KENNY VACCARO – SS
6'0" 214 Texas
Pick 15, Round 1 (15) Saints
With Roman Harper and his $5.25 million salary presumably on the way out, Vaccaro would take the reigns as the Saints starting strong safety, which has been one of the most productive IDP DB positions over the past few seasons. Coming out of Texas, Vaccaro is considered by many to be one of the most “NFL ready” players in the draft – and New Orleans taking him at 15 overall indicates they tend to agree. Vaccaro’s strength and athleticism will make an immediate impact for the Saints in run support and man coverage, however he has some work ahead of him if he wants to help the Saints improve their woeful pass defense from 2012. Despite his lacking skills on the back-half of his game and Harper’s current presence on the Saints roster, Vaccaro will be one of the more aggressive safeties for years to come.
Redraft: You’ll want to keep a close eye on how things shake out with Roman Harper leading up to the season. The Saints already paid him half of this year’s salary in March, and could decide it’s in their best interest to just pay the other half and keep him. Worst-case scenario this year is Vaccaro splits time with Harper, and comes off the field during passing downs.
Dynasty: A must-own defensive back. While we tend to preach that DBs are a dime a dozen, Vaccaro is definitely a guy that could start on your roster for quite a few seasons.
John Cyprien – SS
6'0" 217 FIU
Pick 33, Round 2 (1) Jaguars
Selected at the top of the 2nd round, John Cyprien fills an immediate need for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Several experts think Cyprien will be the best safety in the draft, ahead of Vaccaro and Reid, because of his aggressiveness in the box and range across the field. His physical play against the run will be a huge help to a Jaguars defense that is tasked with facing Chris Johnson and Arian Foster twice a year. One of the biggest knocks on Cyprien is that he didn’t face a very high level of competition at FIU, but the up and coming AFC South should prove relatively quickly whether the concern is valid or not.
Redraft: Cyprien will be a day one starter for the Jaguars, and should be penciled in as a DB2 on your draft board. He’s stepping into a role that is similar to what Kam Chancellor played under Coach Bradley in Seattle, and hopefully his fantasy numbers will be the same.
Dynasty: Great long-term value for a defensive back - should definitely be owned in all 12-team dynasty leagues.
Matt elam – fS
5'10" 208 Florida
Pick 32, Round 1 (32) Ravens
Training camp will determine how the Ravens’ DB situation shakes out, but as the 32nd overall pick in the draft, Elam has a very good chance to see some quality playtime this season. Elam’s physical play-style is perfect for a Baltimore defense that capitalizes on big hits and turnovers; in his two seasons as the Gator’s starter, he posted 6 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 5 sacks. While he excels in deep coverage, he also adds a lot in the box and at the line of scrimmage. The Ravens needed to quickly fill the hole left by Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, and Elam’s big hits should do the trick.
Redraft: It’s safe to assume that of the Matt Elam, Michael Huff, James Ihedigbo trio that Matt Elam will come out on top and play alongside Huff, but crazier things have happened. Elam plays like Bob Sanders in his prime, and will post great numbers in the smash-mouth AFC North. Consider him a DB2/DB3 with some upside.
Dynasty: Elam is a first round talent, and his numbers will reflect that in Baltimore’s system. He’s not worth a first or second round pick in most dynasty leagues, but will add some reliable depth to your DB squad if you can taxi him for a season or two.
Tyrann mathieu – fS
5’9" 186 LSU
Pick 7, Round 3 (69) Cardinals
Where to start with Tyrann Mathieu… If he’s able to keep his off-the-field issues from keeping him… well… off the field, he’s in a pretty decent position to post some great IDP numbers. The Cardinals have already said they plan on playing Mathieu at free safety, where he should start from day one, while picking up some playing time in the slot. Looking past his poor decision making off the field, the LSU Tiger is very undersized to play safety, and lacks the explosive speed to make up for poor coverage. Last year Kerry Rhodes was able to wrack up 86 tackles as the Cardinals’ free safety, and Mathieu’s great nose for the ball should allow him to post similar numbers as a starter.
Redraft: If he’s able to make it through training camp without getting into trouble, he should see significant playing time at free safety. While he’s a great return man, he’ll be competing with Patrick Peterson for punt and kick returns. Consider him a DB3/DB4 option going into the season, with some potential upside.
Dynasty: It’s pretty tough to guess at the long-term success of Tyrann Mathieu - time will tell whether he has learned from his mistakes or not. His size will also play a pretty prominent factor in the longevity of his career – it’s hard to imagine him withstanding several seasons of power backs and tight ends trucking him in the middle of the field. If you’re a believer that he’s a changed man, grab him in the latter half of your rookie draft and see how it shakes out. If you’re a cynic, let him be someone else’s headache.
Eric reid – fS
6'1" 213 LSU
Pick 18, Round 1 (18) 49ers
Reid steps into arguably the best situation for any of this year’s defensive backs. After sending Dashon Goldson packing, San Francisco drafted Reid to fill probably the only real “need” on their entire roster. Reid is one of the most athletic safeties in the draft this year: he is tall, wins jump balls, has great play recognition skills, and is able to wrap up the ball carrier in the open field. While he is sometimes overaggressive, the talent around him creates a very safe environment where he can take risks and grow as a defender without being a liability for his defense.
Redraft: Goldson had some good weeks and bad weeks playing the FS position for SF, but for the most part was a very consistent DB2. It would be a stretch for us to expect similar numbers right off the bat for Reid, but not ridiculous. Consider him a DB3 heading into your redraft league, with some late upside as he gets into the swing of things.
