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IDP Showdown: Linebacker Values
IDP Showdown: Linebacker Values
Tue 8/28/12 9:06 AM
If there's one thing about Individual Defensive Player rankings that's consistent, it's that very little among Individual Defensive Player Rankings is consistent. Show us five sets of rankings, each thoughtfully put together by an IDP pundit who we know knows their stuff every bit as well as any other and whose opinion we respect and we'll show you five very different sets of rankings. It's just the nature of the beast with IDPs. The IDP crew here at Fantasy Sharks is often asked why there's so much variance among even our own rankings, so in an effort to shed some light on that particular subject Walton Spurlin and Gary Davenport sat down to give the rationale behind their rankings for some linebackers for whom their 2012 outlook seems to differ pretty significantly. And so, without further delay, let the showdown begin! Numbers in parentheses denote each author's current ranking of that player in Fantasy Sharks' redraft linebacker rankings. D.J. Smith - ILB, Green Bay Packers Walton Spurlin (14): Smith will be stepping into the position formerly held by Top 5 fantasy scoring linebacker Desmond Bishop as a three-down player and has already shown he can handle the workload. He racked up 19 solo tackles in the three games he started for an injured Bishop last season, which averages out to six solos a game and Bishop averaged seven solos a game last season. In the Packers two losses last season, the Chiefs and Giants ran the ball 39 and 27 times, respectively, and I look for teams to emulate that game plan when facing Green Bay in 2012 to try and keep the potent Packers offense on the sideline, which will offer Smith ample tackle opportunities. There is some concern about his big play capabilities (Smith had zero sacks and one interception in 2011) compared to those of Bishop's but he will have had nearly the entire preseason to be worked into some blitz packages. In limited preseason action he has put up seven solo stops, 13 total tackles and I believe he will flirt with 100 solo stops in 2012. A Top 10 finish among fantasy linebackers is well within the reach of Smith and if he can add a few sacks to his resume, a Top 5 finish is not out of the question. Gary Davenport (26): First things first. I agree with just about all of what Mr. Spurlin said about Smith the player. D.J. Smith has shown the ability to get the job done in relief of Desmond Bishop, as evidenced by his 27 total tackles and an interception in three starts last year. With that said, however, three starts is still a relatively small sample size, and there's still a possibility (albeit a small one) that if the second-year pro struggles in coverage at some point that he could lose subpackage snaps to Rob Francois. Even if he doesn't, the fact remains that the players ranked in front of Smith in my rankings (especially the top 20) have more established resumes than Smith does, and while I'm sure that teams will try to establish the run in the hopes of keeping the Green Bay offense off the field, that strategy will go out the window if they get down big, which has a tendency to happen against the Pack. It's no knock on the player, and it wouldn't surprise me even a little bit if Smith outperforms my ranking, but I'd be much more inclined to try to grab Smith as a low-end LB2 or top-end LB3 in the hopes that he smokes that draft position than to grab him as a high-end LB2 in the hopes that he can live up to it. Sean Lee -- ILB, Dallas Cowboys GD (7): Through six games last year, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee looked to be well on his way to a breakout season, racking up 51 total tackles and intercepting three passes. However, the 26-year-old broke his wrist in Week 7, and while Lee only missed one game, the "club" he wore for the rest of the season slowed his production considerably. Even then, Lee still managed 105 total tackles and a Top 30 fantasy finish at his position, which isn't bad for a one-handed player. As the centerpiece of Rob Ryan's attacking defense, with not a lot of competition for tackles, there's little reason to think that Lee can't build on last year's numbers and top the 100 solos mark, and that combined with the youngster's propensity for making the big play is enough for me to rank Sean Lee squarely in LB1 territory. WS (17): For the sake of full disclosure I must first off admit that I probably have Sean Lee ranked too low. In my initial rankings, I just liked the players I had ranked in front of him a bit more than I did Lee. Watching the preseason play out and taking into consideration the opportunities that Lee will have to make plays as the three-down man in the middle for the Cowboys, he does deserve a bump up in my rankings. The murky status of the health of Brian Cushing definitely has me thinking that Lee should move ahead of him and the fact the Jaguars offense may not be completely dead leaves me to believe that Paul Posluszny may not be on the