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 likely influence my rankings to a certain degree.
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). 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. Donte Whitner, Patrick Chung).
With this 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 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 FS Antoine Bethea 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 = 2011 NFL Rookie
|1. SS Eric Berry (KC) -Berry had an outstanding rookie year from a fantasy perspective and really showed owners his true potential during the last 9 games of the season in which he led all other DBs in points scored and averaged over 18 fantasy points per game. Expect that type of production to continue next year for Berry as he matures as a player.|
|2. SS Yeremiah Bell (MIA) - Over the last three seasons, Bell has averaged over 91 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 85+ solo tackles, 15-20 assists, and a couple of big plays again this season.|
|3. SS Tyvon Branch (OAK) - Branch's tackle numbers were down a bit from 2009, however his 4 sacks made up for the difference. The re-signing of Michael Huff was good news for Branch owners as he will now stay in the more fantasy fruitful position of strong safety as Mike Mitchell stays on the bench with Huff at FS. Branch is a clear cut top tier DB this season.|
|4. FS 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 this year. The switch to a 4-3 will likely improve Ward's tackle numbers. He's only kept out of the top 5 due to a lack of big play ability.|
|5. SS Patrick Chung (NE) - If you read my site at all last year, I toted up Chung in my 2010 IDP Draft Rankings as one of the best sleepers of the year and he didn't dissapoint. Injuries derailed a top 10 performance by Chung last year, but it's a good bet that he puts up top 10 numbers this year if he plays the entire season.|
|6 (1). SS LaRon Landry (WAS) -Landry was on an absolutely torrid pace before he went down for the season with an Achilles' tendon injury in Week 10. During this span, he had 87 total tackles in 9 games (that's an average of close to 10 total tackles a game) and was putting up LB1 type numbers from his SS position. Landry will undoubtedly be the 1st DB selected in the majority of IDP drafts. However, it's not as clear cut as it seems. The Redskins received an historically high amount of tackle opportunity last season which they are unlikely to receive again this season. More importantly, Landry is still bothered by his Achilles' injury and has stated that he may need off-season surgery. This obvious upside is there for Landry, but it doesn't come without some risk. R
August 31st Update: When healthy, Landry is the clear cut #1 pick off the board for defensive backs. However, he's really been struggling to get back to full health from the Achilles' injury he suffered last season. These type of injuries are hard to come back from and with 5 other viable DB1s on the board, Landry has to fall down the rankings a bit.
|7. SS Roman Harper (NO) - Harper has had 4 straight seasons of 75+ solo tackles and is usually good for 2-4 sacks per season. With a young, talented free safety in Malcolm Jenkins, Harper will reprise his role as an in-the-box safety which should help his overall tackle numbers. Feel confident in taking Harper as your DB1.|
|8 (13). SS George Wilson (BUF) - The strong safety position in Buffalo has been a fantasy hotspot the last couple of seasons.. Donte Whitner led the league in tackles for a safety last year (139 total tackles). Wilson also had great success in the games he started back in 2009 (103 total tackles). Wilson is going to be one of the best fantasy sleepers this season and could make some owner very happy as he is likely to put up DB1 numbers while having a DB3 ADP. S|
|9. SS Quintin Mikell (STL) - Mikell had his best season as a pro last year in Philadelphia with 77 solo tackles, 11 assists, 1 sack, and 3 INTs. Look for Mikell to maintain or even slightly improve upon those numbers in St. Louis. The Rams will have more tackle opportunity than the Eagles had and Mikell has less competition for tackles. Overall, he landed in a great fantasy position. S
August 19th Update: It was a bit of a surprise to see Mikell lined up at free safety for the Rams in the pre-season opener. If this situation continues into the regular season, Mikell's value falls out of the top 10.
