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.
CHICAGO @ DETROIT
LB Roquan Smith, CHI (7 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The rookie still sits out some plays each week but he’s played more than 80% of the defensive snaps in all but 1 game since week 2. He’s also heating up on the stat sheets with 32 solo tackles, 8 assists, and 2 sacks over his last 4 games. At this rate, he looks like a pretty safe LB1 and elite dynasty option considering he’s on pace for close to 90 solo tackles despite a slow start to the year.
CB Kyle Fuller, CHI (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
While he did recently go through a 3-week stretch that saw him record just 1 solo tackle (with 4 assists), Fuller appears to be back on track as a CB1. He has 13 solos in his last two games, but what sets him apart is the amazing 14 passes defensed with 5 interceptions over his last 7 games.
LB Leonard Floyd, CHI (2 asst)
While Floyd has flashed some potential at times this year, his strong games have been too few and far between. Some of it has been injury-related but it is very disappointing to see him with just 1 sack over 11 games and 538 snaps. While he’s been able to generate some pressure on the quarterback, he hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was in prior years. Floyd actually set a season-high this week with 62 snaps (94%) but only collected two assists.
WASHINGTON @ DALLAS
LB Preston Smith, WAS (3 solos, 5 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH)
Smith was ineffective for much of the season as he didn’t register his first sack until week 10. Over his last 3 games, however, he’s started to turn things around in a big way. He has 15 combined tackles with 3.5 sacks and an interception in his last three games. The underlying pressure stats for him also support this recent trend and reflect a much more effective pass rusher over the past month or so.
S Xavier Woods, DAL (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 3 PD)
The young safety missed time in training camp and early this season with an injury so it likely took him a little while to adjust. He’s been one of the more consistent free safeties in the league over the past month, however, and could be worth a look for teams that need help at the position. In his last 4 games, Woods has been credited with 17 solo tackles, 6 assists, 1 interception, and 6 passes defensed. He also figures to stay busy with upcoming matchups against the Saints, Eagles, Colts, and Buccaneers.
ATLANTA @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (4 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
After posting 5 sacks in his first 5 games of the year, Jordan only picked up 1 over his next 5 games. With several blowouts in there, the team decided to rest Jordan rather than let him pad his stats and that likely held him back. He was on the field for 61 snaps (87%) this week, however, and looked like his old dominant self again with a pair of sacks. The upcoming schedule looks favorable for him and he should have a chance to post DE1-type numbers the rest of the year.
DT Jack Crawford, ATL (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Crawford is likely overshadowed by Grady Jarrett and some of the other pass rushers in Atlanta but he has emerged as perhaps their best fantasy option on the defensive line of late. He is 2nd on the team with 5 sacks but they have all come in his last 5 games.
S Vonn Bell, NO (7 solos, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FR)
Bell has been sharing time at strong safety with Kurt Coleman all season long but he has seen his playing time spike the past couple weeks. Over the last two games combined, Bell has out-snapped Coleman 99 to 28 and been on the field for close to 90% of the defensive snaps. That certainly bodes well for him going forward and we could see more games like this one that saw him finish with more tackles than any of the Saints linebackers.
LB Deion Jones, ATL (DNP)
Jones was activated two weeks ago from injured reserve but the Saints have chosen to leave him on their inactive list in each game. If he wasn’t ready to play in a pair of crucial games, it may not make much sense to bring him back now that the team is 4-7 and likely playing out the string.
OAKLAND @ BALTIMORE
LB Matt Judon, BAL (3 solos, 2 asst, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Judon had a quiet game last week against the Bengals but has otherwise been one of the more productive linebackers in the league over the past month. In his last 4 games, he has 12 solo tackles, 10 assists, and 4.5 sacks. He still only played about two-thirds of the defensive snaps as the Ravens like to rotate their edge rushers frequently but he’s proving that last year’s breakout wasn’t a fluke. His 3 sacks this week came on 3 consecutive plays.
LB Nicholas Morrow, OAK (4 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
While most of the tackles in Oakland go to Tahir Whitehead (14 combined this week), Morrow is emerging as the 2nd most active linebacker. He’s seen close to two-thirds of the defensive snaps in each of the past three games, although he hasn’t done much with them until this week when he added the team’s only sack.
LB C.J. Mosley, BAL (7 solos, 1 asst)
Mosley continues to be a productive linebacker but he hasn’t been the elite fantasy option that he was a year ago. While he did lead the team in tackles this week, his tackle numbers have been lower than expected in most weeks. He’s also yet to record any big plays this year like a sack, interception, or forced fumble/fumble recovery after collecting 9 a year ago.
S Tony Jefferson, BAL (1 asst, 1 PD)
Jefferson had cooled off after a great start to the season but remained a steady starting option in deeper leagues. He was limited to just 32 snaps (55%) this week, however, as he suffered an ankle injury early on. He tried to play through it but was eventually taken out for good and replaced by Chuck Clark.
