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2009 Rookie Linebackers
Darin Teitgen
July 22, 2009
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Rookies: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Defensive Linemen | Linebackers | Defensive Backs

Every season, a handful of rookies make a big splash in the NFL and make for solid fantasy contributors.  Both offensive and defensive rookies fall into this category, so let’s take a look at some of the candidates on the defensive side that could be solid fantasy starters (or backups) in 2009.

Aaron Curry (SLB – Seattle):  We all know that the SAM linebacker is the worst in terms of fantasy production, but we’ve seen a few instances where some put up decent enough stats to warrant consideration.  Given Curry’s sick game, you’d be foolish to think he won’t at least put up decent fantasy stats starting from Week 1.  Don’t overpay, though, as the position does limit his ceiling. 

Brian Cushing (SLB – Houston):  As I mentioned above, the SAM spot isn’t the greatest for fantasy LBs, but the Houston SLB spot has merited consideration in the past (see:  Zach Diles) and Cushing has been given the starting spot.  He’ll obviously have a bit of a limit on his production, what, with studs Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans competing for fantasy worthiness.  But Cushing could serve as a solid LB3 or backup in many leagues.

Larry English (WLB – San Diego):  English ran as a defensive end in college but will make the switch to rush linebacker for the Bolts.  He’s got a pretty good nose for the ball and the Chargers don’t seem too determined to keep their ultra-stud Shawne Merriman close to the cuff. 

James Laurinaitis (MLB – St. Louis):  Laurinaitis is likely the best rookie LB prospect for the 2009 season.  The Rams defense will once again be on the porous side, and the ex-Buckeye will have plenty of opportunities at making tackles in the middle for the Rams. 

DeAndre Levy (MLB – Detriot): Sometimes all you need is a little luck.  Lucky for Levy that he was selected by one of the worst defenses (and teams) in NFL history.  Levy, if given the middle spot, could put up incredible numbers.  I mean, if Paris Lenon could do it, why couldn’t Levy?  Well, Steeler transplant Larry Foote has the starting spot all but nailed down right now, but Levy will get his shot.

Clay Matthews (OLB – Green Bay):  Not too sure what to make of Matthews and his potential at a somewhat-hybrid position for the Packers.  He’s currently pegged to share time with a few other OLBs, but given his talent level, he’ll probably get the bulk of the time.  The 3-4 defense oftentimes limits OLBs potential, so temper your expectations for Matthews being anything but a backup in most leagues in 2009.

Rey Maualuga (MLB – Cincinnati):  If the ex-Trojan nails down the starting MLB spot, he’ll challenge James Laurinaitis for the best rookie LB prospect.  But he hasn’t nailed it down, and may be in the rotation at SLB along with backing up Dhani Jones at MLB.  Maualuga is obviously the future in the middle for the Bengals, so he could end up there sooner rather than later.

Scott McKillop (ILB – San Francisco):  McKillop is one of the sleepers of this bunch, backing up Takeo Spikes and likely in the rotation in the middle for the Niners.  Of course, with uber-stud Patrick Willis gobbling up most of the tackles, you can’t expect Spikes (or McKillop) to put up monster numbers, but they’re probably worthy of a peek.

Clint Sintim (WLB – NY Giants):  Sintim is another guy you want to keep an eye on as a sleeper in 2009.  He’s slated to be in the rotation at WLB for the Giants and could put up serviceable stats as a backup in deeper fantasy leagues.

David Veikune (LB – Cleveland):  Veikune played DE for the Flyin’ Hawaiians but has been seeing extended snaps at LB for the Browns.  His fantasy value will be limited as an end LB, but could surprise at some point. 

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