The final installation of linebackers could be seen somewhat as misfits, or “who the heck are those” guys. In fact, many of these names will go undrafted, but some of these names are also the ones that burst out of nowhere. Every season as a fantasy owner, you find yourself scouring the waiver wire for a replacement, or for a player who is hot while another of your starters is either injured or M.I.A. The names appearing here are not only interesting names for terms of fantasy, but also some who have the potential to become every week starters if given a shooters chance to start. I’m sure as fantasy owners you’re thinking, “How the heck did you manage to ram 100 LBs, dude?” The short answer would be I’m a fantasy fanatic, but the better answer would be that every fantasy season I’m looking for that one player that could make a difference, and I may just happen to pick up one or two of these names and then see my team take off. Is it a guarantee? No. But what weird fantasy owner doesn’t like winning and being right?
66.) Kevin Burnett – His numbers suggest he should be higher than this, and honestly, he may be at season’s end, but on a team in complete rebuild mode, with virtually no QB, he slips some. Nothing against him, there just may be a transitioning period from the more quick-paced Dolphins to the Raiders. Nonetheless, draft him as an LB3 or high-end reserve, and expect 100 total tackles (TT), 1.5 sacks (SK), and 1 forced fumble (FF), but he won’t help in the passes defensed or stuffs (PD, SF, respectively).
67.) Mychal Kendricks – Kendricks could be completely boom or bust this season. If he is able to play in the insane speed tempo that Chip Kelly will require to be played, he has the range and athleticism to breakout. Last season’s stats suggest he could be very useful in passes defensed and stuffs, but fantasy owners will want more than those two categories and tackles. This season, assuming he does adjust to the Kelly speed, he could post 83 TT, 2 SK, 15 PD and 10 SF, but it remains to be seen if he’ll contribute in other areas. The upside is immense as your LB4 or reserve.
68.) A.J. Hawk – When Hawk is on his game, he’s a force, but the problem is he tends to disappear some every other year, which would be bad news for this season. Helping to anchor the middle of the Packers’ linebacking crew is always a plus, but is a position where you’re more likely to get a tackle than a sack, thanks to Clay Matthews. You should be able to get Hawk at a discounted price as an LB4, but watch the matchups, as he could pay big dividends in the right ones. Seeing as he had a nice season last year, expect a regression to 85 TT, 2 SK, 1 FR, and a handful of PDs and SFs.
69.) Akeem Dent – Anyone wanna make a 25 dollar bet on a breakout season for Dent? Looking at the trend of his stats since he came into the league two seasons ago, and the position he’ll play this season (middle linebacker (MLB)), Dent is one of the MLBs that you can get late, and the rewards could be substantial. With the departure of John Abraham, there will be some extra sacks and tackles to go around, and at least some will come Dent’s way. A conservative breakout season of 95 TT, 2.5 SK, 2 FF, 1 FR, and a handful of PDs and SFs could be in the cards.
70.) Gerald Hodges – Coming of Linebacker U., and starting weakside, Hodges could be the next big nightmare on the Vikings, next to Jared Allen. Granted, Allen is still going to be a sack hog, but given his solid play at Penn State and his pension for creating turnovers, Hodges could wreak havoc on his way to a 80 TT, 2.5 SK, 2 FF, 2 FR season, while tossing in an interception (INT).
71.) Brian Orakpo – Annnnnnd the wait continues for Orakpo to develop into the player people thought he would out of Texas. This might be the season, but it could also be another tease of a season for fantasy owners, save sacks. He may never develop into the player he was heralded to become, but if he could approach 70 TT, 12 SK (11 in rookie season), and get 2 FF, he’d make owners (and Redskins fans) who drafted him glad they took a shot on him.
72.) James Harrison – Ah! Revenge is sweet. After leaving Steel Town, Harrison signed with the Bengals, and could continue to be a sack force. The 35-year-old linebacker may only be a shell of his old 100+ tackle, 10+ sack-self, but he should still be money for 64 TT, 9.5 SK, and 3 FF this season. Hard to argue with nice sack totals from your LB4.
73.) Tamba Hali – Like Harrison, when you draft Hali, you draft him for his double-digit sack prowess, as he doesn’t rack up too many tackles, or anything else for that matter. As the Chiefs outside linebacker, Hali will continue to produce 55 TT, 12 SK, and 2 FF, but no more than that.
74.) DeAndre Levy – Levy is the exact opposite of Harrison and Hali, He’ll net you tackles and the occasional FF, but not much more. Never much of a sack artist, his value lies in his ability to pick up sacks and provide some stuffs. Expect another season of 90 TT, 1 SK, 10 SF, and 5 PD. Stats that will land you just inside the top 75 LBs, but not much more.
