The draft is almost here, and I think it literally may be killing me to have to keep waiting. Alas, time creeps slower than molasses. In the meanwhile, I’m going to continue my rookie IDP primers. Today’s topic: Rookie Defensive Backs.
Please note: there will be between two and six cornerbacks taken in the first round of the NFL draft, and it’s an important position… in real life. The prospect of drafting an elite “shutdown” corner makes GMs salivate, but cornerbacks are quite inferior to the safety position for IDP fantasy league purposes. They simply don’t get enough tackle or big-play opportunities to be worth rostering over even the most middling of safeties. Thus, the following players I’ve selected are all safeties.
Here we go.
Kyle Hamilton (S–Notre Dame)
One player this year will (barring injury) find fantasy success regardless of which team drafts him. That player is Kyle Hamilton. He’s a 6’4″ Safety, weighing 220 lbs and ready to take anyone’s head off. You may hear the word “unicorn” used a lot when describing him. That’s because he’s ultimately a rare combination of size, athleticism, and versatility.
Since high school, he’s been a high-level prospect and is the consensus first safety projected to be taken in the 2022 NFL draft. He missed half of his senior season at Notre Dame due to a knee injury, but he still posted solid numbers over those seven games: 35 tackles, three interceptions, and four pass breakups. Here’s the deal: he’s not perfect, especially in certain coverage situations where he gets turned around, but he’s got more talent than should be legal. It’s likely his NFL fate relies on how his first defensive coach wants to use him. Due to his height and natural frame of him, he could be played in a linebacker role more often than not. It would limit his real-life impact from him, but switching between safety and linebacker would be an absolute boon for IDP managers. If you have the chance to draft Hamilton in your IDP leagues, you need to do so without hesitation. He’s essentially a cross between Jeremy Chinn and Isaiah Simmons, but Hamilton might have more upside than either player. His ceiling of him is All-Pro.
Daxton Hill (S–Michigan)
Daxton Hill is at least a hair shorter than Hamilton. Actually, he’s four inches shorter. The Michigan standout measured at 6’0″ and 191 lbs, but he posted a better 40-yard dash time than Hamilton (4.38 seconds). While it’s obvious who he will get selected first in the draft, Hill is no slouch. In 2021, he was named first-team all-league while tallying 70 tackles, two interceptions, and nine pass breakups. Most scouts have noted him as being “explosive,” “rangy,” and “smooth,” which bodes well for his NFL future. As for his fantasy value, his ceiling will depend on where he lands, but his floor should be the same. Even in a worst-case scenario, he’ll be worth rostering in most formats. Due to his coverage and tackling abilities from him, he can quickly become a top-shelf DB2.
Jaquan Brisker (S–Penn State)
Brisker and Hill are close to a toss-up. I’m not sure who will get selected first, but they are the clear Second Tier for IDP Defensive Backs in 2022. Hamilton is Tier 1, and then Brisker and Hill are Tier 2.
Brisker is 6’1″ and 199 lbs, making him slightly larger than Hill, but Hill is faster. He’s already 23 years old, but he was second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team all-conference in 2021. In his final season at Penn State, he totaled 64 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass breakups. He’s an ascending physical talent who still needs a little bit more development, but he can easily become a long-term starter for the right team. His ability to understand and manage various coverages, including against TEs, makes him a desirable asset for intelligent coaches. It also suggests he could be in line for a consistent workload. If I miss out on Hamilton and Hill, I’m plenty happy to nab Brisker.
Lewis Cinema (S–Georgia)
It’s not for nothing that Cine played for Georgia, the top defensive football team, in 2021. However, there are more than a few doubts about Cine in the long term. He measured at 6’2″ and 199 lbs, making him taller than Hill and Brisker but still around the same weight. The good news is that Cine can still grow and build out his frame from it. However, until he actually does that, his size is being considered a problem. The difference between Cine and the other players already identified is that Cine has a much lesser athletic profile. Scouts’ big knock against him is that he’s not good in downfield coverage, he has a hard time adjusting to talented receivers, and when working against the run, he hits hard but can be out of control. He’s got the potential to be an NFL starter at some point, but that point may be farther away than any IDP fanatic wants it to be.
Jalen Pitre (S–Baylor)
Pitre measures in at 5’11” and 198 lbs. This is important to note because it means his size limits him. He may never get put into a linebacker or hybrid position. He simply doesn’t have the build for it. That being said, he’s been noted as being a “coach’s dream” and as someone with high character. He’s also noted as extremely intelligent and has a high football IQ. The knocks against him are typical of an average-bodied player. He’s not quite fast enough and not quite big enough, but he will put in the work. I actually feel better drafting Pitre over Cine, but that opinion is strictly based on his intangibles. From a physical standpoint, Cine has the upper hand. Again, though, anyone drafting IDP in 2021 needs to target Hamilton, Hill, or Brisker. End of story.
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Tim Metzler is a featured writer at FantasyPros, known for multiple article series’, including 5 Under 25, Expert Consensus Rantings, his in-season Running Diary, and his dynasty IDP rankings. For more from Tim, check out his archive and follow him @Timmy_The_Metz.