Ahhh! Here comes Labor Day weekend. Kids are heading back to school, vacations are wrapping up and most importantly…we are finally going to get some watchable football to get excited about. Fantasy football owners are finishing their last drafts or scouring the waiver wire to build depth or replaced players that have been injured in pre-season. Here at Major League Fantasy Sports, we believe that in order to have the full fantasy football experience, you need to use individual defensive players (IDP) as an integral part of the scoring system. Not only does it give a fun and challenging element to your strategy, but in a balanced scoring system, IDPs can help you overcome the loss of a major offensive skill position player. Often in offensive-only redraft leagues, if you lose one or two of your top picks to injury, you could be done by Halloween.
This season, I have been tasked with providing weekly insight and analysis on Defensive Backs. There is a lot of value to be found here as they can provide fantasy points in so many categories depending on your league settings. Your strategy, however, will likely change depending on the league type: Redraft, Keeper or Dynasty. Unless it is a deep keeper league, it’s not likely that you are going to be keeping any IDPs. Dynasty Leagues tend to have deep rosters so under the radar players could become gold later in the season. For those of you that are as crazy as me and prefer 32 Team, single player universe dynasty leagues, you know that there is not much on the waiver wire. The ability to scout under-valued players to target and acquire can help you cover bye weeks and injuries late in the season. For the purpose of this column, I will be grouping basic keeper leagues and redraft leagues together. I will also be grouping deep keeper leagues and dynasty leagues together. This week, I will be discussing a few guys to keep on your radar for some pre-Week 1 waiver wire adds (redraft/keeper) and dynasty league targets.
Redraft/Keeper League Waiver Wire Targets
- Duron Harmon, S (NE) — This second year safety out of Rutgers, has a great chance to start over veteran, Patrick Chung. He had 37 tackles, 2 INT and 4 Passes Defensed (PD) in limited player during his rookie season. Why do I think he makes a good waiver wire add? Many people raised their eyebrows when New England selected him 91st overall in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft. It seemed like quite a reach at the time, but Bill Belichick loves him some Rutgers DBs. With Devin McCourty and Logan Ryan also in the defensive backfield, Bill seems to like the defensive system Greg Schiano ran and quickly integrates them into his defense. Harmon is not an exceptional athlete, but he has decent size and quickness which gives him the ability to play over the top. He can also play the run and tackles well. This adds up to an increase in playing time this season. With teams often playing from behind against the Pats, he will have opportunity to be an IDP contributor this season.
- Deone Bucannon, S (ARI) — Deone was the 27th overall pick out of Washington State in the 2014 NFL draft. Although he was talked up by the analysts during the draft, he was listed as 2nd SS in the initial depth chart that Arizona put out this summer as he struggled in off-season workouts. With only Tony Jefferson ahead of him on the depth chart, he should be able to get plenty of playing time and should be starting within the first few weeks of the season. Why do I think he makes a good waiver wire add? He should be a tackling machine. He is not quick and won’t catch anyone from behind, but he excels in run coverage and he is a hard hitter. His punishing tackle approach should provide opportunities for turnovers. I expect him to be a significant IDP contributor this season.
- Lemarcus Joyner, CB/FS (STL) — Here is another rookie on the list. He was selected with the 9th pick in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft. He is a versatile player that can play all defensive back positions. He took on a leadership role on the FSU championship team and should make a smooth transition into the pro game. He is short at only 5’8” and not overly athletic, but with his high football IQ, work ethic and instinct, he will always find a way to be involved in the play. Why do I think he makes a good waiver wire add? He will be on the field a lot. He may get the chance to start opposite TJ McDonald, but more likely he will start out as the nickel cornerback. He will excel at this position and be heavily involved with stopping the run and covering the slot receiver. This has caused him to be compared to the Honey Badger. The immense pressure the STL front four will put on the opposing Quarterbacks will likely create many poor passes that could result in a few interceptions. His ability to rack up tackles with CB eligibility will make him a huge IDP impact this season.
Dynasty/Deep Keeper League Under-the-Radar Targets
- Terrence Brooks, S/CB (BAL) — Many savvy fantasy owners are already aware of Bucannon and Joyner since they were in the first 50 picks of the draft. Going a little deeper, Brooks is another hybrid DB that is similar to Joyner and may get just as much playing time due to his versatility. He was selected in the 3rd round in this season’s draft out of Florida State. Darian Stewart is expected to start opposite Matt Elam at FS, but I’m not sure he will stand in Brook’s way for long. Terrence should see the field right away as a nickel corner and special teams. He is quick enough to hang in man to man coverage on a receiver and athletic enough to jump at a 38” vertical leap to compensate for this 5’11” limited height. He doesn’t have great “ball handling” skills but he covers the run well and is an aggressive tackler. This approach has caused him to miss a tackle here and there as he doesn’t always wrap up well, but his overall skills and versatility will keep him on the field. He could be a sneaky pickup/acquisition to fill in when the injuries begin to pile up in the Ravens backfield. He could be a significant IDP contributor by the end of the season.
- Dezmen Southward, S (ATL) — Dezman was drafted by the Falcons in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft out of Wisconsin. This may be a little more of a reach than those I have discussed thus far as he is probably the least “talented” of the group. However, I don’t see the incumbent, Dwight Lowery, of much of an obstacle to his playing time and Atlanta has had recent history of playing their defensive rookies quite a bit. He has a great chance to earn the starting FS position due to his excellent size and speed for a DB. He does a great job defending plays that develop in front of him and is fast enough to cover the slot receiver if needed. He is not a great tackler and might get exposed in man-coverage, but he will be on the field enough to possibly contribute in IDP. He might not be more than a bye week plug but could develop into something more once he gets some NFL experience.
- Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB (TEN) — Although CBs don’t generally earn as many points as safeties, most IDP leagues do require you to start them. He has, by far, the coolest name on this list (pronounced bleed-ee ray-wilson). Wilson is not being talked about much this off-season, but is likely going to take Alterraun Verner’s vacated starting CB slot. Blidi is a big, physical corner that can disrupt the receiver at the line of scrimmage. He has the quickness to close in on a receiver after the catch and is strong enough to dislodge the ball to break up receptions. He is not a consistent tackler but should see a lot of targets as he will likely get picked on more than veteran Jason McCourty on the other side. He represents a nice bye week play in dynasty leagues and has potential to have a few nice games with turnover potential. If your league counts Passes Defensed then he may get you even more value.
I hope you take the time each week to check in on this column. I will do my best to provide some compelling plays to help your team in both redraft and dynasty formats.Bryan Luhrs Real Deal Dynasty Sports, Creator & League Commissioner MajorLeagueFantasySports.com, Fantasy Baseball and Football Writer http://www.realdealdynasty.com @realdealdynasty