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.
JACKSONVILLE @ TENNESSEE
DE Jurrell Casey, TEN (2 solos, 4 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Casey has been on the field for 82% of the defensive snaps for the Titans over the past three games and he’s making it count. He has recorded a sack in three straight games and has 8 solos and 7 assists with some promising matchups coming up that could make him a viable starter for the rest of the fantasy playoffs.
LB Myles Jack, JAX (8 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH)
Jack has not missed a snap all year but he’s seen a clear increase in his production over the last two weeks. During that span, he has been credited with 15 solos and 8 assists compared to 17 solos and 7 assists over his previous 6 games combined. The young linebacker is still just 23 years old and clearly has the potential to be a prolific fantasy linebacker but he needs to improve his consistency.
LB Wesley Woodyard, TEN (1 solo, 6 asst)
Woodyard had a recent 3-game stretch from weeks 9 to 11 that saw him collect 19 solos with 2.5 sacks. Over his last three games, however, he’s been credited with just 5 solos (and 15 assists). The large drop-off in solo tackles has coincided with a clear drop in playing time as he saw just 70% of the defensive snaps over the past two games after playing close to an every-down role in the past. Rookie 1st round pick Rashaan Evans is starting to show improvement and has 12 solos (with 6 assists) over his last 3 games.
N.Y. JETS @ BUFFALO
CB Trumaine Johnson, NYJ (3 solos, 2 INT, 2 PD)
The Jets defense struggled while Johnson sat out 5 straight games earlier this year, but he’s clearly an integral part of their defense. He now has 11 solo tackles and 3 interceptions with a touchdown over his last three starts. With matchups looming against the Texans and Packers, he looks like a strong starting option in CB-required leagues.
LB Matt Milano, BUF (6 solos, 1 TFL)
Milano has clearly emerged as a playmaker for the Bills with 3 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries on the season. Unfortunately, he was carted off the field late in the game with what appeared to be a serious injury. He underwent surgery on Monday to repair a broken fibula and will be placed on I.R. for the rest of the season. Look for Tremaine Edmunds to pick up some of the slack and it appears that Corey Thompson may be next in line at weakside linebacker. He is a former safety out of LSU but has almost no NFL experience.
CAROLINA @ CLEVELAND
S Damarious Randall, CLE (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Randall continues to pile up tackles for the Browns and looks like one of the biggest breakout IDPs at the safety position this year. Even though he has lined up primarily as the free safety, he has averaged a remarkable 5.5 solo tackles per game this season while also picking off 4 interceptions (including 2 in his last 3 games).
LB Shaq Thompson, CAR (2 solos)
Thompson flashed some increased production a few weeks ago but has quickly regressed in his last two games. He was held to just a single defensive solo tackle this week on 25 defensive snaps (48%) with another coming on special teams. That gives him 3 solos and 1 assist on just 50 snaps over the past couple games.
ATLANTA @ GREEN BAY
DT Kenny Clark, GB (0 tackles)
Clark has been an elite fantasy defensive tackle all year long so one bad game like this is not typically enough to warrant a true downgrade. He suffered an elbow injury during the game, however, that may have limited his effectiveness. Clark was treated and came back to the game, so his playing time was still relatively high at 51 snaps (72%), but he was kept off the stat sheet completely.
LB Foye Oluokun, ATL (2 solos, 1 PD)
The athletic rookie linebacker had been very productive over the past couple months but the return of Deion Jones has bumped him back to more of a part-time role. He saw his playing time drop from 77% of the snaps in week 12 down to 64% last week and just 42% this week. It certainly appears that Jones (100%) and De'Vondre Campbell (82%) are back to their normal roles in the team’s nickel packages.
INDIANAPOLIS @ HOUSTON
DT Denico Autry, IND (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Autry built on his 3-sack game with another multi-sack performance this week. That gives him 8 sacks in just 9 games played this season. Autry also came into the game with a questionable tag but still managed to play 51 snaps (71%) in the game. While it’s unlikely the 28-year old with a career-high of 5 sacks prior to this season will be able to keep this pace up long-term, he looks like a clear DT1 for the time being.
LB Anthony Walker, IND (7 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Walker continues to put up impressive tackle numbers despite playing alongside the league’s leading tackler in Darius Leonard. Over his last 5 games, he has been credited with 30 solo tackles and 14 assists for an average of nearly 9 combined tackles per game.
