Karl Joseph – S
5’10” 205 West Virginia
Pick 14, Round 1 (14) Raiders
While many thought Joseph was a reach for the Raiders at 14, he will have an immediate impact for the Silver and Black this season, stepping into Woodson’s role in the backfield. After missing most of his senior season to a knee injury, the 5’10’ thumper has been cleared by Oakland’s medical staff to contribute right away. He models his play after Brian Dawkins – quick plays on the ball if it’s in the air and punishes ball carriers all over the field. Biggest knocks on him are his non-contact ACL injury his senior year (though he did record 5 interceptions in the 4 games he did play) and his lack of size for the way he likes to punish his own body when making tackles. Despite the knocks, the Raiders will play him at safety from day one and he should be the first DB taken in most IDP drafts.
Redraft: The Raiders drafted Joseph to step on the field and play right away, which is what gives him a leg up over the other DB rookie prospects in redraft leagues. Charles Woodson finished 18th in scoring among safeties last season, and Joseph should pick up right around there. The only thing that will slow him down this season is a series of rookie mistakes that would bench him for veteran Nate Allen. McKenzie has said that Joseph has been their pick since day one, and the Raiders are ready for his intensity on the field. He will be a low end DB2 with DB1 upside.
Dynasty: The Raiders have been criticized for taking Joseph at 14 when he was predicted to go later in the first round, but they wouldn’t have spent the pick on him if he weren’t a part of their plans for the future. If you don’t need immediate aid at DB, Joseph is a great grab-and-stash player this season for your DTS. He has potential for DB2 production this season, with upside moving forward.
Keanu Neal – SS
6’0” 211 Florida
Pick 17, Round 1 (17) Falcons
The second safety taken in the draft, Neal is also thought to have been taken too early by the Falcons. That being said, Dan Quinn liked him enough to pass on Myles Jack and Shaq Lawson. Kemal Ishmael has held down the strong safety position for the Falcons over the last two years, but will eventually take a seat for the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft. Neal has been drafted in the image of Kam Chancellor – he delivers big and powerful hits in the open field and is the first to make a downhill play against the run game.
Redraft: While Neal might not see the field as quickly as Joseph, he won’t be far behind. Ishmael has done an adequate enough job where Atlanta’s coaching staff won’t feel urgency in getting Neal on the field if he isn’t ready out the gate, but he will be the starting strong safety before the season is over. DB2 numbers, depending on how quickly cracks the starting lineup.
Dynasty: Kam is still a prominent player in Seattle’s defense and IDP teams alike, and Neal looks to be the same. Draft him as the second DB off the board and expect DB2 numbers, with DB1 upside. He isn’t a cover man, and as long as the Falcons’ coaching staff doesn’t need consistent coverage from him, his big play ability could make him a staple of the Falcons defense for a long time.
Darian Thompson – FS
6’2” 208 Boise State
Pick 8, Round 3 (71) Giants
The Giants continue to try and bolster their secondary – after taking Landon Collins at the top of the second round last year, the Giants spent another early second rounder on the Mountain West’s all time interception leader in Darian Thompson. While Collins lined up at free safety for the majority of last season, his skill set is better suited for playing strong safety; if Thompson can develop quickly enough in coverage, he should take over as the Giants center fielder, allowing Collins to play more in the box and in run support. Thompson is a ball hawk and could be a big contributor for the Giants in the NFC East.
Redraft: Landon Collins started all 16 games last season, so if Thompson is prepared by the end of training camp he has the opportunity to contribute early and often. Antrel Rolle and Brandon Meriweather have made great IDP contributions playing deep middle for the Giants; if Thompson gets on the field in the first half of the season, he is a solid DB2.
Dynasty: A great dynasty draft pick, Thompson has DB2 potential with DB1 upside. He has had concerns as a tackler, and will need to develop in that regard to get DB1 numbers, but the Giants are committed to creating a very young and talented duo in their backfield so he should have every opportunity.
