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IDP Draft Bargains and Busts for Fantasy Football - Linebackers Edition

With the offseason finally slipping into our rearview mirror, we at RotoBaller want to give IDP managers an early look at how each defensive position is playing out in the fantasy realm.

To do that, we will look at how IDP analysts and managers value players at every defensive position. Based on that, we will tell you who is rated too high and who is a great value.

Today, we continue our IDP positional analysis with the Linebacker group. Here we will go over LBs who are going higher than they should and ones who are a steal at their current ranking. We will also consider a couple of other ‘backers who fans need to know more about before their drafts. So, let's talk big burly men in shiny helmets, shall we?

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best NFL Series, MLB Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

IDP Linebackers to Bust

Our bust label does not mean a player will outright fail or disappoint. Rather, it means these players are being ranked/drafted in a place unlikely to return equal or greater value than your investment.

Foyesade Oluokun, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Oluokun was a fantasy revelation over the past two seasons, rising from obscurity to become one of the most consistent fantasy linebackers in the game. Unfortunately, the Yale grad changed teams this offseason, and the unknowns surrounding that change makes him too expensive at his current cost as the 11th defender off the board.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons for optimism with this former Falcon, including the fact he led the NFL in tackles last year, and the Jaguars liked him enough to guarantee $28 million in his new deal. Even better, his new defensive coordinator was the Buccaneer’s linebacker coach when Devin White put together his elite fantasy season in 2020. That said, Mike Caldwell is no guarantee of fantasy success. This is Caldwell’s first time as a defensive coordinator, and his linebackers disappointed in 2021.

The Jaguars also just invested a first-round pick in Devin Lloyd and a third-round pick in Chad Muma, both of whom are versatile linebackers who could excel in nickel packages. Odds are Oluokun will see plenty of snaps and opportunities to maintain his fantasy dominance, but this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a defender’s production drop significantly when he changed teams and faced increased competition.

Denzel Perryman, LB, Las Vegas Raiders

In college, Denzel Perryman had the look of an anchor in the middle, but it took him seven years to produce like one in the pros. When the Miami product finally reached his potential last year, he finished third in the NFL in solo tackles and sixth in total takedowns, both of which are terrific stats in a tackle premium IDP league. Unfortunately, even in this former Hurricane’s breakout year, he registered a mere 11 big plays (3 PDs, 1 FF, 2 FR, and 5 TFLs).

Beyond the concern about Perryman's lack of big plays are worries about his age (he will turn 30 this season) and the fact he could be a poor fit for new Raiders Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham’s system. Graham has openly stated he sees 3-4 and 4-3 schemes as outdated, stating nickel packages are his base scheme. If that's true, we can expect the Raiders to play just two linebackers routinely, and those linebackers will have to be versatile if they want to stay on the field.

Perryman’s coverage skills are below average and suggest he may struggle in such a role, limiting his snaps later in the season. If that happens, he will be a huge disappointment to those ranking him as an LB1.

Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers

While Fred Warner is an elite football player, he has never registered more than three sacks in a season, he’s never secured double-digit tackles for loss (his high is seven), and he’s forced a mere 2.5 turnovers per year. Even when DeMeco Ryans promised Warner would blitz more often in 2021, the former Cougar produced the second-fewest sacks of his career. Worse, the All-Pro set a career-high in tackle output in 2021… and tied for just the 11th most in the NFL.

All these statistical points suggest Warner might be an elite defender who isn't an elite fantasy defender. Like many shutdown corners, Warner’s stellar and frequent use in coverage often forces opposing quarterbacks to avoid him completely. The downside of being avoided is the BYU product doesn’t get near the ball enough to produce elite stats, especially when he spends 57.1% of his snaps in coverage like last year. Therefore, we are ranking Warner as an LB2 option rather than the LB1 most consider him to be.

