Expendable Starters: Defensive Back Edition

The idea behind this article is to look deeply at projected starters that have the least value or could become irrelevant as the season bores on. Some may have a decent trade market price currently while others may be outright drop worthy.

3-4 FS:
Kevin Byard Tennessee Titans: This small school product has a lot of buzz right now. He should see a significant bump in snaps even considering he saw 61% snap share as a rookie in 2016. My concern with Byard is not really about his talent. I do not think that he has any glaring limitations. His main issue is his new safety partner SS Jonathan Cyprien. No matter what Cyprien, is just a tackle monster. Between Cyprien and the Titans rising star ILB Avery Williamson not much will be left for Byard to tackle. You want that safe tackle floor with any IDP player otherwise inconsistencies will burden your lineup decisions.

Will Byard be more of a bystander than IDP threat.

Mike Mitchell Pittsburgh Steelers: Mr. Mitchell has consistently recorded between 72-80 tackles during the last four seasons (one with Carolina and the last three with Pittsburgh). The former 2009 2nd rounder (47th overall) is now 30 years old. While Mitchell has found his niche he is bound to a lose step this season. How exactly will that jive with the Steeler zone coverage scheme? Trading him now for anything can help you avoid dropping him a year from now. It might be best to see if he starts the season strong and flip him for a third (or settle for fourth). The Steelers also have a very versatile weapon in second-year player Sean Davis who looks to be the starter at SS. Davis can play all over the scheme, and that will give Steelers more options when replacing Mitchell. Davis could also be Mitchell’s eventual replacement.

4-3 FS:
Darian ThompsonNew York Giants: Instincts are more important than metrics and a blazing 40-time. Thompson had good instincts in college, but he missed almost his entire rookie year with an injury. Thompson could also not beat veteran Nate Berhe to start the 2016 season. He also never faced any big time opponents while at Boise State. His play in college always left me impressed however many big tests lay ahead. He will pair with the formidable Landon Collins who seemingly makes every tackle for the Giants, but he has pass coverage deficiencies.

That will require Thompson to play centerfield as the last line of defense. Thompson will also have to remain sharp as 2016 UDFA Andrew Adams lurks behind him on the depth chart. Adams was a pleasant surprise albeit not a very IDP impactful one as he recorded just 44 tackles on a 77% snap share. Now knowing what Adams produced in the same role last year, can you have much confidence in Thompson. Thompson is certainly more dynamic. He has better ball skills as well. So he will have some splash plays. Consistency will elude him.

George IlokaCincinnati Bengals: If you are rostering Iloka you are likely a Bengals fan. That’s all fine and dandy as long as you are ready to have as much Fantasy playoff success as the Bengals have had real playoff success. Seriously, how does a starting FS only get 73 tackles in 16 starts? Especially one that has 44 career starts at strong safety. What is equally disconcerting is that Iloka saw a 97% snap share. Unfortunately the last Bengal FS to record more tackles than Iloka’s 73 was Reggie Nelson in 2014. That same year Iloka recorded 79 tackles as the SS.

3-4 SS:
Su’a CravensWashington Redskins: This experiment might not take off immediately. After filling a hybrid LB role as a rookie, Cravens is converting back to SS. Cravens played as an in-the-box safety during his first two seasons at USC. So this is not a far-fetched idea strategically. However, it seems a little backwards for a LB to shift to a SS. The reverse is far more widespread. Players like Adam Archuleta (who quickly returned to SS), Brian Urlacher (played safety in college but MLB in the pros), Deone Bucannon and Mark Barron are popular success stories who made the switch from S to LB.

Was Cravens not combative enough as a lateral general? His 11% tackle percentage on a 27% snap share was more than adequate. It could also be a move to free up snaps for Mason Foster, Will Compton and newly acquired Zach Brown at ILB. Washington also struggled to find consistency with any of their safeties in 2016. Whatever the reason is, it doesn’t smell right for me to trust in Cravens IDP future.

Is there a new Ward(en) of defense brewing in Denver?

T.J. WardDenver Broncos: Ward has been a solid and consistent throughout his career. Although he has just eight career INTs he has 46 career passes defensed and 10 forced fumbles. Unfortunately, Ward turns 31 this December and you probably should have traded him a year ago. The good news is that you can likely find someone in-season looking to stabilize their positional depth. Ward has a career average 4.34 tackles per game, that is a major selling point. Some may also think head coach and former Dolphins DC can turn Ward into Reshad Jones. Don’t believe that hype! Ward is also backed up by second-year man and budding star Will Parks. Expect Parks to supplement Ward this season in big personnel packages. Parks is a younger version of Ward. Ward is also a free agent after this season, hence the “yellow brick road” talk with Parks. Update: Ward was ultimately released yesterday and rumors are swirling that Justin Simmons is now the IDPer to own. I will stick with Parks. Ward has interest from both Dallas and Carolina. Should it be Dallas that steps up Ward could see a little value spike with not much experience on the Cowboys safety depth chart. Tampa Bay has also shown genuine interest but with Keith Tandy, J.J. Wilcox and Chris Conte already rotating, who wants any part of that? However word from Denver is that Ward is dealing with hamstring injury and that he is not dealing with it properly.

