The final installment of the IDP Devy series wraps up with my top 12 defensive backs for the 2022 season. So far we have covered the top 12 defensive linemen and linebackers. As I’ve stated in the previous articles it’s never too early to get to know the names of some of the future IDPs who dynasty managers will be drafting in their rookie drafts next season. By now you’re familiar with the series and what it entails. Let’s not waste any more time and dive into the top DBs to have on your radar while watching college football this season.
Brandon Joseph DB, Notre Dame
- 192 lbs
Joseph looks to become the second straight Notre Dame safety to become a first-round pick. Kyle Hamilton was selected 14th overall in the 2020 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. After a solid career at Northwestern, Joseph will be playing his first and hopefully only season for the Irish. He joined Northwestern as a three-star recruit from College Station, Texas in 2019. The versatile DB was named a 2020 Consensus All-American and led the Big Ten and NCAA with six interceptions. He followed it up in 2021 by registering a career-high in tackles (79) while adding a sack and three interceptions. Joseph has collected nine interceptions in his last 20 games played.
The Notre Dame defense will get a big boost to their secondary with the addition of Joseph. He has all the tools to be a very productive NFL safety. His ball awareness off of tips and deflections is the best in this class. His ability as a punt returner makes him very dangerous if he gets his hands on an interception. He’s willing to take on blocks and give up his body against the run.
Joseph is a very polished defender in the red zone as you’ll see in 2020 when he plays a fade route perfectly against Garret Wilson in the 2020 Big Ten Championship game. He uses his body position and eye discipline to bait the QB and comes away with a leaping one-handed interception. Joseph has been named to nearly every preseason All-American team and award list out there. It’s no surprise he comes in as the top DB on my list.
Antonio Johnson DB, Texas A&M
- 200 lbs
Johnson returns as one of the most exciting DB prospects in college football this season. The Texas A&M defender was a five-star recruit and the number one player in Illinois in the 2020 class. Johnson finished second on the team in tackles (79) and recorded at least six stops in seven of his twelve games played. His best game came in Week 10 against Mississippi. He totaled 23.5 fantasy points on 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one pass defense. The A&M safety is a hybrid of a defender and showed how dynamic he can be last year when he was arguably the best defender on the defense. He has been named to the preseason Thorpe Award watch list which recognizes the nation’s top defensive back each year.
Johnson is a defensive coordinator’s dream in the NFL, a tall lengthy defender who can hold his own as a box safety and cover out of the slot. Johnson earned an 87.4 overall PFF grade last season while only allowing 3.7 yards per target. He has the ability in the open field to bring down ball carriers with no help as shown by his 53 solo tackles last season.
He brings an enforcer mentality when he delivers hits in the open field. In coverage, he has shown his ability to get into the chest of the receiver and use his long arms to break up passes. Johnson is expected to play the nickel again this season but has shown the ability to be a deep safety. Regardless of where he lines up, he’s shown the ability to be an impact defender and the future is very bright for the young DB.
Jordan Battle DB, Alabama
- 206 lbs
Alabama’s Battle returns as the Tide’s starting strong safety for what should be his final season. He was a 247sports four-star recruit and the number two safety overall in the 2019 class. Battle has played in 12 games in each of his first three seasons while increasing his tackle numbers every year. The Alabama DB has collected five interceptions in his career while taking three back for touchdowns. His three interceptions returned for touchdowns rank him fourth all-time in SEC history. In 2021, his three interceptions were fifth best in the SEC. The Alabama DB possesses the size and playmaking ability that NFL scouts want at the strong safety position.
Battle is a very smart player, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when playing for Nick Saban. The biggest weakness of his game is over-aggressiveness and his desire to deliver a knockout hit rather than making sure he plays his assignment. We have seen this style of play from former Alabama defensive backs in the past. I’m confident Battle will work on his tackling this season to solidify that area of his game. Pro Football Focus graded Battle at a 79.0 plus grade at box safety, deep safety, and slot corner last season. Dynasty managers should have Alabama’s leader of the secondary high on their list when ranking DBs for the 2023 class.
Jalen Catalon DB, Arkansas
- 200 lbs
Catalon is the last of the tier one safeties in this class. The Arkansas defender plays the game the right way and opposing offenses are aware of where he is on every snap. Catalon is considered a bit undersized for his position but he finds a way to always be in the right position to make a play. He was a four-star recruit in the 2019 class from Mansfield, Texas. Catalan was must-see TV in 2020, he finished the season with 99 tackles (tenth in the NCAA), three interceptions (fifth in the SEC), and two forced fumbles (fifth in SEC). Catalon was named to Phil Steele’s preseason All-American and All-SEC teams for the 2022 season.
