The regular season is right around the corner, so let’s start looking at those Week 1 matchups! It’s never too early to start looking at the best matchups for your IDP safeties heading into Week 1! With just over a month until the season kicks off the redraft degenerates are out in full force, and the dynasty managers are already submitting their lineups (just in case).
And while the SGPN network has you covered from all angles, my focus will be the IDP secondary this season. You’ve already seen a preview for Johny The Greek’s Cornerback Corner where we’ll cover the best cornerback steams this season, but this week let’s have a look at those safety matchups for Week 1. Here’s the Week 1 IDP start or sit for safety.
Between me and @TheIDPtipser Gary Van Dyke we’ve got you covered for every IDP position this season. Please check out his work on the defensive line and linebackers as well! Please remember these are just suggestions, but they are based on my 20-plus years playing IDP fantasy football. Let’s get into it!
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IDP Week 1 Start or Sit (Safety)
Lions @ Chiefs
Outlook: Last season’s overall number four and one offenses face off outdoors in Kansas City on Thursday night football to kick off the 2023/24 season. We’ve got two powerful offenses and an over/under of 54.5. This suggests an epic shootout and plenty of offense and points scored on both sides.
Sustained offense is the key to IDP production. If the opposing team across from your linebacker or safety keeps going three and out, your production will be limited, so we’ve got a great recipe for excellent IDP production in this one. These are the type of factors that make for solid IDP start or sit decisions.
Kerby Joseph (S): Kerby is projected as a Week 1 starter and likely candidate for 100% of snaps. I’d feel comfortable firing him up as a start in medium to deeper leagues as a safety two plus.
Tracy Walker (S): Same story here with Tracy Walker. The only difference is we’ve seen him do it for longer and have years plural of productivity to look back on. I’d feel comfortable with him as a start in leagues of all sizes as a safety two.
Chauncey Gardner Johnson (CB/S): Johnson will likely have the cornerback designation in several places but may play more of a “glue guy” role which would have him lining up all over the place and could lead to a packed box score, however with the training camp injury and some uncertainty on his role in this defense specifically I’d only play him as a start in deeper leagues as a safety three plus until we see some snaps and know what to expect.
Will Harris (S): Despite playing significant snaps last season, we can sit Will Harris in Week 1 since that was the result of an injury-riddled secondary and is not likely to be the norm this season.
Brian Branch (S): The rookie has great draft capital, and the future is bright, but he’s not currently listed or projected as a starter according to the offseason depth charts I’ve seen, sit for Week 1, and we’ll adjust if he ends up having good playing time and a productive role.
Kansas City Chiefs
Bryan Cook (S): The second year player is projected to be a starter and a significant part of this defense this season, but the problem is we haven’t seen it with our own eyeballs yet, until we do playing him in Week 1 is a risky proposition. I would still start him.
The matchup is too juicy not to, but only in deeper leagues as a safety three or four. That way, if we’ve guessed wrong, the damage to our team is minimized. All signs point to him playing a good amount in Week 1, but I don’t believe it until I see it in person.
Justin Reid (S): Unlike Cook, we have seen a season’s worth of production and snaps from Reid, and it was forgettable at best. He’s still a start, but only in much deeper leagues as a safety three or four. The vast majority of production from the Chiefs secondary went to the gentleman we’ll be discussing next, while Reid was only an occasional producer, spotty and inconsistent as best.
L’Jarius Sneed (CB/S): While there is some debate as to whether Sneed will have the same role he played last season, the role which had him as the DB1 overall in many league formats when it was all said and done, he’s still shown himself to be a guaranteed 100% of snaps starter and capable of a monster box score.
With this matchup already looking juicy, I’d be very comfortable starting Sneed in leagues of all sizes, even more so if he has the cornerback designation, and you can plug him into one of those slots instead of a safety slot.
Mike Edwards (S): Edwards comes over from the Bucs, where he had one of the best seasons of his long career last year. While he’s not currently listed as a starter for the Chief’s secondary, it’s likely he’ll be involved to some extent or another. While it hurts me to say this, I would sit him in Week 1 while we see how the snaps shake out, and we can adjust from there.
Panthers @ Falcons
Outlook: Last season’s 29th and 24th ranked offenses, respectively face off indoors in Atlanta to start Week 1. The dome always helps with offensive production (mother nature can’t be involved, turf is faster than grass, etc.), but we’ve only got an over/under of 42.5 so Vegas thinks this will be a lower-scoring affair with fewer offensive fireworks.
I tend to agree. Between a rookie quarterback making his first start against a defense filled with grown men and Desmond Ritter, who was anything but impressive last year, we have a recipe for a defensive struggle on our hands.
That’s typically not what we want for IDP production. While a lower scoring game with more three and outs, turnovers, and fewer points and sustained drives may lead to more “splash plays” (sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, etc), it will also significantly lower our combined tackle floor between these two teams.
If there isn’t sustained offense and long drives that involve completed passes, runs for first downs, etc., then we’re getting fewer combined tackles overall, and that means IDP production that we can predict (we can’t predict sacks or picks, tackles is another story) will be minimized.