Shaq Thompson, LB, Carolina Panthers

Because most IDP formats are tackle premium, your average IDP manager will require consistent tackle production from their starting linebackers. Unfortunately, Shaq Thompson doesn't give you that. In the seven seasons in which Thompson has started 14+ games, he has never registered 120+ total tackles, and he's never finished higher than 26th in the NFL in total tackles or 21st in solos.

While the Washington product does produce enough big plays in the passing game to make him an LB3 in most formats, his average of 0.89 big plays per game isn't good enough to raise him any higher. That’s why we are avoiding him at his current price of LB21 overall.

Jerome Baker, LB, Miami Dolphins

We know what Jerome Baker is at this point, after four NFL seasons and 64 games. The former Buckeye is the defensive equivalent of a deep threat, like DeSean Jackson. Some weeks you will feast when Baker puts two sacks and an interception on your table, and some weeks you'll find yourself leaving the dinner table hungry after the Dolphins’ starter gives you a measly two fantasy points.

For those willing to ride the Baker wave, you’ll appreciate the fact his mercurial nature has him in the LB2 discussion each week. However, there are a lot of linebackers who provide more consistency than the Ohio State product does, and many of them come at a lower cost. So, if you draft Baker, be prepared for him to bust some weeks and boom in others. That profile is too inconsistent for us to take him at his current price of LB23 in anything but IDP formats that significantly discount tackles and overvalue big plays.

 

IDP Linebacker Draft Day Bargains

T.J. Edwards, LB, Philadelphia Eagles

Edwards was a sleeper coming out of Wisconsin in 2019, and last year he finally got the opportunity to be a full-time starter in Philadelphia. The former Badger performed well in that audition, collecting 130 tackles despite seeing less than half his team’s defensive snaps through Week 7.

It has become clear this offseason that the Eagles value Edwards as much as fantasy fans do. Coaches now refer to him as a leader, team beat writers say he’s improved in coverage, and the biggest offseason threat to his playing time is a rookie practicing with the third string. Given all that, Edwards should have a safe path to a lion’s share of Philadelphia's defensive snaps this season. With that kind of role in this defense and his skill set, we project Edwards to outperform his current rank of LB32 overall.

Dre Greenlaw, LB, San Francisco 49ers

Dre Greenlaw is perhaps the most frequent flyer on our annual pre-season IDP Sleepers/Bargains list, and for good reason. When the former Razorback has received 70% or more of the 49ers' defensive snaps, he's averaged 7.6 tackles with four turnovers and 12 TFLs. Even better, he notched 8+ tackles in 44% of those contests. The problem is Greenlaw isn’t always healthy, and his frequent injuries have allowed Azeez Al-Shaair to pass him in almost every current IDP ranking.

This dichotomy between teammates makes Greenlaw a bargain prospect for us in 2022. The Arkansas product is ranked at LB51 overall, while Al-Shaair sits nine spots ahead of him. That poses a problem because when Greenlaw returned from injury last year, he quickly took back the nickel role next to Fred Warner, and he’s kept that role in this year’s camp. If these trends continue and Al-Shaair sits half of San Francisco’s defensive snaps, Greenlaw could be the best fantasy value amongst all 49er linebackers at cost.

Ernest Jones, LB, Los Angeles Rams

Ernest Jones put together a promising rookie season in 2021, averaging 6.75 tackles across eight starts, including the Super Bowl. As someone handpicked by his current defensive coordinator in last year’s draft, we anticipate his usage rate and output to grow in 2022 despite the addition of Bobby Wagner.

One reason we like Jones’ chance to ascend is his three-down capacity. Coming out of South Carolina, Jones was viewed as a two-down 'backer who would leave the field on passing downs, but that wasn't the case last season. In fact, the rookie earned positive coverage and pass rush grades from PFF while collecting two sacks, two interceptions, and five PDs in eight starts. Jones now enters his second year with a chance to play every down alongside Bobby Wagner, which should raise his floor considerably.

