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DB Tiers 2013 / Version 2.0 Updated 5/29 (1 Viewer)

Jene Bramel

Footballguy
These tiers will obviously change significantly between now and August.

I’m going to use this thread to update the defensive back tiers through the summer (they’ll also be translated into my rankings starting in early May after the NFL Draft). Each update will have its own post in the thread, with later posts including a notation for changes from the previous version. I’ll link the post to each version here to keep things (somewhat) organized.

For the purposes of the defensive back tiers, assume a league with 30-40 DB rostered, 20+ starting LB, a balanced scoring system and a relatively strong upside bias.

Discussion is welcome and encouraged.

Post 2 => Mini Manifesto on DBs.

Version 1.0 (Post 3) -- Post Coaching Changes / Pre Free Agency

Version 2.0 (Post 26) -- Post Draft (Full Feature w/ Commentary)

 
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Jene Bramel

Footballguy
I don’t do defensive back tiers frequently enough. I get asked about them all the time and many of you have expressed frustration that they aren’t updated more often. Ten years ago, they used to be one of my favorite areas to rank. Base defenses were stable and teams rarely platooned players. If you had some idea of what coverages a team liked to run and the skill sets of its cornerbacks, you could make smart bets on which players would get the most statistical opportunity.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple anymore.

83 cornerbacks and 64 safeties – 147 defensive backs – played at least 500 snaps last year according to ProFootballFocus’ data. That’s about 50% more players getting significant playing time than the defensive line and linebacker groups, which each had around 100 players with 500+ snaps.

Not all of those snaps are created equally. Game situation, down and distance, personnel and surrounding cast have much more to do with the fantasy upside on any given snap than they used to. It’s become very difficult to project yearly and weekly tackle numbers for defensive backs.

So…the tiers have become somewhat of an exercise in futility at times. And it’s changed my DB philosophy.

I now believe that there are two main tiers for DB-inclusive leagues. The players you think hold Elite DB1 potential (80+ solo tackles or 60+ solos w/ elite peripheral coverage stat (FF/INT/PD) upside) … and everyone else. And a short memory is more important than the tiers themselves. If an “Elite DB” isn’t performing as such, move on. It’s okay for these roster spots to stay in flux all year long.

Ranting aside, there’s still value in tiering defensive backs. Lumping defensive backs into buckets will still give you an idea of which players may have more upside than others and which players might get the benefit of an extra week or two of patience.

But don’t get hung up on whether I have a player in the matchup cloud or not. In reality, EVERY SINGLE DB who might project to 40 or more snaps in a given game belongs in that cloud. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Come on, Bramel. That’s almost 200 players.” Yup. Get used to it. Nickel and dime corners and hybrid nickel safeties may hold just as much weekly value as a starting cornerback or safety.

Scouting IDP leagues are all about scouting opportunity in the face of talent. And the paradigm has changed. We’ve been doing it with the front seven for years – that’s the sole purpose of the every-down LB thread and the matchup sheet with pressure data for defensive linemen. I’ve been asked to do a similar thing for DBs but I’ve been leery. It will be a huge undertaking of film study and snap count checking that’s almost surely more than I can fit into my weekly schedule. More importantly, I’m not certain it’ll be predictive.

That’s enough for now. I’m planning a full DB strategy manifesto for this summer, so more on all this then.

As always, questions, suggestions and challenges are encouraged. Hopefully, there aren’t any major errors in my cut-and-paste process.

 

Jene Bramel

Footballguy
Version 1.0

Key:
FA=Free Agent
TJ=Tier Jumper (plus signs indicate ceiling tier)
Red=Significant Move from last update (coming in Versions 3.0 and beyond)
**All classifications per Rotoworld (proxy for MFL) on date of this post
**Assume a league with 30-40 DB rostered, 20+ starting DB, and a balanced scoring system.

I’m still refining the top tiers. In the next update, I’ll carve out a handful of safeties that I feel should be truly elite anchors.