|10. FS Eric Weddle (SD) - Weddle signed the largest contract over issued to a safety this off-season (5 years @ $50 million) which may cause some to think he will become complacent and his numbers will dip. I don't foresee this happening. Weddle is one of the best run-stopping free safeties in the game and the added presence of Bob Sanders as strong safety should give Weddle more flexibility to make big plays. The Chargers are still a bit leaky in the front seven which should provide Weddle with a enough tackle opportunity to crack the top 10 by years end.|
|11. FS Antoine Bethea (IND) - Bethea is not likely to ever crack the top 5 players at his position. However, he is very consistent at a position which lacks consistent. He's had 70+ solo tackles for three straight seasons and provides owners with a good amount of big player value. He's a DB1-/DB2+ value.|
|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 76 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. SS Troy Polamalu (PIT) - Mr. "Head and Shoulders" finally managed to stay healthy for entire season and consequently put up top 15 numbers last season. Don't expect more than 3-5 solo tackles per game from Polamalu as he relies heavily on big plays for his point production (7 INTs last season). For owners in big play leagues, Polamalu is more of a DB3.|
|14. SS Bernard Pollard (BAL) - Pollard is a classic example of a safety who racks up tons of tackles due to his atrocious coverage skills (e.g. Gibril Wilson). He does play the run quite well however and Baltimore is actually a good place for him to be as he won't have much coverage responsibilities with Ed Reed at FS. Former Ravens SS Dawan Landry put up respectable numbers in this position last year and given Pollard's propensity to put up lofty box score tackle numbers, he's a good slight risk as a DB2.|
|15. SS Donte Whitner (SF) - Whitner's ridiculous tackle numbers last season were in large part due to the system and defense he played on. Moving to San Francisco isn't all bad for Whitner however. He's a solid tackler who has shown good fantasy potential since entering the league in 2006. He should receive enough tackle opportunity to put up solid DB2 numbers this year.|
|16. FS Oshiomogho Atogwe (WAS) - 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 decent tackle numbers. I expect his tackle numbers to decrease a bit as there is quite a bit of competition for tackles on the Redskins compared to the Rams. However, his big play production could crank up now that he has a Pro-Bowl caliber safety in LaRon Landry playing next to him keeping offenses honest.|
|17. SS William Moore (ATL) - The strong safety position in Atlanta has been a valuable one from a fantasy perspective the handful of seasons. Erik Coleman had back to back 80+ solo tackles seasons in 2008 and 2009 at the position. Moore saw in increased role in his 2nd year and put up decent tackle numbers for the amount of playing time he was receiving. More importantly, he managed 5 interceptions. He now has the full-time gig and should be able to notch 80+ solos with 3-5 interceptions making him a solid DB2. S|
|18. LCB Antoine Winfield (MIN) - Winfield, like Charles Tillman below, is one of the most reliable fantasy corners in the league. Playing in a system which utilizes a decent amount of Cover 2 looks allows Winfield with higher than normal tackle opportunity. 70+ solos with 15-20 assists is a reasonable assumption of Winfield's 2011 expected performance. He won't contribute much in the big play department, however. R|
|19. RCB Cortland Finnegan (TEN) - Finnegan had a top 10 season in a lot of leagues last season and cracked the 100 tackle mark for the first time in his career. He's a small, scrappy player that puts maximum effort into every play and isn't afraid to come up and make a tackle. The Titans defense is likely to be on the field a lot this year and Finnegan should have plenty of opportunities to come close to reaching his 2010 numbers.|
|20. LCB Charles Tillman (CHI) - Tillman remains one of the more consistent options for fantasy owners at the cornerback position. The Bears still play a decent amount of Cover 2 which requires the corners to play closer to the line than typical and help in run support. Tillman's physicality and willingness to make a tackle typically leads to good tackle numbers (70-75 solos, 11-12 assists). He's usually good for 3-5 interceptions per year as well. He's a nice DB2/3 and CB2+. R|
|21 (15). SS Dawan Landry (JAX) - Landry surprised many IDP owners last season with his 86/25/1 statline. He arrives in Jacksonville at a position that has had good fantasy potential for years but always lacked a quality player. Now that the position is filled with a player Landry's respectable skill level, solid DB2 production is likely.
