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2012 Fantasy Football IDP Draft Strategy: Defensive Back Value Picks

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If you’ve read my articles here at Fantasy Sharks or played in a fantasy football league with me at some point over the years (and given the number of leagues I find myself in every year it’s entirely possible you have), you know that I’m huge proponent of waiting to draft defensive backs in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues.

In fact, the idea of waiting on defensive backs is so ingrained into my IDP drafting philosophy that I made mention of it in my recent General IDP Draft Strategy article here at Fantasy Sharks, where I said:

All the uncertainty and inconsistency with fantasy defensive backs may make it seem imperative to try to acquire an elite option early, but, in honesty I prefer to take the opposite tack. Load up on linebackers, get your starting defensive linemen, hell even grab a reserve a two. Then draft your defensive backs. This approach of waiting and then grabbing upside options may appear risky, but the simple fact is that in shallower IDP leagues (as I said earlier) the waiver wire will be riddled with serviceable starting options, so if the player you drafted isn’t cutting the proverbial mustard, just show him the door and grab someone else.

I meant every word of that, and it’s a strategy that has served me well over time, so rather than to just speak in generalities in this instance, I decided to mention some specific players that IDP owners should consider targeting in drafts that present the sort of value that makes the whole “wait for defensive backs” strategy work in the first place.

Antoine Bethea, FS, Indianapolis: Over the past couple of seasons, Bethea has been a perfect example of the sort of value DB1 pick that you can make in IDP drafts a fistful of rounds after the so-called “elite” fantasy defensive backs are already off the board.

Bethea was a Top 10 fantasy performer at his position last year after tallying a ridiculous 139 tackles for the woeful Colts. Granted it may be unreasonable to expect a free safety to rack up 130-plus stops two years in a row, but that was the third time in four seasons that Bethea passed the century mark in total tackles, and given the state of the offense in Indianapolis right now it’s not unreasonable to expect the Colts’ new 3-4 defense to be on the field quite a bit.

However, Bethea is barely cracking the Top 15 defensive backs off draft boards once again according to the IDP average draft position data at MyFantasyLeague.com, leaving Bethea as the sort of player you can build your secondary around while other owners reach for the Eric Berrys and Kam Chancellors of the world.

T.J. Ward, SS, Cleveland: As fantastic as Ward’s 2010 Top 5 IDP rookie season was his 2011 campaign was equally miserable, as the youngster struggled through inconsistent play and injuries while his fantasy owners saw his value fall of the edge of a cliff.

The 25-year-old is chomping at the bit to redeem himself this season (apparently a little too much so given his recent dustup outside a Los Angeles nightclub), and while it may be a little on the optimistic side to predict another Top 10 season, there still could be value to be had by taking advantage of fantasy owners who were burned by last year’s debacle.

Many IDP owners are a bit leery of Ward in 2012 (including me to an extent given where he sits in my latest set of Redraft IDP Rankings here at Fantasy Sharks), but if you can snag him as low-end IDP DB2 there’s a very good chance that he give you an excellent return on that investment.

Jordan Babineaux, SS, Tennessee: If there’s a poster child in 2012 for the sort of defensive back that can be had late in IDP drafts who then “comes out of nowhere” to become a weekly starter in IDP leagues, in my opinion it’s Babineaux, who will be taking over the starting strong safety position for the Titans this year.

After taking over for an injured Chris Hope last year, Babineaux turned in very strong numbers, topping 90 tackles and finishing among the Top 25 fantasy defensive backs, the second time that the ninth-year pro has reached those benchmarks in the past three years.

However, Babineaux has been flying well under the fantasy radar, not being chosen among the Top 40 defensive backs in many IDP drafts. Any time you can get a player with Top 20 upside near the end of your draft, that’s a risk that’s absolutely worth taking, so hop on board the bandwagon and reap the rewards.

Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota: I had included Terrell Thomas of the Giants in this spot, but it appears as of July 30th that Thomas may have torn his ACL again, so it's back to the old drawing board so far as a value cornerback pick is concerned.

Antoine Winfield of the Minnesota Vikings was off to a great start last season before a shoulder injury ended his season after five games. That injury combined with Winfield's advanced age (35) have many IDP owners skittish about his prospects for 2012, with the 14th year pro barely cracking the top 50 defensive backs being selected.

Yes, Winfield's age is a concern, but he's actually younger than Charles Woodson and remains one of the surest tackling players in the NFL at his position. Winfield actually led all fantasy defensive backs in points per game in 2011, and given his considerable upside and relatively modest price tag Winfield is absolutely worth a late look both in "standard" IDP leagues and especially those that require cornerbacks.

These players are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg where a very deep pool of IDP talent of defensive backs are concerned, and for more information on this year’s crop be sure to check out the IDP Team Preview Series at IDP Manor, the Fantasy Sharks IDP forum, and for the latest news on IDPs follow IDP Manor on Twitter.