Week 5 IDP Hits: Are You My Safety?

There are some big-name safeties that have come up small for our IDP teams so far this season. Some of them look bound to rebound and help us anyway … but not all.

Who should you stick with in Week 5 and beyond, and who should you dump? Let’s get to that right now.

John Johnson, Browns

The former Rams safety gave us reason to believe in him though a free-agency team change with his production in L.A. But now there’s reason for disbelief.

Johnson sits outside the top 100 fantasy DBs after 4 weeks, and it’s not a fluke. His move to Cleveland has included a significant role change. With the 2020 Rams, Johnson spent 43% of his playing time in the “box,” according to Pro Football Focus -- plus another 23% in slot coverage. And those numbers followed pretty closely to his previous Rams seasons.

In Cleveland, Johnson has spent just 10% of snaps in the box so far this year; just 8.1% more in the slot.

Each of those 2 areas puts a DB closer to the action, presenting tackle chances and increasing opportunities for plays on the ball. As a near-total deep safety, Johnson’s statistical production figures to stay much more spotty. That makes him OK to drop in your IDP league … if you haven’t already.

Jeremy Chinn, Panthers

I hit on Chinn’s slow start to the season last week and mentioned the rebound potential of Carolina’s matchup with the Cowboys. Chinn did play more snaps at Dallas than he had the previous 2 weeks and posted his 2nd-best tackle total so far this year, but it was still just a ho-hum 6 (5 solo).

Rather than an issue with Chinn, though, what we got was the most run-heavy game so far this season from the Cowboys -- as well as their fewest offensive snaps through 4 games.

DB is not a position where you have to cling to any player, but I’d keep rolling with Chinn and assuming he’ll get more opportunities. Despite playing all but 1 of the Panthers’ D snaps through 4 games, he ranks just 44th among all safeties in total snaps -- right behind Andrew Wingard and Jayron Kearse, who opened the season as non-full-timers; and Jessie Bates, who sat out Week 4.

Justin Simmons, Broncos

Simmons has probably disappointed you so far as well, hitting Week 5 as just the #61 fantasy DB. But his situation isn’t nearly so worrisome as Johnson’s.

Like Johnson, Simmons has seen a dip in his “box” duty, but there’s reason to believe his playing time rebounds. He has spent 67% of snaps at “free” safety through 4 weeks, well up vs. the past 4 seasons (50%, 39%, 50%, 57%). But Denver opened this year 3-0 before losing to Baltimore last Sunday. In that game, Simmons spent just 43% of his snaps in deep coverage.

So if you expect the Broncos to win most of their games handily the rest of the way, then Simmons might wind up with a down year. I’d bet on the team being closer to .500 than undefeated though. So I think Simmons will be fine.

Kevin Byard, Titans

Like Simmons, Byard hasn’t delivered the points you’ve come to expect early this season. He ranks outside the top 70 at the position heading into Week 5. But Byard has seen no change to his role.

What’s keeping Byard’s production down so far is more than normal fluctuations of the position. The biggest drag has likely been similar to Chinn’s: a sheer lack of opportunity.

The Titans are averaging just 55.75 tackles per game so far this season. That’s down quite a bit from last year’s 66.75 per contest. And among Byard’s previous 4 starting campaigns, none found Tennessee finishing with fewer than 61.6 total tackles per game.

Perhaps that number stays down for the year, but we should expect at least some regression to the mean vs. current numbers.

Byard himself has also seen a slight dip in his tackle shares. He has accounted for 7.1% of the team’s solo tackles so far; 7.2% of total tackles. Each of those numbers would rank lowest among his 5 seasons as a Tennessee starter. The previous 4 ranged from 8.4% to 10.9% in solo share, 7.7% to 10.4% in total. And Byard’s high in each category came just last season.

We should expect something short of last year’s tackle totals, but there’s also room or positive regression here.

Jordan Poyer, Bills

Poyer is off the injury report this week after missing last Sunday’s game with an ankle sprain. That’s good, because it’ll give him the chance to get back to building up his numbers.

Poyer hasn’t disappointed nearly so much as other safeties listed here. He ranked just outside the top 30 in points per game entering Week 5. But if you drafted him, you likely did so within the top 10 at the position.

Similar to Justin Simmons, Poyer has spent more time playing deep through his 3 games this year than he did in any of his previous 4 as a full-time starter. He has spent 58.6% of snaps at “free,” compared with no more than 47.7% in any previous year.

The Bills, meanwhile, have lost just 1 game so far. That also happened to be the contest in which Poyer spent his most time in the “box.” Buffalo has also faced the 2nd-fewest total plays on defense and is allowing a league-low 4.0 yards per play.

It’s entirely possible that the defense has improved to the point of cutting into Poyer’s statistical upside. But he’s not going to kill your IDP lineup going forward.

Jessie Bates, Bengals

Like Poyer, Bates hasn’t fallen flat early in 2021. But his fantasy numbers are down a bit. This one’s easy to attribute, though.

Bates simply hasn’t made any plays on the ball yet. He’s more of a deep safety overall than the rest of the guys in this list, but he managed top-9 fantasy finishes each of the past 3 years. His tackle numbers have been fine. The coverage plays are important, though.

Bates tallied 31 passes defensed and 9 INTs over those 3 years -- including 3 picks each year. Only 5 players had more PDs over that span, and all 5 of them play corner.