JACKSONVILLE @ BUFFALO
S Jordan Poyer, BUF (9 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Poyer enjoyed a breakout season last year as he posted nearly 100 combined tackles with 5 interceptions and 2 sacks and finished as a top-10 fantasy safety. With 16 combined tackles (12 solo) plus a sack and interception in his last two games, he should be able to take advantage of a very favorable schedule over the next few weeks and come close to another top-10 finish.
LB Myles Jack, JAX (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Jack has played every single defensive snap for the Jaguars this season but has just 41 solo tackles for an average of 3.7 per game. That only puts him on pace for 60 solo tackles in a full 16-game season. Pretty disappointing level of production for a talented player who was expected to do more with his opportunities once Paul Posluszny moved on.
SEATTLE @ CAROLINA
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Thompson is still only 24 years old but is close to finishing his fourth season in the league. While he’s certainly had some ups and downs throughout his career, the potential is clearly there for him to be a very productive player once he takes over full-time duties from Thomas Davis. Thompson continues to see only about 60% of the snaps each week but he was very efficient this week with 7 tackles plus a sack on just 41 snaps.
LB Barkevious Mingo, SEA (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF, 1 PD)
Mingo saw his playing time drop to just 11 snaps (22%) last week against the Packers but he bounced back to 49 snaps (83%) this week against the Panthers. It didn’t help them much against Christian McCaffrey in the game, but at this rate, it seems hard to rely on him even if K.J. Wright continues to miss time.
CB Donte Jackson, CAR (1 asst)
The rookie corner has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers this year but he came up small last week against the Lions and left after just 1 snap this week with a quad injury. It sounds like he’ll likely be able to play next week against Tampa Bay, but his play and production has been more inconsistent of late.
CLEVELAND @ CINCINNATI
LB Joe Schobert, CLE (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Schobert returned to the lineup in week 9 but saw just 68% of the snaps as the team eased him back into things. With the benefit of a bye to recover last week, he was back to his normal role and played all 74 snaps in an easy win over the Bengals. Look for him to put up LB1 type numbers the rest of the season as long as he stays healthy.
LB Vontaze Burfict, CIN (2 solos, 6 asst, 1 PD)
Burfict hasn’t really done much this year but it’s due to the fact he has really only played two full games all season due to injuries and a suspension. In week 6, he played 95% of the snaps against the Steelers and collected 8 tackles and then this week he played 98% of the snaps and again finished with 8 tackles. Many of those were assists rather than solo stops but with Preston Brown on I.R. and the Bengals offense running on fumes, he could see a very heavy workload the rest of the way.
NEW ENGLAND @ N.Y. JETS
S Jamal Adams, NYJ (7 solos, 3 asst, 3 PD)
Adams continues to fill up the box scores for the Jets this season as he added 10 more tackles and 3 passes defensed. He’s now on pace to finish with 80 solo tackles and 30 assists and has been much more active in coverage with 9 passes defended over his last 6 games.
S Patrick Chung, NE (7 solos, 6 asst, 1 TFL)
Chung hasn’t been able to replicate the success he had last year when he posted 72 solo tackles but he’s had several big games that demonstrate his upside. He also has a higher floor compared to most safeties as he’s been credited with at least 4 combined tackles in 7 straight games. Expect him to keep busy with matchups against the Vikings and Steelers coming up in the next few weeks as well.
LB Dont'a Hightower, NE (1 asst, 1 QH)
Hightower has long been a frustrating player given that his production rarely matches his talent, but he’s also had trouble staying healthy throughout his career. While he seemed to be settling into more of a full-time role while seeing 90% of the defensive snaps over the previous two games, he came back from the bye and saw just 38 snaps (59%) this week.
N.Y. GIANTS @ PHILADELPHIA
LB Tae Davis, NYG (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Davis is an undrafted rookie who fits the mold of a model NFL linebacker given that he played safety and linebacker in college. He’s been seeing an increase in playing time of late as he saw 35 snaps (49%) last week and 38 snaps (58%) this week. That gives him three quality starts in his last four games with his only down game coming in a week where he played just 16 snaps.
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, PHI (6 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL)
In the first week without Jordan Hicks, the Eagles started Nathan Gerry at middle linebacker but Grugier-Hill took his place in the nickel packages. That gave him an increase in playing time from 29% two weeks ago to 55% of the snaps this week and he led the team in tackles with 7.
SAN FRANCISCO @ TAMPA BAY
DT DeForest Buckner, SF (5 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Buckner went through a cold spell earlier this year that saw him post 1 sack over a 6-game period but he’s picked things back up of late. Over his last three games, the elite interior defender has collected 7 solos, 5 assists, and 2.5 sacks.
