If you’ve read much of my IDP work here at Fantasy Sharks over the last decade or so (man time flies) then you know what a huge fan of defensive backs I am. I’m a huge advocate of spending as much draft capital as possible on elite fantasy options in the secondary.
Wait a second—that’s not even a little bit accurate.
Defensive backs are two things in IDP leagues—plentiful and unpredictable. Every year there are multiple players who are either massive disappointments or surprise stars. The number of people of expected Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates of the Cincinnati Bengals to both post top-10 IDP numbers in 2018 numbers exactly zero.
And that includes their parents.
I have long been and will continue to be an advocate for waiting to draft defensive backs until the late rounds—targeting players with some upside and potential late. It’s a low-risk investment—if those defensive backs don’t pan out there will be alternatives available on the waiver wire. However, if those players pan out, the extra picks you were able to use earlier on defensive linemen and linebackers can afford your team a real edge.
Each of these defensive backs fit that bill—a real shot as starter-worthy numbers available for the IDP draft capital equivalent of a 25-ounce can of Icehouse and a bag of Combos.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all.
Terrell Edmunds – S, Pittsburgh Steelers
To say that Edmunds had an up-and-down rookie season is being kind—there were a lot more downs than ups. The first-round pick of the Steelers in 2018 allowed as much while speaking with Devan Kovacevic of DK Pittsburgh Sports—while also proclaiming that he intends to take a big step forward in 2019.
“Gotta get the ball. Have to. All of us. Gotta get the ball,” Edmunds said. “It’s there for all of us as a defense. We know what we were. We know what we can be. The same goes for me personally. I’ve gotta get the ball. I’ve gotta get my hand on the ball. And I will. It’s happening.”
Edmunds’ first NFL season was admittedly, um, yeah. But Edmunds was drafted in Round 1 for a reason, and he’s entrenched as Pittsburgh’s starter at strong safety. If his production in 2019 comes anywhere close to his perceived talent level, a breakout sophomore campaign could be in the offing.
Eric Reid – S, Carolina Panthers
As Rick Bonnell reported for the Charlotte Observer, Reid showed why he’s a veteran leader for the Panthers defensively last week in camp, when he tweeted an apology to teammate James Bradberry after getting caught out of position on a pass play—a move that impressed Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.
“It tells everybody to take responsibility. It tells everybody you have to be accountable to your teammates,” Rivera said. “For all the young players to see that? That speaks volumes about the type of young man (Reid) is and those are the type of players we need on this football team.”
The Panthers brought Reid in last September after Da’Norris Searcy went down with an injury, and the 27-yer-old former Pro Bowler fared well enough that the Panthers brought Reid back for another go-round as the team’s starting strong safety. Reid was a top-20 fantasy safety over the second half of last season, but in all but the deepest of IDP formats he’s either being drafted very late or not at all. He’s a good late flier with a solid chance of functioning as an IDP DB2 in 2019.
Justin Simmons – S, Denver Broncos
Versatility is key in today’s defensive backfields. And as Chad Jensen reported for 247 Sports, in 2018 Simmons was quietly one of the most versatile DBs in all of the NFL.
“According to Next Gen Stats,” Jensen said, “that moniker might not be exactly fair or accurate. Next Gen has broken down Simmons’ snaps from 2018, revealing that he was one of just four NFL players to play at least 20% of his snaps at slot cornerback, deep safety and box safety. Simmons showcased his Swiss Army Knife ability, stretching himself thin in order to stanch the bleeding the Broncos experienced in the defensive backfield. He finished his 2018 campaign ranked second on the team with 97 tackles (71 solo) to go along with three interceptions and four passes defensed. He also blocked a field goal on the road in Baltimore in Week 3.”
That production was enough to slot Simmons inside the top 20 in many IDP scoring systems, but the fourth-year pro is still flying under the radar in as many leagues as not. With Kareem Jackson now in Denver Stewart should see more time as a box safety, which could easily lead to an even better season for the 25-year-old in 2019.
D.J. Swearinger – S, Arizona Cardinals
Swearinger had something of a rough Christmas last year—after criticizing the defensive coordinator in Washington the 27-year-old was shown the door by the Redskins. The Cardinals claimed him off waivers, and as Scott Bordow reported for the Athletic in the offseason’s that’s passed Swearinger’s made quite the impression on his new teammates.
“I love him. I love a DB that talks trash,” cornerback Robert Alford said. “At the end of the day that pumps me up. I might have a down day and shoot, he might say some words that get me pumped up and puts the energy in me. I love that about him. It’s always good to have those energetic guys that like to talk trash but can back it up at the end of the day,”
Swearinger’s an aggressive box safety who has shown flashes of star power over seven NFL seasons. Of course, he’s also played for four different teams and is on his second stint with the Cardinals. However, IDP owners really shouldn’t care about Swearinger’s personality. His fantasy value is tied into talent and opportunity, and there’s an ample amount of both in 2019.