If you are in a deep enough dynasty IDP league, then you probably know that cornerback is pretty much the least significant position across the board. For one, many of the best cornerbacks in the league are not the highest scoring players at the position. Shutdown cornerbacks don’t usually get the ball thrown in their direction. The scoring is usually so sporadic with performances being up and down from week to week. Corners that don’t cover well will get good tackle numbers, but you can’t count on those players, because the coaches are always trying to upgrade them. If you can look at anything from the position with any sort of consistency, really good slot and nickel cornerbacks are the best to own. They’re usually asked to come into the box and play the middle of the field, where the action is.
If your league has a DB (defensive back) designation, you will want to fill that position with a safety not a cornerback. Every year one or two corners will be up there in scoring with the top safeties. The problem is that it ends up being different corners every year. Those players are usually picked up mid-season when they’ve already started to defy the odds. In deeper IDP leagues, you will have to start cornerbacks. Those leagues are what this list of players is for. It’s kind of a joke for some of the staff at MDF, that I am the cornerback guy. I did rank over 140 corners in my most updated rankings, so I guess the shoe fits.
THE BLUE CHIPPERS
These players finished the season well and project to spend most of their time as slot corners on their teams. Slot corners in fantasy leagues will usually be the most consistent scorers.
Byron Murphy (2.01 ARZ)
Murphy had a successful season for the Cardinals, totaling 78 tackles, 10 deflections, and 1 interception. As a rookie, he had his ups and downs, but proved that he belongs in the league. He will most likely be a starter for a long time in the NFL, and should put up good fantasy numbers as long as opposing quarterbacks are avoiding throwing the ball anywhere close to future hall of famer Patrick Peterson.
Sean Murphy-Bunting (2.07 TBB)
Murphy-Bunting was a surprise pick early in the second round out of Central Michigan. When he got off to a rough start, the coaching staff never gave up on him and they were rewarded for it. Murphy-Bunting finished strong and ended the season with 44 tackles, 3 interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown), 8 passes defended, and 1 sack. The secondary was a big priority going into the draft last season and the Buccaneers came away with two cornerbacks and a coverage safety. After starting 3-6, they decided to cut former first round pick Vernon Hargreaves and go with the young guns. The bet paid off as it looks as though corners Carlton Davis, Jamal Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting will man the secondary in 2020, with Murphy-Bunting as the starting nickel corner.
DeAndre Baker (1.30 NYG)
After selecting quarterback Daniel Jones and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence in the first round of the 2019 draft, the Giants moved back into the first and selected cornerback DeAndre Baker out of Georgia as the first corner selected with the thirtieth pick overall. It was a costly move to pick the somewhat undersized, but extremely fast and aggressive defender. The Giants had a big need there and needed Baker to step right in. Early on, Baker was disappointing, he was even caught napping in meetings a few times, but he started to play much better towards the end of the season. The Giants brought in James Bradberry to be the #1 corner in 2020 and changed defensive coordinators, to utilize a more man press coverage instead of last year’s soft zone coverage to fit Baker’s skillset. If Baker can build on the improvements he made last year he should put up good numbers in 2020.
These players made a lot of improvements adjusting to the NFL last year. They are primed to put up better numbers at their position in 2020.
Jamel Dean (3.30 TBB)
The Bucs drafted a pair of good cornerbacks in the 2019 draft, selecting Sean Murphy-Bunting in the second round and Jamel Dean out of Auburn in the third. Dean was an exciting prospect at 6’2, and running 4.3 forty at the combine (2nd fastest overall). It was multiple knee injuries in college that caused him to go late in the third. He didn’t crack the lineup early on due to some minor injuries, but he finally got on the field in week 9. He played horrible in his first game against the Seahawks, but improved quickly in the following week against the Cardinals. The Buccaneers released Vernon Hargreaves after week 10 and Dean became a mainstay after that. He finished the season with 21 total tackles, 2 interceptions, and 17 passes defended. In 2020, Dean is projected to start on the outside across from Carlton Davis, but he may get some slot work in as well.
Jimmy Moreland (7.13 WAS)
Seventh round pick Jimmy Moreland out of James Madison College, had an up and down rookie season last year. He did not give up a single touchdown in coverage, but he allowed almost eighty percent of completions that came his way. Still, for a seventh round pick out of a small school it was impressive for him to be fourth in cornerback snaps on the team at 41% for the season. Moreland had good athletic numbers at his pro day, and he has an instinctual aggressiveness. He finished the season with 44 total tackles and 4 passes defended. Washington brought cornerback Kendall Fuller back, who played slot corner for them in 2017. Moreland’s size and skillset is better suited as a slot corner, so depending on how new coach Ron Rivera decides to use his cornerbacks will be an important factor for Moreland’s outlook in 2020.
Kendall Sheffield (4.09 ATL)
The Falcons defensive unit struggled as a whole throughout the first half of the season, having only 2 interceptions and 7 sacks. During their bye in week 8, wide receivers coach Raheem Morris switched from receiver’s coach to secondary coach and everything started to change. In the second half of the season, the defense recorded 10 interceptions and 21 sacks (many due to the improved coverage), and turned their 1-7 start to a 7-9 finish. Morris was rewarded for his efforts by being named defensive coordinator after the season. Rookie Kendall Sheffield out of Ohio State, also improved as the nickel corner. He finished the season with 43 tackles, 3 passes deflected, and 1 forced fumble. His biggest weakness was in coverage, but with a year of experience under his belt, Sheffield has a chance to make a big jump in 2020, especially if he stays in the slot. The Falcons released their #1 cornerback Desmond Trufant and are expecting third year player Isaiah Oliver to take over that roll. They have a lot of needs on the defensive side of the ball with very little cap space. They will most likely address cornerback again in the upcoming draft, but regardless, Sheffield’s snaps should increase in his sophomore season.
