2017 Projected Three-Down Linebackers for IDP Leagues

Aug 23, 2017
2017 Projected Three-Down Linebackers for IDP Leagues

Finding linebackers who don't leave the field is as important as finding running backs with heavy workloads. It’s all about opportunity. If you’re not on the field, you can’t score fantasy points. With that in mind, below you will find the projected three-down linebackers for every NFL team. The linebackers wearing the communication device (green dot) are highlighted separately, as they are the playcallers of the defense. These projections are based on past formations and what I've seen through preseason play. This list will be updated throughout the rest of the NFL season as injuries and changes occur.

Arizona Cardinals

I noticed Scooby Wright and Haason Reddick get the first series, and Zaviar Gooden wore the dot against the Bears in Week 2 preseason action. Against the Falcons, Karlos Dansby and Hasson Reddick lined with the 1st team and saw majority of the snaps. At this point, Bucannon is expected to avoid the PUP, however, he was inactive Week 3. Dansby is up in age, so Reddick could produce in redraft a a rookie.

Update 10/25/2017: There hasn't been any change in this situation.

Green Dot: Karlos Dansby

Atlanta Falcons

Deion Jones established himself as the playcaller and was bestowed the green dot right away during his rookie campaign. He appeared in 15 games (started 13) and played on nearly 90% of the snaps during his first year. I see growth in his second year and he has established himself as an LB1 in most tackle-heavy formats. Duke Riley was in on the nickel packages in Week 3 preseason, so he's on the IDP radar in deeper leagues. At this point, target Jones as an LB1. I like Riley as my 4th/5th LB in deeper leagues where you're starting three or more LBs and have deeper rosters.

Update 10/25/207: Duke Riley is out for the rest of the season and Atlanta re-signed Sean Weatherspoon. I'd wait a week or two before considering any other Atlanta LB outside of Jones.

Green Dot: Deion Jones

Baltimore Ravens

C.J. Mosley was outplayed last season by Zachary Orr, but a spine issue forced Orr into early retirement. Mosley would've hit the 100-tackle mark for a third straight season, had he not missed two games. Mosley should have clean looks this season, and I forsee a return to LB1 status. Kamalei Correa looks to start opposite Mosley and has breakout potential if he gets nickel snaps. Terrell Suggs is returning from an Achilles injury and is not on the IDP radar.

Update 10/25/2017: No other Raven LB is worth owning outside Mosley at this point.

Green Dot: C.J. Mosley

Buffalo Bills

During the preseason, reports were floating around that Preston Brown was on the roster bubble and Reggie Ragland, who is coming off a knee injury, was the favorite for the MIKE job. Well, fast forward a few months and the opposite has happened. Brown has assumed the three-down linebacker role and is the playcaller on defense. As of now, Brown is the only Buffalo LB I'd want.

Update 10/10/2017: Humber has been hurt and no other LB has really emerged.

Green Dot: Preston Brown

Carolina Panthers

The only thing standing in the way of an elite year for Luke Kuechly was a concussion that caused him to miss seven games. He's back healthy and Thomas Davis inked an extension. When 100%, there's no better IDP linebacker than Kuechly. Davis still remains a solid LB2/3 (pending league size) and has produced an 11.5% tackle rate while averaging 108 tackles per season since 2012.

Update 10/25/2017: Shaq Thompson and Thomas Davis played every snap in Week 7. David Mayo was in on 74% of the snaps in Luke Kuechly's absence.

Green Dot: Luke Kuechly

Chicago Bears

Jerrell Freeman is one of the under-rated LBs in IDP, and he comes into the season looking for his fifth 100-tackle season over his last six campaigns. He has produced a tackle rate of 13.6 percent since 2012. He's been a pinnacle of IDP consistency and will man the playcalling in the Windy City once again. Who's getting the starting job and nickel snaps opposite Freeman, though? It appears to be Danny Trevathan, who should be returning earlier than expected from a knee injury last season. Nick Kwiatkoski had been putting in work, but he appears to be the third LB right now.

Update 10/10/2017: Christian Jones has emerged to be a solid IDP producer alongside Trevathan.

Green Dot: Danny Trevathan

Cincinnati Bengals

Vontaze Burfict is going to be a three-down LB as long as he's eligible to play. However, he's subject to some boneheaded plays that get him suspended. I don't like predicting injuries/suspensions, so I think Burfict can put in a full 16-game season. There's no doubt he puts up elite stats if he does, as he's three seasons removed from a 170-tackle campaign. He notched 101 tackles for a 15% tackle rate in just 11 games last season. Even though the Bengals brought in Kevin Minter, Nick Vigil has been playing in the nickel packages ahead of Minter and has stood out in the first two games. Preseason Week 3 should give us that final determination.

