With all the free agency chaos that has been engulfing the league in the last month, it’s easy to forget about the season that just ended. This will be the culmination of the positional recaps here at Razzball, and honestly it’s about time. When these recaps started, Sky was still running the show, Nick Capozzi was still in Canada, and Jay and I had never met (Note: We still have not met). Things have changed in the IDP world as well. Some of these guys are already on different teams, and others have seen their teams go out and sign players who will potentially replace them in 2014. Such is life for DBs in IDP leagues.
These recaps will focus mostly on how each player landed in the top-20 last year, and whether or not they can do it again in 2014. Spoiler alert: a lot of them can’t.
Stats based on tackles, interceptions, passes defended, forced fumbles and sacks. Rankings based on a 3:1 sack to solo tackle ratio.
1. Barry Church
How did he do it? Tackles, tackles and more tackles. Church came out of nowhere to lead all DBs in tackles, and was tied for 8th among all players. That he was DB1 on the year with just 1 interception and no sacks is truly amazing.
Can he do it again? Absolutely. Dallas is too cash strapped to improve on their suspect secondary, which should give Church plenty more tackle opportunities.
Preseason: Not Ranked. Final Numbers: 135/1/6/3/0.
2. Eric Weddle
How did he do it? A few big games. Like Church, Weddle relied on tackles for his production. Unlike Church, he put up his biggest numbers in three games with more than 11 tackles.
Can he do it again? Weddle has been one of the most consistent producers in the last four years at a position defined by inconsistency. San Diego is like Dallas in that they can’t bring in much help due to their cap situation, so Weddle should run wild again in 2014.
Preseason Rank #5. Final Numbers: 126/2/11/1/1.0.
3. T.J. Ward
How did he do it? Cleveland rocks! Ward’s strength is in run defense, and teams certainly were in position to run against the Browns last year.
Can he do it again? TBD. This will be covered in more detail in my upcoming IDP Free Agency post, but with his move to Denver, things could get complicated.
Preseason Rank #25. Final Numbers: 112/2/7/0/1.5.
4. Antrel Rolle
How did he do it? Last man standing. It seems like everyone who tried suiting up for the G-Men on defense missed a few games in 2013, putting Rolle in the unlikely position to lead the team in tackles.
Can he do it again? Very doubtful. The Giants will be healthier by default in 2014, and they also brought in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond to help bolster the secondary. Rolle may still be startable, but he won’t be a top-5 performer and is a sell-high candidate in dynasty leagues if you can get anything for him.
Preseason Rank #16. Final Numbers: 98/6/12/1/2.0.
5. Earl Thomas
How did he do it? L.O.B. 4 LyFe! In Seattle’s punishing defense, Thomas gets the freedom to wreak havoc all over the field. His 2013 season brings back memories of Polamalu’s glory days.
Can he do it again? Without a doubt. Thomas should be the top DB selected in 2014 drafts, and he has the ability and situation to rack up some impressive IDP numbers over the next 5 years.
Preseason Rank #41. Final Numbers: 129/5/11/2/0.
6. Reshad Jones
How did he do it? Unspectacularly. When you watch a Dolphins game, Jones doesn’t really stick out as a dominant player. If you just listen to a Dolphins game, you’ll hear his name mentioned on nearly every play. He was a true ball hawk last year, and is consistently underrated.
Can he do it again? As long as nothing changes, yes. Miami’s front office is in a state of flux, and they have a lot of places to improve the roster. As it stands now, the defense should look very similar to last season, which bodes well for Jones. But the Fins are unpredictable, so you never know.
Preseason Rank #12. Final Numbers: 107/1/4/0/1.5.
7. Antoine Bethea
How did he do it? Like a Linebacker. Without a complement to Jerrell Freeman in the front seven, Bethea had to do the dirty work against the run for the Colts. He ended up with a similar line to Freeman, just without the pass rushing.
Can he do it again? Doubtful. The move to San Francisco is a good thing for the Niners, but likely a bad thing for Bethea owners. He’s a better player than Whitner, but will compete with Eric Reid and their stable of LBs for tackles, which is not good for his IDP stats.
