I would love to get feedback from my readers. Often times, we get stuck in our own philosophies and tendencies. So, it's nice to get a different perspective on things. Your comments will definitely influence my rankings.
Defensive backs have the most variability in point production from year-to-year. In other words, your top 20 defensive backs in 2010 could be quite different from your top 20 defensive backs in 2009 (especially in "big play leagues").
Much of this variability is because many times a defensive back's production is heavily tied to the performance of that specific team's front seven. Their production is also heavily tied to how they are used in the defensive scheme (especially safeties). For example, Roman Harper started off the 2009 season very well. However, after both of New Orleans' cornerbacks got injured, they started playing Harper in coverage more as opposed to bringing him up close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Consequently, his tackle numbers severely dipped.
In addition, the defensive back position, more than any other position has the most substantial amount of fantasy producers on the waiver wire because many unexpected fantasy performers emerge from the defensive back position throughout the season (e.g. Bernard Pollard).
With this being said, I find it hard to use one of my first defensive picks on a defensive back. In reality, there aren't many "locks" at that this position as there are at the linebacker position (e.g. Patrick Willis, Jon Beason, London Fletcher, etc.). Therefore, I usually try to grab a solid veteran fantasy producer like LCB Antoine Winfield or SS Brian Dawkins and get riskier at this position with my other picks. Not only does this free me up to use higher draft picks on other defensive positions, but it also allows me to more easily drop players during the season to pick up potential defensive back studs off of the waiver wire.
Solo Tackle = 2 points
Assist = 1 point
Sack = 7 points
Interception = 12 points
Fumble Recovery = 5 points
DSC = Possible Defensive Scheme Change
S = Sleeper/Undervalued Player
B = Bust/Overvalued Player
R = Injury Risk
ROOKIE = 2010 NFL Rookie
(xx) = Previous Ranking
|1. FS Eric Weddle (SD) - Weddle was the number one defensive back on most fantasy rankings heading into the 2009 season. His fantasy numbers took a hit this year because of lingering injury issues. Heading into next season injury-free, he should be able to rebound next year and reclaim his spot as the top fantasy defensive back. R|
|2. SS Bernard Pollard (HOU) - What a story this is; after being cut by the Chiefs before the season started, Pollard signed with the Texans in Week 4 and wasted no time in becoming a fantasy stud. In 14 games, Pollard had 82 solo tackles, 19 assists, 3 FRs, 4 INTs, 1.5 sacks, and 2 defensive TDs. I wouldn't expect 2 defensive TDs again, but Pollard does provide the ultimate mix of dependable tackling and big play production.|
|3. SS Tyvon Branch (OAK) - Branch had a very nice tackling year by registering 97 solo tackles and 26 assists and is a top 5 safety in tackling-heavy leagues. Most of his value resides in the fact that he plays in the SS position in Oakland which has proven to be a very lucrative position in the past (e.g. Gibril Wilson). As long as Branch can hold off second round draft pick, Mike Mitchell, he's worth an early round selection.|
|4. SS Yeremiah Bell (MIA) - Over the last two seasons, Bell has averaged over 95 solo tackles; it doesn't get much better than that for a defensive back. Bell is often times brought up close to the line of scrimmage for run support and is therefore used in a similar fashion to that of a linebacker. Bell is one of the safest choices at the defensive back position. You can expect 90+ solo tackles again next season.|
|5. FS Oshiomogho Atogwe (STL) - Atogwe is one of the best ballhawks in the league. He always seems to be around the ball and, consequently, he does a wonderful job of producing big plays as well as solid tackle numbers. Playing on the Rams is an added bonus since their defense is consistently on the field for much of the game.|
|6. SS Roman Harper (NO) - Harper started off the season extremely hot. He was consistently putting up 7-9 total tackles per week. However, because of injuries at both cornerback positions, New Orleans stopped putting Harper in the box and used him more in coverage. This hurt his overall 2009 numbers (they were still solid). With the cornerbacks healthy again, look for Harper to further improve upon his 2009 numbers.|
