8 Rookie Defensive Backs to Target in 2019 IDP Leagues
The 2019 DB class, as usual, featured some talented playmakers. As the league focuses more on the pass, teams are focusing in on ball-hawking defensive backs who can turn the ball over.
Of all of the IDP positions, the defensive back is the position you can wait the longest on. Even if you don't land the top DB, you can expect a few to emerge throughout the season.
If you're in a dynasty league or you're looking for more information on the rookies discussed below, you should definitely check out all the content from our friends at Dynasty League Football.
Below are the DBs I'm targeting in IDP leagues for the 2019 season for redraft and dynasty leagues.
Jonathan Abram, SS, Oakland Raiders
Abram made four starts for Georgia in 2015 but then transferred out. In 2017, he made his return to D1 ball with Mississippi State. He established himself as a presence and was solid in run defense. Abram recorded a 12.6% tackle rate over two seasons, including 14 tackles for loss. He's a strong hitter and and has plus speed. Abram fits the mold of a "big nickel" linebacker and should play up near the line of scrimmage. He runs downhill and will use his burst to finish off tackles. He's also going to be a problem for tight ends. He doesn't play stiff, but he's not as fluid as you'd like and he'll need to improve his anticipation on the ball in coverage.
Abram should be the top DB taken in most rookie drafts, and in redraft, I'm targeting him as a DB2 with upside to finish among the top-10 DBs in 2019. He reminds me of Landon Collins and he should make an immediate impact with the Raiders. He should be a force in the box and it wouldn't surprise me if he hit 100 tackles as a rookie.
Juan Thornhill, SS, Kansas City Chiefs
Thornhill is a converted corner and should find himself in the mix for the starting SS job after the departure of Eric Berry. Thornhill is a gifted athlete who should be able to make big plays for the KC defense.
Over 36 starts during his stint with Virginia, Thornhill produced a 2:1 solo-to-assist tackle ratio and a 9% tackle rate. He enjoyed a highly productive senior year in 2018, amassing 98 tackles and six INTs. Thornhill has the capability to be an every-down player, as he accumulated 2,320 snaps over three seasons. His ball hawk skills have translated from cover corner to safety and he should be deployed all over the field. His eyes and reactions from ball to man to ball are elite. He can make the open-field tackle and has a strong closing burst. He just needs to take on blocks better at the line of scrimmage.
He should be able to beat out Daniel Sorensen at strong safety and he should be the second DB off the board in rookie drafts. Thornhill has the upside to provide stats across the board, including tackles and picks. As long as he wins the SS job, I'm targeting him as a DB3 in redraft leagues.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, SS, New Orleans Saints
The Von Bell experiment is over in New Orleans. Even though Gardner-Johnson was a fourth-round pick, he has a great chance at locking up the SS spot in The Big Easy with his ball skills.
CGJ started 26 total games for the Gators and notched nine picks, including three to the house. Over the 2017 and 2018 seasons in Florida, he recorded 129 tackles (including 15 for a loss), resulting in a 10% tackle rate. He has the build to be a run stuffer up near the line of scrimmage and rush the QB. He also has the ability to be that center field defender and turn the ball over. He's fluid in his motions and is versatile enough to play all over the field as a box or free safety. He can also cover the slot and is similar to Minkah Fitzpatrick in this regard. Gardner-Johnson won't waste any motions to make tackles but he will overreact, which causes him to lose balance, but that can be coached up.
CGJ's landing spot should put him in the conversation as one of the top-five safeties off the board. He has the opportunity to be an all-around stat stuffer in his rookie year. In deeper redraft leagues, he'll be a depth target as a high upside DB3/4.
Darnell Savage Jr, FS, Green Bay Packers
Savage joins a talented secondary room in Green Bay. Savage should see immediate playing time at free safety and has the ability to play in the box or slot.
Savage has a strong football IQ and sports borderline-elite cover quickness. After recording just one pick in 2016, he went on to produce seven over the next two seasons at Maryland. In coverage, he allowed zero TDs during his 2017 and 2018 seasons. Preventing looks to be a positive trait in today's NFL. He has natural movement in coverage and has above-average make-up speed so it's not a big deal if he gets behind a play. He loves to hide in waiting, baiting opposing QBs to throw the ball. In run support, Savage knows the paths to take to the ball and won't get caught in traffic. He's slightly undersized, but his ball skills more than make up for it.
Savage will be a top target in balanced or big play scoring leagues this season. He should be one of the top-five safeties off the board in rookie drafts. He should be on the field for the majority of the snaps, bookending Adrian Amos, so he's going to have the opportunity to make big plays.
Deandre Baker, CB, New York Giants
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