2019 brought a lot of high level rookies into the NFL at every position. In this scouting report, I’m going to highlight IDP linebackers going into their second year and what to expect from them in 2020 and beyond. If you are new to IDP, I hope this will help you make good decisions and if you are a pro, then I hope this provides good reading material while quarantined.
The linebacker position is the toughest to rank in fantasy. While Superflex and PPR scoring will drastically change player values. Linebacker scoring depends whole heartedly on how sacks are rewarded in your league. In some leagues, players like Bradley Chubb and T.J. Watt have similar value to players like Darius Leonard and Tremaine Edmunds. I will always do my best to differentiate between sack dependent and tackle dependent linebackers, but it is up to you to understand your leagues scoring and choose your linebackers accordingly. For the most part, high tackle linebackers will have value in all leagues.
THE BLUE CHIPPERS
These two guys are already top ten linebackers, so there really isn’t a need to go into too much detail. This is a 1A/1B situation here, I just happen to like White’s game a little bit more.
Devin White (1.05 TBB)
While Devin Bush started the season strong, White finished stronger. White is very rangy and the perfect prototypical modern-day linebacker.
Devin Bush (1.10 PIT)
Bush is a beast. Both Devin’s will be great players for many years to come. You can’t go wrong when selecting either one of them.
These linebackers may not have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft, but they have potential to step up and be the #1 or #2 linebacker on your team.
Germaine Pratt (3.08 CIN)
Pratt was drafted early in the third round out of NC State. He was used a rotational player early in the season, but he eventually cracked the starting lineup and put up some nice numbers. As the season went on he looked more and more comfortable, to the point that he has a chance to be the breakout linebacker of the 2019 rookie class. My guess is he patrols the middle of the Bengals defense for many years to come.
Mack Wilson (5.17 CLE)
Wilson, a four-star recruit, coming out of high school, had a productive college career playing at Alabama. So, it was a surprise to many when he fell to the fifth round. There were whispers about his maturity and that head coach Nick Saban wasn’t happy about him leaving a year early. His perceived weakness was his ability to shed blocks at the next level, but with all that said the Browns ended up with the steal of the draft. Wilson was productive right out of the gate. The Browns decided to let Joe Schobert walk and oft-injured Christian Kirksey signed with the Packers. Expect Wilson to produce big numbers in 2020 and beyond.
Dre Greenlaw (5.10 SFO)
The biggest surprise to make this list is 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw played at Arkansas, and the team was a combined 6-18 in his final two years there. A late round prospect picked in the fifth, Greenlaw stepped in for the seemingly always injured Kwon Alexander and was second behind fellow linebacker Fred Warner with 92 tackles for the season. Fred, Kwon, and Dre will all play big roles for the 49ers in the future, but with Alexander’s injury history, Greenlaw is a must own in dynasty IDP leagues.
Bobby Okereke (3.25 IND)
It’s tough to put Okereke on this list because it’s about fantasy and not real life football and Bobby is behind two all-pro stat stuffers at linebacker in Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker. The thing is that Okereke was one of the best rookie linebackers last year and the Colts were forced to get him on the field for that reason. He’s one of those players that can do it all and has a high football IQ. On another team, Okereke most likely would have put up bigger numbers, but you have to grab this guy if your rosters are big enough because he has a real chance to be a great one.
Drue Tranquill (4.28 LAC)
Tranquill was a late fourth round pick out of Notre Dame. The Chargers started him out slow mostly in special teams, where he excelled. Eventually, Drue cracked the starting lineup and played more and more as the season progressed. Tranquill finished the season second in tackles (75) on the team and should enter next year as a full-time starter.
PROS OR CONS
Here is a list of some linebackers that did well last season, but the jury is still out on them. I’ll give you the pros and cons and you be the judge on whether you want to take a shot.
Ryan Connelly (5.05 NYG)
The rangy fifth round pick out of Wisconsin had a strong start to the season with 20 combined tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 passes defended, 2 interceptions, and a sack in just four games before going down with a torn ACL and missing the rest of the season. Even with the Giants adding Blake Martinez, even coming off of a gruesome knee injury, and even given the very small sample size, I’m on the Connelly bandwagon.
Cole Holcomb (5.35 WAS)
Holcomb was a late fifth round pick out of UNC that was thrust into action after Reuben Foster went down in training camp from a torn ACL and LCL. He led all rookies in solo tackles (74) and second in total tackles (105). He played great for the Skins in 2019, but never looked like the best player on the field. With the Redskins most likely switching to a 4-3 scheme, and with the signing of Thomas Davis and Foster potentially reclaiming his role in 2020, I still like Holcomb, but I feel like there is some risk potential of a significant dip in playing time.
Blake Cashman (5.19 NYJ)
Like Cole Holcomb, Cashman was a fifth round pick last year that was thought to most likely contribute on special teams, but was thrust into a starting spot due to injuries. Avery Williamson was lost for the season after a preseason injury and Mosley was injured on opening day, thereby morphing Cashman from depth to starter in the blink of an eye. Much like Holcomb as well, Cashman did not disappoint. He showed more athleticism than most scouts believed that he had, and while he showed good instincts on the field, there were times that teams targeted and took advantage of his inexperience and limitations. Eventually, Cashman was injured and placed on IR, but he was a bright spot for a struggling Jets team. The Jets added Patrick Onwausor, and even if Williamson is a cap casualty, Cashman will most likely take a backseat in 2020.
