Sean Davis & 7 Other Breakout Defensive Backs to Target in IDP Leagues in 2017
Anyone can tell you to draft Landon Collins for your IDP squad, but who are the breakout players you can drafter later that will separate you rest of the league? When looking for sleepers at defensive back, I pay special attention to those that are set to take on more playing time, and I also look closely at tackle rate and target frequency. Let's go over eight defensive backs that I believe are primed for a breakout year.
Sean Davis, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers
Davis was drafted to fill the hole at strong safety and turned in a solid rookie campaign. In his second season, the Steelers' defense will be leaning on him for more leadership and production.
Davis appeared in 740 snaps as a rookie, but from Week 10 on, he appeared in 100 percent of the snaps after being in on only 49 percent of the snaps from Weeks 1-9. In those first nine weeks of the season, Davis produced just a 7.3-percent tackle rate, but stepped up his production the remainder of the season with a 10.8-percent tackle rate, churning out 0.23 points per snap. It also helped that he played 66 percent of his snaps near the line of scrimmage, as he was involved in run defense. Davis also made plays in coverage, producing a 23-percent play-on-ball rate, which included an interception and six defended passes.
I think Davis did enough in the second half of 2016 to warrant more snaps, so a jump to 85-90 percent of the snaps is likely. His cumulative tackle rate was 9.5 percent last season, and if he maintains that rate while appearing in 950-plus snaps, he'll be able to hit the 90-tackle mark. I'm targeting him as a DB2 this season.
Micah Hyde, SS, Buffalo Bills
Hyde makes the move from the cheese capital (Green Bay) to the land of the buffalo wing. As he enters his fifth season, the Bills will install him as their starting strong safety, putting him in an advantageous position for IDP production.
At the safety position, Hyde produced a 10-percent tackle rate (albeit in a small sample size of 40 snaps, 28 near the line of scrimmage). In coverage, he made a play on the ball 22 percent of the time he was thrown at. He also produced a 7.1-percent tackle rate in 817 total snaps. Hyde missed only four total tackles against the run and in coverage -- he's not going to leave points on the field with misses.
The Buffalo strong safety position has produced elite IDP producers, and I think defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier's conservative approach with defensive backs will give Hyde a chance to make tackles near the line of scrimmage. Hyde has 80-solo-tackle upside this season.
Eric Reid, SS, San Francisco 49ers
Reid enters a contract year where he'll have the responsibility of playing strong safety. For a former first-round pick, he's been underwhelming, but it does look like he'll be given one more chance this season.
Reid showed promise in his first two seasons, producing seven interceptions and 18 defended passes. His tackle numbers weren't high since he played mostly as a center fielder at the free safety position. Injury cut his '16 season short, but he was producing an 8.3-percent tackle rate and was on a 100-tackle pace due to playing more snaps near the line of scrimmage.
At strong safety, Red is definitely going to have opportunities to make tackles alongside Navorro Bowman and Reuben Foster. If Reid stays healthy, he's an every-down player that should be in on 950-plus snaps.
Reid's current MyFantasyLeague ADP has him being drafted as the 26th DB, which is very late in most drafts, so you can get an every-down strong safety practically for free. I'm targeting him as a DB2, and currently have him ranked as a DB25.
Karl Joseph, SS, Oakland Raiders
Joseph was a first-round pick, but didn't play much in the preseason or the first two games of the regular season before playing very well in the next 10 games. An injury cost him the last four weeks. Heading into his second year, he is ready to take a leap in production.
Despite Joseph's curious absence in the first two weeks of '16, he quickly showed up on the IDP radar with his 10-tackle performance against the Titans. He produced points per snap rate of 0.18 and had six games of 10-plus fantasy points over his 10-game rookie campaign. He also recorded solid tackle numbers, notching seven or more in five games and finishing the season with a 10.1-percent tackle rate, which resulted in 60 total tackles (44 solo).