|7. SS Brian Dawkins (DEN) - Yes, Dawkins is old as dirt (36 to be exact). However, you will be hard-pressed to find a more consistent fantasy defensive back. Over his nine seasons in the league, Dawkins has consistently been a top 20 performer and his move to Denver has obviously taken his value to another level. I wouldn't expect 95 solo tackles again (a career high) but, as long as he doesn't retire, Dawkins looks to be a solid play heading into next season.|
|8. FS Dashon Goldson (SF) - Goldson got the opportunity to become an every game starter this season and he ran with it. I really like this kid. He gives you a good combination of tackles (95 total tackles) and big plays (4 INTs and 3 sacks). Under defensive-minded head coach Mike Singeltary, Goldson is only going to get better. S|
|9. FS Louis Delmas (DET) - Delmas, in my opinion, will come into the 2010 draft, being slightly overvalued. Yes, he was the 4th leading scorer for defensive backs in my scoring system. However, those numbers are highly inflated to due to two defensive touchdowns and a safety. When looking purely at his tackle numbers, he had 64 solos tackles and 29 assists and only 2 INTs which are decent, but not fantastic numbers. I look for Delmas to improve upon his tackle numbers next season but at the expense of his big play production. B|
|10. FS Antoine Bethea (IND) - Bethea has managed to string together two top 20 seasons in a row from his free safety position. Much of the attention in Indy goes to the oft-injured SS Bob Sanders. However, Bethea is the true fantasy star of the Colts secondary. Look for Bethea to continue his trend of top 20 finishes in 2010.|
|11. SS LaRon Landry (WASH) - Landry made significant strides last season in becoming a top 30 defensive back. He managed to post a career high in solo tackles with 76 and he missed the last game of the season. I expect the former sixth overall pick to make further strides in 2010 and crack the top 15 especially now since the Redskins have decided to move Landry to strong safety and utilize him in a similar fashion to a linebacker. DSC, S
For more in-depth information on LaRon Landry, click here.
|12. LCB Charles Woodson (GB) - I typically don't like drafting "big play" cornerbacks like Woodson because their production often times varies from year-to-year. However, Woodson is a rarity, in that he has shown that he can come up with big plays year in and year out. In addition, he had 71 solo tackles last year which is great for a cornerback. Although, I wouldn't expect the same level of tackle production next year, Woodson deserves to be a top 15 pick.
|13. LCB Antoine Winfield (MIN) - Winfield's perceived value will probably take a slight hit heading into the 2010 draft because his overall 2009 stats were below average due to injury problems. In my opinion, Winfield is the best tackling cornerback in the league and he plays in a defensive scheme that uses some Tampa-2, which gives Winfield above average tackle opportunities. With this being said, Winfield, when healthy, is a low DB1/high DB2. S, R|
|14. LCB Charles Tillman (CHI) - Tillman's production dropped substantially in 2009 in large part due to reoccurring injuries. Tillman is one of the top 5 tackling fantasy cornerbacks and he also provides decent big play upside. If he can stay healthy, he remains a top 15 selection for defensive backs. R|
|15. SS Troy Polamalu (PIT) - Polamalu is overrated in the same way as SS Bob Sanders. He's a fantastic NFL player in real life but when it comes to fantasy football, he's more of a tier 3 type of player. "Mr. Head and Shoulders" does have a knack for finding the ball, however, and has top 15 value if he can manage to stay healthy for a full season. With all this in mind, don't be fooled by the big name and reach for Polamalu too early though (i.e. Tier 1 or Tier 2). B, R|
|16. SS Adrian Wilson (ARI) - I remember the days when Adrian Wilson was the best DB since sliced bread (circa 2004-2006). His disappointing 2007 and 2008 seasons left Wilson undrafted in many IDP leagues in 2009. However, under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis' aggressive defensive scheme, Wilson has had a resurgence. I like Wilson's big play upside along with his run-stopping ability. Consequently, I have Wilson reentering the top 20. Welcome back!|
|17. SS Eric Berry (KC) - Look for Berry to immediately jump into the starting lineup for the Chiefs. He will start at SS opposite Jarrad Page at FS. Mike Brown put up nice fantasy numbers as the starting SS in KC last season. With this being said, I look for Berry to have a very solid rookie season. It's always hard to predict safety performance, but I'm expecting high DB2 and even low DB1 upside. ROOKIE|
