10 Rookie Linebackers to Target In IDP Leagues in 2020
The 2020 re-draft season has officially begun, now that the draft has come and gone. It seems like a few weeks ago we crowned the Chiefs as champs, and now we’re all a living stereotype - locked up in our basements for the time being. I hope everyone is healthy, as we head into the strangest off-season of our lifetimes.
Podcast: 2020 IDP Rookie Preview
We have a new pool of defenders to sift through, but how about their landing spots? In this article, I’ll look at the linebacker position and who’ll have an immediate impact in IDP leagues for the 2020 season.
2019 was a weird season, with good LBs landing in advantageous spots, but production didn’t match. In tackle-heavy formats, just one LB finished in the top-20, while just three total finished in the top-30.
We have some shiny new toys to draft, however, we’ll temper expectations on production, but these are the LBs I like to contribute for their owners in 2020.
Patrick Queen, ILB, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens, much like how Kramer seems to fall backwards into money, land a top linebacker to fill a void on their defense. Not only did they land the best player available, but they filled a need. With just L.J. Fort and Chris Board in tow, Queen appears to be a great fit.
I’m not worried about his size, as he does have the frame of a safety, his burst is what stands out to me. I was happy with his 4.5 40-time and he’s not going to get caught in traffic, thanks to his ability to quickly diagnose what’s happening. When you see him play, he has the attitude of an off-ball linebacker - sees the ball, stops the ball. He also has plus sideline-to-sideline range and is an efficient and fundamental tackler. The knock on him is that he’s just a one-year starter, but it’s an impressive year of tape. He’ll have to rely on his instincts to get to the ball, not just the line up front to keep him clean.
As a one-year starter, he recorded a near 11% tackle rate and 14% of his tackles were for a loss, so he’s going to have an impact at the line of scrimmage. His speed will allow him to keep up with running backs - and there are some good ones in the AFC North. He wasn’t asked to blitz much, but that could change in Baltimore. Queen is already their best LB on the roster and should slot into about 800 snaps, and with virtually no competition for tackles, he has triple-digit upside as a rookie. I’m comfortable targeting him as an LB3 in re-draft and is my top rookie LB in dynasty formats.
Isaiah Simmons, Anywhere LB, Arizona Cardinals
In a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jon Hamm and Larry David were making up different names for a Lazy Susan, as to not offend a fellow human. In the exchange, Hamm called the Susan, the multifaceted Susan and that describes Simmons to a T. The Panthers, inexplicably, passed on Simmons and GM Steve Keim immediately called Roger Goodell to have the multifaceted Simmons his way, please.
Isaiah Simmons is an all-around athlete who can really play anywhere on the field. Mike Tagliere couldn’t have said it any better:
— Mike Tagliere (@MikeTagliereNFL) April 23, 2020
He’s a physical specimen who can play safety, slot corner, linebacker, defensive line. Just tell him where to line up, and he’ll do it. He wrecked the combine with a 4.39 40 - including a 1.51 10-yard split. He’s a hybrid athlete and I’d like to see him play one position, but with his athleticism, you just let him play. Simmons possesses elite-level sideline range, he’s the football equivalent of a heat-seeking missile.
If plays go wide, it’s like he selected the right offensive play in Tecmo Bowl, he’s going to snuff out the ball carrier. He won’t let tight ends get free either - I can’t wait for the Goerge Kittle matchups. We’ll see how he handles taking on blocks and will need to take better angles to the ball carrier. Those are trivial and he can be coached up.
Workload won’t be an issue, as Simmons amassed over 1,600 snaps the last two seasons and is playoff-tested - he’s not going to freeze in the spotlight. He’s recorded a 12% tackle rate between 2018 and 2019 - including a 12.4% rate in 2019. He’s projecting to be a perennial Pro-Bowl defender, but I’m slightly worried about his fantasy production in Arizona. He’ll compete with Jordan Hicks, Budda Baker, and the newly acquired, De’Vondre Campbell for tackles. The pick will have ramifications for all involved. I think you’ll be able to target Simmons as an LB3 in re-draft, thanks to his upside for big plays. He’ll be the second LB taken in most dynasty rookie drafts.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see him combine for five sacks, three/four INTs and 85 tackles. I think his ceiling is around 115 tackles - LB2 range.
Kenneth Murray, ILB/OLB, Los Angeles Chargers
Kenneth Murray is Jerry Seinfeld, and the Los Angeles Chargers are ‘Crazy’ Joe Davola putting the proverbial kibosh on Murray’s IDP value. This was one of the spots I was worried about, as there were a plethora of tasty spots for him to land in. I’m cautiously optimistic on Murray’s IDP value in 2020, since Los Angeles traded 37 and 71 - valuable picks - to get their off-ball linebacker.
Murray appeared in over 800 snaps in each of his three seasons at Oklahoma, appearing in 870 snaps as a freshman. I like his frame and he's smooth on the field. His ability to react to plays allows him to make tackles, and his movement is reminiscent of a box safety. Murray has a plus-burst off the snap, allowing him to get into the backfield before the offense knows what’s going on. He can spy and rush the QB on passing downs, advantageous to keeping him on the field. He’ll also be a nuisance on screen passes. He didn’t make many plays in coverage and needs to square up on tackles to cut down on misses - 13 or more missed tackles in each of his three seasons.
Murray has the talent to be a three-down LB, however, the Chargers have been known to have crazy rotations at LB. Granted, they haven’t had an LB with Murray’s skill set. Murray recorded a 12.5% tackle rate over three seasons, and had an impact at the line of scrimmage - recording 37 tackles for loss. His production should translate to the next level, as long as he’s given the usage. Thomas Davis leaves a hole at the weak-side and 110+ vacated tackles. Murray has the make-up of a weak-side LB, so if Murray can get on the field for 800 snaps, he should be able to hit the 95-tackle mark, putting him in the LB3 discussion.
Logan Wilson, ILB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals failed to add one of the big-name linebackers in free agency, and settled for Josh Bynes as the free agency period whittled down as a veteran figure to a young linebacker room. With Wilson, I think they got their nickel LB to play alongside Germaine Pratt.
After redshirting his freshman year, Wilson appeared in over 3,600 snaps while at Wyoming, so durability shouldn’t be a concern. Wilson was a dynamic playmaker and productive on the field. He displays solid fundamentals and can diagnose plays quickly, allowing him to get to the ball quickly. He’s smart and can read pre/post-snap plays and he won’t get caught in traffic. His frame and athleticism are also on display in coverage. The ILB allowed a 70 QB rating when targeted and recorded four picks in 2019. Wilson needs to be a bit more patient in reads, as he tends to over-run plays. He’ll also get tricked out of position, something he’ll adjust to in pros.
Wilson was a productive ‘backer, recording over 100 tackles in three-straight seasons - resulting in an efficient 12.6% tackle rate over 2,600 snaps. He has the instincts and ability to be a three-down LB and has the makeup and build of a MIKE. I think he’ll be a quick study, when it comes to adjusting to the NFL and the speed of the game. Wherever the ball is, that’s where you’re going to find Wilson. He has upside in 2020 and I’d target him as my LB3/4 in most re-draft leagues this season, and he’ll be one of the top-five LBs off the board in rookie IDP drafts.
Willie Gay, Jr, ILB, Kansas City Chiefs
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