Safeties are always the hardest position to rank for Fantasy Football, but the majority on this list should be better than average starters. Some are better than average because the Quarterback’s continually target them in the passing game, a la Antwon Blake in Pittsburgh last season, and others are just good all around players. As always, check teams’ final depth charts if there is any question on who the starter is. These are my Top 25 Corners for the 2016 season:
(1) Tyrann Mathieu (ARZ) – Mathieu can be classified as a safety or both a corner and safety depending on where you play Fantasy football. You should target him at either position. Last season Mathieu has 89 tackles, 5 INT’s and 17 passes defended which ranks him well above the average in all three categories, and he also missed two games. It looks as though Mathieu will be healthy to start the season.
(2) Bashaud Breeland (WAS) – The new duo of Norman and Breeland puts the Washington secondary very close to contending with Arizona and Denver for the league’s best secondary title. Breeland is coming off a great season at corner and with Normal on the other side, Breeland should see an increase in Fantasy stat opportunities.
(3) Jason McCourty (TEN) – McCourty is coming off a season where he was only able to play in four games. His pass coverage skills have declined. But he is a sure tackler and if healthy could reach 90 tackles.
(4) Trumaine Johnson (LA) – Johnson is coming off a breakout year. He most likely won’t reach 7 INT’s again, but his other stats could increase.
(5) Marcus Peters (KC) – Peters had 60 tackles, 8 INT’s and 26 passes defended in his rookie season. QB’s may look to target the other side of the field this season, and it will be nearly impossible for Peters to duplicate these rookie stats, but he should still be a Fantasy corner to target.
(6) Josh Norman (WAS) – Norman brings confidence to the Washington secondary. He has already told Odell Beckham that he will be in for a “rough year”. Norman also backs this confidence up in his Fantasy stats in all categories.
(7) David Amerson (OAK) – After two seasons in Washington, Washington moved on from Amerson by waiving him early in the 2015 season. Oakland claimed him off of waivers and turned out to be a perfect fit. This offseason the Raiders signed Sean Smith to play on the opposite side, so Amerson should have plenty of opportunity to continue to thrive in this defense.
(8) Ronald Darby (BUF) – After being drafted at pick (50) in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft, Darby performed like a first rounder. All categories were solid, but his 21 passes defended in his rookie season stands out.
(9) Ryan Logan (NE) – Logan is coming off of a top 10 Fantasy season. In his second season as a starter he posted 74 tackles, 4 INT’s and 14 passes defended. Only 25 years old he should be a solid Fantasy contributor for years to come.
(10) Janoris Jenkins (NYG) – Jenkins is coming off his best Fantasy season since his rookie campaign. His 64 tackles, 3 INT’s and 15 passes defended should increase this season playing for a Giants defense that is not quite in the class of the Rams’.
(11) Jalen Ramsey (JAX) – Ramsey was ranked the #1 corner and safety in this year’s draft. Judging by his limited play in pre-season he will be a Fantasy stat magnet. Don’t be afraid to take this rookie.
(12) Ross Cockrell (PIT) – In only seven starts last season Cockrell put up 44 tackles, 2 INT’s and 11 passes defended. Antwon Blake has moved on to Tennessee this season, so Cockrell is perhaps Pittsburgh’s best safety.
(13) Malcolm Butler (NE) – Butler is coming off a Pro Bowl season and will also be a free agent next summer. In addition to 2 INT’s and 15 passes defended, he added 67 tackles, and made the departure of Darrelle Revis go more smoothly.
(14) Adam Jones (CIN) – Over the last three seasons, Jones has put up nearly identical numbers. This offseason he was re-signed to a three year contract and as the Bengals leading safety, there is no reason to lower expectations.
(15) Johnathan Joseph (HOU) – Joseph has been a great corner for a lot of years. Last season’s 22 passes defended was a career high. He graded out as PFF’s top coverage corner in the league over the final 14 weeks of 2015.
(16) Nolan Carroll (PHI) – Carroll may be a surprise at this spot, but he had 57 tackles, 2 INT’s and 10 passes defended in only 11 games last season before breaking his leg, and has surpassed Ron Brooks on the depth chart.
(17) Brandon Carr (DAL) – Carr has been a disappointment in Dallas after signing a big free agent contract in 2012. This is the final year of that contract. I’m placing Carr this high solely based on the front seven and the opportunities Carr should have to tackle in both pass and run defense with Orlando Scandrick back in action this season.
(18) Lamarcus Joyner (LA) – Joyner is the slot corner for the Rams with Trumaine Johnson and E.J. Gaines on the outside. He had 72 tackles from this spot last season. I look for him to get his first career interception this season and be more active in pass defense stats after the departure of Janoris Jenkins.
(19) Chris Harris (DEN) – Harris is a member of the “No Fly Zone” in Denver – the NFL’s best secondary. His Fantasy numbers were slightly down last season, but I expect the Denver pass rush to flag a bit this year with the loss of Malik Jackson in free agency and his replacement Vance Walker to injury. This should increases chances for Harris and the rest of the secondary.
(20) Brandon Williams (ARZ) – This was supposed to be Justin Bethel’s spot, but Bethel was just activated from the PUP a week ago, and rookie Brandon Williams has impressed in training camp. All of the defensive backs in Arizona are active enough against both the pass and the run to be viable Fantasy options, and playing opposite Patrick Peterson will always yield more opportunities. Check the final depth chart prior to starting Williams or Bethel week 1.
(21) Stephone Gilmore (BUF) – Gilmore in 12 games last season amassed 3 INT’s and 18 passes defended. He is also in a contract year unless the Bills are able to extend him prior to the start of the season. Look for Gilmore to continue to be one of the better corners in the league.
(22) Damarious Randall (GB) – Randall switched from a college safety to an NFL corner in his first season with Green Bay. It was a fairly smooth transition as Randall was very active in pass defense with 3 INT’s and 14 passes defended.
(23) Kyle Fuller (CHI) – Fuller recently underwent a knee scope and could miss week 1. He flashed good play as a rookie early in 2014, but faded as the year wore on. Last season he got off to a slow start, and his play was inconsistent, but in Fantasy his numbers have been about the same over two seasons, and if he can hold on to his starting job he should be a consistent Fantasy performer.
(24) Dre Kirkpatrick (CIN) – William Jackson III was drafted to replace Dre Kirkpatrick after Kirkpatrick graded out as one of the worst corners in the league in 2015. However Jackson suffered a torn pectoral muscle in early August and the team isn’t sure when he will be available. In Fantasy however, Kirkpatrick had a solid season with 70 tackles and 16 passes defended. Kirkpatrick is currently still projected as one of the Bengals starting corners, and QB’s love to target struggling corners which increases their opportunities for Fantasy stats.
(25) Tramon Williams (CLE) – Williams has moved to slot corner, with Jamar Taylor taking his spot on the outside. However, Taylor was injury prone in his time with the Miami Dolphins so this may be a temporary change. Williams has always been a high tackle corner.