I like Joseph's upside heading into 2017, though his rising ADP means you're likely going to have to pay retail for a breakout. He's being drafted as the eighth DB off the board and can be had in the 14th/15th round range. It's a fair spot, and if he sustains his 10-percent tackle rate on 950 or more snaps, he should hit the 100-tackle mark. I'm targeting him as a DB1 if I miss out on guys like Landon Collins, Keanu Neal, or Jamal Adams.
Su'a Cravens, SS, Washington Redskins
Cravens is going to be another popular breakout pick after spending most of his rookie season in limbo, playing snaps at both safety and linebacker. This season, Cravens will make the move to full-time strong safety.
Cravens played sparingly last year and ended up appearing on just 39 percent of the snaps (295 total). His two best games (Packers, Giants) resulted in eight tackles, three defended passes and an interception. In the game against the Packers, he appeared on a season-high 85 percent of the snaps, which led to five tackles and a defended pass. Even though his snaps were limited, he was efficient with those snaps, and when all was said and done, he finished with an 11.5-percent tackle rate while producing 0.25 points per snap.
Heading into '17, there's a lot to like about Cravens as he makes the transition to strong safety full time. He himself said that he can't wait, and is working out with Landon Collins in order to get prepared. There aren't many other safeties I can think of that would be better for Cravens to work with than Collins. If Cravens can sustain an 11-percent tackle rate and appear in 1,000 snaps, he could eclipse the 115-tackle plateau. He's another DB1 target for me.
Miles Killebrew, SS, Detroit Lions
Killebrew's value this season has been a point of contention on IDP Twitter; some love him, while others think he's not doing anything because Tavon Wilson will be the strong safety. Call me a Killebrew truther, but I think he's taking the job.
Killebrew appeared in just 149 snaps as a rookie, but only 11 came near the line of scrimmage. However, he was productive in the snaps he did receive (18.8-percent tackle rate) and you could see that he is capable of making plays.
Killebrew will battle Wilson for the starting strong safety job, so keep an eye on the situation in training camp. If Killebrew wins the job, he has the upside to make a leap in his second year.
Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
I like Ramsey in CB-required leagues, especially since Jacksonville brought in another good corner, free agent A.J. Bouye. Ramsey had a solid rookie year and is likely to establish himself as one of the top IDP corners.
Ramsey should continue to see plenty of targets with Bouye opposite him because opposing passers won't be able to target a weaker corner by going away from Ramsey. Thrust into an every-down role last season, Ramsey saw nearly six targets per game last season while appearing on over 1,000 snaps. He finished the season with 65 total tackles and a 6.1-percent tackle rate (which sounds low, but he made up for it by playing so many snaps).
Due to Bouye's presence, I think Ramsey's targets and interceptions will increase in his second season. I have him projected for five interceptions and 70 tackles, which are both very realistic as long as he continues to get peppered with targets. He's a solid CB1 in CB-required leagues.
James Bradberry, CB, Carolina Panthers
Bradberry is another second-year corner to target in CB-required leagues. After Josh Norman went to Washington last season, it opened up a spot for the Bradberry to play right away, and he ended up appearing on 799 snaps. He missed three games last season, but was an every-down player when on the field. He had eight games of 10 or more fantasy points and produced a 0.16 points per snap rate. He also was targeted 84 times, recording 10 defended passes, two interceptions, and a 7.4-percent tackle rate on 59 total tackles (47 solo).
Bradberry has CB1 potential this season in CB-required leagues. He has 80-tackle/5-INT upside, especially if he sees 90-plus targets this season.
- Shaq Lawson & 7 Other Breakout Defensive Linemen to Target in IDP Leagues in 2017
- Sean Spence & 8 Other Breakout Linebackers to Target in IDP Leagues 2017
- Jamal Adams, Jabrill Peppers & 5 Other Rookie DBs to Target in IDP Leagues in 2017
- Myles Garrett & 7 Other Rookie Defensive Lineman to Target in IDP Leagues in 2017
- Rueben Foster, Jarrad Davis, and 7 Other Rookie Linebackers to Target in IDP Leagues in 2017
- IDP Rankings - 2017 NFL Season