I hope everyone enjoyed some fireworks on Independence Day weekend. In my neighborhood, the fireworks start early in July and normally last through the second week or third week of the month. Speaking of fireworks, most dogs are terrified of them. Not this Mad Dog, I absolutely love them! I had a nice holiday break and I’m back at it this week with my safety rankings (part one of three). It is my intention to give you the 50 best safeties that will help you win a championship in your IDP leagues. The safety position is where you will find some of the best athletes and highest scoring players in IDP leagues. Another tip for my readers is that if your league doesn’t require you to start anyone at cornerback, load up on safeties and don’t waste your time drafting any cornerbacks. To put this into perspective, if I was to rank strictly defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties) together the top 20 players would be safeties. Regardless of your IDP league setup, you’re going to want to do your homework before your draft.
34. Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles
The former Ohio State Buckeye has been steady Eddie for past six years, five with the Saints and now heading into his second year with the Eagles. Jenkins is far from spectacular, but has next to no competition at strong safety in Philly. He is versatile and capable of playing both safety positions, slot corner and even outside corner in a pinch. Jenkins registered 80 tackles, three interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 15 passes defended last year. In MLFS leagues, he is very valuable since he’s able to defend so many passes and he has the ability to take one back to the house with three career interceptions returned for touchdowns. Simply put, he’s a safe pick who pretty much does it all and is durable having played at least 13 games every year since 2009
35. Dashon Goldson, Washington Redskins
The Redskins acquired free safety Dashon Golson from the Bucs for next to nothing in the off-season; giving up just a 2016 sixth-round pick. Goldson has been a massive bust since signing a five-year, $41.25 million dollar contract, that included $22million guaranteed prior to the 2013 season. The Redskins were so desperate for safety help that they were willing to take a $8 million dollar cap hit. Goldson is the favorite to start next to new strong safety Jeron Johnson. Goldson has shown the ability to rack up the tackles in the past and registered a career-high six interceptions with the 49ers in 2011. The ability is there and so is the opportunity, but it remains to be seen if he’ll ever live up to the massive contract he was awarded prior to the 2013 season. He’s a risky pick, but one that could pay off for the Redskins and for his fantasy owners.
36. Ron Parker, Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs were able to re-sign Ron Parker to a five year $25million contract. It was surprising that he got such a big contract with only one big season under his belt. Parker will slot in as a starting free safety opposite the newly signed Tyvon Branch and could help at corner in sub packages. Head Coach Andy Reid has confirmed that Parker will remain a safety first in 2015. He does offer versatility, having played both cornerback and safety positions in the past. It remains to be seen if he was a one-hit wonder or if he’s capable of putting up another season like he did last year.
37. D.J. Swearinger, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I was shocked to see that Swearinger was released from the Texans, it sounds like he didn’t get along well with head coach Bill O’Brien. Rumor has it that he refused to play special teams, which led to his release. Out of 8 teams that put in a waiver for him, the Buccaneers were awarded the claim for Swearinger. It’s odd because he doesn’t really fit the scheme and could end up back on the streets if he doesn’t up his play and learn to adhere to Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 system. If he does catch on quickly, he’ll offer an immediate upgrade to a secondary that was one of the worst in the league last year. Considering he only has to beat out Bradley McDougald at strong safety, he has a legit chance at earning a starting job in Tampa Bay.
38. Aaron Williams, Buffalo Bills
Aaron Williams is Rex Ryan’s starting free safety and is locked in at that position with no competition for snaps. He has been very consistent over the past two season, averaging 79 tackles, two interceptions, and eight passes defended. He’s still young at 25 and with Rex Ryan coaching him up, he has room to improve. Williams is athletic, very instinctive, quick, and possesses great leaping ability. Above all, he has a high football IQ that seems to keep him around the football at all times.
39. Shamarko Thomas, Pittsburg Steelers
Shamarko Thomas has been an early stand-out in Steelers’ OTAs. Reports suggest that he’s been active to the ball and showing good range. This is Thomas’ fourth year as a Pro and it sounds like he might finally be a difference maker for the Steelers’ defense after only limited action early in his career. He’s currently battling Mike Mitchell and Will Allen to start camp. This is another very interesting position battle to monitor because if Thomas earns a starting role, he can be very serviceable for his owners and be had for next to nothing. He’s a name to watch closely and be ready to jump on assuming he earns a starting role.
