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Eyes of the Guru, Part 8: NFC East

An overview of defenses in the NFC East with an emphasis on individual defensive players and their fantasy value.

Dallas Cowboys

Defensive Linemen

The Cowboys have run into a lot of setbacks on the defensive side in recent years. If not for a rash of injuries and suspensions over the past three seasons, we might be talking about their defensive line the same way we speak about their offensive line. Going into 2017 Dallas has three suspended linemen and three others limited by injury issues. The biggest hit they have taken up front is the suspension of Randy Gregory for at least a year. The 2015 second round pick is a highly talented young player that will be a difference maker if he ever gets his head on straight. David Irving was a solid contributor last year with 4.5 sacks from the tackle position. He will miss the first four games this year while pass rush specialist Demontre Moore will sit two. Expected starter Demarcus Lawrence will be limited early after having back surgery for the second consecutive offseason while backup ends Benson Mayowa (knee) and Charles Tapper (back) will also be eased into action during training camp.

Lawrence has been a major disappointment thus far but has shown enough potential to keep both the Cowboys and fantasy owners from completely losing faith. Lawrence opened his rookie of season in 2014 on short term IR. He was on the field for some games down the stretch but was not completely healthy and never really got it going. The slow start rolled over into 2015 when Lawrence had just one sack in the first eight games. Then he caught fire, racking up 22 tackles, 7 assists, 7 sacks and a forced fumble over the final eight contests. At that point his minor offseason back surgery seemed like a non-issue. Unfortunately the four game suspension handed down by the commissioner was, and the back problem had not been completely resolved either. Lawrence played a significant role in six games going 8-3-1 before being shut down. This is the final year of his rookie contract and is a make or break season for Lawrence as a member of the Cowboys. If he is healthy the talented fourth year player has the potential to make a big impact both on the field and in the box scores. The fact he is limited at the early stages of camp is enough to make everyone nervous but the team insists it is precautionary. Lawrence clearly has starter potential for fantasy owners but the risk is far too great for him to be counted on. Pick him up as depth and keep your fingers crossed he is finally healthy.

Owner Jerry Jones is not one to wait around for any player and is always willing to make a big investment for an opportunity to win. With the future of Lawrence being uncertain and no sure end in sight for Gregory's suspension, the Cowboys used their first round pick on Michigan's Taco Charlton. Charlton has as much natural ability and potential as any defensive end in this year's draft not names Myles Garrett. At 6'6" 277 pounds he has the size and physical attributes to be an effective three down player. Having posted 19 career sacks for the Wolverines including 10 as a senior, there is little doubt he can get after the passer. Scouts noted Charlton's freakish athletic ability and his reaction time off the snap. One scout remarked "It looks like he knows the snap count most of the time". Charlton is not without some questions though. The one many are asking is why he was only a one year starter at Michigan. The answer to that may give us even more reason for optimism. Simply put, he was still growing both physically and as a football player. There was a lot of inconsistency to Charlton's game early on. He made three starts as a junior but played in every game either on a rotational basis or as a sub package rush specialist. Charlton needs to add some muscle to maximize his ability as an edge setting run defender and some good coaching will make him an even more accomplished pass rusher. He is young and still a bit raw but has the potential to be a special NFL player. The coaching staff has already plugged their prize rookie into a starting role but we should keep in mind first year ends rarely make a huge impact. With that in mind 30-35 tackles and 6-7 sacks are reasonable expectations for the upcoming season with his dynasty value being significantly greater.

With the Cowboys situation, depth at end could prove vital to the team's success in 2017. A healthy Mayowa can be a solid contributor, especially on third down. He was 15-9-5.5 last season, which is pretty good production for 356 snaps. David Irving shifted inside last season and is a better fit at tackle, but he can play end on early downs if needed. Demontre Moore was a third round pick of the Giants in 2013. He has bounced around a bit posting 9.5 sacks with the Giants and Dolphins over two seasons (2014-2015) before having a cup of coffee with Seattle last year. The player to keep an eye on here is Charles Tapper. The Cowboys 2016 fourth round pick had his rookie season washed out by the back injury but has the potential to become a solid NFL starter if he can stay healthy.

Dallas has no super star at the defensive tackle position but they have a deep group of good players when everyone is available. It is irrelevant who gets the title of starter here because the Cowboys will use several players in the rotation. Last year's third round pick Malik Collins contributed 5 sacks in his first season while Tyrone Crawford and David Irving each added 4.5. Cedric Thornton is not so much a pass rusher but is a quality early down run defender as is newcomer Stephen Paea. Collins, Irving and Crawford all have the potential to crack fantasy lineups if they could get enough opportunity. Collins led the Cowboys interior linemen playing 617 snaps (60%) last year, followed by Crawford at 607 and Irving with 452. None of the team's interior linemen reached 20 solo tackles though. We might get 25 tackles and 5-6 sacks out of someone here in 2017, with Collins the most likely to reach those numbers.

DE Demarcus Lawrence - Risk reward player with low floor and high ceiling
DE Taco Charlton - Possible DL3 or dynasty target with big long term potential
DE Benson Mayowa - Injury sleeper at best
DE Charles Tapper - Deep sleeper worth keeping an eye on
DE Randy Gregory - Suspended indefinitely
DE Demontre Moore - Marginal at best, suspended 2 games
DT David Irving - Suspended 4 games but could have a DT3 value upon reinstatement
DT Tyrone Crawford - Potential depth in leagues starting two interior linemen
DT Cedric Thornton - No value
DT Malik Collins - DT3 with low DT2 upside
DT Stephen Paea - No value
DT Joey Ivie - Rookie project

Linebackers

The Cowboys have a short term plan at linebacker and a long term plan. How long it takes to transition between the two is going to depend on the knee of Jaylon Smith. If all goes well Smith will eventually be an outstanding three down middle linebacker with Sean Lee on the weak side and possibly Anthony Hitchens on the strong side. Dallas took a huge chance by making Smith a second round pick in 2016, after he suffered a devastating knee injury in his final year at Norte Dame. They knew Smith would not play as a rookie and may not be all the way back by year two. The organization was willing to make the risky investment in a player Mike Mayock thought would be another Luke Kuechly before the injury. We are in year two and Smith is not yet all the way back but he is practicing every other day at the beginning of camp with a hope he will be able to do more as the summer/season progresses. With the nerve damage in the knee continuing to improve there is expectation Smith will at least be able to play a limited role in 2017, and a hope he will be healthy enough for a significant one. If he can get close to the player he was, Smith should become a serious fantasy factor. Things are looking good so far but he still has a way to go.

