By: Gary VanDyke II (Twitter: @HBogart27)
FFD260 IDPs: Primed 5.0
Houston SS/FS Corey Moore #43
H/W 6’0” 200lbs
Pro: 3 yrs
2016 Snap Counts: 392 / 38.8% / ranked 3rd (among safeties)
Undrafted in 2015, Moore was signed by Houston as a free agent. Before we go any further, I’d like to say this is the type of “under the radar” and “buy low” player I love coming across. Because unless you happen to be a devoted Texans’ fan, you are probably thinking “ Who is this guy?” Moore spent most of his time on the practice squad in 2015 with limited special teams action in the latter part of the season. When 2016 rolled around, he found himself on the active roster as a backup and special teams player. It wasn’t long after injuries to Quintin Demps before Moore got a chance to start. From that point on and after performing well he continued to see a big boost in snaps and finished with eight total starts on the season. In some of those cases, it was starting over veterans Demps and Andre Hal even if they were healthy. He also saw significant snaps in the playoffs with a start in the Divisional round against the Patriots. He finished with great production numbers of 7 solo tackles, 1 assist, and 1 pass breakup. It’s been said his coverage skills were greatly improved from 2015 to 2016 and is a traditional box safety is how he earned his way into the lineup.
With Houston letting Demps move on to Chicago and the increase of snaps point to Moore being a full-time starter in 2017. The coaching staff has nothing but praise for his play on the field and his jump in better coverage skills. The Texans’ style of 3-4 D where they pull one of their ILBs off the field in most passing situations should ensure plenty of tackling situations and passes to be defended. Moore should enter the season as the starting SS, but it isn’t out of the question that after playing both safety positions in 2016 that he could also land at FS. Hal showed signs of regression in 2016, and the competition in camp will be wide open for both spots. They are basically down to three safeties on the roster in Moore, Hal, and 2015 fifth-round pick K.J. Dillon with Dillon being the wildcard. So look for them to add via draft or free agency for more depth. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Moore holding down the SS spot entering the coming season. Traditionally, neither safety spot has produced huge numbers over the last few years for Houston, but some may say that was due to the personnel that was used. If Moore can build off last season, he could change this trend and become relevant as an IDP play on a weekly basis going forward.
2017 Production level: Mid to high end DB2
Tampa Bay SS/FS J.J. Wilcox
H/W: 6’0” 212 lbs
Drafted: 2013 / Dallas / pick 3.8
College: Georgia Southern
2016 Snap Count: 557 / 52.7% / ranked 6th
Wilcox was a receiver and halfback for most of his college career until converted to a safety his senior season. A talented player Dallas chooses to gamble on his talents by drafting him in the third round of the 2013 draft. He has bounced between free safety and strong safety until this past season when he seemed to perform best at the strong safety when former Dallas star safety Barry Church went down with a broken forearm. Wilcox improved his coverage skills and had always been known as a hard hitter. But the “cap strapped” Dallas Cowboys couldn’t seem to find a way to keep Wilcox from testing the market and he landed a two year, incentive laden contract worth up to $8.5 million with Tampa Bay with a $3.1 yearly base pay. Making him the second highest paid defensive back on the roster, only behind Brent Grimes. And the highest paid safety on the roster currently. That is a strong indication he will be an every down player and I suspect it will be mainly as the strong safety. Indications from interviews with secondary coach John Hoke they plan on sticking with a predominant split-safety alignment. This would also bold well for Wilcox as he has played both safety positions. Being interchangeable so easily at both could lead to even more opportunities as the “main” safety. With him being positioned by design of the defensive play called based on the offensive’s situation. In other words, if it is third and long and the odds are it will be an obvious pass play, Wilcox could find himself covering deep as the free safety. Keeping him in position with more chances to make plays every snap of the ball.
Wilcox’s Pro Football Focus grade this past season was his best ever in his limited time as a starter of 4 games. He received a grade of 81.5 which was in the upper third of all 89 qualifying players at his position. This was third among Dallas defensive backs and only by a few points. And on many teams could have been the top grade for any secondary. That was a huge leap from an up and down career. He improved across the board and seems to be on the verge of being a total package. With 49 combined tackles, passes defended, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble in only 4 actual starts Wilcox performed way above his normal average play. This may be a player that in the end, Dallas wishes they had resigned after the 4 years they spent fine tuning him. There will be some growing pains switching to the Buccaneers but when the light clicks on J.J. will be one you’ll want on your roster with a ceiling of a low-end DB1.
By all indications based on Tampa Bays off-season moves there’s strong reason to believe Wilcox will be the starting strong safety for the 2017 season. His production limitations will only be affected by playing along side of stars Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. Tampa Bay is not known for having a high production from their strong safety over the past few years. But this signing along with the Bucs moving on from Bradley McDougald indicates they want more from the position. McDougald’s stats from last year of 91 total combined tackles should be seen as Wilcox’s floor in production. He should be a nice addition to any fantasy roster.
2017 Production level: High DB2