Defensive back is the position most people wait on in their fantasy drafts. Here I will tell you which guys are gold that you can wait even longer for.
We here at IDPGuys.org and Dynastyfootballdigest.com have been running mock drafts since March to acquire accurate ADP information. I have been thumbing through each position to find which players have been dropping who have great potential for big seasons. I have already covered late round linebackers in a previous article and here I take a dive into defensive backs that are late round gems.
Defensive Backs Just Outside the Top 20
Being drafted just outside the top 20 means that you are taking these guys as some of the last projected starters if you play 2 in DB leagues or are just looking for depth. There are plenty of DBs that are being drafted far too low based on previous years’ production and current situation. Here are some guys who have an opportunity to be a DB1 for your squad while almost going at the end of drafts.
Damarious Randall– Cleveland Browns
In 2018 Damarious Randall was traded to the Cleveland Browns and converted from cornerback to safety. During last season he saw his career high in tackles spike from 58 total to 85 total tackles. What may be even more impressive though is that 72 of those tackles were solo. This is a direct display of how well Randall tackles. Now I know this clip was from 2017 but it is a great example of how Randall can hit:
Randall has always been solid in coverage, having at least nine passes defended and three interceptions in every season he has played. When Terrence Mitchell was injured last year Randall had to spend some time at cornerback still. The Browns spent a third-round pick and grabbed who many thought was the best cornerback in the draft, Greedy Williams. With Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams and Terrence Mithcell on the outside and T.J. Carrie in the slot Randall can primarily focus on the safety position.
If you are in a 12 team league that starts 2 DBs, that puts Randall as the second to last starting DB drafted. Last season Randall put up 85 tackles (72 solo), two tackles for a loss, nine passes defended, four interceptions, and one fumble recovery. With a full season at safety ahead of him he could put up numbers to be your team’s DB1. He did last year.
Kareem Jackson– Denver Broncos
Kareem Jackson is being incredibly undervalued in 2019 after he had an amazing 2018 season. In 2018 Kareem Jackson made a move to safety with the Houston Texans as the team ran numerous three-safety sets with Jackson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Justin Reid. As a result, he put up career highs in tackles (87), tackles for a loss (5) and tied a career high for passes defended (17). He did all this in what was his 9th season in the NFL.
The move seemed to be a seamless move for Jackson last season with the Texans. During this offseason, Jackson signed with the Denver Broncos. Due to the lack of depth at the cornerback position on the team, many thought that Jackson would be moved back to corner. If OTA’s were any indication it looks like Jackson will be spending base downs at the safety position while moving to slot corner during pass sets, just like with the Texans.
We all know Jackson can hit, just ask his now teammate Phillip Lindsay:
With Jackson’s solid cover skills, a tandem of him and Justin Simmons in the secondary could make things difficult for opposing quarterbacks. Signing Jackson was a two move fix, adding depth at both safety and cornerback. Where he is being drafted, he is not being drafted as a starter, more for depth. If you can grab him as late as his ADP is going, you may just be getting the DB steal of the draft.
Earl Thomas– Baltimore Ravens
Earl Thomas being drafted this low is a kick below the waist for him but will make owners very happy. I am a big Earl Thomas fan and it may be because he gave the entire Seahawks bench the middle finger (I am a 49ers fan). Mostly though it is because he puts up strong safety numbers from the free safety position. After four games last season he was on pace to collect 88 tackles, 20 passes defended and 12 interceptions. While the 12 interceptions were likely unobtainable, the other numbers could have been easy to reach.
Earl Thomas is a turnover forcing machine. During his nine-year career he has 28 interceptions, 67 passes defended and 11 forced fumbles. Tack all that onto an average of about 5.5 tackles per game for his career and you have yourself at least a DB2, at least. Being drafted only 35 spots from Mr. Irreleveant Thomas for sure could win you some games if you wait on him. This is how he feels about going so late:
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 30, 2018
Deep Pool Diving For DBs
These are DBs who are a complete afterthought during drafts who fantasy owners draft just to fill their rosters and BYE weeks. To my surprise, there are a group of guys who have landed in this ADP group who are coming off great seasons or are primed for breakouts. Let’s take a look.
Justin Simmons- Denver Broncos
Can the Denver Broncos secondary get any love? First Kareem Jackson coming off a career year being drafted at DB25 and now Simmons also coming off a career year being drafted as the DB30. Simmons stepped up in 2018 in a big way. He upped his career high in tackles from 63 in 2017 to 97 in 2018. Justin Simmons also added three interceptions to boot.
The Broncos did not do much to affect Simmons’ production outside of signing Kareem Jackson. Simmons has always shown that he has good capability being a deep safety but last year he showed out well in run defense. Watch here as he navigates his way through blockers to make a beautiful hit:
Announcing his presence with authority. pic.twitter.com/uEKWt2UwAq
— Mile High Saluter (@milehighsalutes) November 13, 2017
Last season Justin Simmons was a top 20 safety and his ascension up this list may continue in 2019. Grab him late and you will be happy.
Justin Evans– Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Justin Evans is an intriguing name as he has a lot of skill. He had lingering injuries last year that ultimately landed him on IR. Prior to Ir though he was averaging about six tackles per game which would put him on pace to finish just short of 100 tackles. During 2017, his rookie season, he played in 14 games making nine starts. During those games, he totaled 65 tackles and came up with three interceptions.
Justin Evans is a very solid tackler but his coverage and ball skills are better than what he gets credit for. His first career interception came on a poor throw by Tom Brady which he made a great adjustment on.
Watch Justin Evans intercept Tom Brady 👇 pic.twitter.com/FRLDyTNpof
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 6, 2017
Then there was this interception on Big Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger goes into scramble-mode and thinks he has an open receiver on the sideline. Evans keeps his eyes on Big Ben the whole time and makes a beautiful play on the ball:
Justin Evans intercepts Big Ben!
— NFL (@NFL) September 25, 2018
If Justin Evans can stay healthy he is an easy upside DB2. Be smart and grab him near the end of your draft.
Eric Reid– Carolina Panthers
Eric Reid was left unemployed at the start of 2018 due to the perceived distraction that his views on taking a knee during the National Anthem would create. The Panthers decided to take a chance on him due to being so weak at safety and signed him for the season in week 4. From there, Reid ran with the job en route to garnering a contract extension this offseason with the Panthers.
In 13 games Reid posted 71 tackles, three for a loss, five passes defended and an interception. Reid has a lot of versatility in the secondary and can play either free or strong safety. He showed this during his time with the 49ers where he had seven interceptions in his first two seasons. Last season he was on pace for 100 tackles if he played an entire season.
Here you can see where he is playing deep and picks off the overthrow:
Eric Reid getting the first INT of the day 🙌 pic.twitter.com/SwHMqnQdTs
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 4, 2018
One thing Reid has shown in the years is once he makes an interception the play is not over until it is over. One thing Reid has always excelled at is his interception return yards. The Panthers have two excellent corners in Donte Jackson and James Bradberry. Quarterbacks hate challenging these two and Reid can focus less on coverage and more on making plays. He is definitely worth a draft pick.
Defensive backs are highly overlooked and undervalued in fantasy drafts. So much that it seems some players just get forgotten. Here is a group of players, drafted 23 or worse who all hold DB2 and some who even hold DB1 value. Draft any of these guys late and reap the benefits of game-changing performances.
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