The plan until Smith becomes a major contributor will be Lee in the same three down role on the weak side, Hitchens in the middle on early downs with Kyle Wilbur on the strong side. In the nickel we will probably see Justin Durant with Lee at linebacker. This is what Dallas was doing for most of last season and it worked well enough to get them to the playoffs. Hitchens is a solid, versatile contributor that can be effective in any of the three linebacker positions. When he has played all three downs in the past he has been rather fantasy friendly. Unfortunately the coaching staff has not been willing to trust him in many sub package situations over the past two seasons. The team waited to see where Smith was in his recovery then re-signed Durant to fill the nickel linebacker role for the time being. Both Hitchens and Durant have the ability to put up respectable numbers but neither is likely to have the opportunity this year.

Smith may have a bright future but Lee is the player to have from this group in 2017. His long history of injuries is well documented but so is Lee's exceptional play and production when healthy. The good news is he has missed only three games in the last two seasons and would have played a full schedule for the first time in 2016 had the Cowboys not rested some veterans in week seventeen. Lee made last year's top fifteen with a mark of 91-53-0. That was career best tackle production for him and the kind of numbers everyone knew he was capable of if he could stay healthy. What were missing from Lee's game last year were big plays. This is a guy that has a pair of 4 interception seasons with a total of 17 takeaways, 24 passes defended, 3.5 sacks and a pair of scores on his resume over 75 career games. Lee is not the first player that comes to mind when thinking of the league's elite linebackers but he is not far from that conversation; the same can be said for his fantasy value. The injury factor is still some consideration when deciding where to slot him on our draft boards but not to the extent it has been in years past. If his health holds out we can expect similar tackle production from Lee this year with at least some improvement in the big play columns. There is a strong chance he will break into the top twelve but I am still reluctant to target him as more than a priority LB2.

WLB Sean Lee - Priority LB2 with a little upside
MLB Jaylon Smith - Risk/reward dynasty target
MLB Anthony Hitchens - Injury sleeper with LB3 upside
SLB Kyle Wilbur - No value
WLB Justin Durant - Injury sleeper with marginal potential  
WLB Damien Wilson - Injury sleeper to keep an eye on if Lee goes down

Defensive Backs

The Cowboys have re-written the script in the secondary with three former starters moving on. Strong safety Barry Church, starting corner Brandon Carr and nickel corner Morris Claiborne are all wearing different colors this year. Even backup safety J.J. Wilcox is gone. It seems like a lot of turnover but the only player of the three likely to be missed is Church. Dallas used four of their first six draft picks on defensive backs including their second and third on corners Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis respectively. The coaching staff is excited about second year corner Anthony Brown and they also invested in veteran free agents Nolan Carroll at corner and Robert Blanton at safety.

Byron Jones made a successful transition from a hybrid slot corner/free safety role as a rookie in 2015 to starting free safety in his second season. With Church missing a few games, Jones was able to lead the Dallas secondary in tackles with 73. Good size, excellent speed and the cover skills of a really good corner make Jones is a great fit at the position. Unless someone emerges at strong safety, Jones is a strong candidate to lead the secondary in tackles again. One thing both the Cowboys and fantasy owners need to see more of from him are big plays. He recorded no turnovers as a rookie, accounting for 1 interception and forcing a fumble in year two. Splash play production was part of the reason Dallas used a first round pick on Jones in 2015. He had 8 picks while playing for Connecticut including 5 over his final nineteen games there. He will never be Ed Reed or Eric Weddle but Jones should pick it up a bit in the turnover columns going forward and he has already proven himself in the tackle columns. Jones finished last season just outside the top 25 defensive backs and could slip into the that group in 2017, but more likely he will continue to be a solid third starter for IDP owners.

Fifth year man Jeff Heath will get the first shot at the strong safety job. He has made a few starts as an injury replacement over his career but has never recorded more than 19 tackles in a season. On the other hand Heath has an impressive 4 interceptions and 6 total takeaways in his limited opportunity. At 6'1" 212 pounds he has the size to be an effective player and five years even as a backup is plenty of experience. The coaching staff obviously believes Heath can do the job but that does not mean he will go without competition. Robert Blanton was a starter in Minnesota in 2014 and made some starts for Buffalo last year before landing on IR. Blanton is a tough in the box safety who excels at run support and is serviceable in coverage. If Heath struggles, Blanton is a solid backup plan. The other player that might make the coaching staff think twice is second year man Kavon Frazier. He was the team's sixth round pick last year and did not get on the field much as a rookie, but Frazier was impressive as a senior at Central Michigan in 2015. He racked up 74 solo tackles and 34 assists in thirteen games, adding a pair of forced fumbles, a recovery and a pick. The bottom line here is the Cowboys strong safety position provides a lot of opportunity and has been a fantasy goldmine dating back way before Barry Church. This is a situation we will be watching closely as we approach the regular season as someone here is likely to be at least a solid DB3. For those who draft early, Heath is the current favorite and worthy of late round consideration as a fourth or fifth DB with upside.

The Cowboys were without a true number one corner last season and will make do without one this year as well, unless of course someone steps up and distinguishes themselves. What Dallas does have is a balance of quality veteran cover men and a lot of young talent. Orlando Scandrick and Nolan Carroll are solid starters with extensive experience. Scandrick has been in the Cowboys lineup every year but one since he was drafted in 2008 while Carroll has been a starter for the Dolphins and Eagles over the past decade. Neither of these players is a sure fantasy option but Scandrick has been at least a marginal factor in the past. He missed the 2015 season with an injury but was a decent CB2 in 2013 and a quality CB3 in 2014. Had he not missed four games last year he would probably have exceeded 50 solo tackles and Scandrick can always be counted on for 4-6 splash plays. He is one of those corners you pass over on draft day but may pick up in October as a spot starter or bye week fill in.

Behind the veterans Dallas has second year man Anthony Brown and a trio of high potential rookies. Brown made a strong showing last season while Scandrick was out and continued to see time as the third corner once Scandrick returned. He will is in the mix for that role again this summer. Awuzie is a size/speed corner with the versatility and cover skills to play anywhere in the secondary except maybe strong safety. He will push for playing time right away and is the favorite to open as the nickel corner. This is a player I will be watching due to the impressive numbers he put up during his career at Colorado. College corners tend to be light in the tackle columns but Awuzie averaged 59 solo stops over his three years as a starter. He only intercepted 3 passes but was credited with 25 passes defended, 6 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and 9 sacks. Awuzie's skill set gives defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli a lot of options. He may not start until 2018 but Awuzie should have a prominent role as a rookie.