With Jones falling to an average ranking of LB70 amongst the IDP analysts who bother to rank him, there is definite potential for a bargain here. If Jones can stay on the field in both the Rams’ 3-4 and nickel packages, he should obliterate current fantasy expectations.

Logan Wilson, LB, Cincinnati Bengals

Logan Wilson’s place on this list may seem odd, considering his consensus ranking amongst IDP analysts is an acceptable LB14 overall. However, the Wyoming product’s overall ranking ignores his high fantasy ceiling as a big-play defender who seemed to grow and improve once the Bengals entered the playoffs.

It is worth remembering that last year was Wilson’s first as a full-time NFL starter, and he faced a harsh learning curve coming from Wyoming to the pros. Despite his youth and inexperience, Wilson was an every-down linebacker for the Bengals throughout 2021 and he played a whopping 100% of the Bengals’ defensive snaps during the playoffs. That kind of usage on a young and ascending defense spells a safe fantasy floor, and Wilson's ability to snag interceptions spells a higher ceiling than LB14.

Nakobe Dean, LB, Philadelphia Eagles

Nakobe Dean’s place on this list should come as no surprise to those who read our rookie defender article earlier this summer. The leader of Georgia’s championship defense has the head and instincts to be an absolute terror when healthy, and reports indicate he is just that. While concerns about Dean’s athletic upside and his opportunities as a rookie are valid, the fact he is healthy enough to practice is all we need to include him on this list.

It seems prudent to offer this disclaimer: Dean isn’t currently projected as a starter for Philly or fantasy managers to start 2021. That means his place on this list has more to do with his long-term value in dynasty leagues and his upside as a stash in redrafts with long benches or deep defensive lineups. Right now, the consensus on Dean (LB50) is reasonable if you're in shallow redraft format. However, in dynasty and deeper IDP formats, he could be a massive bargain later in the year.

 

Additional Notes on Linebackers

Seattle staff has repeatedly stated that Cody Barton will fill the role Jordyn Brooks held last season as Brooks moves inside to replace Bobby Wagner. The word is that the Seahawks intend for Brooks to focus more on run defense while Barton, a former safety, takes on additional responsibility in coverage. In that role, Barton has the potential to outperform his current consensus ranking of LB34.

Alex Singleton is likely to be drafted as if he is still a consistent fantasy producer for the Eagles, but he isn’t. Singleton is now with the Broncos, and he isn’t seeing action with their starting linebacker group in camp. To make matters worse, the Broncos just brought Joe Schobert in for a meeting, which further clouds the picture for Singleton. Many will draft Singleton, assuming he still has fantasy value, but all signs towards the opposite.



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Four weeks of the 2022 NFL season are down, the fantasy baseball has wrapped up, and autumn is in the air as we proceed with some Rest-of-Season ranks! We aim to assess players moving forward as if we drafted today to help orient you to build winners through waivers or trades, so today we present... Read More


Tee Higgins - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Wide Receiver Snap Counts and Target Trends - Risers and Fallers for Week 5 (2022)

What Appears In This Article? hide 1. Week 4 Target Leaders 2. Week 4 Target Risers And Fallers 3. Week 4 Air Yards 4. Week 4 Targets Per Route Run 5. Week 4 Yards Per Route Run 6. Week 4 Red Zone Targets 7. Week 4 Snap Counts 8. Five Things I Noticed You are... Read More


Melvin Gordon - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Timeshare or Position Battle? Breaking Down Running Back Committees: Fantasy Football 2022

As the season rolls along, we're starting to get a better idea of how some running back committees have gone. Some of those committees have turned out to not be committees. James Robinson has dominated the Jaguars backfield and left Travis Etienne with a minimal role, for example. And some have been even more committee... Read More


Stefon Diggs - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

WR/CB Matchups to Target and Downgrade - Week 5

Welcome to Week 5 of the WR/CB Matchup chart. As the year goes on, the PPGA metric will become more and more predictive. Results from a small sample usually tell more about how talented a CB's opponents have been rather than the difficulty of the matchup going forward. It is not advised to use this... Read More


