Ranking the 1st round: Defensive Backs

We are through four weeks of the season which is a quarter of the year for most teams. So I am going to be looking at the first round of the draft and rank each positional players by how well they have done based on expectations for them and overall performances.
In this article I will be looking at this year’s defensive back class from the first round (I find it difficult to write about defensive backs, so you may have to bear with me here).

1st – Derwin James (48.2 points)

Derwin James has been unbelievable so far and is placing himself as a front-runner for defensive rookie of the year. Even four games in as a rookie, there aren’t a lot of safety’s that look as good in a safety blitz as James. He already has three sacks, five QB hits, and an interception.
As the 17th pick in the draft, expectations are pretty high, but so far Derwin James has exceeded them. In pass coverage, he has so far defended six passes, and you can’t help but feel he will get a lot more opportunity as the season goes on with quarterbacks looking to avoid throwing anywhere near superstar corner Casey Hayward.
Derwin James is fantasy gold in IDP leagues and should score a lot more points as the season progresses.

2nd – Denzel Ward (32 points)

Most people expected the Browns to take Bradley Chubb at four (imagine him one side with Myles Garrett at the other, which is scary.) but they opted to fill a need at cornerback with Denzel Ward.
So far, Ward has looked more than solid with two interceptions in week one against Pittsburgh. Granted, the weather had been awful, and Roethlisberger was having ‘one of those games’ where he shares the ball around with both teams. But for a rookie to come in and pick off a two time Super Bowl champion twice is still some going.
The Browns are a different team this year to previous years. Yes, their defense is giving up a lot of points, but in most IDP leagues, that doesn’t matter; it’s the stats that count. Out of the first four weeks, Denzel Ward has had two double-digit games (13 points in week one and 11 in week three). This should continue as the Browns get stronger while the season progresses. While I don’t think he will be this year’s defensive rookie of the year, he will more than likely put in strong enough performances that give people something to think about.

3rd – Minkah Fitzpatrick (26.5 points)

I was so high on Minkah Fitzpatrick going into the draft that I may have expected a bit too much from him.
After three ‘okay’ performances in his first three weeks as an NFL safety, he announced himself in week four against the Patriots picking off Tom Brady.
I think Fitzpatrick will get more chances to play as the season progresses as he should take a lot of snaps away from TJ McDonald, to announce himself as the leading free safety in the Dolphins system. Like the Browns, the Dolphins are an improving team that was very disappointing against the Patriots. They have a lot of talent on the defense right from the trenches to the secondary, Minkah Fitzpatrick will contribute a lot as the year progresses and it won’t be long before he is a viable starter in IDP leagues.

4th – Mike Hughes (30.5 points)

Okay, so I am not going to profess to be the biggest Mike Hughes believer. I didn’t look at him too much going into the draft; I just knew he was an okay cornerback.
So far this season, Hughes has done well in what is a really good Vikings secondary featuring Andrew Sendejo, Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, etc. He has been given excellent opportunities and has already put together two double-digit fantasy games (15 points in week one, 12 points in week four). Despite them getting torn apart by Buffalo in week three, this is still a good defense. This was a great landing spot for a rookie corner as realistically; Hughes only has to beat out Trae Waynes for a starting position.
Hughes should do well as the season progresses, but he won’t always be a good starter in IDP leagues, so it is worth treading carefully with him.

5th – Jaire Alexander (26.3 points)

Green Bay traded up to take Jaire Alexander, so they obviously see a lot in the rookie cornerback out of Louisville.
The Packers pass defense has been below average for the last few years, so cornerback was a tremendous need for them going into the draft. Alexander has been okay so far, grabbing his first interception in the Packers week four matchup against Buffalo. Despite his fantastic speed and his ability to step up on the big stage, the Packers so far haven’t used him a lot, opting for Tramon Williams and Kevin King.
In IDP leagues, Alexander is definitely worth a start based on him being a punt returner (the same reason I have been big on Adoree Jackson for a while) as it gives him different means of scoring points from the ‘cornerback’ position. He isn’t yet a must start, but as the season progresses and he becomes more comfortable in Mike Pettine’s defense, he should start becoming a viable fantasy option.

6th – Terrell Edmunds (19.5 points)

I have very little to say about Edmunds. I was on the fence when Pittsburgh took him with the 28th pick, despite it being a huge need for the Steelers. The Pittsburgh secondary has been dreadful this season despite picking up Morgan Burnett in the offseason. Just avoid playing Steelers defensive backs in IDP leagues, and that is enough said.

Follow me on Twitter @DFF_JamesH for all things Football and occasionally some humor. (Don’t get too excited, it’s not great). Thanks for reading!


I work as an In-Play US Sports trader, father to Elijah, Archie and Izzie. Fan of Pittsburgh Steelers. Play the game as DT for Staffordshire Surge (Find them on Twitter @StaffsSurge). FSWA member. Follow me on Twitter @DFF_JamesH

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