Dynasty: The 49ers are hoping Reid will be their long-term answer at safety. He’ll play a role that is notoriously productive in IDP leagues, so don’t be afraid to draft him in the middle of your rookie draft and stash him until he hits his stride.
desmond trufant – cb
6'0" 190 Washington
Pick 22, Round 1 (22) Falcons
Trufant comes with all of the measurables teams look for in a CB – great speed, the ability to mirror receivers on double moves, and the athleticism to make plays on jump balls. While corners tend to be fairly hit and miss from a fantasy football perspective, playing opposite of a great corner (Revis, Samuel, etc…) makes for lots of tackle opportunities. One of the knocks on Trufant is his lackluster tackling, but the opportunities he’ll get from playing with Asante Samuel should dramatically inflate his IDP value. Last year Dunta Robinson posted 74 tackles, 6 interceptions and had 19 deflected passes playing the same role – we can only hope Trufant has similar results.
Redraft: In 12-team leagues, little. But if you have more than 12 teams, consider him later as a plug-n-play type DB that will occasionally have great game.
Dynasty: As long as he’s playing in tandem with Asante Samuel he has value – as Samuel’s career dwindles and teams are no longer game planning around him, Trufant’s tackle opportunities will diminish. Still worth nabbing near the latter half of your draft.
T.j. McDonald – fS
6'2" 219 USC
Pick 9, Round 3 (71) Rams
McDonald comes to St. Louis with a history of NFC West success - In 1994 his father won a Super Bowl playing safety for the 49ers. Like his dad, McDonald has a great build and average speed for safety, but is a tackling machine. In his senior year at USC, McDonald was able to collect 112 tackles. His ability to shed blocks and dominate inside the box will nicely compliment the presence of James Laurinitas and Chris Long on the Rams’ defense. With the departure of Quintin Mikell, St. Louis is pretty dismal at safety heading into the season; McDonald is penciled to start from day one, and is in a great spot to provide a much-needed boost to the Rams’ secondary.
Redraft: Mikell was able to wrack up great numbers playing FS last season, and hopefully McDonald can do the same. Consider him a DB3 until proven otherwise.
Dynasty: McDonald was selected in the third round for a reason – he isn’t particularly fast, and bites on the play-action a little too easily. The duration of his starting job will largely be tied to his ability to keep Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in check – if the misdirection becomes a problem for him, he won’t start for long. DB3 with upside. … and downside.
Dee Milliner – cb
6'0" 201 Alabama
Pick 9, Round 1 (9) Jets
Dee Milliner was the first CB off the board in this year’s draft, and rightfully so. He will fill a serious hole created by Revis’ departure to Tampa, and will most likely beat out Kyle Wilson for the starting gig opposite Antonio Cromartie. While no one will ever claim that Cromartie brings the same level of intimidation to opposing offenses that Revis brings (maybe except Cromartie), he is a big enough threat at corner that teams will pick on Milliner and give him some tackle opportunities. Milliner has great speed and will be one of the league’s best press corners for many years to come – but this season, he will be faced with a lot of opportunities for growth.
Redraft: Little to none unless you’re playing in a 16-team league or larger. He’ll have some great tackle opportunities, but not in the same range that Trufant will see playing opposite of Samuel.
Dynasty: Potentially draftable near the end of your 12-team league’s draft, but you’re probably better off taking a shot on one of the safeties that were taken later by an NFL team. DB4 that could post some DB2/DB3 numbers against pass-heavy teams.
dj swearinger – SS
5’10" 208 South Carolina
Pick 25, Round 2 (57) Texans
While Ed Reed has done some incredible things in his career, I’m skeptical that staying healthy all season at 34-years old will be one of them. With Daniel Manning not far behind at 30 years old, D.J. Swearinger will be waiting in the wings to fill either of their starting roles. Swearinger is a big hitter that can play the run and the pass, and is another defender that will provide a great presence in the box for Houston. While he is sometimes too aggressive, @JungleBoi_Swagg will inevitably be a big playmaker for the Texans’ defense.
Redraft: While Reed and Manning are still in the picture, not much. Keep an eye on their injury report from week to week, and if one of the two goes down – be quick to snatch up Swearinger who will play a DB3 role with DB2 upside.
Dynasty: Worth drafting and stashing. Don’t expect results this season, but if you can afford to use a mid-level pick on a DB that will be headed to your taxi squad, this is your guy.
Shawn Williams – SS
6’0" 213 Georgia
Pick 22, Round 3 (84) Bengals
Cincinnati has lacked some “umph” on defense for a few years now, and Shawn Williams brings a fire that Mike Zimmer will love using. While the Georgia Bulldog lacks the lateral agility teams look for in cover safeties, he is a top-notch tackler and loves to blitz. Taylor Mays has done little to anchor down the starting strong safety gig in Cincinnati, so Williams will have a legitimate shot at competing throughout training camp and the preseason. Whether he is a fulltime starter or not, his physical run support will be a tremendous help against the Steelers, Ravens and Browns.
Redraft: While he’ll make an immediate impact on special teams, don’t count on him doing the same for the Bengals defense right away. He’ll have a learning curve ahead of him, and is probably not worth your draft pick this year with more sure-thing options out there.
Dynasty: Definitely worth stashing and holding on to, especially if you can afford to wait. His play against the run will give him great tackle opportunities, but he’ll have to earn his spot on the field first.