Jourdan Lewis was the Cowboys third round pick this spring. He checks in at 5'10" 188 pounds, which will likely limit his role at the pro level. The coaching staff probably envisions him as the eventual slot corner once Awuzie moves outside. Lewis has little fantasy potential but there are some interesting things to know about him. He allowed just seven pass completions in his final year at Michigan for a 23.3 percent catch rate on balls thrown his way. One scout said "If he were bigger he would go in the first round. Love everything about the way he plays. He's cocky and tough and doesn't take any (expletive) from anyone". Lewis is technically sound, highly competitive pound for pound as though as any corner in this year's draft.

FS Byron Jones - Solid DB3
SS Jeff Heath - Sleeper with a high ceiling
SS Robert Blanton - Injury sleeper
SS Kavon Frazier - Deep sleeper to keep an eye on
FS Xavier Woods - Developmental rookie
CB Orlando Scandrick - CB3 with low end CB2 upside
CB Nolan Carroll - Marginal value at best
CB Anthony Brown - No value at this time
CB Chidobe Awuzie - Rookie corner rule could come into play
CB Jourdan Lewis - Marginal value at this time
CB Marquez White - Developmental rookie

New York Giants

Defensive Linemen

When the news broke about the Vikings Danielle Hunter finally becoming a starter, it sparked a discussion among the footballguys IDP staff about who the top few defensive linemen would be in 2017. The consensus was J.J. Watt remaining numbers one with a small group including Hunter closing the gap. There was really no consensus number two but there probably should have been. Everyone that reads my column knows I am a huge Hunter fan but I still rank him behind Jason Pierre-Paul. A glance at last year's final standings will have some asking why, but a closer look will show the reasons clearly. At 35-18-7 Pierre-Paul's base numbers were good but not exceptional. Adding 3 forced fumbles, a recovery, 8 batted passes and a score were enough to make him the number four lineman in 2016. The first thing we need to remember is Pierre-Paul missed the final four and a half games with groin and abdominal injuries that would require offseason surgery. In other words he was the number four lineman despite playing 75% of the games everyone finishing ahead of him did. To drive home my point all we have to look at is points per game where Pierre-Paul was number one at 13.4 and Calais Campbell a distant second at 11.2. That alone should be enough but looking at how his season went adds even more weight to the argument. After the horrific fireworks accident that ruined his 2015, Pierre-Paul got off to a slow start last year. He was looking good as a run defender and was swatting down passes regularly but by week ten had only gotten to the passes for a sack and a half. Then matchups with the Bears and Browns in back to back weeks produced 5.5 sacks, 3 turnovers and a score. A pessimistic view might suggest Pierre-Paul was inconsistent and scored all his points in two games against weak opponents. That is a fair argument but he had at least eight points in six of the other ten games as well. An optimistic view is he finally hit his stride in those games and is ready to be the same player that went 53-24-12.5 in 2014 before the accident. The organization is obviously looking from the optimistic perspective considering they just gave him a big multi-year extension. The final thing that sets Pierre-Paul apart is opportunity. The Giants are the only team in the league that does not rotate players at defensive end. As a result he played 792 snaps in those eleven plus games a year ago. By comparison Campbell played 789 in a full season. Watt may have a little company in the elite first tier this year. For me Pierre-Paul is the clear cut number two option among linemen.

It is rare for one team to land a pair of defenders in the top five at any position. The Giants did it in 2016 with Olivier Vernon right on the heels of his teammate. Vernon's 2016 season followed much the same pattern as Pierre-Paul's. Going into the team's week eight bye Vernon had been producing good tackle totals but had just a single sack. I am not sure what changed for these guys over the bye week but they both seemed to come out of it on fire. Vernon racked up 18 tackles, 7 assists and 7 sacks in five games between week nine and week thirteen, finishing the year at 46-18-8.5 with a pair of turnovers. His average of 10 points per game on the season was not as impressive as his partner's but was certainly enough to make him an every week must start. Again opportunity is a huge factor when it comes to Vernon's success. I do not believe any defensive lineman played more than his 1040 snaps in 2016. In fact there are not many players league wide that were on the field for 98% of their teams defensive plays. Vernon is not one of the league's elite defensive ends but is an excellent compliment to Pierre-Paul. Vernon is in his physical prime at 26 years old and as long as he does not burn out from all the playing time, is set to be a quality DL1 for the next few years.

Considering how little playing time they get, I am not sure why the Giants continue to invest in so much quality depth at end. Owa Odighizuwa was a third round pick by the team in 2015 but has seen almost no opportunity. Veteran Kerry Wynn was a starter for much of 2015. He played well versus the run but offered little in the way of pass rush. Devin Taylor had 48 tackles and 11.5 sacks with the Lions over the past two years before signing a free agent deal with New York this offseason. Romeo Okwara was an undrafted free agent signed by the team last spring. He impressed enough to pass everyone else on the depth chart and play 368 snaps including first team action after Pierre-Paul was shut down. As if all these guys were not enough depth, the Giants used a fifth round pick on Avery Moss this spring. One thing the Giants will do to get some of their backup pass rushers on the field is to play them on the inside in sub package situations. It is common for New York to deploy four defensive ends across the front on obvious passing downs. Teams rarely carry more than five or six ends so chances are a couple of the backups will not make the final roster. The rest will compete for time in limited roles unless there is an injury.

Not only did the Giants give us a pair of top five defensive ends, they gave us the number one interior lineman in fantasy football as well in 2016. Damon Harrison proved to be a critical free agent signing for the Giants last off season. The 350 road grader is an excellent anchor for the run defense and was a big part of the Giants defensive turnaround last year. With a total of 56 solo stops he was the league's leader in tackles by a defensive lineman. Ironically his teammate Vernon was number two with a distant 45. Harrison's lack of sack production (3.5 sacks in 4 seasons) keeps his ceiling low in leagues not breaking out the defensive line positions. Since emerging as a starter for the Jets in 2013 Harrison has consistently recorded 30+ tackles and averaged nearly 30 assists a season. He may not reach 50 in 2017 but it is a safe bet Harrison will be a quality DT1.

