The 2014 season is in the books. Visions of the Seahawks stomping a mud hole in the Denver Broncos are etched on our brains forever, and depending on what side of the tracks you fall on in that matchup, that could be a good or bad thing.
And being the degenerates we are, the end of one year only signals the beginning of the next and the work we need to do to prepare.
With that in mind, we here at the site of fake pigskin decided to get the ball rolling with some preliminary IDP rankings. Because why not, right? Nothing wrong with some way-to-early rankings. Here are my 10 Tackle Heavy Studs, my last IDP article as I transition into heading up the English Premier League Department!
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1. Lavonte David-LB/TB
The #1 spot undoubtedly always comes with a handful of names that could claim the title, but this is my list and David takes the cake. He’s put together back to back LB1 seasons (284 total tackles/218 solo over that span) and he finished as PFF’s #2 overall 4-3 OLB in 2013. But what sets him above everyone else, is not only do you get the tackles, you get plenty of the secondary stats as well (2 FF’s, 5 INT’s, 6 sacks in 2013). Oh yeah, he’s also getting Lovie Smith as his head coach. Seems to me he knows a thing or two about coaching defense, and has helped groom some superstar linebackers. All good things for Mr. David.
2. Luke Kuechly-LB/Car
Fresh off his sophomore campaign that included leading a stout Panther defense and bringing home Defensive Player of the Year honors, Kuechly is firmly in place as a top 5 IDP option for the foreseeable future. Duly suited for the middle of Riverboatin’ Ron’s defense, he’s able to fly around, making plays all over the field. Thomas Davis cut into some of his production, but he still managed 156 total tackles, with 93 of them being solo.
3. Navorro Bowman-LB/SF
Full disclosure here, the knee injury is the only thing keeping Bowman from claiming the top spot on my list. For my money he’s the best linebacker in the game, as well as one of the best overall players period. And this year, the numbers bore that out as he claimed the top inside linebacker position for PFF, posting a 20.0 overall rating, 11.3 rush, 5.1 coverage, and 3.0 run. What that translates to in fantasy was: 145 total tackles (120 solo), 4 FF’s, 2 Int’s, 5 sacks, 9 passes defended, and 1 TD. There’s no doubt he faces a long, uphill battle as far as his recovery goes, but knee injuries aren’t the big bad wolf they used to be, just ask Adrian Peterson. I’m not saying he’s gonna come back and have his best year ever, but obviously by ranking him #3 I’ll think he’ll bounce back nicely, but there will be some rust to work off.
4. Vontaze Burfict-LB/CinIt’s probably safe to say at this point that the Cincinnati Bengals got away with highway robbery when they signed the undrafted Burfict back in 2012. Since taking over the starting weak side position in week 3 of last year, he’s done nothing but rack up tackles, notching 294 (185 solo) over that stretch. He led the league in tackles last year, and he should be amongst the league leaders in 2014 as well.
5. Paul Posluszny-LB/Jax
Posluszny is a tackle machine. Period. 2013 was his best season has he registered 161 total tackles (121 solo), and was his third straight year of 100 or more solo tackles. He’s entering his 8th season so he’s not as youthful as some of the others on this list, but he’s still a clear cut LB1. He doesn’t chip in with a ton of secondary stats, but with the amount of tackles he gets (especially the solos), it really doesn’t matter. His case is also helped by the fact that there’s not a ton of competition for tackles on that vaunted Jag’s defense.
6. Kiko Alonso-LB/Buf
What’s to say about Alonso’s rookie year that hasn’t already been said about bacon? Mmmmmmm bacon. Moving on, he was sensational, but what made it special for fantasy owners, is you were probably able to either grab him at the back end of a draft or maybe even off the waiver wire. Immediately stepping into a three down role, he was seemingly in on every tackle as he notched 159 of them, with 87 of them being of the solo variety. You’d like to see some of those assists turn into solos as he matures, but I’m nitpicking here.
7. JJ Watt-DL/Hou
These past two seasons JJ Watt has carved out a Jimmy Graham-esque type role in the IDP world. No, he won’t score as much as top linebacker in a tackle heavy format, but he’s been so head and shoulders above the rest of the lineman field, that owning him gives you a great positional advantage. He wasn’t as dominant this last season as he was in 2012 (and now has some company at the top), but he still put together a very good year. He’ll be entering his 4th year in the league in ’14 so it’s entirely possible we haven’t even seen his best football yet.
8. Robert Quinn-DL/Stl
After a dominant year in which he notched 19 sacks, 7 FF’s, AND recorded 50 solo tackles (career best), Robert Quinn now joins Mr. Watt at the top of lineman mountain and the ranks of the IDP elite. Something clicked for him in 2013, and he finally manifested all of that potential we’ve been hearing about since he was drafted back in 2011. He takes the back seat to Watt due to the consistency Watt has shown the past two seasons, but don’t be surprised if Quinn unseats Watt this year and claims the throne. I wouldn’t bet on 50 solo tackles again, but he should be a lock for 12-15 sacks.
9. Bobby Wagner-LB/Sea
Wagner’s 2013 season wasn’t quite as good as his rookie year, and a large part of that is due to the two games he missed earlier in the season. Had he not missed those games, based on his average tackle production over the 14 games he did play in (5 solos, 3 assists), he would’ve landed in the low end LB1 territory. He won’t ever be a league leader due to the system and talent surrounding him, but he’s only going to get better heading into his third season. He’s a strong bet to post 90+ solo tackles next year.
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10. Karlos Dansby-LB/AZ
One of the best signings of last offseason, Dansby had about as good a season as you could expect from a linebacker. The Cardinals and fantasy owners got significantly more in return than what they paid for him considering he was just supposed to fill in for suspended Dayrl Washington, and then move aside. To put his dominant year in perspective, he did not register less than 5 solo tackles in any game. He’s only lower on my list do to age (32), and I fancy Washington will bounce back in ’14, cutting into Dansby’s production somewhat.