2014 IDP Rankings - Defensive Backs (Redraft)

Listed below are my 2014 Defensive Back Rankings for IDP Redraft Leagues. I will continually update these throughout the off-season to reflect changes in free agency, defensive schemes, playing time, draft selections, etc. However, keep in mind that the information listed here is just a small sample of a much larger set of rankings and descriptions that are accessible through purchasing my 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide.

Drafting Philosophy:
Defensive backs have the most variability in point production from year-to-year. In other words, your top 20 defensive backs in 2014 could be quite different from your top 20 defensive backs in 2013 (especially in "big play leagues").

Much of this variability is because a defensive back's production is often times 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, typically has top-notch fantasy producers available on the waiver wire. This is due to the relatively large amount of DBs that unexpectedly emerge as viable fantasy options throughout the course of the season (e.g. Barry Church).

With this being said, I find it hard to use one of my first defensive picks on a defensive back. In reality, there are very few "locks" at the fantasy DB position. Therefore, I usually try to grab a solid veteran fantasy producer like SS Bernard Pollard or FS Eric Weddle and get riskier at this position with my later picks. This strategy affords me the luxury of using higher draft picks on other defensive positions where their projected performance is more accurately predicted.

Scoring System:
Solo Tackle = 1 point
Assist = 0.5 point
Sack = 3 points
Interception = 4 points
Forced Fumble = 2 points
Fumble Recovery = 2 points
Pass Deflection = 1 point
Defensive TD = 6 points

S = Sleeper/Undervalued Player
B = Bust/Overvalued Player
R = Injury Risk

Tier 1

Harrison Smith 1. SS Harrison Smith (MIN) - Smith was on pace for another top 5 fantasy finish before a turf toe injury robbed him of eight games. With Chad Greenway continuing to decline and big holes at the other two linebacker positions, Smith could very well top 100 solo tackles this season. Add in his big play capabilities and you have the makings of the #1 fantasy DB.

T.J. Ward 2. SS T.J. Ward (DEN) - After two down years, Ward was finally able to come close to replicating his outstanding rookie production from 2010 - 112 total tackles, 2 INTs, and 1.5 sacks were good enough for a top 3 fantasy finish at the safety position in most leagues. After years of struggling to find a top level safety option, Denver landed their man in T.J. Ward this off-season. He has the talent to play either safety position but will most likely slide into the strong safety role. If that's the case, he should be well set up for a very nice fantasy year especially if the Broncos fail to address their deficiency at inside linebacker. Ward should be one of the top DBs taken off the board.

Bernard Pollard 3. SS Bernard Pollard (TEN) - With 99 total tackles, 3 INTs, and 0.5 sack, 2013 was another typical season for Pollard who remains one of the most consistent options in the fantasy universe. He's not much a big play producer but is a definite tone-setter in the run defense game and plays the role of the in-the-box safety for the Titans. He should continue to see great tackle opportunity in Tennessee and be an elite DB1 option, especially in tackle-heavy leagues. S

Barry Church 4. SS Barry Church (DAL) - For a player that led all defensive backs with 135 total tackles (20 more than the next nearest back) and was the #1 point producer at the position, this ranking will likely seem a bit low. However, the devil is in the details as they say. First off, Church had never registered more than 28 total tackles in any of his previous three seasons before last year. Secondly, Church greatly benefited from Sean Lee and Bruce Carter both missing large chunks of time throughout the season and with the Cowboys defense struggling mightily in nearly all facets of the game, he was afforded the opportunity to sell out against the run on a majority of plays. With Sean Lee once again out for the season, Church should see solid tackle opportunity. I just don't know if his production is sustainable enough to warrant his current ADP. B

Morgan Burnett 5. SS Morgan Burnett (GB) - Despite missing three games, Burnett still finished with nearly 100 total tackles. However, he was hindered by a severe lack of big plays - zero interceptions, forced fumbles, or sacks. His performance in that department should improve this season now that he's fully healthy, however. Expect 115-120 total tackles and a couple big plays.

Eric Weddle 6. FS Eric Weddle (SD) - Weddle posted the 2nd best tackle figures of his career only behind his 2008 sophomore season. His 115 total tackles were good enough for 2nd best last season behind Barry Church. Weddle is one of the game's most consistent fantasy producers averging 100 total tackles per year over the last 6 seasons and should continue to provide owners with DB1 value.

Eric Berry 7. SS Eric Berry (KC) - Berry's tackle numbers declined for the 3rd consecutive season, however he still managed to put up top 10 numbers via a spike in big play production. I'm not holding my breath for a big increase in tackle production as the Kansas City stat crew awarded the least amount of them across the league in 2013 and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Berry is a playmaker and find ways to fill up the box scores, so he remains a solid top 5-10 draft selection.

Kenny Vacarro 8. SS Kenny Vacarro (NO) - Vaccaro proved his worth as a first round selection last year and showed flashes of elite all-around potential. With Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins now gone in free agency, Vaccaro is well set up for a potential stud season playing behind a fairly suspect group of linebackers. He's really only limited by the Saints relative lack of tackle opportunity. DB2-DB2+ floor with DB1 potential. S

Tier 2

Antrel Rolle 9. FS Antrel Rolle (NYG) - The Giants poor play last season led to an increase in tackle opportunity for the defense with Rolle being the main beneficiary. Perhaps more importantly, New York had one of the least dominant linebacking crews in the league which forced Rolle to make more run-stopping plays than usual. All this translated into a career high in tackles, interceptions, and sacks. I wouldn't expect a ton to change this season outside of the big play numbers coming back down to earth a bit. He's a still a viable DB1- option.

