Jamal Adams and Jimmie Ward are among the many defensive backs who are safeties in name only. They roam around the field from play to play, whether it be at slot cornerback, along the line of scrimmage or deep downfield.
They epitomize the variance of the defensive back position, which offers plenty of options for IDP leagues. But understanding how each player is used within their defense is what separates the best from the rest in fantasy football.
These tiers will give you a clearer picture of the high-tackle box safety types versus the more big-play-reliant deep safety types. The defensive back tiers also include the volatile cornerback position to get a better understanding of how to value those players among a plethora of safeties.
|6||Jessie Bates III||CIN|
|12||John Johnson III||CLV|
|16||Antoine Winfield Jr.||TB|
|41||Kenny Moore II||IND|
|48||Tashaun Gipson Sr.||CHI|
TIER 1: STAT SHEET STUFFERS
Whether it’s tackles, sacks or coming up with big plays, this group can do it all.
Jamal Adams leads Tier 1 as the prototype for what IDP gamers want out of a fantasy football safety. No defensive back has played more snaps in the box over the past three seasons than Adams. This has allowed him to be in the middle of the action on virtually every play, and it shows in his tackle numbers. Despite having missed six games over the past three seasons, Adams is still among the top five defensive backs in the league in total tackles since 2018 (281).
Where Adams truly separates himself from most NFL safeties, though, is as a blitzer. Since entering the league in 2017, no defensive back has been utilized as a pass rusher more than Adams — and it’s not close. He has played 358 pass-rush attempts in his career, which is nearly 100 more than the next closest defensive back. This has led to Adams racking up 21.5 sacks in his NFL career, which is also far and away the most among defensive backs over the past four seasons — with the next closest defensive back at 9.5 sacks. In big-play or tackle-heavy leagues, Adams’ production will always put him in the conversation for the overall DB1 in any given week.
Adams is just one of the production machines in this top tier of defensive backs. Baker, Poyer and Bates have consistently filled the stat sheets over the past three seasons, as well. They are the top three tackle leaders over the past three seasons at the defensive back position. Strong tackle numbers increase the level of stability in player performance week to week, creating a “set and forget” mode for these names in fantasy football.
Each player then brings additional value to their weekly production by being a big-play threat. Poyer and Baker have some sack and tackle-for-loss upside, while Bates is constantly breaking up passes or coming up with an interception. Bates is the only player in this tier who does not fit the ideal IDP safety mold, as he plays the majority of his snaps in a deep alignment. However, he has such great range and tackling ability that he earns his spot among the elite.
Have a look at how many top-10 ranks Baker, Poyer and Bates have in key IDP categories over the past three seasons.
|Safeties (since 2018)||Total Tackles||Sacks||Tackles for loss||Pass breakups||INTs|
|Budda Baker||365 (1st)||4.5 (T-6th)||34 (2nd)||11||2|
|Jordan Poyer||323 (2nd)||5 (T-3rd)||23 (4th)||2||8 (T-10th)|
|Jessie Bates||302 (3rd)||0||4||22 (1st)||9 (T-6th)|
Chinn made a name for himself as a versatile playmaker in his rookie 2020 season, coming up with 118 total tackles (tied for second among safeties) while playing all over the field in Carolina’s defense. The majority of his snaps came in the box, which helped his tackle numbers significantly. And if he continues to work on making big plays, then he’ll continue to be drafted as a top option at his position for years to come.
Derwin James stands out in this list as a name that IDP gamers have seen for only about one season (2018) thanks to injuries, but it was an elite rookie campaign. Versatility, tackling and sacks have all been common themes for this top tier, and no player exemplifies that more than James, when healthy. He is primed to bounce back this coming season to reestablish himself as a top IDP option.
|Derwin James||Tackles||Tackles for loss||Sacks||Pass breakups||Pressures|
|2018 season||102 (5th)||6 (T-7th)||3.5 (T-1st)||6 (T-5th)||19 (2nd)|
TIER 2: SAFE SAFETIES
VONN BELL, CINCINNATI BENGALS
JABRILL PEPPERS, NEW YORK GIANTS
KEANU NEAL, DALLAS COWBOYS
LANDON COLLINS, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
KEVIN BYARD, TENNESSEE TITANS
JOHN JOHNSON III, CLEVELAND BROWNS
MALCOLM JENKINS, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
JUSTIN SIMMONS, DENVER BRONCOS
ADRIAN AMOS, GREEN BAY PACKERS
ANTOINE WINFIELD JR., TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
XAVIER MCKINNEY, NEW YORK GIANTS
JOHNATHAN ABRAM, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
TRACY WALKER, DETROIT LIONS
ADRIAN PHILLIPS, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
KHARI WILLIS, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
JORDAN WHITEHEAD, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
HARRISON SMITH, MINNESOTA VIKINGS
DANIEL SORENSEN, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Plenty of safeties can serve as startable IDPs week to week, with this crop being the best of the rest outside of the top tier. Most players in this group have established themselves as top-tier tacklers over the past two seasons. Specifically, Bell, Byard, Simmons, Walker, Jenkins, Amos and Smith round out the top 10 safeties in total tackles since 2019.