• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

2nd Year Surges: Linebackers

ByJoe Goodwin

Mar 30, 2023 #IDP, #Linebackers

2nd Year Surges: Linebackers

By Joe Goodwin

 

This is part 2 of a 3 part series analyzing the potential of 2nd year defensive players as IDP contributors.  Part 1 covered defensive lineman, and part 3 will cover defensive backs.  This article will focus on players that were drafted as linebackers.

Quay Walker (LB, Packers)

Walker made a big splash last year starting 16 of 17 games. Walker tallied 121 total tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 7 passes defended.  In short, Walker was an instant impact player for the Packers. And Walker’s IDP future is bright.  Last year, Walker’s snap share hovered in the 50-60% range.  As Walker becomes a complete player, he will enter the “elite” level of linebackers and log 75-80% of the snaps.  I foresee Walker easily entering the 150+ tackle level with improved sack numbers.  Walker will be drafted in startup leagues fairly early.  You will need to make an investment to land Quay, and I highly endorse it.  His numbers will improve as he stays on the field and you will be thankful you locked up one of the top up and coming linebackers for years to come.

Devin Lloyd (LB, Jaguars)

Lloyd started 15 of 17 games last year while amassing 115 total tackles.  Devin’s snap share was like a roller coaster last year as he saw a high of 82% and a low of 22%.  Lloyd and Chad Muma were rotating in and out of the starting spot in the Jaguars defense.  In order for Lloyd to maximize his potential, he is going to need to establish himself as an “every down” player on defense.  Limiting Lloyd’s ceiling is his lack of sacks and tackles for loss, while his passes defended help to stabilize his basement.  I do not believe Lloyd’s potential is as high as Walker’s as an IDP star, but Devin will undoubtedly be a high floor player with a solid stat line.  He will not be a top 10 linebacker in your draft, but you can definitely do a lot worse than him as well.  Draft Lloyd as a steady performer with some upside as well.

David Ojabo (OLB, Ravens)

After suffering a torn achilles last March, Ojabo was not expected to have an immediate impact on the Ravens defense.  He did enter 2 games last year, but was a nonfactor in both games only recording 1 tackle and 1 sack.  Ojabo has a ton of talent and may end up becoming an elite pass rusher, but at this current time, he should not occupy a spot on your roster unless you have a deep taxi squad and are strong at linebacker and can wait.  Otherwise, there are better choices to “wait and see” how they produce this year.

Troy Andersen (LB, Falcons)

Troy Anderson played in all 17 games last year, and started 5 of them.  In those games, Anderson showed moderate success accounting for 69 tackles and 3 tackles for loss.  Those numbers don’t necessarily jump out for a linebacker, but Andersen got better as the season progressed and was the team’s starter the last 4 games.  In those games, Andersen averaged over 5 tackles per game.  Andersen’s growth may take a bit longer after coming from Montana St.  The level of competition is a lot different and takes some time to acclimate.  I believe this year will be another growth year for Andersen, but 2024 could see Andersen in the 125 tackle club.  If you have room, he’s not a bad taxi squad player to have, but does not currently warrant a starting spot in your IDP league unless you start at least 3 linebackers.  As long as you have room, I love Andersen’s long term potential.

Nik Bonitto (LB, Broncos)

Nik Bonitto may never enter the stratosphere that Von Miller is in even though he was traded for him last year; then again, most players will never get there either.  Last season, Bonitto played in 15 games (starting 1) and only tallied 14 total tackles.  He did force 1 fumble and had 1.5 sacks.  However, those stats do not add up to a fantasy relevant player.  And, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, the Broncos will not wait around to see if Bonitto figures things out.  After trading Miller and Chubb, a golden opportunity was open for a young player to step in and prove he can rush the quarterback.  Instead, Bonitto was relegated to rotational snaps.  If Bonitto is ever going to be a factor in IDP, he will need to start racking up sacks and stay on the field more. I just don’t see it on tape, yet.  He is a skip on draft day.

Brian Asamoah (LB, Vikings)

Brian Asamoah slowly entered his role with the Vikings defense as he did not play in the first 4 games and the next 5 games, he saw minimal playing time.  In the last 4 games, he did see more snaps, highlighted by an 8 tackle performance against the Colts.  Asamoah looks destined to be a situational player and will not be an impactful player in fantasy as long as he is not on the field during passing downs.  Last year, Qb’s had a 110 rating against him in coverage with over a 14 yard average per attempt.  As long as opposing offenses know he can be exploited that way, they will utilize that and force him away from the line of scrimmage. The Vikings may look to add a more established player to play ahead of him, but for now, he has the inside track on being the starting inside linebacker.  If that's the case, Asamoah may be a lottery ticket in IDP drafts and is worth a late round pick.

