Last week I unveiled the top 25 LBs for this coming fantasy season. This week, I will do numbers 26-60. Some of the first names on this list could very easily find themselves in the top 15-20 next season, while some of the names at the bottom of the list could slide outside LB3 play by midseason, or be on the 75-100 list next season. You will notice there are a ton of sack heavy linebackers on this list, as well as some top rookie IDP candidates, who should step in and produce immediately. Of the lot, the safest pick with the lowest floor would be Patrick Willis, as he will rebound some this season. The highest upside LBs are C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier. You could easily flip some of the names up or down, based upon your settings, as these rankings are for Major League Fantasy Football Leagues and those that tally passes defensed and stuffs. As always, please feel free to comment, like, share, or just learn more about fantasy football from this post, or any post in general on this site. Without further ado, let’s rank!
26.) Perry Riley – All the Redskins LBs keep teasing us with potential. Which one will breakout this season? If I had to bet, it would be on Riley. Playing on the inside, Riley should be afforded the opportunity to approach triple tackles and a couple sacks. Either he or Kerrigan will be the breakout player for Washington this season, but due to his tackle total, I have Riley ahead of Kerrigan. 90 tackles, 4 sacks, a recovered fumble and 10 passes defensed should be expected. (Photo courtesy of Profootballfocus.com)
27.) Patrick Willis – While all signs point to Bowman (ACL, MCL) being ready for the start of the season, a bounce back should be expected from Willis. After amassing only 82 solo tackles and 1 pass defensed, Willis will be hungry to re-establish himself after a true down season. Look for Willis to shoulder some of the load, while the 49ers look for someone to step up as Bowman gets back into the groove of football. Nab him as a LB2 and you should be rewarded with 100 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, a pick, 7 passes defensed, and 7 stuffs.
28.) D’Qwell Jackson – The Colts are buffing up the interior of their LB core, and Jackson should be a force playing alongside Freeman. Freeman will likely lead the Colts in tackles this season, but still expect 80 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 recovered fumbles, a pick and 5 passes defensed. The duo will be dynamic.
29.) Ryan Kerrigan – Meet the other guy who should be labeled potential breakout player in Washington. Kerrigan will start opposite Orakpo on the outside, but I have Kerrigan a lot higher due to his age and more potential for sacks. He’s been knocking on the door of double-digit sacks for two seasons now, and this is the season he will do it. Conservatively, Kerrigan will post 10 sacks, 62 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, a recovered fumble, and 12 stuffs.
30.) Robert Mathis – Mathis will be suspended the first four games of the season, but when he comes back, he should pick up right where he left off after last season’s 19.5 sack campaign. He will only net fantasy owners 35 tackles, but also get 12.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles.
31.) Jadeveon Clowney – *If he only qualifies as LB in your league* Clowney is currently listed as an OLB, but he will also see time opposite Watt at DE. In Clowney’s inaugural season, as long as he is fully recovered from sports hernia surgery and keeps his motivation up, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t post 12 sacks, 30 tackles, and 4 forced fumbles given his physicality and style of play. Opposing offensive lines won’t know where the sack’s coming from, they just know it’s coming fast. (Photo courtesy of blacherreport.com)
32.) A.J. Hawk – Hawk does nothing excellent, but does a lot well. He will never be your weekly leader in tackles, and won’t post a flashy stat line, but he’ll put dinner on the plate for owners most weeks. Oft overlooked due to Clay Matthews, Hawk will continue to post solid, yet unspectacular stat lines. He makes a nice choice for a LB3 or IDP slot in most leagues, and will post 80 tackles, 4 sacks, a recovered fumble, and throw some passes defensed and stuffs in as well.
33.) Zach Brown – Brown is the best linebacker on the Titans and, like Riley and Kerrigan ahead of him, could be due for a breakout season. His stats may not show it, but a need for more of a defensive rushing presence, look for Brown to post a career year on his way to 88 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 picks, 10 stuffs, 2 recovered fumbles, and 1 forced.
34.) Audie Cole – You have to look his name up? If you did, don’t feel left out, because you weren’t the only one. Cole backed up Erin Henderson (released) last season, and in 5 starts at MLB, Cole posted 45 tackles and a sack. He’s the favorite to start in the middle of Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 scheme, which plays very favorably for MLBs. If Cole does indeed win the gig (front runner), then 100 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 each of forced and recovered fumbles, and a handful of passes defensed and stuffs should be expected.
35.) C.J. Mosley – Mosley was the best ILB in the Draft, and he lands in a spot where he should start immediately and be able to translate his skills quickly to the NFL. Historically, the Ravens ILB position has played well for fantasy owners, and this season should be no different. Arthur Brown should only give a weak challenge, and Mosley will be an every down backer along side Smith. It’s entirely possible that Mosley emerges as a top 20 LB this season, and should post 100 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 picks, and contribute some with passes defensed and stuffs.
