FROM AN IDP VIEW: TOP 10 LB UNITS
You ever watch or read about the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players, me neither. So this is like that but not quite; I’m going to dig into the top 10 LB units from an IDP view and you’d be surprised who lands on this list. I’m looking mainly at starters and who the next man up is; also known as – depth. Coming up with this list wasn’t easy, but what helped me some too is participating in many IDP Drafts and seeing whose being drafted, and how many from each team is a capable starter for your IDP team in fantasy football; what may surprise you is who DID NOT make the top 10 which has nothing against that individual player but has more to do with those around him. Let’s get this show on the road shall we, ladies and gentlemen of the fantasy football world here are the top 10 LB Groups from an IDP’ers view.
- San Francisco 49ers: (Navarro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks) – this group is strong, young and well balanced. This unit has 2 of the top 5 LB’s (Bowman and Willis) in the IDP world, have an elite pass rusher in Aldon Smith and all he does is rack up QB Sacks (19.5 last year & 33.5 in 2 seasons). Brooks is a viable asset to the 49ers defense, won’t put up flashy numbers like his counterparts but very serviceable; especially in deep leagues. Might I add this unit gets Haralson back in 2013, he provides depth and was once a hot-waiver pick-up in 2011. Hard to look at other teams from an IDP standpoint that’s better than the 49ers; and their values look like this, Bowman (LB1) Willis (LB1) Aldon (LB2) Brooks (LB4) Haralson (LB6).
- Dallas Cowboys: (Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Justin Durant) – one keyword that pops up when you look at this group is, health, especially if Sean Lee stays healthy for all 16 games he’ll easily be a top 5 LB in IDP ranks. Switching to a 4-3 defense, it benefits Carter who is bound to have a breakout year in 2013. Durant is a solid addition, good against the run and can hold his own in the tackles department. Sean Lee will always be around the ball (130+ tackles easy); he has a knack for it and will rack up tackle after tackle. There is upside here and value to be had in your IDP drafts. Here are their respective values; Sean Lee (LB1) Bruce Carter (LB2 with LB1 upside) and Justin Durant (LB3).
- Tennessee Titans: (Colin McCarthy, Zach Brown, Akeem Ayers and Zaviar Gooden) – now here is a young LB corps that’s just ready to put a stamp in the IDP world. McCarthy was well on his way on being a household name until injuries got in the way and never seem right anymore; hoping for a better and healthier 2013. Brown came on the scene mid-season in 2012 and had his moments; like his 2 QB sacks vs NYJ. Brown will rack up tackles and get to the QB; got to love his value right now. Ayers jumped on the scene early last year and slowly faded away but still serviceable and improving. Gooden was a solid pick by the Titans, he brings speed to the group (could see field in nickel packages) and is a great dynasty stash – think Sean Weatherspoon-ish. Their LB values are: McCarthy (LB2) Brown (LB2) Ayers (LB4 with LB3 upside) Gooden (LB5 with upside when opportunity knocks; for now great stash)
- Baltimore Ravens: (Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Arthur Brown, Daryl Smith, Jameel McClain, Courtney Upshaw) – I’d like to call this group, balanced, because they offer just about everything from each IDP. Suggs is a well-known name in the league and IDP world but he’s not near the top. Suggs and Dumervil are the edge rushers so they’ll provide you with the turnovers and the QB Sacks, limited upside especially in tackle heavy leagues. Brown is a rookie who is replacing a legend, Ray Lewis, can he handle the load? Arguably the best LB in this draft class and an opportunity sits in front of him; I expect him to take it and put up numbers; especially the tackles as he can and should easily get 100 total tackles. Most recent signing in Daryl Smith is hard to judge right now, he was a sound tackler in Jacksonville (4-3 defense) and now he’ll move to a ILB in 3-4, if he’s healthy and good to go he’s definitely one to keep an eye out on and is a great veteran to be around Brown. The upside here is Courtney Upshaw, will he show us something in 2013? Here are their LB Values: Suggs (LB3) Dumervil (LB3) Brown (LB2) Smith (LB4) McClain (LB5) and Upshaw (LB5)
- Washington Redskins: (London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Brandon Jenkins and Keenan Robinson) – Redskins have some serious depth at LB, and an eventual replacement (Keenan Robinson) when Fletcher hangs it up. Riley jumped on the scene a couple years ago and never looked back, Orakpo has to stay healthy to help the Redskins pass rush and Kerrigan has done well, he’s had his moments in IDP world. Can’t say enough about Fletcher except that he’s consistency at its finest and he’s been doing it for a long time. At some points during last season it looked like Fletcher was done, then out of nowhere he comes back with a 20 tackle game (most were assisted tackles but still). If Orakpo or Kerrigan happen to go down, a solid replacement awaits in Brandon Jenkins who is a bull rusher off the edge and will get his opportunity to make some noise. Keenan Robinson is the one who has to showcase he’ll be capable of filling in for Fletcher, hasn’t shown much yet but I got a feeling he’ll be a hot name entering 2014 as a LB sleeper. Redskins hold a strong IDP unit, you got your do it all LB’s in Fletcher and Riley then you got your pass rushers in Orakpo and Kerrigan; Jenkins is a solid dynasty hold and Robinson is one to keep on your watch list. Redskins LB Values are: Fletcher (LB1) Riley (LB2) Orakpo (LB4) Kerrigan (LB5) Jenkins (LB6, stash) Robinson (LB6, watch list)
- Carolina Panthers: (Luke Kuechly, Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, AJ Klein) – now if this was a LB group about 3 years ago, then the Panthers would be putting on the field 2 elite LB’s but unfortunately it’s just one and he’s arguably the #1 LB in IDP world; a straight up tackling machine. Beason has struggled mightily with knee injuries and moving to the outside; but he’s flying under the radar now and if he can stay healthy, he’ll put up close to the numbers we’re used to seeing. Davis on the other hand is just a great story, had a good season in 2012 after coming off of 3 knee surgeries; can’t help but root for the guy and he’s not that bad of a LB neither as he’ll always find his way near the ball. Enter rookie AJ Klein, who is an injury away from a good opportunity. Klein is definitely the depth and insurance the Panthers lacked lately and should be able to step right in when his number is called. The upside lies within Kuechly and Klein, the value is in Beason; granted he can put together a full season and depth to be had is with Davis. This LB unit should have strong value in IDP leagues; most if not all of them should be drafted unless you’re not in a deep league or in a league that starts 3+ LB’s. Here are the Panthers LB Value: Kuechly (LB1) Beason (LB3) Davis (LB4) Klein (LB5 with LB3 upside when opportunity knocks).
