In 2011, Pro Football Focus introduced the Tamme Index, showing handcuffs at the important fantasy positions, but, it was only for the offensive positions. This year, I’m going to introduce the ’Bishop Index’, showing the important handcuffs for the Individual Defensive Player (IDP) positions, only highlighting the important handcuffs.
In 2011, two elite linebackers missed significant playing time; Desmond Bishop and Patrick Willis. Their backups came in and produced respectable IDP digits for those savvy enough to grab them off the waiver wire. This year, we hope to prepare you for the unexpected and highlight the top backups for the elite positions. DL and DB can have more of a rotation at the position, depending on situations, but in the event of injury, the backup can see much more playing time.
Continuing along, my second piece looks at the defensive backs. DBs, cornerbacks especially, are a bit more unpredictable as some rotate in and out based on certain situations but safeties are the ones that are on the field the most. Injuries and inconsistent play are always a possibility, so this article looks at those backups to target should your draft pick get hurt or lose playing time.
Da’Norris Searcy, S, BUF – Searcy is George Wilson’s main backup at SS and is a physical, fundamental tackler. Bills have always envisioned him as a presence near the box and he appeared in 232 snaps as a rookie, notching 25 tackles. Even though Wilson is a tackling machine himself, he’s battled some injuries over the past few seasons, so Searcy will be someone to have on your watch lists.
Tavon Wilson, S, NEP – Did the Patriots reach for Wilson in the 2nd round? The consensus is yes, but Belichick and the Pats saw something in this kid which led to the reach. Wilson is slotted to battle Steve Gregory for FS, but is listed as Patrick Chung’s backup at SS and we know all that know Chung has been the poster boy for health. James Ihedigbo could also be in the mix, but I’m envisioning that the rookie will be the handcuff up in Foxboro.
Eric Smith, S, NYJ – Smith graded near the bottom (-14.5) among safeties this past season, as he blew coverage assignments and was a target for criticism in the New York media. Smith enters the 2012 season as the primary backup at both safety positions and will see special teams work. From an IDP standpoint, he finished with a respectable 84 tackles in 968 defensive snaps. He’s undraftable in IDP leagues this season with LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell in the fold, but with Landry’s injury risk, Smith could fill-in.
Ras-I Dowling, CB, NEP – Dowling will be an intriguing name in leagues that require a cornerback this season. Devin McCourty is the only sure starter, even with Kyle Arrington being listed as the #2 he’s no sure thing. Dowling, who underwent hip surgery in 2011, could push Arrington for the starting job, relegating him to the slot. The Pats got torched for 293 YPG in the air in 2011, so they’ll need Dowling and could be a strong IDP value pick/handcuff.
Richard Marshall, CB, MIA – Marshall signed a 3-year deal, including $6 million guaranteed. I would not think that’s money the Dolphins want sitting on the bench or seeing limited snaps. While with Arizona, Marshall graded among the top 30 corners in coverage, where he picked off 3 passes and defended another 5 while posting 70 tackles in 849 snaps. At the outset, he won’t compete with Sean Smith for a starting job, but he is going to be on a short-leash, as he graded out to be the 4th worst CB at a -15.1 grade. Keep Marshall in the back of your mind, as he is capable of producing respectable IDP digits.
Usama Young, S, CLE – Young saw 664 defensive snaps at both free and strong safety and started the last 8 games of the season. He graded out very well in stopping the run (+6.1) and finished with 66 tackles and a respectable 9.9% tackle frequency and was among the top 15 safeties in run stop percentage (8.1). The Browns seem to like Eric Hagg a bit more, even though he graded negatively in 182 defensive snaps at a -3.6. Young could be a starter at some point in the season and is worth looking at as a handcuff in deeper leagues.
Abram Elam, S, KCC – Elam is a durable, capable safety, but is coming off a 1,000+ snap in Dallas and will be Eric Berry’s primary backup in Kansas City. Berry is coming off a major knee injury, so that always needs to be in the back of the mind of the owner that takes him. Elam’s value as handcuff, will primarily depend on your league size.
Prince Amukamara, CB, NYG – Price only appeared in a handful of regular season snaps as he was dealing with the effects of foot surgery. He’s had himself a decent off-season and good minicamp and is going to start the season as the Giants 3rd CB. Corey Webster is coming off a strong season, where he was targeted 108 times, allowing 61 catches and picking off 6 passes and defended 11 others in 1,118 defensive snaps and his 17 total PDI was 3rd among CBs. Terrell Thomas will be the wild card here, as he’s returning from a missed 2011 season.
Tyler Sash, S, NYG – Sash was a special teamer in 2011 but is currently being groomed for the 3rd safety spot. The Giants haven’t closed the door on Deon Grant, but it makes sense that the Giants move on and let Sash compete. He’ll be the primary backup at FS/SS for Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips, so if anything happens with those two, Sash will be the one to target, especially in dynasty leagues.
OJ Atogwe, S, WAS – Atogwe signed a 1-year deal with the Eagles and was once considered a top playmaker in St. Louis, but he’s battled injuries over the past several seasons, which led to his release from the Redskins. Atogwe graded well in pass coverage (+4.0) and even picked off 3 passes while making 55 tackles in 699 defensive snaps. He’ll backup Nate Allen and should be considered a decent handcuff to Allen as long as he stays off the trainer’s table.
Tanard Jackson, S, WAS – Jackson has battled off the field issues, but is still just 27 and could battle Madieu Williams for a starting job. Out of the safety group in Washington, Jackson is one of the more talented as a change of scenery could do him well. He’s still only a few seasons removed from a 67 tackle/5 INT year in 2009.
Reed Doughty, S, WAS – In terms of his PFF grading, it hasn’t been very good (-14.2 overall in 2011), but he puts up respectable IDP numbers when he is on the field. He had 8 starts of 5+ tackles and finished with a tackle frequency of 10.1% in 680 defensive snaps. He’ll begin the year, once again, as a backup to Brandon Meriweather (even coming off an April 26 DUI). I’m not taking a lot of stock of Meriweather as starter and could lose his job sooner rather than later.
Sean Jones, S, DET – Jones is listed as the 3rd strong safety on the roster, but the Lions brought him to compete with, both, Erik Coleman and Amari Spievey for a starting job. Jones started two games at FS in 2011, but his primary position is strong. He had a dismal 2011, finishing with 84 tackles, but missed on 16 others which led to a poor tackling efficiency of 6.3. With Jones in the fold, it doesn’t say much about the confidence the Lions have in Coleman, or Spievey. At the very least, Jones will enter the 2012 season as Spievey’s backup.
Chris Hope, S, ATL – Hope appeared in just 10 games in 2011 and, eventually, lost his starting job to Jordan Babineaux. In 289 defensive snaps, he finished with 25 tackles, but couldn’t get on the field to really contribute to his IDP owners. He’s a veteran presence for the Falcons, but is on the decline and will be the 32 early on in the season. If he can prove healthy, he’ll be William Moore and Thomas DeCoud’s backup and would be worth a look in the event of an injury or if they lose the starting job during the season.
Craig Dahl, S, STL – Dahl ended up losing his starting job by week 3 to Darian Stewart, appearing in 486 snaps after coming off an 80 tackle season in 2010. Stewart and Quintin Mikell are entrenched as starters and Dahl will be the primary backup to Stewart at strong safety entering the 2012 season.