LB Jadeveon Clowney, HOU (2 solos)
Despite playing 65 snaps (97%) this week, Clowney was limited to just 2 solo tackles. While he did generate some pressure in the game, this was his second disappointing game in a row. In fact, over his last 6 games combined, he has just 11 solo tackles, 3 assists, and 2.5 sacks with just one game that looks like it matches expectations. He may just wind up being a better NFL player than fantasy option.
BALTIMORE @ KANSAS CITY
S Chuck Clark, BAL (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Clark has replaced the injured Tony Jefferson in the Ravens starting lineup and played 100% of the defensive snaps the past two games. The former 6th round pick picked off the first pass of his career this week and has played well, although he’s only been credited with 3 solos and 1 assist in both starts.
S Daniel Sorensen, KC (1 solo, 2 asst)
Sorensen had played less than half of the defensive snaps in each of the last 3 games so his underwhelming production (5 solos, 5 asst) was not surprising. This week, however, he was on the field for all 71 snaps and still yielded just 3 combined tackles with only 1 solo stop. Part of that was likely the matchup as the Ravens ran the ball 39 times and only completed 13 passes, but Sorensen saw a lot of time lined up at free safety and may not be as active against the run as he was last year. The potential return of Eric Berry next week may change that though.
NEW ENGLAND @ MIAMI
DE Trey Flowers, NE (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH, 1 FF)
When the Patriots reached their bye in week 11, Flowers had just 2.5 sacks on the year and looked like a disappointment considering how much playing time he had received. In the 3 weeks since the bye, however, he’s collected 4 sacks and has continued to see a high snap count each week.
CB Jason McCourty, NE (4 solos)
While it’s always hard to read much into the Patriots decisions, McCourty saw a drop in playing time this week after playing every snap in each of the past three games. He was only on the field for 31 snaps (65%) while undrafted rookie corner J.C. Jackson continued his climb up the depth chart with 38 snaps (79%). Jackson finished with no tackles but any significant reduction in playing time for McCourty makes it tough to rely on him.
NEW ORLEANS @ TAMPA BAY
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, TB (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 FR)
Pierre-Paul missed practice time last week with a knee injury and was questionable to play, but he was active and incredibly played 63 of 64 defensive snaps in the game. That gives him 4 strong games in a row and keeps him clearly among the top-5 or so at the position this year.
DE Carl Nassib, TB (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 FF)
Nassib is proving that his early run of success was not a fluke. He has 6.5 sacks over his last 8 games and is regularly seeing 80+% of the defensive snaps each week. Getting a sack against Drew Brees this week was particularly impressive given that he’s been the least-sacked quarterback in the league all year.
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (4 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH, 1 PD)
This represents the third multi-sack game in a row for Jordan, further cementing him as one of the elite defensive ends in the league. He has also played 93% of the defensive snaps in each of the past two games and should finish the year strong.
N.Y. GIANTS @ WASHINGTON
S Michael Thomas, NYG (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Thomas replaced Landon Collins at strong safety this week and saw a considerable amount of time lined up in the box to support the run. He was held back a bit by the lopsided game script but should be in line for more productive tackle games ahead now that Collins is on I.R.
LB Zach Brown, WAS (1 solo, 1 asst)
Brown had perhaps his best game of the season last week when he posted 9 tackles and forced a fumble while playing 91% of the defensive snaps. Unfortunately, he was dealing with an illness this week and only saw 28 snaps (44%) as a result. Rookie Shaun Dion-Hamilton got a start this week and actually tied for the team lead in tackles while also playing 28 snaps.
CB B.W. Webb, NYG (0 tackles)
Webb came into the game with 18 solo tackles over his previous 3 games but was shut out completely. He was one of just three Giants defenders to play all 62 defensive snaps in the game and was likely held back by the matchup as Washington completed just 6 passes to receivers in this game.
CINCINNATI @ L.A. CHARGERS
DE Carlos Dunlap, CIN (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 2 PD)
Dunlap’s season has been a tale of two halves with 7 sacks in his first 8 games and just 1 in his last 5. That sack came this week though so perhaps he still has enough left for a strong finish in the fantasy playoffs. Dunlap averages over 75% of the defensive snaps each week and has some promising matchups coming up against the Raiders and Browns.
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (6 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Like the Chargers, fantasy managers with Bosa on their team are likely thrilled to see him back on the field, provided their teams still have something left to play for. With another big game this week, he’s now posted 13 solos, 4 assists, and 4 sacks over his last 3 games and has a huge matchup coming up against the Chiefs on Thursday this week.
LB Nick Vigil, CIN (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Vigil followed up his low output last week with another disappointing game. Despite playing all but 2 snaps over the past two games, Vigil has been credited with just 1 solo tackle and 4 assists. Considering he was averaging over 8 solo tackles per game early this year before missing extensive time with an injury, this is a significant departure.
