Golden Tate on the schedule.
GREEN BAY @ NEW ENGLAND
DE Trey Flowers, NE (2 solos, 3 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Flowers only has 2.5 sacks in 8 games this year but what stands out is his playing time. On a team like New England that believes heavily in a rotational approach, he was on the field for 72 of 74 defensive snaps this week and has averaged over 90% of the defensive snaps over the past three weeks.
CB Bashaud Breeland, GB (4 solos, 4 asst)
The Packers moved Tramon Williams to free safety this week to replace Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, which created an opening at outside corner. Breeland made his Packers debut this week and got the start outside where he was mostly matched up with Josh Gordon. While that didn’t work out too well for Breeland, there aren’t many corners in the league who could handle Gordon one on one either.
S Josh Jones, GB (4 solos, 2 asst)
The Packers opened up with Kentrell Brice at strong safety where he’s been all year, but he was benched in favor of Jones early on. Jordan Whitehead also left early due to an ejection, but Jones is the most talented player of the group and it would make sense for the Packers to finally give him some run to see what he can do.
LB Blake Martinez, GB (3 solos, 4 asst)
Martinez was carted off the field due to an ankle injury but was able to return late in the fourth quarter. While it’s encouraging that he was able to return and play, his status for next week’s matchup with the Dolphins is likely in question.