Jonathan Hankins played next to Harrison last year giving the Giants one of the league's elite interior tandems. Hankins moved on in free agency leaving 2014 third round pick Jay Bromley as the heir apparent. Bromley played considerably more in his second year (2015) than he did last season and made a good showing. He will not be handed the starting job though. The Giants used a second round pick on Clemson's Dalvin Tomlinson who will have a shot at starting right away. To emphasize just how athletic the 310 pound Tomlinson is, He was a three time heavyweight wresting champion in high school and was the goalie on the soccer team. Granted that was probably a hundred or so pounds ago but athleticism does not go away just because a player adds muscle. In many ways Tomlinson is younger version of Hankins; a power, leverage, technique guy that is strong versus the run with the athleticism to participate in stunts and twists up front and the ability to collapse the pocket with his bull rush. If he earns the starting job early Tomlinson could be a factor as depth at the interior line position with some upside.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul - Elite DL1
DE Olivier Vernon - Quality DL1 or excellent DL2
DE Romeo Okwara - Injury sleeper at best
DE Owa Odighizuwa - No value
DE Kerry Wynn - Marginal upside
DE Devin Taylor - Injury sleeper with limited upside
DE Avery Moss - Developmental rookie
DT Damon Harrison - Quality DT1 with top three potential
DT Jay Bromley - Marginal value
DT Dalvin Tomlinson - Sleeper with long term DT2 upside
DT Jarron Jones - Undrafted rookie project
DT Corbin Bryant - Veteran depth with no value

Linebackers

It has been a long time since the Giants last had a star at the linebacker position. Unfortunately there is no reason to believe the trend will be broken in 2017. What they did last year was the equivalent to the dreaded running back by committee on the offensive side. Keenan Robinson started in the middle with Jonathan Casillas on the weak side and Devon Kennard at strong, but no one played more than 75% of the snaps. As a result Casillas was the highest ranking Giants linebacker at forty two. From a personnel standpoint the only difference between the 2016 Giants linebackers and this year's edition is Kelvin Sheppard being gone.

Shockingly the organization continues to ignore their biggest position of need defensively, but there is one ray of hope for fantasy owners. Despite playing only a few snaps as a rookie, last year's fourth round pick B.J. Goodson has been promoted to starter at middle linebacker. He was productive as a one year starter for Clemson in 2015, going 59-48-5.5 with a couple interceptions and 5 total turnovers. Goodson was a team captain for the Tigers as a senior and was known for his toughness, effort and heart. He was not known for his speed or cover skills however. There is at least some chance Goodson will emerge as a three down player and fantasy factor. He is wearing the communications helmet this summer and taking on the leadership role in the middle. Chances are Goodson will end up being a two down run stuffer, giving way to Keenan Robinson or an extra safety on passing downs. Outside Goodson the Giants have a collection of average NFL starters with no one likely to stand out either on the field or in the box scores.

MLB B.J. Goodson - Sleeper with high LB3 potential if he lands a three down role
MLB Keenan Robinson - Marginal value at best
SLB Devon Kennard - No value
WLB Jonathan Casillas - Bye week depth with little upside
MLB/SLB Mark Herzlich - No value
WLB/SLB J.T. Thomas - No value

Defensive Backs

When an NFL team is weak at linebacker their strong safety is usually an excellent fantasy option. Such was the case with the 2016 Giants when Landon Collins was the top defensive back in fantasy football by a J.J. Watt-like margin of 68 points on the season and a whopping 4.2 points per game. Even on a team with strong linebacker play Collins would be in the running for the top spot in the rankings, he is just that good. At 6'0" and 225 pounds he has linebacker size with the speed and cover skills of a good NFL corner. Collins is physical as an in the box safety but is more than capable of lining up deep and making plays in the passing game. He followed up an 84 tackle rookie season by reaching triple digit solo stops in 2016. Collins ability to impact a game in multiple ways can be seen in his box score totals. Not only did he lead the league in tackles by a defensive back, his versatility was on display with 4 sacks, 5 interceptions and 13 passes defended. Normally I will wait several rounds before breaking the seal on the defensive back position but Collins is so far above the competition he is on a tier by himself, and is worth stepping up for a round or two ahead of where we would normally take the first safety. There can even be an argument made for taking him as the first defensive player off the board.

Darian Thompson was the Giants third round selection in 2016 and landed the starting job at free safety right away. Early season injuries blew up that plan after two games, opening the door for undrafted rookie Andrew Adams to get a shot. Adams did a solid job on the field but saw not able to make much impact in the box scores. The coaching staff is leaving room for Adams to contribute and possibly compete, but Thompson should be back in the lineup come week one. We saw enough of Adams to know he is not a fantasy factor as a starter. Thompson had 6 tackles and an assist on 87 snaps in his cameo appearance so it is hard to tell what we can expect from him. Thompson is not a draft worthy target at this point but we should keep an eye on him early in the season.

The trio of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple are top to bottom one of the league's strongest corner groups. There is no elite shutdown corner among them but all three are good enough to be quality number ones. These guys all have some fantasy value/potential but make sure you know what you are getting. Rodgers-Cromartie actually finished among the top ten corners in 2016 with Jenkins slipping into the top twenty four. The problem is none of them recorded more than 44 tackles. Rodgers-Cromartie was 41-8-1 with 6 interceptions and 21 passes defended. If he could be counted on to repeat those totals he would be a quality start in corner required leagues. The reality being, it may just as well be Jenkins or Apple that puts up those numbers this season. Rodgers-Cromartie has flashed into the top fifteen three times in his nine years in the league. The other six seasons he was well outside the top thirty. Though two of his more productive seasons have come with the Giants, over the course of his career Rodgers-Cromartie has averaged 39-5-0 with 4 takeaways and 16 passes defended. Consistency is hard to find at the corner position either year to year or week to week. In 2016 Rodgers-Cromartie totaled eight or more points in half of the games; in the other half he had four or fewer. There is always a chance he can put together another solid fantasy season. In my eyes he has some value as a dice roll second starter that could post big points on any given week, but is not a player I would be comfortable with as a weekly play.

I see Jenkins as the better fantasy target. In four seasons with the Rams he consistently recorded tackle totals in the mid 50s, averaged 4 takeaways, had 14 or more passes defended three times and scored an impressive 6 touchdowns. Jenkins finished last season at 44-5-1 with 4 turnovers, 17 passes defended and a score. If we take into consideration he was injured early in week fifteen and basically missed or was limited in the final three games, it is easy to see why I suggest Jenkins over Rodgers-Cromartie. Jenkins average of 9.2 points over the first thirteen games ranked seventeenth among corners. There is no reason to expect a top ten finish from him but the rare year to year consistency adds enough value to make Jenkins a solid CB2 target.

