“Mad Dog McCleese” Immediate Impact Cornerbacks & Safeties
This will be my final article on rookie IDP Impact cornerbacks and safeties. I’m bringing three more notable names to the table for my readers this week. As I touched on last week, it’s not easy to trust the rookies at these respective positions because there just aren’t that many Ha Ha Clinton-Dix type players that make an immediate impact. The silver lining in the cloud is that you can get these rookies late in an IDP draft, unless it’s a Dynasty rookie IDP draft. We, as IDP owners, need to be able to research the landing spot and coaching situation in order to completely understand if the investment is worth the risk. I’ve done my homework and here is the final round of my rookie impact players at cornerback and safety. While they may come with some risk, they will be well worth the investment.
Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are looking to the future and invested heavily in Marcus Peters with their first round selection, 18th overall in the draft. The Chiefs believe that Peters was the most complete corner in the draft, and relied mostly on former Washington and current USC coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff’s recommendation and took a shot on his high-upside. While playing for the Huskies, Peters started 22 games and recorded 11 interceptions, 9.5 tackles for a loss, and three fumble recoveries. He also allowed just 38.1 percent of passes against him to be completed and had 24 passes defensed. Make no mistake, Peters has tremendous cover ability and potential, but the tape shows a player that is inconsistent with on-field discipline and willingness to play inside the structure of the defense. While these are all major concerns, they’re all things that the Chiefs coaching staff can fix with time. He has the talent, but needs to harness his emotions and prove that he is coachable to reach the lofty expectations the Chiefs’ brass have for him. To me, these aren’t reasons that will keep me from drafting him, but regardless are still red flags. Know that he comes with a warning label. In 2014, he was suspended one game after a sideline tirade during an Eastern Washington game, and was later dismissed from the team following a confrontation with an assistant coach during practice in November. While these are all serious concerns, there have been players with the same type of concerns in the past, like Aqib Talib. Despite these same concerns, Talib managed to become one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL. My point here is that he’s worth the risk, providing he overcomes the obstacles in his way. As a rookie, I envision him being a dependable and valuable commodity at his position with unlimited fantasy upside.
Peters has prototypical size for the position at 6’0”, 197 lbs, and 31 ½” arm length. He offers elite ball skills and size, making him arguably one of the most talented press-man corners in this year’s draft. Peters is very fluid in his hips to flip and run. He competes hard out of press-man coverage and intimidates receivers with his physicality. He has the ability to redirect talented receivers with his incredible length, and flat-out stuff receivers with above average foot quickness and strength. Peters does a good job staying in the pocket of vertical receivers while turning to locate and track the ball. Even more impressive is the fact that he’s very active and disruptive when the ball is in the air. Truth be told, he’s at his best when contesting catches and often comes away the winner on 50/50 throws. Evidence of that would be his eleven interceptions in 22 starts with the Huskies. Peters averaged an interception every other start, which is worth noting if you’re looking for a ball-hawk corner that will get battle tested as a rookie. We talk about talent and opportunity all the time in terms of immediate impact type players, and Peters has both working in his favor in Kansas City. Sean Smith and Ron Parker headline the secondary right now at both safety positions, but Peters has no one else standing in his way to start a lot of games as a rookie at cornerback. He also possesses outstanding feel for space, with the ability to track multiple receivers along with the quarterback at the same time. Peters reads well and closes on throws with above average burst, and brings force on contact. At the end of the day I want to draft the high upside IDP rookies that will be given every opportunity to prove themselves on the field.
