The countdown to the 2023 NFL Draft is upon us. Hopefully, you’ve done the research, read the profiles, watched some highlights and tape, and are now prepared to head into your rookie drafts.
For those who play in IDP leagues, landing spots for defensive players may be just as vital as offensive players. Landing spots can make a big difference in playing time and productivity as there are a wide range of factors to look at when projecting teams.
Looking at depth charts can be a bit overwhelming, but there are teams who need immediate starting help. This is particularly a deep group of cornerbacks with a solid group of safeties, so if your league separates defensive backs into specific positions, there might be some good players in this group for you.
In these articles, we look at the ideal landing spots for the IDPs you should be targeting in your rookie drafts.
Brian Branch, S Alabama
Ideal Landing Spot: Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets
While cornerbacks will dominate much of the first and second rounds of the NFL Draft, Branch is the best fantasy asset at DB. He can play safety or nickel back. He was used all over the place on the Alabama defense and should be a playmaker at the NFL level.
The Lions need desperate help in the secondary as they got shredded through the air last season. They could end up going cornerback and safety in the first two rounds of the draft. They need playmakers and Branch fits the bill.
The Steelers let Terrell Edmonds leave in free agency (signed with the Philadelphia Eagles) after the former first-round draft pick underwhelmed at times. They re-signed Damontae Kazee, but he has struggled with injuries. Cam Sutton left via free agency (Detroit Lions), leaving the Steelers with a need at strong safety and nickel corner. Branch could fit in nicely with the Steelers defense in either spot.
The Jets have been rotating through a number of safeties over the last couple of years after moving on from Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. They could use a playmaker in that mold and Branch might just be the answer.
Sydney Brown, S Illinois
Ideal Landing Spot: Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams
Brown is an interesting prospect. He could go in the second round or not until the fourth round in the NFL Draft. But regardless of draft capital, Brown has a shot to contribute right away in the secondary wherever he lands. He was part of an Illinois secondary that was among the nation’s best.
Brown put on a show at the NFL Combine, running a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at 5-10, 211 pounds, with a 40-inch vertical and a broad jump of 10-10. He showed he is a better athlete than previously thought by scouts. In his senior season he had 56 tackles, 15 assists with five pass breakups, and six interceptions, while surrendering an incredibly low quarterback rating (47.8) when targeted.
He excels when playing near the line of scrimmage. He can play man and zone coverage, but he is at his best in zone where he can read and react to make impact plays.
At strong safety, the Colts have Nick Cross, who they drafted in the third round out of Maryland last season. He was thought to be the starter going into the season, but long-time veteran Rodney McCleod had a resurgent season and held the starting job all year, but was let go after the season. Brown could immediately compete with Cross for the starting spot at strong safety.
As mentioned earlier, the Steelers need a strong safety and if they decide to wait to address the position, Brown could be their guy. He would slide in nicely next to Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary.
The Rams need all kinds of help. Where they decide to focus on first is anyone’s guess, but the secondary might be a nice spot. They are in rebuilding mode after cutting or trading many of their veteran defensive players. Brown would be a nice addition to the backend of their defense.
Devon Witherspoon, CB Illinois
Ideal Landing Spot: Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles
Witherspoon absolutely dominated as a shutdown corner in Champaign this past season. Many scouts have called him the best pure corner in the draft. He is expected to be an early first-round selection. He has multiple opportunities to go in the top ten and it would be shocking if he fell out of the top 20.
Witherspoon is a tough gritty cornerback, who gets in receivers’ faces, plays physical, and isn’t afraid to come up and hit someone in the running game. While typical shutdown corners are usually a wasteland in fantasy football, it is hard to avoid one side of the field these days, especially when it is a rookie manning the outside. Ahmad Gardner showed us last year that you can be a shutdown corner and still make plays that can score you points in fantasy.
The Lions need help all over the secondary and Witherspoon would step right into the starting lineup. Witherspoon could also join former Illini player Nate Hobbs in the Raiders secondary. In the pass-happy AFC West, you can’t have enough defensive backs.
The Eagles love their lockdown corners, and Witherspoon just has that Philly toughness about him that I could see the coaching staff falling in love with.
Christian Gonzalez, CB Oregon
Ideal Landing Spot: Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles
Much like Witherspoon, Gonzalez is a physical and athletic corner. He has the prototypical size that NFL coaches covet but is rarely seen at cornerback. At 6-1, 197 pounds with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash time and a 41.5-inch vertical, he is an elite athlete. Gonzalez has fluid hips and can spin in and out of breaks in coverage and then turn on his elite top-end speed to recover if necessary.
Many of the teams looking at Witherspoon will also be considering Gonzalez. He just feels like the type of player the Raiders go after in drafts. Tall and rangy, I could see the Raiders jumping all over Gonzalez at pick number seven in the first round.
If Gonzalez makes it past the Raiders, the Eagles might be ready to snatch him up with either of their two first-round picks. They might have to take him at pick 10, because it is very unlikely he will be there at pick 30.
Kelee Ringo, CB Georgia
Ideal Landing Spot: Washington Commanders, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots
Ringo was the star of the 2021 National Championship Game as the redshirt freshman had the game-clinching interception to give the Georgia Bulldogs their first national title since 1980. He again helped lead Georgia to National Championship in 2022, but he had a much more rocky season. The ups and downs aside, Ringo has high upside with good playmaking ability. The question is whether he stays at cornerback in the NFL or if he moves to more of a nickel back or safety role.
The Commanders need secondary help and the middle of the first round might just be the spot to grab Ringo or they can wait and see if he drops to the second round. If he does make it to the second round, the hometown Falcons could be apt to grab him.
The Patriots rarely use early draft picks on the secondary, but they took Devin McCourty in the first round and converted him from cornerback to safety, as he went on to have a stellar career for New England.
Joey Porter Jr, CB Penn State
Ideal Landing Spot: Washington Commanders, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants
Porter is best known for being the son of former Steelers great, linebacker Joey Porter Sr. I’m sure both Porters would love to see him in the Black and Yellow of the Steelers with pick number 17, but he might not get by the Commanders at pick number 16. Porter has great size at 6-2, 193 pounds with 4.46 speed. Washington could use a shutdown corner and Porter has that potential. They need some aggressive players in the secondary to help complement their excellent pass rush, and Porter could be the answer.
The Giants could also use an upgrade in the secondary and would love to see Porter drop to them at pick number 25 of the first round. He could help an already improving defensive unit that needs help covering WR1s on the outside.
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