That’s not to say we won’t have some excellent IDP box scores that come out of this game, but this is not the recipe we look to for ideal IDP production across the board. Just keep that in mind if you do choose to start any of the safety options we discuss here. When looking at IDP start or sit decisions it’s always good to keep these factors in the back of your mind.
Jeremy Chinn (CB/S): The offseason depth charts I’ve been looking at seem to have Chinn listed as the current nickelback, which means there’s a good chance he could have the vaunted “CB/S” designation in your league of merit if that’s the case absolutely plug him into a cornerback slot and use that other safety slot for a different option.
This is a cheat code since safeties tend to be more productive and consistent overall when compared to cornerbacks. Beyond that, we all know Chinn is a top 12 safety for IDP easily, so despite the less than ideal matchup, I’d still fire him up in leagues of all sizes as a start with confidence. He’s too good to sit, however we’ll adjust quickly in Week 2 if his playing time is panic-inducing.
Vonn Bell (S): Bell came over from Cincy this past offseason (and New Orleans before that), where he had an excellent run of season after season of good consistent production, the matchup knocks him back a bit here, but I’d still start him in medium to deeper leagues as a safety two preferably three and feel pretty good about it.
Xavier Woods (S): This is the option for the Panthers safety corps I feel like could be “left out in the cold” since there are too many chefs in the kitchen to begin with and only two safety spots traditionally speaking (more teams have been running three safeties in recent years but we can’t confirm that here until we see it). With that in mind, plus the bad matchup I would sit Woods in Week 1 and readjust after we see some snaps going into Week 2. Better safe than to eat a zero.
Jessie Bates (S): Bates has long been an IDP darling but, in recent seasons, has been playing deeper, which in turn has led to a more inconsistent box score and a reduced weekly tackle floor. It’s likely he’ll have a similar role here in Atlanta.
With that in mind, plus the bad matchup, I’d only start him in much deeper leagues as a safety three or four, he’s still massively talented, but we’d likely be relying on a splash play for good production from him in Week 1, and those type of plays aren’t an “every week thing”, tackles are, and he likely won’t have many of them to start the year against the Panthers.
Richie Grant (S): Grant, however, has had plenty of box snaps in recent history (playing in the box or box snaps means lining up in the box, much closer to the line of scrimmage, players who do this typically have much better weekly production and consistency in terms of combined tackle production) and will likely see more of the same this season.
With the Falcons’ linebacker corps still somewhat of a mess, there’s a good chance he’s heavily involved in run stopping in this matchup as well, so I’d feel comfortable starting him in leagues of all sizes as a safety two. His role overpowers the bad matchup in this case, plus we already know he’ll play every snap and was massively productive last season.
Texans @ Ravens
Outlook: Last seasons 31st and 16th ranked offenses respectively face off outdoors in Baltimore for Week 1. Vegas has this one at 44.5 for the over/under, so still a lower scoring affair in their eyes, and that tracks. The Texans will march out a rookie quarterback in his first ever NFL start against one of the best defenses in the league. This may limit the offensive production for the Texans, thereby limiting the IDP production for our Ravens safeties.
For the reverse, this Baltimore team is still a run first, second, and third offense that only passes when they really need to, so there could be some value for whichever Texans safety plays more box snaps, but for the deep safety, it will likely be a long day of standing around not doing much. Those are the factors at play in this one. Let’s have a closer look at the IDP start or sit for this safety group.
Jalen Pitre (S): Pitre is coming off a season where was the safety one or darned close to it in many league formats, especially if we remove the cheat code safeties (Julian Love and L’Jarius Sneed) from the equation. Despite this, he took flak for his high missed tackle rate, and the current offseason depth charts have him listed as the free safety (typically lines up deeper).
Offseason depth charts get some things right, but I take that free safety designation with a large grain of salt. Not only are more teams playing safety as “left” and “right” instead of “free” and “strong” but we saw with our own eyeballs what Pitre’s responsibilities and talents were last season.
He’s a disruptor and lines up all over the place, he was heavily involved and made splash plays almost on a weekly basis plus his 147 combined tackles last season made a strong impression for a defense that’s otherwise pretty devoid of talent. He’ll play every snap, he’ll be all over the place, and if I had to bet who will have more tackles between him and the “strong” safety Jimmy Ward at the end of Week 1, my bet would be Pitre ten times out of ten. Fire him up with confidence (start him) in leagues of all sizes as a safety one.
Jimmy Ward (S): Ward comes over from the 49ers this past offseason and is my bet to be the deeper safety here. He’s better in coverage (69.3 to 65.8 PFF coverage grade) than Pitre and is a savvy veteran that makes a far better option as the last line of defense here in Houston.
With that in mind his production may be limited in Week 1 since the Ravens don’t really pass the ball, and Pitre plus the Houston linebackers corps will likely eat up most of the run stopping tackles so I’d only start Ward in much deeper leagues as a safety four or higher. His production would likely have to come from an interception or multiple passes defended, and those happen far less often than combined tackles. We plan for those, and anything else is a pleasant surprise.
Marcus Williams (S): We don’t need the depth chart to tell us who will be lining up where for this safety corps, Williams is the deep safety and one hell of a good one at that. Unfortunately, the matchup isn’t all that great with a rookie quarterback and a shallow, untalented wide receiver corps across from him.
