Defensive backs have the most variability in point production from year-to-year. In other words, your top 20 defensive backs in 2015 could be quite different from your top 20 defensive backs in 2014 (especially in "big play leagues").
Much of this variability is because defensive back production is often dependent on the performance of the team's front seven. Their production is also heavily tied to how they are used in the defensive scheme (especially safeties).
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. Rashad Johnson).
This 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 FS Antoine Bethea or CB Jason McCourty 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.
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
1. SS Morgan Burnett (GB) - Burnett led all DBs in solo tackles last year with a whopping 94. The Packers are projected to be fairly weak at ILB, so Burnett should continue to have plenty of tackle opportunity moving forward and is as good of a bet as any to finish as the top fantasy DB in 2015.
2. SS Reshad Jones (MIA) - After missing the first four games of the year due to suspension, Jones went on a tackling terror the rest of the year racking up 70 solo tackles in a 12 game span. Extrapolated out to an entire year, that's 93 solo tackles. The Dolphins are a bit of a mess at inside/strong side linebacker, so Jones should continue to be used close to the line of scrimmage as a run-stopper and put up elite DB numbers.
3. FS Eric Weddle (SD) - Weddle is the Calais Campbell of the DB group - a player who has been an extremely consistent producer over his eight year career. He had his highest tackle producing year since 2008 and at age 30, still looks like he has a lot left in the tank. No reason why he shouldn't finish as a DB1 again in 2015.
4. FS Harrison Smith (MIN) - Smith is a playmaker in every sense of the word and has been a consistent DB1 option since entering the league in 2012. I'm bumping him down slightly this year as the Vikings front seven has drastically improved, leaving less opportunity for the secondary. Nevertheless, he's about as close as you get to a consensus top 5 pick at the position.
5. SS Jonathan Cyprien (JAX) - Cyprien is a prime example of a pure tackle producer. He's registered over 80 solo tackles in both of his first two seasons; however, has little to no big plays to go along with them. At a position that lacks a lot of year-to-year consistency, Cyprien becomes a valuable plug and play DB1 option (particularly in tackle-heavy scoring formats). He's expected to be recovered from a hand injury to play Week 1.
6. FS Antrel Rolle (CHI) - Rolle has been a model of consistency over his career, compiling 70 or more solo tackles in seven of the last nine seasons. The change of scenery to Chicago may actually help his fantasy value as Chicago's linebacking crew may be near the bottom of the league talent-wise. Rolle is 32 and his play has been deteriorating over the last couple seasons but a 75/15 tackle line with a few interceptions is a reasonable expectation.
7. SS Antoine Bethea (SF) - Bethea has had seven straight seasons of 70+ solo production, a fairly amazing feat given the lack of year-to-year consistency at the position. There's a distinct possibility he eclipses the tackle mark he set forth last year given the turnover at inside linebacker in San Francisco. Despite setting a career high in interceptions a year ago with four, I wouldn't count on a repeat of that this year as Bethea hasn't historically been a big play producer. He's a high floor, DB1-.
8. SS T.J. McDonald (STL) - Despite playing behind one of the league's most stout linebacking tandems, McDonald still managed to finish fourth among all safeties in solo tackles with 84. To me, that makes him a fairly safe bet to repeat as a DB1/DB1-.
9. FS Charles Woodson (OAK) - It's hard to believe Woodson is still performing at as high of a level as he is given he's 38 year old. The Raiders are perennially bad so their defense should continue to see plenty of opportunity. After 17 seasons of productive play, I'm comfortable taking Woodson as a top 10 fantasy DB.
10. SS Landon Collins (NYG) - Of all rookie safeties, Collins is far and away the top fantasy option. New York is a perfect spot for him as the Giants had a huge need at strong safety and were one of the leagues' worst defenses against the run last year. Seeing as Collins is best suited as an in-the-box safety, expect the G-men to play him close to the line of scrimmage. This should lead to ample tackle opportunity for the first year player out of Alabama. Consider him a top 15 fantasy DB heading into the year.
11. SS Da'Norris Searcy (TEN) - The strong safety position in Tennessee has been a treasure trove for fantasy owners in recent years as the team has fielded a weak set of inside linebackers. Searcy showed flashes of play making ability over various starting stints in Buffalo, so he has a decent chance at coming close to Bernard Pollard's 2013 stat line of 78 solo tackles, 22 assists, and 1.5 sacks. His current ADP of DB28 makes him a great value at the position. S
12. SS Barry Church (DAL) - After a monstrous 2013 season in which Church compiled a ridiculous 135 total tackles, his numbers normalized last year. Now 97 total tackles is nothing to sneeze at, but it is a clear indication that Church's production is on the decline. As the Dallas front seven continues to improve and offensive running game controls the time of possession, Church will find himself with less and less tackle opportunity. Given his historical lack of big play production, Church is best drafted as a downward trending DB1, not an elite DB1. B
13. FS Michael Griffin (TEN) - Griffin was third amongst all defensive backs in solo tackles with 83. This isn't surprising given the lack of strong play at the inside linebacker position in Tennessee. He had similar production in 2010 but then followed that by three mediocre seasons. Griffin has had tackling problems throughout his career which has contributed to his inconsistency issues. Although he carries some risk because of this, the combination of opportunity and a weak set of linebackers make him a DB2+ selection.
14. FS Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix (GB) - Clinton-Dix had a fantastic rookie season for the Packers. He's still extremely young, so he has room to build on his 2014 numbers. With Morgan Burnett in the picture, I don't see Dix reaching DB1 heights, but DB2-DB2+ is a definite possibility.
15. Kam Chancellor (SEA) - Chancellor struggled through a myriad of injury issues last year that limited him in doing what he does best, which is tackle. He seems to be healthy now and should return back to his old form. He has a solid shot at 70+ solo tackles and a couple of interceptions. But should owners should be aware that he's currently in the middle of a holdout and is reportedly willing to miss regular season games if he doesn't receive a new contract.
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Last Updated: August 26, 2015 Related Posts: