The NFL has become a passing league, but it’s didn’t translate to rookie defensive backs last year. Perhaps coaches opt to play veterans over the green rookies because they have the experience to identify schemes and patterns. It should make you pause when you’re ready to select a DB, but only for a moment. The 2010 rookie class was solid, so it’s not a trend.
Complete rankings for defensive backs drafted between 2006 and 2011:
>>> Rookie DB Production <<<
Percentages for a 16-team league, starting 2 DBs
Rosterable: Players worthy of belonging on a fantasy roster.
Starters: Players ranked in the Top 32 at the end of the season.
Backups: Players worthy of contributing to your fantasy team in a limited capacity.
Minimal Contribution: Players on waivers who could be useful in case of emergencies (ex: injuries, byes, poor match-up).
No Contribution: Players that belonged on waivers.
Rookie Production, 2011: 54 Defensive Backs
2% chance of drafting a starter (1 player)
- 2% chance of drafting a DB1 (1 player)
- 0% chance of drafting a DB2 (0 players)
2% chance of drafting a backup (1 player)
* Zero of the two rosterable DBs were safeties
22% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (12 players)
74% chance of no contribution in rookie season (40 players)
Rookie Production, 2006 – 2011: 313 Defensive Backs
3% chance of drafting a starter (9 players)
- 2% chance of drafting a DB1 (7 players)
- 1% chance of drafting a DB2 (2 players)
8% chance of drafting a backup (25 players)
* Fourteen of the 34 rosterable DBs were safeties
27% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (83 players)
63% chance of no contribution in rookie season (196 players)
Defensive Backs drafted in the first round, 2006 – 2011: 32
13% chance of drafting a starter (4 players)
- 9% chance of drafting a DB1 (3 players)
- 3% chance of drafting a DB2 (1 player)
31% chance of drafting a backup (10 players)
* Six of the 14 rosterable DBs were safeties
41% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (13 players)
16% chance of no contribution in rookie season (5 players)
Defensive Backs drafted in the second round, 2006 – 2011: 42
7% chance of drafting a starter (3 players)
- 7% chance of drafting a DB1 (3 players)
- 0% chance of drafting a DB2 (0 players)
10% chance of drafting a backup (4 players)
* Four of the seven rosterable DBs were safeties
50% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (21 players)
33% chance of no contribution in rookie season (14 players)
Defensive Backs drafted after the second round, 2006 – 2011: 239
1% chance of drafting a starter (2 players)
- 0% chance of drafting a DB1 (1 player)
- 0% chance of drafting a DB2 (1 player)
5% chance of drafting a backup (11 players)
* Four of the 13 DBs worth being on a roster were safeties
21% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (49 players)
74% chance of no contribution in rookie season (177 players)
Trends and Highlights:
- Defensive back is by far the deepest position in fantasy football. Tons of players can be serviceable, and you should never stay married to underachievers on your team. As a result, players ranked between 81-200 are deemed worthy of a minimal contribution. If you think that’s too much, pick any number between 81-200 and compare the equal rank of DB to WR. It’s not even close.
- Since 2006, 20 of the 34 DBs worth being on a roster were cornerbacks. I still prefer a hard-hitting safety, but it goes to show that value can be found late in the draft or on waivers by taking a cornerback.
- 2011 rookie DBs have a gaping hole between ranks 60-120. Combine that with the lack of rosterable players, and it’s easy to see why it was the worst class over the past six seasons.
- Teams that have drafted the fewest DBs since 2006: Arizona Cardinals (5), New York Jets (5), Miami Dolphins (7).
- Teams that have drafted the most DBs since 2006: Buffalo Bills (13), Atlanta Falcons (12), Chicago Bears (12), Tennessee Titans (12).
Defensive Backs drafted in 2012: 50 (player, team, round drafted)
Stephon Gilmore BUF (1), Dre Kirkpatrick CIN (1), Morris Claiborne DAL (1), Harrison Smith MIN (1), Mark Barron TBB (1), Casey Hayward GBP (2), Tavon Wilson NEP (2), Janoris Jenkins STL (2), Jamell Fleming ARI (3), Brandon Hardin CHI (3), Dwight Bentley DET (3), Josh Robinson MIN (3), Jayron Hosley NYG (3), Brandon Taylor SDC (3), Trumaine Johnson STL (3), Christian Thompson BAL (4), Ron Brooks BUF (4), Matt Johnson DAL (4), Omar Bolden DEN (4), Jerron McMillian GBP (4), Brandon Boykin PHI (4), Coty Sensabaugh TEN (4), Asa Jackson BAL (5), Josh Norman CAR (5), Shaun Prater CIN (5), George Iloka CIN (5), Chris Greenwood DET (5), DeQuan Menzie KCC (5), Robert Blanton MIN (5), Corey White NOS (5), Justin Bethel ARI (6), Charles Mitchell ATL (6), Isaiah Frey CHI (6), Jonte Green DET (6), Mike Harris JAC (6), Nate Ebner NEP (6), Josh Bush NYJ (6), Trenton Robinson SFO (6), Jeremy Lane SEA (6), Winston Guy SEA (6), Keith Tandy TBB (6), Markelle Martin TEN (6), D.J. Campbell CAR (7), Greg McCoy CHI (7), Trevin Wade CLE (7), Alfonzo Dennard NEP (7), Antonio Allen NYJ (7), Terrence Frederick PIT (7), Richard Crawford WAS (7), Jordan Bernstine WAS (7)
Percentages predict two first round DBs will become rosterable in their rookie season, and one will finish the season as a starter. The clear choice for starter is Mark Barron. I currently have him as the 11th ranked DB at FantasyPros.com, which is on par with his Expert Consensus Rank (ECR). Someone in your league will draft him early, which is a shame for guys like me who like waiting on DBs. In regards to the other rosterable first round DB, you can make an argument for the remaining four players. It’s impossible to know the defensive depth chart right now for the cornerbacks. Who’ll be a starter and who’ll be relegated to the nickel and dime packages? Who’ll be matched up against a stud receiver like Calvin Johnson and who’ll be matched up against a slot machine like Wes Welker? If you play it safe, Harrison Smith is the player to target. If you like to gamble, target Stephon Gilmore.
Percentages predict one second round DB will become rosterable in his rookie season. If Janoris Jenkins stays out of trouble, he’s the guy to target. St. Louis has been very good to DB fantasy production over the past few seasons, and Jenkins should keep that trend going.
Percentages predict two to three DBs drafted after the second round will become rosterable in their rookie season. The Chargers traded up to land Brandon Taylor, so IDPers know he was coveted by the organization. Only Atari Bigby stands in his way, and the hole next to ILB Donald Butler is wide enough for Taylor to rack up some tackles. The other DB I would target is Matt Johnson. The Cowboys have a glaring need at safety and many experts thought they would draft Barron. While not as skilled, Johnson is slightly bigger than Barron. If he wins the job early in camp, his fantasy stock will soar by late-August. If you’re looking for a deep DB sleeper, check out George Iloka. He’s a monster and by far the biggest rookie DB. The Bengals’ depth chart should be easy to climb, but it makes me nervous that so many DB-needy teams passed on him. Keep in mind that the three players highlighted here are all safeties, and odds favor a cornerback being rosterable. As stated earlier, it’s impossible to pinpoint that cornerback unless he’s a kick–return phenom.
Other articles in the Rookie Production series:
Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs, Historical Production and 2012 Predictions
Fantasy Football Rookie Tight Ends, Historical Production and 2012 Predictions
Fantasy Football Rookie Defensive Linemen, Historical Production and 2012 Predictions
Fantasy Football Rookie Linebackers, Historical Production and 2012 Predictions
Get all the latest info directly from the source. Follow my NFL Media, Offensive Players, and Defensive Players feeds at Twitter. Technologically advanced? Add the widget/script source to your website for direct access.