“Round Robinson”: IDP Safety Rankings (31-60) (Part 2 of 2) 2014
We continue our look into the best options at safety for your IDP league. Last week, we hit the Top-30 and this week, the list continues, starting with a veteran who never seems to age:
31) Charles Woodson (OAK) – Unbelievably, Woodson is entering his 17th NFL season and is still an impact playmaker at the back-end of the Oakland D. His first season back in the silver and black culminated in a career high 97 tackles and three forced fumbles. Woodson claims he is just now learning the nuances of the safety position and could be even better than he was a year ago. Just know that as the tackle numbers go up, his INT and pass breakups won’t be what they were during his Packer years.
32) Aaron Williams (BUF) – As one door closes, another door is opened. Jairus Byrd’s departure to New Orleans allows Williams to slide into the free safety role and become the breakout playmaker of the Bills’ defense. This is only the second year Williams has played safety and, while there will be a learning curve as he adjusts to new DC Jim Schwartz’ scheme, it won’t be as great as the one he endured last year when he still managed to post 82 tackles and four INT. This far down, he’s a terrific swing-for-the-fences option.
33) Mike Mitchell (PIT) – Mitchell parlayed his best season yet into a five-year, $25 million deal with the Steelers. The hard hitter seems to be a perfect fit with Polamalu and his roaming style. But Mitchell isn’t just an in-the-box defender as his four INT and eight pass breakups last year showed. He’s been put on the PUP list to start camp, but Mitchell himself doesn’t see this being an issue moving forward and neither do I.
34) Devin McCourty (NE) – McCourty is without a doubt one of the best safeties in the game today. But he suffers the same fate as fellow Patriot Tom Brady in that his numbers just don’t reflect how good he really is, and lesser quality players become more valuable for the purposes of our game. His 69 tackles, one INT and nine pass breakups last year were part of a great season, but those numbers were all career lows. McCourty is also the victim of being surrounded by quality talent around him that sap some of his value. Great player, not as good a fantasy option.
35) Thomas DeCoud (CAR) – After six seasons in Atlanta, DeCoud heads up I-95 to Charlotte where he’ll join an impressive Panthers’ defense. His interception total dropped from six in 2012 to zero last season and his pass breakups fell from nine to two. With one of the most formidable pass rushes in football in front of him, I would expect DeCoud to recoup some of those picks this year and get closer to his Pro-Bowl 2012 numbers than what he posted last season.
36) Eric Reid (SF) – As a Cowboys’ fan, it hurt to watch Reid be so productive for the 49ers last year knowing this is the player I think we should’ve had in the 2013 draft. After 77 tackles, four INT and 11 pass breakups, Reid looks for a repeat performance this year on another loaded San Francisco defense. I’d be more than happy seeing him post a similar stat line this year.
37) Deone Bucannon (ARI) – Even though Bucannon is not currently listed as the starting strong safety for the Cardinals as camp opens up, I’m expecting that to change as Week 1 approaches. Bucannon showed at Washington State that he is a do-it-all kind of safety as evidenced by his 114 tackles and six INT during his senior season for the Cougars. He becomes another cog in what’s shaping up to be one of the most interesting secondaries in all of football.
38) D.J. Swearinger (HOU) – A lot of draft pundits labeled Swearinger a sneaky good pick when Houston nabbed him in the second round last year. He backed that up with 71 tackles, third on the team, and added a pick and four pass breakups. The starting job is unquestionably his this time around and I believe he’ll approach triple digits in tackles in 2014.
39) Dashon Goldson (TB) – Goldson played just 13 games last year but still managed 72 tackles, one INT and nine pass breakups in his first year in Tampa. He’s currently recovering from offseason ankle surgery but should be ready to go once the regular season rolls around. He and Mark Barron make a formidable safety duo, but one thing to watch with Goldson is his knack for angering Roger Goodell and the league offices with his illegal hits. As a repeat offender, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lose a game to an ill-timed blow again this year.
40) Michael Griffin (TEN) – While we’re on the subject of safeties suspended for helmet-to-helmet hits, let’s tlak about Michael Griffin. Despite playing in just 14 games, the former Longhorn recorded 82 tackles but just one INT, tied for his career low. After years of waiting for Griffin to meet the high expectations beset him coming out of college, I think we have to accept that 80-90 tackles and a couple of picks is what you’re going to get. If you’re still chasing another breakout season like he had in 2008, good luck. I’m not riding that train anymore.
