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The 2023 NFL Draft was quite a spectacle—over 300,000 people attended the event live in Kansas City, and over 50 million people watched the draft on television.
Eat your heart out, NBA playoffs.
Much of the hype leading up to April 27 centered on the top quarterback prospects, but there was also plenty of excitement surrounding the top cornerbacks. Beginning with Devon Witherspoon of Illinois at No. 5 overall, four cornerbacks were taken in the first round. However, it wasn't until the 45th overall pick that a safety was drafted, and it can be argued that Brian Branch is more of a nickel back than a true safety.
This is how you remind me of what I really—never mind.
Still, as we saw last year with Jalen Pitre of the Houston Texans and Jaquan Brisker of the Chicago Bears in 2022, a safety doesn't have to be a first-round pick to be an IDP star. In an effort to gauge which defensive backs could blossom into fantasy stars (in 2022 and beyond) and help fantasy managers best take advantage of the new talent available to them, the IDP staff here at Footballguys has gathered for a series of IDP Roundtables.
This time, it's the annually murky morass that is the defensive backs.
There were a handful of cornerbacks selected on the draft's first day, but safeties like Alabama's Brian Branch had to wait until Day 2 to hear their names called. Which safety drew the best landing spot in terms of early production, and who is your pick to be the highest-scoring rookie cornerback of 2023?
Kyle Bellefeuil: Sydney Brown landing with Philadelphia in the third round is an interesting spot for early production. The Eagles' current safety unit, featuring Terrell Edmunds and Reed Blankenship, isn't too steep of a mountain to climb should Brown impress during the offseason program and training camp. If Brown can land a starting role, he has the athleticism and physical temperament to provide some nice IDP production early on.
I'll take Devon Witherspoon as my pick for the highest-scoring rookie cornerback of 2023. Witherspoon is a blast to watch as a cornerback who plays the game with serious aggression and a physical edge. With Seattle investing the fifth overall pick in him and Witherspoon lining up opposite Tariq Woolen, he could find himself plenty busy in his first NFL season.
Tripp Brebner: Brian Branch demonstrates the blurring of positional definitions in modern defenses. Like Branch, the Commanders' Quan Martin will slide in and out of the slot. He was announced as a cornerback and appears set to assume Bobby McCain's roster spot, foreshadowing a slot/safety role in rotation with Kamren Curl and Darrick Forrest. The second-rounder from Illinois might not play full-time right away, but if he produces similarly to Curl and Forrest on a per-snap basis, he could be a cheat code with a cornerback designation in fantasy football.
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