36.) Mason Foster – Foster will play second fiddle to David’s Goliath stat line. Foster is your typical serviceable LB3 with a bit of upside, who will put dinner on the table, but do no more for fantasy owners. He’ll never likely be a social linebacker, but he’ll give ya 80 tackles, 2 sacks, a forced and recovered fumble apiece, 2 picks, and a handful of passes defensed and stuffs.
37.) Curtis Lofton – The Falcons need this guy back with Weatherspoon gone for the season. At least we still have Worrilow. It pains me to hear the name “Lofton” making a tackle and it not be for the Falcons, but the Saints sure did get a good ILB. Lofton likely won’t post another 100 tackle season (2009), but he will still post a 90 tackle, 2 sack, 2 forced fumble, 1 recovered fumble season. Remember during your drafts to also grab the consistent ones, not just hog the big names to yourself (I try to hog em all still), to have solid options at LB3 and DP slot
38.) Lance Briggs – With Urlacher out of the picture in Chicago, Briggs should continue to bring it on defense, and have one last potential top 30 LB season in him. Before he got injured last season, Briggs had 51 tackles in 9 games. Should he stay healthy this season, put him down for a 95 tackle, 2.5 sack, 2 forced fumble, 2 recovered fumble, 5 passes defensed, 10 stuffs season. Bostic is the future in Chi-Town, but Briggs is still top dog. Draft with confidence. (Photo courtesy of whodatfish.com)
39.) Ahmad Brooks – Looking at the 49ers linebacking core this season, I see a potential for Brooks to post 10+ sacks. Why? Because Aldon Smith can’t stay out of trouble off the field and is likely headed for a lengthy suspension, and Bowman is going to be coming off an injury in which he completely tore up his knee. That leaves the door open for Brooks to post 10 sacks and 54 tackles, with a couple passes defensed and stuffs peppered in as well. Ya buying in yet?
40.) Kevin Minter – With Daryl Smith facing another suspension (yes, again), this time for the whole season, and Dansby walking in free agency, Minter will open as Arizona’s ILB spot opposite Foote. Minter didn’t see a ton of time last season, but this season look for him to be an every down back en route to a 75 tackle, 3 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 2 recovered fumble season as a floor. Given Arizona’s propensity to crank out stud LBs, don’t be surprised if Minter completely breaks out and finishes as a top 30 LB. The upside is real.
41.)Brian Orakpo – Orakpo will line up opposite Kerrigan this season, and while I think Kerrigan could post more tackles and be the more fantasy-friendly option in the end, Orakpo is the more sack-friendly option. If the Redskins remain true to their word, then move Orakpo up 15-17 slots, as he could be in line for 12.5 sacks, 45 tackles, 2 recovered fumbles, and 11 stuffs.
42.) Justin Houston – Currently holding out, due to being in the last year of his contract, Houston will be on the field week 1. Coming off a season in which he posted 11 sacks, Houston will play hungry to prove he is worthy of a new contract. If you can live with a lean tackle total, you will get 12 sacks, 45 tackles and 2 recovered fumbles from Houston, who is only entering the prime of his career at age 25.
43.) Melvin Ingram – When you start opposite an All-Pro and sack artist, you’re going to get your licks on the QB. Ingram could be emerging as the Chargers sack leader as soon as this season, as he should be very close to 100% from his torn ACL 16 months ago. Look for Ingram to continue his emergence from his rookie season (2012) and be a formidable sack LB to the tune of 8 sacks, 14 passes defensed, and 35 tackles. Yeah, expect big things from him. (Photo courtesy of operationsports.com)
44.) David Harris – Harris is never going to be a stud, but if you draft him, at least he’ll produce. The Jets are exploring the idea of playing a 4-3 defense this season, and if that’s the case, harris would be the Jets’s Mike linebacker, boosting his IDP value. Look for Harris to rebound some this season and post 83 tackles, 5 sacks and 9 stuffs.
45.) Ryan Shazier – Steeler Nation, the hype is real and so is the talent. Shazier could emerge as the Steelers top linebacker this season, so jump NOW. The Buckeye product should remind Steeler fans of shades of James Harrison, given his propensity to rack up tackles and sacks. I’m going to go out on a limb here and peg Shazier for 90 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a pick, en route to a potential top 25-30 season.
46.) Von Miller – If Miller (ACL) is truly healthy and ready for week 1, then boost him up at least 10-15 spots, as the sacks are going to come by the bunch. The emergence of Danny Trevathan in the middle should help keep some double teams away from Miller, leading to cleaner shots at the QB. After the elite LBs and tackle-heavy LBs are gone, a run on the sack-heavy LBs will commence, and Miller will be one of the first off the board. 15 sacks, 55 tackles, and 15 stuffs could be well within reach here.
