Notes On Our Preseason Rankings 2018: Linebackers Part 3

The final 10 linebackers in our rankings explained by Jon Somerset (@OrangeMan3142).

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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Antonio Morrison

Whoever wins the MLB slot on the Colts will be in a great situation going into this season. I know some people are, but I am not an optimist- I am a realist, and realistically I don’t see Andrew Luck dropping back from center during a real game anytime soon.

Until he does, the show will be run by Jacoby Brissett or someone equally inept. Marlon Mack doesn’t “Wow” me and TY Hilton isn’t good enough to pull that offense out of the porta-poo’er by himself. Indy’s offense will be bad, that much I know, and they run a 4-3.

If you take the MLB on a 4-3 and give him a huge amount of snaps, because the offense is bad, what you end up with is the ideal situation for scoring IDP points. At the moment it looks like Antonio Morrison will be the beneficiary of this scenario but there’s alot of time left before the season.

Whoever wins that job will have a huge year in IDP. Morrison had 108 combined tackles from the MLB slot last year and if he stays there I expect that much or more this season.

Tahir Whitehead

Whitehead has been relevant on the IDP scene three out of the last four years on the Lions. Last season as a WLB he had 110 combined tackles, the year before as the MLB he had 132. His talent level is best described as “meh” but he has been in the right place at the right time to get some serious production by default.

With the Raiders letting Navaro Bowman walk in the offseason, a hole opened up at their WLB slot. Enter Mr. Whitehead. He is back at the WLB slot and primed for another season of production by default. With the signing of Derrick Johnson, Whitehead was moved over from the MLB slot, he should still be able to put up a good deal of IDP points this season.

The Raiders defense doesn’t have much in the way of tackle competition and the offense won’t be the greatest show on turf part 2 so all signs point to another solid seasons worth of IDP points for Whitehead.

K.J. Wright

Quietly been a very solid and reliable WLB for the Seattle Seahawks since 2011. In the last four years he hasn’t had less than 108 combined tackles in a season and has only missed one game due to injury in that span. The loss of key members of the Seattle “Legion of Boom” this offseason will open up more production that Wright can take advantage of.

Seattle’s offense should be about the same as it was last year so I don’t see any dips in snap count. Everything adds up to K.J. Wright having another solid year with a floor of around 110 combined tackles.

Reuben Foster

A talented linebacker with a great situation in San Fransisco. Unfortunately he has been involved in some stupid decisions and will likely see some kind of suspension to start the season. He recorded 72 combined tackles in just 10 games last season for an average of seven per game.

He is currently listed as the MLB in a 4-3 defense. Even with Jimmy G now stepping in full time this year there will still be plenty of defensive snaps to be had with little tackle competition around Foster. If you do decide to draft Foster I would recommend hand cuffing him with Fred Warner and keeping an eye on the 49ers depth chart until the season starts.

Whoever is behind him you’ll want to have on your bench for when the suspension hits or if he does something else and gets in more trouble.

(**Editor’s Note** Recently Foster was handed a two game suspension, this article and the rankings were completed before that was handed down but with a suspension in mind)

Lavonte David

David had 101 combined tackles in only 13 games last season and since his career as the WLB of the Tampa Bay Bucs started he’s recorded seasons of 139, 145, 146, 147, 87 and 101 combined tackles. Despite the dip in combined tackles the last two years, David is still a super reliable IDP producer with a floor of around 100 combined tackles.

There will be some competition for tackles this season from their loaded D line and from Kwon Alexander but David should be able to provide solid IDP production especially if you can land him later on in drafts.

Roquan Smith

Smith comes into the Bears lineup at an interesting time in their IDP history. The Bears have only had one player record over 100 combined tackles in the last three seasons and several years on are still looking for the heir apparent to Brian Urlacher.

Enter Roquan Smith, Butkus award winner and 2017 SEC Defensive Player of the year. He slides into the ILB slot next to Danny Trevathan and looks to make a name for himself in the IDP world. While the Bears did make several moves in the offseason to improve their offense (Gabriel, Robinson) and Trubisky will most likely improve in this years campaign, I still believe there will be plenty of IDP production available to Smith.

Tread lightly though, as I mentioned earlier only about 3% of all rookies end up in the top 64 of all IDPs in their rookie season, I’m willing to bet Smith makes the cut.

Benardrick McKinney

A slight drop in production last season ending it with 95 combined tackles, a sharp drop from his previous years tally of 129. That wasn’t the best news and on top of that if DeShaun Watson can stay healthy this entire year, the Texans offense is sure to massively improve from last years overall ranking of 20th.

McKinney is consistent and reliable but last years hiccup and the prospect of a Texans offense looking anything like what it did when Watson was at the helm last season is enough to scare me into dropping McKinney to 27th overall.

Mark Barron

Barron missed two games last season and it hurt his overall stats leaving him with only 86 combined tackles for the year. However if you look at the previous two seasons and his totals of 118 and 116 combined tackles and consider the Rams situation going into this season you will see the opportunity Barron has in front of him.

Before this offseason the Rams defense was Alec Ogletree’s show, end of story, but with his move to the Giants, and the lack of other talent at the linebacker position, Barron can now be the leader of the Rams linebacker corps. The Rams made some serious moves in the offseason and added Marcus Peters, Aquib Talib and N’Damakong Suh to their defense.

Add last years suprise breakout safety John Johnson to the mix as well as Aaron Donald and Micheal Brockers and you have one talented and crowded defense when it comes to IDP points. The Rams also added Brandin Cooks to the already ridiculously good offense so if anything the overall number of defensive snaps will probably decrease even further this season.

That’s alot of red flags when it comes to Barron’s situation. While Ogletree’s departure helps Barron the rest of it isn’t great, he drops quite a bit from where I had him last season.

Daron Lee

Part of the one-two punch of ILBs DeMario Davis and Daron Lee last year on the Jets, both had outstanding years. While Davis parlayed that production into a fat contract in New Orleans it wasn’t all good for him. If you notice he’s not here and Lee still is.

Daron Lee finished last season with 94 combined tackles in 15 games for an average of just over six tackles a game. While Davis went to a team with an efficient offense and far fewer defensive snaps, Lee stays put in New York where yet another rookie QB will attempt to rally the garbage pile of talent called the Jets offense into something decent.

He will fail. The Jets will most likely lose a few games with Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater before flushing the rest of the season down the toilet and turning to Sam Darnold. Or they could skip the circus and start him right away, which is of course a circus of a different type entirely.

Any way you slice it the Jets offense is going to be a dumpster fire and the defense will spend the majority of time on the field for the entire season. For me this means Lee will at least match last seasons stats and will probably surpass them. His stock is on its way through the roof for me.

Rashaan Evans

A two time national champion who will not be scared of NFL crowds or spooked by dire late game situations. Evans is the last of my 3% I think will make it as a top 64 IDP player in his rookie season.

Rashaan will take over the ILB slot that Avery Williamson vacated to go to the Jets. He will have to battle with Wesley Woodyard, Jurell Casey and a talented secondary (Kevin Byard and Jonathan Cyprien) for tackles and Mariotas offense will probably improve somewhat this year as well. So while there are some red flags here I still think Evans will end up with somewhere north of 80 combined tackles and will be a great long term replacement for Williamson.

***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.

*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.

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