When looking at defensive back rankings you’ll notice a fair amount of variance. Scoring systems play a role, but attempting to predict how many passes a player will “defense” or intercept is far from a science. It is why the top of most IDP rankings are filled with safeties with high tackle profiles and not the highly touted cornerbacks. Here I’ll highlight players 26-50 after covering 1-25 last week.

In my DB drafting strategy article, I covered the outlier season Logan Ryan had last year. He was the highest scoring DB in 2019 and you will ask why I don’t have him ranked in the top 50. I felt that since he is a free agent and his production will be highly dependent on what team he plays for and the scheme he plays in, it would be wrong to try to project an outcome for him. When he signs I will update the rankings accordingly. 

Remember a few basics. Rankings will be highly dependent upon the scoring system your league uses. Mine are an attempt at a balance between tackle heavy and big play scoring. As with linemen and linebackers, as you get further down the rankings the differences between players and tiers become less.

 

Defensive Backs 26-50

 

Tier

Rank

Name

Team

5

26

Tre’Davious White

BUF

5

27

Adrian Amos

GB

5

28

Kevin Byard

TEN

5

29

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

DAL

5

30

Denzel Ward

CLE

5

31

Bradley McDougal

SEA

5

32

Damarious Randall

LV

5

33

Patrick Peterson

ARZ

5

34

Kareem Jackson

DEN

6

35

Ronnie Harrison

JAX

6

36

Marlon Humphrey

BAL

6

37

Karl Joseph

CLE

6

38

Tre Boston

CAR

6

39

Eddie Jackson

CHI

6

40

Xavier McKinney

NYG

6

41

Jalen Mills

PHI

7

42

James Bradberry

NYG

7

43

Jalen Ramsey

LAR

7

44

Micah Hyde

BUF

7

45

Sean Davis

WSH

7

46

Chris Harris Jr.

LAC

7

47

Jeff Okudah

DET

7

48

Juan Thornhill

KC

7

49

Jordan Whitehead

TB

7

50

Rodney McLeod

PHI

 

Tier 5

 

Tre’Davious White hits leadoff after missing out on the top 25. White is one of the premier corners in the league and has helped solidify a very good Buffalo defense. Last year he finished with 58 total tackles, 16 passes defensed and 6 interceptions. The big plays vaulted him into a top 10 cornerback finish. Can that be repeated? I expect that teams will go away from him and throw towards Levi Wallace and the slot more often possibly limiting his big play numbers. In 12 team leagues he could end up a DB2, but be careful of some regression.

Ha Ha Clinton Dix moves from the Bears to the Cowboys to man the strong safety position.  The Cowboys are expected to use a lot of Cover 3 in Mike Nolan’s defense and Clinton Dix will be heavily involved in run support. He’s a ball hawker and should be an upgrade over Jeff Heath

Another player switching teams is Damarious Randall who signed with the Raiders. Randall had 61 total tackles and 3.5 sacks in just 11 games in 2019. With the Raiders he is expected to play free safety after spending his first three years in the league at corner, but could roam and be a versatile piece for Gruden’s defense. Teamed with Jonathan Abram, Randall could be one of the top free safeties in 2020.

After 9 years with Houston Kareem Jackson moved to the Broncos last year and had a solid season. In 13 games he had 71 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, and 10 passes defensed from the strong safety position. He’s a vet and playing in a system for the second year I expect him to match or even improve on last year. In leagues where you start 2 DBs, Jackson is a solid bye week fill in or consistent DB2 if you try to stream the position.

 

Tier 6

 

The Jaguars purge on the defensive side of the ball did not include Ronnie Harrison who will be entering his third year in the league, second as a starter and is a budding star. He leads off tier 6 as an upside play. Expect him to improve on his 2019 fantasy output where he averaged just over 5 tackles a game.

Marlon Humphrey finished 2019 as the number 2 CB based on Fantasy Data’s scoring system and 4th in my personal league. He was aided by 2 touchdowns which would have dropped him to 13th in my league. I’m pointing this out because you cannot predict touchdowns on the defensive side of the ball. The likelihood of him getting zero is much more than him getting two again. Humphrey is a good corner and playing opposite Marcus Peters will increase his opportunities. Also in his favor is the Ravens offense and opposing offenses will be in come from behind mode in a lot of games. Can he match his 2019 success? Yes, but it’s more likely he sees some regression.

Highly touted draft pick Xavier McKinney will man the free safety spot for the Giants this year.  McKinney fell out of the first round after running a 4.53 40 yd dash at the combine and the Giants were happy to grab the value as some had him ranked in the top 20 overall. He’s from Alabama so he’ll be good right? Another upside play here as offensive coordinators, especially divisional rivals, may target his inexperience and provide opportunity for tackles and big plays.

Jalen Mills moves from corner to take over the strong safety position vacated by Malcolm Jenkins’ move to New Orleans. The scheme hasn’t changed and this position has provided good fantasy numbers. Now Mills is not as talented as Jenkins, so I don’t expect him to be as productive, but the system will provide him with ample opportunity. He’s a good pick in leagues where you don’t have the ability to stream and need a solid floor.

 

Tier 7

 

The final tier includes the third overall pick in the 2020 draft, Jeff Okudah. Okudah was a unanimous All American for Ohio State in 2019 recording 34 tackles, 9 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. He is expected to step in and replace Darius Slay for the Lions. Why is he ranked higher than Slay? Rookie corners find themselves the target of opposing offensive coordinators and therefore have greater opportunities for tackles and big plays. His talent can vault him to the upper echelons of the NFL at cornerback. Don’t get suckered into taking him too early, but as your DB3, he’s worth it.

Sean Davis was injured in the Steelers’ first game last year and never returned. He signed with the Redskins in the off season and is expected to be their starting free safety. In 2018 he started for Pittsburgh and vastly improved over his first two seasons. He’s someone to target if you are looking for some upside but is a risk as he’s already had two shoulder injuries. 

 

There you have it, my top 50 defensive backs for 2020. My personal strategy is to pick a safety with a solid floor after I’ve drafted my starting linemen and linebackers then wait until the end of the draft to fill out the position as I look to stream the other starters on a weekly basis. This saves me on draft capital and also allows me to find free agent corners (or safeties if available) that have great matchups that week.  

As always I’m available for questions and feel free to comment on twitter @gasdoc_spit or on Reddit.  Stay safe out there!