With that in mind, his production will likely be splash play dependent, and we never bet on that since interceptions, sacks, and forced fumbles occur far less often than combined tackles do on a week to week basis. I’d still start him, just in much deeper leagues as a safety three or four, and only because he’s massively talented and will play every snap.
Kyle Hamilton (S): The anointed one, he who they hype about, the answer we received the most all offseason as me and Gary interviewed tons of IDP analysts and asked them “who do you think the safety one will be this season?”.
Hamilton will likely have a role similar to that of Derwin James (S) in Los Angeles, where he lines up all over the field and is involved in everything from coverage to run stopping to blitzing the quarterback. This, combined with his incredible talent and the strong likelihood that he’ll play every snap this season should result in a very nice week one for Mr. Hamilton. I’d start him in leagues of all sizes as a safety one due to talent, opportunity, and likely role/responsibilities on this defense.
Bengals @ Browns
Outlook: Cincy and their 8th ranked offense visit Cleveland and their 14th ranked offense in Week 1. Let’s have a look at the IDP start or sit options for this matchup. Vegas has the over/under at 47.5, which implies a decent amount of offense, and I would agree. This Browns offense only had Deshaun Watson at the helm for a small portion of last season. With a full offseason and the addition of Elijah Moore we can expect more of the Texans version of Watson hopefully.
Weather shouldn’t be much of a factor this early into September, and these divisional matchups are always close, so we can expect a back and forth affair. All that is great for our IDP safety options in this one. With two excellent running backs and no less than five excellent wide receivers between these two teams, we’ll get a nice mix of run and pass. We’ve got a recipe for beautiful IDP production in this Week 1 matchup.
Nick Scott (S): There’s some uncertainty as to who will be the other 100% of snaps safety starter for the Bengals between Scott and Battle. This is something that will need to be monitored throughout the preseason. The winner of this competition would be a good start in deeper leagues as a safety three or four.
I would only start them this deep due to the uncertainty between the two in regard to playing time. Whenever we have a situation like that, there’s always a chance for shenanigans. By that, I mean a sudden benching at halftime or a mid-week switch of the starter without anyone knowing, and we eat a zero. Better safe than sorry. We can readjust after Week 1 in regards to these two.
Dax Hill (S): According to the offseason news I’ve read, Hill is locked in as a starter heading into Week 1. Unlike Scott and Battle, who continue to compete for the other starting spot, Hill should be good to go. With this matchup looking juicy I’d feel comfortable starting him as a safety two in medium to deeper leagues.
Jordan Battle (S): See note above for Nick Scott. The same applies here. The winner of this competition would be a good start in deeper leagues as a safety three or four.
Juan Thornhill (S): Thornhill joins the Bengals after several forgettable years in Kansas City. He will likely be a deeper or “free” safety and won’t be consistent or reliable. His production will have to come through splash plays or getting lucky in regards to being in the right place at the right time for a nice tackle floor.
With this in mind, I’d only start him in much deeper leagues as a safety three preferably four. And I’d only start him at all because of the matchup. The Bengals were a top ten passing attack last season, and their offense is spectacular. That’s always what we want to see for good IDP production.
Grant Delpit (S): Delpit, however played a good amount of box snaps last season and had the combined tackle numbers that prove it. He’ll be much more involved in run defense, especially when we consider the Browns’ issues with their linebackers. He should be heavily involved in all aspects of the defense and is in a terrific matchup. I’d feel comfortable starting him as a safety one in leagues of all sizes for Week 1.
Jaguars @ Colts
Outlook: Last season’s overall 10th and 27th ranked offenses respectively face off indoors in Indy for Week 1. Weather won’t be a factor, and despite the early line (Jags -3.5), this feels like a blowout bloodbath.
With an over/under of 43.5 Vegas thinks this will be a lower scoring affair, and it’s very possible that Jacksonville scores most of those points. I would favor the Colts IDP options in this one heavily. They will likely spend quite a bit of time on defense. Jacksonville’s IDP production may have to be more splash play dependent since it’s likely they’ll dominate time of possession offensively.
We know that’s not ideal for our Jags IDP options. This will hurt their tackle floor overall. You can’t rack up tackles when you’re sitting on the bench because your offense is on the field. Between the Colts likely starting a rookie quarterback against a very solid defense loaded with studs and the Jonathan Taylor fiasco, things aren’t looking good for Indy heading into this one.
With all that in mind I’d feel good about my Colts IDP options and would only favor my splash play dependent options for Jacksonville. That means the Jags defensive line is a good play here, but beyond that, the lack of a likely tackle floor hurts their safeties, linebackers, and especially their corners. That’s how I see the IDP start or sit for this particular matchup.
Andre Cisco (S): Cisco will play every snap and is a good season long option but the matchup hurts him in Week 1. I’d only start him in much deeper leagues as a safety three preferably four. While I could absolutely be wrong about how this thing goes right now it looks like the Jags will crush Indy and Cisco won’t be on the field or involved enough for the combined tackle floor we look to.
