8 Breakout Defensive Backs to Target in IDP Leagues
It's easy to tell everyone to draft Reshad Jones for your IDP squad. It's when you progress in the draft that you need to identify those mid-to-late round sleepers and breakouts who can boost your squad over the rest of the league. I like to look for defenders who are set to take on more playing time or more snaps, and then subpackage roles, tackle and target rate. Let's look at eight defensive back candidates who I believe are primed for a breakout year.
Calvin Pryor, SS, New York Jets
Pryor is entering his third year in the NFL and could just be hitting his stride. He gets another offseason to get acclimated to Todd Bowles’ defense, and all signs are pointing on him taking another step.
Pryor saw a four-percent increase in snaps from his rookie year to 2015, increasing his participation rate from 67.1-percent to 82.8-percent. All signs point to him playing in at least 90-percent of the defensive snaps in 2016. Pryor maintained his nine-percent tackle rate from 2014 to 2015 and if he can hit the 900 snap mark, he could amass at least 90 tackles this season. He’s on the DB2 radar in most re-draft IDP formats this season.
Shawn Williams, SS, Cincinnati Bengals
Williams is entering his fourth season with a clear path to a starting role and appearing in the majority of defensive snaps at free safety. The Bengals let Reggie Nelson walk in free agency and he signed a four-year extension in May. There’s also the possibility he lines up at strong safety, which would give him a slight boost in IDP value.
After appearing in just 38 snaps in his first two seasons, Williams saw a jump to 473 snaps in 2015. In the last three games of 2015, Williams averaged just over four total tackles per game and had a 3.5:1 solo-to-assist ratio. If Williams can hit the 800-snap mark and produce an eight to nine-percent tackle rate, he should make a nice DB3/4.
Ibraheim Campbell, SS, Cleveland Browns
Campbell is another safety, like Williams, that is getting an opportunity. Donte Whitner was cut this past offseason, and in his two seasons as Cleveland’s strong safety, averaged 93 tackles. Don’t look at the name and pass him by, there’s an opportunity for production here.
Campbell was, mostly, a special-teamer and appeared in just 102 defensive snaps. For a team that is projected to be on defense a lot, Campbell’s opportunities are going to see an uptick, playing behind average linebacker play and an underwhelming (at this point) pass rush. Sometimes, it’s not about the talent but the opportunity and it’s there for Campbell in 2016.
Clayton Geathers, SS, Indianapolis Colts
Geathers comes into the 2016 season already being anointed the starter by Chuck Pagano. The Colts pass rush is still ‘meh’ (meaning middle-of-the-pack) and, besides Vontae Davis, are a below-average group of defensive backs. Geathers should be playing near the box more in 2016.
Geathers appeared in 15 games and appeared in 271 snaps, however, his participation rate tailed off from Week 11 on. I’m not too worried about it, since he has already been named starter and has more talent than the other safeties on the roster. Geathers produced a 12.5-percent tackle rate, so if we can extrapolate that over a full-season, there’s no reason to think he hit the 95 tackle if given a full workload. I like him as a DB3 this season and he can be had later in drafts as the 24th DB taken.
Update: Keep an eye on this safety situation. Geathers has been dealing with a broken foot. He may not be placed on PUP, but his Week 1 is in doubt. T.J. Green has impressed this offseason, notching 10 tackles (8 solos) in three games.
Jahleel Addae, SS, San Diego Chargers
In a surprising move, the Chargers allowed Eric Weddle to walk in free agency and he’s now with the Ravens. Addae enters his fourth-season with an opportunity at the starting job in the post-Weddle period. He’ll be playing for a long-term deal, as he’s only signed to a one-year deal.
Addae appeared in a career-high 710 defensive snaps and produced a 5.5:1 solo-to-assist tackle ratio. He also produced a 9.2-percent tackle rate, resulting in 65 total tackles. I see projected bump in snaps, so he should hit the 900 mark this season. Defensive back is so deep, he makes a nice backup option.
Byron Jones, FS, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys defense is a bit of a mess right now, thanks to suspensions. However, Jones is looking like a bright spot entering his second year. He played all over the defense last season and is projecting to look like a hybrid safety/corner in the same vein as Malcolm Jenkins or Tyrann Mathieu. Jones is going to be tasked with covering tight ends and slot receivers, so tackle opportunities should be high this season.
Jones looks like a natural safety and ended up appearing in 871 defensive snaps as a rookie. Jones’ ceiling is pretty high as he should be able to hit the 1,000 snap mark. Jones, in his four games of 2015, appeared in just 38 percent of the snaps. From Week 5 on, he appeared in fewer than 90 percent of the snaps just once. Jones was the primary target of the opposing QB on over 14 percent of his targets, so he has the upside to make big plays.
Jaquiski Tartt, SS, San Francisco 49’ers
Tartt is going to be someone to watching during training camp and preseason. Tartt is project to be the 49ers starting safety, however, Antoine Bethea is still in town and working with the first team after recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.
Tartt appeared in 719 snaps, including 96 percent or more from Week 8 on for the injured Bethea. Tartt has proven he can handle the snaps. He had a productive rookie year, which included recording 65 tackles (52 solos) and two sacks. He can be had for free in drafts, so if he can win the starting job, you could be holding a nice lottery ticket.