Hope you guys and gals enjoyed part one of the linebacker rankings. We now continue the rankings with part two, covering 31-65.
31.) Wesley Woodyard – Playing middle linebacker (MLB) in Denver can only boost his totals. He recorded 5.5 sacks (SK) last season, and as MLB this season, expect nothing less than an ending MLB2 line of 125 total tackles (TT), 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles (FF) and recovered fumbles (FR) apiece, 1 interception (INT), 9 passes defensed (PD), and 9 stuffs (SF) at a potential LB3 price.
32.) Demeco Ryans – This season should be a good one for Ryans, but there is also significant downside. Playing on Chip Kelly’s team means playing Fast and Furious, which either equates to great stats or bad stats. Fortunately, the former is more likely, but be wary in Kelly’s inaugural season. Draft him as an LBs, but he has the potential to put up middle LB1 numbers with a stat line right around 135 TT, 1.5 SK and 17 SF, with 2 picks thrown in.
33.) Stephen Tulloch – Don’t tell anyone, but the opportunity for a steal is here. He may never reach 160 TT again, but dollars to donuts says he’ll reach 120 TT, 1 SK, 3 FR, and 9 apiece in FF and FR.
34.) Jerrell Freeman – Remember, in terms of fantasy, consistency = goodness. That’s exactly what Freeman will net you: 140 TT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 PD, and 6 SF. Well worth filling out your LB core with.
35.) Barkevious Mingo – ESPN probably has nil projections for him, but here’s a projection for him, playing on a vastly improved Browns defense: 70 TT, 9.5 SK, 2 INT, 4 PD, and 4 SFs. What’s that ESPN? I can’t hear you.
36.) Zach Brown – Brown could very easily become a household name in Tennessee, starting this season. His rookie season was highlighted by 5.5 sacks, and starting at weakside linebacker on the outside should enable him to get his shots at the QB. Tennessee as a whole is rebuilding, but the linebacker core is strong, and a line of 100 total tackles, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 7 passes defensed, and 7 stuffs wouldn’t be surprising.
37.) Nick Roach – Someone has to play MLB for the Raiders, and the honors go to Roach, who, although undersized, could end up being one of your most consistent LBs. 100 TT, 2.5 SK, 2 FF, 1 FR, 6 PDs, and 6 SFs could easily be in store.
38- K.J. Wright – Another LB from Seattle I will try to draft. He may not have the upside of teammate Bobby Wagner, but Wright’s upside is also considerable. Wright will be right in the thick of arguably one of the best linebacking crews in football, and should have no problem posting 115 TT, 2.5 SK, 1 FF and FR, and 9 PD and SF. Grab him while you still can.
39.) Clay Matthews – This guy is big in two areas: on TV in the Discount Double Check commercials, and on the field for his sacks. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more consistent sacking machine than Matthews, but don’t expect a ton of tackles. He’ll bolster any linebacking core nicely, and should be drafted as a middle tier LB2. Expect 55 TT, 13.5 SK, 2 FF, 1 FR, 7 PD, and 5 SF. Don’t be surprised if he also comes with 1-2 INTs.
40.) Jarvis Jones – First off, ESPN, shut the hell up and project him, as he has rookie of the year potential. Secondly, the Steelers may have gotten a steal when they got him. Lastly, expect a stat line of 70 TT, 12.5 SK, 5 FF, 2 FR, 11 PD, and 9 SFs. Questions, other than where to draft him this season?
41.) Terrell Suggs – With all the changes in Baltimore, the one constant is Terrell Suggs. Now further removed from his Achilles injury, Suggs will be relied upon to usher in the youngins in Baltimore, and anchor the defensive unit. Given his pedigree and track record, draft him as your 2/3, but the reward could outproduce where you get him. A return to 70 TT, 12.5 SK,4 FF, and 1 FR should be expected.
42.) Jon Bostic – Just another pesky LB from an SEC school, who could wreak havoc upon QBs this season. Although he’s behind D.J. Williams at MLB right now, I bet he’ll be starting at strongside linebacker on the outside. Regardless, of where he starts, Bostic should easily net fantasy owners a line of 90 TT, 5 SK, 1 INT, 2 FR, and a decent number of PD and SF.
43.) Ryan Kerrigan- I see Kerrigan’s upside as Matthews-lite, albeit with more tackles. I don’t see him being a consistent 13.5 sack machine guy, but as starting outside linebacker for the Redskins, he should have no problem approaching 75 TT, 10 SK, 3 FF, 2 FR, 9 PD, and 7 SF. Any interceptions would just be bonus.