Reyshawn Jenkins (S): Jenkins had more box snaps last season from what I remember, so he should have a better floor than Cisco. But the matchup hurts him as well, just not as much. I’d start him as a safety two preferably three in deeper leagues. The competition for tackles doesn’t help either with Foye Oluokun and Devin Lloyd in front of him. He’ll play every snap though and has a better chance at hitting his projection than Cisco does in my opinion.
Rodney Thomas (S): While the matchup is absolutely beautiful, if anything, the Jags offense got better with the addition of Calvin Ridley and Tank Bigsby. There is some uncertainty as to who the starting safeties will be in Indianapolis. This is something to monitor during the preseason, but if Thomas is a starter, I’d start him as a safety two, preferably three, in deeper leagues. The matchup is great, but the uncertainty gives me pause. Safety is also a plentiful position. It’s easy enough to find someone we know will be a 100% of snaps starter in Week 1. That’s what I’ll be doing.
Julian Blackmon (S): Same deal, different player. If Blackmon ends up being a starter I’d feel comfortable starting him as a safety two preferably three in deeper leagues. Once again, it’s a great matchup, but I watched this team play safety roulette all last year, and it’s not like they went out and got Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu with a time machine in the offseason. These are the same mediocre options they had in and out of the lineup all last season, so this deserves some scrutiny.
Bucs @ Vikings
Outlook: Last seasons 15th and 7th offenses respectively face off indoors for this particular Week 1 IDP start or sit. Vegas feels this is a decently offensive affair with a 45.5 over/under. The Bucs will be a bit of a mystery with Baker Mayfield at the helm so this should temper our IDP production expectations from our Vikings options.
As for the Bucs IDP options, they should feast against this balanced offense that’s playing at home and indoors. All systems go for our Tampa Bay safeties, and we’ll proceed with caution when it comes to our Minnesota options for more reasons than just the matchup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Antoine Winfield Jr (S): Not only does Winfield Jr. have his fathers genetics and talent he also has his predisposition for scoring a ton of IDP points on a pretty consistent basis. He’s been in the safety one overall discussion in recent years and will play every snap guaranteed. When we add that to this beautiful matchup we have the recipe for a great Week 1. I’d feel comfortable starting Winfield Jr as a safety one in leagues of all sizes.
Ryan Neal (S): Neal comes over from Seattle, where he spent the past few years bailing out Jamal Adams every time he got hurt, which was always. He’s been a consistent option when he’s had the playing time.
And he’ll have it now as a starter in Tampa Bay. There’s no one behind him to challenge him for this other starting safety role. I’d feel comfortable starting Neal as a safety two in medium to deeper leagues. The matchup is great, the historical production is good, and the playing time feels almost guaranteed. The only thing that dings this a bit for me is we haven’t seen it before.
Camryn Bynum (CB/S): Bynum is currently listed in the offseason depth charts as a starter and was one all last season. The season ending injury to Lewis Cine cemented that last year. This year, however, Cine is healthy, so we have some uncertainty with this. We’ll need to pay attention to the preseason and beat writer reports but if Bynum is a starter, I’d feel comfortable starting him as a safety three preferably four in much deeper leagues only.
Honestly I won’t be playing him at all personally in Week 1. Too much uncertainty and the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze last season, he was mediocre at best last year, and that was with 100% of snaps every week guaranteed.
Lewis Cine (S): Cine has the draft capital and was supposed to be a starter across from Harrison Smith last season. A preseason injury knocked him out before we had a chance to see any of that. He’s healthy this season but the signs point to Bynum as the other starter currently. We’ll monitor during preseason and adjust as needed. He’s a sit for now.
Harrison Smith (S): Old man Harrison has been doing this for a long time and doing it well. The matchup isn’t great, but we do know he’ll play every snap. I’d feel comfortable starting him as a safety two preferably three in deeper leagues.
Josh Metellus (S): There have also been some rumblings about Metellus possibly displacing Bynum as the other starter. We’ll have to wait and see what the preseason brings. He’s a sit for now. If he can take the other starting job we’ll readjust. Even if the signs pointed towards this occurring I’d still sit him in Week 1, too many chefs in the kitchen. There are three safeties vying for one job. That’s never good. Situations like that can lead to sudden benching and last second rug pulls and we end up eating a zero.
Titans @ Saints
Outlook: Last seasons 30th and 19th ranked offenses face off indoors in New Orleans. Let’s have a look at the IDP start or sit here. Vegas has this one at 41.5 in regards to over/under. They think this will be a defensive struggle. There are some good factors here to counter that, I believe. The Titans just signed DeAndre Hopkins, and the Saints finally have a healthy Michael Thomas for the first time in a long time.
Between that and the excellent running backs on either side, we should have a nice balanced offensive attack from both teams. That’s a great recipe for IDP production, and just because Vegas doesn’t think there’ll be points, that doesn’t mean there won’t be offense. We just need sustained drives, not the points that come from them. I think we’ll be fine, personally.
Kevin Byard (S): Byard has been a top 12 IDP safety since I was in diapers, it feels like. He’s always productive and reliable. The only negative factor that comes to mind is his contract situation. Barring him actually sitting out, I’d start him as a safety two in leagues of all sizes comfortably.
Amani Hooker (S): Hooker, however, has been the more snake bit of the two. Between consistent injury issues and inconsistent production, he’s the lesser option by a good deal. Still, we do know he’ll play every snap in all likelihood. I’d start him as a safety three preferably four in deeper leagues.