Update 10/10/2017: Nick Vigil and Vontaze Burfict are the only Bengal LBs I want.

Green Dot: Vontaze Burfict

Cleveland Browns

Joe Schobert is now manning the middle after a season-ending injury to Tank Carder. Kirksey enjoyed a breakout season, producing a 13.3% tackle rate which led to 148 tackles. Collins's IDP value takes a bit of a hit, as he was one coming off subpackages in their Week 3 game against Tampa, and Schobert and Kirksey were on for each snap while Schobert was calling the plays. Schobert's in the conversation and can be had late in drafts and has potential LB3 upside. I think I'm tempering my expectations on Collins and I'm not targeting him as an LB1. He was rushing the passer on the majority of his snaps and was playing the SAM role. If I can get him as my LB2/3, I'd feel better about him there. I still like Kirksey's tackle upside and still have him as an LB1.

Update 10/25/2017: Kirksey is the defensive playcaller, however, Joe Schobert and Jamie Collins are playing every snap.

Green Dot: Christian Kirksey

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are being cautious with Sean Lee and holding him out. Anthony Hitchens appears to be out for the year, or at the very least the majority of, so it appears Jaylon Smith's workload will be ramped up. It appears that both Lee and Smith will work as nickel linebackers, so that puts Jaylon on the LB3 radar. Lee remains an LB1.

Update 1124/2017: Lee has been sidelined and Anthony Hitchens has taken over playcalling duties.

Green Dot: Anthony Hitchens

Denver Broncos

Brandon Marshall is in line to man the play-calling duties in 2017. Marshall's 2016 season got cut short from injury, appearing in 11 games and 599 defensive snaps. His tackle rate fell to under 10 percent last year, but I look for a rebound this year, and he's being under-valued in IDP leagues. Todd Davis is another name to keep in the back of your mind, but he did come off the field in sub-packages and appeared in just 61% percent of the snaps in 2016. Von Miller will also see the field for the majority of snaps, so he's someone to target in big-play scoring formats.

Update 10/10/2017: No change. Marshall is the only LB I want from Denver.

Green Dot: Brandon Marshall

Detroit Lions

The Lions drafted Jarrad Davis to be their middle linebacker and quickly installed him as a three-down player and playcaller of the defense. He's been wearing the green dot in the preseason, so I don't see any reason why that won't carry over. Tahir Whitehead should be in on nickel snaps, but he's not someone I'd actively target. He's more of an LB4/5 in deeper leagues. Davis is the guy I want.

Update 11/24/2017: Tahir Whitehead has taken over playcalling duties.

Green Dot: Tahir Whitehead

Green Bay Packers

If I were to target an LB from Green Bay, it'd be Blake Martinez. I'm avoiding the others as I project a rotation, and I believe Morgan Burnett will play in the box as a S/LB hybrid. If I miss out on Martinez in drafts, I wouldn't be too upset about it.

Update 10/25/2017: Blake Martinez's usage and production has put him on the LB2 map.

Green Dot: Morgan Burnett

Houston Texans

I'm targeting Benardick McKinney. McKinney appeared in over 90% of the snaps in 2016 and will be taking on an every-down role once again this season. McKinney posted a 14.1% tackle rate, which led to 129 tackles last season. Cushing has been dealing with injuries throughout his career and could have Zach Cunningham pushing him for snaps. McKinney is the only Houston LB to target.

Update 9/14/2017: Cushing has been suspended for the next 10 games. Dylan Cole appears to be in line to get the start opposite McKinney. Interesting that Houston views Cunningham as an OLB right now.

Green Dot: Benardrick McKinney

Indianapolis Colts

I wrote up Sean Spence as a possible breakout, but it doesn't look like it's happening. In Week 3 against Pittsburgh, Jon Bostic and Antonio Morrison were the three-down linebackers. It's an average linebacker unit.

Update 10/10/2017 There hasn't been any change in this situation.

Green Dot: Jon Bostic

Jacksonville Jaguars

Telvin Smith wore the dot last season, but the Jaguars are giving the play-calling duties to second-year LB Myles Jack. Jack is in line for a solid IDP season with the dot and a three-down role alongside Smith. Smith is looking for his fourth straight season of 100+ tackles and has produced a 12.7% tackle rate in his first three seasons. Paul Posluszny is off the IDP radar this season, as he will come off the field during nickel packages.

Update 10/10/2017: There hasn't been any change in this situation. Telvin and Jack are compiling nearly 30% of the tackles.

Green Dot: Myles Jack

Kansas City Chiefs

Derrick Johnson returns from an Achilles injury to man the dot for the Chiefs in 2017. Ramik Wilson is the expected starter opposite Johnson, but DJ is the only KC LB I'm targeting in tackle formats. Justin Houston will be your target in big-play scoring formats.

