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IDP BARGAIN BIN: Last-Minute Lottery Ticket Linebackers

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The 2013 NFL preseason is just about in the books, and before you know it the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos will be kicking off another season of exciting NFL action. That Thursday night game will also set another fantasy football campaign in motion, and in advance of that game one last big weekend of IDP drafts remain.

Whether you’re preparing for the last of your drafts or trying to smooth the rough edges off your team before the season begins, nearly every IDP owner has one thing in common.

We all need more linebackers. They’re the running backs of IDP. There’s no such thing as too many.

So, with the first week of the season just around the corner, here’s a look at a handful of “lottery ticket” linebackers. These players may not finish the 2013 season in the top 10, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they become dependable weekly starters for your IDP squad in leagues where you start three or more.

That’s not a bad deal at all, given that they are available either very late in drafts or on your league’s waiver wire.

Pat Angerer, Indianapolis Colts

It wasn’t that long ago (last year) that Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Pat Angerer was viewed as a rock-solid IDP LB2 coming off a season in which he tallied over 140 tackles. Then Angerer broke his foot in the preseason and wasn’t right for most of the year. By the time Angerer was anywhere near healthy he had lost his starting spot to Kavell Conner , and Angerer finished the 2012 campaign as a subpackage linebacker with minimal IDP value.

However, for the first time in a long time Angerer was back in the starting lineup in Indy’s third exhibition game, and head coach Chuck Pagano told Kevin Bowen of the team’s website  that the fourth-year veteran “added a spark” to the defense.

Whether this was a one-shot deal or a sign of things to come remains to be seen, but Angerer finished the game tied for second on the team in tackles. As no-risk IDP investments go, you don’t usually find one that’s got a top-20 fantasy season under his belt and is just now entering the prime of his career to boot.

Nigel Bradham, Buffalo Bills

Rookie Kiko Alonso  has garnered most of the attention in fantasy drafts this year, but Alonso isn’t the only young inside linebacker who could be set to start racking up tackles in Western New York this fall.

However, second-year pro Nigel Bradham , who had 57 tackles for the Bills in 2012, isn’t making things easy on himself or IDP owners considering adding him to their rosters. As Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News  reported last week, Bradham was recently cited for possession of marijuana after a traffic stop.

That run-in with the law may have Bradham on thin ice with Bills’ brass, but the 23-year-old rebounded with his second straight six-tackle preseason effort against the Washington Redskins. If Bradham can hang onto a job on passing downs there’s going to be plenty of chances for him to smoke out ball-carriers on a Bills team that looks to be headed for some early-season struggles in 2013.

Akeem Dent, Atlanta Falcons

Another young player who could just now be coming into his own, Dent plays the 4-3 “MIKE” position that IDP owners have long coveted. However, the 25-year-old, who had 65 tackles a season ago, left the field in subpackages in 2012, and that all but wrecked Dent’s fantasy value.

This year, however, Dent has been running with the starters in the nickel as well, with head coach Mike Smith telling Daniel Cox of the Falcons’ website“Look for Akeem to take the next step in being a three-down linebacker. That is progression for him, to be able to come in and play three downs.”

Stephen Nicholas  struggled in coverage for the Falcons down the stretch last year and has been dinged up this summer. If Dent can perform well enough in the role to stick as an every-down player, there’s an excellent chance that Dent will vastly outperform his meager asking price in IDP drafts.

Larry Foote, Pittsburgh Steelers

While most of the players on this list are young up-and-comers, Larry Foote  of the Pittsburgh Steelers gets 15 percent off his breakfasts at Denny’s and keeps telling his teammates to get off his lawn.

However, while Foote may not offer the youth of these other linebackers, he’s already shown that he can be a valuable fantasy asset. In fact, the 33-year-old is coming off a season in which he posted a career-high 113 total tackles and finished as a high-end IDP LB3 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring .

Granted, 2012 was only the second time in 11 years that Foote topped 100 stops, and he’s no spring chicken. However, Foote’s set to play every down for the Steelers again this year, and the veteran is an excellent cheap depth addition late in drafts.

Craig Robertson, Cleveland Browns

With the Cleveland Browns set to switch to Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense in 2013, most IDP pundits believed that second-year pro Craig Robertson, who tallied 93 tackles on the weak side for the Browns a season ago, would be the odd man out.

Someone forgot to tell Robertson. Not only did Robertson stick in the new scheme next to D’Qwell Jackson, but he has thrived, with defensive coordinator Ray Horton calling Robertson his “ace in the hole” according to Tom Reed of the Northeast Ohio Media Group . Said Jackson of his teammate, “He is the new breed of linebackers. Offenses are spreading you out, and linebackers have to be able to cover and also be able to run and hit.”

Despite over 90 tackles a season ago and a three-down role in Horton’s aggressive defense the 6’1” 229-pounder isn’t generating much attention in IDP drafts this summer. Turn that to your advantage and get great value in the later rounds.

Don’t forget to check back here regularly at Fantasy Sharks for all your IDP needs, from Rankings  and Projections  to waiver wire pickups and strategy. Whatever you need, Fantasy Sharks has you covered!

Looking for more IDP information? Be sure to check out all the other great IDP articles by the rest of the Fantasy Sharks’ crew, the IDP Forum , IDP Manor , and for the latest injury news follow @IDPManor  on Twitter.