field as much as I originally thought. Unlike my knowledgeable colleague Mr. Davenport, I still have Lee just outside the Top 10 ranked linebackers, but do see room to bump him up a couple of spots. DeMeco Ryans -- MLB, Philadelphia Eagles WS (29): My ranking of Ryans is definitely skewed by injury concerns more than anything else. He was phased out in Houston after suffering an Achilles injury and not really gelling in the new defensive scheme that Wade Phillips employed. Philadelphia is hoping that they get the Ryans that averaged over 100 solo tackles a season from 2006-2009 and at age 28, coming off of a season that saw him hampered by elbow and hamstring issues, I'm not sure that he can get back to that level of production. Ryans will be back at his comfortable MLB position and will have every opportunity to show that he is his old self and not an 'older' version of what he once was. I am taking more of a wait-and-see approach with Ryans, looking to see just how much of his mobility and burst has returned since he suffered the Achilles injury in 2010. GD (18): Apparently, Walton and I are doing some flip-flopping. Because whereas he doesn't share my concerns in regards to D.J. Smith, I can say the same in regards to his about DeMeco Ryans. I haven't read or seen anything to indicate that Ryans' injuries from a year ago are any more an issue than his Achilles. I believe last year's miserable season was more a result of his not adjusting well at all to the 3-4 than anything to do with his health. Granted, I don't know that the Eagles are going to get the DeMeco Ryans that finished second in the National Football League in tackles as a rookie. But as recently as 2009, Ryans was a Top 20 fantasy producer at the linebacker position. And at the relatively young age of 28, I don't see why a healthy Ryans can't be a three-down MIKE in the City of Brotherly pelt Santa Claus with snowballs. Bobby Wagner -- MLB, Seattle Seahawks GD (43): After watching David Hawthorne bolt for the Big Easy in free agency the Seattle Seahawks were left with a hole in the middle of their 4-3 defense. The team filled that hole by signing veteran free agent Barrett Ruud and selecting Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round of April's NFL draft. Wagner, who tallied 147 tackles for the Aggies in 2011, apparently wasted no time in making a good impression on the coaching staff in Seattle, as the team recently dealt Ruud to the New Orleans Saints for the equivalent of a bag of pork rinds and a six-pack of Dos Equis [Editor's Note: Stay thirsty my friends]. Wagner's a talented player who all but certainly has a very bright future ahead of him, but his IDP value in redraft formats is capped by the fact that he's leaving the field in passing situations. It's possible that this could change at some point during the season, but Wagner is being drafted in many IDP leagues as though it already has, with a price tag that's closer to Wagner's ceiling than his floor is a bit too rich for my tastes. WS (28): While I will admit that it is a bit disappointing to see Wagner being brought off the field on passing downs, I still love the potential the kid has moving forward. My expectation is that situation is going to change sooner, rather than later and Wagner will be a three-down player for Seattle. Water always finds its' level, Wagner is too talented to be left off the field and the Seahawks are looking for a field general to lead their defense. K.J. Wright has performed well wherever he's been lined up but projects more as an outside threat and Leroy Hill is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. He is indeed more of a dynasty grab as long as he comes off the field in passing situations but he has the chance to still post enough tackle numbers to be a fantasy standout in redraft formats. Wagner is a tackling machine and has the size and athleticism to become at least serviceable in coverage ( he did have four interceptions while at Utah State) with huge upside, making him a solid LB2 with low-end LB1 potential, even in his rookie season. Erin Henderson, WLB, Minnesota Vikings WS (54): Henderson presents a dilemma when putting together rankings as he was rarely used early on in his career and then had the chance to step in and contribute last season. He was originally coming off the field on passing downs and then as injuries mounted to the Vikings linebacking corps Henderson found himself playing in nickel packages. For the sake of full disclosure, I will admit to having one eye on the transactions wire, expecting Minnesota to bring big-brother E.J. Henderson back into the fold. Jasper Brinkley and his balky hip could also affect Henderson as he could be moved into the middle if Brinkley can't get on the field. After Chad Greenway, there still seems to be some flux in just where everyone is going to line up for the Vikings linebackers and that clouds my ranking for Henderson a bit. I see him as a solid No. 3 linebacker, but the uncertainty...
D. J. Smith
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