Preseason Rank #24. Final Numbers: 124/2/8/0/1.0.
8. Bernard Pollard
How did he do it? With shocking consistency. Pollard’s career until this point has been notable more for injuring every relevant Patriots player than it has for his actual play on defense. This year he rated as a legit top-10 safety for the first time since his breakout 2009 season.
Can he do it again? Definitely. The Titans will almost assuredly address their secondary through the draft after letting Alterraun Verner walk in free agency, but it shouldn’t affect Pollard too much. I’d draft him as a top 10 DB next year with little hesitation.
Preseason Rank #11. Final Numbers: 99/3/10/0/0.5.
9. Johnathan Cyprien
How did he do it? Because Jaguars. His team was a mess, and he was thrust into what was likely too prominent of a role, but Cyprien put up some big numbers. Advanced stats don’t rate him too highly, but for IDP purposes, it looks like Cyprien will be a stud.
Can he do it again? In all likelihood. Jacksonville decided against entering the free agent market for corners, so Cyprien will have the same burden next year as well. He’ll only get better, though his price might be a little higher than his value next year.
Preseason Rank #19. Final Numbers: 102/1/6/2/1.0.
10. Charles Woodson
How did he do it? With a few throwback performances. Woodson is somehow still the same Swiss Army knife he’s been for the last 16 years, despite nearing his 40th birthday. He didn’t have a stellar season by his HOF standards, but he put up 3-4 games that make you remember why he is who he is.
Can he do it again? No, but he’s tough to bet against. Most of his work this year was done with Tyvon Branch on IR. Assuming Branch returns to form, DJ Hayden ups his game, and Father Time has at least some effect, 2013 was the last we’ve seen of Woodson as a DB1.
Preseason Rank #31. Final Numbers: 97/1/3/3/2.0.
11. Major Wright
How did he do it? Who else was going to? The typically stout Chicago defense underwent a true rebuilding year in 2013, and no one was really there to take the reins from the Urlacher era. Wright ended up with the most total tackles on the team almost by default, and then promptly moved on, signing with the Bucs in the last week.
Can he do it again? Not a chance. Wright put up solid fantasy numbers (albeit mediocre actual performance) in a contract year, and the best he could do was reunite with Lovie Smith to back up Mark Barron in Tampa. He must have the same agent as Elvis Dumervil.
Preseason Rank #47. Final Numbers: 101/2/3/2/0.
12. Tashaun Gipson
How did he do it? With a little help from his friends. With T.J. Ward patrolling against the run, and Joe Haden shutting down half the field, Gipson had a ton of opportunities to put up stats, and he rose to the occasion most of the time. His 8-tackle, 2-pick game (including a pick-6) against the Bears in Week 15 put an exclamation mark on a nice under-the-radar fantasy season.
Can he do it again? If he buys some Beats By Dre headphones. That is to say, if he can be the man in the Cleveland secondary. The Browns are betting that Gipson’s development can offset the downgrade from Ward to Donte Whitner. Given the results of the bets Cleveland has made recently, I wouldn’t count on him being anything more than a low-end DB2.
Preseason Not Ranked. Final Numbers: 94/5/12/0/0.
13. James Ihedigbo
How did he do it? Because he finally was given a chance. Ihedigbo has had an interesting career path, including 2010 with the Jets when 3 of his 9 total tackles were sacks, but he finally earned a starting job at age 30. In his attempt to follow in Ed Reed’s footsteps, Ihedigbo ended up with 100 tackles, second only to Daryl Smith on the team.
Can he do it again? Surprisingly, yes. The Lions signed Ihedigbo to a relatively modest contract, but he’s still slated to be their starting Strong Safety in 2014. Despite his age, he doesn’t have many miles on his body, so I would look for similar production from Ihedigbo next season as he competes with Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy for tackles.
Preseason Not Ranked. Final Numbers: 100/3/11/1/0.
