Notes On Our Preseason Rankings 2018: Linebackers Part 2

Jon Somerset (@Orangeman3142) goes through his linebacker rankings for the 2018 season. This time he looks at the 11th through 20th ranked players in his rankings.

Everybody has rankings, and most rankings are just the same list of players in slightly different positions based on the bias of the author. In an effort to help you, the reader, get an idea where we were coming from and our thought process on why these players are listed and in what order they are listed in I figured let’s go over some of the more “hot” takes on our preseason rankings.

We’ll move through each position and by the end hopefully you’ll have a better idea why some players are where they are and some players are missing entirely.

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Linebackers 11-20

Tremaine Edmunds

He may be a rookie but he was also a Butkus award winner finalist and a hell of a talented college linebacker. He steps into a MLB slot on the Buffalo Bills that has produced 109 combined tackles as the LOW number from ANY player since 2004. Basically if you can tackle and breathe you will succeed as the middle linebacker of the Buffalo Bills for IDP purposes.

Preston Brown managed 144 combined tackles in that slot last season and his talent level is mediocre at best. The Bills offense is god-awful and while there is some competition for tackles on the defense the sheer volume of defensive snaps ensures that everyone will get their fill of IDP points.

Wesley Woodyard

Woodyard began his career as a Denver Bronco but the Titans are where he became a reliable IDP stud. In his 4 years on the Titans he has an average of 103 combined tackles per season. He has had some injury troubles but when he’s healthy he’s a reliable producer.

The Titans replaced Williamson with Rashaan Evans, who will surely have the rookie knowledge gap to overcome, making this upcoming season an opportunity for Woodyard to take advantage of the lower competition for tackles and produce even more IDP points.

Myles Jack

Spent 2017 as the SLB and still managed 90 combined tackles, no small feat considering the small amount of strong side linebackers who are IDP relevant. That talent was rewarded this offseason when he was promoted to the middle linebacker slot. Most of the linebackers in these rankings have one thing in common, they’re the middle linebacker in their teams 4-3 defense.

This position naturally sets up ideally for IDP production. Jack’s move to the MLB slot will no doubt increase his 2018 IDP production immensely. There will be competition for tackles on this Jaguars squad but as I mentioned earlier I see the offense regressing and plenty of defensive snaps to be had. Jack’s stock is on the rise for sure.

Christian Kirksey

The WLB for the Browns, Kirksey finished 4th overall in combined tackles last season with 138. Over the past two seasons he has averaged 140 combined tackles per year. Cleveland made some serious moves in the offseason to improve their offense. Adding Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde as well as drafting Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield along with the return of Josh Gordon will ensure that this season’s Browns offense will look nothing like the shit-show that was last year.

How much the offense will improve has been a hot topic on fantasy Twitter all offseason, but one thing is for sure: there will be far fewer defensive snaps to be had this year. With the reduction in playing time overall, will come a reduction in IDP production for Kirksey. If you factor in the high tackle competition with Jamie Collins, Joe Schobert, Jabril Peppers and even Mychal Kendricks, what you get is even more of a reduction in IDP points this year for Kirksey.

The WLB spot on the Browns still holds a good deal of value, especially when filled with a talented veteran like Kirksey, but the writing is on the wall here, his stock will take a dive this season.

Blake Martinez

One of the surprises from last season, for most people he was a waiver wire add who ended up tying for the league lead in combined tackles with 144. To explain this you need to look closer at what happened in Green Bay last season.

The first part was pretty easy to figure out, Aaron Rodgers missed nine games due to injury and Brett Hundley drove the bus off a freaking cliff. The Packers offense was ranked 26th in total offense and as a result the defense spent far more time on the field than usual. Martinez was one of the major benefactors of this situation and he took advantage of it.

The second factor was injury. Only Martinez and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played all 16 games out of the talented defensive starters. Morgan Burnett, Clay Matthews, Jake Ryan and several others missed time and the defense was a shadow of what it should’ve been. Between the increased playing time and the opportunity to pick up the slack in production Martinez did well for himself.

He will go into this season as a ILB on the Packers defense and is in good position to have a good deal of IDP points, but last season was an outlier, not the norm. His stock will drop like a rock.

Jarrad Davis

Davis was a surprise on the Lions last year, in terms of IDP production and looks to be in a good situation for this upcoming season. His main competition, Tahir Whitehead, left in the offseason for the Raiders, clearing the way for Davis to be the best linebacker option for IDP on the Lions defense.

