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IDP Linebackers - NFL Rookies to Watch in 2020

Here at RotoBaller, we recently released our IDP Top 120 consensus preseason rankings. We aim to provide top-notch coverage for fantasy leagues of all types and fantasy football IDP leagues (individual defensive players) are no exception.

Seasoned IDP vets know the top names already and likely know the type of players to target on draft day. But what about those who have yet to suit up in an NFL game? Rookies often surprise us by emerging in unlikely situations or surpassing expectations. For that reason, we are going to analyze the top rookies to monitor throughout the preseason at each major positional category.

We begin with the most productive defender of them all - the linebacker. Is the next Darius Leonard ready to emerge? Here are the most likely candidates.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy football rankings for 2024 fantasy football drafts:

 

Kenneth Murray, Los Angeles Chargers

Murray wasn't the first linebacker taken in the 2020 NFL Draft but his landing spot puts him on a path to instant stardom. Murray jumps into our top-80 IDP rankings immediately with ranker Chris Gregory putting him as high as 51 overall. There's good reason - he was a big part of the Oklahoma defense for three years. Oh, his workout numbers weren't too shabby either...

The Chargers have been big on young talent but have underachieved on defense the last couple of years. Joey Bosa and Derwin James should be perennial Pro Bowl selections but injuries have limited them from reaching their full potential. Jayon Brown is a solid player who also warrants strong consideration in IDP leagues. Murray could be the complementary piece the team needs to put it all together on the defensive side of the ball.

It won't hurt that the team figures to play a more controlled brand of offense now that gunslinger Philip Rivers and his 20 INT are out of town, not to mention Melvin Gordon III and his sudden fumbling issues. The Chargers turned the ball over on offense 31 times in 2019, fourth-most in the league. That kept the defense on the field more than they would like, often in bad positions. If the team can play from ahead or at least even more often, this could help the whole defense.

Aside from collecting tackles, Murray also took down the QB four times and registered 17 tackles for loss in his junior year. He will likely be used in a similar attacking manner and figures to be a big play waiting to happen any given week.

 

Patrick Queen, Baltimore Ravens

He wasn't even the first LSU linebacker taken in the draft, but Queen immediately jumps into the conversation as a DROY candidate. We have him as the 45th-ranked IDP in our preseason rankings, ahead of veteran linebackers such as Kwon Alexander and Von Miller. Those are big expectations off the bat, but they are warranted.

At LSU, the offense made all the headlines, but Queen was a big part of the championship-caliber defense. He ranked fourth in the SEC with 12 tackles for loss despite not being part of the starting unit to open 2019. Once he did, he became a force to be reckoned with and showed up loudly on tape.

The main appeal is that Queen should step right in at middle linebacker for one of the best defenses in the league at Baltimore. He replaces Josh Bynes, who now makes Cincinnati his fourth NFL team. Although Bynes didn't put up great fantasy numbers with just 23 solo tackles, much of that was due to injury and limited time on the field. Ultimately, he graded out as PFF's sixth-rated linebacker in 2019. Queen can conceivably stay on the field for 90% or more of the Ravens' defensive snaps if he proves to be nearly as effective a run-stopper. It's premature to promise a breakout season right away, but as of now Queen has the opportunity and should be considered the top rookie IDP in all formats.

 

Malik Harrison, Baltimore Ravens

If there is a defense that can support two rookie linebackers on the same team, it's Baltimore. Harrison is also filling the shoes of a veteran who left via free agency in Patrick Onwuasor. Harrison spent four years at Ohio State honing his craft, although his numbers in his final season took a slight dip from 81 total tackles his junior year to 75 as a senior despite playing two more games. This caused him to fall to the third round, where the Ravens promptly plucked him to be their WLB.

While his stats weren't overwhelming, he did nearly double his tackles for loss. Right off the bat, Harrison will be asked to patrol the weakside and provide pass-rush support. His raw athleticism is still developing; keep in mind he was a quarterback in high school. Harrison may not make an instant splash but he could turn into a productive defender by midseason.

 

Shaquille Quarterman, Jacksonville Jaguars

K'Lavon Chaisson is the bigger name to chase in Jacksonville, but Quarterman is one to watch throughout training camp if you're looking for a sleeper. Quarterman may become the next in a long line of Miami Hurricane linebackers to succeed in the NFL. He may also prove to be another former Cane who excels as a pro after showing inconsistency in college, despite being a four-time All-ACC selection.

Quarterman's biggest assets are his experience and his motor. He was a four-year starter who amassed 182 solo tackles, 12 sacks, 13 passes defended, and five fumble recoveries as a collegiate. He also finished tied for sixth all-time in ACC history with 47 tackles for loss. His lack of elite speed (4.74 40 time) and relatively limited athleticism presume a backup role in the NFL or a limited ceiling in terms of productivity. Still, if Chaisson struggles or gets hurt, Quarterman has a chance to start for a young defense lacking established playmakers outside of recently-signed Joe Schobert.

More NFL Rookie Analysis




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