It is relatively easy to tell people that they would be best served with the likes of Patrick Willis, Jon Beason, & Barrett Ruud on their fantasy teams, as all three are easily consensus top 10 linebackers for 2010. However, not everyone can have those players. If you miss out on them or just decide you want to load up on offensive players you'll need to mine productive IDP linebackers later in your draft.
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Base Defensive Scheme: Tampa-2
Geno Hayes took over as the starting WLB for the Buccaneers last year. Using Huddle IDP scoring he ranked 26th overall among linebackers with 205 fantasy points scored. Oddly enough, he also ranked 26th in points per game (PPG) with 13.367. To finish in the top 10 of linebackers last year he would have had to score 252.5 fantasy points and in PPG would have needed an average of 15.78. That means for Hayes to vault up into the top 10 he would need to increase his fantasy points by almost 25% and his PPG by 15%. At this point, you have to wonder what it is that makes me think that Hayes will sniff the top 10 this year. Well, you have to look a bit deeper at his numbers from last year, along with also realizing that the Buccaneers changed their defensive scheme in week 12. Week 12, was when Head Coach Raheem Morris decided to take over as the team’s defensive coordinator and started running the Tampa-2 again. From week 1-11 under the 4-3 defensive scheme led by Jim Bates, Hayes was only averaging 10.5 PPG and at the end of week 11 ranked 49th in fantasy points scored among all linebackers. However, once Coach Morris put the Tampa-2 back in place Hayes thrived from his WLB position, putting up 100 fantasy points with a 20.0 PPG over the final 6 weeks of the season (he did miss one game due to injury). Over that period, Hayes ranked 7th in fantasy points scored and second in PPG. Only, John Beason had a better PPG of 21.0, so yes that means that Hayes also produced more PPG than Patrick Willis (18.75).
Hayes had what looks to be successful off-season surgery to repair a torn labrum. As long as Hayes doesn’t suffer any setbacks in training camp and the Buccaneers continue to run a Tampa-2 defensive scheme there is plenty of optimism that he should ascend to the top 10 this year.
Other linebackers to watch: Stephen Tulloch & Michael Boley.
Stephen Tulloch was able to rank 15th among all linebackers last year while playing in around just 80% of the Titans defensive snaps. This year he looks like he will be a three down LB and should easily play in close to 100% of the Titans defensive snaps this year. Considering he scored 225 fantasy points last year, just 21 points outside of the top 10, he should easily challenge to be a top 10 LB this year.
Michael Boley is in his second season with the Giants and will look to build on what he did in 2009. Last year, Boley ranked just 45th among linebackers with 155 points scored. Of course his production was limited due to suspension and injury. Yet, he was still able to average 15 ppg and had he been able to play in all 16 games that would have extrapolated out to 240 points scored and would have landed him in the #12 position among all linebackers. Boley should provide great value in drafts this year, as it seems many are overlooking what his ceiling very well could be. A ceiling that could very well crack the floor of the top 10.
Note: Huddle IDP Scoring system: solo tackle (2 pts), assisted tackle (1 pt), sack (3 pts), forced or recovered fumble (3 pts), interception (3 pts) and pass defended (1 pt).