40. Glover Quinn, Detroit Lions
Glover Quinn set a career high with a league-high seven interceptions last year and registered 73 tackles along with ten passes defended. He was quietly one of the more valuable safeties to own in IDP leagues. Quinn is underrated in fantasy circles, but shouldn’t be for much longer. He’s an excellent target late in the draft if you decide to wait to draft a safety. I recently drafted him in the 27th round of a 16-team Dynasty Football Warehouse expert league. Don’t make the same mistake and sleep on this guy because there is value to be had in Quinn given his current ADP. It helps that he plays in the NFC North and plays two games a year versus Teddy Bridgewater, gun-slingerJay Cutler, and Aaron Rodgers.
41. Duke Williams, Buffalo Bills
We talk about talent and opportunity all the time when it comes to players breaking-out. Duke Williams is in-line for increased snaps with Da’Norris Searcy no longer in Buffalo. While it’s still early Williams is expected to replace Searcy in base sets but the possibility exists for him to lock down an every-down role at strong safety. Williams strength is defending the run, but he has been a liability in coverage in the past. There is a possibility that Corey Graham could move to safety shifting Williams back to a part time role. This is a situation to monitor, but it seems that Rex Ryan is comfortable with Williams starting at strong safety.
42. Devin McCourty, New England Patriots
The Super Bowl champs had a tough decision to make in the off-season in regards to their secondary. They were forced to choose between re-signing Darrelle Revis or Devin McCourty and chose the latter. McCourty is still only 27 and has been one of the league’s most dominant center-field safeties since converting from cornerback. He has eight interceptions and five forced fumbles over the past three seasons. McCourty patrols the deep middle, is an above-average tackler, and can cover man to man when needed. Most importantly for the Patriots, he’s a team leader and excellent locker room presence. You really can’t put a price on what he brings to the team and he’s the quarterback of the Patriots defense.
43. Rahim Moore, Houston Texans
I highlighted Rahim Moore in my last article and surprise, surprise he cracked my top 50! He’s coming off a career year in 2014 with the Denver Broncos in which he registered 49 tackles, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles. His breakout season led to a big payday this offseason with the Houston Texans. He’ll add depth to a strong secondary that includes Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. Moore is a liability stopping the run, but makes up for it with his plus coverage skills and top-notch ball skills. Proof of that is his ability to create turnovers with eight interceptions and two forced fumbles in four years. At age 25, and with 48 starts under his belt, the arrow is pointing up for Moore and he should be a solid option for his owners.
44. Mark Barron, St. Louis Rams
Mark Barron is another former Crimson Tide alum who is still young and uber talented. The Bucs were high on Barron selecting him with the seventh overall pick draft pick in 2012. He was very productive in his first two years in Tampa Bay averaging 88 tackles. Last year Barron quickly fell out of favor with Lovie Smith and the new coaching regime. He was sent packing after seven games to St. Louis where he started the last nine games of the season. Barron was essentially used in a sub-package linebacker role for the Rams. My gut says he gets an opportunity and seizes it since he’s in a contract year and is playing for his next payday.
45. J.J. Wilcox, Dallas Cowboys
J.J. Wilcox had a solid second year as a pro registering 74 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, and three interceptions. Those are pretty solid numbers for a player who converted from receiver to slotback and then to safety during his senior year in college at Georgia Southern. Wilcox plays strong safety while getting help from All-Pro free safety Barry Church. Make no mistake, Wilcox is an outstanding athlete who possesses play-making ability in Dallas’ secondary. I expect him to build on last year’s performance and could provide depth on your bench for bye weeks.
46. Patrick Chung, New England Patriots
In 2014, Chung started 15 games recording 85 tackles, seven pass breakups, and one interception. Believe it or not he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ number twelve overall safety, finishing third against the run. While Chung may not be a sexy name, he benefits from playing in a talented secondary. The Patriot’s secondary has plenty of playmakers with free safety Devin McCourty, new arrival Bradley Fletcher, and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. Chung has had a career revival under Bill Belichick’s guidance. After Chung’s bounce-back year the Patriots locked him up with a three year extension through 2017. I see no reason to believe he can’t duplicate last year’s performance. He can be drafted very late while providing consistent numbers across the board.
47. Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco 49ers
I wrote about Tartt in June and tabbed him as my favorite IDP rookie sleeper. I’m 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. Make no mistake, he’s a heavy hitter who steam-rolls ball-carriers and is fearless on the gridiron. Truth be told, he’s a safety that hits like a “Will” linebacker. Tartt is also versatile, having played both strong safety and free safety, making him a defensive coordinator’s dream come true. 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. Mangini will find it hard to keep him off the field and I’m optimistic that he will quickly earn a role and beat out a fragile Eric Reid at strong safety.
48. Kemal Ishmael, Atlanta Falcons
Kemal Ishmael was a pleasant surprise in his second year as a pro registering 98 tackles, one fumble forced, one fumble recovered, four interceptions, and six passes defended. He would be much higher in my rankings if not for the fact that he was filling in for an injured William Moore at strong safety throughout the season. Moore’s injury opened the door for Ishmael and he didn’t disappoint. This is a classic example of the next-man-up mentality in the NFL. I’m pumping the brakes on Ishmael because early reports suggest Ricardo Allen has been standing out in OTAs and appears to have the inside track on the starting free safety position. Ishmael also has to beat out veteran Charles Godfrey. Ishmael is a name to watch given what he was able to accomplish last year but if he’s not starting he’s not helping his owners.
49. Demarious Randle, Green Bay Packers
While I may be a Bears fan, it’s hard to argue with Green Bay’s success when it comes to drafting productive players and developing their draft picks. You can look at their track record and it speaks for itself. Last year, it was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. This year, they selected arguably one of the most versatile safeties in the draft class in Demarious Randle. Early reports from OTA’s indicate that Randall is most likely going to play corner for the Packers. Randall was a safety at Arizona State, but also played slot corner in the Sun Devils’ defense. During his time in Tempe, he became a big-time playmaker and tallied 15 tackles for loss, six interceptions, and four forced fumbles. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at free safety, it makes sense for the Packers to use Randall at cornerback, where he’ll likely cover the slot. Having said that, don’t be surprised if he sneaks into more of a hybrid role given his versatility and is heavily involved in all nickel and dime defensive packages. Considering Green Bay’s current depth chart at cornerback, I like Randle’s chances of beating out either Sam Shields or Casey Hayward when the smoke clears. He’s just way too athletic and let’s not forget that most teams don’t draft a player in the first round to just stand on the sideline.
50. James Sample, Jacksonville Jaguars
James Sample was the fourth rookie to crack my top 50 safety rankings. Having said that, I think outside of Landon Collins, he has the best opportunity to start from day one. He was already turning heads at OTAs before breaking his right forearm in early June. Sample is sidelined for now, but should only miss the first couple weeks of training camp. Coach Gus Bradley said he was progressing quickly and was going to get significant reps with the first-team defense before breaking his arm. Sample is a great fit for Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 defense. He’s a physical box presence with excellent high to low explosiveness. His fluky injury occurred when he was trying to rip the ball out at the end of a play. Sample was a strong safety at Louisville, but the Jaguars like his size (6-2 209 lbs) and range, which is why they were working him out at free safety. Free safety has been a hole for years for the Jaguars and Sergio Brown definitely isn’t the answer. The smart money is on Sample coming back from his injury and earning the starting free safety position. And if he does, go get this former Louisville Cardinal, because he can be a difference maker for your team.
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr, and Corey D Roberts on Sunday July 12th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will take live callers at 646-915-8596. This week’s topics will be Fantasy Baseball All-Stars, and key players drafted late, and can they keep it up.
Our special guests this week include the great Ron Shandler. Ron has been in the fantasy baseball arena since 1985, and is a member of the FSTA Hall of Fame. He is currently a writer with ESPN, and runs shandlerpark.com.
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Major League Fantasy Football Weekly Show: Join Corey D Roberts, Lou Landers, Ron McCleese, and Jeff Nelson on Saturday July 11th from 2-3:30pm EST for this week’s episode Major League Fantasy Football Weekly.
Our special guest this week is Zak Sauer who is a football writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Zak’s articles publish every Thursday morning lovingly called “Sauer Notes”. This week we will be focusing on Wide Receivers, Cornerbacks, and Safties. How to rank them, how to get the most out of your secondary, and how to play your wide receiver match ups based on knowing NFL secondary’s. We fully encourage our viewers to ask questions to the guys.
If you can’t catch the show live you can go to our YouTube channel and watch it when ever you want. Come by and ask some questions to the boys and have some fun!