Cody Barton (3.24 SEA)
The Seahawks had somewhat of a strange draft last year. They started with four picks entering draft week to selecting eleven players. They surprised everyone by drafting defensive end L.J. Collier in the first round and then barely played him. Instead they featured second year man Rasheem Green who they barely played the year before. Insert third round pick middle linebacker Cody Barton out of Utah. The Hawks were pretty set at linebacker with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Mychal Kendricks, so it is understandable why Barton didn’t get a lot of action. Kendricks eventually went down with an injury and Barton looked pretty good in his stead. With Kendricks facing a possible suspension and the Seahawks history of waiting a year on rookies, I wouldn’t be against taking a flier on Cody Barton in 2020.
SACK HEAVY LEAGUE LINEBACKERS
For those of you in leagues that have high rewards for sacks, here are some second year rookie outside linebackers to know.
Montez Sweat (1.26 WAS)
Sweat was the twenty sixth player picked in the 2019 draft out of Mississippi State as an edge rusher. He had a good rookie year, but could be in for a breakout season with the coaching changes of Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The Redskins most likely will switch to a 4-3 instead of a 3-4 which should give Sweat more chances to get after the quarterback. If they draft defensive end Chase Young for Sweat to work off of, that could be even more devastating.
Jaylon Ferguson (3.21 BAL)
The Ravens drafted Jaylon “Sack Daddy” Ferguson in the third round last year as a developmental outside pass rusher. If you are in a deeper, sack heavy IDP league, then Ferguson is a name to pay attention to. A bull rush specialist in college, the Ravens plan to bring the 6’5 Ferguson along much like they did with Matt Judon. Ferguson had 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year, Judon had 27 tackles and 4 sacks his rookie year. Ravens like to develop players like Ferguson on defense, so be patient.
Malik Reed (undrafted DEN)
To go even deeper, undrafted outside linebacker Malik Reed out of Nevada is a stash for your deepest of leagues. Reed was signed by the Broncos in the off season last year and was nicknamed “the dream killer” by Von Miller after his quarterback chasing motor made him a popular man in practice. Reed stepped in for Bradley Chubb last year and while only amassing sixteen tackles and two sacks, he proved himself to be an important player on the defense. Reed will go back to a reserve roll in 2020, but after getting a lot of game experience and now working behind two of the best in the business, I think Malik Reed has a chance to develop as a more than serviceable pass rushing linebacker in the league.
UNDER THE RADAR
I’m a big fan of 32 team leagues. I like the idea of real deep rosters. If you’re in one of these leagues, then this section is for you. This is a list of deep stash prospects that have a chance to either round out your dynasty rosters or gain enough value to add them in as throw ins to get those pesky deals done.
E.J. Speed (5.26 IND)
The Colts felt like they found a hidden gem in the draft in small school linebacker and athletic freak E.J. Speed. There were some off the field concerns with charges dropped for credit card fraud, but they did their due diligence in the scouting process and decided to take a chance on him. Speed is a raw talent and buried deep within one of the strongest linebacker units in the NFL. The potential is there, but only as a watch list guy or deep roster stash.
Curtis Bolton (undrafted GBP)
The Packers signed former Oklahoma middle linebacker Curtis Bolton after the 2019 draft. Bolton is undersized, but he is athletic and an instinctive football player. He was starting in the preseason and showing the coaching staff that he had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Slated to make the roster, Bolton went down with a torn ACL in the third preseason game and was placed on IR. After not resigning star linebacker Blake Martinez, the middle linebacker position is wide open going into 2020. Bolton belongs on deep watch lists at the very least.
Otaro Alaka (undrafted BAL)
Otaro Alaka led Texas A&M in 2018 with 79 tackles, including 14½ for loss. He has good measurables for an inside linebacker and he was very good against the run. Alaka had a strong preseason, but even still it was a surprise to many when he made the 53 man roster. He was inactive the first three weeks of the season and eventually was placed on IR with a lingering hamstring injury. He is a longshot again in 2020, but starting middle linebacker Patrick Onwausor signed with the Jets, and while most certainly the Ravens will address the position in the draft, Alaka is a player to keep an eye on.
Derick Roberson (undrafted TEN)
Roberson, by many was expected to be drafted after being a top recruit coming out of high school and putting up big sack numbers his senior year for Sam Houston State. The 6’4, 250 pound outside linebacker did not hear his name called, but signed as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans. Roberson started the season on the practice squad, but was called up for the last three games of the season and tallied six tackles and three sacks. He is a raw talent on a loaded defense, but for sack heavy leagues, Roberson is a name to know.
Porter Gustin (undrafted CLE)
At 6’5, 260 pounds, Gustin was a force for USC disrupting opposing backfields coming off the edge. Both his junior and senior seasons were cut short due to injury, and Gustin failed a drug test at the combine, which turned out to be for Adderall. Many expected him to slide in the draft for these reasons, but instead he was not drafted at all. The Saints brought him on, but eventually released him. The Browns then signed him to their practice squad after releasing safety Jermaine Whitehead. Gustin was brought up for the last six games of the season and compiled seven tackles and a sack. He is another long shot on a loaded defense, but in sack heavy leagues, he’s a deep watch list guy.
IDP Scouting Report:
Part 1: Second Year Linebackers