75.) Nigel Bradham – The Bills, in their new defensive scheme, are making Bradham a 3-down starter at inside linebacker, and when the pickings get thin, take chances. His upside may not be the highest, but as long as he can contribute 83 TT, 2.5 SK, 1 FF, 2 FR, and a handful of PDs he’ll be a deep sleeper this season.
76.) Manti Te’o – His NFL workout and Combine numbers suggest he’s still recovering from being hit by the Tide bus, as he was exposed in a bad way in last season’s National Championship. Starting at inside linebacker for the Chargers this season, Te’o should rack up around 100 TT and 3 INT, but only 1.5 SK, and 1 FF. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to not being the only player who can throw players around on the field.
77.) Whitney Mercilus – Marcilus has “have mercy, Whitney” written all over him. This guy has the potential to be an absolute monster, and be a sack machine. After accumulating 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery last season as a part-timer at DE, Mercilus could be in for a huge season as the Texans every down, right outside linebacker. Draft him as a high ceiling LB4, as he could approach the 70 TT, 10 SK, 3 FF, 2 FR, plateau this season. He could end the season as a top 30 LB. #Youhearditherefirst.
78.) Ahmad Brooks – It seems, while defenses are focused on stopping Bowman, Willis, and Smith, Brooks is sneaking around the back door and nailing the quarterback. That role should continue for him as the 49ers left outside linebacker. He’ll always be overshadowed by the bigger names on his team, but he has his purpose, and that purpose is to deliver 50 TT, 7 SK, 3 FF, a pick, and 9 SF and 9 PD this season.
79.) Quinton Coples – Somebody outside of David Harris has to step up for the Jets these days at linebacker, and Coples seems to fit the bill perfectly. He started to come around in a nice way at the end of last season, and should carry that momentum coming into this one. As his progression continues, expect 50 TT, 8 SK, and 7 SF. Worthy of playing in the right match ups, and when he’s hot.
80.) Erin Henderson – In all honesty, Henderson and Greenway, or Hodges will likely end up where the other starts this season, and Henderson would be better served outside at any rate. Not much of a sack threat, moving Henderson outside would improve the Vikings defensive numbers, and not hurt Henderson’s stats too much. Wherever Henderson ends up this season, expect another modest 80 TT, 3.5 SK, 1 FF, 1 INT, and a couple PD and SF.
81.) James Anderson – Maybe a change of scenery is all Anderson needs to get some of his mojo back from the 2010 and ’11 seasons as this guy can hit. Playing strongside linebacker for the Bears, Anderson could rebound from a pedestrian 73 TT, and not doing much season, to a more respectable 90 TT, 2 SK, 1 INT season. Bostic and Briggs also will be tackle and sack hungry, so chances are one of the three gets left behind.
82.) Jameel McClain – Historically a 2-down back, he may be asked to be a 3-down backer this season. However, given his dealing with a spinal tap, temper expectations and drop him if he continues to be a 2-down back in Baltimore. Otherwise, expect 90 TT, 3 FR, and a handful of PD and SFs from him if he enters the season healthy, and is 3-down back.
83.) Justin Durant – Remember that time he was supposed to breakout in Jacksonville? Yeah, about that, those days are looong gone. That’s not to say he can’t be of service after posting 103 tackles last season, it’s just not likely he’ll be more than an LB4, IDP slot, or match ups/bye week filler. His lack of sacks and other statistics limit his upside, but as starting strongside linebacker, stranger things have happened than relevancy with an 85 TT, 8 SF season.
84.) Craig Robertson – There’s a very strong chance, given the Browns upward trend towards relevancy the past few seasons, and the young, talented defensive line, that Robertson far exceeds this ranking. In his rookie season, he got off with a strong start with 93 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions, while playing alongside D’Qwell Jackson, but will the drafting of outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (a sack artist) help or hurt his stock? Chances are they won’t hurt it, as Robertson should post 95 TT, 2.5 SK, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT and an improvement in PDs and SF. The upside is pretty big here, but tread softly for the time being.
85.) Dwight Freeney – A converted defensive end to linebacker, Freeney should continue to be a sack machine, but also get a few more tackles in San Diego. Playing outside in San Diego should afford Freeney the opportunity to rebound from dismal campaigns the past few seasons, and rebound to a stat line of 45 TT, 9.5 SK, 3 FF, 1 FR, and 5 SF. A match ups play to begin the season, but if you’re in need of sacks, take the chance.
86.) Sio Moore – He may not open the season starting at linebacker, but his explosiveness and athleticism will land him a starting gig before week 4. Moore is another of those hybrid backers that could produce a nice sack total, and if his last season at UCONN was any indication, Moore could post 55 TT, 8 SK, 2 INT, and 1 FR in his rookie season. Some players ahead of him are less than awe-inspiring to say the least, and the Raiders can afford to play their youth.