August 19th Update: When Landry signed with the Jaguars in the off-season, he was expected to take over the starting strong safety responsibilities from Courtney Greene. However, if the first preseason game is any indication, it looks as though Landry will be playing free safety. I've bumped him down a few spots as a result.
|22 (33). SS Kam Chancellor (SEA) - Chancellor, a 5th round pick out of Virginia Tech, is the likely replacement for Lawyer Milloy at the strong safety position in Seattle. He has high tackle upside as he will be used as an in-the-box safety for the majority of snaps and with a sub-par front seven, he should be able to garner around 95-100 total tackles assuming he holds the starting gig. Don't expect much big play production from Chancellor, however. If you are feeling risky late in your draft, Chancellor is a great guy to take a chance with. S
For more fantasy cornerback sleepers, click here!
|23. FS Louis Delmas (DET) - Delmas is one of the more overrated fantasy defensive backs. He's averaged only 63 solo tackles, 25 assisted tackles, and a couple of big players per year. Honestly, he wasn't even rosterable in most leagues last year. An increase in big play production is likely this year as the Lions front four will be putting a lot of pressuring on opposing QBs which should lead to more takeaways by the secondary. B|
|24. FS Michael Griffin (TEN) - Griffin was a solid, but not spectacular option for fantasy owners in his first three seasons in the league. He never exceeded 57 solo tackles and instead relied on big plays for the majority of his production; however, last year that all changed as he put up a whopping 86 solo tackles and 22 assists along with 4 interceptions. Keep in mind, Tennessee had an absurd amount of tackle opportunity last season which inflated Griffin's numbers a bit. I don't expect 85+ solos again from him. But 70-75 solos with 3-4 interceptions is a definite possibility especially given how much the Titans defense is likely to be on the field this season.|
|25 (26). SS Morgan Burnett (GB) - Burnett was one of my more prominent deep sleepers last season. Unfortunately he never really got a chance to prove himself as he suffered a season ending in Week 4 of the regular season against the Lions. He's back to full health this season and will be the starting strong safety alongside Nick Collins. The Packers are bringing him along slowly because they believe in his long term value, which you should as well. He's a good bet for DB3 value this season. S|
|26 (29). FS Kerry Rhodes (ARI) - Kerry Rhodes finished the year as the #1 point scorer for defensive backs in this scoring system a year ago. So why is he ranked #30? When you take out the two defensive touchdowns Rhodes had in Weeks 4 and 5, he falls out of the top 10. Don't get me wrong, with 78 solo tackles, 12 assists, 4 fumble recoveries, 4 INTs, and 1 sack, he still had a very solid season. I just don't trust that the big play numbers are going to be there in the same capacity as they were last season. Draft Rhodes as your DB3 and not your DB1.|
|27 (26). SS Kenny Phillips (NYG) - Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell expects Phillips to have an increased role this season and he admitted that he held Phillips back a bit last season coming off major knee surgery. Phillips only had 77 tackles last season but those numbers should undoubtedly increase as he will be playing up in the box more to help the Giants weak set of linebackers support the run. Consider him a value pick in tackle-heavy IDP leagues. R, S|
|28. RCB Patrick Peterson (ARI) - Peterson is a solid choice if for nothing more than he is a rookie cornerback who possesses above average ball skills and tackling ability. Even though he's one of the more talented rookies to come out at his position in recent years, he will be tested early and often. As of writing this, Peterson had not yet cracked the starting lineup and he may not for a few weeks as Ken Whisenhunt as historically been hesitant about starting rookies right off the bat. If you have the flexibility to sit on Peterson for a few weeks until he starts, he could bring some nice value to you as a CB2/DB3. ROOKIE, S
August 31st Update: The season-ending injury to Greg Toler means that Peterson is likely to become an every down starter at cornerback from Week 1. Opposing teams are going to throw his way often and he should see a very high amount of tackle opportunity. Additionally, he could be returning kicks and punts. So he has added value in leagues that reward for return yardage.
|29. FS Antrel Rolle (NYG) - Rolle had one of the better tackle seasons of his career with 76 solo tackles last season, but failed to make a lot of big plays as he has in years past. With Kenny Phillips healthy and playing a more significant in-the-box role for the Giants, Rolle will have the freedom to roam and make plays in the secondary which is his strong suit. He's also got a chance to put up respectable tackle numbers as the Giants linebacking crew is inexperienced and not overly talented.|
|30. FS Michael Huff (OAK) - Huff had a top 30 finish last season as he put up a 76-17-3-4 stat line. As Rolando McClain improves, I would expect Huff's tackle numbers to flatten out more into his 65-70 solo range. The Raiders have stated that they are going to use Huff as a "rover" having him play free safety in base packages and moving him to slot cornerback in passing situations. This should allow him to maintain a good level of big play production making him a DB3-/DB4+.|
Last Updated: September 5, 2011
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