44.) Dont’a Hightower – Opening the season at strongside linebacker in New England, Hightower could be in for a breakout season. A high motor, aggressive linebacker, Hightower could approach the 95 TT, 7 SK, 3 FR, 4 PD, 11 SF plateau this season. He may not have the upside of some of the other names in these rankings, but he could still end up as a top 30 LB this season.
45.) Desmond Bishop – Switching teams in the off-season, the Vikings may have found themselves a very dangerous backer when healthy. A consistent triple digit tackler the past two seasons in Green Bay, he should continue those tackling ways in Minnesota, while tossing in a couple sacks en route to a 125 TT, 5.5 SK, 7 PD, 4 SF season.
46.) Donald Butler – Had it not been for injuries, Butler would have potentially finished in the top 35 LBs last season. Assuming he stays healthy this season at MLB, Butler could anchor the Chargers defensive line and post a 100 TT, 5.5 SK, 2 FF, 1 FR, 7 PD, and 7 SF season. Good upside here at a discount price.
47.) Daryl Washington – See what happens when you do PEDs Washington? Starting the season with a 4 game suspension puts a dent in his fantasy appeal initially, but once he’s back, he should still post a 100 TT, 7 SK, 1 INT, 4 PD, 7 SF season. The potential for a steal will present itself in drafts.
48.) Alec Ogletree – The University of Georgia has a number of candidates for defensive Rookie of the Year, and Ogletree is just the last of the names. Assuming he can stay out of trouble off the field and do enough to secure a starting spot in the pre-season, Ogletree could be on his way to a 95 TT, 5.0 SK, 2 INT, 1 FF and FR apiece season. He won’t be the sack machine that Jarvis Jones will be, but he could be the more consistent tackler of the two Georgia linebackers.
49.) David Harris – Harris is impossible to predict, as he’ll show up one season, then disappear the next. The good news is that entrenched in the middle of the Jets defense, he should have ample opportunity to rack up the tackles and some sacks. The bad news is you never know what weeks he will show up, making it difficult to start him week in week out. Expect 115 total tackles, 5.0 sacks, and 1 FF and FR apiece, but not much else.
50.) Stephen Nicholas – He is not the flashiest, not highest upside backer in the world, but what he’ll give fantasy owners is consistency at the linebacker position. The strongside linebacker in Atlanta will provide a solid, yet unspectacular line of 95 TT, 2.5 SK, 2 FF, 1 FR stat line for owners this season. Consistency is all you need sometimes at LB3.
51.) Kiko Alonso- Coming out of the U. of Oregon, Alonso comes with big play potential, but also the risk of dry weeks. He will start on the Bills linebacking core at inside linebacker, and while there will be some growing pains with him, by season’s end he could push for an every week starter role in your lineup. To be safe, and account for the new system being implemented in Buffalo, I’ll project him at 85 TT, 3.0 SK, 3 INT, and 2 FF, but the rewards could be greater if he transitions smoothly.
52.) Bruce Carter – Carter could emerge as a consistent tackle threat in Dallas, albeit light on the sacks. He opens the season at weakside linebacker, which boosts his value a little, but still likely won’t allow for a phenomenal season. He is worth the gamble as your LB3, and the payoff could be nice as I project him at 93 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 12 stuffs, and 3 passes defensed, but there is always downside, given that DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are starting at defensive end.
53.) Larry Foote – Foote is like Atlanta’s Nicholas in that he won’t do anything spectacularly, but he’ll be consistent. Foote may get you more tackles than Nicholas, but they will end up with around the same value. Foote is a solid LB3 option who could boost your numbers some weeks. Expect a 98 TT, 3 SK, 1 FF, 1 FR, and a splash in the pan for PDs and SFs from the veteran.
54.) Rey Maualuga – It now is evident that he may never be the force people thought he would be coming out of So. Cal, but he’ll still get you 100 TT and a forced fumble/fumble recovery as your LB3. The upside is still there, but fading.