T.J. Green – SS
6’2” 209 Clemson
Pick 26, Round 2 (57) Colts
Big combine numbers helped the Clemson safety rise quickly, and he was eventually nabbed by Indianapolis to help patch holes in their secondary. He started his career at Clemson as a WR before playing two seasons at safety. He’s quick to the ball, has great size and range for man coverage and zone coverage, and has had great success when blitzing from the box. Many teams viewed him as a corner entering the draft, and it has yet to be seen where the Colts will play him. If he stays at safety and is able to demonstrate the coverage skills that have been touted, he could have a lot of success with his speed in a pass heavy AFC South.
Redraft: Uncertain until training camp, as we aren’t quite sure how the Colts plan on using Green. Tackling issues are a concern, especially for IDP leagues where tackles are such a big part of safety’s point totals. Until it’s clear that he’ll line up at safety, he’s a DB5 with upside in the DB4 range.
Dynasty: If he’s played at safety, he could have a very nice campaign on the Colts roster. Last season Adams and Lowery finished 20th and 22nd respectively in IDP scoring. When Adams was at his best in IND’s current system in 2014, he finished 10th as a very solid DB2/Low DB1 – which is what we can hope for long term from Green. If he does make the move to corner, disregard everything and let him sit with the other free agent CBs.
Vonn Bell – FS
5’11” 199 Ohio State
Pick 30, Round 2 (61) Saints
Touted as the best cover safety in this year’s draft, Vonn Bell joins a Saints team that needs all the help it can get on defense. Bell was a top high school recruit and took his talents to Ohio State, where he played zone coverage for the Buckeye’s as well as man-to-man defense when necessary. Sean Payton sees Bell as a free safety that plays nickel when needed. After drafting Kenny Vaccaro a few years ago and signing Jairus Byrd to a huge contract in 2014, it’s going to be a crowded backfield for the Saints. If Bell makes it onto the field, he’ll have to make a big impact to keep his spot.
Redraft: It’s probably more likely that Bell sees significant time at nickel corner this year and eases his way into a starting safety role, ala Jimmie Ward with SF. If that’s the case, his value will stay pretty low – DB5 to DB6. If he is able to unseat one of the two current starters, than he is a DB3/DB4 with upside.
Dynasty: Two years ago I wrote on Jimmie Ward “It might take a year or two, but eventually Jimmie Ward will be the 49ers starting free safety, and a very productive IDP defensive back. DB2 value with DB1 upside. Until that day comes however, park him on your taxi squad and wait patiently.” – the same applies with Bell. Until we know how Payton wants to use him and how he fits into the Saints defense, owners will stash and pray everything goes his way.
Jalen Ramsey – CB
6’1” 209 Florida St.
Pick 5, Round 1 (5) Jaguars
The first true freshman corner to start opening day for FSU since Deion Sanders, Jalen Ramsey is arguably the best defensive player in the entire draft. He is a freak athlete with tremendous measurables, the perfect fit for Gus Bradley’s defense that covets long and lanky cornerbacks with great closing speed. Ramsey will start at corner for the Jaguars from day one and will make an immediate impact. It’s always tough for CBs to make much of an impact on IDP squads, but Ramsey’s versatility (played CB, nickel and safety at FSU) and the growing passing game of the AFC South (who ever thought we would be saying that any time soon?) make him a decent option to consider after the impact safeties are off the board in your IDP draft.
Redraft: Baptism by fire, Ramsey should be tested early and often this season by opposing quarterbacks. If teams come out throwing against the 21-year old, he will have a great opportunity to put up some numbers early. Consider him a low end DB3, high end DB4.
Dynasty: True shutdown corners don’t get thrown at, while great corners do. From a player career standpoint, the Jaguars would love for him to be a shutdown corner. From an IDP standpoint, owners would probably love for him to be good enough to make plays, but not so elite that the ball never goes near him. If Ramsey grows into a dominant corner, and avoids the “island” conversations that Revis and Sherman have received over the past few years, he should be a very reliable DB3 with DB2 upside.