Eli Apple made a strong showing as a rookie both on the field and in the box scores. On the field he was the nickel/slot corner most of the season, playing about 66% of the defensive snaps. The part time role makes his stat line of 41-10-0 with 3 turnovers and 7 passes defended look much better. With a year of experience under his belt Apple may be ready to push for a starting job in 2017. If he were to earn that role it would almost surely come at the expense of Rodgers-Cromartie which is another reason to beware of the veteran. On a points per snap basis Apple was rather fantasy friendly for a corner last year. Add another 300 or so opportunities that would come with a starting job and the bump in big play production that usually comes with a year of experience, and Apple could be an interesting prospect. Keep an eye on this situation as the summer progresses.

SS Landon Collins - Elite "tier of his own" DB1
FS Andrew Adams - No value
FS Darian Thompson - Sleeper to keep an eye on
SS Mykkele Thompson - Injury sleeper at best
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - Hit or miss CB2 or depth
CB Janoris Jenkins - Solid CB2 or excellent CB3
CB Eli Apple - Sleeper with CB2 upside
CB Antwon Blake - Fourth corner playing in sub packages

Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive Linemen

If you are a fantasy owner or just a fan of the team there is a lot to like about the Eagles front four. This is a solid group with a good balance of veteran leadership and young talent. After running a 3-4 for a couple years, Philadelphia shifted back to a 4-3 under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz in 2016. The move freed veteran Brandon Graham from fantasy purgatory as an outside linebacker, and made him fantasy relevant as a defensive end. Graham has never completely lived up to the expectations of a first round pick (2010) but he has been a steady contributor for the Eagles. A final line of 41-18-5.5 and 3 turnovers in 2016 was the best box score production of his seven year career, landing him among the top fifteen defensive linemen. Graham is not a threat to claim the sack title. In fact he has never produced more than 6 sacks in a season to date. What he has done is consistently record 35+ tackles, 5-6 sacks and force 3-4 fumbles. Graham is a good fit in the aggressive style 4-3 Schwartz runs so it would not be a surprise to see his production rise a little going forward; especially if rookie Derek Barnett proves to be good as advertised and garners more attention. I can easily see his norm over the next few years being 40-45 tackles with 7-8 sacks and a few turnovers. Target Graham as a quality DL2 this draft season and keep your fingers crossed for the upside.

Barnett did not impress a lot of people with his combine results but when you look at his college production and watch his game film it is hard not to come away a fan. He is not a quick twitch speed guy off the edge but is a tough high energy player with exceptionally strong and quick hands. His ability to create separation and slip blocks with technique and leverage is second to none in this year's draft class. Barnett's production at Tennessee adds a wow factor. He was 47-26-9 as a true freshman playing against SEC talent which is some of the best in college football. In three seasons with the Volunteers Barnett's production was on par with that of former Tennessee great Reggie White. Barnett reached 40 solo stops every year, finished with 32 career sacks, totaled 52 tackles for loss and created 6 turnovers. He may open the 2017 as a sub package specialist but Barnett was solid versus the run as he was against the pass in college, so there is little doubt he will eventually claim a three down role. History tells us rookie ends are rarely big in the box scores so we should temper expectations for this season. I see Barnett as a quality DL3 with upside in redraft leagues but expect him to be in the DL1 conversation by year two.

Both the Eagles organization and many fantasy analysts were high on Curry entering the 2016 season. He had been a productive pass rusher in a situational role in previous years and was projected to claim a much larger portion of the playing time given his sizable off-season contract and Philly's increased emphasis on generating a pass rush from their front four. This did not turn out to be the case however as Curry seemed to fall out of favor with the coaching staff. By the end of the year he had played fewer than 450 snaps, recording 18 tackles and a mere 2.5 sacks. The addition of Barnett and offseason signing of veteran Chris Long are strong indicators that Curry's days as a significant contributor in Philly may be numbered.

From 2010 to 2013 Chris Long averaged 10.5 sacks a season for the Rams. At 32 years old he is no longer that player, having totaled 8 sacks in 34 games over the past three years. Injuries have been a big part of his decline and Long was 22-13-4 on 677 plays with the Patriots last year, so he still has gas in the tank. He is not a threat to claim a starting role this season but gives the Eagles a quality veteran presence that will contribute either on a situational basis or as part of a rotation.

Depending on your expectations, Fletcher Cox was somewhat of a disappointment in 2016. After piling up 99 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 9 turnovers in two seasons as a 3-4 end, his tackle totals and fantasy points took a big hit with the move to tackle in the 4-3. For owners in IDP leagues that do not break out the positions Cox went from top ten stud in 2015, to no more than depth in 2016. For those in need of a starting tackle or two however, he became a shiny new top ten toy. Regardless of your perspective the drop from 50 solo stops to 27 was probably unexpected, but it should not have been. Cox was a 4-3 tackle for the first two seasons of his career, going 32-7-5.5 as a rookie in 2012 and 29-12-3 in his second season. A lot of people would like to hear me say last year was a fluke but reality is it was not. Cox is an outstanding player on the field and will continue to be a difference maker for the Eagles on the score board but 35 tackles and 8 sacks with a handful of other contributions is probably going to be his ceiling going forward. For those in league counting all defensive linemen the same he is a decent second starter or solid depth. For owners in tackle required leagues Cox is a DT1 and quality every week must start.

With nose tackle Bennie Logan moving on in free agency and projected starter Beau Allen recovering from a torn pectoral suffered in April, the Eagles signed former Baltimore starter Timmy Jernigan to play next to Cox, and drafted Elijah Qualls in round six to provide depth at the tackle positions. Jernigan has been a solid starter for the Ravens over the past three seasons but he seemed to fall out of grace with the coaching staff after a weak finish last year. At 295 pounds he is a bit smaller than most of the league's nose tackles but Jernigan is a dependable anchor for the run defense and has some ability to get after the passer. He has never recorded more than 18 tackles in a season but has 13 sacks to his credit after three years in the league. With the change of scenery we could see a little bump in production but probably not enough to make him a fantasy consideration.

