McCourty’s transformation from cornerback to safety turned out to be a boon for all parties — save for us fantasy players. For the Patriots, McCourty was one of the best safeties in the league and was an instrumental part of their 2014 Super Bowl squad. For McCourty, it helped land him the monster contract.
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In terms of benefiting fantasy players, McCourty actually had more value as a cornerback. Defensive backs are a tricky bunch when it comes to IDP leagues, as on-field skills don’t always correlate to fantasy success. That’s the case with McCourty.
He was the 70th highest-scoring defensive back in tackle-heavy IDP leagues last year. Among defensive backs that predominantly played safety, McCourty ranked 46th.
In other words, despite being one of the best safeties in the NFL, McCourty is only a spot starter in fantasy leagues. This was true in both 2014 and 2013, the first year McCourty tried his hand at safety. In 2012, as a cornerback, McCourty was actually a top three IDP player at the position.
Unfortunately for fantasy players, there’s nothing to suggest McCourty will revert back to playing corner. He’s had huge success in the NFL as a safety. He was PFF’s top graded safety in 2013 and the eighth best in 2014. Plus, why would Bill Belichick do anything to intentionally help your fantasy team?
The Eagles, Giants, Jaguars and Titans were all reportedly in the running for McCourty. All eight safeties that played for those teams last year scored more points than McCourty, so logic suggests McCourty would have seen at least a slight fantasy boost had he landed on one of those teams. It’s a moot point now, however.
McCourty’s signing was one of the most important in terms of actual football, but it doesn’t mean much from the fantasy perspective. By landing back in New England, we can expect more of the same.
If we are looking for a silver lining, one could argue that McCourty is still young and Belichick’s defense may evolve in such a way that puts McCourty in position to make more tackles or interceptions. Such an evolution is not completely out of the question.
For example, at press time, the Patriots had yet to re-sign cornerback Darrelle Revis and had asked cornerback Brandon Browner to restructure his contract, giving him the freedom to explore his value on the market in the process. If either Revis or Browner leave New England, it’s unlikely to have a material impact on McCourty’s fantasy value. However, if both cornerbacks leave the Patriots, it may cause an immediate change in the way New England approaches defensive game plans, which could lead to a change in McCourty’s role.
We’ll keep you updated if such a situation arises, but for now, don’t get swept up by McCourty’s big name.