Like the offensive side of the ball, your defensive players need to be on the field in order to get you points. If any IDPs come off the field in certain situations, that hinders your squad, especially if that team continues to run packages that limits your IDP to spectator. For me, linebackers are the bread and butter of any IDP squad. They are making the tackles, and in some cases, getting sacks. Here are the LBs, as I see it, that won’t be leaving the field.
Brandon Spikes appears to be ticketed for a 3-down role, and at this point, could be the only Buffalo LB with IDP value. He’s on a one-year deal, so he’s playing for a payday in free agency. In 2013, Spikes appeared in just 694 snaps last year and produced a tackle rate of over 12%, resulting in 86 tackles. Nigel Bradham and Keith Rivers aren’t as locked in. I look at Spikes as an LB3 but does have LB2 appeal if he’s able to push the 900-1,000 snap mark.
Dannell Ellerbe will return to man the WILL, but was not favorably looked upon by PFF, grading negatively overall and against the run. Ellerbe was decent, from an IDP standpoint, notching over 100 tackles, but wasn’t as good as his playoff run with Baltimore would’ve indicated. According to the Miami Herald, Ellerbe is leaving the field on passing situations, with Philip Wheeler and Koa Misi remaining on the field. Misi is being converted to MIKE and Wheeler could lose some of his tackle opportunities on the strong-side, even though he did notch 119 tackles in 2013. Misi is the desired target at MIKE, but I look at him as depth and not someone to trust, just yet, on a weekly basis.
New England Patriots
Jerod Mayo missed 10 games in 2013 and was on pace for a huge season. He had recorded 55 tackles and 1.5 sacks before going down. He’ll return to his three-down duties in 2014. Jamie Collins is also locked into a significant role after producing well during the playoffs. I do offer pause on Collins and not to over-draft him based on his playoff stats. If you can get him as your 3rd or 4th LB, awesome. I don’t like the LB2 price.
New York Jets
Demario Davis and David Harris are the Jets’ snap-hoarders on the inside. Harris and Davis both recorded over 100 tackles in 2013.
Daryl Smith returns to Baltimore where he’ll continue to hog the field and swallow up tackles. Even though Smith recorded 123 tackles, he was in on more assists than solos, so keep that in mind in solo heavy scoring formats. CJ Mosley appears ahead of Arthur Brown, but there’s possibility of shared snaps. Terrell Suggs is a big play specialist that gets sacks, though, he did record a career-high in tackles in 2013 (80).
Vontaze Burfict appears to be the only Bengal backer to see the field for each snap. I like Vincent Rey, but he’s behind Rey Maualuga at this point.
Karlos Dansby is locked in. Now, his running mate? My hunch points to Christian Kirksey at this point. Robertson is more of a two-down run stopper, as he gets burned in coverage. I don’t see any of the OLBs having much IDP value; too much rotation.
Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier will be the Steelers three-down ‘backers on the inside. Jason Worilds will provide big-play potential on the outside and should be a near three-down LB.
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Brian Cushing returns from injury to man the inside and will retain his three-down role. It’s unclear if any of the other Houston LBs will have a three-down role. Jadaveon Clowney is slotted on the outside and should see the majority of the snaps; heck Texans took him 1st overall. Clowney, initially, will have value in the big play formats.
Jerrell Freeman and former Cleveland Brown, D’Qwell Jackson, will lineup as Indy’s three-down LBs. Keep in mind, Robert Mathis is out for the first 4 games, but should be on the field for the majority of snaps upon his return.
Paul Posluszny will remain the cog of the Jacksonville defense. Geno Hayes appeared in over 930 defensive snaps, but holds IDP value in deeper or all IDP leagues.
The Titans had a logjam at the ILB in their new 3-4 base. The pre-season cleared things up and the Titans look to be rolling with Wesley Woodyard and Zach Brown. Brown offers a nice combo of tackles and big plays. Derrick Morgan’s IDP stock tumbled with his transition to a 3-4 OLB.
Danny Trevathan, once he returns from a fractured leg, should resume his three-down role. In the meantime, Nate Irving is penciled in as MIKE but it’ll be hard to trust him to be on the field. Von Miller plays all over and it was good to see him get a few snaps in the pre-season. Consider Brandon Marshall in the only the deepest of leagues.
