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Walking Wounded – DBs Returning From Injury in 2013

In the grand tradition of Leo Tolstoy’s
War and Peace, here is an examination of how injuries affected the defensive back position in 2012 and the ramifications for 2013. Please do not misunderstand me; this article will by no means be regarded as one of the most important works of world literature or considered epic in scale. It is pretty dang long, though, and therein lays the comparison to the 1869 classic by Tolstoy.

The defensive back position may have been the hardest hit by injuries for Individual Defensive Player (IDP) purposes in 2012, making an already tricky group to maneuver fantasy wise on a yearly basis even more so.

There is a reason why my esteemed colleague Gary Davenport suggests waiting on drafting defensive backs, and that is because they are by nature a confounding group. Toss in the fact that some of the top tier cornerbacks and safeties were injured for extended periods of time, and 2012 was a downright quagmire when searching for consistent fantasy production.

Pinpointing which injuries may affect future fantasy production and which injuries merely hampered a player’s performance for last season is crucial when constructing our rankings heading into 2013.

First up will be players that played five games or less last season and what their injuries may mean for fantasy purposes moving forward. This group will often offer up some nice draft day value as owners will simply look at final point totals or three-year averages of points amassed by a player, allowing a gem or two to fall into the savvy owners lap at a great value come draft day 2013.

The Atlanta Falcons placed the franchise tag on cornerback Brent Grimes prior to the 2012 season and then proceeded to get less than one game’s worth on their $10.281 million dollar investment. Grimes tore his Achilles tendon in Week 1 after posting six total tackles and would be placed on Injured Reserve.

A scrappy cornerback that isn’t afraid to stick his nose in and help stuff the run, Grimes has amassed 253 total tackles, 13 interceptions, and a forced fumble during his six years in the league.

He finished as a Top 10 fantasy scoring cornerback in both 2009 and 2010 utilizing his versatility in being able to line up on the right or left side of the secondary. That versatility will serve him well as he possibly searches for a new team in 2013 and looks to prove that he hasn’t lost any speed and effectiveness due to the Achilles injury.

Grimes will turn 30 years old in July, and fantasy owners can feel safe knowing that wherever he lands via free agency he will be tested early and often as quarterbacks look to exploit his small stature as well as the balky ankle. Grimes will never shy away from a challenge and rarely disappoints from a fantasy standpoint. He will offer up nice value late in drafts as a solid DB2 with low-end DB1 upside.

After a bit of an up and down (mostly down) 2011 campaign for the Chicago Bears, Brandon Meriweather was signed by the Washington Redskins to help solidify their safety position. He had been unceremoniously released by the New England Patriots following the final preseason game of the 2011 season and then signed a one-year deal with the Bears.

Meriweather had flashed some decent fantasy production back in the 2008 and 2009 seasons for the Patriots when he accumulated 167 total tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and had nine interceptions (one returned for a score) in 32 regular season games.

Since then, he has seen his numbers dip considerably and has amassed only 107 total tackles with three interceptions while playing 28 games over the 2010-12 seasons.

He was penciled in as the starting strong safety for Washington prior to the 2012 season when he sprained his left knee in a September practice (he had originally hurt the knee in a preseason tilt with the Bears … oh the irony) and would not make his season debut until Week 11. Once on the field, he would post seven total stops and snag an interception before tearing his right ACL in his first game for the Redskins and miss the remainder of the season.

Meriweather is under contract at $2.45 million for 2013, and, while he is a question mark to be 100 percent for Week 1, should find his way on to the field once healthy as Washington is thin at the safety position. Mainly a fringe DB3 up until this point in his career, he has not played an entire season since 2010 and will be nothing more than a DB4 once he does return.

The biggest name to suffer an early season injury that shut down his season was New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. The quintessential “shut down corner,” Revis had seen his fantasy value wane in recent seasons due to being avoided by quarterbacks, and his chances for big plays diminished.

In his first three seasons, Revis finished as a Top 10 fantasy cornerback twice and amassed 14 interceptions, forced two fumbles and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns while defending 64 passes. Before suffering the ACL injury in Week 2 of 2012 season, he had totaled five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and only 34 passes defensed with a single forced fumble in his next three seasons.

While Revis is only due to make $6 million next season, he will be looking for a huge new contract in 2014 and the New York Jets may look to trade the All-Pro prior to having an ugly holdout situation on their hands. He will be nine months removed from surgery when training camp opens and it’s still uncertain as to what team he will be lining up for.

Revis was thrown at 85 times in 2011, which is the second-highest total since 2008, and it appears that teams no longer avoid his receiver as much as they once seemed to. This adds to his fantasy value regardless of where he plays in 2013 and he remains a solid DB3 with upside to reach high-end DB2 numbers if teams choose to test his knee by throwing at him consistently.

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