Another term you’ll hear thrown around regularly in regard to linebackers is “three-down” players, and it’s a term that you should learn to love. In essence, “three-down” linebackers are players who stay on the field in nickel (and dime for the really tasty ones) sub-packages.
Why do we love them? That’s easy. They’re on the field for more snaps. More snaps mean more opportunities for fantasy production. More fantasy production means not losing games and throwing our laptops out the window.
Not that I would ever do that. Again.
Once training camps are underway and the dust settles a bit, I’ll be posting a thread in the Fantasy Sharks IDP Forum that tracks the projected three down linebackers, and I’ll keep that list updated throughout the season. NFL.com also provides participation logs a couple days after each week’s games during the season, so you can track how many snaps a particular linebacker is playing. There are other sites out there that do the same.
Avail yourself of this information. You’ll be glad you did.
To point out how important a “three-down” role is, consider this, Akeem Dent (Atlanta), Brandon Spikes (New England) and Rey Maualuga (Cincinnati) are all 4-3 middle linebackers, the position that was once considered the cat’s meow in IDP. However, none of those players cracked the Top 50 fantasy options at their position in 2012. Why? All left the field for significant snaps.
So far as drafting strategies go, mine with linebackers is fairly similar to how I approach running backs. I draft them early, I draft them often, and I hoard them like Rosie O’ Donnell hoarded Twinkies after the news that Hostess went belly up.
She did. Seriously. Has a warehouse in Rancho Cucamonga loaded floor to ceiling with sponge cake and creamy filling.
Stop looking at me like that. Don’t you people
In most scoring systems, two of your first three defensive players should be big tackle linebackers. It’s a foundation that will give you some measure of consistency in your IDP scoring from week to week, and it allows a great deal of versatility in your draft strategy from there depending on how things unfold. In tackle-heavy systems, it’s not strange at all to go linebackers with your first three picks, assuming you can start them all each week.
(I say assume, because in the vast majority of IDP leagues with a flex spot, that spot will be manned by a linebacker. It all goes back to the consistency I’ve been blathering on about.)
I wish I could tell you there’s a “magic round” where linebackers will start coming off the board, but that isn’t the case. Speaking
very generally, it’s usually about the sixth round or so in a mixed draft where you can potentially start three linebackers, but that’s a pretty sweeping generality.
Usually, the first linebacker will go, followed by three or four more that trickle off the board over the next couple of rounds. Then, once the offensive talent starts thinning, the first real run on the position will start.
You want to be at the front end of this run, not the back. Many times, especially if I pick close to the turn (the beginning or end of the round), I’ll let the first handful of linebackers go and then spend two picks in quick succession on the position.