PROS OR CONS
These players played well last season and will most likely have good NFL careers. The question is will they become top dynasty cornerbacks. I will give you some information about them and you can decide for yourselves if they are worth a roster spot on your team.
Rock Ya-Sin (2.02 IND)
Rock Ya-Sin out of Temple, was yet another good defensive pick by the Colts. He had an up and down, yet productive season for a rookie and should go into next year as a starter. The thing about Ya-Sin playing for the Colts is that they already have one of the top fantasy IDP cornerbacks in slot corner Kenny Moore. Moore missed five games last season due to injury and was still a top fifteen scoring corner. Rock projects as an outside cornerback for the Colts in 2020 and should have improved numbers as a full-time starter.
Trayvon Mullen (2.08 LVR)
The Raiders accumulated a lot of picks in the draft last year and for the most part they did a really good job with them. General manager Mike Mayock seems to be enamored with big successful college programs when drafting. So, with their fourth pick, early in the second round, it was no surprise when they took Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen. Mullen didn’t crack the starting lineup until week 8. He showed that he belonged right away with his strong play and toughness. Mullen will go into the 2020 season as the #1 cornerback and therein lies the problem. Mullen will produce fantasy points, being on the field for most of the defensive snaps, but being a potential “shutdown” cornerback may eventually cap his statistics.
Nik Needham (undrafted MIA)
The biggest surprise on this list is the Miami Dolphin’s undrafted cornerback Nik Needham out of UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso). Needham exceeded all expectations last year, starting more games at cornerback for the Dolphins than any other player. He showed off great footwork and coverage instincts, which should keep him in the league for a while. It looks like he has a good shot to start the season as the perimeter corner opposite Xavien Howard. He didn’t play the first four weeks of the season, but still finished with 55 total tackles, 2 interceptions, 11 passes defended, 1 sack, and 1 fumble recovery. The job of an undrafted free agent is never too secure, so while there is upside with Needham there is also risk.
UNDER THE RADAR
These cornerbacks didn’t get the playing time last year that the players above did, but they have a chance to dramatically up their statistics from a year ago.
Blessuan Austin (6.23 NYJ)
Former Rutger cornerback Blessuan Austin earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention as a sophomore. He would play just three more collegiate games over the next two seasons. In 2017, Austin tore his ACL a few games into the season, and the following year, he re-injured the same knee in the opener. Surprisingly, with little film for scouts to evaluate, the Jets decided to take a flier on the 6’1, 198 pounds, former rising star. Austin started the season on the reserve/non-football injury list and was expected to eventually be placed on injured reserve. He was instead activated in week 10 against the Giants and became a full-time starter at halftime. He held his own for a guy that hadn’t had a lot of game time experience in the last couple of years. He was benched for the final week of the season after struggling against the Steelers in week 16, but overall, played well and should be in the Jets future plans. Blessuan Austin is a low risk high reward type of guy, that health permitting, could be a star corner in the NFL.
Rashad Fenton (6.28 KCC)
Before the 2019 season, cornerback was perceived as a big need for the Kansas City Chiefs. That was because most evaluators weren’t putting as much stock into how good 2018 late season acquisition Charvarius Ward was going to be. Cornerback was still a need, which they did eventually address in the sixth round when they drafted 5’11, 193 pounds, Rashad Fenton out of South Carolina. Fenton’s attributes coming out of the draft was speed and versatility. He had experience returning kicks and lining up in various spots along the defense. Fenton got his first taste of game action in week six after Kendall Fuller suffered a thumb injury. He was able to hang with the big boys, improving every week until a hamstring injury derailed him in week 13. He was able to return for week 17, and he recorded 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QB hit, and 1 pass defended against the Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs. Fenton proved enough last year to earn himself a bigger role in 2020. If your league carries a cornerback designation (CB), Rashad Fenton should be on your radar.
Amani Oruwariye (5.08 DET)
Oruwariye had a third-round grade coming out of Penn State in last year’s draft. His 6’1, 204 pounds’ frame, is ideal for an NFL cornerback in press man coverage, but that was not his game. Amani is more of an athletic defender with good ball skills. His college tape was up and down, but showed some good flashes of instincts and closing speed. In college, he had an impressive 72 solo tackles to go along with 9 interceptions, and 20 passes defensed. In nine games last season, he recorded 17 solo tackles and 2 interceptions in only 19% of the team’s total defensive snaps. The Lions traded their perennial pro bowl corner, Darius Slay to the Eagles and replaced him with veteran Desmond Trufant. Prized 2019 free agent cornerback acquisition Justin Coleman mans the slot, although his game slipped a little last season along with the entire team’s. Cornerback is projected as the biggest need for the Lions going into to the 2020 draft. With the third overall pick, most experts have penciled in the Lions selecting corner Jeffrey Okudah out of Ohio State. Regardless of whether Okudah is their selection, Oruwariye played well in a limited role last season and should have an opportunity to receive a lot more playing time in 2020.
IDP Scouting Report:
Part 5: Second Year Cornerbacks