DENVER @ SAN FRANCISCO
LB Todd Davis, DEN (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH)
Davis gets a mention here simply for his consistency as he’s managed to post double-digit fantasy points in all but 1 week this year. He’s been credited with 100 combined tackles (72 solos), which is an average of 7.7 per game. While Davis hasn’t been a big play generator, he’s a strong run defender and has been one of the few IDPs in Denver who has provided consistent production week after week.
S D.J. Reed, SF (10 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
The rookie safety moved over to corner to replace an injured K'Waun Williams and filled up the box score. He was a 5th round pick who played cornerback in college before being converted to safety as a pro. That versatility makes him an appealing option and his strong game this week likely forces the coaches to give him more opportunities moving forward.
LB Fred Warner, SF (3 solos, 1 asst)
Warner may be hitting a rookie wall at this point but his tackle production has fallen off considerably from where it was earlier this season. Over his last 4 games, he has been credited with 3 or fewer solo tackles in 3 of them and has averaged just under 6 combined tackles per game.
DETROIT @ ARIZONA
LB Haason Reddick, ARI (10 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
The Cardinals once again let both of their top linebackers play every defensive snap this week, but this week it was Reddick who stood out with 10 solo tackles. Gerald Hodges followed up his 12 solo effort last week with just 3 solos and 2 assists. Perhaps Reddick is finally starting to get acclimated and emerge as the impact player he was drafted to be.
DE Ezekiel Ansah, DET (1 solo, 1 asst)
Ansah had a productive start to the game but unfortunately, he only lasted 5 snaps before leaving with another injury. It appears to be a serious shoulder injury, which would likely end his season and perhaps his time with the Lions as well. DaShawn Hand also left the game early with a knee injury after just 7 snaps.
DT Robert Nkemdiche, ARI (0 tackles)
Nkemdiche wasn’t able to build on his huge 2.5 sack game in week 12 and left the game this week with a knee injury after just 22 snaps. The exact nature of the injury was not disclosed but he needs surgery to repair the issue and will be placed on injured reserve.
PHILADELPHIA @ DALLAS
DE Michael Bennett, PHI (5 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 5 QH, 1 FF)
Bennett actually played a higher percentage of snaps last week (82%) but that was on just 37 snaps while his 74 snaps this week represented 75% of the total. The Cowboys offense generated a remarkable 81 tackle opportunities in this game, including 54 pass attempts, so there were plenty of opportunities for all the regular Eagles defenders and their overall numbers reflect that. Bennett warrants a mention here though since he missed practice time during the week but still managed to play such a full workload and post his best game of the year. He now has 8 sacks in his last 10 games, proving that the 33-year-old can still generate pressure.
LB Jaylon Smith, DAL (5 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL)
Smith has been overshadowed by rookie Leighton Vander Esch at times this year, but he’s likely been more integral to this defense. He’s posted 9 tackles on 52 snaps in each of the past two games and seems less likely to lose any significant playing time once Sean Lee returns to the lineup.
PITTSBURGH @ OAKLAND
CB Mike Hilton, PIT (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 FR)
The Steelers nickel corner has flashed numbers like this in the past but has never been able to string them together long enough to become a reliable fantasy option. He may be able to change that here, however, as he led the team in tackles this week while also adding a sack and fumble recovery. With the Patriots and Saints coming up on the schedule, he should remain very productive and is certainly worthy of starting consideration.
LB Vince Williams, PIT (1 solo)
Williams has been able to maintain his fantasy value due to his productivity as a blitzer with 3.5 sacks over a 4-game stretch. With no sacks over his last two weeks, however, it’s quickly becoming apparent that he doesn’t have much else to offer. The team reduced his playing time this week to just 36 snaps (54%) while L.J. Fort continues to emerge as the primary 3-down option at inside linebacker.
L.A. RAMS @ CHICAGO
CB Aqib Talib, LAR (5 solos)
Talib returned to a full workload this week after seeing just 26 snaps (36%) a week ago as the team eased him into things following an 8-game absence. He may not make a big impact for fantasy purposes but should help make things easier for some other players, including the pass rushers who figure to get more time to chase down the quarterback.
CB Bryce Callahan, CHI (2 solos, 1 TFL)
Callahan’s production had cooled off in recent weeks but he remained one of the league’s better nickel corners this year. Unfortunately, he left the game early this week with a foot injury and was only able to play 13 snaps (21%).