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Like an NFL team, in dynasty, rookie drafts are the best way to build your team for short and long term success. Drafting well goes further than taking the sexiest RB or WR in the first round. It’s vital to find guys in the later rounds that can become key pieces on your fantasy team.
While elite skill player talent may lie in round 1, your mid and late round picks are the perfect place to build an elite defense. Traditionally, defense always takes a back seat to the offense, but by being savvy and grabbing elite and above average defensive players while other teams are still looking for the diamond in the rough RB or WR can allow you to build a significant competitive advantage against your opponent. The later rounds are the perfect place to solidify your defense for long term success. I like to look for the perfect combination of skill, talent, and opportunity.
Typically, defensive backs are low on the chain of positional value and in a standard league it is for good reason. The position is hard to predict and points from top to bottom are more consistent than at other positions. I think one of the reasons for the difficulty in predicting DB value is that a lot of their stats are driven as much by opportunity as they are by talent. For example, a team with a bad front 7 lends to more opportunities for the safeties, or a #2 cornerback across from a top notch #1 cornerback will see more action, creating more fantasy opportunity. These are all things to be considered when examining a DB’s fantasy value once you know where he lands.
Overall, safeties are almost always the most productive defensive backs so I will focus on that position for the most part, but I did slip a cornerback in there because I think his skill set promotes solid production in the NFL and some of us have to start one regardless. There is a ton of DB in this draft so there is no need to reach on guys like Vaccaro and Elam. Here are a few guys you can nab later in the draft or off your waivers that could fill a need at DB.
Tyrann Mathieu: 5’9”, 186 lbs., S, Arizona Cardinals:
Mathieu is the classic high risk, high reward player. Many of you will probably think I am crazy, but hear me out. Mathieu couldn’t have gone to a better situation. Patrick Peterson took Mathieu under his wing through the draft process and is mentoring him in the game of life. Now that Mathieu and Peterson are together again he will have someone there constantly helping him manage his daemons and teaching what it takes to be a star in this league. If he can stay out of trouble, Mathieu is a dynamic athlete and playmaker and could be an impact player in the NFL.
From an IDP standpoint, I like Mathieu’s aggressive mentality, ability to make big plays, and his dynamic return skills. My thought is that Mathieu will immediately take over return duties in Arizona and if your league rewards return yardage to the player, he is a must add late in your draft. In addition, Arizona doesn’t have much for depth at S (Yeremiah Bell is about it and he is not getting any younger at 35) so I think Mathieu could earn playing time early.
Overall, it may be a roller coaster ride with Mathieu, but he could be a nice, high upside addition to your IDP lineup.
Rookie Draft Target Rounds: 5 -UDFA. Mathieu is definitely a late round target in rookie drafts and could go undrafted depending on how many rounds your rookie draft is.
JJ Wilcox: 6’0”, 213 lbs., S, Dallas Cowboys:
Wilcox is a big SS prospect who landed himself in a great situation. Dallas is completely devoid of talent at the safety position and Wilcox should be able to step in immediately at the IDP coveted SS position.
A Mike Mayock favorite, Wilcox is athletically gifted small school prospect who played WR, RB, KR and S at Georgia Southern. He racked up 88 tackles at safety his senior year and added 780 yds. and 1 TD on 31 attempts returning kicks. In addition, Wilcox had a nice showing at the Senior Bowl, proving that he can be effective at the next level.
Overall Wilcox has the size, athleticism, and ball skills to be a productive SS for the Cowboys, something they have been missing for some time now.
Rookie Draft Target Rounds: 5-UDFA: I would be highly surprised if Wilcox is drafted but he will be high on my list of players to add come time for the first round of waivers.
Jamar Taylor: 5’11”, 192 lbs, CB, Miami Dolphins:
Taylor is a speedy, athletic player who has a tendency for making big plays. Taylor racked up 7 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles throughout his career at Boise State. Taylor was projected to be a late first, early second round pick but fell to the Dolphins in the late second because doctors at the combine revealed that his kidneys were operating at 42% efficiency. The cause of the kidney damage was related to medication for high blood pressure that Taylor is no longer taking and the consensus thought is that he will not have any long-term effects.
I like Taylor because he is talented and in a great situation in Miami. The expectation is that Taylor will start opposite newly signed Brent Grimes, making him an ideal candidate for a productive season as a #2 CB. As a rookie and opposite another talented CB in Grimes, Taylor should see a lot of action and, given his production in college, should be able to make some big plays and compile some tackles in Miami.
Rookie Draft Target Rounds: 5-UDFA: If you must start a CB, Taylor should be drafted late in your draft. He is the next best IDP option at CB behind Xavier Rhodes.
Other Noteworthy Mentions:
With so much depth at DB this year I wanted to throw in some other noteworthy guys to keep an eye on.
Shamarko Thomas, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers: I like Shamarko for 2 reasons: 1. The SS position in Pittsburgh has been productive and he looks to be the heir apparent to Polamalu, and 2. Polamalu struggles to stay healthy and Thomas could be a nice fill in his stead.
Robert Alford, CB, Atlanta Falcons: I like Alford because teams will be throwing a lot against the Falcons and Alford is going to be the Nickel CB in Atlanta. He could also see time returning kicks.
Philip Thomas, S, Washington Redskins: Thomas projects as the lesser valued FS but had a knack for making plays in college and should be the starting FS in Washington week 1.