This past weekend brought with it the third preseason game for most NFL teams — the all -important “dress rehearsal.” It’s the most extensive action that starters see in the preseason, and our best glimpse of how teams have really changed in the offseason before the games start to count.
In San Francisco, that meant the first real action in a very long time for San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Navorro Bowman, who played extensively for the first time since the 2013 NFC Championship Game. Playing the entire first half against the Denver Broncos, Bowman rolled up nine tackles and two sacks, looking every bit the Pro Bowler and IDP LB1 he was before the injury.
The 27-year-old told told Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area that he’s ready to roll for Week 1. “I’m going to have to (play more than 10 snaps) in about two weeks,” he said. “So I just wanted to see if the knee could stay loose, stay ready coming out after three-and-outs and different series, and things like that. And it responded well.”
Bowman is the biggest name on this list of IDP linebackers whose fantasy value is trending up as we head into the last big draft weekend of 2015. But not only are the the others of interest to IDP owners in leagues that haven’t drafted yet, but they may even be available on the waiver wire in those that have.
Kwon Alexander – ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Maybe it’s because Alexander is a quick study and a talented youngster. Maybe it’s because Bruce Carter sucks. Maybe it’s a little of both. Whatever the reason, it hasn’t taken the rookie long to wrest the starting job at middle linebacker from Carter in Tampa. And after a five-tackle, one sack effort against the Cleveland Browns that included a bone-jarring hit on quarterback Josh McCown, it doesn’t look like Alexander will be giving the job up any time soon.
As Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports, Alexander’s strong play has certainly caught the eye of Tampa general manager Jason Licht. “He plays very fast,” Licht said. “He’s a very serious guy. He loves football. He mentioned in one of our interviews how he prepares. He’s very diligent about everything. … He’s all business. That’s what this football team needs.”
Granted, it’s no sure bet that Alexander will also be able to beat out Danny Lansanah for nickel snaps. But whoever it is alongside Lavonte David in subpackages in 2015, They’re going to be on the field a lot for a bad Buccaneers team.
Shea McLellin – ILB, Chicago Bears
It’s been an uphill climb for Shea McLellin since entering the NFL in 2012. After a standout career at Boise State, teh Bears just couldn’t find a “fit” for McClellin. They tried him at dfensive end. And outside linebacker. And now, with the Bears moving to a 3-4 front under new coordinator Vic Fangio, the Bears have slotted McClellin inside, charging the fourth-year veteran with making the defensive play calls.
As Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune reported, while McClellin led the Bears in tackles in their dress rehearsal against the Cincinnati Bengals, it was far from a sterling effort. “On their opening series,” Wiederer said, “a 16-play, 77-yard touchdown march, Dalton went after inside linebacker Shea McClellin twice in a row in coverage for completions of 10 and 25 yards. McClellin also just missed deflecting a McCarron pass in the second quarter that wound up being a 31-yard Marvin Jones TD catch.”
However, McClellin doesn’t have to be a good linebacker to be a fine IDP option. And so long as he’s making play calls and playing every down in the middle of a bad Bears defense, there will be opportunities galore for him to be the latter.
Malcolm Smith – OLB, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders appeared to have their WLB of the future already in the fold in the personage of youngster Sio Moore, but the team apparently wasn’t so sure, signing Smith away from the Seattle Seahawks in free agency. That looks to have been wise, as while Moore has struggled through a lackluster summer Smith has shined for his new team.
Khalil Mack‘s two-sack rampage Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals may have drawn the most attention, but Smith quietly paced the Raiders with nine total stops against the Redbirds. New Oakland defensive coordinator Ken Norton told Eddie Paskal of the team’s website he hasn’t been the least bit surprised by Smith’s success with his new club.
“I have known Malcolm for a long time,” Norton said. “I recruited him in high school when he was a running back, so we’ve been together for a while. He’s really smart, an economics major in college at USC, knows the game. If you can tell, he’s a guy that is always around the ball. He has a rabbit’s foot in his pocket. Good things always happen to him. You want players on your team that are smart, hard-working and have good luck. Good things happen. So Malcolm is a type of guy that you want on your squad.”
Norton may not have been surprised, but the other owners in your IDP league will be when you add a three-down player with more than a little fantasy upside on the cheap.
With IDP draft season in high gear, Fantasy Sharks has you covered. Whether it’s 2015 player rankings and projections, waiver wire targets, rookie analysis for dynasty leagues or strategy tips, IDP Staff Writer Walton Spurlin and IDP Senior Staff Writer Gary Davenport have all the information you need to dominate your IDP league in 2015.Also, for the latest IDP news and player updates follow IDP Sharks on Twitter.