Kevin Byard – S
5’11” 216 Middle Tennessee St.
Pick 1, Round 3 (64) Titans
The first non-Combine player selected in this year’s draft, Middle Tennessee’s Kevin Byard doesn’t have to go far to go pro. Byard is a smart, true cover safety that can play single-high and be the last line of defense in coverage. He leaves college with a school record 19 interceptions, and attributes his great hands to his time playing wide receiver in high school.
Redraft: Titans just signed Cardinals’ Rashard Johnson to a 1-year deal, so don’t expect much from Byard this season. Unless something happens to Johnson, Byard shouldn’t be drafted in re-draft leagues.
Dynasty: The free safety position in Tennessee has been a relatively productive one, with Michael Griffin finishing 14th in 2015 and 4th in 2014. When Byard eventually takes the field, he should be poised for some great downfield plays for the Titans. Anticipate a solid DB3 with DB2/1 upside should things really fall into place for him.
Justin Simmons – FS
6’2” 202 Boston College
Pick 36, Round 3 (98) Broncos
Scouts were concerned his lanky size has hurt his ability to bring down ball carriers, but his 6’2” frame and Combine leading speed make him a great addition to Denver’s coverage needs. Two years ago the Broncos received heavy doses of criticism for the play of their safeties so they brought in TJ Ward, and then Darian Stewart the next season. Stewart is 27 and Ward is 29, so the Broncos wanted to add some youth in the 22 year old Simmons.
Redraft: He will probably fill the hole left by David Bruton Jr. playing deep coverage with Stewart, freeing Ward to play in the box with the LBs. Bruton’s numbers weren’t awful last season, but they weren’t anything to write home about. This season Simmons is just a DB5 with DB4 upside.
Dynasty: Time will tell – if he is able to succeed TJ Ward, he could be starting in the next few seasons. As a dominant coverage safety for Denver, he would land himself as a low end DB2.
Eli Apple – CB
6’1” 199 Ohio State
Pick 1, Round 10 (10) Giants
With great size and measurables, Eli Apple steps into the Big Apple to join a formidable cornerback trio of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins. After intercepting Marcus Mariota’s last collegiate pass in the National Championship game as a freshman, Apple continued to develop into a shut down cornerback. For this season, Apple should start in the slot for the Giants. As he continues to develop as a more complete player and Rodgers-Cromartie gets older, he will eventually secure a permanent spot on the outside. Hopefully, his cooking skills will improve as well.
Redraft: Not much value heading into the season. If he sees the majority of reps in the slot there could be minimal value in tackles, but nothing more than a DB5 at this point.
Dynasty: NYG starting corners do a nice job making plays on the ball and putting up sneaky numbers. Last season DRC finished with 52 tackles and 3 interceptions, and seven games with more than 10 points. When Apple eventually emerges as one of the starting two CBs, he’ll be a DB3 with DB2 upside if they’re playing a pass heavy team.
James Bradberry / Daryl Worley – CB
6’1” 211 Samford / 6’1” 204 West Virginia
Pick 31, Round 2 (62) / Pick 14, Round 3 (77) Panthers
Twitter: @Brad_B21 / @DWorley7
The Panthers had a hole to fill with Josh Norman, and they took two swings early in Bradberry and Worley. Selected within 15 picks of one another, both will be working to take a starting role and fill a need in the Panthers’ secondary. GM Dave Gettleman loves big-bodied cornerbacks, and with both coming in at 6’1”, they fit the mold Carolina is looking for. Josh Norman scored incredibly well in IDP leagues for a CB, and if either of them is able to emerge with a starting role this season, they will have a great opportunity for some decent CB points.
Redraft: Probably not much this season unless one of them can break into the starting lineup. DB6/7s, but mostly undraftable unless they look like they will have playtime.
Dynasty: They’re both worth drafting and stashing in dynasty leagues as late round fliers. If one of them starts, they are a decent option for a DB4 with upside if they play anything like Josh Norman in Carolina’s system.