Most who follow Matt Schauf of RapidDraft.com on Twitter seethe at each “IDP” tag and wonder how he can make light of internally displaced persons. In this case, however, we’re talking individual defensive players, who add realism to your fake football leagues and gripes for the whiny leaguemate who always finishes last anyway. Schauf will be stopping by once a week to help you beat ol’ whiny even worse.
If you’ve read much IDP stuff before, chances are you’ve encountered the “rookie cornerback rule” (and you probably have too much free time). Basically, the logic is that first-year corners make for solid fantasy options because opposing quarterbacks will be motivated to target them. Being targeted more often as a corner obviously means more chances for tackles and plays on the ball.
Of course, as with any “rule” in fantasy, this probably gets played up a bit too much by those familiar with it. If you look back at the past two seasons (figuratively, of course, unless you own a DeLorean), you’ll likely find just one rookie corner among the top 50 scoring defensive backs each year: The Colts’ Jacob Lacey last year and the Chiefs’ Brandon Flowers in 2008. (I say “likely” because IDP scoring formats vary even more than the offensive stuff.)
The fact that starting as a rookie corner doesn’t automatically propel you to fantasy-starter status doesn’t mean there’s no truth to the supposed axiom, and a couple of guys are doing their best to support it right now.
Titans fourth-round pick Alterraun Verner stepped in for starter Jason McCourty back in Week 3 when McCourty broke his right forearm, and he has started the two games since. Verner has also produced three worthwhile fantasy outings, tallying 26 tackles, five pass breakups and an interception in those contests.
McCourty had his surgery and reportedly already has the cast off, but he doesn’t seem a lock to reclaim the starting job once healthy. The two were competing for the spot back in training camp, and the fight was at least close enough that coach Jeff Fisher refused to name a starter heading into Week 1. If Verner continues to make plays, he’ll be tough to take off the field – and playing across from Cortland Finnegan will only help to keep passes coming his way.
Meanwhile, Patrick Robinson would have seemed like a better bet for early impact than Verner, based on his first-round draft status. Being drafted by the Saints, however, put him behind a pretty strong pair of starting corners in Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. An injury appeared necessary to put him in position for fantasy production, and Porter was nice enough to oblige.
With Porter out nursing a knee injury (or, you know, waiting for it to heal), Robinson got his first start against the Cardinals and came away with eight solo tackles and a pass breakup – undoubtedly useful numbers for the typical IDP owner. Similar to Verner’s situation, Robinson lines up opposite a talented, respected veteran starter in Greer, which should only motivate opponents to test the rookie more. Quality tackle numbers should be within reach for as long as Porter is out (reportedly at least two to three more weeks).
Here are some notes on a few other rookie corners:
Devin McCourty has started from the beginning of the year for New England, but he gets no benefit like that enjoyed by Verner and Robinson. The Patriots’ other season-opening starter, Darius Butler, played so well that Kyle Arrington replaced him in the starting lineup each of the past two games. The whole “rookie rule” doesn’t really apply if you’re immediately the team’s stronger corner, and New England ranks in the bottom half of the league in pass attempts faced so far.
Kareem Jackson also opened the season as a starter, and strong play from Glover Quin on the opposite side should help the Texans’ first-rounder. Through nearly a season and a half in the pros, however, Quin has yet to grab an interception. It’s a lot tougher to get worried about a corner who’s not going to pick you off. (Of course, as I always like to say, that’s why Quin’s a defensive back and not a wide receiver. Perhaps Dwayne Bowe should take note.)
Joe Haden and Kyle Wilson were probably the position’s two biggest names in the 2010 draft class, but neither is a starter at this point. Haden landed on a team with two established veterans ahead of him and might need an injury to one for opportunity to arise. Then again, if Eric Wright has many more games like he did against Baltimore in Week 3 – which made him look like he had cataracts, chasing shadows instead of Anquan Boldin – perhaps Haden could get a look. He might also get a chance if Cleveland falls further from contention. Wilson, meanwhile, slipped much further in Round 1 than was projected and went to a team with a creative defensive coach at the helm. Despite opportunities, however, Wilson has showed why he slid. Two of his three starts to date came in games the Jets opened with three corners on the field, and the other went so well that Drew Coleman replaced him the next time out.
Matt Schauf is the senior football writer for RapidDraft.com and the brains behind (or would that be inside?) the “Suit” character in their free fantasy football game. Draft against him and 10 other fantasy Pros in RapidDraft Weekly every week (hence the name).