DE Derek Barnett - DL3 with upside in redraft leagues, big potential for dynasty owners
DE Brandon Graham - Quality DL2
DE Vinny Curry - Marginal value at bet
DE Chris Long - Injury sleeper with limited upside
DT Fletcher Cox - Quality DT1 or solid DL3
DT Beau Allen - No value
DT Timmy Jernigan - Marginal value at best
DT Elijah Qualls - Developmental rookie
DT Gabe Wright - Veteran depth with no value

Linebackers

Jordan Hicks exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2015, going 43-7-1 with 6 turnovers, 3 passes defended and a score in seven games. Hicks was averaging over seventeen points a game when a pectoral injury ended his season. His impressive play and huge stats had fantasy owners stoked going into the 2016 season, but the production did not carry over. His 57 solo stops and 27 assists last season left fantasy owner wondering what happened. Hicks recorded four or fewer tackles in twelve games despite being on the field for more than 99% of the defensive snaps. With 5 interceptions, a fumble recovery, a sack and 11 passes defended he made up enough ground finish among the top thirty and be a decent third starter so at least he was not a total loss for those who picked him as their first or second linebacker.

Starting on the strong side and playing all three downs, Nigel Bradham led Philadelphia's linebackers in tackles with 69 solo and 33 assists, finishing three slots behind Hicks in the final rankings. So it is not as if someone were poaching all the tackle opportunity. We might question if something in the scheme caused the linebackers to make fewer tackles. That seems unlikely considering the Lions had two linebackers with 85 or more tackles in Schwartz's scheme a few years back. Maybe it will prove to be a fluke and both Hick and Bradham will bounce back strong in 2017. Both are good physical players that excel in run support and can make considerable contributions in the big play columns. We should be able to count on both Hicks and Bradham as solid third starters or excellent depth and can probably pick up at least one of them outside the first thirty five linebackers on draft day. Hicks has the higher ceiling but I would be comfortable taking either of them as my fourth linebacker in hope last year was a mirage.

Mychal Kendricks was the big bust last year. He had a breakout season as the Eagles middle linebacker in 2013, finishing in the top fifteen. His production slipped the following two seasons when the team moved to a 3-4, but Kendricks was still a decent third starter in most leagues. With the news of a return to the 4-3 in 2016, the general expectation was Kendricks working in a three down role on the weak side which seemed like a logical fit for his skill set. He did earn the starting job on the weak side last year but surprisingly lost the sub package snaps to Bradham. Kendricks ended up playing about twenty five percent of the time and never recorded more than 3 tackles in a game. Nothing appears to have changed going into preseason action so Kendricks remains an afterthought.

Najee Goode provides the team's only veteran depth at linebacker. Beyond Goode the Eagles have a couple 2016 late round picks in Joe Walker and Kami Grugier-Hill. Both are project players that will earn their keep on special teams. Rookie Nate Gerry was a safety at Nebraska but has been seeing some work with the linebackers in camp. He could earn a sub package role at some point.

MLB Jordan Hicks - Low end LB3 with upside
SLB Nigel Bradham - Low end LB3 or quality depth
WLB Mychal Kendricks - No current value
MLB Joe Walker - Special teams contributor
SLB Najee Goode - Veteran depth with marginal potential
WLB Kami Grugier-Hill - Special teams contributor

Defensive Backs

The Philadelphia secondary accounted for 290 solo tackles in 2016 but strong safety Rodney McLeod was the only member of the unit with real fantasy value because they were spread over so many players. At 72-11-1 with three picks and 7 pass breakups, McLeod was a strong DB2 in 2016. He is a bit undersized for an in the box safety and is probably best suited to play free as he did for the Rams from 2013 to 2015. That said he is a sound tackler that can get the job done at strong safety and adds a big play element to the position that many teams lack. McLeod posted at least five takeaways in each of his three seasons as a starter for the Rams. While we should not expect more than 70-75 tackles from him this year, we might get a few more splash plays in 2017. The ceiling is limited with McLeod who remains a quality option as a priority DB3.

Malcolm Jenkins actually scored a few more total point than McLeod last season but only because he had a pair of touchdown returns on interceptions. Jenkins had a huge 2015 that included 91 solo tackles, 6 turnovers, double digit passes defended and a score, but that season is a career outlier for the eight year veteran. Jenkins has not exceeded 65 tackles in any other year and is coming off the second lowest total of his career at 48. Week to week inconsistency was a major issue for Jenkins owners last year. Forty one percent of his fantasy points were scored in two games while he fell short of four points seven times. Chances are Jenkins tackle total will rebound into his normal 60-65 range in 2017 and he can always be counted on for a strong big play contribution. At the end of the year he will probably be among the top 25 at the position in points but Jenkins is not a player we want to count on as an every week starter. Pick him up as matchup based depth or a bye week fill in.

Last year's week one starters at corner were Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin. Both are gone leaving a wide open battle for the starting jobs. The Eagles opened camp with veteran free agent Patrick Robinson on one side, second year man Jalen Mills working with the first team opposite him and Ron Brooks manning the slot. In the long term Philadelphia is counting on second round pick Sidney Jones to become their number one corner. Before tearing his Achilles tendon at the combine Jones was in line to be a high first round pick, drawing comparison to the Chiefs Marcus Peters. With Jones on the shelf for 2017 the team may turn to third round selection Rasul Douglas who is also in the mix for one of the top three spots. Douglas is a supersized corner at 6'2" 209 pound and is just the kind of physical presence Schwartz likes in his aggressive press coverage schemes. After starting his college career in the junior college ranks, Douglas made it to West Virginia where he played in five games as a junior before earning a starting spot in his senior year. All Douglas did in 2016 was light up the stats columns with 49 solo tackles, 21 assists, a sack and 8 pass breakups while tying for the national interception lead with 8. If he is not able to come out of camp with a starting job it will probably not be long before he earns one. Schwartz expects his corners to contribute in run support and puts them in position to make big plays. With that in mind someone in this mix is likely to provide at least CB2 production this year. We just may not know who until the end of September.