Elite Safety Upside

[i.e. Safeties I’d target were I drafting today]

Tyvon Branch

Morgan Burnett

William Moore

Roman Harper

Eric Weddle

TJ Ward

Eric Berry

Da’Norris Searcy

Harrison Smith

Mark Barron

Stevie Brown

Reshad Jones

Antoine Bethea

Kam Chancellor

Yeremiah Bell

Glover Quin

Matchup Safety Cloud

[i.e. Safeties I would consider rostering today]

Devin McCourty

Reggie Nelson

Malcolm Jenkins

DaShon Goldson

Troy Polamalu

Antrel Rolle

LaRon Landry

Ryan Clark

Danieal Manning

Darian Stewart

Michael Huff

Charles Godfrey

Chris Clemons

Jairus Byrd

Earl Thomas

Rahim Moore

Brandon Meriweather

Bernard Pollard

George Wilson

Michael Griffin

Patrick Chung

Kenny Phillips

Adrian Wilson

Chris Prosinski

Brandon Taylor

Ed Reed

Charles Woodson (FA)

Quintin Mikell (FA)

Dawan Landry (FA)

Kerry Rhodes (FA)

CB1 / Potential DB1

Charles Tillman

Jason McCourty

Cortland Finnegan

Joe Haden

Patrick Peterson

Stephon Gilmore

Alterraun Verner

Morris Claiborne

Antoine Winfield (FA)

Matchup CB Cloud

Cortez Allen

Tim Jennings

Richard Sherman

Brent Grimes

Chris Harris

Lardarius Webb

Janoris Jenkins

Mike Harris

Bradley Fletcher

Johnathan Joseph

Greg Toler

Josh Robinson

Brandon Carr

Leon Hall

Vontae Davis

Darrelle Revis

Safety - Developmental Only

Antonio Allen

Josh Bush

Christian Thompson

Markelle Martin

DraftWatch

Kenny Vaccaro

Jonathan Cyprien

Shawn Williams

DJ Swearinger

JJ Wilcox

Matt Elam

Shamarko Thomas

Eric Reid

Phillip Thomas

TJ McDonald

Dee Milliner

Xavier Rhodes

Desmond Trufant

Jordan Poyer

Johnthan Banks

Robert Alford

Jamar Taylor

Leon McFadden

 
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10tihwj

Footballguy
I now believe that there are two main tiers for DB-inclusive leagues. The players you think hold Elite DB1 potential (80+ solo tackles or 60+ solos w/ elite peripheral coverage stat (FF/INT/PD) upside) … and everyone else. And a short memory is more important than the tiers themselves. If an “Elite DB” isn’t performing as such, move on. It’s okay for these roster spots to stay in flux all year long.
I have had this problem for years. It really seems that there is not so much of a difference now between safeties from year to year anyway. Some guys are always up there (Weddle, Branch, Harper) but are they really that far above and beyond the other guys in any given year to justify taking them until others in that group start to come off the board?

I've kept Branch and Berry in IDP keeper leagues for a couple of offseasons and have now moved away from doing so for that exact reason (though I'm stuck with Berry for another season).

Seems as though the balance has shifted. in the past, having an "elite" safety was more important than, say, a top 6 DE. Now, with all of the 3-4 defenses in play, having one of those top tier DE seems crucial.

 

The Comedian

Footballguy
I don't really view it as a problem. Probably because I don't get paid to try and come up with rankings. :lol: I just laugh as the competition gives up premium picks or auction dollars on big name DB's that I will more often than not manage to be competitive with using FA's and late picks.

I would certainly like to learn more about defenses and schemes that would help us recognize these DB's before they increase in value. For example, to use LB's as a comparison, we have general guidelines - MLB's are generally the best in tackle-heavy formats, WLB is better than SLB's (in general), avoid 3-4 OLB's, etc. I would like to know more "rules" like this for DB's - other than S is usually > than CB (since I play in CB required leagues too). Are there certain schemes that make CB's better fantasy options? Things like that.

 

Jene Bramel

Footballguy
I would certainly like to learn more about defenses and schemes that would help us recognize these DB's before they increase in value. For example, to use LB's as a comparison, we have general guidelines - MLB's are generally the best in tackle-heavy formats, WLB is better than SLB's (in general), avoid 3-4 OLB's, etc. I would like to know more "rules" like this for DB's - other than S is usually > than CB (since I play in CB required leagues too). Are there certain schemes that make CB's better fantasy options? Things like that.
I said I'd hold off on publishing the full manifesto until this summer, but you guys know I can't hold out on the Forum regulars... :lol:

The Tampa-2 scheme inflates cornerback statistics. They were specifically tasked with defending the run and benefited from playing short and intermediate off coverage. But I don't know that there's a team that predominantly plays a single coverage scheme any more. Too many snaps against multi-receiver formations. Increased usage of Cover-3 concepts, etc.

