Top 10 Fantasy Linebackers for 2015
By: Myles Gorham
The biggest key in drafting IDP’s at the linebacker position that brings the best opportunity for points is sacks, interceptions and the most underrated statistic TFL’s (Tackles for Loss). My top 10 IDP linebackers going into the 2015 season with an in depth look at each player and why they provide the best value.
An important value for linebackers is consistency in tackles, guys who provide TFL’s on a consistent basis, sacks are key and guys who create turnovers. On my list you will see the guys who are consistently in the tackles column, guys who generate sacks and guys who provide their team’s with turnovers. Stepping into my top 10 list, you will see guys that shouldn’t surprise most. Although, there are a few guys who might not be as high on the list based off of their respected defenses losing key players from a year ago.
So here we go, enjoy;
1) Justin Houston OLB, Kansas City Chiefs; Houston looks to feed off of his 22 sack total from last season and a potential number one IDP player overall on the defensive side of the ball. Houston may be a linebacker on the Chiefs roster, but he plays with his hand in the ground constantly and provides a fantasy outlook in sacks and TFL’s, which make up for his lack of total tackles from last season. Look for Houston to continue his backfield disruption, but do not look for him to have quite as many sacks. I would say look for Houston to provide double digit sacks (14 realistically) and be disruptive in creating fumbles and TFL’s. His 2014 fantasy output was extremely high week in and week out. His average per week was 11.4, with only two weeks being under 7.0 respectively. Again, his 2014 season was remarkable, but do not expect the same. I would put his weekly average in points to be around 9.5 to 10.
2014 Stats: 22 Sacks, 68 Total Tackles, 23 TFL’s, 4 FF’s.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 182.40 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 11.4
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 177.40 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 11.08
2) Luke Kuechly ILB, Carolina Panthers; I have Kuechly rated as my #2 linebacker in IDP leagues. Kuechly provides week in and week out consistency, and is at the top of the league leaders in tackling every season since he joined the league in 2012. A guy who is constantly around the football, which provides tackles at a high rate, and in the fantasy world is gold. Look for him to only get better and provide a higher turnover rate going into his 4th Kuechly’s fantasy output in the 2014 season was a weekly average of 10.43, which ranked 3rd in the league at his position. Look for his numbers to be similar this coming season, as Kuechly has shown consistency throughout his career. Also look for his turnover rate to increase as his experience on the field does.
2014 Stats: 153 Total Tackles, 9 TFL’s, 3.0 Sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF and 1 FR.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 166.90 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 10.43.
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 175.40 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 10.96
3) Lavonte David OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; David is a versatile player who is all over the field and brings high tackle numbers as well as disruption in the backfield. David brings a lot of versatility to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. His fantasy output during the 2014 season ranked 4th at his position with a 10.21 weekly average. Although his sack number was a modest one, I look for those numbers to be up closer to six. Also, look for his turnover rate to increase as well.
2014 Stats: 145 Total tackles, 17 TFL’s, 1.0 Sacks and 4 FF’s.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 163.40 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 10.21
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 174.50 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 10.90
4) CJ Mosley ILB, Baltimore Ravens; The sophomore linebacker looks to continue his high level of production from his rookie season. Mosley’s output as a rookie, surprised most. The immediate production from Mosley should only look to increase in the fantasy world. As a rookie in the fantasy ranks, Mosley ranked 6th among all other linebackers according to fantasydata.com. Mosley’s averaged out weekly at 9.41 last season. Look for those numbers to be similar, if not increase to around 10 points per week with consistency and a step forward in his second season.
2014 Stats: 128 Total tackles, 8 TFL’s, 3.0 Sacks and 2 INT’s.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 150.60 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 9.41
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 168.60 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 10.5
5) Jamie Collins OLB New England Patriots; Collins is the do-it-all defensive player for the Patriots defense. Look for Collins to raise his sack and tackle for loss numbers. Collins provided a lot of consistency for the Patriots defense in 2014, but the loss of some key defensive backs is why he isn’t higher on this list. Collins will be asked to do more in 2015, despite being all over the field last season. Collins fantasy output averaged out to be 9.21 weekly. I look for those numbers to be similar going forward. I expect his interceptions to stay in the range of 2 to 3, continue to force fumbles at a high rate, and his sack numbers to increase to the 5 or 6 range. Again, Collins would be higher on this list if the Patriots hadn’t lost key defensive players in Vince Wilfork and Darrelle Revis.
2014 Stats: 116 Total tackles, 4.0 Sacks, 8 TFL’s, 4 FF’s and 2 INT’s.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 147.50 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 9.21
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 162.50 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 10.15
6) DeAndre Levy OLB, Detroit Lions; Levy plays with a lot of excitement and fire. He’s the type of player who you have to game plan for. Levy would normally be in my top 3 LB’s list, but the loss of Ndamukong Suh will be significant for guys like Levy. With a team high 151 tackles, look for Levy to see some of those numbers dip a bit with the loss of Suh, look for the Lion’s defense to rely on Levy to rush the passer a bit more. Levy’s tackle totals might dip, but his sack production should go up significantly compared to last season (2.5 in 2014).
