The cornerback and defensive back class for the draft of 2018 is loaded with talent and will produce several immediate starters. Several safeties should be DB1s right from their first snap as well and will be an asset to your fantasy team day one. Several cornerbacks should also produce right away in leagues that require cornerback starters.
If you are new to IDP- most leagues require several DBs and typically safeties, strong safeties, are the IDP assets you want because of higher upside regarding tackles in particular. In ‘big play’ scoring, the ball hawking cornerbacks can have value because of the importance and scoring of an interception. The cornerbacks that get the tackles have considerable value as well, those cornerbacks are usually the CB2 on their own team as they get thrown at more and tackle opportunities are more prominent.
The Studs- DB1s
Derwin James, Safety, Florida State
Derwin James is one of the best safety prospects of the past few seasons and that says a lot as Landon Collins and Keanu Neal have come from the past few drafts. Derwin plays intimidating and physical, not afraid of contact and blitzing, and can also cover. He should step on the field and be a strong safety starter immediately. There are not many holes in his game, at times he lets plays come to him and his anticipation isn’t top notch yet. As a freshman in Tallahassee Derwin raked in 91 tackles and it’s likely that similar production in the NFL will come to the talented DB.
Justin Reid, Safety, Stanford
Justin Reid impressed his junior season at Stanford, tallying 94 total tackles and 5 interceptions, following it up with a stellar showing at the combine. Justin excelled in pass coverage and run support, plays smart and under control, and is a sound tackler that seeks contact. Justin has great athletic ability and shows little weakness, and will likely be a strong safety that racks up tackles in the NFL. He should be a late day 1 or early day 2 pick and be a starter from the first game and on.
The Starters- DB1/DB2s
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama
Minkah played a key role in a dominant defense for Nick Saban at Tuscaloosa, Minkah will likely be an early round 1 pick on April 26. He has a game that translates more as a free safety, and will be a much better NFL player than an IDP asset. Minkah showed tremendous leadership as the defensive captain at ‘Bama and has a nose for the ball as well as ability to blitz. He could also be used to cover the slot receiver, he has raw speed and is one of the best cover safeties in the draft. Minkah will likely notch similar production in the NFL as at the college level, notching 60-70 tackles a season as well as a few INTs.
Ronnie Harrison, Safety, Alabama
Ronnie Harrison would likely be in round 1 talk but the safety class this draft is deep and he is often overshadowed by his teammate listed above. Ronnie is a great run defender and projects to be a strong safety in the NFL, his coverage skills were good but not as great as others in the class. He definitely fits the mold of the middle of the field strong safety that can come up and smack a running back and almost a hybrid safety/middle linebacker that is becoming more common. Ronnie will likely start early in his career and settle into a role that produces in the range of 75 tackles with several forced turnovers as well.
Terrell Edmunds, Safety, Virginia Tech
Terrell tested with similarly impressive results at the combine as top prospect Derwin James but definitely is a raw player that has shown impressively at times at the college level. He is overshadowed by his brother, one of the top LB prospects, but has made a name for himself this season. He is physical and has the athletic ability to cover from the safety position but his biggest weakness has come from cover issues. Terrell is diverse and will need some time finding his defined role- he could be a strong safety initially that also can play free safety and slot cornerback with some work on technique. He is a young prospect that will likely not be an IDP asset year one but one to definitely keep on your radar in subsequent years.
More Starters DB2/DB3s
Deshon Elliott, Safety, Texas
Deshon was an All-American safety and put together an impressive junior season, snaring 6 interceptions with 2 returned for TDs, forcing 3 fumbles, and wrapping up 63 tackles. The reason I have him this low on the list is he will likely be a free safety in the NFL and lacks cover skills to be able to cover at the NFL level. Deshon figures to play the ‘centerfield’ role and occasionally come up to pressure the QB at times. Deshon had an unimpressive showing at the combine, lacking the upper level speed and agility displayed by others in the class. Nevertheless, his nose for the ball should secure him a late Day 2 pick and a role in the NFL possibly early in his career.
Jessie Bates, Safety, Wake Forest
Jessie will make his mark and earn playing time early based on his coverage skills, he will be an effective free safety and has the possibility to develop into a solid DB2 with work on his weaknesses. Jessie tallied 100 tackles in 2016 and 77 in 2017 but one of his weaknesses that shows on tape is tackling. He isn’t the most physical tackler and can often take poor angles and miss on tackles that lead to big plays. But his raw ability and cover skills have him in round 2 or 3 consideration and the ability could lead him to developing into a very solid safety over his first few seasons in the NFL.
Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State
Denzel is the top cornerback in the draft and should be drafted in IDP leagues that require cornerbacks as well as a DB3 type in leagues that only have DB designations. Denzel has sick cover skills and will be a great cornerback in the league. That being said, typically rookie cornerbacks have a little learning curve to overcome and he will be tested in his first few seasons as he grasps the NFL game. This should lead to tackle opportunities as well as pass deflections and a few interceptions to boot. Denzel is a fun player to watch and likely one of the next great corners in the NFL.
Dane Cruikshank, Safety, Arizona
Dane converted to safety from cornerback his senior season at Arizona and displayed ability that could translate into being a good strong safety in the NFL. He tested at the combine with the cornerbacks and absolutely destroyed the combine- testing near the top in every category. His raw ability is tantalizing, he is a big hitter that excelled in the box in his one season as a safety and could definitely fill the hybrid middle of the field position but will likely have some growing pains. Dane is a player that I was impressed with and could see being a factor in the NFL with some coaching and more time to learn the safety position well.