If you play in an IDP league, you already know that linebackers are the bread and butter of defensive scoring.  If you are trying to learn about IDPs or deciding whether to convince your fellow league mates to switch from the hum-drum team defense to the dynamic scoring of individual defensive players, this is a good place to start.  We’ll start with the top 25 linebackers and then cover 25-50 and the top 50 at DL and DB.

As I will do in every IDP article, I will stress that IDP leagues vary so much in their scoring systems, that it is impossible to project exactly what players are the best fit for your league.  The one consistent thing is that linebackers are usually the most reliable source of week to week scoring.  Most leagues reward tackles but there are leagues that lean towards the “big play”. The league I’ve played in for about 15 years only gives 0.5 pts for a tackle (solo or assisted) and gives 3 pts for sacks and INTs.  Usually a ratio of about 3:1 for big plays to tackles is considered balanced and you can fall on either side for “big play” vs. “tackle heavy” scoring systems.  Rudy Gamble’s projections are based on a tackle heavy scoring system with 1 point for tackles and 2 points for sacks, INTs, etc.

My rankings are an attempt to base them for a balanced system so you will see players who had a big year last year due to a high number of sacks, ranked a little lower than you would expect. Can Shaq Barrett and Chandler Jones hit the 19 mark again this year?  On the other hand, we can guess that Darius Leonard will lead the way barring injury or that Bobby Wagner will finish in the top 10 as he has in each of the last 4 years.

 

The Top 25

Tier

Rank

Player

Team

1

1

Darius Leonard

IND

2

2

Joe Schobert

JAX

2

3

Bobby Wagner

SEA

2

4

Cory Littleton

LV

3

5

Jaylon Smith

DAL

3

6

Jordan Hicks

ARZ

3

7

Blake Martinez

NYG

4

8

Tremaine Edmunds

BUF

4

9

Demario Davis

NO

4

10

CJ Mosley

NYJ

4

11

T.J. Watt

PIT

4

12

Fred Warner

SF

4

13

Roquan Smith

CHI

5

14

Lavonte David

TB

5

15

Chandler Jones

ARZ

5

16

Shaq Thompson

CAR

5

17

Zach Cunningham

HOU

5

18

Leighton Vander Esch

DAL

5

19

Shaquil Barrett

TB

6

20

KJ Wright

SEA

6

21

Jayon Brown

TEN

6

22

Deion Jones

ATL

6

23

Devin White

TB

6

24

Todd Davis

DEN

6

25

Eric Kendricks

MIN

 

Tier 1

 

I covered Leonard in my top 25 overall article but here’s another indication of his dominance.  Based on my league’s scoring, he is the only linebacker to average over 9 points per game over the last 10 years and he’s done it two years in a row.  Further emphasizing the point there have only been 8 instances over the same time frame that a player averaged over 8 ppg.  This is how dominant of a player Leonard has been.

 

Tier 2

 

I wrote up Joe Schobert, my surprise #2 overall, in my top 25 article https://football.razzball.com/top-25-idp-rankings-for-2020-fantasy-footballBobby Wagner and Corey Littleton are two players that will no doubt battle with Schobert for the number two position.  They are your plug and play linebackers and you should have no problem pulling the trigger on either one of them.

 

Tier 3

 

Tier 3 brings us a group that could easily be grouped with those in tier two and I probably nitpicked a bit here.  They are all tackle machines and should provide a strong base as an LB1 in your draft, especially in tackle heavy scoring systems.  Jordan Hicks finds himself next to rookie Isaiah Simmons, who may end up “stealing” a few tackles away from Hicks as he is known for his speed and will be around the ball.  Jaylon Smith returns to the Cowboys and they are hoping for the healthy return of Leighton Vander Esch.  A complete season from Vander Esch and Sean Lee may limit some of the tackles available to Smith. Blake Martinez moves to the Giants after four years with the Packers to man a similar role in the Giants 3-4 scheme.  Will playing behind a better defensive line limit his tackles?  There are small changes with each of these players’ teams that could change their production and is why I gave them their own tier, but all in all they are dominant players.

 

Tier 4

 

The first big play linebacker in TJ Watt leads the next tier.  The rest of this group are all solid and should end the season towards the bottom end of  LB1 scoring.  CJ Mosley is returning from an injury, but he seemed to be a fit in Gregg Williams’ system as he was dominant in the first game last season before getting hurt.  He may be the most risky in this group due to the injury concerns.  Demario Davis, Fred Warner, Tremaine Edmunds, and Roquan Smith are all players who will give you a solid base at the position if you decide to go after other players earlier in the draft (hint to be on the lookout for my opinion as to what position to target first).

TJ Watt enters his 4th year with the Steelers and has become a fantasy IDP standout.  In big play leagues, he has been one of the top scoring linebackers.  In 2019, he had 14.5 sacks, 55 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 8 forced fumbles and 8 passes defensed.  In big play leagues, Watt should finish in the top 5, but he also has the potential to finish there in balanced/tackle leagues as he has shown the last two years.  Last year he finished second overall in my league which has big play scoring, just one point behind Ryan Logan.  He’s #20 overall and could easily outperform this ranking.  It’s early, but his current ADP on MyFantasyLeague is the 8th overall LB and 14th overall.  It was announced by Fleaflicker that they are changing the designation of outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme to defensive lineman and Watt is effected by this change.  This actually increases the value of Watt as he would be compared to other D-linemen rather than the higher scoring linebackers.  I’m not going to change my rankings based upon this one change, but be on the lookout if other sites follow suit.

 

Tier 5

 

The next group of players contains the top two in sacks last year in Shaq Barrett and Chandler Jones,  a player who is returning from injury in Vander Esch, a player who has a new coach and could be a sneaky value in Shaq Thompson, and two consistent players in Lavonte David and Zach Cunningham.  Barrett and Jones both finished in the top 10 overall in 2019 and could be headed there again, but expect some regression in their sack totals.  Vander Esch broke out during his rookie season when Sean Lee was injured, but he himself got injured last year limiting his production.  Can he stay healthy and be the force he was in 2018?  David and Cunningham will give you your high tackle totals and be very good LB2s.  They have limited upside, but their floor is high.  

Shaq Thompson has improved his tackle totals each year and last year finished with 108 total tackles and 3 sacks.  The Panthers are moving to a 4-3 base defense moving Thompson to the OLB position which could open up some big play opportunities.  Thompson is someone to keep an eye on and could end up being an LB1 making him a value at his ADP of LB22.

 

Tier 6

 

When you’re left with filling your LB2 slot later than most, this group will provide you with solid tackle numbers and deserve a starting slot if you start two or more LBs in your league.  We’ll go over this in more detail in a later strategy article, but when you get to this point in the rankings there is very little difference between players.  Last year in my league the difference in scoring between the 19th and 26th linebacker was 0.25 ppg and in 2018 it was only 0.19.  Knowing these trends will help you decide what positions to go after as you see how your draft room develops.

 

That wraps up the top half of the linebacker rankings.  The second half will be coming soon as we see the first rookie or two appear.  Are there values and players to target? Stay tuned….Comments are welcome and always available on Twitter @gasdoc_spit  

  1. Paul Zone says:
    (link)

    FYI, ESPN has Watt and Barrett listed as DL, EDGE. No LB designation.

    • GasDoc

      GasDoc says:
      (link)

      It’s something I’ll have to keep an eye on as the sites designate their guys. After I come out with the initial set of rankings, I’ll put out an update closer to the main drafting season. Thanks for the heads up

Comments are closed.