Update: In pre-season Week 3, Ramik Wilson was in on base packages, but came off the field for subpackages and Daniel Sorensen was playing nickel ILB.

Update 08/29/2017: Reggie Ragland was acquired by Kansas City in exchange for a 4th round pick. This resuscitates his IDP potential. The Chiefs don't seem enamored with Ramik, so I see a competition brewing and they may use Week 4 as their barometer. I view Ragland as a two-down run stopper at the outset, since I do believe KC likes using Sorensen as their nickel ILB. He's not worth drafting, outside of deeper leagues where you can roster 8-plus LBs. I see him more of an in-season waiver add if he carves out a role where he's on the field at least 85 percent of the snaps.

Update 10/10/2017: It's Week 6 and you still shouldn't be rostering Ramik Wilson.

Green Dot: Derrick Johnson

Los Angeles Chargers

Denzel Perryman was wearing the dot in Week 1 of the preseason, but an ankle injury will likely keep him out until October. Jatavis Brown appears set in an every-down role. Korey Toomer got the start in Week 3 preseason and received the nickel snap, as well. During his 2016 season, Brown logged 600 snaps and produced 13.2% tackle and 0.27 points per snap rates. Brown is the guy I'm targeting as an LB1 and Toomer as an LB4/5 for depth.

Update 10/10/2017: Hayes Pullard is drawing more usage and the coaching staff is liking his play. Pullard is the one I'd be targeting in deeper leagues. Brown has been dealing with an ankle injury which limited him in Week 5.

Green Dot: Jatavis Brown

Los Angeles Rams

After missing 12 games in 2015, Alec Ogletree returned to his normal, productive self in 2016, recording his third 100+ tackle season over his last four. Ogletree appeared in 1,090 snaps and produced a 12.5% tackle rate, which included 98 solo tackles. Cory Littleton will be a name to monitor, as he received the starts opposite Ogletree during the preseason, however, Mark Barron should be the other linebacker opposite Ogletree. As of now, Ogletree is an elite LB1. Barron has a pretty safe floor as an LB2.

Update 10/10/2017: There hasn't been any change in this situation.

Green Dot: Alec Ogletree

Miami Dolphins

Raekwon McMillan was set to wear the dot until an injury suffered during a punt return knocked him out for the season. Kiko Alonso should handle play-calling duties and be on the field for every snap. Lawrence Timmons should play alongside him and man nickel packages. Timmons looks to be manning the strong-side, which gives me pause for his IDP value. Mike Hull is projected as the MIKE, but he'll come off for sub-packages. As long as Timmons remains on the field he'll be worth targeting as an LB3/4 in deeper leagues.

Update 10/10/2017: Lawrence Timmons is back with the team. Mike Hull no longer an option.

Green Dot: Kiko Alonso

Minnesota Vikings

Anhony Barr might be wearing the dot, but it's Eric Kendricks I'm targeting in IDP leagues. Kendricks was in on 869 snaps in 2016 and recorded a 12.5% tackle rate, on his way to 109 tackles. Feel free to target Kendricks as a high-upside LB2.

Update 10/10/2017: There hasn't been any change in this situation.

Green Dot: Anthony Barr

New England Patriots

This is a situation I'm avoiding as the linebackers should rotate frequently.

Update 10/10/2017: There hasn't been any change in this situation.

Green Dot: Kyle Van Noy

New Orleans Saints

AJ Klein, Alex Anzalone, Stephone Anthony, Manti Te'o, and Craig Robertson are all in the mix, but there could be rotations all over the place. If you're going to take a flier, it might be AJ Klein, since he could be manning the play-calling duties. Anzalone is the other, as he could play in nickel packages, but only target him in deeper leagues.

Update: Anzalone was the Saints' nickel linebacker, so he and Klein are the targets here in deeper IDP leagues.

Green Dot: AJ Klein

New York Giants

The Giants have had issues at LB for several years, ever since Antonio Pierce retired. As of now, the Giants have installed BJ Goodson as their MIKE and he will call the plays. Jonathan Casillas is deep sleeper in leagues where you can start three or more LBs. I'd target Goodson as an LB3, however, it's SS Landon Collins who'll lead the team in tackles.

Update 10/10/2017: Goodson returned in Week 4.

Green Dot: BJ Goodson

New York Jets

Demario Davis returns to the Big Apple after receiving a cup of coffee in Cleveland. Davis wore the dot in their Week 2 contest against Detroit and appears to be the three-down linebacker. Darron Lee should also receive the majority of snaps alongside Davis this season and could have a breakout season if he does get those nickel snaps.

Update 10/10/2017: There hasn't been any change in this situation.