41) Glover Quin (DET) – Quin’s first year in Detroit brought some regression along with it. He saw his tackle numbers drop from 84 to 57, his pass breakups drop from 14 to nine, and his run stuffs drop from 5.5 to 1.5. Quin is entrenched as the Lions’ FS and his versatility means he could see some time at SS as well. He’s expected to be the leader in the secondary with Louis Delmas now in Miami and with it I expect a return to his 2012 numbers, if not better.
42) Reggie Nelson (CIN) – After four seasons in Cincinnati, we pretty much know what to expect from Nelson. He’ll give you around 70 or 80 tackles with a couple picks mixed in. Nothing exciting, but nothing too risky about his play either. He is on the wrong side of 30 and has missed a couple games the last two seasons, so durability might be the only concern worth noting.
43) Ryan Clark (WAS) – If you’ve watched ESPN much these last few months, you’ve probably seen plenty of Clark on the worldwide leader. Now you’ll get to see him in burgundy and gold as he joins Washington to make quite the heavy hitting duo with Brandon Meriweather. The years of seeing him tally triple digit tackles are almost certainly over, but 80 with a pick or two thrown in there isn’t bad for the soon-to-be 35-year-old.
44) Louis Delmas (MIA) – Speaking of the aforementioned Delmas, he brings his reputation as a big hitter to South Beach and replaces Chris Clemons in the Dolphin secondary. He won’t put up the 90+ tackles he did as rookie, but his big play potential makes for an interesting matchup play. The major concern is his penchant for blowing coverages and giving up big plays. Hopefully this doesn’t result in a loss of playing time down the road, but it’s not something I can completely rule out.
45) Duron Harmon (NE) – Harmon inherits a coveted spot across from Devin McCourty and has Patriot fans expecting big things in 2014. He got three starts last year but he’ll have the job from day one provided no injuries or other out-of-nowhere events occur. He’s not the best tackler but his range and ability to make a play on the ball will result in big plays for himself and New England.
46) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (GB) – Clinton-Dix is in a similar predicament to that of Deone Bucannon. Despite the Packers spending a high draft pick to secure his services, he goes into camp behind a veteran in Micah Hyde. The difference? Hyde is apparently blowing away coaches early on after transitioning from a nickel corner back to safety. Clinton-Dix no longer looks to have as clear a path to the starting job as Bucannon does, hence the difference in rankings. I fully expect HHCD to be designated the starter at some point in Green Bay, but every week he loses snaps to Hyde hurts his season outlook.
47) J.J. Wilcox (DAL) – Another very interesting opportunity play, the Cowboys surprised many, including myself, when they did not select a safety in this past May’s draft. They must feel real good about what they saw last season from Wilcox before being hampered by a knee injury in the middle of the season. He made five starts for Dallas last year and goes into camp as the starter. Should he maintain his lock on the job, he could get to 80 tackles and anything else would just be a bonus.
48) Nate Allen (PHI) – As of right now, Nate Allen is probably the lead dog to start opposite Malcolm Jenkins in the Eagles’ secondary. He had a career high 82 tackles and one INT last year while starting every game for Philadelphia. But there is no guarantee he’ll be slotted into the starting lineup this year. A second year player who is discussed below is pushing Allen hard and the battle may not be over by the time the season starts. Even if Allen starts Week 1, a slip in play could mean a drastic reduction in snaps.
49) Brock Vereen (CHI) – It might be rare to see a 4th-round pick come in to the league with so much on his shoulders, but it looks like Vereen will be accepting that challenge going forward. An injury to incumbent Chris Conte has opened the door for Vereen, and by all accounts, the rookie is turning heads in camp and making it that much harder for the job to slide back Conte’s way when he is healthy. His college numbers won’t impress you, but Vereen has a golden opportunity to be an impact rookie from the start.
50) Brandon Meriweather (WAS) – Love him or hate him, Meriweather can make an impact on the game no question. Washington brought him back on a one-year deal to be their starting free safety now that Ryan Clark is in the fold. Meriweather would be wise to curb his head-hunting ways though, as any time away from the field could give Phillip Thomas, a second year player out of Fresno State, an opportunity at the job he might not relinquish. Thomas has looked good in camp and could push Meriweather as the season rolls along.
