Guess who’s back? Back again. Zach is back. Tell a friend! Daggumits, it feels so good to be back writing. First off, I need to apologize for my lengthy absence from the fantasy scene. Real life hit me like a brick wall towards the end of the year. I wasn’t able to stay true to my word on multiple accords, and that’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Now that the apology is out of the way, lets get to work on this 2020 IDP breakout candidates overview, defensive back style!
Quick rundown: this will be a short and quick series over the next couple weeks. I plan to give you a quick summary of how my predictions went. Last summer, I wrote about some players I thought would have the potential to break out and be value grabs for you in fantasy drafts. Each player will get a paragraph about how they performed in the 2020 season. For example, this first article will be about the defensive backs. One of my early favorites was Marquise Blair, who unfortunately sustained an injury early in the season. We will start with a short and sweet summary of his 2020 season!
Marquise Blair, DB, Seattle Seahawks: 5 Solo, 3 Ast, and 1 FF
This may be an extremely hot take, but Seattle may have never traded for Jamal Adams if Blair had not gotten injured. The Seahawks were pretty high on Marquise coming into the 2020 season. He had flashed a lot of potential in his rookie season and a lot of people expected him to make a leap going into his sophomore season. Blair went down in week 2 against New England, and was placed on the injured reserve shortly after that. He played 55 snaps week 1. In that game, he had a total of 7 tackles and also notched a forced fumble. That was a pretty intriguing IDP performance for your fantasy squad. The Seahawks expect Blair to be ready for training camp this off-season. I expect a leap again from him in 2021.
Hit or Miss? – Miss, If the injury didn’t happen, who knows what could’ve been.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, New Orleans Saints: 52 Solo, 14 Ast, 1 Sack, 1 Int, 13 PD, 5 TFL, and 4 QBH
If you’ve watched the New Orleans Saints these past couple seasons, you know who Gardner-Johnson is. He’s one of the main reasons Michael Thomas is called “slant boy” now. He was actually my very first pick when I started my IDP breakout series last summer. Overall, his 2020 season was quite encouraging. He is a trash talker, no doubt, and knows how to get under the skin of opposing players. Yes, it can occasionally cause some unwanted penalties. Chauncey played a significant role for the Saints defense in 2020. He may not have had the total breakout I called for, but he certainly took a step in the right direction. The potential is definitely still there for “CGJ.”
Hit or Miss? – Miss, although, Gardner-Johnson proved to be valuable for many fantasy managers
Darnell Savage Jr., DB, Green Bay Packers: 56 Solo, 19 Ast, 1 Sack, 3 TFL, 4 Int, 12 PD, 1 FR, and 2 QBH
I’m not sure if you guys have picked up on the trend so far, but the other defensive backs on this list were in their sophomore seasons. Savage is no different. The start of his 2020 season was quiet. About halfway through the season, Savage turned it up a notch. He ended the season with a 10 tackle game against Chicago. This was also around the time the Packers defense started to do a much better job altogether. His tackle numbers don’t exactly pop out at you. Although, those 4 interceptions can really grab your attention. He was a ballhawk in the latter half of the season. He’s a guy that IDP fantasy managers should be keeping an eye on to draft and get value again late in drafts.
Hit or Miss? – Hit, Savage didn’t have high tackle numbers but proved to be an impact player and made big plays.
Khari Willis, DB, Indianapolis Colts: 65 Solo, 20 Ast, 2 Sacks, 3 TFL, 2 Int, 1 TD, 6 PD, 1 FF, and 4 QBH
Khari Willis started 14 games for the Indianapolis Colts this season. He’s one of my proudest predictions. After getting the official starter title, Willis began to play a significant role for the Colts defense. He was one of those every down guys that you should have added to your fantasy squad. When you have a player who was getting the kind of snaps that Willis was, it was only a matter of time before he became a lock to play on your fantasy team. He was making big plays and logging decent tackle numbers throughout the entire season. He’s also a member of a young and ascending defense in Indianapolis. Willis will absolutely be a draft value for 2021 and I wouldn’t let him slip too far past you.
Hit or miss? – Hit, Willis had a strong 2020 season. I expect his third year in the NFL to be even better.
Johnathan Abram, DB, Las Vegas Raiders: 60 Solo, 26 Ast, 3 TFL, 2 Int, 6 PD, 1 FR, and 4 QBH
Last but not least, we come to my favorite. Johnathan Abram, who missed his rookie season due to injury, but started his sophomore season with a massive 13 tackle game against Carolina. He started 13 games for the Raiders in 2020. He missed a couple games due to injury and sat out another in COVID protocol. Abram maintained his hard-hitting persona. That may be a cause for concern for some fantasy managers. He plays hard, which puts him at risk for injuries. Despite that, Abram proved why he was such a highly touted prospect coming out of college. After missing his rookie season, we really got to see the type of player we expected in 2020. He’s a player fantasy managers will look to own on their IDP squads.
Hit or Miss? Hit, Abram really gave us what we were looking for when we drafted him. Expect the same or better in 2021.
It’s never easy to predict which players will breakout in fantasy. A lot of things can happen during an NFL season. Blair is a perfect example of that. He was a player who was set up for a great season in Seattle. It all came crashing down with his injury. Gardner-Johnson is a guy you can look to continue his growth as a player and as a value to your fantasy team. Savage should also continue his rise into a viable defensive back starter. Willis and Abram on the other hand, in my opinion, are potential stars in the making. They both are players you should be looking to grab before other managers in your league!