|18. RCB Richard Marshall (CAR) - Marshall, along with Charles Tillman and Antoine Winfield, is one of the top 5 tackling cornerbacks in the league. In all four years in the league, Marshall has had 68 solo tackles or more and usually throws in a couple of sacks and a couple of INTs. He has a fairly significant chance of being a top 25 performer every year. However, he is a free agent and much of his value resides in the fact that Carolina uses the Tampa-2 defensive scheme quite a bit. If he goes to another team, he will more than likely fall out of the top 30.|
|19. SS Erik Coleman (ATL) - If you're in a tackle-heavy league, Coleman is one of the better options you have at this position. In 2009, he registered 116 total tackles. In fact Coleman has had 100 total tackles or more in 5 out of his 6 seasons in the NFL. On the down side, he doesn't generate many big-plays. S|
|20. SS Kenny Phillips (NYG) - Phillips entered the 2009 season on many IDP sleeper lists and was performing well until he went down with a season-ending knee injury in week 2. Backup safety, C.C. Brown, had some monster games in Phillips' absence (back-to-back double digit solo games in week 6 and 7), granted much of that production was due to Brown having absolutely no cover skills. If Phillips can fully recover from his 2009 injury, he should have good value moving into the 2010 season. DSC, R, S|
|21. SS Brandon Meriweather (NE) - Although Meriweather finished within the top 15 DBs for points scored, almost 1/4 points came in one game. With this being said, I really don't think Meriweather is a top 20 defensive back. However, he doesn't have a ton of competition for tackles in New England and he's young and still learning, so he remains in the top 25. B|
|22. FS Antrel Rolle (NYG) - Rolle's signing with the Giants actually helps his value. The safety positions in New York proved to be a fruitful place fantasy-wise. Combine this fact with Rolle's playmaking ability and you have a pretty good fantasy free safety. I can see Rolle putting up 70-75 solos, 15 or so assists, and 4 or 5 interceptions. This makes him a low DB2/high DB3.|
|23. RCB Cortland Finnegan (TEN) - Finnegan, similar to teammate Nick Harper, is a cornerback at which many opposing QBs love to throw at. Consequently, Finnegan typically has above average tackle and interception opportunities. For the second straight season, Finnegan had 5 INTs. For these reasons, Finnegan makes it into the top 25.
For more in-depth information on Cortland Finnegan, click here.
|24. FS Dawan Landry (BALT) - Landry was used more in stopping the run this year than in previous years and his tackle numbers reflected this fact. Landry had 100 total tackles and he threw in 5 INTs. I expect some subsidence of his tackle numbers but not enough to bump him out of the top 20. In addition, the Jets have shown some offseason interest in obtaining Landry; going to the Jets could improve his value even further.|
|25. SS Quintin Mikell (PHI) - I've never been a huge fan of Mikell's. It seems as though every week in which I pick him up, he burns me. However, over the course of a full season his numbers tend to average out. In fact, in each of the last two seasons, Mikell has finished with top 30 numbers and he set a career high for total tackles last season with 97. He's usually a dependable low DB2/high DB3.|
|26. SS Chris Hope (TEN) - Hope is one of the more consistent defensive backs in the league. He doesn't have a very high point ceiling but he is usually good for 75-90 solo tackles and 3 or 4 interceptions which, in a typical year, would place him around the outskirts of the top 30 defensive back point producers. If you are risk-averse, Hope is probably a good selection for you.|
|27. SS Tanard Jackson (TB) - Jackson filled in very well for the injured Jermaine Phillips by posting 60 solo tackles, 11 assists, and 5 INTs (2 returned for TDs) in 12 games. Jackson enters the 2010 season as the starting FS. I would feel more comfortable selecting him higher if he were in the SS spot. If Jackson can keep up his big-play antics from last season, he will be a solid DB2. However, it's more likely he will be a low DB3.|
|28. SS Danieal Manning (CHI) - The safety situation in Chicago is quite tumultuous right now. However, Manning has been taking 1st team reps at SS during OTAs with Chris Harris taking 1st team reps at FS. The strong safety position in Chicago is the safety position of most value. If Manning can hold onto the starting SS gig, he could prove to be fairly valuable.|
|29. SS Bob Sanders (IND) - Sanders reminds me a lot of Troy Polamalu. He is a great NFL player and solid fantasy defensive back when healthy. However, he is hardly ever healthy. If he could string together a full season of games, he would likely be a top 20 DB. Chances are good this won't happen, so temper you're expectations. If you're in need of a playmaker and are willing to take a substantial risk, Sanders is your guy. B, R|