S Jordan Whitehead, TB (10 solos, 1 asst, 2 PD)
Whitehead came into the game with a questionable listing as he worked his way through the concussion protocol, but he was able to play a full game. With 17 solos in the last two weeks, his production has spiked now that Tampa has lost both of their star linebackers in Lavonte Davis and Kwon Alexander.
LB Reuben Foster, SF (DNP)
Foster was arrested in Tampa on charges of domestic violence and the team decided to release him. The off-field and injury concerns combined with a clear dropoff in play for him this year made him expendable but also opens up an opportunity for someone to emerge with Fred Warner in that defense long-term. Malcolm Smith got the start but only saw 36% of the snaps while Elijah Lee posted 7 tackles on 49 snaps (68%).
ARIZONA @ L.A. CHARGERS
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (3 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Bosa had a quiet return last week against the Broncos with just 1 solo on 31 snaps. He looked like he was back to normal this week though with 5 tackles and a pair of sacks on just 2 more snaps. The 33 snaps this week represented 70% of the defensive snaps so it seems he can once again be started every week with full confidence.
DT Robert Nkemdiche, ARI (6 solos, 2 asst, 2.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 3 QH)
After missing the past two games with an injury, Nkemdiche returned to the lineup and clearly made his presence felt with a huge game. He collected 2.5 sacks and 4 of his 8 total tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. Also of note is that his 8 tackles came on just 36 snaps (52%) in the game. The former 1st round pick certainly has been productive when in the lineup this year and could provide a solid building block for the Chargers.
LB Gerald Hodges, ARI (7 solos, 3 asst)
Hodges took over for the injured Josh Bynes at middle linebacker and posted 10 tackles on 46 snaps (67%). He should see a clear increase in playing time and fantasy value moving forward while Deone Bucannon may also get another chance at some point.
LB Josh Bynes, ARI (1 solo, 2 asst)
Bynes had played every defensive snap for the Cardinals since week 3 until this week when he left after just 23 snaps with an injury. He suffered a thumb injury in the game and was placed on injured reserve Monday, thus ending his season.
PITTSBURGH @ DENVER
S Terrell Edmunds, PIT (8 solos, 1 asst)
Edmunds has seen a lot of playing time for a rookie safety as he’s only about 60 snaps behind Sean Davis on the year. The return of Morgan Burnett hasn’t impacted his playing time in any meaningful way, but his production has often been disappointing given all the snaps he plays. That wasn’t the case this week, however, as he had his most productive game of the year with 8 solo stops. Perhaps it’s a sign of more to come.
DE Derek Wolfe, DEN (1 solo)
Wolfe has been nearly invisible the past two games with just 1 solo and 1 assist on over 100 defensive snaps. This hasn’t been a year to remember for him regardless but he was usually good for at least 2 or 3 tackles per game.
MIAMI @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Anthony Walker, IND (8 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL, 1 PD)
Walker has been up and down at times this year but he seems to be trending up of late. Over his last three games, the 2nd year middle linebacker has 19 solo tackles and 4 assists. Plus, he has some matchups coming against run-heavy teams over the next few weeks that should help him and Darius Leonard finish the fantasy season strong.
S T.J. McDonald, MIA (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 FR)
Would be hard to find a more productive player than McDonald over the past three weeks. During that span, he’s been very active and credited with 24 solo tackles, 3 assists, plus an interception and fumble recovery. Even with Reshad Jones back to a full-time role this week, McDonald led the team in tackles.
LB Jerome Baker, MIA (2 solos, 1 asst)
Baker has certainly lost a lot of the momentum he had earlier this year. His playing time appears to have settled right around 60% of the snaps each week and he’s been credited with 2 or fewer solo tackles in 4 of the last 6 games. Meanwhile, Raekwon McMillan has seen a bit more playing time of late and has 5 or more solo tackles in 5 of the last 6 games.
GREEN BAY @ MINNESOTA
DT Sheldon Richardson, MIN (3 solos, 4 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Richardson was a disappointment last year in Seattle with just 1.5 sacks and he hadn’t been much better this year in Minnesota with 1.5 sacks through his first 10 games. He showed up on Sunday night, however, and collected 7 tackles with a pair of sacks. Richardson may have a hard time building on that effort next week against Tom Brady though.
S Ibraheim Campbell, GB (5 solos, 3 asst)
Campbell showed some promise earlier in his career with the Browns before bouncing around the league over the last several years. He signed with the Packers earlier this month and has quickly moved up the depth chart due to a rash of injuries in the secondary. This week, Kentrell Brice left with an injury after just 24 snaps, which opened up more playing time for Campbell who picked up 8 tackles on 53 snaps (76%).
CB Xavier Rhodes, MIN (4 solos, 1 asst)
Rhodes left the game late with what appeared to be a significant injury but an MRI revealed it to be a mild hamstring injury. So, it’s possible he could be able to play next week against the Patriots and Josh Gordon.