Last season, rookie Marcus Peters came from nowhere to lead all cornerbacks in fantasy points in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring — in large part because the 2015 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight.
But in more than one respect, Peters was the exception to the rule. More often than not, even the most talented first-round cornerbacks take some time acclimating to the National Football League. And many times it isn’t the cornerbacks who were drafted on Day 1 who wind making the big IDP impact as rookies. It’s players who come from nowhere, as E.J. Gaines (St. Louis Rams) and Bashuad Breeland (Washington Redskins) did in 2014.
It’s the beneficiaries of the “rookie corner rule.” Day 2 or 3 picks who find their way into the starting lineup early, only to be picked on mercilessly by NFL opponents. Their pain can be pleasure for IDP owners who have their names in the back of their minds — waiting for opportunity to knock.
And among the Class of 2016, one youngster who immediately leaps out as a potential “rookie corner rule” candidate is Maryland cornerback Sean Davis.
What is it about Davis that immediately piques the ol’ IDP interest? One number: 102. That’s the number of tackles that the 6’1″, 201-pound Davis averaged over three years as a starter for the Terrapins. As Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote, “Davis speaks English, French, Chinese … and the language of pain. At least that’s what opposing ball carriers feel as he flies into them with reckless abandon. His versatility will certainly be coveted by NFL scouts, as will his athleticism, height/length, and tenacious play.”
There’s one rather large fly in this IDP ointment, however. Many draftniks view Davis as a safety at the NFL level, including Rob Rang of CBS Sports. “Looks and covers like a safety,” Rang said, “showing a high back pedal and choppy turning motion which allows receivers relatively easy separation. A better hitter than cover man and seems to know it, opting to try to knock the ball out of the hands of receivers as they catch it rather than eliminate the catch with his ability to remain between the ball and quarterback.”
Zierlein agrees, going so far as to say that “At times, (Davis) was disastrous in man coverage.” Zierlein went on to say, “Miscast this season as an outside cornerback, Davis battled through adversity and bounced back with ball production, tackles and forced fumbles. Davis has the ability to cover, but his strengths would best be utilized at safety where he has fewer man responsibilities and can be deployed near the line of scrimmage a little more often.”
However, there are those, including Mike Gerken of NEPatriotsDraft.com, who think that the potential exists for Davis to stick as an NFL cornerback. “He has great size and although he is raw,” Gerken wrote, “you can see the athleticism to play corner down the road. He is very aggressive coming downhill and is a very good open field tackler. On tape, you can see his lack of experience at corner as his footwork and his awareness get him in trouble at times, but there was marked improvement over the course of the (2015) season.”
Frankly, there could very well be a bit of both in Davis’ future, as players like Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals and Walter Thurmond of the Philadelphia Eagles have shown the value of having versatile defensive backs capable of playing anywhere in the secondary. It’s what makes Jalen Ramsey such an interesting prospect for NFL clubs.
Is Davis a talent anywhere near on par with Ramsey? Nope. Will Davis be draftable in most IDP leagues in 2016? Maybe in deep dynasties if things break just so.
But if Davis can find his way onto a team with an immediate need in the secondary and show the ability to offer the sort of positional versatility that NFL teams covet nowadays is there a real shot he could make a fantasy dent in relatively short order? You bet.
And if he can keep his positional eligibility as a cornerback in the process, so much the better.