|30 (51). SS Patrick Chung - I'm quite high on Chung as evidenced by my top 30 ranking of him. But I have my reasons. He's a great talent in a scheme that should allow him above average tackle opportunities. Rodney Harrison was a stud in this scheme and Chung is a similar-type player. Recent reports have Chung as the starter at strong safety. As long as this holds true, I'm completely comfortable with this ranking. S|
|31. SS Donte Whitner (BUF) - Overall, Whitner hasn't lived up to his hype coming out of college. However, I firmly believe that he would have had a very solid year if he hadn't got injured in week 3. The safety positions in Buffalo seem to be a goldmine for fantasy points, however, their secondary is littered with talent and Whitner therefore has little room for error. If he proves he can play, he will be a solid fantasy DB. DSC, S|
|32. LCB Darrelle Revis (NYJ) - In my opinion, Revis is the best shutdown cornerback in the NFL, which is usually bad from a fantasy standpoint because opposing QBs tend to throw away from him. However, Revis managed to intercept seven passes last year and five the year before that. He finished with the 25 most points for a defensive back last year. The additions of Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie and 1st round draft selection Kyle Wilson while force opposing QBs to throw at Revis more than ever and that's why I see him maintaining top 30 numbers.
August 23 Update: Even though Revis is currently holding out, I'm confident that he will sign and play. He's not as horrible of a fantasy option as most people think.
|33. FS Jairus Byrd (BUF) - Byrd was quite impressive will filling in for the injured Donte Whitner. He managed nine interceptions in games 5 through 14 of the regular season. It's still unclear who will be starting in Buffalo's secondary. If I had to guess, I would assume Donte Whitner will be starting at SS and Byrd will be starting at FS with George Wilson rotating in on nickel packages. If Byrd can improve upon his tackle numbers, he could be a very nice late-round selection. DSC
August 23 Update: Byrd just underwent successful groin surgery and could be back for the start of the regular season. He shouldn't be downgraded that much.
|34. LCB DeAngelo Hall (WAS) - Hall's performance has been pretty steady the last three seasons. He's usually good for around 60 solo tackles, 10 assists, and 4 or 5 interceptions. His 2009 numbers were slightly lower than usual because he missed three games due to injury. I would expect Hall to finish within the top 40 defensive backs next season. DSC|
|35. FS Michael Griffin (TEN) - Griffin has been a solid, but not spectacular IDP over the last two seasons. He's a consistent tackler who can be relied on for 70-80 total tackles and has definite big-play upside. He had 7 INTs in 2008 which placed him into the top 10 for defensive backs in this scoring system. Granted, it's highly unlikely that Griffin will put up those type of numbers again. However, the Tennessee secondary should have ample opportunities for tackles with a young and inexperienced group of linebackers manning the front seven. I'm predicting that Griffin will finish around the top 40 for points scored for defensive backs next season. S|
|36. SS Chris Harris (CHI) - Harris is currently taking 1st team reps at FS during OTAs. I see him as a much better fit at strong safety and think he will eventually slide over there. Harris is a converted linebacker and is one of the better tackling safeties in the league. He will have decent tackle opportunities in Chicago (similar to Carolina). He's somewhat risky because of his situation, but he does have decent upside.|
|37 (28). FS Darren Sharper (NO) - Many readers may be wondering why I have the #3 2009 point scorer for DBs listed so low: his numbers were significantly inflated. Sharper had 4 defensive touchdowns in 2009 and 9 interceptions. You take away those 4 defensive touchdowns and Sharper falls back to a mid-level option at best. And I'm willing to bet my left nut that he doesn't have 4 defensive TDs again next year. OK, maybe not my nut. But, you get the point. B|
|38 (33). SS Jordan Babineaux (SEA) - Mr. Babineaux finished as the 17th highest scoring defensive back in my scoring system last year. He started off the season slowly, however, he gained momentum as the season progressed and ended up finishing with 105 total tackles. Babineaux is a solid DB3 entering into next season. DSC
August 23 Update: Lawyer Milloy is currently the starting SS in Seattle with Babineaux the 2nd-stringer. I think Babineaux get's enough playing time still to be a top 40 option.