87.) Robert Mathis – He’s like former teammate Freeney. Both are heavy on the sacks, but light on the tackles. Another season on the slowly improving Colts defensive unit, another 40 TT, 9 SK, 2 FF, 1 INT season. Remember, at the end of your draft, sack artists like Mathis serve as valuable mix and match match ups players.
88.) Jasper Brinkley – As bad as the Cardinals offense may be this season, their linebacking core is that solid. Serving as the Cardinals inside linebacker, Brinkley should have some nice opportunities to get the QB on the turf, especially considering D. Washington is suspended the first four games. Brinkley may only net you 1 sack this season, but 90 TT, 2 FF, 1 FR, and potentially an INT have value too.
89.) Koa Misi – Misi needs to stay healthy, as he will be relied upon this season to help anchor an improving Dolphins defensive unit, and usher in the younguns. If Misi can replicate the production he displayed for 14 games last season, sign him up for 75 TT, 4.5 SK, 2 FF, and 1 FR. If he continues to struggle to stay on the field, knock those numbers some.
90.) Geno Hayes – All things considered equal, the Jags can’t be as horrendous as they were last season, right? If they ever figure out that Gabbert is not the answer (or if they just want Johnny Maziel), then they will improve. Luckily, the offense won’t affect Hayes’ stats. Perhaps starting at weakside linebacker on a rebuilding team is just what Hayes needs to build upon the promise he showed back in 2009 and ’10. Assuming he’s ready to step up and contribute, expect a return to 75 TT, 4 SK, 1 FF and FR apiece, and 10 SF, along with 7 PD. Still not interested?
91.) Nate Irving – Miller’s likely possible suspension for PEDs is Irving’s gain, at least initially. Irving is being anointed the starting MLB if/when Miller is suspended, and if he does an above average job, he may find himself consistent playing time. Either way, through the first four games (the length of Miller’s pending suspension), expect 20 TT, and 1 SK, but should the front office be impressed, or another starter go down, he could go 55 TT, 2 SK, 1 INT the rest of the way. With the extremely limited sample size it may be pure speculation, but his final two seasons from N.C. State suggest he can play.
92.) Justin Houston – Let me guess you’re scratching your head thinking “Who the what-what is this dude? I never heard of him.” That “dude” you’re scratching your head about is Justin Houston, and his first two seasons suggest he can play. He’ll start for the Chiefs at outside linebacker, and given his upward trends, expect a stat line of 72 TT, 11 SK, 1 FF, 1 FR, 8 PD, and 6 SF. Still scratching your head?
93 Mathias Kiwanuka – With Osi in Atlanta, some stats may be freed up for Kiwi. He doesn’t have the sacking prowess of a Freeney or Mathis, nor the tackling ability of Te’o, but Kiwi is what he is. Continuing to start at strongside for the Giants, expect 60 TT, 4.5 SK, and 6 SF.
94.) DeMario Davis – Repeat after me, “I will not leave any inside linebacker undrafted.” Great! Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to business. Davis is on this list because he is starting at ILB, and because he has potential (though I think that word is grossly overused most of the time). If you wanna go by upside here, let’s go 75 TT, 3.5 SK, 2 INT, 2 FF, 1 FR, and a handful of PD and SF.
95.) Paul Kruger – Kruger posted 9 sacks last season, but proceed with caution, as regression could always occur. For those who play the assumption game, last season was not a fluke, and on a revamped Browns defensive unit, Kruger posts 50 TT, 10 SK, 2 FR, and 8 PD. The question is how lucky you feeling?
96.) David Hawthorne – Last season appears as if it was a fluke. As starting inside linebacker in New Orleans from Seattle, Hawthorne should return to 95 TT, 2.5 SK, but not much more. Bye week filler and match ups play to begin the season, but Seattle days (2009-’10) suggest everyday starter.
97.) Pat Angerer – If he stays healthy, he’ll be a tackling machine, and net you 107 TT and 11 SF as the Colts right outside linebacker. Healthy is the key word.
98.) Brooks Reed – The emergence of Mercilus will either be the key to a semi-breakout to Reed’s key, or his total obscurity. Since he’s likely in the former category, the starting Texans outside linebacker should post 50 TT, 4 SK, 1 FF, 1 FR, 7 SF, and 3 Pd, assuming he plays all 16 games.
99.) Jerry Hughes – Starting at OLB for the Bills improving defensive squad, the upside for Hughes this season is 60 TT, 5 SK, 1 INT, and 5 SF, but there’s also the chance Hughes doesn’t realize his potential as an emerging sack monster.
100.) Courtney Upshaw – What will it take for the Ravens to give the former Tide linebacker a shot at a starting gig? His skill set and explosiveness suggest he could post 80 TT, 3 SK, 3 FF, 2 FR, and 9 SF this season. Key question: Will the Ravens see what he offers as a starter?