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Fantasy Football Maniaxs


August 24, 2009 9:15 AM

Fantasy Football's IDP Impact: Steelers Linebackers

By Sean Haugh, IDPs columnist at Fantasy Pros 911

james-harrison-.jpg

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the defending Super Bowl Champions in very large part due to their dominating defense. When all is said and done, this could be considered the best Steelers defense of all time, which places this unit in very lofty company indeed.

But they're not done yet, not by any means. In Fantasy Football, Linebackers are very much the IDP counterpart to Wide Receivers. Having elite players at the position gives you an edge, and yet the position is so deep that finding quality squads late is also a key to winning Fantasy Championships.

The Steelers boast four LBs who may all well belong on IDP rosters in 2009. In your typical IDP scoring system (2 points per tackle, 3 points per forced fumble or fumble recovery, 6 points per sack or interception), last year James Harrison finished as the third best LB. James Farrior was 12th and LaMarr Woodley came in 27th. Lawrence Timmons arrives to replace departed free agent Larry Foote, who ranked 90th in 2008.

So, what are the prospects for this elite unit going forward? Will there be enough to go around for all four of these starters?

James Harrison
Age: 31
2008 Statistics: 67 solo tackles, 34 assists, 16 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 1 interception.
After a slow start to his career, Harrison made his name known in 2007, with 77 tackles and 8.5 sacks. His tackle numbers went down only slightly in 2008, but he nearly doubled his sack total.

Except for the sacks, Harrison's other numbers (forced fumbles and passes defended) have been amazingly consistent over two years. Given the continuity of the Steelers defensive scheme and the fact that Harrison is still in his prime, it is safe to count on him again for around 70 tackles, seven forced fumbles and an interception.

However, no one in their right mind expects Harrison to equal or better his sack count from 2008. Woodley is one year better and Timmons is an upgrade over Foote, meaning both of them will take some of the sacks Harrison scored last year. Still, the 10-12 sacks he is probably good for is nothing to sneeze at.

Verdict: Harrison will be a low end LB1 or high end LB2. Definitely a keeper in dynasty formats. However, becoming so famous will cause him to be a bit overvalued if available in your draft.

James Farrior
Age: 34
2008 Statistics: 89 solo tackles, 44 assists, 3.5 sacks.
Farrior is a tackle machine that made a fine LB2 for his owners last year. However, he has never put two 80-plus tackle seasons together back-to-back in his career. Considering that his big plays are negligible, you need to count on Farrior to keep reaping the tackles for him to have value.

Some LBs his age still have a couple of good years left in them, and this is probably true of Farrior. But with their younger players developing, the Steelers have the luxury of letting him slowly fade into the background. Farrior will collect closer to 60 tackles than 80. Believing he'll make his usual four sacks a year is now a gesture of faith.

Verdict: 60 tackles and less than four sacks will drop Farrior deep into waiver wire territory; someone you only need in case of outbreaks of injuries or bye weeks. People will draft him anyway, which leaves one better LB available to you later. Feel free to cut him or use him as a throw in for a trade in dynasty leagues.

LaMarr Woodley
Age: 24
2008 Statistics: 41 solo tackles, 19 assists, 11.5 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries.

What's notable about Woodley's breakout season is not just that he had double-digits in sacks during the regular season, but he soldiered on with six more in the playoffs. This fellow is a total freak of an athlete and still has plenty of upside.

Those of us in leagues where Woodley can be used as a DE are truly blessed. The same numbers that made him the 27th best LB in 2008 translate into the third best DE. If you have him in such a league, hang onto him for dear life or until his DE eligibility finally disappears.

Some Fantasy pundits apply conventional wisdom and suggest it will be hard for Woodley to repeat his gaudy statistics of last year. I go in the opposite direction. Expect maybe 33-50 percent more tackles from him in 2009, and yes indeed, a similar increase in sacks.

Verdict: Even in leagues where Woodley is scored purely as a LB, becoming one of the elite players at his position is well within his reach. He'll be a Top 10 LB at an LB2 price. If you are making a preseason trade with a Woodley owner, nonchalantly mention him in the last phase of negotiations as a throw in to make the trade even.

Lawrence Timmons
Age: 23
2008 Statistics: 43 solo tackles, 22 assists, 5 sacks.

Timmons is one of Fantasy Football's favorite sleepers at LB. You know how we all love our sleepers. If you want to roll the dice on the new guy, expect to have to reach a bit for him.

Yes, Timmons brings superior agility and harder hitting to the position. But it's still the position previously manned by Foote, who was not even waiver wire fodder last year. Considering that this defensive unit has already pretty much hit their overall statistical ceiling, you have to wonder where Timmons will get his numbers.

If my other projections above hold true, then despite his promotion into the starting lineup, the increased value of Timmons won't immediately match the hype. Expect more tackles and sacks, but not enough to push him into anything resembling elite territory.

Verdict: At 60 tackles and maybe eight to nine sacks, he'll still belong on somebody's roster as a solid LB3. If you can snag him late in your draft, especially in dynasty, go for it. If someone else reaches for him too soon, keep an eye on him, because there's nothing that creates waiver wire gems like unfulfilled lofty expectations.


