The NFC South has long been a division where the passing games ruled the day—the division is chock-full of big-name quarterbacks and choked with high end wide receivers. Three of the NFL’s top-10 offenses in terms of passing yards hail from the NFC South—including two teams that rank inside the top-five in the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Given that, it’s not a huge surprise that the AFC South is also replete with teams who are good IDP matchups for the cornerback position. Three of the top-12 teams in fantasy points per game allowed to the cornerback position reside in the NFC South, including two in the top-five—once again the aforementioned Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Only the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks allow more fantasy points to corners than the Buccaneers, who both throw the ball a ton (406 passing attempts in 2019) and lead the league in interceptions thrown. The Buccaneers also boast a pair of wideouts in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin who rank inside the top-10 in the league in targets with 97 and 89, respectively.
However, after a terrible start to the season, the Falcons have played light-years better defensively since the bye. And veteran cover man Desmond Trufant told Kelsey Conway of the team’s website that he thinks the secondary will be up to the task at home on Sunday.
“We’ve just been executing,” Trufant said. “Before we were flat, no energy. Now, you can see it. We’re having fun out there and capitalizing on our opportunities. We’re just playing our ball.”
Whether it’s Trufant or young cornerback Isaiah Oliver, both of the outside cornerbacks are going to be plenty busy Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Given the choice of the two, Oliver’s the preferred streaming play—he’s the ninth-most targeted CB in the NFL through 11 weeks. But both Falcons corners are viable options in CB-required IDP leagues in Week 12.
If that duo isn’t available in your IDP league, here are some other players to consider.
Chidobe Awuzie, Dallas Cowboys (at NEP)
In his third NFL season, Awuzie’s been up and down in coverage—his 53 targets in the passing game have resulted in 32 catches, over 475 yards and a passer rating against of nearly 95. But as Walton Spurlin wrote for Fantasy Pros, Awuzie’s struggles in coverage have actually contributed to him being a better IDP option ahead of a Week 12 trip to New England.
“When facing the Patriots offense, it’s an ‘all hands on deck’ situation regarding opposing DBs,” Spurlin said. “New England averages 70 offensive plays per game with 40 of those plays being pass attempts. Opposing DBs are averaging 31.2 tackles per game against the Patriots’ offense and have put up 13 big plays. Playing CB Awuzie has put up 49 total tackles which is the second most in the Cowboys’ secondary trailing only SS Xavier Woods. He has put up two big plays on the season and has posted at least five tackles in six of the past eight games. He is a must start in CB required leagues and a fine plug and play bye week/injury start in standard leagues.”
No team in the NFL is allowing more fantasy points this year to the cornerback position than the Patriots, despite injuries at the position. Awuzie’s a risky play in mixed IDP leagues, but in formats that require cornerbacks he’s got a very nice fantasy floor given the matchup.
Juston Burris, Cleveland Browns (vs. MIA)
It may seem a bit odd to see Burris included in this article. More than a bit odd, in fact—as Skyler Carlin wrote for Clutch Points, after Morgan Burnett suffered a season-ending Achilles injury it was Burris who replaced the veteran at strong safety.
“While Burnett makes his way to injured reserve,” he said, “Juston Burris will likely draw the start at strong safety for the rest of the year. Burris has started in five games this season due to injuries to Burnett and Damarious Randall. In those five games, Burris has played formidably with 12 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. The team’s backup safety is in his second season with the Browns after joining the team in 2018. Prior to being in Cleveland, Burris had spent his first two seasons with the New York Jets. Now, he’ll be relied upon while the Browns hope to make an unlikely playoff push to end the season.”
The thing is, with many IDP providers (including My Fantasy League), Burris has positional eligibility as a cornerback ahead of a top-10 IDP matchup with the Dolphins. Burris tallied five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception last week against Pittsburgh, and being able to slot a box safety in a cornerback slot is the sort of “loophole” play that can give your IDP squad a decided edge.
Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at ATL)
Davis made waves at this year’s combine by peeling off a 4.30-second 40-yard dash at this year’s combine—a feat that spurred the Buccaneers to take Davis in the second round of April’s draft. Davis has since become a full-time starter for the team—in part because head coach Bruce Arians said Davis (and fellow rookie safety Mike Edwards) doesn’t play like a first-year player.
“I don’t give a (expletive) if they’re rookies,” Arians said, per Mark Inabinnett of AL.com “these guys can play. They’re getting their hands on a lot of balls. They’re doing things that veterans do, because they listen and they’re smart. The veterans are helping them out, and they’ve got very good coaching.”
The reality is that there have been plenty of rookie moments for both players in 2019. The Buccaneers rank 31st in the NFL in pass defense and Davis has surrendered four touchdowns and a passer rating against of nearly 90. In eight games this year, Davis has been targeted at least eight times in four contests, and a top-five IDP matchup with the Atlanta Falcons will probably make it five of nine.
Nik Needham, Miami Dolphins (at CLE)
Needham’s taken the scenic route to becoming an NFL starter. After playing for a UTEP team that won one game over his last two years in school, Needham was signed as an undrafted free agent, cut, signed to the practice squad, elevated to the 53-man roster and then inserted into the starting lineup. He told Andy Cohen of the Dolphins website that he’s well aware he can’t take anything for granted at this point.
“Just for that one moment (when taking the field at the beginning of a game), I stand there and think about how lucky I am,” Needham said. “You’ve got to remember I’ve been an underdog my entire life. “Got to keep earning it every day. Nothing in my football career has been easy.”
Week 12 certainly isn’t going to be easy for Needham—he’ll likely draw Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage in Cleveland. Needham has amassed 21 total tackles, five passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble over the past three weeks—numbers that slot the young feel-good story second in fantasy points among cornerbacks over that span.