51) Rahim Moore (DEN) – Sentimentally, I’m pulling for Moore as he’s returning from a left leg injury in November that almost resulted in amputation or worse. But on the field there’s just not a lot here to get excited about. He’s only averaged roughly 4.5 tackles/game the last two seasons with four INT in 41 career games. There’s even more playmakers on the field around him this year, so Moore will be left with the scraps and an uninteresting stat line.
52) Charles Godfrey (CAR) – Godfrey is an interesting case study as he has two things working squarely against him. First, he’s coming back from a torn Achilles he suffered in Week 2 last year and has gone almost a full year without game action. Second, and more importantly, Godfrey will be a full-time CB in 2014. While many have assumed this means he’s bound for nickel schemes only, there is some chatter than Godfrey may be in the mix to start out wide instead. Regardless, the Panthers want him on the field as often as he can be, and if you’re in a league that rewards pass breakups, he could provide a healthy dose from a safety-eligible player.
53) Ryan Mundy (CHI) – The Bears brought in a few different free agent safeties this offseason trying to remedy an awful pass defense from last year. Of all the veterans, Mundy looks to have the most secure lock on playing time. He had his best statistical year in his only season with the Giants in 2013, recording 77 tackles, one INT and three run stuffs. Chicago’s high-powered offense could only serve to help those in the Bears’ secondary as more opportunities will be there to make plays, and Mundy looks to have more chances than anyone else.
54) Dawan Landry (NYJ) – While he’s not the flashiest of players, you know exactly what you’re getting from Landry (this week’s featured Georgia Tech alum) when he steps on the field each and every time. He’s recorded at least 97 tackles each of the last four seasons with three different teams. His situation changes a little with the arrival of Calvin Pryor though. Now he and Antonio Allen will be scrapping for playing time, with Landry likely to take the lion share of snaps.
55) George Iloka (CIN) – As of now, Iloka is in line to start at strong safety for Cincinnati. Iloka did some good things for the Bengals last year, notching 41 tackles and an INT. There are some solidly in his corner, and others who are looking for more production out of the Bengals’ SS position. This is one of the more interesting camp battles that will take place for IDP players as Iloka is an interesting sleeper if he remains the starter.
56) Delano Howell (IND) – With Antoine Bethea now gone, the free safety spot in Indy is wide open. Enter Howell, who has 21 tackles in 12 career games over his two NFL seasons. The Colts seem to like what they see and have given every indication that he will start across from LaRon Landry. He has good range but can occasionally give up the big play as many young safeties are apt to do. He’s an interesting youngster to keep an eye on.
57) Earl Wolff (PHI) – The challenger to Nate Allen’s starting job, Wolff is battling to start alongside Malcolm Jenkins. The Eagles prefer their safeties to be well-rounded, something working against both Wolff and Allen. Wolff is better in the box and a better tackler (45 tackles in 11 games in 2013), meaning he’d probably have a little bit more value than Allen would if he got the nod. But with most jobs, it’s up to Wolff to unseat Allen by showing definitively in camp he’s made strides in coverage. This is one of the more interesting camp battles in the secondary and one worth keeping an eye on for our purposes.
58) Dezmen Southward (ATL) – Thomas DeCoud’s departure to division rival Carolina has left the Falcons an interesting decision in who to pair with William Moore. They could go with veteran Dwight Lowery as a safe and able replacement, but my gut tells me they prefer the range and athleticism of Southward. The rookie third-round pick out of Wisconsin has only been playing football since his senior year of high school, but he has enough natural talent to allow him to adequately roam center field while Moore does his best work in the box.
59) Chris Conte (CHI) – Conte comes off a very productive 89-tackle and three-INT season for Chicago. But he picked a bad time to be out of action. Conte starts camp on the PUP list and must watch as Brock Vereen looks poised to overtake him on the depth chart. Conte will still have some value even if he’s not the starter, but probably not enough to make him rosterable even in the deepest of formats.
60) Shawn Williams (CIN) – Williams is fighting for the playing time alongside Reggie Nelson, but comes into training camp as the underdog. I would guess that the Bengals’ brass is hoping Williams does something in camp to separate himself from the other safeties on the roster as he has a lot of the prototypical physical skills teams are looking for. He’ll have to really work on his coverage skills, but should he land a more pronounced role, there’s certainly some value to be had here. Otherwise, a special teamer with little to no value.
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