Chad Muma (LB, Jaguars)

After logging 16 games with 2 starts, Chad Muma totaled 47 tackles, with 3 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.  Muma had  inconsistent playing time as he received as low as 2% snap share all the way up to 72%.  In the latter game, Muma had 9 tackles and in the following game (58% snap share), he recorded 11 tackles and 1 sack.  If Muma can see playing time in between 50-70%, Muma will turn into a very reliable IDP contributor.  However, if Muma does not see consistent playing time, his value decreases substantially.  I foresee Muma getting between 50 to 65% snap share (hopefully more) and turning into a 100+ tackler with 3 to 5 sacks.  Muma has a lot of competition for playing time with Devin Lloyd.  Foyesade Oloukun is assured of a starting spot and is a top 10 linebacker in IDP.  If Muma can stay on the field, he is worth a late round selection in your IDP draft, however, Lloyd and Muma may be the players that get in each other’s way of the flourishing.

Christian Harris (LB, Texans)

After starting 11 games in 2022, Harris appears to be entrenched as Houston’s starting inside linebacker.  Harris’ best games saw him record 9, 10, and 13 tackles.  Harris looks to be an ascending player in the Texan’s defense.  Does that translate into IDP success? Harris does check one of the most important factors to be an IDP target: playing time.  Harris has shown flashes of being a “tackle monster” for the Texans totaling 74 total tackles in his rookie season; with 6 tackles for loss.  I would have loved Harris’ potential more if the Texans didn’t go out and sign some veteran linebackers that could impact his playing time.  I like the potential Harris has and would recommend drafting him late and hope the veteran additions don’t stifle his playing time and ultimately, his long term prospects as and IDP contributor.

DeAngelo Malone (OLB, Falcons)

DeAngelo Malone saw action in 15 games while recording 29 total tackles.  Malone may also be listed as a DL in your league. As of now, Malone is not a viable IDP contributor.  He does not get enough sacks to be useful as a DL, nor does he get enough tackles to be LB.  Either way, pass on Malone and look for other options.

Nakobe Dean (LB, Eagles)

If any player is destined to see a massive jump in IDP value in 2023, it's Nakobe Dean. With both starting linebackers gone, Dean has first chance to assume a large amount of playing time on the Eagles defense.  And with a defensive line that occupies offensive lineman better than most teams, the Eagles rely on their linebackers to make a ton of tackles.  Dean is my favorite 2nd year IDP breakout.  He has an immense amount of talent and opportunity in this defense and I project he will take full advantage of it.  He may not rack up a lot of sacks, but his tackles, passes defended, and tackles for loss will add up quickly.  And, as a dynasty player, Nakobe Dean should be considered a top 20 linebacker now and a future top 12 player for years to come.

Terrel Bernard (LB, Bills)

In 16 games last year (1 start), Bernard notched 22 tackles.  With no sacks or tackles for loss, Bernard would appear to be a player to overlook.  However, with the Bills watching Edmunds depart via free agency, Bernard appears to be in line for a huge increase in playing time.  Any player that has talent and an opportunity to be on the field, that player should be considered as a late round draft pick in your IDP leagues.  I would hope a player moving into this position had a bit more experience, the Bills have shown an ability to identify and groom linebackers.  I trust in their system and I trust in Bernard.  Draft him late and watch him blossom into a solid LB starter.

Channing Tindall (LB, Dolphins)

Channing Tindall was seldomly used last year as he only amassed 2 tackles.  Entering 2023, Tindall is still a backup player and does not provide any impact in fantasy.  Unless the Dolphins have a rash of injuries to their linebackers, Tindall is not worth a draft pick.

Leo Chenal (LB, Chiefs)

Leo Chenal got to witness a ride all the way to a Super Bowl win last year.  And during that run, Chenal did see some playing time including making 6 tackles and 1 sack in the Super Bowl against the Eagles.  Coming into his second year, I would have placed Chenal high on my list of 2nd year linebackers to target heading into the 2023 season, but then the Chiefs went and signed Drue Tranquil and added more competition to the position.  I do think Chenal showed enough last year to warrant a taxi squad player.  However, you’ll need to be patient with him until his “time to shine” occurs.  For now, stash him and wait for bigger things for Chenal.

Brandon Smith (LB, Panthers)

Brandon Smith got into 12 games and started 1 for the Panthers.  In those snaps, Smith only accumulated 8 total tackles.  With no sacks, tackles for loss, or passes defended, Smith does not appear to be on the IDP radar.  

Micah McFadden (LB, Giants)

Micah McFadden played in all 17 games and started 7 of them.  With 59 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 6 tackles for loss, McFadden appears to be headed into fantasy relevance.  After the week 9 bye, McFadden saw at least a 24% snap share, and a high of 57%.  In year 2, if McFadden can consistently get 40 to 50% snap share, McFadden is worth a late round pick to keep on your taxi squad.  I love his upside and find him to be an interesting dynasty player.  

Malcolm Rodriguez (LB, Lions)

Malcolm Rodriguez popped on a lot of radars after his stint on Hard Knocks last year.  In his rookie year, Rodrigo tallied 87 total tackles, with 8 tackles for loss.  In order for Rodriguez to maximize his fantasy potential, he will need to stay on the field.  As the season progressed, Rodriguez’s snap count went down.  He may have just hit the “rookie wall” and the Lions decided to change up their formations.  Do not overpay for Rodriguez in drafts this year.  I believe he has a lot of upside, but he has to stay on the field to realize that potential.

 

Did I miss a 2nd year linebacker you would like to get some feedback about?  Hit me up on twitter @JGoody77 and I’ll give you my thoughts.