Damarious Randall, Safety/Cornerback, Green Bay Packers
OK, so maybe I’m cheating here a little since I know early reports from OTA’s seem to indicate that Damarious Randall is most likely going to play corner for the Packers. Randall was a safety at Arizona State, but also played slot corner in the Sun Devils’ defense. During his time in Tempe, he became a big time playmaker and tallied 15 tackles for loss, six interceptions, and four forced fumbles. He excelled at the NFL combine, running a 4.46 40-yard dash, jumping a 38-inch vertical, and garnering top agility scores across the board. Although smallish for a safety, Randall was an excellent college slot corner. Not to mention, he was a ball hawk in the deep middle. His calling card is his intensity level on the field, where he’s a jarring hitter with a knack for stripping the ball. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at free safety, it makes sense for the Packers to use Randall at cornerback, where he’ll likely cover the slot. Having said that, don’t be surprised if he sneaks into more of a hybrid role given his versatility, and is heavily involved in all nickel and dime defensive packages. He’s more valuable in fantasy terms as a safety, but he can still make plenty of big plays at corner in the NFC North with gunslingers Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, and young Teddy Bridgewater tossing up the pigskin. Also, don’t forget Tramon Williams was given his walking papers, so Green Bay is looking for someone to fill his shoes. If I had to pick between rookie Quinten Rollins, veteran Sam Shields, and Demarious Randle for 2015 and beyond, I’d pick Randle. I’d go with the player with the most upside in the Packers secondary, with the exception of Clinton-Dix.
Randall is a plus athlete with good speed. Scouts love his toughness and effort. He displayed inspired effort as a tackler, racking up 177 tackles during a two-year stint at Arizona State. It’s a major plus for you IDP owners in tackle heavy leagues. He has a nose for the football and looks to punish every snap. Randall explodes into targets, and jolts his victims with an aggressive and fearless mentality. Randall takes very good angles in space in run support. He’s a very instinctive blitzer who times the snap well and has a nose for the quarterback. Randall has good field awareness, senses throws underneath and breaks on them early, and trusts his football instincts. He’s highly competitive on 50/50 throws and won’t give an inch to receivers. Randall has a knack of making big time plays and took two interceptions back to the house in college. It certainly helps that he has good hands and played some wide receiver in junior college. The icing on the cake is that he also was an explosive returner and special teams player at Arizona State. This was Mike Mayock’s number one safety coming out of the draft, over an uber talented Landon Collins. The Packers defensive coaches will find ways to keep Randall on the field and use him as a movable chess piece. I like his chances of making an immediate impact due to his big play capability and the situation he’s fallen into after the departure of Tramon Williams.
Super Sleeper Alert!
Eric Rowe, Cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles
Last week my super sleeper was Jaquiski Tart. This week I’m digging even deeper to come up with a cornerback who I can put in this same category. I’m pretty sure that I found my next super sleeper in Eric Rowe of the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s another one of Mike Mayock’s favorite players in this year’s draft class at his position. Rowe played free safety for three years at Utah before switching over to corner. Rowe has the size and ball skills to matchup on the outside with big recievers in the NFL. Similar to Damarious Randall, he projects better at the safety position in fantasy terms. The Eagles drafted three defensive backs; Eric Rowe, JaCorey Shepherd, and Randall Evans, and all three are playing cornerback. Rowe started three seasons at safety at Utah and could potentially be a Day 1 starter at the safety position, if the Eagles wanted him to play safety. Currently they’re experimenting with converting cornerback Walter Thurmond to safety. No one can predict the future, but Rowe certainly has the ability to slide over in coverage or play safety if the Thurmond experience doesn’t pan out. Regardless, I see a major opportunity for Rowe in Philly once he gets acquainted to the terminology and techniques within the Eagles defense packages.
Eric Rowe is built well for a corner at 6’1”, 205 lbs, and 31 ½ arm length giving him a long frame. He has the ability to disrupt wide receivers off the line of scrimmage and can mirror them out of their release. Rowe is very good at jamming and disrupting the shallow crossers. He is very willing and capable of throwing his body around in run support if needed. Watching his film, it’s obvious that he’s a good tackler and can be trusted in that area. Rowe attacks the ball at catch point and makes it hard for the receiver to finish the catch. Rowe brings his versatility to the Eagles after being a three-year starter at free safety, then moving to cornerback this past year. He can break hard on throws in front of him. Rowe is very instinctive in zone with the ball skills to match. These are all solid skills that should parlay into plenty of playing time as a rookie. He projects as a better pro player than college player. Rowe’s length and ability to play press-man coverage will insure he’s on the field more often than not.
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