- Denver Broncos: (Von Miller, Wesley Woodyard, Nate Irving and Stewart Bradley) – The biggest question mark here is obviously the Middle LB position; as Bradley’s best days are behind him and Irving is still a project but he gets first crack at getting the start spot. What puts the Broncos at #6 is the presence of dominating pass rusher in Von Miller and continuing to be impressive Wesley Woodyard. Both are in the top 20 if not 15 in rankings; and both hold big play ability to provide you with some big points in most weeks. Irving can be one who puts up some nice tackle numbers, if he wants the starting job. Bradley, he’s the veteran presence and just in case Irving doesn’t work out; but Bradley best days are behind him and might I add he was a solid LB back when he was serviceable/worth drafting. Broncos LB Values are: Miller (LB1) Woodyard (LB2, has the ceiling of a LB1) Irving (LB4) Bradley (LB5)
- New England Patriots: (Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins) – One of the younger & more intriguing LB groups in the NFL as well as for your IDP eyes. First up you got the savvy vet who has elite upside in Jerod Mayo; but one has to assume that his 2010 days are behind him and all you can ask for is consistency, still a sure bet for 130+ tackles. Spikes has been hit or miss since he’s been in the league, seems to have his head on straight this off-season; especially if his goal is to stay on the field to be a 3-down LB and if he does his numbers will skyrocket. Hightower is entering his 2nd season and has shown flashes of what he can do, should be all-around LB putting up stats in just about every category, high upside. Collins is the wildcard here but in a good situation; could be a solid dynasty stash and he definitely is on the right team to develop and learn. As the Patriots defense continues to get younger and faster, Mayo will still stand out and will still be the 1st NEP IDP taken off the board, especially at the LB position. Here are the Patriots LB Values: Mayo (LB1) Hightower (LB2 upside) Spikes (LB3, becomes 3-down LB he can jump into LB2 territory) Collins (LB5, definitely keep on your radar)
- St Louis Rams: (James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree and Jo-Lonn Dunbar) – Looks like the Rams are finally to be able to put out on the field a solid group of LB’s. The addition of Ogletree is huge, he’s a freak of an athlete and versatile it’ll give Laurinaitis no worries. Laurinaitis is an elite LB in the IDP world; and just about a lock for 130+ tackles and I wouldn’t be surprised if it dipped some with Ogletree’s presence. Dunbar had a stellar 2012 campaign, where he was a solid LB2 in most weeks but again, with Ogletree’s presence I see a dip in Dunbar’s numbers. Overall this unit will balance itself out and if you’re a Laurinaitis owner, expect more of the same. It’s clear to see Ogletree is the high upside player and has been impressive thus far in OTA’s but I’m waiting for training camp. Not much depth behind these guys so they got to remain healthy. Here are the Rams LB Values: Laurinaitis (LB1) Ogletree (LB3) Dunbar (LB3)
10. Cleveland Browns: (D’Qwell Jackson, Jabaal Sheard, Paul Kruger, James Michael-Johnson, Barkevious Mingo, Craig Robertson) – welcome to Cleveland Ray Horton, who will turn this defense into the case of the nasty. Expect Jackson to be used similarly to how Daryl Washington was used in Arizona; therefore staples him an elite LB because he’ll be all over the ball. Pass rushers galore in Cleveland, Kruger, Sheard (who had a better time standing up to get to the QB) and incoming rookie Barkevious; got some serious edge rushers here. Mingo’s speed alone will cause havoc when he comes in during situations; and if the OL is tired. Rising star is James Michael-Johnson, he’ll eventually get that starting gig at ILB next to D’Qwell as Robertson is a stop gap and I expect JMJ to earn his spot sooner than later. If your league scores big for those who get the QB sacks, tackle for losses then Kruger, Mingo and Sheard are 3 LB’s too keep on your radar. I’m definitely excited to see this defense operate in 2013, on the rise. Here are the Browns LB values: D’Qwell (LB1) Sheard (LB4) Kruger (LB4) JMJ (LB4, once he starts bump him up to LB3) Robertson (LB5).