What I tend to favor now is:

1. A physical corner who will shed blocks and defend the run. (Better chance at consistent solo tackle numbers)

2. A confident corner with good ball skills. (Better chance at running up peripheral stats, specifically PDs.)

3. A versatile corner who plays outside on base downs, but slides inside in subpackages. (Sees more tackle opportunity, some pass rush chances.)

4. A decent corner playing opposite a stud cover corner. (Targeted more often, more tackle opportunity, but has the talent to take advantage.)

5. A corner playing for a team likely to see more passing attempts. (i.e. Division w/ multiple spread offenses, team likely to be ahead early/often.)

6. A corner playing for a team likely to see more tackle opportunity overall w/ relative poor front seven tacklers.

There are other thoughts I'll consider, but that gives me a list of potential targets. Again, though, it's not necessarily predictive. There will be a large number of players who fit most of these criteria that don't produce consistently. And every year, there'll be players who finishes in the top five fantasy corners who do not fit the criteria.

So, again, minimal investment, short memory, trend analysis and film study are the best approach with corners.

 
Why no Richard Sherman on your CB lists Jene?

(#1 cb from week 8-17 in 2011 and #2 cb in 2012 - in one league I checked)

 
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skinny post

Footballguy
Janoris Jenkins had the 3 most points for CB's last year in my league based on his pick 6 numbers...does he not fit into confident corner with good ball skills? Also, what about Keenan Lewis fitting into corner playing on team likely to see a lot of passes as New Orleans will probably put up some offensive scores and teams will throw the ball against them. As the NFL moves to more passing and less running do CB's become equal to S's or still not.

 
Janoris Jenkins had the 3 most points for CB's last year in my league based on his pick 6 numbers...does he not fit into confident corner with good ball skills? Also, what about Keenan Lewis fitting into corner playing on team likely to see a lot of passes as New Orleans will probably put up some offensive scores and teams will throw the ball against them. As the NFL moves to more passing and less running do CB's become equal to S's or still not.
:thumbup:

 

Jene Bramel

Footballguy
Why no Richard Sherman on your CB lists Jene?(#1 cb from week 8-17 in 2011 and #2 cb in 2012 - in one league I checked)
Oversight. Back to back seasons of solid coverage stats are enough to make up for so-so tackling numbers, though that combination still has me nervous about his long term consistency. I'd put him near the top of the matchup CB cloud, but if quarterbacks stop throwing at him the 30+ INT/PDs will drop significantly.

Janoris Jenkins had the 3 most points for CB's last year in my league based on his pick 6 numbers...does he not fit into confident corner with good ball skills? Also, what about Keenan Lewis fitting into corner playing on team likely to see a lot of passes as New Orleans will probably put up some offensive scores and teams will throw the ball against them. As the NFL moves to more passing and less running do CB's become equal to S's or still not.
Jenkins is a tough call. He didn't play as well as his numbers suggest, but his good play makes you think he'll improve quickly. If he improves and some of the rookie corner rule stats fall off, his fantasy upside will fall as well. I agree that he probably deserves a mention in my matchup CB tier, though.

There are usually about equal numbers of safeties and corners in the top 25 defensive back list at the end of every year. I didn't run year-to-year and three year consistency numbers through the 2012 season yet, but the year-to-year turnover at each position is usually about the same, too. Unfortunately, it's not high -- only about 33% of CB or S that finish in the top 24 at their position do so the following season. Only 15% finish in the top 24 at their position in any given three year period.

The data goes back to 2003, so CBs have always equaled safeties in that regard. It's the weekly consistency that's the issue for most fantasy players. This is anecdotal, but I'd be surprised if the weekly variance for all but the very best fantasy corners -- Tillman, Winfield -- is much higher than that of the top fantasy safeties. Will that change? If anything, I think the variance at the safety position is more likely to increase than the variance at the cornerback position decrease. That's just a hypothesis, but follows from what I wrote earlier in the thread.

