Welcome to my 2022 Fantasy Football IDP Rookie Defensive Backs!
Last week, we covered rookie linebackers who could make an instant impact in an IDP league. Now, the focus has shifted to the incoming prospects who will be spending more time in coverage as defensive backs.
Right away, the first thing to understand is that DBs tend blend into one another. With relatively low tackle numbers and interceptions being hard to come by, investing early picks in even the best safeties or cornerbacks is risky. Regardless, having a positional advantage at this mundane roster spot could put a team over the top.
2022 Fantasy Football IDP Rookie Defensive Backs
Kyle Hamilton, S, Baltimore Ravens
In a previous article, I had mentioned how defensive backs generally have the most parity among them in IDP leagues. But occasionally, a safety finds themselves pushing towards the top ten in overall IDP scoring. Be it Budda Baker in 2019 or Jamal Adams in 2018, a top tier safety can put up points with the best of them.
Kyle Hamilton landed in a great situation with the Baltimore Ravens. He is currently listed as their starter at strong safety and with new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald taking over, Hamilton could make an instant impact in the secondary. From a fantasy standpoint, the hope is that Hamilton evolves into a jack of all trades for the Ravens’ defense. There is reason to believe that he will roam the field not just as a strong safety but as a nickel or even middle linebacker. If that happens his tackle numbers could rapidly creep into the hundreds.
On a Baltimore squad that blitzed over 30% of the time in 2021, it’s easy to see a reality where Hamilton pushes 60 tackles, three or four interceptions, and maybe a few sacks in his first season. Personally, I believe Hamilton should be the first rookie defensive back drafted and will outperform all of his fellow rookies.
Lewis Cine, S, Minnesota Vikings
Lewis Cine was arguably my favorite defensive back to watch in all of college football last year. With a 4.37 40-yard dash and 11.1 broad jump, Cine pops off the screen every time he plays. With the Vikings, it’s likely that Cine finds himself starting sooner rather than later as well. While the Georgia Bulldog was solid in pass protection, defending nine passes in 2021 on top of an interception, his value lies in great tackle production.
If the Vikings allow Cine to drop down into the box, he could be an instant fantasy asset. Many of his highlights in college came against the run where he would meet running backs at the line of scrimmage and he almost always won those matchups. With that being said, Cine does need to refine his game. Too often he goes for the big, highlight hit. He’s not looking to tackle wide receivers; he wants to obliterate them. At the NFL level, savvy route runners such as Davante Adams and physical freaks like Derrick Henry are a different level of competition. He can’t just hope to outrun everyone.
Regardless, if Cine can display good pass protection instincts across the middle of the field and showcase his signature ferocity as a tackler, he will form a great duo with Harrison Smith. Smith could prove to be an outstanding mentor for the promising rookie.
Jaquan Brisker, S, Chicago Bears
Jaquan Brisker finds himself in a great situation to make an immediate impact on the young Chicago Bears. His primary competition for a starting job is career backups Dane Cruickshank and Deandre Houston-Carson. Plus, with a new defensive coordinator, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Brisker given the starting role to grow alongside the new coaching staff.
From a production standpoint, Brisker fits the same mold as the previous safeties mentioned. He loves to play close to the line of scrimmage as he lined up in the box 59% of the time while at Penn State. Over his final two seasons as the full-time starter, he collected 120 tackles, nine of them for loss, as well as nine passes defended and three interceptions.
In the end, the combination of volume and skill could have Brisker competing for a starting spot on a fantasy roster. In terms of a dynasty league, he likely only sits behind Kyle Hamilton as an overall prospect among safeties. With that said, I think there is dark horse potential for the Penn State alum to actually outproduce Hamilton this year and finish as the top rookie defensive back.
Sauce Gardner, CB, New York Jets & Derek Stingley Jr., CB, Houston Texans
First off, this is not to diminish Sauce Gardner’s or Stingley Jr.’s place as top five picks in this year’s draft. Unfortunately, the reality is in an IDP situation, cornerbacks typically find themselves as the most interchangeable and least important spot to fill. Only once in the last four seasons has a cornerback found himself inside the top 10 in overall IDP scoring (Logan Ryan in 2019).
It’s unlikely that either star rookie is able to produce high enough tackle numbers to compete with top tier safeties or linebackers. In fact, if either prospect does contribute too many tackles, it may mean they are struggling in coverage and being targeted. Stingley Jr. only has one complete college season under his belt in 2019 where he shined in passes defended and picked off six balls as well. Yet, he only posted 38 total tackles. Gardner does have more game experience from his time at Cincinnati but he never eclipsed 40 total tackles in a given season.
From a real-life, on-field impact I believe both rookies will improve their respective secondaries. They both displayed great instincts in coverage. Sauce Gardner’s two-season stretch of not giving up any touchdowns was well documented and in his lone full season, Stingley helped LSU secure a national championship. In the end, both players will likely have great careers but probably won’t move the needle in an IDP league.
Unlike the top linebacker prospects, many of these defensive backs will likely take time to find their footing among fantasy leagues. If they can become tackling machines akin to Derwin James Jr. or sack artist similar to Jamal Adams; anything is possible.
It’s best to view these rookies as icing on a dynasty cake. Relying on them to compete with players like Devin Lloyd is a mistake. Thankfully, in a few years they may find their way into a top ten finish and help win you a league at a relatively unspectacular position.