Once upon a time, there were a handful of cornerbacks who could be trusted as viable weekly fantasy starters, even in “standard” IDP leagues that lump corners and safeties together. Players like Antoine Winfield of the Minnesota Vikings, Charles Tillman of the Chicago Bears and DeAngelo Hall of the Washington Redskins annually cracked the top 20 fantasy defensive backs.
Ah, the good old days.
Well, those days appear to be toast. Over the past three years, only a handful of cornerbacks have cracked 65 solo tackles in a season — and only one of those players (Jason McCourty of the Tennessee Titans in 2014) had any sort of reputation for big fantasy numbers before doing it. Blame the changing face of the position. Blame the inherent volatility of cornerbacks in IDP leagues. Blame Congress. Whatever the reason, reliable weekly options have become so rare that in “mixed” leagues cornerbacks are going the way of Blockbuster stores.
In IDP leagues where cornerbacks are required, more and more fantasy owners are going the streaming route — churning starters weekly based on matchups. It just makes more sense than investing significant fantasy capital in a position that has become crapshoot-city.
The increasing popularity of the streaming strategy has also created an increase in the number of times I get asked each week on social media about potential matchup plays at cornerback. So in 2016 I’m rolling out a new column — this column, where I’ll highlight a few cornerbacks with the sort of favorable matchups that could portend a nice stat line.
I’ll also look back at the week that was (a little accountability for my picks won’t kill me — probably), but this being the first weekend of the season and all I haven’t had a chance to screw anything up yet.
Let’s see if we can’t fix that.
David Amerson, Oakland Raiders (at NO)
As Eddie Paskal of the team’s website wrote, Amerson’s well aware that Sunday’s tilt in the Superdome is a challenge for the Oakland secondary. “I think as a competitor,” Amerson said, “these are the kinds of games you live for. You’re going up against, like you said, the best quarterback, the best passing offense, and as a secondary. If you really want to test yourself and see how good you are right now, and see how good you can be, this is the perfect game to just go out there and just compete balls to the wall and go after them.”
Frankly, I’m surprised that Amerson’s even available in any CB-required formats. He ranked fourth among fantasy cornerbacks in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring for the season last year, and only the Denver Broncos allowed more fantasy points to cornerbacks than the Saints in 2015. Yet I was able to add Amerson in a couple of leagues this week. He’s a “super-streamer” if you will — the sort of player who may well be worth rostering in the long-term…which means you wouldn’t need this column anymore.
Now I’m conflicted. One player in I’m putting myself out of business.
Malcolm Butler, New England Patriots (at AZ)
Butler told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald it’s going to feel pretty good to step back on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium for the first time since Super Bowl XLIX — where I believe he had a pretty good game. “That most definitely is going to bring up some memories,” Butler said. “(But) nothing in the past can help us with Arizona. It’ll be an honor to be there, but the main focus is going there to play Arizona.”
This isn’t a matchup where Butler has to spend all night on a single receiver to get IDP owners salivating. With Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown not even listed on the Week 1 injury report, the Cardinals deep stable of wideouts is at 100 percent — a stable at the heart of the Redbirds’ ranking of seventh in fantasy points allowed to cornerbacks in 2015. Add in Carson Palmer‘s recent penchant for turning the ball over, and you have the makings of a true primetime performance.
Brent Grimes, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at ATL)
During training camp, Grimes talked up (per FanSided’s James Yarcho) his reunion with Tampa DC Mike Smith, who was the head coach while Grimes was in Atlanta. “It’s a big deal for me because I like the system,” Grimes said. “I also know, one thing I know about Coach Smith is he’s a great coach. As far as everyone on the field knowing where they need to be, know what their assignment is and he pays great attention to detail.”
We’ll see if Grimes feels the same way about a reunion of a different sort on Sunday at the Georgia Dome, where he will likely spend most of the afternoon locking horns with former teammate Julio Jones. Jones was targeted more times (193) than any wide receiver in the National Football League in 2015, and the Falcons ranked fourth in fantasy points surrendered to the position. Juicy numbers in a juicy matchup.
Damarious Randall, Green Bay Packers (at JAX)
As ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported, Randall’s not lacking for confidence entering his second NFL season. “I guess I was born with it,” he said. “Ever since I was little people always said that I never backed down from anything, that I never think I can’t do anything. Just any sport. Lacrosse, soccer. I just feel like if I can go out there and play that I can be great at it. That’s just something that I have up inside of me.”
There are a couple of reasons for IDP owners to have confidence in Randall as an option at cornerback in Week 1 — and possibly beyond. Nothing’s etched in stone right now, but if as expected Morgan Burnett sees snaps as a nickel linebacker that could mean some snaps at safety for Randall. A hybrid defense merry-go-round, if you will. Add a possible increase in tackle opportunities to an already favorable matchup against the Jacksonville Allens (Hurns and Robinson) and you have the recipe for streaming success.