The 2022 NFL Free Agency period has begun, and the league has already seen multiple surprise trades and signings. While some teams consolidate power, and others lose their feeble grip on mediocrity, we should all take this time to consider which players we desperately want on our fantasy rosters.
Today, we will dive back into the IDP (Individual Defensive Player) realm and consider which defensive backs are truly “Must-Have” players. If you’re curious about the other defensive positions, please see my previous article on Must-Have Linebackers. We’ll get to defensive linemen later in the free agency cycle.
I’m not looking to break down the top-rated defensive backs, like Derwin James, Budda Baker, or Jeremy Chinn. Instead, I will point out a few names that I believe will out-perform their current ECR (Expert Consensus Ranking).
These are my Must-Have Defensive Backs.
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1. Kamren Curl (WAS-DB)
Curl was my fifth-ranked DB (defensive back) under 25. There has been (ahem) an update to his situation in Washington that makes him even more underrated than he was before. The team released Landon Collins at the start of the free agency period. That may seem inconsequential to passive fantasy football players. For anyone who’s followed Curl’s brief career, however, you know that Curl is a statistical menace when he’s the unquestioned leader of the backfield.
Curl’s rookie season began slowly until Landon Collins went out with injury. After that, he posted career highs in individual tackles, interceptions and sacks. Last year, when Collins was back from injury, Curl put up slightly lower numbers. With Collins now out of the picture, Curl can steadily ascend the DB rankings.
He’s currently the redraft DB17 and dynasty DB11. I currently have him as my dynasty DB9, but I’ll be pushing him higher up my rankings once free agency slows down. He’s primed to have a breakout season, and his value di lui is right in the sweet spot, so get him wherever you can.
2. Antoine Winfield Jr. (TB-DB)
Like Curl, Winfield is entering his third NFL season, but he’s doing so on a Buccaneers team that will probably win another Super Bowl. That’s not a hot take. That’s just a fact. Since joining the Bucs in 2020, he’s been one of the better DBs in the league. With the Bucs losing some of their starting pieces from their Super Bowl run in 2020, Winfield will have to become a leader for this franchise. Luckily, the return of Tom Brady instantly lights a fire for this franchise. The Tampa Bay defense is going to be on a mission in 2022.
In 2021, Winfield missed multiple games, starting only 13 games, but he still put up terrific DB numbers. He nearly out-performed his rookie season totals (which was already regarded as a highly successful debut season) while playing fewer games. All this is to say that his 2022 value of him is slightly low, and his trajectory of him continues to point straight up.
He’s currently the DB15 in redraft IDP leagues and DB5 in dynasty. He’s my dynasty DB4, and I can’t imagine a world where he doesn’t come close to that value this season. Get him on your roster immediately. With Brady returning, we’ll likely start hearing news from Tampa Bay that this team is “on a mission.” Trust me when I say that you want any player who is “on a mission.”
3. Harrison Smith (MIN-DB)
Smith is about the least flashy DB you can roster, but he could be the most valuable. He’s seemingly too old to be good, yet he continues to ball out every year. Due to his age di lui (33-years-old), he’s not someone you can trust much longer since DBs tend to decline in their early 30s. With Minnesota undergoing a regime change both in the front office and with the coaching staff, Smith’s value di lui in 2022 can’t be overstated. He’s going to be “the man” in Minnesota this season.
All due deference to Kirk Cousins, but the defense has always been the heart and soul of the Vikings. Smith is the leader of the defense. In 2021, out of all DBs, Smith scored the second-most points on a per-week basis. The only player ahead of him was Derwin James. Smith set or matched career highs in tackles and sacks. His 83 solo tackles di lui were second only to Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had 84. Smith’s big-play days may be done, but he’s evolved into an efficient tackling machine. As long as he plays for the purple and gold, he will have legit fantasy value.
He’s the DB12 in redraft leagues and the DB13 in dynasty. At least for 2022, he’ll outproduce that value. As for his dynasty value of him, I can see an argument for both sides. I currently have him ranked as my dynasty DB21, but he signed a four-year contract extension last season. He’s one player I’d be happy to be wrong about. As I said, his age of him makes him a “win now” player. Go get him and win now, and maybe later, too.
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Tim Metzler is a featured writer at FantasyPros, known for multiple article series’, including 5 Under 25, Expert Consensus Rantings, his in-season Running Diary and for his dynasty IDP rankings. For more from Tim, check out his archive and follow him @Timmy_The_Metz.