There has long been a concept in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues known as the “rookie corner rule.” It’s not a complicated concept — first-year cornerbacks often make for solid IDP options because NFL quarterbacks have been known to pick on the new kid in class.
Over the first month of his professional career, quarterbacks have gone after Minnesota’s Jeff Gladney with regularity. The 31st overall pick in the 2020 draft has allowed two-thirds of the 24 passes thrown in his direction over the past three games to be completed, and Gladney’s passer rating against is a robust 108.2.
As Dane Mizutani wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Gladney is the first to admit that opposing signal-callers have gone at him with gusto so far this season.
“I know other teams are going to come at me, being a younger guy,” Gladney said. “I’ve got to hold my own when I’m out there. “I’m young, and my teammates know that. I’m a pro at the end of the day. Those guys are depending on me just like I’m depending on them. I’ve just got to go out there and do my best.”
This week brings Gladney’s stiffest test to date — Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and the Seattle nova-hot passing attack. In his three starts, Gladney has yet to record fewer than five solo stops in a game, and he’s a good bet to at least match that production on Sunday night.
Pierre Desir, New York Jets (vs. Arizona)
When last we saw Pierre Desir on the playing field, he was having just about the most up-and-down game a cornerback can have. The good news was that Desir piled up eight tackles, two picks (including a pick-six) and finished Week 4 as IDP’s highest-scoring cornerback. The bad news is that when Desir wasn’t racking up stats, he was getting roasted in coverage. As Randy Lange reported for the Jets website, all that mattered to the 30-year-old Desir was that the team lost.
“We beat ourselves,” Desir said. “We let this one slip away, from myself giving up big plays to costly penalties that added up and cost us the game, we let this one slip away. We had it, we let it slip away, and we beat ourselves.”
Now, that massive statistical effort may well be Desir’s biggest game of the year — he had three total tackles over the two preceding games combined. But this week the Jets face DeAndre Hopkins and Arizona. Over the first four weeks of the season, only three wideouts in the league have been thrown at more times than Hopkins’ 46 targets.
Rasul Douglas, Carolina (at Atlanta)
It’s been quite the roller-coaster ride for Douglas in 2020. The fourth-year veteran opened the season in Philadelphia, got cut one week into the season, was picked up by Carolina and then forced into full-time duty just days after joining the team. Now, a month into the season, Douglas is Carolina’s best cover man and one of the highest-graded players at his position in the entire NFL.
Opposing quarterbacks haven’t had much success targeting Douglas in 2020. They are completing about 67 percent of their passes, but averaging just 7.9 yards per completion. Douglas has a passer rating against of just 79.7, and while Douglas gave up 10 total touchdowns in coverage over the last two seasons, he hasn’t allowed one yet in 2020.
It’s been quite the turnaround.
Given how well Douglas has played since joining Carolina, he’ll probably see quite a bit of Calvin Ridley this week with Julio Jones banged up. That should mean quite a few targets Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — and an opportunity for Douglas to match his seven-tackle effort back in Week 2 against Tampa Bay.
Kendall Fuller, Washington (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
After missing the first two weeks of the regular season with an assortment of injuries, Fuller has played every defensive snap in Washington each of the past two weeks. That hasn’t equated to wins for the team, but as Nicki Jhabvala reported for the Washington Post, having the team’s best cornerback back on the field has absolutely made a difference.
“Obviously, based on some of the things we want to do with our coverages, when you have a guy like him out there and you have him shadowing players, he’s a special guy,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s got that kind of ability where he can help make a difference in the game plan.”
Fuller hasn’t done a ton in the tackle column — just two total stops the past two games. But he picked off a pair of passes in last week’s loss to Baltimore, and with a Rams team coming to town that ranks fifth this season in fantasy points surrendered to cornerbacks, Fuller has a decent shot at a second consecutive solid stat line.
Nevin Lawson, Las Vegas (at Kansas City)
Las Vegas spent a first-round pick in 2020 on Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette in the hopes that he would hold down one of the team’s starting cornerback spots. But Arnette hasn’t been able to hold much of anything — he landed on Injured Reserve after re-injuring his surgically repaired thumb.
That injury thrust veteran Nevin Lawson into the starting lineup. The seventh-year pro has made 60 career starts with Las Vegas and Detroit, and Las Vegas corner Trayvon Mullen told Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he’s confident Lawson is ready to step up for as long as the team needs him to.
“It’s never a surprise with him, the way he’s going to play and the way he’s going to show up,” Mullen said. “He plays with an edge. He plays with an extreme amount of effort. There’s no concerns with Nevin.”
Lawson is still searching for his first career interception, but he’s a sure tackler — in his lone season as a full-time starter in Detroit he amassed 57 total stops. The potential should be there for a good game Sunday in a Top 5 IDP matchup with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Kansas City.