By Sean Haugh, IDPs columnist at Fantasy Pros 911

james-harrison-.jpg

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the defending Super Bowl Champions in very large part due to their dominating defense. When all is said and done, this could be considered the best Steelers defense of all time, which places this unit in very lofty company indeed.

But they're not done yet, not by any means. In Fantasy Football, Linebackers are very much the IDP counterpart to Wide Receivers. Having elite players at the position gives you an edge, and yet the position is so deep that finding quality squads late is also a key to winning Fantasy Championships.

The Steelers boast four LBs who may all well belong on IDP rosters in 2009. In your typical IDP scoring system (2 points per tackle, 3 points per forced fumble or fumble recovery, 6 points per sack or interception), last year James Harrison finished as the third best LB. James Farrior was 12th and LaMarr Woodley came in 27th. Lawrence Timmons arrives to replace departed free agent Larry Foote, who ranked 90th in 2008.

So, what are the prospects for this elite unit going forward? Will there be enough to go around for all four of these starters?

James Harrison
Age: 31
2008 Statistics: 67 solo tackles, 34 assists, 16 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 1 interception.
After a slow start to his career, Harrison made his name known in 2007, with 77 tackles and 8.5 sacks. His tackle numbers went down only slightly in 2008, but he nearly doubled his sack total.

Except for the sacks, Harrison's other numbers (forced fumbles and passes defended) have been amazingly consistent over two years. Given the continuity of the Steelers defensive scheme and the fact that Harrison is still in his prime, it is safe to count on him again for around 70 tackles, seven forced fumbles and an interception.

However, no one in their right mind expects Harrison to equal or better his sack count from 2008. Woodley is one year better and Timmons is an upgrade over Foote, meaning both of them will take some of the sacks Harrison scored last year. Still, the 10-12 sacks he is probably good for is nothing to sneeze at.

Verdict: Harrison will be a low end LB1 or high end LB2. Definitely a keeper in dynasty formats. However, becoming so famous will cause him to be a bit overvalued if available in your draft.

James Farrior
Age: 34
2008 Statistics: 89 solo tackles, 44 assists, 3.5 sacks.
Farrior is a tackle machine that made a fine LB2 for his owners last year. However, he has never put two 80-plus tackle seasons together back-to-back in his career. Considering that his big plays are negligible, you need to count on Farrior to keep reaping the tackles for him to have value.

Some LBs his age still have a couple of good years left in them, and this is probably true of Farrior. But with their younger players developing, the Steelers have the luxury of letting him slowly fade into the background. Farrior will collect closer to 60 tackles than 80. Believing he'll make his usual four sacks a year is now a gesture of faith.

Verdict: 60 tackles and less than four sacks will drop Farrior deep into waiver wire territory; someone you only need in case of outbreaks of injuries or bye weeks. People will draft him anyway, which leaves one better LB available to you later. Feel free to cut him or use him as a throw in for a trade in dynasty leagues.

LaMarr Woodley
Age: 24
2008 Statistics: 41 solo tackles, 19 assists, 11.5 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries.

What's notable about Woodley's breakout season is not just that he had double-digits in sacks during the regular season, but he soldiered on with six more in the playoffs. This fellow is a total freak of an athlete and still has plenty of upside.

Those of us in leagues where Woodley can be used as a DE are truly blessed. The same numbers that made him the 27th best LB in 2008 translate into the third best DE. If you have him in such a league, hang onto him for dear life or until his DE eligibility finally disappears.

Some Fantasy pundits apply conventional wisdom and suggest it will be hard for Woodley to repeat his gaudy statistics of last year. I go in the opposite direction. Expect maybe 33-50 percent more tackles from him in 2009, and yes indeed, a similar increase in sacks.

Verdict: Even in leagues where Woodley is scored purely as a LB, becoming one of the elite players at his position is well within his reach. He'll be a Top 10 LB at an LB2 price. If you are making a preseason trade with a Woodley owner, nonchalantly mention him in the last phase of negotiations as a throw in to make the trade even.

Lawrence Timmons
Age: 23
2008 Statistics: 43 solo tackles, 22 assists, 5 sacks.

Timmons is one of Fantasy Football's favorite sleepers at LB. You know how we all love our sleepers. If you want to roll the dice on the new guy, expect to have to reach a bit for him.

Yes, Timmons brings superior agility and harder hitting to the position. But it's still the position previously manned by Foote, who was not even waiver wire fodder last year. Considering that this defensive unit has already pretty much hit their overall statistical ceiling, you have to wonder where Timmons will get his numbers.

If my other projections above hold true, then despite his promotion into the starting lineup, the increased value of Timmons won't immediately match the hype. Expect more tackles and sacks, but not enough to push him into anything resembling elite territory.

Verdict: At 60 tackles and maybe eight to nine sacks, he'll still belong on somebody's roster as a solid LB3. If you can snag him late in your draft, especially in dynasty, go for it. If someone else reaches for him too soon, keep an eye on him, because there's nothing that creates waiver wire gems like unfulfilled lofty expectations.

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