If you’re at all familiar with my work here at Fantasy Sharks over the past decade, then you know I’m a proponent of waiting to draft defensive backs in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues. I have long advised waiting before addressing the secondary. And then waiting. And then binge-watching all six seasons of “The Americans” (excellent show). And then waiting some more.
The reasons for that strategy are as tried and true as the strategy itself. The defensive back position is easily the deepest of the three main spots in IDP leagues — much more so than along the defensive line or at linebacker. It’s every bit as unpredictable — the Top 10 at the end of a given season almost always looks vastly different than at the beginning.
This isn’t to say there aren’t a handful of dependable fantasy studs on the back end like Washington’s Landon Collins. But outside of those precious few, defensive backs have long been and will long be essentially a crap-shoot.
This isn’t to say that drafting defensive backs is nothing but throwing darts while blindfolded. One of the reasons that this strategy is an effective one in IDP leagues is all that depth I mentioned. Whether it’s defensive backs with DB1 upside who are available well after the Top 10 at the position are off the board or startable defensive backs who will be there late, there are players who will be available late in IDP drafts who have the potential to become valuable fantasy assets in 2020.
You just need to know where to look.
DB1 VALUE TARGETS
Jordan Poyer, S, Buffalo Bills
Poyer and battery-mate Micah Hyde don’t get a ton of national run when the league’s best safeties are mentioned. But Mark Schofield of Touchdown Wire recently called the pair the best one-two punch at the position in the entire NFL.
“Over the past few seasons, perhaps no tandem has frustrated a quarterback more than what the Buffalo Bills’ pair of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer has done to Tom Brady,” he said. “Whenever you get a chance, study the Bills’ defense and their tandem of Hyde and Poyer. They do such a tremendous job of rolling their coverage, disguising looks and moving in concert that it is difficult for any quarterback – including arguably the best of all time – to get a read on what the defense is doing.”
Just as in NFL circles, Jordan Poyer is criminally undervalued on an annual basis in IDP leagues — despite averaging more than 100 stops a season over the past three years and finishing as a Top 6 defensive back in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring, he regularly falls well outside the Top 10 in drafts. The 29-year-old is a personal favorite of mine as a dependable DB1 who will be available in DB2 territory.
John Johnson, S, Los Angeles Rams
Johnson’s 2019 season went from coming-out party to injury-marred mess — six games in he suffered a shoulder injury. The 24-year-old told NFL Total Access that he’s healthy again and looking to become a key contributor for a young Rams defense in 2020.
“We’ve got young guys coming in, and I’m going into Year 4 and I feel like I’m kind of the OG of the group,” he said. “I feel like I’m Year 8 or 9, so it’ll be fun just coaching those guys up and seeing them out there running and ripping.”
To be fair, Johnson isn’t falling in every IDP draft. But he is falling in some — and that makes him worth inclusion in this piece. Two years ago, Johnson was a Top 5 IDP option after piling up 119 total tackles. Playing behind a suspect group of linebackers this season, a similarly productive campaign isn’t difficult to envision.
Jessie Bates, S, Cincinnati Bengals
With the arrival of Vonn Bell in the Queen City, there’s quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the safeties for the Bengals. But as Megan Sale of Fort Wayne’s NBC reported, after posting 100 total tackles for the second time in as many seasons in 2019, Jessie Bates said he’s eager to take on more of a leadership role defensively in 2020.
“The first two years I was kind of figuring it out, leaning on a lot of guys, and now I feel like I’m taking that leadership step,” he said. “The coaches want me to take that leadership role and I’m all about it. I’m very confident in my ability and what I can do. I’ll lead by example and speak here and there.”
Bell or no Bell, there’s no reason why Bates should be falling well into DB2 territory in IDP drafts — not after consecutive Top 10 fantasy finishes. Regardless of how the Bell/Shawn Williams dynamic plays out, Bates is going to be the free safety for the Bengals. He’s shown the ability to produce in that role.
Capitalize on the uncertainty.
Read on for DB2 value targets..