OTHER POSITIONS: Linebackers | Defensive Linemen | Defensive Backs
The only linebacker considered to be at or near the cream of the crop in this draft class was Von Miller. He will be the first LBs off the board in rookie dynasty drafts and could be solid picks in redraft leagues to boot.
Von Miller (DEN): Unlike last season where there were a handful of LBs drafted into decent situations, only one has the combination of pedigree and situation, and in Miller’s case, his situation is actually less than favorable. The thing Miller has going for him is his ability to get to the opposing QB. Miller will line up on the outside of the Bronco line, and will give them a solid #2 pass-rusher behind Elvis Dumervil. Miller has serious explosiveness, and while his tackles may be in the moderate range, his ability to sack the QB and make big plays put him as the clear-cut #1 LB in terms of rookies in 2011.
Perhaps this Year
These linebackers were likely ranked pretty high pre-draft and were drafted into decent situations and could emerge at some point this season, especially if a key starter goes down with injury. Redrafters may snag them very, very late in large leagues, but it’s really only the dynasty owner that needs to know these names right now. These are in no particular order; just keep that in mind.
Akeem Ayers (TEN): As you may already have surmised, LB was very thin this draft. Ayers has some talent and was drafted by a team that has some LB needs, but it appears at this point that Ayers will primarily line up on the strong side of the line, a spot that traditionally has trouble accruing fantasy points. What Ayers has going for him is that he’s a decent pass rusher and will be given the opportunity as an edge rusher.
Martez Wilson (NOS): Wilson put up some solid numbers at the combine, and was drafted into a decent spot with the Saints. Gregg Williams employs a pretty aggressive defensive strategy and Wilson, as an OLB with the potential to also play inside, could see immediate playing time.
Aldon Smith (SFO): Smith is a tweener that played DL in college and will be an OLB edge rusher here for the Niners. That usually spells fantasy mediocrity but Smith definitely has some talent and could shake the stigma.
Colin McCarthy (TEN): He may not have the name value that Ayers came with pre-draft, but could actually be the best LB of this entire class should Stephen Tulloch depart via free agency. McCarthy is a beast of a tackler and could put up monster numbers in the Titans scheme. We saw a veritable nobody in Stephen Tulloch do it. Why can’t McCarthy?
Mason Foster (TBB): Another name to keep your eye on is Foster. Should Barrett Ruud not be re-signed in Tampa, Foster could step in as the Bucs’ MLB and would therefore have huge value.
Kelvin Sheppard (BUF): Pundits weren’t jumping out of their cozy chairs at Sheppard’s wares, but the fact remains that he’ll compete for time in the middle for the Bills.
Best of the Rest
These LBs are solid talents, but were drafted into not-so-great situations, or they’re projects. They’re worth drafting in most dynasty formats. These guys are listed in no particular order.
Ryan Kerrigan (WAS): Another DL-LB tweener who will be stuck with the LB tag in most fantasy leagues. Kerrigan was snatched up by the Skins with the 16th overall pick, obviously indicating their love of the guy. We’re not so enamored with his prospects as a fantasy option. Brian Orakpo will continue to have all the “tweener” value here.
Justin Houston (KCC): Houston was a DE in college and after he was drafted by a team running the 3-4, projects as an outside LB. His fantasy value will completely depend on his ability to transition to the OLB spot and pass-rush ability.
Brooks Reed (HOU): You can move both DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing down a few pegs with the move to the 3-4, but guys like Reed, who was a DE in college, may have some value as an OLB.
Bruce Carter (DAL): Look, Keith Brooking can’t play forever, and while Sean Lee was drafted last season to be the heir apparent, stranger things have happened. Carter will have to rebound from a serious knee issue to even see the field as a rookie. If you’re looking for a project LB in dynasty leagues, Carter fits the bill.
Quan Sturdivant (ARI): If for no other reason, draft him ‘cuz his name is “Quan Sturdivant”. We certainly like that he projects as an inside LB, and that he’s behind a couple of vets in Gerald Hayes and Paris Lenon who are serviceable at best.
Sam Acho (ARI): Yet another ex-Longhorn with pass-rush skills who will have limited fantasy value based on his skill set and situation into which he was drafted. He’ll compete for immediate playing time, but will only have value if his pass-rush skills translate directly to the pro game.
James Mouton (SDC): We’ve seen guys with equal amount of talent make for decent fantasy LBs for the Bolts. Mouton will have an opportunity at playing time in the middle for San Diego, and could be a nice sleeper.
Akeem Dent (ATL): Simply put, Dent is Curtis Lofton insurance. We’ll put him in this group since we know the position directly leads to fantasy stud-ness.
Greg Lloyd (PHI): Yeah, Greg Lloyd. And if you take Casey Matthews in your rookie draft, you might as well grab Lloyd just in case.
Chris Carter (PIT): All he does is make tackles. OK, that was cheesy. Anyways, the guy will back up James Harrison, who could retire or get suspended at the drop of a hat. There ya go.
And the Rest
These LBs may be drafted in dynasty leagues if you own the starter ahead of them in deeper formats.
Nate Irving (DEN)
Brian Rolle (PHI)
Ross Homan (MIN)
Dontay Moch (CIN)
Greg Jones (NYG)
K.J. Wright (SEA)
Lawrence Wilson (CAR)