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Fantasy Basketball Breakouts, Busts, And Locks - Charlotte Hornets 2022 Outlook

Welcome to a new series that we are debuting here at RotoBaller in order to start getting you ready for the 2022-2023 fantasy basketball season! If you play fantasy football, you'll probably recognize the format here as we had a series of preseason NFL articles that followed the same outline. The idea here is to... Read More


Five Teams To Target In 2022-2023 Fantasy Basketball

A lot of content focuses exclusively on which players you should draft (or not draft) and when. But what about specific teams? Should we target certain teams more heavily than others? While you don't have to stack up players from one team onto your teams (and in fact, it's probably a bad idea to put... Read More


Giannis Antetokounmpo NBA DFS picks daily fantasy basketball lineups sleepers

Fantasy Basketball Risers, Rookies and Draft Sleepers (Central Division) - Khris Middleton, Myles Turner, DeMar DeRozan, Donovan Mitchell, Jaden Ivey

The regular season is inching closer by the day, and most offseason moves have already been completed – barring a surprising Russell Westbrook trade, or the pending Jae Crowder deal when/if Phoenix finds a proper partner before tip-off day. Each team's depth chart is mostly complete, so it makes sense to start analyzing how it... Read More


Daily NBA Injury Roundup for October 6th, 2022

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily NBA injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy basketball (DFS) lineups, every day of the NBA season. Below is our updated list of injured NBA players for October 6th, 2022. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Fantasy Basketball Breakouts, Busts, And Locks - Sacramento Kings 2022 Outlook

Hey there, NBA fans, I hope you are enjoying the new series that we have been debuting here at RotoBaller in order to start getting you ready for the 2022-2023 fantasy basketball season! If you play fantasy football, you'll probably recognize the format here as we had a series of preseason NFL articles that followed... Read More


Fantasy Basketball Risers, Rookies and Draft Sleepers (Northwest Division) - Collin Sexton, Josh Giddey, Anfernee Simons, Mike Muscala

The regular season is inching closer by the day, and most offseason moves have already been completed – barring a surprising Russell Westbrook trade, or the pending Jae Crowder deal when/if Phoenix finds a proper partner before tip-off day. Each team's depth chart is mostly complete, so it makes sense to start analyzing how it... Read More


Daily NBA Injury Roundup for October 5th, 2022

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily NBA injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy basketball (DFS) lineups, every day of the NBA season. Below is our updated list of injured NBA players for October 5th, 2022. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Fantasy Basketball Risers, Rookies and Draft Sleepers (Southeast Division) - LaMelo Ball, Dejounte Murray, Paolo Banchero, Kristaps Porzingis, Bam Adebayo

The regular season is inching closer by the day, and most offseason moves have already been completed – barring a surprising Russell Westbrook trade, or the pending Jae Crowder deal when/if Phoenix finds a proper partner before tip-off day. Each team's depth chart is mostly complete, so it makes sense to start analyzing how it... Read More


Daily NBA Injury Roundup for October 4th, 2022

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily NBA injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy basketball (DFS) lineups, every day of the NBA season. Below is our updated list of injured NBA players for October 4th, 2022. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


DraftKings Daily Fantasy Basketball Picks (10/3/22): Preseason NBA DFS Lineups

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Third-Year Fantasy Basketball Breakouts: The Time Is Now

Not every player can set the world on fire as a rookie. Or as a second-year player. Sometimes, young players take time to develop. A lot of star players take a leap in year three, but there are also players who aren't stars but become solid role players in that third season. Anthony Edwards is... Read More


Thunder Dan's 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball Rankings and Draft Analysis

I am quite possibly more excited for this NBA season than I have been for any previous season since I was a kid. I grew up watching the golden age of the NBA in the '80s and '90s and have been an NBA fan ever since. But this season is hopefully going to be like... Read More