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Fantasy Football Maniaxs


January 15, 2010 6:38 PM

2010 Seasonal Linebackers Rankings

By Ryan Sitzmann, IDPs specialist at Fantasy Football Maniaxs

patrick willis.jpgI know it's super early for 2010 fantasy football IDP rankings. However, I always like to start them early and get a foundation built. I will continue update these rankings throughout the offseason to reflect changes in free agency, defensive schemes, defensive playing time, rookie draft picks, etc.

I would also love to get feedback from my readers. Oftentimes, we get stuck in our own philosophies and tendencies, so it's nice to get a different perspective on my rankings. Your comments will definitely influence my rankings.

Well, enough chitchat. Here are the preliminary 2010 IDP linebacker rankings:

Note:
These rankings are for seasonal leagues.

Linebackers

Key
FA = 2010 Free Agent
DSC = Possible 2010 Defensive Scheme Change
S = Possible Sleeper/Undervalued Player
B = Possible Bust/Overvalued Player
R = Injury Risk

Scoring System
Solo Tackle = 2 points
Assist = 1 point
Sack = 7 points
Interception = 12 points
Fumble Recovery = 5 points


Drafting Philosophy
Linebackers are undoubtedly the staples of a fantasy defense. However, I believe many owners often times misjudge value at this position. If you aren't able to grab a "Tier 1" Linebacker (i.e. Patrick Willis or Jon Beason), then I would wait on drafting a linebacker until the middle-to-late rounds.

In my scoring system, the difference between Jon Beason's total points and the next highest linebacker, James Laurinaitis, was 51 points. Conversely, only 51 points separated Laurinaitis from the 25th-ranked linebacker Dhani Jones. This stat shows that after the first two tiers of linebackers, the fantasy production is very similar. Hence, why my "Tier 3" is so large.

In addition, IDP studs always emerge at the linebacker position during the early part of the season (e.g. David Hawthorne, Brian Cushing, Clint Session, Stephen Tulloch, etc.).
With this being said, I sometimes like to have a player at linebacker who I feel is expendable in order to pick up a potential linebacker stud off the waiver wire during the season.

Tier 1

1. RILB Patrick Willis (SF) - Willis is the obvious No.1 linebacker heading into the 2010 season. In his first three seasons in the league, he has averaged 120 solo tackles, 36 assists and three sacks. You won't find a more consistent and reliable linebacker than Pat.

2. MLB Jon Beason (CAR) - For some reason, some IDP owners have lost a little faith in Beason. I haven't at all. He played most of the season injured and he still registered career highs in total tackles, sacks and INTs. He's the best fantasy linebacker not named "Patrick Willis."


Tier 2

3. MLB Paul Posluszny (BUF) - Admittedly, I have a bit of a man-crush on "Pos." Who could resist those long blond locks? Joking aside, Posluszny was a beast this season. In my scoring system, he averaged 20 points per game, which made him the fifth highest scoring linebacker by average. He has all the intangibles to make for a great fantasy linebacker. If he can stay healthy, I foresee Paul being a top five linebacker next year. DSC, S, R

4. MLB James Laurinaitis (STL) - I was really big on Laurinaitis coming into the 2009 season. He plays in a position in St. Louis that has proven to be very fruitful for fantasy owners over the last several seasons. Will Witherspoon, a mediocre player in my opinion, put up solid fantasy numbers there for years. Laurinaitis is much more talented than Witherspoon, and it showed last season. With a full year under his belt in the NFL, Laurinaitis should be able to improve upon his 2009 numbers.

5. RILB D'Qwell Jackson (CLE) - As far as pure tackling production is concerned, Jackson is about as good as they get. Not only does he compile a massive number of solo tackles, he compiles a ton of assists as well. If he hadn't gotten hurt early in the season, he could have finished as the No. 1 or 2 overall LB in a tackle-heavy league. Jackson is a free agent this year, but the Browns will more than likely re-sign him. If they do, don't hesitate to grab him somewhat early in your 2010 fantasy draft, especially if you're in a tackle-heavy league. FA

6. Barrett Ruud (TB) - I personally think Ruud is a tad overrated. However, over the last three years, he has proven to be one of the most consistent fantasy linebackers in the league by averaging 131 total tackles. When drafting linebackers early, I look for reliability and consistency, and this is what Ruud brings.

