Assessing the IDP Dynasty Landscape: Defensive Backs
Depending how deep your league is there might be some 2013 gems still waiting to be snapped up from the waiver wire and there is no harm in being prepared and grabbing these guys for the tail-end of your squad. Not only should owners be looking at securing potential breakout players for next season, but they should be re-evaluating the players they had invested in over the previous seasons as things change fast in the NFL and player’s values change quickly. All that being said, lets run through some of the players having seen some significant alteration in their values heading in next season.
Time to Reload?
Before the season started it looked clear cut who the “must-own” defensive backs were for fantasy purposes in 2012. Eric Berry (24 years old) was back from a season-ending injury in a defensive system that threatened to get him in the box frequently. Kam Chancellor (24) had exploded onto the scene with 97 total tackles, a sack, forced fumble and four interceptions in his first year as a starter. Tyvon Branch (26) continued to be one of the most consistent tackle-producers on a yearly basis for a mediocre Raiders defense that leaked opposing players into his arms.
Fast-forward to the end of the season not a single one (Berry) of that trio graced the top 10 scoring defensive backs, let alone defensive backs. In fact, Chancellor and Branch, despite posting over 90 total tackles each, would have struggled to make the top 30 DBs in balanced scoring systems, as they managed no sacks and just one interception between them. Despite the downturn in their big-play production both players have high floors due to their consistency in getting to the ball carrier, but dynasty owners should take note of the somewhat fickle scoring nature of defensive backs on a year-to-year basis.
All three should retain their DB1 status for 2013 dynasty rankings, and Berry and Branch in particular would appeal as buy-low candidates (well, buy lower than 12 months ago), but I’d be wary of Chancellor as being a little one-dimensional in his scoring, which limits his bounce-back-ability to top 3 DB status.
Newton’s Third Law
Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that, for every action there is an equal and opposite (re)action, and fantasy football is no different. Where the IDP elite fail to deliver on preseason expectations, other players will rise and fill their places. Two of the most notable and likely sustainable improvers in 2012 were Morgan Burnett (24) and Jairus Byrd (26).
Both had been in and around DB1 status before, Byrd most recognisably in his nine interception campaign as a rookie, while Burnett broke 100 total tackles in his 2011 campaign (106) while also adding a sack, three INTs and two forced fumbles showing his fantasy potential. Both players weighed in for their owners in a major way 2012 and will have serious claims for top 5 places in DB rankings, and perhaps Burnett will have stolen the #1 spot.
Few defensive backs can lay claim to a tackle frequency as high as the 11.2% Burnett posted (over 9% for a DB is pretty darn good) and having been handed a leadership role in the wake of Charles Woodson’s injury-inflicted absence from the field, the future looks bright.
Byrd may be a capable tackler having averaged 87.7 total tackles in the past three seasons, but is better known as one of the best ball-hawking safeties in the league having picked off 18 passes in his first four years. With his contract up in Buffalo it seems likely he will want to enter into free agency where a different scheme could impact his production, but franchise tagging him only costs the Bills $6.4m so I’d expect him back with the Bills next year.
Cornering The Market
One of the biggest stories of 2012 from an IDP perspective was the upward trend of cornerback scoring due to their big plays, which are increasing in number. In fact in more balanced scoring system leagues it would have been Charles Tillman (31) (ten forced fumbles, three interceptions and three TDs), Richard Sherman (24) and Tim Jennings (29) (eight interceptions a piece) who would have found their way towards the upper echelons of the end of season rankings.
Hitting on volatile scoring corners has long been a plague of IDP gamers, but as the NFL gradually creeps towards more pass-friendly officiating it appears one of the effects is that cornerback production (and value) in fantasy leagues is on the increase. While the more experienced readers among you will know that Tillman, DeAngelo Hall (29) and Cortland Finnegan (29) are all excellent in CB-required leagues, heading into 2013 they have started to sneak into redraft DB1 consideration.
For dynasty purposes we need to look at the younger generation of corners and that means a long hard look at the NFC West. The aforementioned Richard Sherman has 12 INTs in two years, play-making Patrick Peterson (22) (seven INTs in 2012, four KR TDs in 2011) has elite ball skills and home-run speed, while a third name to consider is the controversial figure of Janoris Jenkins (24) who recorded four defensive touchdowns as a rookie (three were pick-6s) as well as 73 total tackles.
Jenkins in particular interests me for fantasy purposes, not just because I’m a Rams fan, but because his coverage left a lot to be desired at times. Grading -11.0 for his play in coverage, second worst of all cornerbacks (only Josh Robinson was worse), suggests that opponents will likely put Jenkins to the test again in 2013 rather than target his opposite number, Cortland Finnegan. Targets mean opportunities, and Jenkins turned 75% of his INTs into pick-6s while also posting solid tackle statistics.
Deserving of a Mention
There are a few further names that need including in a Dynasty DB review, with the first being George Wilson (31). Wilson has been a rollercoaster ride over the past four season, twice a DB1, a bust year behind Donte Whitner and now his reduction to playing only 65% of snaps. A spot at safety for the Bills can provide bountiful production, but Wilson’s time appears to be done. The heir apparent looks to be Da’Norris Searcy (24) and he is my idea of an excellent two-year stash as we wait and see how it pans out.
All the fuss a couple of years ago about “Weddle-Money” look silly now as not only has Eric Weddle (28) been one of the top safeties in the league, he has re-affirmed himself as one of the stronger DB1 selections.
Rookies Mark Barron (23) and Harrison Smith (24) both looked the part in their first seasons, but from a fantasy perspective it was Smith’s 103 total tackles and three INTs, two for TDs that turned more heads. Both have excellent claims for dynasty DB1 status moving forwards.
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