As we rapidly approach the start of the NFL season, we are being inundated with reports out of camp. Leonard Fournette released. Fred Warner with Covid. Derwin James with a knee injury. Yannick Ngakoue traded to the Vikings. My typing skills are trying to keep up.  This is the last of the rankings updates, top 50 defensive backs for 2020 IDP leagues,  with just a week or so before opening day.  

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Two weeks to go before the NFL season begins. Training camp coming to a close and position battles and injuries shaping the landscape. There are a few changes we need to pay attention to. Here are my updated LB rankings for your IDP drafts.  

Stock up

TJ Watt moves up from 11 to 8 as a lot of IDP leagues are starting to adjust their scoring systems and I think this helps Watt.  Look for Watt to dominate again this season and compete for the top spot in defensive player leagues.

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Joe Douglas traded the best player on his team.  The Jets, a perennial team of dysfunction, has found itself a worse team than it was less than 24 hours ago.  Did they get a good return for a player who was vocal about his displeasure and contract status? Absolutely. When comparing this trade to the Dolphins trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins were absolutely ripped off by the Steelers. 

Jamal Adams and a fourth round pick go from the Jets to the Seahawks for Bradley McDougald, two first round picks and a third round pick. The Jets made out well and will have two first round picks in each of the next two drafts.  The Seahawks get a top 5 safety, who some consider the best safety in the league. So where does this leave Adams’ fantasy value? Stock DOWN is the forecast. 

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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.

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Defensive back rankings can be highly variable based upon your scoring system and even with that, there is a lot of year to year fluctuations especially at cornerback. If you read my DB drafting strategy article you know that my advice is to wait on drafting them.  Yes there are some elite players, but in general, the production from this position varies from week to week based upon who the player is going up against and what you expect the game flow to be. This is the most streamable position in IDP leagues, especially if the league separates out the safety and cornerback positions.  

The reliability of the linebacker position to get you points and the lack of depth at the defensive line position should lead you to drafting them first before going after defensive backs. The main exception is if you play in a very tackle heavy format where getting one the top safeties could be an advantage. Regardless, safeties remain the backbone of combined rankings as the volatility of corners on a week to week basis is what makes them streaming candidates.

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When I wrote about the top 25 defensive lineman, it was easy to get excited about it. There were players who got you revved up when thinking about their explosiveness coming off the ball, dominating the offensive lineman and putting a hit on the quarterback.  

Writing about the next 25 conjures up very little of those feelings. Historically, this is the shallowest position for IDP leagues as once you get past the top 10-20 players, there is very little difference in the next 30-40. Last year in my home league (scoring was 0.5/tackle, 3/sack/FF/INT, so big play skewed), Joey Bosa finished as DL22 with 4.16 ppg.  Brian Burns was DL51 with 3.12 ppg. That’s only 1 ppg difference between those two players. Is it better to have Bosa, well of course, but over a season, it probably made little difference in your record on a week to week basis. Now this may change a bit with the change in position designation by some sites as many OLBs will be designated at Edge and moved into the defensive line category. This will expand the choices at defensive line and make this group of 25 more interesting. I’ll cover this topic as we get more clarity as to what most sites will do.

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Defensive backs are like the kickers of IDP leagues.  There really aren’t too many players that need to be picked early in your drafts.  They are also like tight ends after the first 5 or so where streaming on a week to week basis can be the way to go based on the weekly matchup.  Outside of some top end safeties who rack up tackles, guessing who will finish near the top of DB scoring is a crap shoot.  In tackle heavy scoring systems it’s a little easier to go after safeties, but in big play leagues, trying to predict who will garner interceptions, passes defensed, and sacks from this position is tough. A typical drafting strategy for DBs in IDP leagues is to wait and here’s why.

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In the trenches of their team defenses, linemen can be the key to your IDP draft. Until I’m blue in the face I will say it over and over again: make sure you know your scoring system. Do you want a lineman with a high sack upside or someone in the interior who will produce tackles? Does your league separate out DE/Edge and DT? Does the hosting site have TJ Watt and Shaq Barrett as linebackers or Edge rusher? It’s simple to state that you need to know your rules but you’d be surprised at the number of fantasy players that don’t. Another aspect of drafting IDPs is how does their scoring compare to their offensive counterparts? This will help you decide when to jump into the defensive side of your draft. For those starting out with IDP, I’ll be covering draft strategies in upcoming articles and you’ll find out why you may want to prioritize this position over the more popular linebackers.

My rankings are based on a balanced scoring system (3:1 ratio of big play points to tackle points). If your league leans big play or tackle heavy, then some adjustments may be necessary.  

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I know you’ve been on the edge of your seats waiting for the second half of my linebacker rankings to drop.  Well probably not but since you probably have to draft more than 2 in 12 team leagues, this should be useful.  We see the debut of three rookies for those who asked “Where are the rookies?” in response to my top 25.  We have three tiers here in the second 25 because, well, the differences between these players start to get smaller.  

Remember in leagues where you are starting two linebackers, these are all bench guys/bye week fillers if you were smart enough to take two of my top 25.  Here you want to look for upside if you took players towards the end of the top 25 or you just don’t agree with my rankings. If you took Darius Leonard, look for a guy who has a great matchup in week 7 because, well, you’re not benching him. Ever.  Or you can just go with the boring guy like Matt Milano who will give you tackles week in and week out.

 

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