Safeties first in fantasy football

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Honestly, I don’t know anyone who plays in a fantasy football league that still uses Individual Defensive Players (IDPs) as a category, but apparently it is still a thing.

In this year’s Sporting News NFL fantasy preview magazine, the top 30 IDPs in each position group are ranked — and the man at the top of the list of defensive backs is not a man who would typically be considered the best DB in the league by most standards. Really, the SN‘s entire list of top-30 fantasy DBs looks nothing like anybody’s list of top-30 DBs in general.

More often than not, in today’s version of what we call big-time football, cornerbacks are recognized as the best and most coveted players in the secondary. But in the alternative world of fantasy football, safeties dominate the draft board when it comes to IDPs in the secondary.

It’s all about the stats, of course. While the best corners typically don’t produce a high number of interceptions, tackles, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries or touchdowns — since their value is in their ability to keep quarterbacks from throwing in their direction — safeties rack up relevant fantasy stats because of the ball-hawking nature of their jobs.

Look at it this way: A good game for Seahawks’ All-Pro corner Richard Sherman might see him register just one tackle thanks to his superior cover skills; but a good game for teammate and All-Pro safety Earl Thomas would consist of at least a handful of solo tackles, with an interception or fumble recovery on top of the sundae, because Thomas is supposed to see the ball (and the ball-carrier) and go get it. Sherman might be considered the best corner in the NFL and arguably its No. 1 defensive back overall, but Thomas is by far the more valuable fantasy player. (In the newly-released NFL Network Top 100 players list, Sherman is 11th, while Thomas is 21st. Meanwhile, Thomas ranks 12th on the list of fantasy IDPs, while Sherman didn’t crack the top 30.)

It makes sense, therefore, that SN‘s top-ranked fantasy defensive back for 2015 is Green Bay strong safety Morgan Burnett, who last season finished ninth in the league in total tackles, his 130 stops the highest number among defensive backs. Burnett also had 1.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble for the Packers.

The complete Sporting News list:

1. Morgan Burnett, SS, Packers
2. Harrison Smith, FS, Vikings
3. Barry Church, SS, Cowboys
4. Eric Weddle, FS, Chargers
5. T.J. McDonald, SS, Rams
6. Reshad Jones, SS, Dolphins
7. Tyvon Branch, S, Chiefs
8. Johnathan Cyprien, SS, Jaguars
9. Landon Collins, SS, Giants
10. Charles Woodson, FS, Raiders
11. Michael Griffin, FS, Titans
12. Earl Thomas, FS, Seahawks
13. Will Hill, SS, Ravens
14. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Packers
15. Kam Chancellor, SS, Seahawks
16. Antoine Bethea, SS, 49ers
17. Jason McCourty, CB, Titans
18. Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Saints
19. Roman Harper, SS, Panthers
20. T.J. Ward, SS, Broncos
21. Da’Norris Searcy, S, Titans
22. Ron Parker, SS, Chiefs
23. William Moore, SS, Falcons
24. Ryan Mundy, SS, Bears
25. Deone Bucannon, S, Cardinals
26. Jairus Byrd, FS, Saints
27. Joe Haden, CB, Browns
28. Reggie Nelson, FS, Bengals
29. Calvin Pryor, FS, Jets
30. Mark Barron, SS, Rams

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