7. MLB Curtis Lofton (ATL) - I don't have Lofton ranked as high as others do because he showed some signs of wearing down over the last four games of the season. Lofton started the season out hot and was a top five linebacker. However, he finished as the 16th best linebacker in my scoring system. I like that he is a 4-3 MLB because they tend to produce the most consistent fantasy results. Lofton is still young as well--last year was his first year as the leader of the defense. With this being said, he should be able to improve upon his 2009 totals. B

8. RILB David Harris (NYJ) - Many fantasy owners were slightly disappointed in Harris' production this year, and I can't figure out why. His production did slightly fall off towards the end of the season, but he was playing through an injury. He still finished as a top eight linebacker in my scoring system and should thrive under the tutelage of defensive mastermind Rex Ryan.


Tier 3

9. MLB Kirk Morrison (OAK) - Morrison is perhaps the most underrated fantasy linebacker in the NFL. He has finished with more than 90 solo tackles in each of the five years he's been in the league and plays on a team whose defense is on the field a ton. However, he is a free agent this year, and most of his value resides in the fact that he plays on the Raiders defense. If he re-signs with the Raiders, he will remain a top 10 linebacker. But if he signs with another team, his fantasy value will take a serious hit. FA, S

10. SLB Brian Cushing (HOU) - I was a bit skeptical of Cushing early in the season because of the historical lack of fantasy production out of the SLB position. However, Cushing ended up having a fantastic year, and his fantasy production actually improved as the year progressed. I still remain a little leery of Cushing because his fantasy numbers were inflated due to a number of big plays, and his tackling production was a bit shaky; he had five games with three solos or fewer and nine games with five solos or fewer. Cushing may be slightly overvalued in 2010. B

11. RILB D.J. Williams (DEN) - Many IDP websites project Williams as a solid LB1, and I agree with this projection. Williams finished as the 10th best linebacker in my scoring system, and he was a very consistent point scorer throughout the year. However, Williams doesn't produce a ton of big plays. Essentially, he is a slightly more productive version of Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo.

12. MLB London Fletcher-Baker (WAS) - Say what you want about LFB; I love the guy. For eight seasons in a row, he's finished with over 90 solo tackles and 25 assists. You don't get any more consistent than that. The fact that he will be 35 next season doesn't bother me at all. Hell, he was 34 last year and had 142 total tackles. How much difference could one year make? DSC

13. LILB Ray Lewis (BAL) - Along the same lines of LFB, I really don't care that Lewis will be 35 entering the 2010 season. Did you see this guy in the playoffs this year? He looks like he's 25. I've owned Lewis numerous times in my 10 years as an IDPer, and he's never let me down. Lewis may fall in next year's draft because of his age. If he does, he could be a great middle-round value.

14. MLB Justin Durant (JAC) - I was big on Durant all year and, if not for injuries, he would have more than likely finished as a top 15 linebacker. He was only under five solos in three of his 13 games while averaging 6.2 solos per game. I don't think the Jaguars will be much better next season than they were this season, and consequently their defense will be on the field quite a bit. Look for Durant to have a very solid 2010 season. S

15. MLB DeMeco Ryans (HOU) - I think Ryans will give owners a lot of value in 2010. He was a bit inconsistent this season, and consequently some owners have lost faith in him. However, the fact remains, he actually improved upon his 2008 fantasy production. Ryans could be a nice middle-to-late round steal. S

16. RILB Jerod Mayo (NE) - Mayo is one of the most consistent fantasy producers in the league, and although he doesn't have a very high point ceiling, he doesn't have a very low floor either. There isn't much competition in New England's front seven for tackles, so Mayo's production should remain relatively constant. If you're looking for a pick with little risk, Mayo is a great option.

17. RILB Karlos Dansby (ARI) - Dansby was an extremely consistent point scorer in 2009. He didn't have many huge games, but he didn't have any games that killed his owners either. Dansby is a free agent heading into the 2010 season, and rumors are that he may sign with another team. I really don't think this will hurt Dansby's value much. He has played in many different defensive schemes throughout his career, and therefore should have a short learning curve on a new team. FA

18. WLB Lance Briggs (CHI) - Briggs has been outperforming Brian "Big Name" Urlacher for years as far as fantasy production is concerned. With Urlacher injured and another year slower, Briggs should remain the solid IDP producer he has been for the last several years.

19. MLB Jonathan Vilma (NO) - VILMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I thought Vilma had a pretty good year considering the New Orleans defense wasn't on the field a ton this year, and when they were, teams were usually passing to play catch-up. Vilma doesn't have much competition for tackles in New Orleans and will therefore remain a solid linebacker next year.