SS Rodney McLeod - Quality DB3
FS Malcolm Jenkins - Spot start or bye week fill in
SS Corey Graham - Injury sleeper
FS Terrence Brooks - No value
CB Ron Brooks - No value
CB Jalen Mills - Sleeper with limited upside
CB Rasul Douglas - Rookie corner rule could be in play
CB Sidney Jones - Potential lock down corner but on the shelf for this year
CB Patrick Robinson - Veteran journeyman with marginal upside
CB Jaylen Watkins - No value at this time

Washington Redskins

Defensive Linemen

The Redskins have invested a lot of resources in their defensive line since moving to a 3-4 scheme in 2011. Their return has been marginal at best. Some good players have gone through Washington but none of the handful of early draft selections, nor any of the several free agent additions have made a significant impact statistically. That said there may be some hope for first round selection Jonathan Allen. Until Chris Baker broke the trend 2015 by going 27-27-6 with 5 turnovers on fumbles, the best box score production to come from this defensive line after 2010 had been 18 tackles and 4.5 sacks. It is not a case of Baker being that much better than those who preceded him; it was a difference in scheme. Not all 3-4 defenses are the same; just like not all 4-3 schemes are alike. When Washington brought in Joe Barry as defensive coordinator they stayed with the three man front but moved to a more aggressive one gap approach that allows the defensive ends to be more active and usually results in more production. Under Barry, Washington's scheme looks more like that of the Steelers or Cardinals. Instead of being tasked with defending two gaps and clogging running lanes at the line, Anderson will be allowed to penetrate and disrupt. He is not a blazing edge rusher but has the girth, physical talent and tenacity needed to be successful, and should be a good fit in Barry's scheme. If there is a defensive lineman in this draft class capable of being fantasy productive as a 3-4 end, Anderson is the guy. I still tend to lean away from anyone that is unproven in these schemes simply because the success rate is not very good. That said Anderson is a player worth picking up late in your dynasty rookie draft and/or a player to keep close tabs on throughout the preseason.

Washington parted ways with Baker, Ricky Jean-Francois, Cullen Jenkins and Kedric Golston after last season so Allen is not going to be the only new face in the starting lineup. The team also added Stacy McGee (Raiders) and Terrell McClain (Cowboys) to compete for roles up front. The only returning starter is Ziggy Hood who worked mostly at end last season but could shift inside for 2017. The coaching staff will have look to keep fresh bodies on the field so McClain, McGee, Hood and Allen are probably going to rotate regularly with youngsters Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier seeing some opportunity as well. McGee has a little upside to keep an eye on as well but Allen is the only prospect worthy of a spot at the end of a roster.

DE Jonathan Allen - Dynasty sleeper with long term DL2 upside
DE Stacy McGee - Deep sleeper with limited potential
DE Terrell McClain - Marginal value at best
DE Anthony Lanier - No value
NT Ziggy Hood - Marginal value
NT Matt Ioannidis - No value

Linebackers

There is a ton of fantasy value to be harnessed at the Redskins inside linebacker position. The dilemma we face as of early August is not having a clear picture of whom it lies with. There are mixed reports coming out of Washington on this subject. Some say Will Compton and Mason Foster are working as the starters while others suggest Compton is the odd man out. Until we can see what the team puts on the field in the preseason it will be hard to pick a favorite from these guys. Even when we see how they line up in early August, there is no guarantee it will be the same come September.

I have always been a Foster fan myself. Simply put, when this guy is on the field he makes an impact in the box scores. The downside over his time in the league has been inconsistent opportunity as a sub package participant. A couple season back I called Foster the best two down linebacker in the fantasy game. On the positive side there have been no reports suggesting Foster will not be one of the starters. On the other hand, there is no reason to expect him in a three down role either. Foster is a highly productive run defender that was 89-35-1 with 3 passes defended and a forced fumble on 73% of Washington's defensive snaps in 2016. Even as a base package only player he is worthy of a roster spot as a matchup based third starter.

Will Compton did not play well in 2016. He was credited with 17 missed tackles and generally graded out poorly versus both pass and run. In his defense Compton played much of the season with a sore knee that may have been a contributing factor, especially down the stretch when he recorded more than 3 tackles in two of the final seven games. There is some speculation he will move over to the strong inside backer position and play alongside Brown but I do not see that happening. Foster is a more physical presence and blowing up blocking schemes is one of his strengths. Compton stayed on the field in sub packages last season and was a defensive captain so the coaching staff obviously likes him. If the knee was indeed a big part of the issue, there is a significant chance he will land one of the starting spots. With Sua Cravens moving to full time strong safety the sub package linebacker job is open. We might see Foster start and play base down snaps with Compton replacing him in sub packages.

If I were going to roll the dice on one of the Washington inside backers it would be Zach Brown. First and foremost he was the fantasy game's number three linebacker last season. Brown signed a "prove it" type one year 2.3 million dollar incentive laden contract with the Redskins so there is plenty of motivation. He has prototypical size at 6'1" 248 pounds, is 27 years old with four productive years of starting experience and is a hardnosed physical run defender that is solid in coverage and productive on the blitz. Brown can be a tackling machine in the right situation but will also make a healthy splash play contribution. In four years as a pro he has collected 7 interceptions, forced 4 fumbles, recovered 3 and recorded 14.5 sacks. In short he is just a good all around linebacker. One thing I have not been able to figure out is why the Titans let him walk two years ago with their weak linebacker situation. Brown was clearly the best linebacker in Buffalo last season as well, but I can see why they did not try harder to keep him around. Brown was on a one year deal and the team already had what they thought would be their long term answer in Reggie Ragland. They basically signed Brown as a one year stop gap. Even if he secures a starting job and a three down role in Washington, we should not expect a repeat of last year's tackle production. The stats crew in Washington is not as generous as the one in Buffalo and there will be more competition for tackles with Foster and Sua Cravens around him. Until we get a clearer picture from the team it is hard to justify taking any of these three as more than a backup. If/when we can confirm Brown as a three down backer his value will jump to strong LB2 status. This is undoubtedly among the most important situations to watch through the preseason.

The Redskins have one of the league's outstanding edge rushers in Ryan Kerrigan. The 2011 first round pick has at least 7.5 sacks in each of his six seasons and has averaged 11.5 over the past three. He is an excellent edge setter versus the run as well. Like most outside backers in 3-4 schemes, Kerrigan is not going to make a lot of tackles. His career best was 51 in 2014 and he was on pace for 40 last year before missing some games at the end of the season. For owners in big play base leagues Kerrigan is a strong starting option as a low end LB1 or priority LB2.

In 2016 Washington had Trent Murphy and Preston Smith as the other two outside backers in the rotation. Both are strong outside defenders that can handle the run responsibilities and make a strong contribution as pass rushers. Smith had 8 sacks as a rookie in 2015, adding 5.5 more in his second season. Murphy is coming off his three year career best of 8 sacks in 2016, but will be serving a four game suspension at the beginning of the season. Last year there was a lot of talk about moving Murphy to defensive end. At 290 pounds he certainly has the size to make that move. With the team using their second round pick this year on Ryan Anderson, I expect we will hear more about Murphy going to end before long.