New Orleans Saints
Tyrann Mathieu (S): The Honey Badger has been a great IDP safety option for a long time. While this isn’t the greatest matchup for him he’s always heavily involved in the defense. He’ll play every snap and is massively talented. I’d start him as a safety two preferably three in leagues of all sizes.
Marcus Maye (S): Maye is battling some off the field issues (DUI case) as has been injury riddled since joining the Saints. He is locked in as the other starter simply due to a lack of talent behind him. He’s a warm body for Week 1, and that’s the extent of it. I’d start him as a safety four in much deeper leagues.
49ers @ Steelers
Outlook: Last season’s 5th and 23rd respectively overall offenses face off in Pittsburgh for Week 1. Let’s check out the IDP start or sit options. Vegas has this one at 40.5 for their over/under, and I absolutely agree. Even with Brock Purdy back in the mix, this feels like a defensive struggle and low scoring affair.
We’ll have to temper our expectations for IDP production aside from splash plays in this one. Three and outs don’t help us when we need everyone to eat in regard to their combined tackle floor. On the upside, there should be plenty of sacks and tackles for loss if you have any of the noteworthy defensive line options from either team.
San Francisco 49ers
Talanoa Hufanga (S): Easily the best IDP safety option of this group, and coming off a spectacular season, the only thing hurting Hufanga is the matchup in Week 1.
He’ll have stiff competition for run stopping tackles with Warner and Greenlaw in front of him and small hands likely won’t complete a ton of passes in regards to the passing attack. However, he will play 100% of snaps and showed a keen ability for splash plays last year. With that in mind, I’d start him as a safety three in medium to deeper leagues.
Tashaun Gipson (S): We’ll need to pay attention to beat writers and the preseason to see who starts on the other side of Hufanga. Currently, Gipson is listed as the other safety, but Brown has been pushing him for the spot according to training camp news I’ve read.
Assuming Gipson wins the job I’d start him as a safety four in much deeper leagues due to the poor matchup and shakiness of his grasp on the other starting role. I won’t be playing him at all in Week 1. Avoiding danger helps you win just as much as drafting or waivers, etc.
Ji’Ayir Brown (S): Same deal here. Until we know who the other starting safety is I’d steer clear of this entire mess. It would be one thing if it was a great matchup, but it isn’t. Brown is a sit until we see some snaps or know for sure who the other starter is.
Minkah Fitzpatrick (S): Minkah is a top 12 IDP safety and consistently part of the overall safety one conversation. He’s an excellent real football safety as well and has the PFF score to back it up (82.4 overall). He’s capable of winning you your matchup by himself, and his consistency has improved in recent seasons as well. Despite the less than ideal matchup, I’d start him as a safety one in leagues of all sizes. He’s too good not to.
Damontae Kazee (S): There’s some uncertainty about who will be the other starting safety next to Fitzpatrick to start the season. Kazee is currently listed in the offseason depth charts as this other starter, but that’s anything but set in stone. We’ll have to see how preseason goes and pay attention to beat writers here. Assuming he is the other starting safety, I’d start him as a safety four in much deeper leagues.
Keanu Neal (S): Neal is currently listed as the odd man out but has been a starter before in his career and very easily could be again here in Pittsburgh. Pay attention to the beat writers and preseason news, and be ready to pounce if he displaces Kazee. At the moment he’s a sit unless we can confirm he’ll be the other starter at safety.
Cardinals @ Commanders
Outlook: The 22nd and 20th respectively ranked offenses from last season faceoff in Washington for Week 1. Here are the IDP start or sit options for this matchup. Las Vegas has this over/under also pretty low at 40.5 so they’re thinking a low scoring affair.
With Kyler Murray injured and Colt McCoy likely starting the passing game will be severely downgraded for Arizona. Washington will be rolling out Sam Howell so their passing attack will be limited as well. Both teams will have to rely on their ground attack, which doesn’t bode well for any safeties here unless they see box snaps. Let’s dive in.
Budda Baker (S): Baker is certainly the most talented option between these two teams when it comes to their respective safety corps. He’s been in the overall safety one conversation and has years of excellent production under his belt.
Unfortunately, last season, he was lining up deep more often than we’d like, but he was still able to give us solid numbers over the course of the season. The matchup isn’t great, but Baker will give us something. He’s too talented not to. I’d start him as a safety two, preferably three, in leagues of all sizes.
Jalen Thompson (S): Thompson saw more box snaps last season and the season prior and, as a result cleared 100 combined tackles each of the last two years. However, this preseason he’s been playing in the slot, so we may not see those extravagant tackle numbers we’re used to. With this in mind, I’d start him as a safety three or four in medium to deeper leagues. We’ll see how the snaps look in Week 1 and adjust accordingly.
Kamren Curl (S): Curl had a bit of a down season last year, but we’ve seen flashes of greatness from him. He’s in the best position of the three in terms of role/responsibility and should have some box snaps. The Commanders linebacker corps also isn’t the greatest, so they’ll need the extra run support from him. With all this in mind, I’d start Curl as a safety two in leagues of all sizes.