It's something I'd like to track if I can find the time...

 
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skinny post

Footballguy
Very interesting about the position players from year to year. It is almost like selling high on IDP players if you are out of it and come back the next year (dynasty) and draft some new ones.

As far as Jenkins goes though he could be wild enough that people would still throw on him. For example, Troy Aikman was considered a great real QB and not such a great FF QB so if Jenkins isn't technically strong but still scores points that's not the worst thing. Cary Williams wasn't thought of as a great corner but in my league he was 10th best CB and 18th overall DB. Kam Chancellor is someone most every IDP writer rates highly but he was 49th in DB points this year in my league... it really is about points and the potential to score points that matters. Of course, all leagues have different scoring so some guys will be feast or famine and some will be singles hitters consistent but not flashy.

 

Benchwarmers

Footballguy
With Winfield signing in Seattle how does it effect Seattles cb's? Sherman/Winfield/Browner

I think it could hurt all 3. Winfield no longer cb1 and maybe not even a cb2. Sherman needs his ints to be relevant. Browner might be weak link but might get more balls thrown his way thus increasing his fantasy value.

 

buck56

Footballguy
With Winfield signing in Seattle how does it effect Seattles cb's? Sherman/Winfield/Browner

I think it could hurt all 3. Winfield no longer cb1 and maybe not even a cb2. Sherman needs his ints to be relevant. Browner might be weak link but might get more balls thrown his way thus increasing his fantasy value.
Winfield wiil be covering the slot reciever, dont see it effecting Sherman or Browner.

 

saintfool

Dead sexy
Mike63 said:
How do you see the safety situation in New Orleans with the addition of Vaccaro?
As a homer, I don't see how this is good news for Harper. He is a fine blitzer but a total liability in coverage. Vaccaro is supposed to be solid in both areas. It could be a three-man rotation, especially in nickel. Harper moving to LB at this stage in his career seems unlikely. If Harper wants to stay on with NO then he might have to restructure soon (if not this year then next).

 

ADP

Footballguy
Isn't Jenkins in a contract year? Vaccaro pick may be in anticipation of losing Jenkins.

 

saintfool

Dead sexy
Isn't Jenkins in a contract year? Vaccaro pick may be in anticipation of losing Jenkins.
I haven't looked but Harper is due like $13 million over the next two years. He's over the hill and cannot cover *anyone*. Vaccaro should be playing SS while Jenks is at FS.

 

saintfool

Dead sexy
From the T-P article about positional battles post-draft:

"Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis have made a point to mention Vaccaro's versatility. Loomis told WWL-870 this week the team would explore playing Jenkins at the nickel cornerback spot to help Vaccaro see the field in nickel situations".
So it sounds like in the absence of a quality nickle corner emerging - and that's a longshot given the personnel choices - Jenks slide over to NB while Harper and Vaccaro work as Safety. Again, I have think that Vaccaro will get every opportunity to start at SS over Harper. Harper's contract - and the cap hit behind it - seem to keep him on the team at least through this season.

 

Punch

Footballguy
Why no Deangelo Hall in the rankings? Did I miss some news on him? He's been about as consistent as a CB can be year to year.

 

Seany.D

Footballguy
Why no Deangelo Hall in the rankings? Did I miss some news on him? He's been about as consistent as a CB can be year to year.
who wants Deangelo Fall anyway. LOL

sorry - just giving you a hard time, couldn't help myself.

 
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DawnBTVS

Footballguy
Sounds like the Chargers are moving Marcus Gilchrist to SS. Beatwriter Kevin Acee called it his "natural position" as well. Does that boost his stock at all?

 
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Punch

Footballguy
Why no Deangelo Hall in the rankings? Did I miss some news on him? He's been about as consistent as a CB can be year to year.
who wants Deangelo Fall anyway. LOL
I do. 90+ tkls, three years in a row with big plays mixed in. He's scored in top 5 in my scoring system all of the last three years. Besides Peanut Tillman can you think of a CB that consistent year to year? He's one of a handful of CB's that I would actually roster in the off season. Unless something drastic has happened over this off season it just has to be an oversight that he's not on the rankings list at all.

