Tashaun Gipson to reclaim fantasy value in Jacksonville
From undrafted to the Pro Bowl and now to Jacksonville, former Cleveland Browns’ free safety Tashaun Gipson inked a five-year, $35.5 million contract (including incentives) with the Jaguars on the first day of free agency. The million-dollar question for fantasy players and Jags fans alike is, which version of Gipson will be on the field in 2016?
Indeed, it has been a tale of two players for the fifth-year player out of Wyoming. Gipson rose to stardom as the AFC interceptions leader in 2013 (five) and 2014 (six), racking up 19 passes defensed and a couple of touchdowns in that span despite missing five games with a knee injury in 2014. He earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2014 when he didn’t give up a touchdown all season and ranked seventh among safeties in our coverage grades.
Whereas Gipson had developed a budding reputation as one of the league’s premier ball-hawks to that point in his pro career, in 2015 the wheels came off for him and, frankly, all of the Cleveland Browns. Gipson was often caught out of position, grading out as a bottom-10 coverage safety and finishing outside the top-100 fantasy defensive backs in all IDP scoring formats. His pass coverage grade fell from 8.0 all the way down to minus-7.4, as he also turned in career-low overall (minus-9.6) and run defense (minus-3.0) grades. Opposing quarterbacks had a QB rating of 115.7 when targeting Gipson, up from just 41.9 a year earlier.
Cleveland’s brass apparently had little interest in reuniting Gipson with new Browns DC Ray Horton, who held the same post there in 2013. It’s fair to wonder how much Gipson was impacted by his looming contract status, or by the preseason hamstring injury, or by the high-ankle sprain that cost him a handful of games.
Jacksonville, on the other hand, needed to fill a major hole in the back end after grading 30th in pass coverage and struggling to generate pressure in Gus Bradley’s attacking scheme. The Jaguars were 31st in the league in both scoring defense (28 PPG) and third-down defense (.463), and they managed only nine interceptions on the year. Enter Gipson to play the single-high center-fielder, with Johnathan Cyprien moving down into the box, and suddenly you have a potentially formidable safety tandem. Of course, things could go the other way, given that Cyprien is coming off another disappointing year of his own.
In terms of fantasy value, if Gipson is not making plays in the passing game, he’s useless in your lineup. He simply doesn’t impact games beyond coverage; not a single career sack, and he has totaled more than 60 tackles in a season only once. Tasked with getting Gipson back to form is Todd Walsh, Jacksonville’s defensive line coach for three years and then running game coordinator last year, who was promoted in January to replace fired defensive coordinator Bob Babich.
The bottom line: Gipson is a 25-year-old with multiple seasons of proven success at the professional level, and his is a name to watch entering 2016, but his low tackles totals and boom-or-bust scoring profile make him a weekly headache for IDP gamers. He will have a handful of big games when he grabs an interception or two, but equally so he can post sub five-point games and be a liability. Be wary of committing to Gipson as more than volatile scoring low end DB2 on fantasy draft day.