There’s a very real possibility the Arkansas DB could be the top safety off the board in dynasty rookie drafts next season. The biggest concern with Catalon long-term is his injury history, he missed all but one game as a high school senior as well as missing time after just six games last season with a shoulder injury. Catalon plays a style that his body is not currently built for but he can surely bulk up to help him be able to withstand the pain that comes with the hits he delivers. He recorded at least seven tackles in five of his six games played last season and finished eighth on the team in tackles even though he missed half the season. The 2022 season will be a huge year for the future NFL DB to see how he bounces back and helps captain the Arkansas defense.
Ronnie Hickman DB, Ohio State
- 205 lbs
Ohio State’s Hickman stands alone at the top of the second tier for the 2023 class of defensive backs. He was ranked as a four-star recruit and the third-best player from New Jersey in the 2019 class. Hickman had a breakout season as a sophomore in 2021, he collected 99 tackles and two interceptions while taking one back for a touchdown. The Wayne, NJ native posted five games of double-digit tackles including a season-high 14 tackles against Penn State.
Hickman has closing speed and the ability to never seem out of position. His hip flexibility helps with positioning. He is listed as a free safety but Hickman featured in the bullet position for the Ohio State defense last season. He played a lot of box snaps to start the season resulting in him averaging 10 tackles per game over his first three games. It’s almost a guarantee that Hickman projects as a free safety at the next level. I think he will have to look a bit more comfortable in coverage this season to solidify himself as an early draft pick. If this is his last season at Ohio State, enjoy watching him this fall because he is an electric playmaker for the Buckeyes’ defense.
Demani Richardson DB, Texas A&M
- 210 lbs
Richardson is the second Texas A&M defensive back to make the list. Richardson was a four-star recruit from Texas in the 2019 class. He played over 700 snaps for the Aggies in 2021 and finished third on the team in tackles with 65. Richardson is a talented football player who relies a bit more on his instinct than on natural gifts. His instincts as a red zone defender really stood out to me. He has two career interceptions, both came in the red zone and both against Alabama.
He accounted for one of three total interceptions thrown by Tua Tagovailoa in his final season. Richardson also intercepted 2021 Heisman Trophy Winner Bryce Young on a late throw to the boundary in the red zone on a beautiful defensive play. The Texas native finished the season strong with seven tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and two passes defended against LSU.
Richardson is one of the best in this class at diagnosing plays and getting himself in position to make a play on the ball. He most certainly has a future in the NFL. I would like to see improvements as a tackler and in man-to-man coverage. If he can improve those parts of his game he will have a great chance at improving his draft capital for next year’s draft. The Texas A&M secondary should be an exciting group to watch this season especially once conference play starts.
R.J Moten DB, Michigan
- 223 lbs
Moten is a native of Delran, N.J, who ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2020 class. He has a very interesting story of being a multi-sport athlete in both baseball and football at Delran High School. Moten has been criticized for not focusing on either sport full-time, due to a COVID-shortened season his baseball dreams came to an end. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh looked at Moten’s dual sport experience as a huge plus. Ultimately, that was a huge factor in getting him to commit to the Wolverines. Moten would wrap up his high school career with over 3,000 total yards, 40 touchdowns, and double-digit interceptions.
Moten played in 11 games last season finishing with 35 tackles and one interception. The Michigan DB has drawn similar comparisons to former Wolverine Jabrill Peppers who was a swiss army knife on defense. Moten is extremely versatile and can be a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses depending on where he plays. He has very good range and his physical play jumps out to you when you turn on a Michigan game. He still has to prove himself from a consistency standpoint but it’s very likely he’s mentioned as one of the top five safeties entering the 3023 NFL Draft.
Akeem Dent DB, Florida State
- 199 lbs
Dent was the number 8 player from Florida in the 2019 recruiting class according to 247sports. Dent was recruited as a CB but that was short-lived, he’s much more effective as a safety. He plays a very aggressive style and his pure talent really shows when matched up in man-to-man coverage. Dent finished last season with a career-high 44 tackles and one interception. He’s a leader of the inexperienced Florida State defense and is one of those players who lead by example each and every week.
Many NFL scouts and IDP managers alike would love to see Dent improve his tackling before committing to him being an early NFL draft pick. In 2021 he did account for 24 solo tackles which have shown his ability to wrap up in one on one situations with consistency. The Florida State safety is still a bit undersized for the NFL but he has plenty of time to get his body ready for his style of play. Dent should continue to be a standout player for the Seminoles’ defense and with more consistent play should find himself on the radar of all NFL teams.