55.) Akeem Ayers – Just another LB ESPN seems to be overlooking going into this season, and it’s a shame, as he posted 104 total tackles and 6 sacks last season, and will open as the Titans strongside linebacker. Don’t be like some nutheads at ESPN and also overlook him, as he could end up being your LB2, although you drafted him as an LB3. He should have no problem posting 110 TT, 7.0 SK, 1 fumble recovery, and 9 passes defensed along with 6 stuffs. SLEEPER
56.) Kevin Minter – I seem to have started a theme here with rookies. The reason is because all the rookies on this list will see consistent starting time, and have nice upside. Minter is no exception. All he has to do is beat out the incumbent Jasper Brinkley, and Minter could provide a sneaky stat line for a late round pick up. Once the gig is his, the guy is going to be flat out nasty, as he can hit, sack, and disrupt the pocket. The upside here could be immense, and if his last season at LSU is any foreshadowing, Minter could be in for a 100 TT, 5.0 SK, 2 FF season.
57.) Lamarr Woodley – Starting opposite the Georgia product, Jarvis jones, Woodley should be in for a bounceback season. He won’t net you many tackles, but the sack production and knack for causing fumbles will more than make up for that shortcoming. Considering Jones is a blood thirsty linebacker, Woodley should be snubbed of a couple sack opportunities, but still net ya 8.0 sacks, 50 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 recovered fumble this season. In the case he doesn’t re-discover his sack prowess, his name may find itself on the waiver wire.
58.) Dannell Ellerbe – Coming over from Baltimore, the new Dolphins MLB comes with upside, but also injury risks. Make sure Ellerbe is healthy before drafting him, but if he is, and stays healthy, the return could be a 115 TT, 5 SK, 3 FF, and 1 FR season. He’ll likely be one of the last MLBs drafted, but all MLBs are worthy of draft consideration.
59.) Brandon Spikes – Spikes is an example of a linebacker who will likely be overshadowed by better talent surrounding him, but if he starts at MLB for the Patriots, he could rack up the tackles, and grab a few sacks himself. He is more of a turnover forcer guy than anything else, but 90 total tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks, and 9 each of passes defensed and stuffs could be in store.
60.) Philip Wheeler – The Dolphins new name that likely gets overlooked in fantasy circles, and starting linebacker on the Dolphins starting front 7 is worth a shot. He showed us last season he can tackle. In his first season in Miami, expect him to produce 100 TT, 4 SK, 3 FF, and 7 SF and 9 PD.
61.) Dion Jordan – I’m not sure where the Dolphins are going to play him, but the kid can play everywhere. In all honesty, he’ll likely end up at OLB as his regular position after this season, but he will also see ample time at defensive end, making him one of the bigger sleepers on draft day. Depending upon his usage this season, he could be your source of sacks that puts you on top some weeks. He should be in line for a 55 total tackle, 8 sack, 2 forced fumble, 2 fumble recovery season, but if he gets more consistent playing time, he could post 10 sacks.
62.) Johnathan Vilma – Given the Saints are moving to a new scheme, there is potential here for Vilma to see more consistent playing time, as I don’t think David Hawthorne will be full season starter, and Vilma’s game is better suited for the inside at any rate. The categories you draft Vilma for are forced and recovered fumbles and a middling tackle clip. Be advised, he may never crack the 100 tackle plateau again, but as long as he gets consistent playing time he could net you 70 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 3 recovered fumbles, and a handful of passes defensed and stuffs.
63.) Thomas Davis – When you’re the third best linebacker on your team and still manage to produce over 100 tackles, you know that line is stacked. Yes, Davis is the name that is bound to be forgotten about on draft day, but he is also the one who will be the most consistent. Granted, playing on a line with Kuechly and Beason will curb your stats, but there should still be enough tackles to go around to provide Davis with 90 TT, 2 FF, 1 FR, and 12 SF.
64.) Brad Jones – You’re scratching your heads right now thinking, who is this Brad Jones guy? He is the packers starting inside linebacker, and he could be productive. The Packers always seem to churn out one defensive player that will surprise every season, and this season should be Jones’ turn. Let’s go conservative here, but still project 80 TT, 4 SK, 2 FF, and 1 pick.
65.) Mark Herzlich – The fact that Herzlich is still playing football is a phenomenal feat, much less likely opening the season as the Giants starting middle linebacker. For those not familiar with him, read up about his story. On the football field, the Giants will surely watch his usage early on, but as long as his health concerns stay in check, he could be the MLB that everybody but you missed. His upside might be limited by his late start in the NFL, but the upside could be 75 TT, 3 INTs, 3 FF, 2 FR and 11 passes defensed.