ETA - Real life crappy CB a lot of times = great fantasy CB

 
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Seany.D

Footballguy
Why no Deangelo Hall in the rankings? Did I miss some news on him? He's been about as consistent as a CB can be year to year.
who wants Deangelo Fall anyway. LOL
I do. 90+ tkls, three years in a row with big plays mixed in. He's scored in top 5 in my scoring system all of the last three years. Besides Peanut Tillman can you think of a CB that consistent year to year? He's one of a handful of CB's that I would actually roster in the off season. Unless something drastic has happened over this off season it just has to be an oversight that he's not on the rankings list at all.

ETA - Real life crappy CB a lot of times = great fantasy CB
Yeah I know Punch. Just a joke. :scared:

 

Punch

Footballguy
Why no Deangelo Hall in the rankings? Did I miss some news on him? He's been about as consistent as a CB can be year to year.
who wants Deangelo Fall anyway. LOL
I do. 90+ tkls, three years in a row with big plays mixed in. He's scored in top 5 in my scoring system all of the last three years. Besides Peanut Tillman can you think of a CB that consistent year to year? He's one of a handful of CB's that I would actually roster in the off season. Unless something drastic has happened over this off season it just has to be an oversight that he's not on the rankings list at all.

ETA - Real life crappy CB a lot of times = great fantasy CB
Yeah I know Punch. Just a joke. :scared:
Ahh, my bad--hard to see that on a CPU screen sometimes. :doh:

 

gandalas

Footballguy
Jene, what do you think about Chris Cook? He is supposedly taking over the #1 CB role from Winfield last season, and Winfield always seemed to be near the top of the CB rankings.

I also read that he is campaigning to be the shadow CB against the #1 WR at all times...I would just think his tackle opportunity would be off the charts should he land that role. I see that you have Xavier Rhodes in your "Matchup Cornerback Cloud" list. What about Cook?

 

massraider

Footballguy
Jene, what do you think about Chris Cook? He is supposedly taking over the #1 CB role from Winfield last season, and Winfield always seemed to be near the top of the CB rankings.

I also read that he is campaigning to be the shadow CB against the #1 WR at all times...I would just think his tackle opportunity would be off the charts should he land that role. I see that you have Xavier Rhodes in your "Matchup Cornerback Cloud" list. What about Cook?
I am less likely to believe that the Minny defense somehow funnels tackle opportunities to the #1 CB spot, and more likely to believe that Winfield was just an active little bulldog. Especially across from a rookie, I'd be a little surprised if he put up Winfield numbers. Just my opinion.

 

GridironMenace

Footballguy
Winfields' numbers were always good because of two reasons: (i) he is the best tackling CB in the league and it isn't even close. He plays CB but tackles like a LB. (ii) He plays the slot on 3rd downs/nickel. Cook is a young, shutdown-wanna-be, CB. He doesn't tackle like Winfield nor will he come down to play the slot on 3rd downs. Don't expect Winfield numbers out of Cook. A matter of fact, Cook is only barely draftable in 16 team leagues that require 2 starting CB's, IMO.

 
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Jene Bramel

Footballguy
Jene, what do you think about Chris Cook? He is supposedly taking over the #1 CB role from Winfield last season, and Winfield always seemed to be near the top of the CB rankings.

I also read that he is campaigning to be the shadow CB against the #1 WR at all times...I would just think his tackle opportunity would be off the charts should he land that role. I see that you have Xavier Rhodes in your "Matchup Cornerback Cloud" list. What about Cook?
I've been high on Cook's opportunity in past seasons, but he's just not consistent enough to be more than a high variance, low floor CB2. I'd much rather take a flyer on Rhodes.

 

Abrantes

Footballguy
Is Darian Stewart still a potential elite or do you think Giodano is worthwhile?
Tricky situation, but prior to Giordano's signing, Fisher had said that we could pencil Stewart in as one of the starters. Also worth noting that Giordano was signed for next to nothing, so it's not like the team is heavily invested.

 

The Claymaker

Footballguy
So Verner is now a safety and it looks like the Titans are trying to use Tommie Cambell as a press corner due to his size. I am think he should have some very good tackle numbers if this does play out. Thoughts on this situation Jene? Thanks

 

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