2014 Stats: 151 Total Tackles, 16 TFL’s and 2.5 Sacks.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 171.30 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 10.70
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 160.30 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 10.01
7) Ryan Kerrigan OLB, Washington Redskins; Ryan Kerrigan provided consistency on the edge for the Washington Redskins defense. Kerrigan’s overall production saw his tackle total stay consistent throughout his four year career. Kerrigan’s biggest strength saw him get to the quarterback at a high rate with his 13.5 on the season, which ranked 7th in the entire league. With those numbers, we saw Kerrigan’s fantasy numbers look consistent throughout the season with a 9.21 weekly average. I look for Kerrigan’s numbers to stay fairly similar, which we have seen throughout his career.
2014 Stats: 64 Total Tackles, 18 TFL’s 13.5 Sacks, 5 FF’s.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 147.50 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 9.21
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 153.50 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 9.59
8) D’Qwell Jackson ILB, Indianapolis Colts; Before D’Qwell Jackson’s recent arrest for assault, I would have had him a few spots higher. Although we do not know whether Jackson will see any punishment from the league, I tend to side in the way of caution. Back to his on the field play. Jackson’s first season in a Colt’s uniform, he continues to load up the tackles column and be the leader on the defensive side of the ball. Predicting Jackson’s fantasy numbers going into next season without including the recent arrest, I see a guy who has shown consistency throughout his long career. Look for Jackson to be near his weekly fantasy output of 9.93, and to produce high tackle numbers.
2014 Stats: 140 Total Tackles, 10 TFL’s, 4.0 Sacks, 4 FR’s.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 158.90 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 9.93
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 151.40 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 9.46
9) Clay Matthews OLB, Green Bay Packers; Clay Matthews has provided the Packers defense with a constant disruption from the edge. Last season we saw some of Matthews numbers dip a bit, due to the fact that he was brought to the inside, playing middle linebacker. This switch last season saw his sack totals down from what could have been if he was playing on the edge. Look for the 2015 season a spike in Matthews sack total and a mainstay on the edge. Fantasy wise Matthews weekly output was 8.55, but look for that number to be above 9 this coming season and a bounce back season in all for him.
2014 Season Stats: 61 Total Tackles, 16 TFL’s, 11.0 Sacks, 1 INT, 2 FF’s.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 136.80 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 8.55
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 151.20 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 9.45
10) Connor Barwin OLB Philadelphia Eagles; Rounding out my top 10 list is Connor Barwin. We saw his 2nd season in Philadelphia as a career year for the Outside Linebacker. Barwin’s sack totals more than doubled in 2014 and was the highest of his career. Barwin’s 14.5 sacks in 2014 were tied for 4th most in the entire NFL. For fantasy purposes I see Barwin trending upwards, this is the reason he made my top 10 list and not the honorable mention list. If you’re looking for a linebacker in the middle of the 2nd round of an IDP league, Barwin is a solid overall defensive player with his 8.74 weekly average last season.
2014 Season Stats: 64 Total Tackles, 15 TFL’s 14.5 Sacks, 2 FF’s.
2014 Fantasy Numbers: 139.90 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 8.74
2015 Fantasy Predictions: 150.00 Season Total, Weekly Avg: 9.37
Von Miller OLB, Denver Broncos; The biggest key for Miller is if the new addition of Shane Ray (2015 1st rd. pick) can have an immediate impact, look for Miller to warrant less double teams and increased statistics. Look for Miller’s TFL’s and sack totals increase. Miller’s average fantasy output per week was a solid 8.55, but look for that to increase with the Broncos drafting Shane Ray to help take away double teams and focus from Miller.
2014 Stats: 14 sacks, 16 TFL’s, 1 FF, 1 FR and 59 total tackles.
Paul Kruger OLB, Cleveland Browns; Paul Kruger gets overlooked, but his production since joining the Browns in 2013 has provided the Browns with a consistent edge rusher. Now with the new addition of Danny Shelton (2015 1st rd. pick) should provide an inside presence that the Browns have needed. This addition should create better opportunities for Kruger on the edge. Kruger’s fantasy output averaged out to be 7.92, but expect that to increase over eight with the addition of Danny Shelton in the draft and a better supporting cast in the defensive backfield.
2014 Stats: 11 sacks, 13 TFL’s, 4 FF’s, 1 Fumble Recovery and 59 Total Tackles.
Paul Worrilow ILB, Atlanta Falcons; Worrilow has been the Falcons leading tackler for the past two seasons. Look for Worrilow, with the addition of Vic Beasley (2015 1st rd. pick) to open opportunities for him to have increased numbers in sacks and tackles for loss. Worrilow’s fantasy output averaged out to be 8.78 points per game. Those numbers could increase with Dan Quinn as their new Head Coach and the addition of Vic Beasley.
2014 Stats: 142 Total tackles, 4 TFL’s, 2 sacks, and 2 FF’s.
Elvis Dumervil OLB, Baltimore Ravens;Dumervil had a productive first season in a Baltimore Ravens uniform. Although his total tackle number was mediocre, his sack totals were well above average and challenged the league lead. Look for Dumervil to build off of his 2014 season. Dumervil’s fantasy output per week averaged out to 7.73, don’t expect his average to increase dramatically with the loss of Haloti Ngata. Dumervil missed my top 10 list, mainly because of the loss of Ngata, who was a big disruption in the middle.
2014 Stats: 17 Sacks, 39 Total Tackles, 1 FR, 14 TFL’s.
All of the fantasy numbers and player statistics in this article are from FantasyData.com.
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