2013 Season Review: Linebackers

LB_Vontaze_Burfict_Bengals

After looking at DEs last week we now look at LBs, the bread and butter of IDP Fantasy Football. LBs can be polar opposites depending on their designation. OLBs tend to score highly and sporadically whilst ILBs are more consistent with a less potential to blow up. When drafting LBs it’s important to get a mix if you want a balanced fantasy team. No use owning the best QB, RB and WR if your LBs score 12 points between them that week.

Top 5s:

Lavonte David, TB 282.50 points

Karlos Dansby, ARI 251.50 points

Robert Mathis, IND 238.50 points

NaVorro Bowman, SF 229.0 points

Paul Posluszny, JAC 214.0 points

Almost made it: Kiko Alonso (BUF), Luke Kuechly (CAR), Daryl Smith, (BAL)

#

Name

Sys

T

TFL

As

Hit

Sck

FF(R)

PD

INT

TD

FPT

FPPG

1

Lavonte David

4-3O

106

20

39

5

6

2(1)

9

5

0

282.5

17.7

2

Karlos Dansby

3-4O

112

11

9

5

6

0(1)

19

4

2

251.5

15.7

3

Robert Mathis

3-4O

42

14

16

5

18.5

7

2

0

0

238.5

14.9

4

N. Bowman

ILB

120

9

25

3

5

4(2)

9

2

1

229

14.3

5

Paul Posluszny

MLB

121

6

40

5

3

1(1)

9

2

1

214

14.3

6

Kiko Alonso

ILB

87

11

72

1

2

1(2)

5

4

0

204

12.8

7

Luke Kuechly

MLB

93

10

63

0

2

0

7

4

0

201.5

12.6

8

Daryl Smith

ILB

57

8

66

2

5

2

18

3

1

201

12.6

9

J. Freeman

ILB

83

6

43

3

5.5

6(1)

7

3

0

200

12.5

10

DeAndre Levy

4-3O

85

8

32

4

6

0

15

6

1

199

12.4

Stats Breakdown: Sys: System/Position, T: Tackle, TFL: Tackle For Loss, As: Assisted tackle, Hit: Hit on the QB, Sck: Sacked the QB, FF(R): Forced Fumbles (Recovered), PD: Pass Defended, INT:  Interceptions, TD: Any defensive touchdown, FPT: Fantasy Points in Total, FPPG: Fantasy Points per Game (On Average)

Lavonte David’s stunning finish to the season earned him the top billing, and in the end it wasn’t even close. David scored 41 points in week 14 against the Bills, helped by a pair of Interceptions. However David proved consistent throughout the season as well, with a season low of 6, and just 4 games of under 13 points. A decent spread of pass rushers and run stoppers are listed here, showing the sheer volume of tackles needed to match an 18.5 sack season from Mathis. Taking away INTs would make Mathis the top of the pile. Many surprise names are here, especially rookie Kiko Alonso, as well as Levy, Smith and Freeman. This table shows how Inside and Middle Linebackers rack up tackles for fun, but fail to have that killer blow that a sack can offer your team in fantasy. The players that are effective in coverage, and are assigned onto coverage more often, will also get you a bunch of Pass Defenses (Dansby 3rd, Smith 5th at ILB for PFF Pass Coverage rating, Levy 3rd at 4-3OLB) The assists number should always be high for LBs, and if Daryl Smith or Kiko Alonso can turn a few dozen of those assists into solo tackles they would shoot up into top 5 comfortably.