14. DeAngelo Hall
How did he do it? Because he’s not very good at football. Hall is on one of my teams pretty much every year, and he’s as reliable as they come for CBs in fantasy football. He’s not a good cover corner, so QBs are not worried about throwing his way, giving him plenty of chances to put up stats. But he’s just good enough to make tackles and a few big plays each year. He put up another 4 interceptions in 2014 (his 8th such season), and started all 16 games for the 4th straight year.
Can he do it again? Why not? He was luckily re-signed by Washington, which bodes well for his IDP owners. A smarter franchise might have looked at him as their nickel back, killing his fantasy value. But if there are two things DC fans can be sure of in 2014, they are an embarrassing lawsuit regarding the team name, and Hall getting targeted up and down the field every week.
Preseason Rank #14 (Nailed it!). Final Numbers: 78/4/13/3/0.
15. Josh Wilson
How did he do it? See above. Wilson is a slightly younger and smaller version of Hall. He’s best cast as a nickel back (the role he will fill in Atlanta in 2014), but was forced to start in Washington. His impressive tackle totals notwithstanding, he’s not the package you look for in an IDP starter.
Can he do it again? Absolutely not. He’ll see much less of the field for the Falcons next year, which is probably a good thing. Nothing more to say here.
Preseason Not Ranked. Final Numbers: 92/1/7/2/2.0.
16. Kam Chancellor
How did he do it? L.O.B. ReMiX! Like Thomas, Chancellor both benefits from and contributes to the champs’ terrifying secondary. Their stat lines look extremely similar outside of the fact that 60% of Chancellor’s tackles were solo, while Thomas’s number was at 74%.
Can he do it again? Yes and then some. While he’s less of a tackling DB than Thomas, Chancellor still plays in the same schemes and will get some nice opportunities to put up numbers next year.
Preseason Rank #18. Final Numbers: 134/3/12/1/0.
17. Ryan Clark
How did he do it? The way he always does. When healthy, Clark’s stats have looked pretty much the same for the last 8 years in Pittsburgh. It’s a shame that he didn’t get to take the Steel Curtain to the playoffs one last time, but he put up a solid season at age 34.
Can he do it again? It’s surprisingly possible. Normally we’d be looking at a decline for someone at Clark’s age, but his situation is pretty ripe for an IDP starter. The Washington secondary will be very…weird next year. Alongside Hall, Brandon Meriweather and newcomer Tracy Porter, Clark will have ample opportunities to make tackles. This has the potential to be a terrible or very underrated unit in 2014, depending on the health and maturity of its members.
Preseason Rank #21. Final Numbers: 105/2/4/0/0.
18. Eric Berry
How did he do it? With all-around dominance. His stat line is truly awesome, and along with Earl Thomas, Berry should be an IDP staple for the next few years. The scheme he plays in does not allow him to make a ton of tackles (he only had 9 assists in 2013), so his ceiling is lower, but the talent is certainly there.
Can he do it again? Yup. The Chiefs will bring back pretty much the same defense that was one of the biggest reasons for their Cinderella run last season. The entire team will likely experience some regression, Berry included, but he’s still a must start every week.
Preseason Rank #4. Final Numbers: 82/3/10/2/3.5.
19. William Moore
How did he do it? He stayed healthy! Moore was one of my favorite DBs heading into 2013, as his numbers were always great but he could never stay on the gosh darned field. In the first 16-game season of his career, Moore didn’t quite hit the heights I dreamt about last August, but he still was a bargain for those who drafted him late.
Can he do it again? Look who you’re talking to. I’m still all-in on Moore, and I think he’ll only get better with the big-bold IF HE’S HEALTHY disclaimer.
Preseason Rank #6. Final Numbers: 85/3/8/3/2.0.
20. Morgan Burnett
How did he do it? Much better than his numbers indicate. Burnett was out for the first three games of the season, and took a few weeks before he was truly in game shape. If you drafted him as DB1 overall, you were likely disappointed, but once he was healthy he still had a great season.
Can he do it again? Yes and then some. Burnett should and will be rated as a top 5 DB heading into 2014. Don’t let the raw stats blind you on draft day, he’s a stud.
Preseason Rank #1. Final Numbers: 102/0/5/0/0.