While it may be a little early for some of you to start thinking about fantasy football since you’re still in baseball-mode, I would advise those of you in this category to reconsider. I strongly believe that it’s never too early to do research on the upcoming stars in the NFL. I would rather be a step ahead of my league mates, not a step behind. This year, I was given the tough task of doing MLFS rankings for cornerbacks and safeties. But for now, I want to give you some inside information on a few rookies that will make an immediate impact for their respective teams in the secondary (one in particular that you shouldn’t sleep on). Keep in mind that rookie safeties and cornerbacks usually take time to develop so most of them aren’t worth drafting in IDP leagues coming into the NFL. But, for every rule there is an exception. So without further adieu, here are some names that I guarantee will be making some noise this year in IDP leagues.
Landon Collins, Safety, New York Giants
The Giants got a steal in the second round when they selected Landon Collins from Alabama. Collins landing in New York was a dream come true for the Giants. It’s all about team needs and opportunity, and the Giants desperately needed playmakers in their secondary. They got arguably the best in-the-box safety in the draft, so kudos to them! When you invest an early pick in a rookie safety or cornerback, you better be sure he’s going to make an immediate impact or it’s going to be a wasted pick. Collins will be a starter from day one with zero competition and will have every opportunity to showcase his amazing skill set. Ironically enough is the fact that the only rookie safety to finish in the top 50 in scoring for the position last year was Collins former teammate Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Collins is following his in footsteps and I expect a very similar season from Collins, if not better. It’s time to add another no-nonsense, well-coached Nick Saban pupil to the long list of Bama success stories in the NFL.
Landon Collins has excellent size for his position at 6’0″, 228 lbs, and 31.5″ arms. He excels at run defense, which is where he will make his name in the NFL and IDP leagues. Landon is excellent in rocketing to the ball carrier and wrapping up as evidenced by his team-leading 103 tackles last year at Bama. This guy plays with a high motor at all times and isn’t afraid to lay the lumber on his opposition. He moves well in coverage and shows fluid hips while specializing in zone coverage. Collins is as versatile as they come, having played both safety positions in college. He has disciplined eyes and isn’t easily moved around the field by opposing quarterbacks. When the ball is in the air, he tracks it well and uses his great instincts to time his jumps perfectly. Collins displays the aggressiveness and work ethic to thrive at the next level. The bottom line is that he’s going to be a tackle machine and should flirt with 100 tackles and 4-5 interceptions on an annual basis. It helps that he’ll be playing in the NFC East and will go up against gunslingers like Tony Romo. Collins will have the opportunity to make a name for himself, but more importantly be given plenty of chances to make big plays.
Trae Waynes, Cornerback, Minnesota Vikings
While I typically don’t advocate drafting rookie cornerbacks, Trae Waynes is the exception to the rule. Mike Zimmer knows a thing or two about drafting defensive backs and he convinced the Vikings brass to use the 11th overall selection in the 2015 Draft on Waynes. Mike Zimmer is a defensive mastermind and wanted to make sure they got the best cornerback in the draft. Conventional wisdom says that you don’t spend a 1st round pick on a player unless he’s going to play a prominent role from day one. He’ll join a secondary that includes former first-rounders in cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith. Waynes was well-coached at Michigan State, which should allow him to hit the ground running in Zimmer’s aggressive defense scheme. He’s got track speed and ran a blazing 4.31 40 yard dash at the combine, which led all defensive backs and was the second fastest time for all position players. Waynes is a bump-and-run cornerback with the length, deep speed and the confidence to handle himself down the field against NFL caliber speed demons. On a side note, Waynes is best friends and a former teammate of Melvin Gordon. They played together and bonded at Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin were he also ran track and played baseball. Simply put, this kid is an athlete driven to succeed with zero character concerns.
Trae Waynes loves to compete in man-to-man coverage and is mentally tough. He’s capable of playing on an island without any restrictions (think “Revis Island”). Last year, he had three interceptions, eight pass breakups, and 46 tackles. Waynes allowed a microscopic two touchdowns over his last two seasons. Waynes also has excellent recovery speed to make up for separation and disrupts routes routinely. He has the ability to maintain a feel for vertical threats while using his frame to pin wideouts against the sideline. Waynes possesses the acceleration and length to contest any throw on the field. He plays like a raging bull in heat driving forward with burst, running through targets, and jarring balls loose. Waynes has smooth hips, excellent ball skills, and is technically sound at everything he does on the field with the exception of being too grabby from time to time. He does a great job playing the ball at the point of attack and is especially good at disrupting plays on 50/50 balls. He has the size to be a press coverage cornerback and has a ton of potential. Add it all up, and you have a lock down corner at the next level after he fully develops and matures. Waynes reminds me of a young Joe Haden and might possibly be even better with Zimmer’s coaching and guidance. If you have the chance to own the next Joe Haden, you better take full advantage of the opportunity. Make the smart investment and buy some shares of Trey Waynes in your IDP league.
Super Sleeper Alert!
Jaquiski Tartt, Safety, San Francisco 49ers
For my top sleeper pick in this year’s draft class, I didn’t have to think long or hard. For me, it was an easy decision selecting Jaquiski Tartt, former red-shirt senior at Samford and 3-time All-American. Tartt is the true definition of a sleeper and a name that’s still flying under the radar in IDP circles, but not for much longer. Jaquiski Tartt wasn’t a name brought up in the same conversation with the likes of his standout draft counterparts at his position, Landon Collins and Damarious Randall. I think the main reason for that was because he was a small-school prospect who had only played one year of high school football. While at Samford, he lit up the FCS level with his monster frame and very aggressive nature. Watching him on tape, I was amazed at how quickly he flies to the football, drops to pad level, and then lowers the boom on his opposition. Tartt is a ball-hawk who takes solid angles in run support while not being afraid to mix it up. He was relatively unknown going into the Senior Bowl. That quickly changed while in Mobile, Tartt put on a clinic and turned lots of heads. He was routinely winning the edge against tight ends and beating running backs in protection during one-on-one pass rush drills. Tartt displayed good discipline as an underneath safety and a quick burst to close the space to the ball. He’s a heavy hitter who steamrolls ball-carriers. Tartt is also very versatile having played both strong safety and free safety making him a defensive coordinator’s dream come true. Tartt is a safety that hits like a “Will” linebacker.
Overall, Tartt is well-built with impressive size at 6’1″, 221 lbs, and 32.375″ arms. He gets downhill quickly from high safety with his 4.53 speed to help out in run support. Tartt plays clean, but at the same time is a thumper who is able to harness his violent nature on the field. He takes good angles to ball carriers and is an aggressive tackler. Tartt is a fierce competitor who uses his great football instincts to diagnose plays quickly. He has the length, athletic ability, and ball skills to develop into one of the premier safeties in the NFL. While somewhat raw, he has a great tutor in veteran Antoine Bethea, not to mention defensive whiz Eric Mangini in San Francisco. Let me remind everyone that Mangini was the New England Patriots’ defensive back coach from 2000 to 2004 before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2005. Tartt fits Mangini’s defensive scheme and even though he joins a crowed secondary in San Francisco, he instantly becomes the most talented safety of the bunch. He’s every bit as talented as Landon Collins and arguably better at coverage. As far as comparisons go, I think he can become the next Kam Chancellor under Mangini’s watch. I know that’s a tall order, but I truly believe once he gets up to speed with Mangini’s defense he’s going to be hard to keep off the field. And once he does get on the field, he will show why he was the #1 safety on Mangini’s draft board this year. The best part about drafting Tartt in IDP leagues is that you can get him very late and at a major discount compared to what Landon Collins will cost.
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