IDP: Kiko Alonso trade, when everyone zigs, I’m going to zag

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The LeSean McCoy and Kiko Alonso trade is definitely a blockbuster. The 2013 rushing leader and 1st team all pro swapped for the 2013 PFW Defensive rookie of the year. Most people are saying the Eagles got a steal. They sold an aging RB with an expensive contract for a great young linebacker with two years left still on his very affordable rookie contact. However, I’m not most people.

On paper, this looks like a great acquisition for the Eagles. They now form one of the most young and dynamic inside linebacker combos in the entire league. However this isn’t Madden; this is real football. A 4-3 LB with 90 rating isn’t automatically a 90 rating ILB in a 3-4. That’s not how it works. For reference, Dannell Ellerbe and Bruce Carter were two 3-4 ILBs that were fantastic in 2012. In 2013, Ellerbe signed with MIA and Montee Kiffin was hired as Cowboys DC which both resulted in switched in defensive scheme. Per PFF (www.profootballfocus.com), Ellerbe graded out as the 3rd worst 4-3 MLB in the entire league with at least 75 percent of team snaps. Carter was the 4th worst 4-3 OLB. These are the opposite switch that Kiko will be making but its proof that switching schemes does not automatically equal success.

A lot of times in fantasy football, people bring up the concerns of when an RB changes from a zone blocking scheme to a power scheme and vice versa. I would compare this switch for Kiko very similar. Is he doomed? Of course not, but it’s not a slam dunk with zero risk like many are assuming.

The biggest difference between playing 4-3 MLB vs 3-4 ILB is that in the 3-4, you will have an uncovered guard in front of you pre-snap. On run plays, that guard has a free release to shoot at the snap and engage before you even know what hit you. To be a successful ILB, you need to be able to stand up that guard and either fill the hole with his body or rip through the block to get to the tackle. It takes a very physical player to excel in this, something that Kiko Alonso is not, in my opinion. I admit that the Eagles defense is more of a “4-3 under” than a strict 3-4 where the WILL (Mychal Kendricks) gets more protection from his big men up front than the MIKE (DeMeco Ryans) does, but Kiko will still be much more susceptible to getting blocked in this alignment than he was as the MLB in a 4-3.

Kiko Alonso is a stud in coverage. I have no problem with someone saying that he is the best coverage LB in the entire NFL; however, he isn’t very good in the run game. In Buffalo, he had easily the two best run defending tackles in the game in front of him last year. Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams are an interior offensive lineman’s worst nightmare. These two big men kept blockers off Kiko and let him fly from side to side and make plays. He won’t have that in the 3-4 defense of Philadelphia. Just for reference, the Bills run defense gave up 4.4 ypc in 2013 and 4.1 ypc in 2014, Williams and Dareus were just as good in both years. The only real difference was Kiko wasn’t on the field in 2014 because he missed his second season in 5 years with a torn ACL. I don’t mind the trading of McCoy for a LB. I just think one that fits your system and is a compliment to Kendricks is more important than the place he went to college. (Yes, Chip, I’m talking to you.)

Another question nobody seems to be asking is why would a defensive minded genius like Rex Ryan trade away a “young elite” LB like Kiko Alonso? Could he know something we all don’t? Could it be that he knows he isn’t a good scheme defender for his defense? I’ll just say this, Ryan’s favorite LB of all time is Bart Scott. Kiko is anything but Bart Scott.

Now let’s talk fantasy implications: I think the general consensus is that the acquisition of Kiko hurts Mychal Kendricks; however, I’m not sure yet. I think the biggest problem here is who plays the MIKE and who plays the WILL. Kendricks has always played the WILL which means he gets to scrap down the LOS on run plays and use his athleticism to make the play. Both Kendricks and Kiko fit the WILL more than they do the MIKE; however, of the two, Kendricks seems less of the outcast at MIKE. So it is very possible Kendricks’ numbers suffer. The glass half full argument for Kendricks is that he is a phenomenal blitzer for an ILB.  With the addition of Kiko, I see Kendricks being unleashed on pass plays and let Kiko do what he does best,  drop in coverage and make plays. In big play leagues, I’m giving Kendricks a small boost. In standard I will keep Kendricks the same and in all leagues I’m downgrading and trying to sell Kiko at dynasty LB2 prices. Someone will pay it. Buffalo is also one of the most generous defensive score keepers in the NFL. Kiko will not be awarded with anywhere near 72 assisted tackles like he was in his rookie year.

As for Bills, this trade is obviously a boost for Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown owners. Rex Ryan employs a similar defensive scheme to Bill Davis of Philadelphia. Bradham’s athleticism and blitzing skills makes him ideal for the WILL while Brown is a better fit for the MIKE with his stockier frame and ability to take on blockers. Bradham is the upside play with his speed and sack potential; however, he does miss tackles due to this aggressive style of play. I’m acquiring Bradham as a bench stash if reasonable cost but not Brown at this time due to possibility of David Harris doing his best Bart Scott impersonation by following Rex to the Bills.

Follow Eric Breeze on Twitter at @Breeze121212. 

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