Tier 4

20. WLB Thomas Davis (CAR) - Davis was on his way to a monster season in 2009 before he suffered a season-ending injury in Week Nine against the Saints. Some people are worried about Davis' early hot streak being a fluke. I'm not. He produced 92 solo tackles from his WLB position in Carolina in the 2008 season, and with Carolina using more Cover 2 defensive schemes, his numbers were naturally going to rise. Davis' value is highly dependent on if he re-signs with Carolina. If he does, he remains a top 20 linebacker. FA, S, R

21. MLB Stewart Bradley (PHI) - Coming into the 2009 season, I was very high on Bradley. In 2008, he showed flashes of brilliant defensive play, and with SS Brian Dawkins signing with the Broncos last season, Bradley is in line to become the leader of the defense. I look for him to come back from his injury and put up solid LB2-LB3 numbers. S, R

22. MLB Stephen Tulloch (TEN) - Tulloch had a fantastic year, and if these rankings were based purely on last year's production, he would be a top 15-20 linebacker. However, Tulloch is a free agent, and it remains to be seen where he will end up. Last year, Tulloch wasn't an every-down linebacker (he came out in the nickel package), and if he goes to a team with fewer tackle opportunities, his numbers may take a substantial hit. FA

23. MLB David Hawthorne (SEA) - Let me start by saying that I know Hawthorne should probably be ranked higher. However, his playing time and position for next year are unknown at this point. His value will drop significantly if he moves to WLB or OLB in a 3-4 scheme. If he can somehow maintain his 4-3 MLB position, he will be a top 10 linebacker heading into next year. DSC

24. WLB Clint Session (IND) - Session could prove to be a great value pick next year. Before he went down with an injury in Week 15, he was a top 10 linebacker. I don't think he will return to top 10 status next year; however, I still think Session is a top 25 linebacker. Indy plays a lot of Cover 2, which bodes well for Session at his WLB position. S


Tier 5

25. LOLB LaMarr Woodley (PIT) - I tend to shy away from players who rely heavily on big plays (e.g. sacks). However, Woodley was an absolute stud the last eight weeks of the season. During this span, he registered 11.5 sacks. Admittedly, this is a high risk/reward pick. Next year, Woodley could end up with numbers similar to James Harrison's 2008 campaign, or Harrison could rebound and take away from Woodley's numbers.

26. MLB Gary Brackett (IND) - Brackett has been one of fantasy football's best-kept secrets the last few years, and although he doesn't have much big play upside, when healthy, Brackett is capable of putting of solid LB2 numbers in a tackle-heavy league. S

27. MLB E.J. Henderson (MIN) - Henderson has struggled with injury problems over the last couple of years, but when he's healthy, he is fully capable of putting up Karlos Dansby-type numbers. If you're confident that he's healthy, he could be a nice late-round draft pick. R

28. RILB Nick Barnett (GB) - Barnett rebounded nicely from his season-ending knee injury in 2008. Over his seven years in the league, Barnett has proven to be one of the more consistent tackling linebackers in the league. Look for him to continue to perform well in Dom Capers' 3-4 defensive system.

29. SLB Chad Greenway (MIN) - Greenway, along with Cushing, is an oddity in the IDP world because of his solid production out of the SLB position. With Henderson perhaps slowed down somewhat because of injury, Greenway may have a slight uptick in production.

30. WLB Geno Hayes (TB) - This is one of my top sleeper picks for next year. Hayes came on like a banshee during the last few games of the 2009 campaign. He was the No. 6 overall linebacker in my scoring system over the last eight weeks of the season, and the WLB in Tampa Bay has proven to be lucrative (i.e. Derrick Brooks). Keep your eye on this kid! S

By Ryan Sitzmann, IDPs specialist at Fantasy Football Maniaxs

patrick willis.jpgI know it's super early for 2010 fantasy football IDP rankings. However, I always like to start them early and get a foundation built. I will continue update these rankings throughout the offseason to reflect changes in free agency, defensive schemes, defensive playing time, rookie draft picks, etc.

I would also love to get feedback from my readers. Oftentimes, we get stuck in our own philosophies and tendencies, so it's nice to get a different perspective on my rankings. Your comments will definitely influence my rankings.

Well, enough chitchat. Here are the preliminary 2010 IDP linebacker rankings:

Note:
These rankings are for seasonal leagues.

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