In fantasy football, one of the certainties is that someone will reach and draft a player based purely on name. In terms of individual defensive players, Troy Polamalu is one of the biggest names in the NFL. Is Polamalu worth adding to your fantasy football secondary?
Polamalu is about as decorated as they come. He has numerous First-Team All-NFL Team honors, he was the 2010 NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s been to seven Pro Bowls and received four First-Team All-Pro selections, among other awards. 2011 saw him net 95 tackles, two interceptions, 14 defended passes, one fumble recovery and one touchdown. He’s grabbed seven picks twice in his career.
2012 was a different story due to Polamalu missing nine games to injury. He now claims to be healthy and ready to go for the 2013 season, but I have my doubts he is worth a roster spot on your secondary. I recently touched on the subject of defensive backs coming off injury. While a calf injury is much less severe than an ACL tear, Polamalu is 32-years old and has a history of missing games, playing only the full 16 games five times out of a 10-year career.
I will be the first to admit that when fully, 100 percent healthy, Polamalu has the potential to be a top shutdown defender. Remember, however, that on-field success doesn’t always translate to fantasy success. I don’t believe that he will regain fantasy relevance again in his career.
He has never broken the 100 total tackle plateau in a single season. Polamalu’s interception totals have been trending down (with the exception of 2010 when he had seven INTs) every year since 2008. In that same span, he has only forced one fumble. He saw a slight uptick in total tackles in 2011, but the tackle totals have been trending down as well.
Factor in the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are an aging team with the window to win closing, and Polamalu figures to be on the field less in an effort from the coaches to keep him fresh for the stretch run and playoffs.
With Polamalu, you are banking on his ability to grab interceptions and return yardage. I do like his schedule in terms of interception potential. The Steelers have games against interception-prone quarterbacks such as Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Mark Sanchez, Matt Stafford and Brandon Weeden, among others. Those guys all have a knack for getting picked off, so that could bode well for Polamalu.
Still, I don’t have Polamalu as even a top-20 player at his position. My projections have him registering around 55 tackles solo, assisting on around 20 more. He should still grab an interception or two and defend around 10-12 passes. I see him as a DB3 with low-end DB2 status at best. You are better off filling your second DB position with someone like Roman Harper or Devin McCourty, both players who have prolific offenses that are sure to force the opposition to score points to keep up.
I see the Steelers playing in lower scoring games, as they have averaged 16th in the NFL in scoring over the last six seasons, including finishing 22nd the last two seasons.
Don’t buy in on Polamalu based solely on name brand recognition. He is the Sony Walkman of defensive backs — once great, but since surpassed by other options.
As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.