Darrick Forest (S): Forest should play deeper, and with Colt McCoy pulling the trigger and the departure of DeAndre Hopkins we shouldn’t expect a ton of aerial fireworks. This will limit Forest to either splash play production or having to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for good combined tackle production in Week 1. He should play a good amount though, so he’s worth starting in those degenerate leagues. I’d start him as a safety four in deeper leagues.
Jatavius Martin (CB/S): The rookie has excellent draft capital, but we’ve never seen him take a snap. Beyond that, he was drafted as a safety but is slotted into the nickelback role in the offseason depth charts.
We won’t know how this will shake out until we see a real game, but the preseason could give us some more information. Regardless this is a bad matchup, and his defensive responsibilities and role are unclear currently. With all that in mind I’m sitting Martin in Week 1. We’ll see what happens and adjust afterward.
Packers @ Bears
Outlook: Last seasons 17th and 28th overall offenses face off outdoors in Chicago for Week 1. The IDP start or sit implications here involve several factors. Vegas has this one at 44.5 for their over/under, so there should be some points and offense. Green Bay will be starting a new quarterback for the first time in over a decade. This may limit their pass game effectiveness. If I had to bet though I’d say it will work out fine. They don’t miss when it comes to replacing quarterbacks.
The Bears passing game last season was abysmal. But they went out and got DJ Moore, and Fields has had another offseason to grow. Can that be enough to make their offense more than one dimensional? We shall see, but I wouldn’t count on it. I’m hesitant that the Packers safeties can produce anywhere other than run defense in this one. Let’s have a closer look.
Green Bay Packers
Rudy Ford (S): Ford is currently listed as a starter, but that’s anything but set in stone. He was horrible last season and his playing time fluctuated wildly. His 74.6 PFF grade appears good on the surface, but the lack of sample size makes it one those “stat juke” grades we can’t take for gospel.
He wasn’t very productive at all last season, even when he did play adequate snaps. I’d sit him due to matchup and past production plus uncertainty in remaining a starter. Better safe than sorry with this one. Look at last season box scores for him. He disappeared completely more than once while playing 100% of snaps.
Jonathan Owens (S): Owens racked up the tackles last season in Houston, but his 48.3 PFF grade makes him vulnerable. Much like Ford he could be displaced at any moment if they find someone better. The offseason depth charts do not have him listed as a starter. I would sit him until we see proof he’ll actually play this season.
Darnell Savage (S): Of the safety options here in Green Bay, this is the safest. He’ll likely play every snap in Week 1. He’s never been very productive, but sometimes we just need a warm body. That, plus the matchup, reduce the number of places he’s relevant drastically. I’d start him but only as a safety four plus in the deepest and darkest of leagues.
Jaquan Brisker (S): The young and talented Brisker is coming off a spectacular rookie season. He’s in the overall number one IDP safety conversation. He will play every snap and will be heavily involved in the defense. It may not be the perfect matchup but he’ll put up some numbers. I’d start him as a safety one in leagues of all sizes. His talent, past production and playing time trump the slight downgrade from the matchup easily.
Eddie Jackson (S): Jackson has had seasons of amazing consistency and amazing inconsistency. We simply don’t know what we’ll get with him. We do know he’ll play every snap and probably won’t be in the box as much as Brisker though. With this in mind I’d only start him as a safety three or four in medium to deeper leagues. He’s a good option, but it’s far from perfect.
Raiders @ Broncos
Outlook: Last seasons 12th and 21st ranked offenses respectively have a divisional showdown in Denver to kick off Week 1. Las Vegas thinks this will be a lower scoring game with a 44.5 over/under. The Raiders will be marching out a new quarterback, but it’s a veteran so we should continue to have decent pass production. As for Denver their passing attack can’t go anywhere but up from last season, where touchdowns to toilets was a real stat. We should get some decent offense here overall. I feel pretty good about most IDP options in this matchup.
Las Vegas Raiders
Tre’Von Moehrig (S): Moehrig has been a weekly 100% of snaps starter here for a while now. Unfortunately for us he hasn’t produced in this role and likely won’t this season either. We’ll need a lucky splash play or an act of God for him to have a good week. I’d only start him as a warm body safety four plus in the deepest of leagues.
Marcus Epps (S): Epps comes over from Philly fresh off a 90 plus combined tackle season to fill in the hole from Jonathan Abram’s departure. He will be the better of these two options by a good amount. The only issue is we haven’t seen it yet. There’s no one behind him to really compete for this position though. I’d start him as a safety three or four in medium to deeper leagues. We’ll know more about this after Week 1 and will readjust.
Justin Simmons (S): Simmons is an excellent producer and will play every snap guaranteed. He’s consistently part of the pro bowl and his 70.7 PFF grade is legit. He’s earned that grade over years of playing every snap every week. He does play a bit deeper on the field, but that usually doesn’t stop him from stuffing that stat sheet. I’d start him as a safety two preferably three in leagues of all sizes.
Kareem Jackson (S): Jackson has cleared 88 combined tackles each of the last three seasons rather quietly. He is an every week 100% of snaps starter as well. Despite the lack of name recognition this is a good option as well. I’d start him as a safety two preferably three in leagues of all sizes.