Disappointments:

Wesley Woodyard had a poor season by all accounts. He missed a couple of games which derailed a decent start, but only recorded 48 tackles (3TFL) after scoring 73 and 90 in the previous two years. I had hoped that Woodyard would become a top 10 LB and was a safe enough bet to start as a minimum of LB2 the finished as LB65 in the end. It seems this cannot be attributed to Von Miller’s absence as when he returned Woodyard’s production did not change. Another player who had a down year was Patrick Willis. Although he missed a pair of games early on, Willis still only averaged 10.1PPG, and scored under 10 points in half of his games (He only broke the 15pt barrier on two occasions). Willis had fewer snaps than Bowman on the year, and fewer pass rush snaps. It appears that if the 49ers are rushing an Inside Linebacker, Bowman is more likely to be the man who gets the call. Willis’ floor has been reduced slightly, but there is no way I’m writing him off at this stage. Willis still had the second highest grade for ILBs on PFF, behind Bowman. Elvis Dumervil moved from the Broncos to the Ravens and I fully expected him to be in the top 10 for sacks on the year, after averaging around 12 per year in the previous 3 seasons. Dumervil managed 9 sacks, a respectable total, but just 30(16) total tackles. He had 3 games of 0 points and generally failed to get in the zone he occupied whilst at Denver. This is not due to a regression in ability, but a severe reduction in snaps (just 574 on the season). He actually finished 3rd in Pass Rush Productivity and received the highest Pass Rush grade on PFF for his position. Dumervil is certainly a buy low candidate for next year, all he needs is more time on the field and Baltimore surely know that.

Overachievers:

Of course Lavonte David is going to be listed here, but I have already discussed his season at length. Don’t be fooled into thinking his INTs are the cause of his success as his consistency was virtually unrivalled throughout the season. Vontaze Burfict has had a good start to his NFL career, despite the character concerns noted on draft day.

LB_Vontaze_Burfict_Bengals

Vontaze Burfict overcame character issues to be a quality NFL and IDP Linebacker – photo from wikipedia.org

Burfict recorded a stunning 113 solo tackles and 170 in total on his way to finish 11th at LB in total points. He made a step up in all departments from last year (where he performed admirably). I think Burfict is a rare type of OLB who gets you consistent points like an ILB. If he can get to the QB more often (3 sacks, 5 hits), then he can become an elite LB. Danny Trevathan began his second year in the NFL with a pick 5.9 (Defined in the dictionary as “An interception that is run back for a touchdown, almost, because the player is an idiot and drops the ball a yard before he breaks into the endzone, what a complete pillock”). Trevathan’s revelatory performances were due to a much increased role on the defence, in fact Trevathan only had 5 snaps over his final two games for Denver last season (2012-13). Trevathan quickly became a starter with his fine performances and would have been a real waiver wire steal early on in leagues. He never broke 20 points in one single week, but had 6 games of over 15 points and 10 of double digits or more. Trevathan is now an every down WLB for the Broncos and aside from his glaring talent that warrants high value. I love Trevathan’s outlook for the next few years, especially as his performances showed a marked improvement after Von Miller came back from injury. Kiko Alonso is also a young LB who really impressed me last year. I had high hopes for the rookie in Buffalo but for him to finish 6th in his first year is some milestone. Alonso’s performance looked eerily similar to that of Luke Kuechly’s in terms of stats. Neither get to the QB regularly, but make tackle after tackle every week. In fact looking at a week to week comparison of the two indicates their similarities of performance throughout the year. PFF also rates them very similarly, as they finished 8th (Kuechly) and 10th (Alonso) at MLB for overall PFF grade. Alonso is a Luke Kuechly Mk.II, I have no doubt about that.

Summary:

Whilst many new faces appeared in the top 10 this year, there were still the perennial stars at LB, including Bowman and Posluszny. David showed he has the consistency and great hands to be the leader of the pack once more. Whilst some players like Wagner, Laurinaitis and Willis may appear to have been disappointments, it’s worth noting that the 32nd best LB (Ryan Kerrigan) scored 153 points, so these guys still have plenty of value, they just didn’t have those huge games to complement their consistency. I would still advocate a balanced approach when choosing your LBs. Don’t play it too safe and draft only MLBs as starters, but don’t go chasing after those big days you get with the likes of Mathis, Miller and Smith. A good fantasy defence should have at least one of each type of Linebacker to reflect a balanced lineup.

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