The fantasy football season is a little over a month away, but it is never too early to start looking at player rankings. Below is my full 2012 fantasy football report for defensive backs:
1. Tyvon Branch, OAK – In the last three seasons Branch has racked up an amazing 337 tackles. He does not get many sacks or interceptions, but his punishing tackling ability makes him a force on defense. The 25-year old has matured into the best defensive back in fantasy and is all but guaranteed to go over 100 tackles for the fourth straight year.
2. Eric Weddle, SD – Weddle has matured into one of the best defensive backs in football. He racked up an impressive 88 tackles from his safety position, but more impressive was the fact the former Utah standout led the league with 7 interceptions. He is a ridiculous athlete and has the skill-set of a basketball player, as opposed to a NFL safety. Weddle should post better tackles numbers with the loss of star linebacker Takeo Spikes, so expect an even bigger year from Weddle in 2012.
3. Antoine Bethea, IND – Bethea seemed to be the only player on the Indy defense making tackles last year. He registered a ridiculous 139 tackles, as the defensive back not only led the position, but was ranked ninth in the NFL and led his entire position. Bethea is an elite defensive back and should rightfully be among the top IDP players this summer.
4. Yeremiah Bell, NYJ – Bell was one of two huge additions to the Jets’ secondary this off-season, with the other being five-year safety, LaRon Landry. Bell has averaged a position leading 110.5 tackles per season over his last four years and the former Miami Dolphin has not missed a game since 2007. He has become an amazing source of tackles from the defensive back position and is always one of the top IDP options taken each year.
5. Charles Woodson, GB – Woodson may be getting up there in age, but the veteran knows how to play the position better than anyone else in the game. The 1997 Heisman trophy winner has lived up on being aggressive in the NFL, so expect more of the same from the leader of the Packers’ ball-hawking secondary.
6. Roman Harper, NO – Harper is consistently overlooked in fantasy leagues, despite racking up at least 89 tackles in five consecutive seasons. He also registered a career and position-high 7.5 sacks in 2011. Harper is a devastating hitter and with all of the Saints’ defensive problems, the defensive back could end up playing in the box much more in 2012. Harper is a great defensive back to grab in the later rounds of drafts and easily has the ability to rack up 100 tackles with 5 sacks.
7. Earl Thomas, SEA – “ET” has been out of this world in his first two NFL seasons. He has racked up a respectable 174 tackles in that time and has never missed a professional start. Thomas has also picked off 7 passes and is on his way to becoming one of the best safeties in football.
8. Eric Berry, KC – Berry has publicly said that he is not 100% healthy following his unfortunate ACL tear last year. Berry had an outstanding 2010 season with 92 tackles, and his untimely injury robbed the youngster of a promising sophomore season. Berry is healthy and back in the Chiefs’ secondary, so expect another huge season from one of the position’s best, young talents.
9. Troy Polamalu, PIT – Polamalu has been one of the most prolific safeties in the history of the NFL. He can tackle anyone in the open field and knows how to make a play on the ball when it is in the air. However, his 2 interceptions last season was his smallest total since 2007, when he failed to record a single pick. Polamalu is not the IDP option that he was in 2005, but he can still serve as a low-end starter.
10. Michael Griffin, TEN – Griffin has turned into a reliable IDP option in one of the leagues most mediocre defenses. Griffin has racked up at least 75 tackles in each of his last four seasons, while also picking off 15 passes. Griffin has become an amazing option at defensive back and will again post linebacker numbers from his safety position.
MVP: Tyvon Branch, OAK
Bust: Ed Reed, BAL
Comeback Player: Eric Berry, KC
Rookie of Year: Mark Baron, TB
Breakout Player: Morgan Burnett, GB and Patrick Peterson, ARI