Dolphins @ Chargers
Outlook: The overall number six and nine offenses from last season face off outdoors in Los Angeles. This IDP start or sit includes some great options. We should have plenty of offense here with an over/under of 50.5. This is a beautiful matchup all around. Nothing to see here. Let’s have a look at our options.
Jevon Holland (S): Holland is locked in as a 100% of snaps weekly starter. He just had his best statistical season yet in 2022/23, and this matchup is beautiful for him. I’d start him as a safety two in leagues of all sizes.
Brandon Jones (S): Jones is listed as the other safety starter currently. There is some uncertainty as to whether it will actually be him or DeShon Elliot. However, the injury to Jalen Ramsey may guarantee snaps for them both going forward. Regardless if Jones is the other starter I’d start him as a safety three, preferably four in medium to deeper leagues. Just make sure you keep an eye on beat writer reports and preseason snaps to ensure we pick the right safety.
DeShon Elliot (S): Elliot comes over from Detroit this past offseason and while not currently listed as a starter should see some playing time. Pay attention to the beat writers and preseason, and we should see what his role looks like. At the moment he is not listed as a starter. I’d sit him unless we see signs that he’ll have a role in Week 1. It does look likely but until we actually see it, that’s a risk not worth taking.
Los Angeles Chargers
Derwin James (S): Derwin is always in the overall safety one conversation. He will play every snap. He is extremely productive. I would start him as a safety one in leagues of all sizes. You don’t need me to tell you that.
Alohi Gilman (S): Gilman saw tons of playing time last season and didn’t do much with it. His responsibilities keep him far less involved in the action than Derwin James. I would only start him as a warm body safety four plus in much deeper leagues.
Eagles @ Patriots
Outlook: Last seasons number three and 26 overall offenses respectively face off in New England. Las Vegas has this one at 46 for an over/under. We should see a good amount of offense, but it may be one sided. While the Pats are at home they are simply outclassed in this matchup.
Assuming they can move the ball we’ll have some value for our Eagles options but I’m not counting on it. For the reverse our Patriots options should be busy all game long and should eat. The only negative to them is that they won’t play every snap. That’s just not something the Patriots do. Let’s get into it.
Terrell Edmunds (S): Edmunds was a Steeler, and now he’s an Eagle helping replace the loss of Gardner Johnson. He is consistently mediocre, and this matchup doesn’t help. Beyond that, we could have a rug pull situation here where the rookie displaces him or takes some of his snaps. I would tread carefully here. I’m sitting Edmunds in Week 1 due to matchup and uncertainty.
Reed Blankenship (S): Blankenship feels far more likely to have a solid role as a starting safety all season. He showed flashes of promise last year as well. I’d start him as a safety four plus in much deeper leagues due to matchup.
New England Patriots
Kyle Dugger (S): Of the many chefs in the kitchen on this Pats defense, this one will cook the most. He’ll play the most, and at the end of the season he’ll have the most IDP points between them. I’d start him as a safety two in leagues of all sizes. The matchup is beautiful, and so is he.
Adrian Phillips (S): The offseason depth charts have Phillips slotted as the other safety starter currently. That is anything but set in stone. The Patriots wildly fluctuate in regards to who plays and how much weekly every season. With that in mind we have seen Phillips play a good chunk in recent times. I’d start him as a safety three or four in deeper leagues. The matchup is good, and that helps offset some of these shenanigans.
Jalen Mills (CB/S): Mills should have some kind of role on this defense just based on what I saw last season. If he has the cornerback designation, I’d feel much more comfortable slotting him in there instead of wasting a safety slot on him. I’d start him as a cornerback three or four and would sit him as a safety. If the offseason depth charts are correct he won’t be playing safety at all, so we’re minimizing risk here.
Jabrill Peppers (S): There are still those that think he’ll be a good IDP option out there. 60 combined tackles over 17 games is something, I guess but those are cornerback tackle numbers, not starting safety tackle numbers. Not to mention the punt and kick return duties should now be the domain of Marcus Jones. I’d sit him unless you’re in an insanely deep league and need a warm body.
Rams @ Seahawks
Outlook: The overall dead last (32nd) and 13th ranked offenses from last season face off in Seattle. We have plenty of great IDP start or sit options here in regards to safety. Also, we can take the Rams 32nd offense from last season with a grain of salt. Stafford and Cooper Kupp will be back in the mix to improve that drastically. With an over/under of 47.5 we’re looking good for plenty of offense to help us achieve a nice floor for IDP production.
Los Angeles Rams
Russ Yeast (S): Yeast is the least set in stone of these three options by a good amount. I’m sitting him and assuming John Johnson returns to his former Rams production and playing time we saw the last time he was here.
Jordan Fuller (S): Fuller is far more locked in as a starting safety here. He played a ton last season and was fairly productive. I’d start him as a safety two preferably three in leagues of all sizes. He’s got a great matchup and should play every snap.
John Johnson (S): Now back in Los Angeles to fill the other starting safety slot, we can pencil him in as a start in medium to deeper leagues as a safety two. The last time he was here he was incredible. If we even get a fraction of that production it would be light years better than anything Russ Yeast could muster.