Green Dot: Demario Davis

Oakland Raiders

In the second preseason game, Cory James and Marquel Lee received the "start", but Lee was coming off the field on sub-packages, and Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were lining up on the line with their hands in the dirt. Howver, against Dallas in Week 3, Tyrell Adams and Jelani Jenkins received most of the snaps with the 1s. Marquell Lee saw 15 snaps, while James didn't travel with the team. Mack's value will lie in your league's scoring and where they have him designated (LB or DE). Oakland might be using the preseason to determine starters, so at this point, I might stay away from Raiders' LBs until the season shakes out.

Update 10/25/207: The Raiders signed Navorro Bowman after being released by the 49'ers. He played every snap and wore the dot, albeit, Cory James was inactive. Bowman still has IDP value ROS.

Green Dot: Cory James

Philadelphia Eagles

Jordan Hicks manned the dot last season and that will not change heading into 2017. Hicks appeared in 95% of the snaps for Philly last season, as did Nigel Bradham. Bradham did end up out-producing Hicks last season, in terms of tackles, but it was close in overall fantasy points. So far in the preseason, Bradham/Hicks appear to be getting the nickel packages and Mychal Kendricks is playing base only. I've got Hicks ranked higher, however, Bradham is a solid late-round target.

Update 10/25/2017: Hicks is out for the remainder of the season, so we'll who mans the dot in Week 8. Najae Goode appears set to receive an increase in snaps.

Green Dot:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Lawrence Timmons went south to Miami in the offseason, so a three-down role opened up for Vince Williams in 2017, and he's the Steelers LB I'm really targeting. I do have Ryan Shazier ranked higher, but there's injury risk with him, and he's already dealing with hamstring issues before the season has even started. Shazier is an elite LB1 if he can string together a full-16 game season. Williams is an LB2 target if you miss out on Shazier. In 268 snaps last season, Williams produced 17.5% tackle and 0.28 points per snap rates.

Update 10/10/2017: Williams appeared in 85% of the snaps in Week 5. If that usage remains, he'll have LB3 appeal rest of season.

Green Dot: Ryan Shazier

San Francisco 49ers

In the Week 2 contest against the Broncos, I didn't notice NaVorro Bowman or Reuben Foster wearing the dot, so we might get a better idea of who'll be calling the plays in the third preseason game. Either way, Foster and Bowman will be the every-down LBs, and Bowman was manning the MIKE inside linebacker spot. It's great to see Bowman back on the field and returning to his regular three-down role after suffering an Achilles injury last year. I've got Bowman ranked as my LB4 and Foster should be targeted as a high-upside LB2.

Update 10/25/2017: Bowman has been released and Reuben Foster is the playcaller. Ray Ray Armstrong also IDP value alongside Foster.

Green Dot: Reuben Foster

Seattle Seahawks

Bobby Wagner wearing the dot, rinse and repeat. KJ Wright also receives the three-down treatment as he and Wagner are the nickel linebackers. Wagner produced a 15.6-percent tackle rate on his way to a 167-tackle campaign in 2016. Wright produced a 12% tackle rate, which resulted in 126 tackles. Wagner is an elite LB1, while I'm targeting Wright as an LB2. Both should be rostered in all IDP formats.

Update 10/10/2017: There hasn't been any change in this situation.

Green Dot: Bobby Wagner

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kwon Alexander was a beast last season and finished with 145 tackles (including 108 solos). He appeared in virtually every snap and took over the play-calling duties. That will continue in 2017. Lavonte David has taken a step back and allowed Alexander to develop into the role. While David's days as an elite LB are drawing to a close, he's still worthy of being an LB1 on your squad, and he won't be leaving the field either. Both are worthy targets in IDP leagues this year.

Update 10/10/2017: Kendell Beckwith has been wearing the dot while Kwon Alexander has been sidelined. Adarius Glanton has joined him as the other three-down LB while Lavonte David has been out.

Green Dot: Kwon Alexander

Tennessee Titans

It was a suprise to see Wesley Woodyard get the dot in the Titans' Week 2 preseason tilt against Carolina. Williamson was back to calling the plays in Week 3. Avery Williamson is still the Titans LB I'm targeting and I like him as an LB3 in tackle formats.

Update 10/10/2017: Wesley Woodyard is now manning the playcalling duties.

Green Dot: Wesley Woodyard

Washington Redskins

The Redskins brought in Buffalo's leading tackler from 2016, Zach Brown, in free agency. In 2016, Brown appeared in a career-high 977 snaps and recorded 149 tackles, also a career-high. Brown was brought in to compete and upgrade the ILB position against incumbents Mason Foster and Will Compton. It appears Foster and Brown project to see the majority of the snaps. I think Brown has the upside for more tackles but Foster will retain his IDP value as an LB3.

Update 10/25/2017: Mason Foster has resumed calling the plays.

Green Dot: Mason Foster

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