“The Amateur Ward:” 2016 Linebacker Rankings #31-60 (part 3 of 4)
To our fellow readers, I take full responsibility for my lateness, but simply needed time to deal with issues that need not be discussed here. These rankings reflect no instance of distraction, nor favoritism, just pure honest rankings of linebackers who are destined to impact the game in 2016. As these rankings are a bit…to say hard to understand, it is better that I just rank and not ramble. If you feel I am too high/low on players, please feel free to start a discussion in my 3rd of 4 linebacker rankings.
60.) Mark Barron (LA)- The Rams defense is pretty solid, and while Mark Barron may not be the machine he used to be, he will provide the team with a steady presence on the weak side. He will never be the best player on the field, but he leads with the way he plays the game and is always a threat to deliver a huge blow and strip the ball. Drafting him as your LB3 is a safe bet, but one with limited upside.
59.) Keenan Robinson (NYG)- Perhaps what Keenan Robinson needs is a change of scenery as 2015 was very cruel to him in Washington as he was one of the least effective backers last season. The GMen are hoping he can start at middle linebacker and provide a steady dose of tackles and hold the line together. They are hoping 2015 was an aberration and not the norm. On a line that needs all the help they can get, Robinson looks poised to start as middle linebacker who should give a solid tackle clip and hopefully a few stuffs.
58.) Tamba Hali (KC)- With the uncertainty of Justin Houston’s return to the field in 2016, Hali will be one of the more potent pass rushers on the Chiefs line and while he will never net you a nice tackle clip, he is a threat to reach double digit sacks and a couple forced fumbles. No one will be paying attention to him on Draft Day, so he could make a nice late round pick.
57.) Preston Brown (BUF)- If you can, buy low on Preston Brown. He is going to be quarterbacking the defense this season and he is primed for a breakout. He is a smart, no-nonsense LB who racks up tackles and is learning to improve versus the run. He will never be a huge sack threat, but do not be surprised to see him set a career high in tackles, rack up a few forced fumbles and produce a nice stuffs clip.
56.) Whitney Mercilus (HOU)- While the Texans and fans alike are wondering when will Clowney pan out, and when will Watt begin the regular season, Mercilus continues to be as his name suggests against QBs. He has no regard for them and keeps planting them on the turf. He will never be the star of the game, but he will rack up stuffs, sacks and force bad decisions on the offense’s part. If your team needs a boost in sacks and extra categories, Mercilus is your man.
55.) Terrell Suggs (BAL)- Coming back from a torn Achilles is no small task, but Suggs is determined to do so and be ready for Week 1. The Ravens could not be happier to have him back as they need the fear he instills in opponents to get back on track. Playing on the same line as CJ Mosley, Suggs should continue to be a quarterback’s worst nightmare, racking up double digit sacks and hunting down poor runningbacks. He may not be the same savage as he was in the early 2000s with Ray Lewis, but this is a relentless force you can never go wrong having on your team with the physicality and ferocity he plays with.
54.) Vontaze Burfict (CIN)- This guy needs to watch out because he could be someone’s dinner if he delivers anymore cheap hits on opposing players. The dirty hit on Antonio Brown in the wildcard game last season ultimately could have been the reason why the Bengals lost the game. Truth be told, the Bengals did write the script that game on how to muck up a lead in the final two minutes, but Burfict did the Bengals no favors. No, this is not too low for him because he opens the season suspended the first three games and while he is a force around the ball, he has no regard for anyone other than himself on the field. Drafting him is risky as you will get your triple digit tackles and solid play versus the run, but also run the risk of him delivering a cheap shot, costing him more games.
53.) Su’a Cravens (WSH)- Cravens is the Redskins Swiss army knife and he will be on the field, regardless of his position. He has the coverage skills to play free safety and the physicality to play linebacker, and the Redskins envision using him near the line as a run stopper/strong safety who is fully capable of making big plays, playing sound defense and occasionally rushing on a blitz. If you are a gambling man on rookies, draft Cravens and you will be pleasantly surprised with the returns as your LB3.
52.) Wesley Woodyard (TEN)- Woodyard’s days as a starter could be numbered as he is a liability versus the run, and is not viewed as a building block in Tennessee. He simply offers a solid tackle total and a few sacks, but has little else impact on the game. If he can continue to increase his sack total and provide a few more tackles, he could be a decent option this season, but his days are numbered.
51.) Avery Williamson (TEN)- Williamson is the better all-around player than Woodyard and young enough that he still has potential to add to his game. He is more solid against the run and not a liability in any aspect of the game, and should eclipse 100 tackles once more this season. I’m bullish on him, but he could be the best defensive player on the team. He’s learning the system and could breakout sooner than later.
50.) Demario Davis (CLE)- Davis will provide the Browns a veteran leader presence for a young Cleveland defensive unit that has some nice potential at linebacker. Davis is no one flashy, but does everything on the field. One thing is for certain, he and ‘Los could form a nasty duo on the inside and keep the run game honest. Davis will provide fantasy owners triple digit tackles and a sack or two.
49.) Benardrick McKinney (HOU)- McKinney is the most athletic defensive player on the Texans, and he could absolutely explode his sophomore campaign. Coming out of Mississippi State, he was a bit raw, but is a very solid linebacker and a potential star in the making. He did well versus the run his rookie season, and with added value in coverage his season, this is one name you better have on your team, or you’ll be at the mercy of the owner who has him. He has top 20 potential and at 6’4” is going to be hard for receivers to go over the top of as he has soft hands and understands the game.