4-3 SS:
Tavon Wilson Detroit Lions: Wilson was a surprise IDP asset for the Lions in 2016 as he posted career numbers with 87 tackles. His prior career high was 36 back in 2012 as a rookie in New England. The former second round pick struggled to remain a fixture in the Pats defense over the next three seasons. The Lions signed him as veteran depth, and Wilson only made $800,000 last year as a 14 game starter! He is due to make $900,000 this year, but he currently has a civil lawsuit pending that is accusing him of domestic violence. A suspension could come, and the Lions could cut him and lose just $250,000. Wilson is also a natural FS and even though the Lions do not differentiate much with how they use their safeties a suspension could doom Wilson reps when he comes back.

Second-year player Miles Killebrew stands to benefit the most from a Wilson suspension. He is a true in-the-box cruncher who almost certainly will be a starter once Wilson becomes a free agent. Which would be at the end of the 2017 season at the latest. Wilson’s lack of history makes a strong enough case for dismissal from your roster. A similar late bloomer like Keith Tandy in Tampa could likely replace Wilson on your roster if needed.

Andrew SendejoMinnesota Vikings: Sendejo (83% snap share) is not terrible, he is just very inefficient. Ponder the fact that he was out scored by his number one CB Xavier Rhodes (76% snap share). He was also nearly out scored by his Nickelback (or third CB) Trae Waynes (56% snap share). Sendejo is in a very rare situation where his FS Harrison Smith is a far superior tackling machine. Hence neither assume the traditional FS or SS roles.

The Vikings are also not short on experience behind Sendejo like they have been in the past. Anthony Harris (17% tackle percentage on a 23% snap share) seems like the biggest threat to Sendejo. Twenty-sixteen seventh rounder Jayron Kearse will likely see more snaps (4.9 snaps per game) as a big body match up piece. Sendejo did sign a new four-deal last off-season. However, the Vikings can walk away from that deal for basically $50,000 at the end 2017 season.

Peters’s turnover rate is impossible to maintain.

3-4 CB:
Marcus PetersKansas City Chiefs: His days as the CB1 for IDP purposes will slowly dwindle away. He is established, and though he is not elite, he will get fewer opportunities. Peters is also the CB that could likely net the most return in a trade? His overall numbers are inflated by his ridiculous 16 turnovers forced (in 31 games). That is not sustainable. Trade him and avoid the descent into average IDP CB.

Kevin JohnsonHouston Texans: This one seems to easy right? Johnson should be an easy player to pick on with the great Jonathan Joseph on the side of the field. However, Johnson’s speed may work against him as offenses will send his guy deep on a regular basis. Thus his involved in the play culmination will be limited.¬†Cornerbacks, especially ones of Johnson caliber and experience and interchangeable. However place him on your trade bait and ask for late round picks because you never know, someone may pony up. #FleeceARube

4-3 CB:

Darius  Slay Detroit Lions: The rise of Slay has been a steady one. He is very respected unlike the rest of his CB mates (Nevin Lawson, D.J. Hayden, and Quandre Diggs). With that expect Slay to move around a little but that will only limit his overall appeal. Quarterbacks will find him pre-snap and likely changed the order of their progressions. They avoid Slay and test the LB rotation the Lions are destined to be stuck with this season.

Xavier Rhodes – Minnesota Vikings: A star is born! Rhodes has fought and clawed through the competition to become an elite player. The problem with elite cornerbacks is that the better they are, the worse their IDP value becomes. Rhodes is now that shutdown guy, so he will be targeted less. Of course, guys like Aaron Rodgers will still feed their WR1 (Jordy Nelson). But, clearer heads will prevail more often, and all options will be checked.

Richard ShermanSeattle Seahawks: Trade rumors swirled around Sherman for most of the offseason. It may seem the Seahawks know a decline is coming. Sherman may still be a top cornerback this season, and his name still holds plenty of weight. Trading a CB is never easy, but some people might be higher on Sherman this year. As the Legion of Boom gets older, the safeties will slowly lose some IDP value. The opposite may be true for Sherman. Teams should test him more. Now is the time of year to place a “Name” on the trading block. Because you never truly know the IDP experience of your league mates. #HookARubeTheory

 

jjohnson

I am searching for the meaning of every bump on the pigskin. From leather helmets to a league with no point after attempts, I am researching with a wide shovel.

-married/father/music fan/Raider Nation baby/deli meat enthusiast/three-cone extremist

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