2018 IDP Rankings Breakdown
My initial IDP rankings for the 2018 season have been released. These are by no means final, as they'll be impacted by injuries and training camp battles throughout the offseason. Hopefully, the rankings will help establish a baseline and foundation for early drafters.
So, without further ado, below is a breakdown of my IDP rankings and tiers within each position (LB, DL, DB).
Linebacker IDP Tiers
Tier 1 (1-6)
Linebackers continue to be the heart of your IDP squad. Essentially, they are the quarterback of the defense—they wear the communication device and call plays. Most importantly, they don't leave the field—well two of them, anyway. Today's linebackers stuff the run and are capable of covering shifty running backs and pass-catching tight ends, while also getting through the backfield to get to the QB. Offenses are running more pass plays, so defenses are deploying nickel packages more frequently.
It doesn't take long for my first rookie to appear in the first tier. Tremaine Edmunds landed in a prime IDP spot, putting him in line to be a top IDP producer right out of the gate. In 2017, Edmunds posted a 13.7-percent tackle rate and was a tackling machine for the Hokies. Being drafted by the Bills in a tackle-friendly environment puts him in prime position for production. Mixed into the first tier are your elite linebackers: Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly, Telvin Smith, and C.J. Mosley. A new name that leaped into the top tier is Deion Jones.
Since his rookie year in 2016, Jones has been an LB18 and LB7 in tackle-heavy scoring formats. Jones had a 27 percent increase in tackles from his rookie year to last year, while also improving his tackle rate from 12 percent to 13.6. He's their defensive leader and should lead the team in tackles once again in 2018.
After a disappointing 2016 season, Mosley posted elite stats on par with his two seasons in Baltimore. With very little linebacker help, Mosley shouldn't have much competition for tackles.
Update 6/9/2018: Khalil Mack just received DL/DE designation on MFL, so he's now ranked as a DL here. I have him ranked 3rd among DL.
Tier 2 (7-13)
This next group of linebackers is made up of the borderline elites. They are consistent enough where you could start them as your LB1, however, you don't have to spend a high draft pick to acquire them.
This tier features another rookie in Roquan Smith. Smith was a monster for the Bulldogs in 2017, and should thrive for Chicago in Vic Fangio's system. In 2017, he produced a 17.8-percent tackle rate, while adding eight sacks. He's the type of linebacker who'll post all-around numbers, adding in the big plays along with elite tackle numbers.
There's no doubt Sean Lee is an IDP producer, it's just the question of his health. His ability is never in question—however, the most important ability is availability. I still don't like to project injury. Over 11 games and 622 snaps, he produced a 16.2-percent tackle rate. I will draft him as an LB1 knowing there's risk, but the upside is too big to pass up.
Zach Brown returns to Washington, where competition for tackles is sparse. He now has consecutive seasons of 120 or more tackles and he should hit the trifecta in 2018.
Blake Martinez emerged and enjoyed a breakout season in Green Bay last season. He exploded on the field and notched 142 tackles, resulting in a 14.5-percent tackle rate. I'm expecting some regression, but he should still be considered a borderline-LB1.
Christian Kirksey had some unexpected competition for tackle attempts, however, he still managed to record 138 stops and a 12.9-percent tackle rate. Kirksey now has back-to-back seasons of 135 or more tackles.
Tier 3 (14-27)
This is the tier of LBs where you can really stack up. A good mix of consistent tacklers, breakouts, and someone returning from injury.
One of my targets in this tier is going to be Raekwon McMillan. He suffered a knee injury that held him out of the 2017 season. However, he should be ready for all offseason activities and good to go for Week 1. He's someone who could fly under the radar if your league pays attention to last season's stats.
Zach Cunningham is another one of my targets within this tier. I loved him heading into the draft last season, however, the Houston landing spot meant snaps would be limited. A Brian Cushing suspension changed his outlook and Cunningham managed to appear in over 800 snaps. Cushing is no longer in Houston, so the ILB spot opposite Benardrick McKinney should be all his.
Another year and another potential top-20 LB season is in store for K.J. Wright. Last season, he finished as the LB20 in tackle-heavy formats, and he now has four consecutive seasons of at least 100 tackles. Over the last three seasons, Wright has produced 0.21 points per snap and has finished as the LB15, LB14, and LB20, respectively.
Alec Ogletree has a new home in the Big Apple. We'll find out if 2017 was an outlier or things to come in terms of decline in production from 2016. I thought B.J. Goodson was set for a breakout season, however, injuries derailed the season and he managed to play in only seven games. He could benefit from a veteran presence like Ogletree. I project Ogletree to lead the Giants in tackles and he could benefit from playing in James Bettcher's defense. Last season, Ogletree finished as the LB21, after finishing as the LB4 (2016), LB12 (2014), and LB10 (2013).
Jarrad Davis should have all of the tackle attempts to himself with Tahir Whitehead heading west. Speaking of Whitehead, he finds himself in a solid spot for production. His competition for tackles could come from a 36-year-old Derrick Johnson, who is recovering from an Achilles injury. Oakland released Cory James, leaving the aforementioned Johnson, Nicholas Morrow, and Marquel Lee competing for playing time. Whitehead notched 110 tackles and an 11.6-percent tackle rate, so his outlook in Oakland is positive.
A third rookie also appears in this tier—Rashaan Evans. Avery Williamson went to the Jets in free agency, so it appeared Jayon Brown would be in line for snaps opposite Wesley Woodyard—until Tennessee traded up to get Evans. Woodyard is coming off a career-year, but he's going to be 32. I'm a fan of Evans' upside this season. He posted an 11.7-percent tackle rate last season with the Tide.
I had Myles Jack as a borderline third/fourth tier linebacker when it was possible he'd play base down Sam and Mike in sub-packages. However, Jack should be manning the middle for all downs, so he's a borderline-second tier linebacker this season. I'm banking on Jack improving upon his 2017 tackle rate (8.9%).
One guy I initially under-valued was Deone Bucannon. I had him in the mid-30s when my ranks initially released, but I'm moving him up to the third tier, and I don't even have an issue if you target him as a second-tier linebacker. With the Cardinals shifting to a 4-3 base, he'll man the weak-side and wear the dot according to Steve Wilks. Wilks envisions Bucannon as his Thomas Davis when he was coaching in Carolina. Various injuries have caused him to miss seven games over the last two seasons, however, he's produced an 11.1-percent tackle rate over the last three seasons. He's being under-valued in early drafts, so he represents a solid buy-low/draft-low opportunity.
Tier 4 (28-37)
Continue reading to see more of Mike's 2018 IDP values, breakouts, and sleepers ...
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