Anderson is not necessarily great as a pure edge rusher and is more quick than fast, using technique and leverage to gain the advantage. At 6'2" 253 pounds he is considered on the small side for the position but you would not know it from watching him play. As a senior at Alabama Anderson was 31-30-8.5 with 4 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries, an interception and a score. With 19 career sacks against the highest level of competition college football has to offer, the history of production is clearly there. With Murphy out, Anderson should step right in as the third man in the rotation. He may be a future starter opposite Kerrigan but will likely continue in the rotational role for most if not all his rookie season.

ILB Zach Brown - LB2 or better if he lands the three down role
ILB Mason Foster - Productive when given the opportunity
ILB Will Compton - Possible LB3 depending on role
ILB Martell Spaight - Special teams contributor
ILB Zach Vigil - Special teams guy
OLB Ryan Kerrigan - LB1 for owners in tackle required leagues
OLB Trent Murphy - Suspended first four games and could move to end upon return
OLB Preston Smith - Depth in big play based leagues
OLB Ryan Anderson - Dynasty target with high long term potential
OLB Junior Galette - No value

Defensive Backs

Head Coach Jay Gruden recently said D.J. Swearinger Sr is going to emerge as a top safety in the league. Be careful not to drink that Kool-Aid. Apparently Swearinger is a great practice player that seems to have impressed nearly every coach he has played for in the league, right up to the beginning of the season. There is a reason he has been with three teams in four years. He is everything coaches want in a free safety; speed, size, athleticism, cover skills, everything but on field production. Maybe Gruden can bring out the best in Swearinger but there is no escaping the fact he has never recorded more than 58 tackles in a season and has only put up more than 3 takeaways once. Swearinger is a decent NFL free safety but is nothing special either on the field or in the box scores.

Su'a Cravens is the player I am excited about in Washington's secondary. As a rookie in 2016 he played most of his 297 snaps as a nickel linebacker, going 23-10-1 with an interception and five passes defended. This year he will be the full time strong safety though it would not be a surprise to see him on the field at linebacker in some dime sub packages. At 6'1" 222 pounds Cravens is a super sized, strong safety that will see plenty of time in the box with a focus on run support. He is smart, tough and instinctive with the size, speed and cover skills to stick with the league's better pass catching tight ends. Cravens is an intimidating hitter that reminds me a lot of Kam Chancellor. The strong safety position in Washington has a history of being fantasy friendly. With Cravens at the helm it could prove to be a goldmine. I am usually not so high on players that have not yet proven themselves, but Cravens is an exception. Along with the excellent situation his 134 tackles, 73 assists, 10.5 sacks, 9 interceptions and 5 turnovers on fumbles in three years as a starter for USC are enough to convince me. Cravens is one of the players I am trying to get in every league this year. I expect him to be a top ten DB but have been able to get him at a bargain price outside the top twelve in most situations.

Early in his career DeAngelo Hall was a perennial top ten fantasy corner. He made the switch to free safety a couple years back to prolong an already excellent career. Hall is a great fit in the role when healthy. Unfortunately health has been a major issue over the past three years. He turns 34 in November so this may be his last opportunity. If he can stay on the field Hall will probably serve as Washington's third safety and/or slot corner. In that role he will not have enough opportunity to be a fantasy factor. If he somehow ends up in an every down role however, Hall could become an in season free agent target.

Bashaud Breeland is a quality number two NFL corner that excels at run support and will make a significant contribution in the big play columns. He is also one of the few fantasy corners that transcend the positional limitations, providing starter value even in league not breaking out the defensive back positions, and is a rare exception to the rookie corner rule. For most of the past decade there has been quality box score production from the corner position in Washington; much of that compliments of DeAngelo Hall. Breeland was a rookie fourth round pick when Hall went down early in 2014 and has been carrying the torch since. Breeland played in all sixteen games that year, starting thirteen and finishing with 58 tackles, 11 assists, 4 takeaways and 13 passes defended, landing among the top twenty corners. His production surprisingly increased across the board in year two at 60-22-0 with 7 takeaways and 16 pass breakups. That season he improved to fourth among corners and was the sixteenth ranked defensive back overall. Breeland played thirteen games last season, missing three with injury, but still managed a new career best with 62 solo stops, adding 5 turnovers, a sack and double digit pass breakups to finish as the fantasy game's second ranked corner and at number sixteen overall among defensive backs in points per game. Now that he is lining up opposite Josh Norman there is no reason to expect Breeland's production to suddenly drop off. If he plays a full season Breeland may even be in the running for top billing among corners in 2017.

Elite cover corners rarely make good fantasy players because offenses tend to avoid throwing in their direction. Being one of the league's elite in the eyes of most who follow the game, one of the big surprises from last year was Norman coming in not far behind Breeland at seven overall among corners. Much of what Norman lacked in tackles at 52 was made up for by his 19 passes defended. The one major issue with his fantasy value is consistency. In 2016 some offenses did make it a point to work away from Norman. In four games against the Ravens, Lions and Eagles twice, Norman accounted for 3 tackles, 3 assists and a pass breakup. He is going to be a quality start much of the time but if you are counting on Norman as a starter be sure to do your homework on matchups each week and keep him on the bench against Philadelphia for sure.

Last year's third round pick Kendall Fuller worked in the nickel much of season and is the favorite to continue that role. He could eventually feel some pressure from this year's third round selection Fabian Moreau. For the immediate future Moreau is trying to win the fourth spot in the corner pecking order. That role belonged to Quinton Dunbar at the end of last year and he will not surrender it easily.

SS Sua Cravens - Priority DB2 with big upside
FS D.J. Swearinger Sr - Marginal value at best
FS DeAngelo Hall - Deep sleeper with DB 3 upside if he plays full time
SS Will Blackmon - No value
SS Montae Nicholson - Developmental rookie that could end up the #3 safety
CB Bashaud Breeland - Quality CB1 with #1 overall potential or dependable DB2
CB Josh Norman - Solid CB2 but pay attention to matchups
CB Quinton Dunbar - No value
CB Fabian Moreau - No value at this time
CB Kendall Fuller - Injury sleeper

And that's a wrap for the preseason edition of this year's column. I will be back with news and notes after the first round of preseason games.