Friday - Dec 14, 2018

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IDP UPDATE: Three-Down Linebackers

We’re almost there, folks.

In less than two weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons will square off in the 2018 season opener – and another season of fantasy football will be upon us.

It’s a great time to be alive.

With the big day rapidly approaching, we’re heading into the home stretch of fantasy draft season. This weekend and next, thousands of IDP leagues across the country will hold their drafts. And the team owners in those leagues are in full-on scramble mode, cobbling together as much information as possible in an effort to gain an edge—any edge—on the competition.

At the linebacker position, the most important knowledge fantasy owners can possess is knowing which players have locked down an every-down role that will see them stay on the field in subpackages. After all, the more snaps a linebacker sees the more opportunities he has to make tackles.

And given that the nickel has become the de facto base defensive formation for many NFL teams, knowing which linebackers are on the field in that formation is information that can make or break an IDP draft.

With that in mind, here’s an updated look around the NFL at the three-down linebackers for each team as things stand right now. Some of these linebackers are absolutely locked in. Others are clinging to a three-down gig by the skin of their teeth.

But right now all are in a position to see better than 70 percent of their team’s defensive snaps.

And that gets them on the IDP radar.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick

Bucannon is easily the most fantasy relevant of the Cardinals linebackers – there’s top-15 potential there if he can stay healthy. Reddick will man the other nickel spot, although his role on the strong side makes his fantasy value a bit harder to peg.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell

Jones is an elite IDP option as Atlanta’s MIKE and a player who will be among the first five LB taken in many drafts. Campbell’s shown flashes of being able to pile up stats from the weak side in the past, but consistency’s been an issue for the youngster.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

C.J. Mosley

Third-year pro Patrick Onwuasor and rookie Kenny Young are embroiled in a battle to start opposite Mosley that still hasn’t been resolved. The winner of that fight could have some value as a cheap depth addition, but said winner is also probably going to be on a short leash.

BUFFALO BILLS

Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano

Edmunds’ tremendous athletic upside and tasty role as the Bills’ MIKE linebacker has gotten all the run this summer, but Milano has quietly claimed a job on the weak side that could be quite productive in its own right. There’s more than a little sleeper potential present with the second-year pro.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson

No surprises here. Kuechly’s an absolute monster and arguably the best IDP option at his position in the game. Thompson’s IDP value could go up considerably in 2019 if he flips to the weak side after Thomas Davis retires, but this year he can’t be trusted as more than a so-so LB4.

CHICAGO BEARS

Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan

Again, no surprises here. It’s a rookie/veteran two-step at inside linebacker for the Bears, with Smith and Trevathan both secure in roles that will keep them on the field in subpackages. Trevathan’s an interesting IDP option in 2018 given how far he’s falling in drafts.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Vontaze Burfict (suspended)

While Vontaze Burfict sits in his room and thinks about what he did for four weeks, Both Brown and Vigil should see enough subpackage snaps to be fantasy-relevant. The $64 question is what happens once Burfict returns. For now Brown’s the leader to maintain his role as a three-down player in the middle, but it’s not a certainty.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert

The arrival of Mychal Kendricks cast a cloud over the Cleveland linebackers, but so far in the preseason Kendricks has been less a challenger to start and more a “super sub” spelling both Kirksey and Schobert at times. In Cleveland’s “dress rehearsal” against the Eagles Kirksey logged slightly more snaps than Schobert, but both appear to have avoided a free-fall in value.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith

The Leighton Vander Esch IDP hype train has hit a major snag – the rookie first-round pick has consistently worked behind Smith at middle linebacker this summer. That affords the former Notre Dame standout a bit of appeal as a late flier in IDP drafts.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is a seven-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who was named the organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year for 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.