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2014 IDP Spotlight: All Hail King Kuechly

The calendar has turned from April to May, and soon the interminable wait leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft will be over. Soon after the draft will come OTA’s and training camp, and the next thing you know it will be IDP Draft Season.

Time flies and all that crap.

I’ve talked at some length about this year’s incoming rookies both here at
Fantasy Sharks

and at
IDP Manor

. There will be more talk yet after the draft, once we know where those youngsters land. Until then, I decided to get a head start on the 2014 IDP Spotlight Series at Fantasy Sharks by taking a look at my pick for the top fantasy linebacker in 2014.

Of course, on many levels that’s redundant, since there really isn’t much I can say about Carolina Panthers linebacker
Luke Kuechly
that he hasn’t been said pretty loudly on the field the past two years.

Year

Solo

Asst.

Sacks

INT

FF

Rank

2012

103

61

1.0

2

0

LB2

2013

93

63

2.0

4

0

LB8

 

Going back to Kuechly’s last year at Boston College, all the 6’3”, 236-pounder has done over the past few years is produce in every way imaginable.

Kuechly led all FBS players in tackles with a staggering 191 at BC in 2011, and then came about as close to backing that up as possible in leading the NFL in tackles with 164 as a rookie. Kuechly was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, and then backed
that up by winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.

In other words, Kuechly is pretty good.

In many respects, Kuechly is something of a throwback: A classic 4-3 MIKE linebacker whose ferociousness and phenomenal instincts more than compensate for any lack of so-called “elite” athleticism.

He’s certainly a fantastic sideline-to-sideline run defender. Among inside linebackers who saw more than 750 snaps in 2013 (the “three-down” players), Kuechly was the NFL’s best against the run according to
Pro Football Focus
. He finished third in run stop percentage, trailing only
Brandon Spikes
of the Buffalo Bills and
Paul Posluszny
of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Kuechly also isn’t a liability in coverage by any stretch. As
PFF’s Sam Monson
pointed out, Kuechly “is adept at reading and reacting to short passes in front of him,” and while he sometimes struggles in intermediate coverage it’s an area in which he continues to improve.

Coverage is one of the areas Kuechly told
Joseph Person of
The Charlotte Observer

he’s working on this offseason, along with improving his pass-rush repertoire. “Working on some moves, working on counter-moves, I think that will allow me to do some more things,” Kuechly said. “Last year I got stuck in a couple spots in pass rush and it led to big plays because they were counting on me getting there and I wasn’t quite able to.”

Yes, Kuechly’s solos were down a bit in his second NFL season, which in turn caused him to fall toward the back of the top 10 fantasy linebackers. However, there’s reason to think that last year’s eighth-place finish among fantasy linebackers was closer to Kuechly’s fantasy floor than his ceiling.

For starters, while last year was considered a relative disappointment for Kuechly by some, it’s worth noting that it ain’t like the bottom fell out. In
Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring

Kuechly scored nearly the same amount of fantasy points as his rookie year.

In IDP, early-round busts can be both more common and more costly than on the offensive side of the ball. There’s something to be said for the consistency Kuechly has shown so far in his NFL career.

Also, there were a few factors that contributed to “holding Kuechly back” from an IDP perspective. The Panthers defense did an incredible job getting off the field last year, resulting in Carolina ranking 30th in tackle opportunities for the season.

The year before? The Panthers’ defense saw the eighth-
most tackle opportunities.

Players like safety Mike Mitchell, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and linebacker
Thomas Davis
all had career years in 2013. Now Mitchell and Munnerlyn are gone, and with all due respect to Davis, he’s a 31-year-old linebacker with the most rebuilt knees in the entire NFL.

All it takes is one of those factors to break Kuechly’s way in 2014. Or for a Carolina passing game that was ravaged by free agency to have trouble sustaining drives, and there’s the bump in tackle opportunities that shoots Kuechly into the top five again.

A couple of those factors do, and Kuechly’s linebacker numero uno.

With that said, as tantalizing as the possibility of even bigger and better things from
Luke Kuechly
is, he also affords a measure of insurance to fantasy owners. He hasn’t missed a game, he rarely leaves the field, and even in a “down” year Kuechly was a handful of stops or a big play or two away from the top five.

He may not be a runaway number one (as LaVonte David supporters would no doubt attest), but when you combine a top-three IDP ceiling with arguably the best fantasy floor at the linebacker position, you’re left with the recipe for a first defensive pick that won’t have you breaking stuff by October.

That’s enough to make Kuechly the top IDP linebacker of 2014, and depending on your league’s scoring system Kuechly may well be the best bet as the first defensive player overall off draft boards this summer.

 

Be sure to check back here at Fantasy Sharks throughout the offseason for all your IDP needs. Whether it’s information on free agency and the 2014 NFL draft, updated dynasty and redraft player rankings or strategy tips and sleepers, Fantasy Sharks has everything you need to dominate your IDP league in 2014!

Also, for additional IDP information be sure to check out
IDP Manor

, and for the latest IDP news and player updates follow
IDP Manor on Twitter

.

Gary Davenport is the IDP Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Gary’s IDP work has been featured in a number of national print publications and on both satellite and terrestrial radio, and he was a finalist for the FSWA Web Article of the Year in 2013.

About Fantasy Sharks

FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.