7 Breakout Linebackers To Target in 2019 IDP Leagues
The key to your IDP drafts is finding those late-round diamonds in the rough. I could be Captain Obvious and tell you to draft Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly, and the known commodities at linebacker. The difficult part is trying to pinpoint late-round targets at the position.
Below you will find a list of under-the-radar or breakout linebackers to target later in your IDP drafts, either because they're likely to earn a three-down role, are coming back from injury, or find themselves in a new position or role due to a scheme change.
Oren Burks, ILB, Green Bay Packers
It sounds like Josh Jones isn't happy with his situation in Green Bay, which could have a positive impact on Burks's potential in Mike Pettine's defense in 2019.
Burks was provided opportunities to play alongside Blake Martinez as a rookie, but a shoulder injury during training camp derailed his chances. Upon returning to action, he appeared in just 122 defensive snaps over 14 games, including four starts. He was efficient with his playing time—between Weeks 2 and 5, he notched 15 tackles.
Over the course of OTAs and offseason programs, Burks has garnered high praise from his coaches and teammates. He's learning how to track the ball better, improve footwork, and take better angles. If he puts himself in the right position, he can make plays. With improved vision, will come improved all-around play, including the passing game. He has all of the athleticism to succeed in the NFL and now it's up to him. If Burks continues to progress, he's playing alongside an elite running mate in Martinez. There are plenty of tackles to go around in Green Bay, especially with the question marks in the secondary. Target Burks as an LB4/5.
Update 8/21/2019: Burks suffered a pectoral injury, but luckily, it's not serious (at least that's what reports say). If you're in a deeper league, with 28 or more roster spots, he's worth holding as a 5th LB. Shallow leagues, keep him on the waiver wire.
Shaq Thompson, WLB, Carolina Panthers
Thompson was a three-down LB during Thomas Davis's suspension. He was inconsistent, producing an 8.9% tackle rate, but he received the snaps and displayed the capability to be an every-snap player. Upon Davis's return, he never amassed more than 66% of the defensive snaps during the rest of the 2018 season.
If you're a dynasty owner and have held on Thomspon this long, I applaud your loyalty—it may finally pay off. Thompson enters his fifth season with no roadblocks to playing time in his way. Even with Davis in his way, Thompson appeared in the second most snaps of his career and recorded a 13.3% tackle rate over 598 defensive snaps. The Panthers are expected to implement multiple defensive fronts this season, and he'll have a role in nickel packages, including at safety. He's going to occupy the WLB spot in 4-3 looks and the ILB spot opposite Kuechly in their 3-4 scheme. His tackle rate should regress as he plays more snaps. However, if he plays more than 900 snaps and is able to record an 11% tackle rate, 100 tackles could be a reality.
Josey Jewell, ILB, Denver Broncos
Todd Davis enjoyed a breakout season in 2018 and this season, it might be Jewell's turn to enjoy some success. The Broncos moved on from their second Brandon Marshall and Jewell looks to take over the ILB spot opposite Davis in Vic Fangio's defense.
While the Broncos were improving their secondary and defensive line, they didn't address the LB spot, much to the delight of Davis and Jewell owners. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that they'd take one of the Devins (Bush/White) at 10, and instead, they traded out of the spot. What's going to help Jewell heading into 2019, is the chemistry he and Davis have built already. They communicate and have their heads in the playbook.
In the final seven games of the 2018 season, he had six games of five or more tackles, while playing in about half of the defensive snaps. He was efficient with his snaps, producing a 12.6% tackle rate over 459 defensive snaps. He is a tackle machine when he's on the field. Look at his time in Iowa. During his 2015-17 seasons, he never recorded fewer than 124 tackles. Jewell has the potential to be that off-ball LB Denver's looking for and will have the chance to earn that opportunity over the course of training camp and preseason.
Micah Kiser, ILB, Los Angeles Rams
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