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Rookie Defensive Backs
Darin Tietgen
July 31, 2008
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Cream of the Crop

Brandon Flowers (KCC) – Flowers steps right into starting opposite the venerable Patrick Surtain at CB for the Chiefs.  Given the amount the Chief defense figures to spend on the field, plus the fact that rookie corners are typically “tested” by opposing QBs, Flowers looks like a sure-fire hit at DB, even in re-draft leagues.  He’s by far the best rookie corner in both re-draft and dynasty leagues.  In fact, he’s probably top-30 in re-draft leagues.  Draft him as your #2 with plenty of potential.

Kenny Phillips (NYG) – Like Flowers, Phillips steps into a very productive defensive system.  While he’s not slated to start (yet), he will definitely get plenty of playing time for the defending champs, especially since Gibril Wilson bolted for Oakland.  Phillips was highly-regarded in college, but had some injury issues.  If he’s able to shake them, he will be an outstanding pro.  For those in re-draft leagues, you can draft him late as a back-up with potential.

Middle of the Road

Leodis McKelvin (BUF) – The Bills are not short on DB talent, but could not ignore the athletic McKelvin in this year’s draft.  He will get some playing time, but probably not enough if you’re in re-draft leagues.  He might figure into the return game, so if you’re in leagues that give points for return yards/TDs, you might want to keep your eye on him as the season progresses. 

Tyrell Johnson (MIN) – Some regard Johnson as a better pro prospect than fellow stud safety Kenny Phillips.  Johnson hails from a small school (Arkansas State), but has all the tools to be a big-time Cover-2 safety.  He has the newly-acquired Madieu Williams ahead of him at FS, but could figure into the mix as he learns the very difficult defensive scheme.

Aqib Talib (TBB) – If it weren’t for a few off-field issues that arose just before the draft, Talib would have probably gone higher in the NFL draft. Does that mean you should drop him in your fantasy rankings?  Probably not.  Actually, you might want to bump him up, as he landed in a perfect situation:  in Tampa with the Cover-2.  Talib will back up and learn under Ronde Barber, who’s been one of the best fantasy cornerbacks in recent memory.  If Barber should go down anytime this year, Talib becomes an instant fantasy starter.

Maybe in a Few Years

DaJuan Morgan (KCC) – Gotta like what the Chiefs did this year with their draft.  They nabbed Flowers, a sure-fire stud CB, and Morgan, who will shape up to be a fine safety.  And they already have young studs in Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page.  Page has limited upside, so you might want to keep your eye on Morgan, as he could very well be the starter in a few years. 

Thomas DeCoud (ATL) – DeCoud steps into a situation much like Tyrell Johnson’s.  He’s got a few vets ahead of him, but fortunately for DeCoud, he has position flexibility in that he can play either safety spot.  If any of the current Falcon starters go down with injury, DeCoud could be playable.  If not, he might have to wait a year or so until he’s got fantasy significance.

Sleepers

Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie (ARI) – Yeah, that name should sound familiar.  Rodgers-Cromartie is the cousin of the Chargers’ Antonio Cromartie.  I guess their family don’t change up first names very much.  Rodgers-Cromartie will not start in his rookie season, but could see significant time.  Plus, with Antrel Rolle moving to FS, Rodgers-Cromartie becomes the primary CB backup.  Should starters Roderick Hood or Eric Green get injured, he’d get the first shot.  He’s a great add in keeper/dynasty leagues, as Green’s in his final year of his contract and probably won’t resign, given the drafting of the deft Rodgers-Cromartie.

Craig Steltz (CHI) – Steltz looks like he’s slower than molasses on tape, had so-so combine numbers, but you can’t discount the fact that he led a national powerhouse to championships and countless wins.  Steltz will back up the oft-injured Mike Brown at FS for the Bears.  Gone is Adam Archuleta.  The Bear defense should spend a good amount of time on the field this season, so look for Steltz to get a fair shot at some point in the season.

Mike Jenkins (DAL) – Decided to add Jenkins in as a sleeper today after hearing the news about Terence Newman’s injured groin, which could be rather significant.  Yes, “Adam” Jones is there, but the Dallas coaching staff contends that Jones will continue to back up Anthony Henry on the other side no matter what happens to Newman.  Very strange.  Well, Jenkins is already slated to get playing time, so he could very well leapfrog Jones into the starting spot should Newman miss significant time.  Worth a shot in deeper leagues.

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