47.) Donald Butler – The Chargers have been searching for a leader at linebacker since Shawne Merriman (2010) found his way to Buffalo. Butler showed glimpses of being the LB the Chargers have been searching for and should continue to emerge on the inside this season, while Ingram and Freeney look to wreak havoc on the outside. 80 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 pick, 5 passes defensed, and 5 stuffs should be expected here.
48.) Terrell Suggs – See if you can spot the coming trend with the next few LBs. Hint: Sack heavy, low tackle LBs. Suggs is no different, and while he may not have elite sack potential at this point in his career, he’ll net you a few more tackles than the Matthews’, Dumervils’, and Abrahams’ of the NFL. Defintely the Ravens defensive leader, Suggs will continue to give QBs nightmares as he continues to produce 11.5 sacks, 50 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and a recovered fumble. Look for him and Mosley to potentially form a formidable duo going forward. (Photo courtesy of sports.yahoo.com)
49.) Clay Matthews – Most famous for his hair and his role in the Discount Double Check commercials, Matthews will continue to lead the Packers in sacks and get the most commercial time. Like Miller, he’ll be lean on the tackles, but will still post 12.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a handful of passes defensed and stuffs.
50.) Kevin Burnett – Burnett’s value is plummeting because of the entrance of Khalil Mack and the emergence of Nick Roach last season. Burnett will still be serviceable in fantasy circles, but he’ll be taken behind Roach and Mack. His stats might decline some this season, but Burnett will be good for 80 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 7 stuffs. Solid DP slot/LB3 play.
51.)Kyle Van Noy – Van Noy will open the season opposite one of the best passes defensed linebackers, DeAndre Levy, and should benefit from starting on the outside. While his sack total might be curbed due to the presence of Suh and Ansah, KVN should be able to create a name for himself on the outside of the Lions defense. Expect 8 sacks, 40 tackles, 2 picks, and 2 forced fumbles from Van Noy this season.
52.) Connor Barwin – Barwin is going to be overlooked in a ton of leagues because owners won’t realize he is useful in the passes defensed and stuffs game. With the Eagles looking to use a 3-4 scheme this season, Barwin should get increased looks at the QB, boosting his sack total. He won’t approach his 11.5 sack total from 2011, but he should still get to the 9 sack plateau to go with 40 tackles, 10 passes defensed, and 5 stuffs.
53.) John Abraham – With Abraham, you know the name, and you know the game. He’s a sack machine who will get you 11 sacks, 35 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and a handful of stuffs. Don’t argue, just draft.
54.) Philip Wheeler – Wheeler is a liability in the pass game, thus that impedes his tackle total. If he doesn’t produce this season, the Phins will cut him. Will that be enough incentive for Wheeler to step his game up? He’s going to start on the outside again this season, and given the great of potentially being cut if he doesn’t produce, Wheeler should be motivated enough to get 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a handful of passes defensed and stuffs.
55.) Tamba Hali – This is going to be Hali’s last season in Kansas City. At least, with the drafting of Dee Ford, it seems that way. Hali has been a rock on the Chiefs defensive unit, consistently cranking out 9+ sacks since 2010. He will continue to start at outside LB this season and post another 11 sack, 45 tackle, 3 forced fumble, 1 recovered fumble, 4 stuff season. (Photo courtesy of kansas-city-news.pro)
56.) Trent Cole – Cole has adjusted to his role as outside linebacker, and will start opposite Barwin this season. He’s going to draw more attention to his side, but that won’t stop him from posting 9.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 45 tackles.
57.) Wesley Woodyard – Finally, a linebacker broke the sack-heavy streak. Woodyard, while he may not have the upside of his inside linebacker mate (Brown), will still produce 70 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 3 sacks, and a handful of stuffs this season in his first season in Tennessee.
58.) Paul Kruger – Kruger is in a position to post a quietly solid fantasy season. He’s starting outside on an emerging and dangerous Browns defense that just signed Dansby, but lost Jackson. Given that Dansby is going to command a ton of attention from the offensive line, Kruger will see increased free shots at the QB and he should post a career season entailing 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 40 tackles, and 8 passes defensed. Worth a look late in drafts.
59.) Justin Durant – With the loss of Sean Lee for the season, Durant will get first crack at starting Mike in Dallas. He’s not comfortable playing the middle, but the Boys will need him to anchor the linebacker line, as they don’t have anyone else. On a shaky defensive line, Durant could be the lone bright spot and post 90 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, a recovered fumble, and a pick.
60.) Brandon Spikes – With the loss of Alonso for the season, the Bills need an MLB and fast. Spikes is their logical option. Signed to a one year deal, Spikes will not play every down, but should still find a way to keep competition from stealing some of his snaps in the middle. He’s no Alonso, however, in his first season out of New England, he should post 90 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 12 stuffs. There is the risk he fizzles in the middle, so be advised. (Photo courtesy of profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
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