Jamal Adams (S): Whether or not Adams even plays Week 1 is in question at this moment in time. He started the offseason on the PUP and is injured far more often than he’s healthy. We’ll need to monitor this with the beat writers throughout the preseason. Assuming he’s healthy I’d start him as a safety two in leagues of all sizes.
Julian Love (S): It’s far more likely we’ll see Julian Love as the other starting safety in Week 1, but we’ll need to confirm prior to kickoff. If this is the case I’d start him as a safety two preferably three in leagues of all sizes. He was massively productive last season, and if he gets the playing time, he’ll produce for us. Just make sure you check if Jamal Adams is playing first, if that’s the case Julian Love’s snaps could drop drastically.
Quandre Diggs (S): Diggs is the deep safety of this bunch. His production will be more luck and splash play dependent. However we know he’ll play every snap. I’d start him as a safety three or four in deeper leagues. He’s the safest Week 1 option of this group for Seattle.
Cowboys @ Giants
Outlook: Last seasons 11th and 18th overall offenses respectively kick off Week 1 in the big apple. Vegas has this one at 47 even for their over/under so we should see some offense. This is a divisional matchup and these teams know each other well. I’d feel comfortable with the normal IDP start or sit options here in either safety corps. Let’s dive in.
Malik Hooker (S): Dallas deployed three safety sets pretty much weekly all of last season. This means it’s likely all three of these safeties will see playing time in Week 1. Going off what we saw last season Hooker was the least productive of the three. With that in mind I’d only start him in the deepest of leagues as a safety four plus.
Donovan Wilson (S): Wilson saw good playing time all of last season and had weeks that were spectacular. He is capable of being very productive, and him or Kearse were the best options last season. I’d start him as a safety three or four in deeper leagues. The downgrades include matchup (the Giants aren’t the greatest show on turf), and none of these safeties played 100% of snaps last season.
Jayron Kearse (S): The odd man out according to offseason depth charts. However, I believe it likely he’ll play 70% plus snaps assuming Dallas runs three safeties again this season. We may want to confirm this by paying attention during the preseason games. Assuming this is the case I’d start him as a safety three or four in deeper leagues. Similar reasoning as with Wilson for downgrades.
New York Giants
Xavier McKinney (S): McKinney is the safest option here at safety for the Giants by far. He’s got a great matchup and will play every snap. I’d start him as a safety two in leagues of all sizes.
Bobby McCain (S): There’s a training camp battle happening right now to secure this other starting safety job. The offseason depth charts have McCain winning that battle at the moment. We’ll need to see how the preseason goes and follow beat writer reports to confirm who in fact wins that other job. Assuming it’s McCain I’d start him as a safety three plus in deeper leagues. This is simply because he’s new to the team, and we have no idea what his role will be.
Jason Pinnock (S): Same deal here with Pinnock. If he wins the job, it’s deeper leagues only and as a safety three plus. He may have the cornerback designation in some places. If so, I’d rather plug him in there and save my safety slot for a safer/better option.
Bills @ Jets
Outlook: The overall second and 24th ranked offenses from last season play in the big apple on Monday night football in Week 1. Vegas has the over/under at 47, which tracks. Both of these offenses should cook. We can ignore the Jets 24th ranked offense from last season obviously. That was with a cougar enthusiast at the helm not Aaron Rodgers. They’ll have an exponentially better offense this season. We should feel pretty good about both teams IDP start or sit options at safety.
Jordan Poyer (S): Poyer has been a top 12 IDP safety for many years. He’ll play every snap and is as consistent and reliable at they come. I’d start him as a safety two in leagues of all sizes.
Micah Hyde (S): Same deal for Hyde. He’s been an every-snap player for a long time. His production has fluctuated year to year, but he’s capable of huge games occasionally. I’d start him as a safety three or four in medium to deeper leagues.
New York Jets
Jordan Whitehead (S): This will be Whitehead’s second season in New York. He played every snap last season so no worries there. The matchup is excellent. All good signs here. I’d start him as a safety two in leagues of all sizes.
Adrian Amos (S): Amos however comes over from Green Bay to replace Chuck Clark and is the less stable of these two. He wasn’t all that great in Green Bay to begin with. While the matchup is good his role in this defense is uncertain. With that in mind I’d start him in deeper leagues as a safety three preferably four.
These Are Only Suggestions! (Remember to check inactive before each game!)
Your lineup is your responsibility and yours alone. You submit the lineup at the end of the day, not me. There will be things that happen that are outside of my control. These include injuries during warmups, injuries I missed during the week, and sudden benching that I’m not privy to. I don’t work for any of these defensive coaching staffs.
We make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time, and after that, it’s in the hands of the fantasy Gods. I’m making these same moves and recommendations myself in my own leagues, all thirty-plus of them, so we sink or swim together.
I’ll be approaching 40 titles this season across Redraft and Dynasty, with another 50 plus second and third-place finishes. I’ve got double-digit titles in best ball, all IDP best ball, eliminators, and salary cap, and have made some good cash in DFS and NFL betting. This is not my first rodeo.
I’ve been writing IDP for seven years now and have been playing it for over 20 years. I produce this content because I enjoy helping others win, and if I weren’t any good at it, I would have stopped a long time ago. You’re in good hands here. Let’s go get those titles!
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