We previously covered this year’s linebackers and edge rushers. That leaves three other positions: interior line, cornerback and safety.
There were a lot of talented players at those positions in this year’s draft. I have listed a majority of those players taken in rounds one, two and three. These positions are always a little bit of a gamble of who will be consistently relevant in fantasy.
Inside linebacker is a prime position for IDP scoring, but this draft was light on those players. Defensive tackle is a tough spot to find players who are stable producers, but there are a few possible studs in this class. Defensive back is notoriously fickle from year to year, so be cautious.
I would expect some really good seasons from this group throughout their careers, but there isn’t a lot of instant top-end IDP talent. That does not mean none of these players are or will be fantasy-relevant in the future, it just might take a season or two for them to post the kind of statistics that vault them into your lineup.
TIER ONE – INSTANT HEROES
There isn’t anyone from this year’s draft who falls into this category.
TIER TWO – IN THE MIX
Jalen Carter, DT PHI
I really wanted to put Carter in Tier One, as he is arguably the best defensive player in this draft, and he plays a difficult position to fill for fantasy purposes. Carter’s off-the-field issues, along with character concerns and a lack of effort, moved him down the draft board from the potential top pick to ninth overall. But good fortune landed him in a nice situation in Philadelphia, where Javon Hargrave left in the off-season for San Francisco. Carter should be a dominant presence in the middle of one of the league’s best defenses if he can just pull it all together and realize his potential.
Calijah Kancey, DT TB
Kancey is the second-best defensive tackle in this draft class and thus was selected 19th overall. He is a player I debated putting in Tier One along with Carter. He has a solid chance to be on the short list of productive interior rushers. He led all interior linemen in FCS with 7.5 sacks last season at Pittsburgh. Getting paired upfront with a run stuffer like Vita Vea should free up Kancey to penetrate upfield on the interior. He has double-digit sack potential.
Brian Branch, S DET
Branch, who was rated as the top safety in this draft class, can play all over the field. He can play deep safety, line up in the box against the run, pass rush, or play nickel corner. His versatility should be a positive for the Lions and a big reason they took him in the second round. Branch has the ability to be an early-impact IDP player.
Sydney Brown, S PHI
Brown had an outstanding career at Illinois and then lit up the Scouting Combine to prove his athleticism. He fits perfectly in the Eagles’ secondary and should get a chance to win a starting safety spot. The third-round draft pick was a ball hawk with six interceptions last season and had over 60 tackles in four out of his five seasons with the Illini.
TIER THREE – GAMBLES
Bryan Bresee, DT NO
Bresee is a dominant inside presence at 6-6, 298 lbs. He can stack blockers in the running game but needs to improve his pass-rushing skills to be playable in most formats. If he does that, he can become a huge IDP asset in leagues that start DT.
Devon Witherspoon, CB SEA
The fifth-overall pick of the draft and first defensive back selected, Witherspoon is a gritty, hard-nosed player who will come up and make tackles in the run game and is also great at playing the ball when it is in the air. With Tariq Woolen – who had a fantastic rookie season – on the other side of the field, it will be interesting how often teams challenge Witherspoon during his rookie season.
Emmanuel Forbes, CB WAS
Forbes might be the ultimate gamble in IDP at cornerback. He has a skinny frame, 6-1, 166 pounds, but is a superb playmaker. He had 14 interceptions in college and had an NCAA record six pick-sixes. He is all boom or bust.
Christian Gonzalez, CB NE
Gonzalez, the Patriots’ first-round pick, might be the best cover corner in the entire draft, but as we know, being a shutdown corner doesn’t always translate into fantasy success.
Deonte Banks, CB NYG
The Giants’ first-round selection has a chance to come in and be CB1 from the beginning. If that happens, he should see a lot of action going against some of the top wide receivers in the league as the NFC East is loaded with top-end WR talent.
Joey Porter Jr, CB PIT
The Steelers have been searching for years for a top-flight cornerback. They are hoping Porter becomes that guy. Grabbing him with the first pick of the second round shows you what they think about him. Pittsburgh have a bunch of IDP studs on their defense. Is there any room for Porter to join that group? Only time will tell.
Jartavius Martin, S WAS
Martin was a second-round pick who played the Star Nickel position for the Illini and is expected to be a nickel back/deep safety at the pro level. He moved up in the draft thanks to a good showing at the combine, running a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, with a 44-inch vertical and 11’1’’ broad jump. He is fluid in his hips and swivels well to turn and run with receivers. The Commanders need help in the secondary and Martin should get a chance to prove himself.
Jordan Battle, S CIN
With the departures of Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates, there was a glaring hole in the secondary for the Bengals, so they selected the Alabama product in the third round. Battle should get every opportunity to see some playing time early on, but whether he will win a starting safety spot is still to be determined. His ability to close in coverage and wrap up while making tackles could turn him into a productive fantasy asset.
TIER FOUR – LONG SHOTS
Mazi Smith, DT DAL
The Cowboys’ first-round pick is a tough physical inside force, but he is more of a run stuffer than anything else. If he can chalk up some tackles and figure out how to put together a decent pass rush, he could be fantasy relevant. Currently, he is the definition of a long shot for fantasy production.
Julius Brents, CB IND
The second-round pick is a tall press-zone corner who uses his 6-3 length to his advantage. He didn’t create a lot of turnovers in college and that might be his downfall as an IDP producer.
Keeanu Benton, DT PIT
Benton, one of the Steelers second-round picks, is most likely going to play nose tackle. If that is the case, there is no need to draft him. But if he eventually replaces Cam Heyward at defensive tackle when his career is through, Benton could be an interesting pickup.
Cam Smith, CB MIA
Smith has a ton of ability and is probably the future starter on the outside for the Dolphins. They liked him enough to take him in the second round (their first pick in the draft), but he is currently stuck in a logjam in the secondary. He is behind Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey, but they are both on the backsides of their respective careers. It might take a bit for Smith to make an impact, but he could be worth the wait.
Gervon Dexter, DT CHI
The Bears’ second-round draft pick is big at 6-6, 310 pounds. He can hold his ground against double teams and is more disruptive as a pass rusher than his college stats show. If he can get those numbers up, he might be a sneaky fantasy pickup.
DJ Turner, CB CIN
The Michigan product ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine (4.26 seconds). He enters a situation in Cincinnati where the cornerback play was less than optimal. Turner has a chance to play right away, and with the Bengals’ tough schedule filled with pass-happy teams, he could be tested early and often.
Garrett Williams, CB ARI
Williams was a potential first-round pick who slipped to the third round because of an ACL injury last year at Syracuse. The Cardinals’ secondary is bad and should be challenged often in 2023. If Williams recovers and starts for Arizona, he could see a lot of action from opposing teams.
Marte Mapu, S NE
Mapu is a tweener from Sacramento State. The third-round pick was listed as a linebacker in college, but at 6-3, 217 pounds, he might be more of a nickel back or strong safety at the Pro level. Mapu’s biggest strengths are his pass coverage skills against TEs and RBs. It is unlikely that he plays more than special teams early on, but the Patriots have done a good job of developing small school players.
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