Xavier Henderson DB, Michigan State
- 210 lbs
Henderson will return to Michigan State as a fifth-year Senior in 2022. Henderson has 235 career tackles as a Spartan and has started each of the past three seasons. The Spartans’ leader on defense set career highs in 2021 with tackles (96), tackles for loss (10), and sacks (3). Henderson has all the tools to keep producing at a high level and this will only make him more polished as he looks to enter the 2023 NFL draft.
Xavier Henderson made one of the craziest interceptions last year against Youngstown State.— Joe DiTullio (@DiTullioJoe) June 26, 2022
He’s back for another year of eligibility and could be huge for Michigan State again.pic.twitter.com/q8cSZXB0Lj
Henderson has very good ball skills, if you don’t agree I’d suggest watching his one-handed INT in Week 2 last season against Youngstown State. The Michigan State DB really excels as a read and react defender and his ability to be a high-volume tackler makes him a very intriguing IDP for dynasty managers. In dynasty, age is nowhere near as much of a factor on the defensive side so Henderson being the oldest of any other safety in this class should not hurt his value too much.
JL Skinner DB, Boise State
- 220 lbs
Skinner was a three-star recruit from San Diego, CA who ranked as the 731st player overall in the 2019 recruiting class. Although, if you’ve followed his career at Boise State you wouldn’t think that was possible. Skinner has steadily improved from his freshman season to his breakout year in 2021 as a junior. Skinner posted 92 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. The fact that he plays weaker competition is his biggest weakness heading into the 2022 season
The Boise State DB played over 700 snaps last season and he holds nothing back when coming up to make a tackle. Skinner is a lengthy safety who has the speed to stop players from getting to the boundary and he has made routine game-changing hits over his career with the Broncos. His size allows him the ability to be very effective as a defender, especially in zone coverages. I expect Skinner to rise up draft boards with another season as he had in 2021, he has been named to the Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe Award watch list for the 2022 season. Dynasty managers should find the time to stay up late on a Saturday night to catch Skinner play, you have my word that you won’t be disappointed.
Rashad Torrence II DB, Florida Gators
- 202 lbs
Torrence has appeared in 20 games since committing to the Florida Gators, he has 112 tackles and three interceptions in that time. Torrence is a Marietta, GA native who chose the Gators as a four-star recruit in the 2020 class. The Gators’ safety gives me serious vibes of a former Gator DB Chauncey Garnder-Johnson, who is now with the New Orleans Saints. I believe Torrence is a better player but the play styles look similar. It’s also possible as a Miami Hurricanes fan I just have flashbacks of a low 20’s jersey number flying around and making plays. Regardless, Torrence is a player that I am fully confident will be an NFL starter when his time comes.
The Gators’ DB played in 800+ snaps last season and put himself on the map with 87 tackles and three interceptions last season. Torrence had two standout games last season with 15 tackles against Vanderbilt and another 12 tackles against Samford. He also played a great game against his hometown Georgia Bulldogs with eight tackles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. The future is very bright for Torrence as he enters his third season as a high-level SEC defensive player. A potential 100 tackle season could be on the horizon for the Florida Gators’ safety which will increase his value tremendously as the 2023 NFL draft approaches.
Bee Jay Williamson DB, Louisiana Tech
- 193 lbs
Williamson was a three-star recruit from Horn High School in Mesquite, TX. He committed to Louisiana Tech in 2018 and has appeared in 35 games heading into his fifth season. Williamson at times looks like the best player on the field as he should be against lesser competition. He is built more like a cornerback than safety and that is a bit of a concern as his future as an NFL pro draws closer. Williamson played over 500 snaps last season and allowed a QB rating under 55.0. He has accounted for six interceptions and one defensive touchdown over his past two seasons with the Bulldogs.
The L.A Tech safety enters what projects to be his final college season. He isn’t going to wow anyone with his athleticism but he has a very good understanding of the game and uses his fundamentals to seem to always be around the ball. Williamson started 11 games last season and finished third on the team with 52 stops. There are high hopes for Williamson this season as he’s been named to the Preseason Second Team All-Conference USA. There isn’t much left for Williamson to prove but another season like his last two should be enough to earn him a day two or three draft selection. IDP managers might not get much of a chance to watch him live but keep an eye on how he’s playing this season even if it’s just boxscore watching.
This puts an end to the top 12 players to watch out for in this Devy IDP series. I hope this was able to give you an idea of the top players at each of the three positions for IDP. If any of these players are available in deep Devy drafts it would not be a bad idea to try to acquire them rather than an upside player who won’t be draft eligible for three years. I enjoyed bringing you all these player breakdowns and look forward to seeing where each of these players ranks at the end of the season. Keep checking out the team at Dynasty Nerds as the Fantasy Forecast series is underway. The team looks forward to bringing you thoughts, opinions, and projections of all 32 NFL teams.