2021 IDP Rankings Breakdown: Linebackers
It’s that time of year - the dust has settled on the NFL Draft and the rookies' landing spots have been settled. Free agency is just about finished, with a few stragglers lurking. So, that means it's time for the initial IDP Rankings for 2021! Rankings for IDP can be a bit subjective with a few different scoring settings available, so that's why I also like to break down rankings into tiers and some of my favorite targets in each tier.
More 2021 IDP Rankings: Defensive Line
The linebacker position is deep and chock full of weekly options. If you're in a shallow league where you're playing 2-3 linebackers, you'll have a plethora of guys to choose from. Those in deeper leagues will see that once the draft commences, the well can dry up pretty quickly. The key for linebackers is snaps. It boils down to snaps. Linebackers today are multi-faceted and can play all three phases - run, pass, and blitz.
So, with that said, here is the breakdown of ranks into tiers and some of the favorite targets in each tier.
This might be the first time in a while in which I haven’t had Bobby Wagner in Tier 1. Wagner has been one of the most consistent IDPs since entering the league in 2012, but he’s dropped a tier - although he’s still an LB1. In 2021, I consider Darius Leonard, Devin White, Roquan Smith and Blake Martinez to be the Tier 1 linebackers for 2021.
Although Leonard hasn’t played a full 16-game season, he’s never had fewer than 120 tackles. In his first three seasons, he’s recording an elite 15.9% tackle rate over 2,600 defensive snaps. 2020 was the first year he didn’t produce an INT, but had seven defended passes and added three sacks. He’s been involved in over 60 pass-rush snaps in consecutive seasons, so I don’t see that dropping in 2021. Anthony Walker has left for Cleveland and Bobby Okereke should slide in opposite - leaving Leonard with the majority of tackle opportunities once again.
Devin White increased his tackle output by 53% in his second season. White appeared in 15 games and recorded a 14.1% tackle rate - resulting in 141 total tackles. He also produced a 9.7% solo tackle rate which led to a 2:1 solo-to-assist ratio. His LB1 season received a boost thanks to his 28% QB pressure rate - which led to nine sacks and 0.29 fantasy points per snap.I think the big plays are unsustainable, but the tackles are. His stock rose during the playoffs, where he notched 38 tackles and two INTs in just three games.
After missing four games in 2019, Roquan Smith appeared in all 16-games in 2020. Smith increased his tackle output by 38% and notched a career-high 139 stops in over 1,000 snaps. Smith has emerged as the captain and the soul of the defense. With no real competition for tackles around him, Smith should lead the Bears in tackle share, as he has for the last three seasons.
The 2020 season was Blake Martinez’s first outside of Green Bay and he didn’t skip a beat. Martinez has earned his way into Tier 1 with consecutive seasons of 150-plus tackles. There’s no other way to describe him other than a tackle machine. In 2020, he produced 0.25 fantasy points per snap and a 14.6% tackle rate. Martinez hasn’t had fewer than 140 tackles since 2016.
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