“Cut to the Chase” Dynasty IDP steals: Linebackers
Being a dynasty owner calls for a lot of patience at times. Waiting on that prospect you took first or second overall in your rookie draft, whether it’s a running back or wideout, can feel like watching paint dry. The IDP side of dynasty makes things a bit less predictable in the sense that there is much less information out there prognosticating who is whom and what player has landed in a “fantasy rich environment”. This year’s NFL draft will produce a load of defensive talent. Scouts agree, we as an audience of the NFL have not seen anything like this since 2003.
CJ Mosley ILB, Baltimore Ravens
Outside linebackers Ryan Shazier, Khalil Mack and Jadaveon Clowney are arguably the most talented players in the draft this year. All three landed on great rosters with predatory blitz packages. The name you need to know is former Alabama star ILB CJ Mosley. Baltimore again has one of the best defenses in the NFL, teaming perennial Pro-Bowlers Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil with ILBs Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown. Mosley should rotate through the inside positions within the Ravens’ exotic mix-and-match packages. Platooning and rotating defensive players is the new trend in NFL defense after the world watched the Seahawks obliterate the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the post-Ray Lewis Ravens are not above trends. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has repeatedly expressed his intentions to use the “hot hand” and freshest available players at all times. This bodes well for the durable and young Mosley, who will be toward the top of the sack/tackle leaders for NFL rookies.
Telvin Smith ILB/OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Watching this year’s combine was a treat. I am not sure why it didn’t generate more buzz, but my guess is that Michael Sam and Johnny Manziel didn’t exactly set the world on fire in Indy this year. One guy did, and that is former Florida State ILB/OLB Telvin Smith. The national champion Smith should not disappoint in the speed or jumping department for the Jaguars. He is another ultra-athletic addition to the rapidly improving Gus Bradley defense in Jacksonville. The most positive aspect Bradley and company will find about Smith’s game is his versatility: the 6’3″ 218 lb. blitz-specialist can play both inside and outside as well as keep an aware eye on pass coverage. Do not be surprised if you see Telvin Smith lead NFL rookie LBs in interceptions and/or pass deflections. The Jaguars and much of the NFL prognosticators had projected Smith as a third round pick after his explosive combine, but saw the entire LB draft class fall after Clowney and Mack in the top ten. GM David Caldwell had fourth-round pick Aaron Colvin and Smith as equal talents and felt like “Christmas morning” when Smith got back to him at 144.
Chris Borland ILB, San Francisco 49ers
Picking up Teddy Bruschi comparisons throughout his college days at Wisconsin, Chris Borland has always had a workman-like approach to the game. Smaller than Bruschi and the smallest linebacker drafted in 2014, Borland understands there is a disadvantage to his height. “I’m not the tallest and straight-line speed is not my forte, but I play fast. Every down.” ‘Play fast’ accurately describes the first-team All-American, who racked up 420 tackles and 17 sacks during his time as a Badger. The 2013 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year will take reps behind two of the best ILBs in the game, Patrick Willis and Navrorro Bowman. As both incumbents have been extremely productive, they have yet to find someone who can deftly rotate and have impact against the NFC West offenses. Borland will be that guy, he will find spots to shine and contribute numbers.
Prince Shembo OLB, Atlanta Falcons
After showing an outrageous 38.5 vertical at the draft combine, former track star Prince Shembo had locked up a spot in this year’s draft. It was just a question of what franchise would find the best value in a day-one special team impact guy and a spot start outside linebacker. Atlanta possibly was the best place one could have imagined for Shembo, who boasts giant hands and an explosive burst while pursuing ball-carriers. The Falcons’ 3-4/4-3 Combo D, coached by Mike Nolan, will boast no stars, will thoroughly rotate, and is committed to the pass rush. Shembo will find his spots and sneak up the depth chart in Atlanta. Look for the former Irishman to have locked up a starter’s job and be producing fairly consistent numbers on top of special teams duties by season’s end.