Sean Spence & 8 Other Breakout Linebackers to Target in IDP Leagues 2017
In IDP leagues it's easy to say, "hey, draft Luke Kuechly or Kwon Alexander early," but at some point you need to identify mid-to-late round sleepers and breakout players give your squad an edge over the rest of the league.
You should be looking for defenders who are set to take on more playing time with more snaps in sub-package roles, and at those that have high tackle rates.
Last season, Zach Orr, Todd Davis, Bernardrick McKinney, Tahir Whitehead and Jordan Hicks were written up in this space.
Which linebackers are primed for a breakout in 2017?
Sean Spence, ILB, Indianapolis Colts
How many of you read that as Sean Spicer? Spence is my top breakout target this season and I'm going to try and draft him everywhere I can. Despite suffering a devastating knee injury early in his career with the Steelers, he will have a great chance to contribute in 2017.
D'Qwell Jackson is out of Indy, so an opportunity for Spence has opened up, and he's currently the most experienced inside linebacker on the squad besides Jon Bostic. I think Spence will win the starting job and get the majority of the snaps, so at this point he's the Indy linebacker I want in re-draft.
Last season, Spence appeared on 504 snaps and managed a 10.7-percent tackle rate, resulting in 54 total tackles (37 solos). He is an efficient tackler that didn't miss even one tackle against the run, while only blowing a single one in coverage.
I project Spence to appear on at least 950 snaps, and if he can get his tackle rate up over 11-percent, he could reach the 100-tackle mark. Right now he can be had for free -- he's not even registering on MyFantasyLeague's ADP data.
Update: One of my favorite break-out targets might be falling from grace. First Colt depth chart has him as a 4th LB. As of now, Antonio Morrison is listed as MIKE, but keep an eye on throughout the rest of camp and preseason to see if anything changes.
Kamalei Correa, ILB, Baltimore Ravens
It looked like Zachary Orr's retirement cleared a path for Correa to win a starting job opposite C.J. Mosley. But in an unexpected turn of events, Orr has stated his interest in coming back to football. However, he's a UFA, so he can go anywhere and may not be back in Baltimore. Until developments suggests otherwise, Correa is in play as a breakout, and I'm still targeting him as an LB4.
While nothing major jumps out on that stat sheet about second-year man Correa, he appeared in nine games last season, including a Week 7 start where he received 31 snaps and notched three tackles and a forced fumble. Like many rookies, most his playing time came on special teams, but he is a versatile defender with quick feet that can be moved around, although since Baltimore drafted Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, Correa will likely roam inside for the majority of his snaps.
Correa has the upside to produce a 11-percent tackle rate in 850 snaps, which would result in 94 tackles this season.
Darron Lee, ILB, New York Jets
I thought Lee was going to make more of an impact as a rookie, but I under-estimated David Harris's role in the defense, as Harris played 899 snaps. Harris is now in New England, however, so opportunity is knocking for Lee. I'm predicting he opens the door in 2017.
Lee had a solid rookie season and his arrow is pointing up. He played 640 snaps and recorded an 11.4-percent tackle rate, which resulted in 73 total tackles. He recorded 57 percent of those tackles after the Week 11 bye, averaging seven tackles per game over the last six weeks (including an 11-tackle effort against the rival Patriots).
Lee battled through ankle problems and also struggled in pass coverage, but only missed three tackles -- he's not going to leave IDP points on the field. I think Lee and Demario Davis will be the team's three-down linebackers, so I'm projecting at least 950 snaps for Lee. If Lee can maintain his tackle rate, he shouldn't have issues hitting the 110-tackle mark this season.
I'm targeting Lee as an LB3. IDP ADP data can be unpredictable, but as the 35th linebacker off the board, Lee is almost certain to be a value.
Vince Williams, ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Williams is entering his fifth season in Pittsburgh and will have his first chance to start and receive significant snaps now that Lawrence Timmons has headed south to Miami.
In 2016, Williams played in all 16 games (four starts), appearing on 268 defensive snaps. While he has not cracked the 400-snap mark over in the previous four seasons, he possesses a career 17.1-percent tackle rate -- an elite rate on par with some of the top IDP linebackers in the league. In four starts during 2016, he appeared in 197 snaps and produced a 17.8-percent tackle/0.35 points per snap rate. In two games against the Chiefs and Jets, he produced 25 tackles and two sacks (including a 14-solo tackle effort against the Chiefs).
Williams has shown the ability to make plays and knows the Steelers' defensive scheme. He's also playing alongside the up-and-coming Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh hasn't reached out to any free agent linebackers, which is a good sign for Williams's projected snap count. While I don't think a 17-percent tackle rate is sustainable, it wouldn't shock me if recorded a 13-percent rate, which would project him for nearly 120 total tackles.