“Mad Dog McCleese” Free Agent Cornerbacks & Safeties Acquisitions to Target
There has been a flurry of big name off-season moves via trades and free agency signings. We, as a group of expert writers at MLFS, will be focusing on covering the biggest names and most impactful players changing uniforms in the coming weeks. While some positions may garner more attention if you play in IDP leagues, you should be paying close attention to changes in defensive personnel on all 32 teams. We talk about opportunity so much in fantasy sports that it’s burned into our brains like a tattoo. At the end of the day, the bottom line is that it’s a key ingredient in whether or not a player breaks out or takes the next step forward in their development. Talent is also very important, but is wasted without opportunity. I have three players that I’m highlighting this week that will be a major impact on their new teams. While a couple of them may already be household names, I would be doing my readers a disservice by not highlighting them.
Darrelle Revis, Cornerbak, New York Jets
You could make the case that Darrelle Revis was the most impactful defensive player to change teams this off-season. It’s not every day that a team can manage to steal an All-Pro corner from a reigning Super Bowl champ, but that’s exactly what the Jets did when they acquired Darrelle Revis from the Patriots. The blockbuster deal came five hours after Revis became a free agent. The Patriots declined to exercise his $20 million option for 2015, and the rest is history. As the saying goes, “money talks and – you know what – walks.” Revis was happy to come back home to the Big Apple and had 70 million reasons to sign on the dotted line. The deal will pay him an astronomical $48 million in the first three years, including $39 million in full guarantees. It’s a bold move by the Jets, but they desperately needed to lock down the best shutdown corner in the league considering the glaring holes in their secondary. There was an obvious need (no healthy, starting-caliber corners on the roster) and more than enough cap space (roughly $40 million at the start of free agency). They went hard and heavy in the off-season to acquire playmakers under their new regime of GM Mike Maccagnan and Head CoachTodd Bowles, making acquiring Revis their top priority.
Darrelle Revis earned his nickname “Revis Island” because of his ability to completely shut down, or maroon, opposing number one wide receivers. Ironically, he’s now earning enough money to buy his own island, and he deserves it! He had his best fantasy years early in his career with the Jets, making three All-Pro teams from 2007-2012. I see no reason to think he can’t turn back the clock and replicate them now that he’s coming back home to his favorite place to play. Last year Revis finished with 47 tackles, 14 passes defended, and 2 interceptions. Considering the fact that opposing teams stayed away from him, these numbers are misleading so take them with a grain of salt. I believe the difference this year will be that the Jets have been very aggressive, and added established veterans Buster Skrine and Antonio Cromartie via free agency. In this instance, opposing quarterbacks will be forced to test Revis more often than in his previous stops in New England and Tampa Bay where he was avoided at all cost. While playing for those teams Revis was avoided like the plague, mostly because his teammates were easy to target or pick on. The bottom line is that the revamped Jets defense will have a whole new look and the pressure will be off Revis to shoulder the entire load due to his improved supporting cast.
Antrel Rolle- Safety – Chicago Bears
The Bears lost Chris Conte and Charles “Peanut” Tillman in the offseason, and restocked the secondary with the additions of Antrel Rolle and Tracy Porter. Personally, I like both the additions of Rolle and Porter, who are upgrades over Conte and an aging Tillman. Rolle will bring a much needed veteran locker room presence to the Bears and be depended on to lead a young secondary headlined by Kyle Fuller. He’s been a vital part of the Giants secondary for the past five years and has nine interceptions in the last two years. During this time he was a tackle machine, averaging 92 tackles. If you’re in a tackle heavy league Rolle is going to be monster, and will also help you in interceptions and passes defended cats. In MLFS leagues Rolle finished last year 18th overall at safety, just behind new teammate Ryan Mundy, Reshad Jones, and Michael Griffin. Moving over to the NFC North should be a boom to his fantasy value since he will be facing gunslingers Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and emerging Teddy Bridgewater, twice a year. Rolle has been a staple of consistency and very durable, having played at least 15 games every year since 2006. He also will have chemistry with starting safety Ryan Mundy. The two safeties played alongside each other for one year (2013) with the New York Giants, and Mundy thinks the duo can rekindle the connection wearing Bears uniforms. There is no doubt the two will have each other’s back and make a lot of big plays in 2015. The following is a quote from Mundy further enforcing this theory:
“Antrel and I have a history together,” Mundy said. “We had a really good chemistry and connection in New York when we played for the Giants. I’m looking forward to bringing that to Chicago and making a lot of plays because we had a lot of success two years ago.”
I’m projecting Rolle to finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 95-100 tackles, 5-6 interceptions, and 12-15 passes defended. This line should easily put him in the top 10 at his position, which is why I think he’s a great target this year at the safety position in IDP leagues. Don’t sleep on Rolle because he’s going to provide all the goodies and make his fantasy owners smile from ear-to-ear in 2015.
Super Sleeper Alert!
Bradley Fletcher, Cornerback, New England
I’m going to switch gears now after hyping two household names and am bringing a name to the table that I consider a sleeper. Bradley Fletcher showed us last year with the Eagles that he’s an up and coming cornerback in the NFL. We’re always looking for the next big star as fantasy owners, and Fletcher fits the bill in this case. Entering his sixth season as a pro last year not many people had high expectations for the former Iowa Hawkeye star, but he quietly had a very solid season. He finished with 61 tackles, 1 interception, and most impressively an NFL leading 22 passes defended. He also returned his lone interception 34 yards to the house, showing his playmaking ability. Believe it or not, that was good enough for 196.4 fantasy points in our MLFS format, and only Adam “Pacman” Jones and Joe Haden finished ahead of him. Not too shabby for a player that went undrafted in the majority of IDP leagues out there last year. Fletcher was a prime example of why you don’t have to burn an early or mid-round pick on a proven star when you can pluck one off the waivers after the draft and get very similar if not better production.
I’m going to focus on the opportunity Fletcher has in front of him after signing with the New England Patriots. The Patriots decided to let Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner walk in the offseason, and return only veteran safety Devin McCourty and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler to a secondary with a lot of question marks. While his haters will say that Fletcher got roasted a lot last year by opposing teams top wide receivers (which is true), that shouldn’t scare you away from drafting him. In fantasy terms, the amount of yardage conceded doesn’t show up in the box score or reflect in your fantasy score, so why the hell should we care? I’m on the opposite side of the fence with Fletcher and realize that opposing teams will look to test him early and often while staying away from team captain Devin McCourty and rising star Malcolm Butler. The addition of Robert McClain isn’t cause for concern since he doesn’t have the experience or size that Fletcher possesses. McClain has 21 passes defended in his five-year career, which is less than Fletcher totaled in 15 starts last year. Fletcher is a more physical, 6-foot, 200-pound press-man corner. He was installed in a Cover-3 defense in Philly that left him with minimal safety help. This is exactly the situation that you want your starting cornerback to be in since more balls thrown his direction should result in more counting stats to the delight of his fantasy owners. A good example of this type of situation would be in Cleveland where Buster Skrine benefited from being picked on a lot since opposing quarterbacks did their best to avoid Joe Haden. The smart money is on Bill Belichick going with the more proven player, knowing what he’s capable of. It remains to be seen exactly how they’ll use Fletcher, but it’s definitely a position battle that IDP owners need to watch closely. I strongly advise IDP owners to take the leap of faith and roll the dice on Bradley Fletcher in 2015.
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