If you’ve read any of my IDP work at Fantasy Sharks (and really, who hasn’t? OK, lot’s of people haven’t. Now I’m sad. Happy?) you know that I’m a big proponent of waiting to draft defensive backs. It’s a position that’s as deep as it is volatile. Better to load up on defensive linemen and linebackers and look for values in the secondary late. Players set for the sort of increased role that could lead to a huge bump in statistical production in 2016. Defensive backs set to take the proverbial “next step.”
Players like Indianapolis Colts strong safety Clayton Geathers.
After limited snaps that included a subpackage role and a pair of starts for the Colts last year, the loss of Dwight Lowery in free agency means Geathers will begin his second NFL season as a starter opposite veteran Mike Adams. Head coach Chuck Pagano told Kevin Bowen of the team’s website Geathers has impressed in OTAs.
“Clayton is doing a great job,” Pagano said. “He’s communicating really well back there with Mike. He doesn’t make mental errors. He’s a very conscientious guy and he’s a talented guy. He’s gotten himself in really good shape, looks fasters, looks rangier, twitchier. He’s making nice plays.”
Geathers, for his part, said he’s been leaning on Adams’ experience. “I sit right behind him (in meetings) so I’m always in his ear, ‘Mike, Mike, Mike. Help me out,’” Geathers said. “Just the way to be a pro and how he sees things on the field, how he studies, the work he puts in. You just don’t get 13 years in the league by sitting around.”
More and more NFL teams are moving safeties up into linebacker spots in some subpackages (or full-time in the case of Deone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals), and Geathers dabbled a bit in that “hybrid” role last year. Pagano didn’t rule out a repeat in 2016.
“We’ll see how we progress,” Pagano said. “It’s still really early. Our inside backers are doing a nice job. With a healthy Sio (Moore) and a healthy Nate (Irving) and a healthy Josh (McNary), we’ve got athletic guys at the linebacker spot that can run and fulfill that dime position in our sub packages, so there’s really not a need right now. It’s great that those linebackers are getting that work. Will we go down that road at a later date? We’ll see.”
However, even if Geathers sticks exclusively at safety in 2016, there’s still plenty for IDP owners to like. Geathers is a talented young player who Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said was an, “active, physical safety with a willingness to get his hands dirty near the line of scrimmage” leading up to last year’s draft. That sort of assessment is music to the ears of IDP owners, and Ryan Sitzmann of FootballGuys likes what he’s hearing — so much so that he wrote Geathers may be his “top sleeper at the DB position” in 2016.
“He didn’t get that much playing time last year (270 snaps),” Sitzmann said, “but he was effective when he was on the field. I expect him to be the leading tackle producer in that secondary and the second-leading tackler on the team behind D’Qwell Jackson.”
There’s also ample precedent for Colts’ safeties emerging as viable IDP assets. Last year it was Lowery posting top-25 fantasy numbers in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring. The year before that, Adams tallied 87 tackles and finished seventh among defensive backs. The year before that, Antoine Bethea ranked 12th — his second DB1 finish in three seasons.
That’s three DB1 seasons and four top-25 finishes from Colts safeties in the past five years. A history of production. There’s also the matter of the uncertainty at the inside linebacker spot opposite Jackson with the free agent departure of Jerrell Freeman. Uncertainty that could mean additional tackle opps for Geathers.
Throw in the youngsters not insignificant talent and all the ingredients are there for a breakout in 2016.
Not bad for a player with an Average Draft Position of DB28 in early IDP drafts at My Fantasy League so far this summer.