|39 (34). RCB Cedric Griffin (MIN) - Griffin would be ranked about 15 spots higher if he didn't tear his ACL in the NFC championship. This injury will likely sideline for the start of the season. If you're league has a big bench or allows you to IR a player, Griffin could be a nice late-round selection. He has averaged 76 solo tackles per year over the last three years and plays in a cover-2 scheme that gives him ample tackle opportunities. R|
|40. FS Earl Thomas (SEA) - The Seahawks are moving free safety Jonathan Babineaux to strong safety so that Thomas can play free safety. Thomas possesses great speed and cover skills which should allow him to make a few big plays as a rookie. However, free safeties that play in cover-2 schemes with good outside linebackers rarely put up good tackle numbers. Thomas would be ranked higher if his situation was better. ROOKIE|
|41. RCB Leon Hall (CIN) - Hall has been a fairly consistent fantasy producer since coming into the league in 2007. You can expect around 70 total tackles and 4 or 5 interceptions. With these numbers, Hall should be a top 45 performer.|
|42. LCB Brandon Flowers (KC) - Flowers quitely put together a nice season last year. He had 5 INTs to go along with a 23 pass deflections. He also had a respectable 65 total tackles. I expect some subsidence of his numbers this season, but he's still worth a shot in later rounds.|
|43. RCB Tracy Porter (NO) - Porter was on pace for a top 30 season until he got injured in week 10. I like for him to return next season and continue where he left off last season before his injury. However, we just haven't seen enough from Porter to be fully aware of his fantasy capabilities. Therefore, he is ranked a little lower than he probably should be. S|
|44. FS Reed Doughty (WASH) - Doughty played fairly well in 2009 and should be able to assume the Redskins starting free safety role. The switch from SS to FS is going to hurt his tackle numbers but Doughty is a good enough tackler to still produce decent numbers.|
|45. FS Kerry Rhodes (ARI) - A long time ago, in a distant universe, Kerry Rhodes was a top fantasy defensive back. IDP owners are hoping that a change of scenery will help bring Rhodes back to fantasy relevance. I'm a little skeptical. However, he's worth a look in the later rounds because of his potential upside.|
|46. SS James Butler (STL) - The Rams are going to suck next season and consequently their defense is going to be on the field a ton. Butler plays in a position that generally leads to the most tackles in the secondary and he showed signs towards the latter half of the season that he could consistently put up 5-7 solo tackles per game. He won't be on many people's radars but most people don't know who the hell he is. Grab him late and hope he explodes! S|
|47. LCB Aqib Talib (TB) - Talib has a good chance to become one of the better fantasy cornerbacks. He plays in a system in Tampa Bay that made Ronde Barber one of the greatest fantasy cornerbacks ever and once Barber retires (should be soon), Talib will inherit the reins. He's already shown a knack for getting the ball by recording 5 interceptions last season and 4 interceptions the year before. My only reservation is that Talib may be too good of a corner cover and teams will throw away from him. This could have an effect on his long-term value especially if the Bucs fail to bring on an adequate corner on the other side of the defense.|
|48. SS Darrell Stuckey (SD) - The release of incumbent starting strong safety Kevin Ellison improves Stuckey's value in redraft leagues quite dramatically. He will now fight with Stephen Gregory for the starting job. I look for Stuckey to win the starting job and to produce much better than expected numbers in San Diego. He finds himself in a place where tackle opportunities are above average; combine that with his talent and you have potential for DB2-type numbers. Stuckey is a sleeper fo sho. ROOKIE, S|
|49. SS Morgan Burnett (SD) - Even though Atari Bigby has finally signed his tender, Burnett looks to be in the driver's seat when it comes to the starting strong safety position in Green Bay. I'm share Bigby will steal some snaps away, but there is some nice potential in this spot to put up a good amount of fantasy points. ROOKIE|
|50. F.S. T.J. Ward (CLE) - Ward is the type of IDP I love. He's a physical player on a horrid team. There isn't a ton of competition for tackles on the Browns outside of D'Qwell Jackson and I look for Ward to put up very solid tackle numbers for a free safety. He could end up being one of the best rookie DBs this season. ROOKIE, S|
Last Updated: August 23, 2010
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