Jonathan Cyprien 10. SS Jonathan Cyprien (JAC) - The combination of a target-rich environment and little to no tackle opportunity in the Jacksonville secondary aided Cyprien in finishing 3rd in solo tackles behind Barry Church and Eric Weddle. The big plays were few and far between, but he should continue to produce 80-85+ solo tackles and be a solid DB1- in tackle-heavy leagues. 

Mark Barron 11. SS Mark Barron (TB) - Despite missing two games, Barron was still able to finish as a top 20 performer and built upon the success he enjoyed as a rookie. As long as Lavonte David is in the picture, 80 solo tackles and handful of big plays seem to be his ceiling, but those are still viable DB1- numbers. I wouldn't overreact too much to the arrival of Lovie Smith and the Tampa 2 defense as Barron's role is likely to remain largely unchanged.

Tyvon Branch 12. SS Tyvon Branch (OAK) - Branch missed all but one of Oakland's regular season games last year after suffering a broken leg in Week 2. He's never been a flashy play at safety but he's been a model of consistency in the tackle department putting up 74 or more solo tackles in four consecutive seasons before last year. A broken leg isn't as serious of an injury as it sounds and with the Raiders likely to be a cellar dweller once again this year, tackle opportunity should be abound for the 7th year player out of Connecticut. He's a solid, but not overly exciting, high floor DB1-/DB2+ option.

Charles Johnson 13. FS Earl Thomas (SEA) - Much like Barry Church, Thomas' ranking will likely appear low to many. Yes, he finished as a top 8 fantasy DB in 2013 but his numbers during the 2nd half of the season were less than appealing. Through his first 9 games, Thomas was the #1 DB in fantasy. However, in Weeks 10-17, he was the 62nd ranked DB. A good amount of tackle competition, relatively low opportunity, and a stingy home stat crew, all combine to make Thomas a stay away option for me this year. B

Stevie Brown 14. SS Stevie Brown (NYG) - Brown missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL but should be 100% percent by the start of the regular season. He will look to pick up where he left off in 2012 when he had a ridiculous 8 interceptions. With Will Hill now waived, Brown will be on the field for nearly 100% of the team's snaps. He will be a high upside option within the large DB2 group. S

Donte Whitner 15. SS Donte Whitner (CLE) - The Browns replaced T.J. Ward with a strikingly similar player in Donte Whitner who graded out as the #6 ranked safety in the league last year according to Pro Football Focus. He should see a boost in tackle numbers moving out of San Francisco and into a more favorable stat keeper situation in Cleveland. He should be one of the better, high floor DB2+ options come draft day. S

LaRon Landry 16. SS LaRon Landry (IND) - Call me a sucker, but I've always been a fan of Landry from a fantasy perspective. He's had a hard time staying healthy during his career, but has produced at a DB1 level when on the field. He's pretty much just a tackle producer at this point in his career, but I'll take a shot on him as my DB2, health concerns aside.

Roman Harper 17. SS Roman Harper (CAR) - After 7 straight seasons of ~75 solo production and DB1 status, Harper's production fell off a cliff as he missed several games due to injury and was forced into a three man safety rotation. Now in Carolina, he will have the freedom and capable surrounding cast to be used as an in-the-box safety in the majority of situations, which is good news for fantasy owners. There's a relatively high floor with upside potential coming via the sack department; however, his ceiling is ultimately limited as there's too much tackle competition for him to have a reasonable chance at DB1 status. It's best to expect DB2 value from him in 2014.

Stevie Brown 18. S/CB Tyrann Mathieu (ARZ) -The "Honey Badger" started off the season as hot as any defensive back averaging over 14 PPG in standard scoring IDP leagues. That number was nearly cut in half over his next 5 games however before a torn ACL ended his season early in Week 14. I believe that Mathieu's true value lies closer to the upper end of that PPG spectrum. Heading into his 2nd season, Mathieu should see a slight increase in the percentage of snaps played which should help keep his value relatively consistent to 2013. However, he's not likely to be ready before Week 3 earliest, so he gets adjusted down in the rankings accordingly.

William Moore 19. SS William Moore (ATL) - Moore is a high floor player who provides a good mix of tackles and big plays. I'm a bit skeptical of his overall upside however as he's never finished with more than 65 solos in any one season. For those conservative drafters, Moore is a worthwhile and steady option in this draft slot.

Charles Tillman 20. CB Charles Tillman (CHI)- At age 33, Tillman isn't quite the player he use to be when he first started with the Bears. However, he remains one of the most intelligent and instinctual players in the game. He should be able to produce 5-7 tackles per contest with a good amount of big plays (especially forced fumbles). CB2+/CB1- value.

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Questions, comments, or concerns with any of these rankings? If so, please let me know by posting a comment below or emailing me at theidpguru@idpguru.com. You can also hit me up on Twitter

Last Updated: August 17, 2014
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SwinganaMiss said...

Any starting DBs going to KR/PR? Thx!

Ryan Sitzmann said...

Working on an article now that will be covering this to topic.

ryno2020 said...

Hey Guru, I recently ready Deone Bucannon will be moving from SS in Arizona to the dime LB. Do you see this helping or hurting his value? Any chance he is still on the field for the majority of the defensive snaps? Thanks

Ryan Sitzmann said...

I don't see him opening the year seeing base snaps. However, I would imagine by he will be getting enough base+subpackage snaps to be fantasy viable. Probably worth a stash in deep leagues were you can sit on a guy for a few weeks. In shallow leagues, definitely keep a very close eye on him because he has DB1 potential as an every down player.

Brendan Nuriddin said...

Any thoughts on Matt Elam, DJ Swearinger or Calvin Pryor? I've got them in my Dynasty league. Wondering about long term development

Ryan Sitzmann said...

@Brendan Nuriddin
All pretty close. And DBs are the hardest IDP position to project long-term. I like Swearinger's value most though as he's got the weakest set of linebackers in front of him.

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