My fellow writer Gary VanDyke, did an article on the success rate of rookies the last five years and the short version is only about 3% of them are worth being drafed in their rookie seasons. Davis was one of that 3% last season.

Davis had 96 combined tackles last year and averaged about seven tackles per game. He missed two games due to injury and surely would’ve cracked 100 combined tackles in his rookie season if he had played those games. There are some concerns though, no one really knows what the Lions base defense will look like this season and difference between Davis being the MLB in a 4-3 and an ILB in a 3-4 is more than a few tackles.

Also the Lions re-committed to the run game by drafting Kerryon Johnson and offensive line help and signing LeGarrette Blount in the offseason. If they can establish a real run game (they haven’t had a 1000 yard rusher in many years) the overall offensive time of possession will increase and defensive snaps overall will decrease, not great for IDP purposes. Despite these red flags I’m high on Davis, I see his stock rising this year.

Brandon Marshall

Marshall had 106 combined tackles last season and has averaged 93 tackles a year over the last four years. In those four years he has missed eight games due to injury so that hurts his average and is an overall concern. When he does play all 16 games though it’s pretty much a sure thing that he’ll get you north of 100 combined tackles.

What interests me is the lack of tackle competition around him, the secondary isn’t what it was during their last Super Bowl run and Von Miller scores IDP points through sacks not tackles. Combine that with what will surely be another lackluster offensive campaign in Denver and you’ve got the makings of a sure fire IDP stud this season.

Joe Schobert

Another surprise last season, also benefiting from the Browns 32nd ranked offense. The huge amount of defensive snaps combined with the season ending injury of Jamie Collins and the ridiculous decision to use Jabril Peppers in a bizarre fashion resulted in a career year for Schobert. He tied for the league lead in combined tackles with 144.

He is currently listed as the starting MLB in Cleveland, however things are not all sunshine and lollipops. The recent signing of Mychal Kendricks throws a huge freaking wrench into the Browns linebackers corps. The players most likely to lose snaps or even lose their starting job completely to Kendricks are Schobert and Jamie Collins.

Even if Schobert can beat out Kendricks in camp and keep his MLB slot there’s still a chance the defensive coaches will use Kendicks in pass rush situations instead of Schobert. On top of that you need to remember what I mentioned earlier, this years Browns offense isn’t going to finish 32nd in the league.

Fewer defensive snaps, competition for a starting job, a healthy Jamie Collins and the recent news that the Browns will actually use Peppers in the box this season all spell bad news for Schobert. His stock is dropping like a rock, but if he can keep the MLB slot and fight off Kendricks usage on passing downs he should be fairly decent.

Kiko Alonso

In a great situation this season but due to high tackle competition, I think his numbers will be pretty similar to last years. The Dolphins secondary with Reshad Jones, TJ McDonald and Mincah Fitzpatrick will poach tackles for sure, and the defensive line is talented enough to blow up more than a few plays in the backfield before they even get a chance to happen.

The Miami offense certainly looks to be a pile of steaming hot dog-deuce so the defensive snap count will be plentiful for sure. Alonso looks to be a solid, reliable IDP producer this season that will certainly match or exceed his 2017 total of 115 combined tackles.

Eric Kendricks

Quietly been a reliable IDP stud for some time now. He does have some injury concerns, missing four starts in three years, but has never had less than 92 combined tackles in a season. That’s a damned good floor if you ask me.

He had 113 combined tackles last season and the addition of Kirk Cousins and the return of a healthy Dalvin Cook will almost certainly reduce overall defensive snaps this year so I would expect a few less. My guess is somewhere around 100 combined this season, which is still awfully good. His stock remains high.

*Preston Brown not listed in these rankings, not a mistake, completely on purpose. No player on the Bengals last season had more than 85 combined tackles, and the guy who had the most was a cornerback. (D. Dennard) Between Burfict, Vigil and Rey there is a ton of competition at the linebacker slot. The offense will almost surely improve from their poor showing last season so defensive snaps will be fewer overall. Preston Brown had 144 combined tackles last year because he was a living breathing person standing in the MLB slot on the Bills. His talent level is mediocre at best and after Burficts 4 game suspension is up there simply won’t be enough production for him to be worthy of making this rankings list. His stock will drop like a ton of bricks.

***Offseason depth charts were taken from and may not be up to date or accurate as of this date of reading. Until close to the end of preseason some of these positions on their teams depth charts are up in the air. These rankings will be re-visited and revised for the beginning of the regular season.

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