Keep, Trade, Cut 2022 NFL IDP Safeties
In this keep, trade, or cut segment, we will discuss the NFL IDP Safeties. We will go over any off-season changes that are relevant to the player whether good or bad. We’ll also discuss what we project their roles will be going into the new season and how it impacts their fantasy values. We will analyze factors such as the depth chart, team defensive scheme, snap counts, and tackles per game. After analyzing the player I will offer my recommendations on whether you should keep, trade, or cut the player.
Safety Jordan Whitehead has yet to wow his fantasy owners in his first 4 seasons. Whitehead’s highest tackle output was 76 combined tackles which he achieved as a rookie in 2018. He was producing as a DB3 every season. There just wasn’t enough IDP production to be had playing on a star-studded Bucs defense. However, his off-season move to the NY Jets could lead to a boost in his fantasy value. I’m expecting for Whitehead to have plenty of tackling opportunities playing on a Jets defense that finished 29th against the run last season. For comparison, former Jets safety Marcus Maye averaged 7.5 tackles per game in his 7 starts last season. Maye was on a 130 tackle pace before his season ended due to injury. That tackle total would have led all safeties last season. I’m expecting Whitehead to soak up a lot of that production left behind by Maye on what still is a suspect Jets defense. Whitehead has top 12 upside this season. Recommendation: KEEP!
Safety Johnathan Abram is entering a contract season. The Raiders declined to pick up Abram’s 5th-year option. The former 1st rounder has yet to prove that he can stay healthy for an entire season. He’s missed a total of 21 games in his 3 NFL seasons. Nonetheless, he’s managed to be very productive when he’s been on the field. Despite missing the last 3 games of 2021, Abram still finished 5th in tackles among safeties. In fact, his 8.2 tackles per game led all safeties last season. There have been some beat reports speculating that Abram could lose his starting job this season because he’s been a liability in coverage. However, I’m expecting Abram to be a key contributor in new DC Patrick Graham’s defense. Graham frequently deploys 3 Safety looks on defense. Abram should play a majority of his snaps in the box and used more frequently as a Blitzer in Graham’s attacking defense. Abram is currently undervalued in fantasy drafts. He has top 5 DB upside. Recommendation: KEEP!
Safety Jordan Poyer is entering the final year of his contract. The 31 year old safety made his first Pro Bowl this past season. Poyer has been a rock-solid fantasy option for the last 5 seasons. In fact, Poyer has finished with at least 100 combined tackles in 3 out of the past 5 seasons. He’s also shown big play upside collecting 18 interceptions during this period. Poyer’s contributions are a huge reason why the Bills finished as the top overall defense last season. Poyer is likely to produce as a top 12 option again this season however, his looming free agency is a concern. The Bills refused to extend Poyer’s contract this off-season, indicating that they are looking to move on. With Poyer likely changing teams next season, there is no guarantee that he’ll maintain his fantasy value. Recommendation: TRADE!
Long-time Vikings Safety Harrison Smith will be entering his 11th NFL season. The 33-year-old safety posted a career-high 114 tackles in 2021. Smith’s registered less than 90 combined tackles in his 4 previous seasons. It’s notable that the Vikings will be changing defensive schemes this season. New DC Ed Donatell tends to utilize a lot of 2 deep safety looks with his safeties rarely playing in the box. Under Donatell, Broncos safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson were only blitzed 8 times all of last season. By contrast, Smith was sent on a blitz 40 times under the old defensive scheme last season. Smith will likely find it hard to match his tackling numbers from last season in the new scheme. Factoring in these changes, I’m projecting Smith more as a DB2 than the top 5 option he was last season. Recommendation: TRADE!
New Buccaneers safety Logan Ryan has been a solid fantasy option each of the last 3 seasons. He’s posted over 100 combined tackles in 2 out of the last 3 seasons. However, his landing spot in Tampa Bay is likely to cause problems for his fantasy value. First of all, Ryan is no lock to start this season. He’s competing against emerging young safety Mike Edwards at the strong safety position. Early reports have advised that Edwards has been impressive and that he has the inside track on the starting job. Ryan’s age (31) and veteran minimum salary indicate that the Bucs view him more as a depth piece than as a starter. With his role in decline, Ryan won’t be a dependable fantasy option. Recommendation: CUT!
Safety Jabrill Peppers hasn’t lived up to expectations after being selected in the 1st round in 2018. He’s struggled with injuries missing a total of 20 games in his career. Peppers also hasn’t graded out well in coverage. His liabilities in coverage were a key reason why his role declined during his tenure with the Browns and Giants. His landing spot in a crowded safety room in New England isn’t ideal for his fantasy prospects either. Peppers projects as the 4th safety on the depth chart. Complicating matters for Peppers is that he’s still recovering from ACL surgery. With his uncertain health status and hurdles on the depth chart, he’s not likely to have much fantasy value this season. Peppers is barely worth rostering right now. It’s time for IDP owners to move on. Recommendation: CUT!
Safety Keanu Neal was once a rock solid IDP option. The former 1st round pick posted back-to-back 100 tackle campaigns to begin his career. However, Neal was snake-bitten by injuries during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Neal finished as a top 24 option in his last season in Atlanta in 2020. However, his fantasy value has dropped considerably since then. Neal’s issue is that he’s primarily a box safety who struggles in coverage. The Falcons didn’t re-sign him after he contributed to the Falcons finishing dead last in passing defense in 2020. Last season, he was picked up by the Cowboys and he converted to a full-time Linebacker. The Linebacker experiment ultimately failed as Neal couldn’t perform well enough to earn consistent playing time. Neal signed with the Buccaneers this off-season for the veteran minimum. He reportedly will move back to his natural safety position. The landing spot with the Bucs however isn’t an ideal one. He faces hurdles on the depth chart while trying to make the team behind veterans Mike Edwards and Logan Ryan. This is likely Neal’s last chance to prove that he belongs on an NFL roster. Recommendation: CUT!
Safety Amani Hooker is an under-the-radar player going into 2022. The 4th year safety played a reserve role in his first two seasons. Hooker finally earned a starting spot with the Titans last season. After missing time due to injury early in the season, he started the final 11 games. This includes the Divisional Round playoff game against the Bengals in which he turned in an impressive performance. Hooker racked up 8 combined tackles and an interception in that game. Despite missing 5 games, he still managed to post a solid 62 combined tackles and an interception last season. After making huge strides in 2021, I’m projecting a breakout season for Hooker. Analyzing his tackling numbers, he averaged about 5 tackles per game. Factoring this type of production over the course of a full season, he should push for 90 combined tackles this season. Those numbers would likely place him in the DB2 range. Recommendation: KEEP!
Safety Quandre Diggs posted a career-high 94 combined tackles and 5 interceptions last season. The 8th-year veteran has earned Pro Bowl honors each of the past two seasons. Diggs however, is more valuable as a real-life player than as a fantasy option. For example, even though he posted a career-high in tackles last season, he still only finished as a mid-range DB2. Another thing to factor in is that the Seahawks finished dead last in time of possession last season. As a result, Diggs received more tackling opportunities due to him playing a career-high 1,228 defensive snaps in 2021. Defensive snaps and interceptions are two of the most volatile statistics from season to season. Digg’s fantasy value happens to be very dependent on these two categories. I’m not banking on Diggs repeating as a top 24 option this season. His production is likely to revert back to DB3 levels with fellow safety Jamal Adams returning from injury. Recommendation: TRADE!
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