Kansas City Chiefs
Derrick Johnson returns to anchor the inside. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston will continue to give opposing QBs fits on every down.
Nick Roach will be back in the middle and playing each snap for the Raiders. The Raiders used an early pick to grab Khalil Mack, so it stands to reason that he’ll be in line for each snap. At this point, Sio Moore has edged out Miles Burris for the starting gig on the weak-side, but we’ll see how he holds up. Roach is the IDP to own and Mack has big play upside.
San Diego Chargers
Donald Butler will be a three-down LB, but injuries are the concern with him. Manti Te’o is expected to see an increase in work, which should translate to more snaps in sub-packages.
According to ESPN Dallas, Justin Durant will be the only three-down ‘backer. Rookie Anthony Hitchens, Bruce Carter, Kyle Wilber and Rolando McClain will compete for snaps. Outside of Durant, it’s a situation to avoid.
New York Giants
Jon Beason will anchor the Giants’ LB group and be their three-down defender. It’s unclear how WILL, Jacquain Williams, will be used but he’ll be involved in subpackages. The Newark Star-Ledger is sure he’ll be used on all snaps. Jameel McClain and Spencer Paysinger hold no IDP value at this point.
Count on DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks to be the on the field 100% of the time. Outside ‘backer duo, Connor Barwin and Trent Cole, should also be on the field the majority of the snaps. Cole carries IDP appeal in deeper leagues that weigh big plays more than tackles.
Perry Riley will try and fill the shoes of IDP legend, London Fletcher. Riley has appeared in over 1,000 snaps in each of the last three seasons. After missing the entire 2013 season, Keenan Robinson will slot next to Riley and assume a three-down role for the first time in his career. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrian will lineup outside and be on the field for the majority of the snaps, as well. Both are big play specialists.
Lance Briggs missed the last 7 games of 2013 but is healthy and ready to go. Outside of Briggs, it’ll be hard to trust DJ Williams, Shea McClellin or Jon Bostic for consistent IDP fantasy points.
Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy will be the Lions’ three-down ‘backers once again.
Green Bay Packers
Brad Jones will be on the field for all snaps and AJ Hawk should be his running mate on the inside. Injuries might’ve contributed to Hawk staying on the field longer, but he did appear in just over 1,000 snaps in 2013. Clay Matthews will appear on the field for the majority of his snaps, but newly signed Julius Peppers, is playing OLB for the first-time and will be hard to trust for consistent IDP production.
Chad Greenway is Mr. Dependable, so don’t count on him leaving the field for any reason. According to Ben Gosseling, Barr could be play OLB/DE roles in certain packages, so he should have a three-down role. Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole are manning the MIKE, but could be in a rotation.
At this point, the only LB I trust to have a three-down role is Paul Worrilow. Joplu Bartu will lineup alongside the Warlock, but his snaps could be eaten away by rookie Prince Shembo.
Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis formed a solid LB duo in 2013 and look for that to continue in 2014.
New Orleans Saints
Death, taxes and Curtis Lofton. Lofton will remain on every snap with David Hawthorne joining him in their new 3-4 scheme.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LaVonte David and Mason Foster are shaping up to be TB’s lone three-down ‘backers. Foster has failed to nail down an every-snap role in the past, but he’s trained and played well, gaining the attention of the coaching staff.
Kevin Minter is a wild card and we assume he’s going to be a three-down LB in his second year. Larry Foote was brought in for a veteran presence and will take on every snap. The Cards also brought in Desmond Bishop, while injury prone, can step in if necessary. Minter, while I think could have a break-out, is also being over-valued at this point.
Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright are ticketed for three-down roles in Seattle’s aggressive scheme.
San Francisco 49’ers
Patrick Willis should return to LB1 form with Navorro Bowman out for the first 8 weeks of the season. It’s unclear who’ll get the snap duties alongside Willis, so at this point, it appears to be an LBBC with Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland. Wilhoite is the starter, but Borland proved he can play.
St. Louis Rams
James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree will man the field for a solid Rams defense.