48.) Brian Cushing (HOU)- If the Cushing of old has been reborn, the Texans have a monster once again on their hands. Cushing is capable of absolutely stifling the run and getting into QBs minds. His injury-plagued days seem to be behind him and now you need to invest in this elite inside linebacker because he could be a top 30 talent this season with the stat line he offers.
47.) David Harris (NYJ)- Harris is always undervalued on Draft Day and he always produces for those who invest. Expect nothing else than your vintage Harris this season as he leads a nasty Jets defense this season sans Demario Davis. Davis’ absence will be felt and could force teams to key in on Harris, but he is a smart player and knows how to read what the offensive line may throw at him. If you draft him, enjoy as he is one of the most consistent and solid linebackers in the league.
46.) Sio Moore (IND)- The key to Moore succeeding in Indy in 2016 will be his ability to jive with D’Qwell Jackson and provide solid defense versus the pass. He has the athleticism to contest on passes and make a few interceptions, but can be burned by quicker, smarter runningbacks. He may come off the field some as the Colts deploy three linebackers at ILB with Irving, but Moore is a solid linebacker who could prove his sophomore season in Oakland was the norm and mediocrity from 2016 the exception.
45.) Preston Smith (WSH)- The sophomore Redskins linebacker could emerge into something special and be a force on the outside. If he can properly count snaps and get off the line quickly, he has the ability to get into the backfield and crush whoever has the ball. While he lacks an elite move to beat blockers and can be passive when not around the ball, Smith can dominate and is a solid tackler who oozes with potential. He is a bright spot for the Washington defense and is still discovering his game.
44.) Ryan Kerrigan (WSH)- Kerrigan is a doozy of an outside linebacker and just knows how to either blow QBs up, or disrupt their timing, leading to mistakes. Fantasy owners can invest with confidence that they will receive double-digit sacks and a lot of disruptive plays. He may not contribute many stuffs but is a solid investment.
43.) KJ Wright (SEA)- Wright has a knack for the football and has been a turnover machine the past two seasons, and 2016 figures to be no different. While he lacks elite sack numbers and may not contribute passes defensed or stuffs, he gets his head where the ball is and comes up with it. Owners looking for a physical, solid linebacker who creates turnovers should invest in Wright as he never disappoints and will continue to be a force on the Seattle line.
42.) Danny Trevathan- After a career season in Denver last season, the Bears stole Trevathan from Denver, and now he is signal caller in Chi-Town. He has elite skills versus the run and is a solid tackler, but can he turn around the Bears defense? He is their focal building block and a very solid linebacker, but 2016 will be telling for him if he can be ‘the man’ on defense.
41.) Demarcus Ware (DEN)- His career speaks for itself, and although aged, Ware continues to be a force and turnover machine when on the field. Invest with confidence.
40.) Kiko Alonso (MIA)- I’ll be scrutinized for ranking someone who has battled knee issues and limited since 2013 (missing 2014), but if he is right, Alomso provides a much needed presence for the Dolphins who have experienced less than mediocrity at linebacker of late. Owners just are left with the question, “Can he return to form?”
39.) Melvin Ingram (SD)- Ingram showed what he is capable of last season, and now, minus 20 pounds it is possible he could be in for a career season. Ingram is an anchor for the Chargers defense and showed last season that he can be a force in the run and pass game. The time is now to invest in Ingram as he is ready to show his full potential.
38.) Jerry Hughes (BUF)- Hughes is an elite pass rusher, and now moving to left outside linebacker, Hughes should be able to completely exploit tackles and produce a career season.
37.) Blake Martinez (GB)- The rookie Martinez, who excels in pass coverage allows Clay Matthews to return to his more natural outside linebacker position and he is an underrated player on Draft Day. Martinez’s tackling ability and understanding of the game propels his value.
36.) Deion Jones (ATL)- Atlanta’s linebacker play finally has an athletic body who can be a difference maker and command a defense. While he is a rookie and joins a young core, Jones is young and athletic enough to be the force up the middle the Falcons have missed and he is a playmaker.
35.) Darron Lee (NYJ)- Pay no attention to reports as Lee is going to beat out the under-skilled Erin Henderson and make a name for himself on the Jets defensive unit. True, he is raw, but Lee is a sleeper to be one of the best defensive rookies of 2016. He has potential to be n all-around impact LB.
34.) Stephone Anthony (N.O.)-Anthony is the heart and soul of the Saints front seven and is an emerging talent in the NFL. After a move to strong side, Anthony should be in for a season where he shows glimpses of his potential before a complete breakout. This is the Saints linebacker to own as his potential is astronomical is a young career.
33.) Lawrence Timmons (PIT)- Timmons is in a contract season with Pittsburgh, meaning he is laying it all on the line as a triple digit tackle man who has yet to show what he is fully capable of. Yes, Timmons should be in for a career season as he shows he can anchor a Steelers front seven used to dominating. Fantasy owners just want to see him dominate and produce more turnovers in 2016.
32.) Jerrell Freeman (CHI)- Freeman isa top inside linebacker and he will look to continue his domination on the inside of a Bears defense that needs rebuilding. He is a tackle machine and should be relied upon to bolster a weak unit. Despite a lack of extra categories in fantasy, owners should draft with confidence.
31.) Sean Lee (DAL)- Will the real Lee please stand up as the healthy Lee is a top 20 talent, but health is always a question with Lee on a Dallas line that will battle suspensions to start the season. Regardless, if he is healthy, he is a force in the coverage game and a linebacker capable of dominating at the line of scrimmage .
Thank you to all who have stuck with us through the thick and thin and we all wish you a successful 2016 (unless you play against us). Next week I unveil the top 25 LB rankings. In the meantime, I will gladly answer and comments, concern, or questions.
Thanks and back next week.
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