Unless it’s elite talent paired with elite usage, I don’t like to pay up for defensive players in IDP leagues. Fantasy IDPs are a lot like real-life RBs in that they’re cheap, replaceable, and don’t really matter. Generally speaking, we want to be buying cheap snaps and waiting for that sweet variance to kick in. In this series, we’ll look at some cheap/free dynasty IDP targets who could pay off in 2019.
This cheapskate strategy that would’ve helped you land Corey Littleton (top-three LB) last year off of the free agent heap, and Demarcus Lawrence (top-three LB in 2017) as a cheap post-hype sleeper the year before that.
I’m not promising that we’ll uncover more such gems that in this IDP series, but in the leagues I play in, depth is critical, and these are guys who are free in deep leagues and can help plug a hole, and with a little luck, maybe even break out.
How deep? All these players are still available in my main 12-team dynasty league which starts 11 IDP positions in what is essentially a Superflex format.
I also looked at cheap IDP sleepers on the defensive line, and you can also find 3 IDPs I’m targetting in rookie dynasty drafts here.
Let’s now look to the secondary for some cheap targets.
Malik Hooker, Indianapolis Colts Safety
A quick note on secondary — while many leagues, mine included, differentiate between safety and cornerback, we’re going to focus exclusively on safety. CB should be the last place you are allocating assets, perhaps even behind kickers, depending on scoring.
Hooker was a playmaking stud with a bright NFL future coming out of Ohio State in the 2017 NFL Draft, where the Colts took him 15th overall. As a 21-year-old sophomore, the Buckeye had seven interceptions, returning three of them for TDs while racking up 74 totals tackles, and 5.5 TFLs, making the All-American team.
Armed with speed and instincts, Hooker’s garnered glowing reviews throughout the scouting process.
It is borderline ridiculous the amount of ground Hooker can cover when the ball is in the air,” gushed Chris Burke in one scouting report. “He possesses rare closing speed as a free safety.”
The Colts took Hooker 15th overall despite the fact that he was coming off surgeries for a torn hip labrum and a sports hernia. He had a real chance to be drafted ahead of Jamal Adams that year — Adams just finished 2018 as the overall DB1 in most formats. Hooker has been plagued by injuries ever since, appearing in just 20 games over his first two seasons, but he’s also flashed that All-Pro potential.
He had three interceptions over his first four career games, despite missing almost all of the offseason program as a rookie, before suffering a torn ACL.
Last year? More missed games, but when he was on the field…
Now, Hooker is fully healthy and participating in all offseason activities for the first time as a professional.
“Yeah, I absolutely see a difference in Malik,” head coach Frank Reich told Colts Wire during recent OTAs. “I see a difference in the way he is moving, making plays on the ball. He just seems to be – in every aspect of his game – a notch or two higher.”
If he can stay finally healthy, Hooker has the playmaking potential to be a Pro Bowl safety, and he’s currently free in dynasty leagues.
Will Parks, Denver Broncos Safety
Parks may not have Pro Bowl potential, but he does have a starting job sewn up in a secondary that has been very useful in fantasy in recent years.
He takes over at strong safety for Darian Stewart, a former Pro Bowler who was cut by the Broncos this spring. The Broncos added no help in the secondary through the draft, speaking to their confidence in Parks and fellow S Justin Simmons to step up to the task.
As a sixth-round pick in 2016, Parks doesn’t have the draft pedigree, but it may not matter in Vic Fangio’s defense. The new coach’s 3-4 system helped to make a top-10 safety out of Eddie Jackson, a 2017 fourth-round pick, in Chicago last year. Fangio even helped to make an eventual stud out of former fifth-round pick Adrian Amos.
Fangio, an old school coach not prone to compliments, has liked what he’s seen from his starting safety so far.
Vic Fangio on Will Parks:— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) May 29, 2019
“Will’s having a good offseason for us. Feel good about Will. Think he can play either safety position. We’re teaching him that way. I think he’s doing well. How it all sorts out, that remains to be seen."
I’m not convinced Parks will be able to lock down the job for years to come, but the Broncos have little depth at secondary, and Parks is going to see the field a ton this year. If Eddie Jackson can be a star under Fangio, so can Parks — a DB2-type season is well within his range of outcomes, and he’s also free in dynasty leagues.
Adrian Phillips, LA Chargers Safety
The Chargers already have a loaded secondary, but they also play some of the most three-safety looks in the league, leaving Phillips plenty of opportunities. They thought enough of the former UDFA, who made the Pro Bowl last year for his special teams play, to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent this spring.
Despite being listed as a safety, Phillips often plays more of a quasi-nickel-linebacker role for the Chargers, which led to a career-high 94 total tackles in 2018, while also more than holding his own in pass coverage with one interception and 10 passes defensed.
Adrian Phillips earned the highest #Chargers grade this week (91.2) as he was targeted 7 times, only allowing an astounding 2 receptions.— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) December 31, 2018
His 39.6 passer rating allowed is T-3 among targeted safeties in Week 17. @Phillips_17 also added 8 tackles.
In a vacuum, there’s no real reason to believe that Phillips will improve on his numbers from last year, although he has improved his stats in every season so far, so it’s not out of the question.
I’ll be rostering him in deep leagues where I have the room nonetheless because his versatility buys him a lot of ways to get even more snaps in 2019. In the case of injury, he can fill it at LB, as he did down the stretch last season, while he’ll also benefit from more regular work at safety if either of Derwin James or Rayshawn Jenkins goes down. And we all know the Chargers haven’t exactly been the healthiest team over the years.
Image Credit: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Malik Hooker.
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