Over my last two articles, I’ve looked at a few linebackers that I liked this year for fantasy purposes. I continue to spotlight the linebacker position in this article. Today I’ll be highlighting Connecticut’s
. I think he’s flying a bit under the radar heading into the NFL Draft, but has a chance to be a factor in his rookie season.
After being red-shirted in 2010, Smallwood started all 12 games for the Huskies in 2011. Though he registered 94 tackles, just 36 of those were solos as he adjusted to being on the field. Since he wasn’t making many solos, he didn’t make much impact behind the line of scrimmage, notching just two tackles for a loss. There was a lot to like, though, heading into his 2012 season.
In 2012, he saw a near 40 percent increase in solo tackles (59) as he increased his total tackles to 120, averaging close to 10 total tackles per game. He made more of an impact as a playmaker, recording 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and got to the quarterback for 3.5 sacks.
This past season, Smallwood finished as a Butkus award finalist and was a First-Team All-AAC player. He finished the season with 118 tackles (51 solos) and notched four sacks, while forcing two fumbles and defending nine passes. He was also able to register 10 tackles for a loss. Smallwood, in just a few short seasons with the Huskies, made an impact on the field at middle linebacker.
Smallwood is sized well at 6-foot-2 and has a very nice burst. Another of his strengths is his ability to defend in pass coverage, which will garner some attention. He drops well into coverage and can keep pace with backs and receivers coming into his space, but might have some adjusting to do against the bigger tight ends. While he takes on contact, he’s average at shedding blockers, but I do think he’s coachable in that aspect thanks to his length.
He was productive, but missed tackles could be an issue early in his career due to a lack of fundamental tackling at times.
Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Outlook
IDP leaguers in dynasty formats are hoping he lands in a 4-3 base scheme and is projected to be a late 3rd/early 4th-round pick. He was very productive at inside middle linebacker, recording 332 tackles, eight sacks and 27 tackles for a loss, which included six games with double-digit tackles in 2013. He’s very athletic and projects very well as an NFL linebacker. Don’t let the 3rd/4th round grade fool you as he has the makeup to play significant snaps if drafted in the right situation. In IDP dynasty formats, I think he’ll be someone you can get on the cheap and end up with a productive IDP.
For more IDP draft previews, check out Gary Davenport’s profiles
over at IDP Manor
Mike Woellert is a staff writer and part of the Fantasy Sharks IDP Team. For more IDP insight, follow on Twitter @Mike_Woellert