In this two-part series, Jon and Gary breakdown why they believe Deion Jones is going to overtake Bobby Wagner as the No. 1 consensus IDP linebacker.
Among the talking heads of the IDP community, you would be hardpressed to find someone who does not have Bobby Wagner and Deion Jones among their top three linebackers. Most put Wagner as their No. 1 overall IDP linebacker, but Gary Van Dyke (@HBogart27) and I are not most people.
We do not live in the past or even the present. We always look at what the future of IDP will be. This has obvious advantages. If you can predict a new trend for a player before everyone else does, the odds are you will be able to draft them (redraft) or trade for them (dynasty) before the rest of the crowd catches onto their true value.
Personally, I am taking CJ Mosley or Jones over Wagner this season. However, for most of the IDP community, it is Wagner as the No. 1 overall LB and “it is not close”. Upon further review, I think it is close. I think Deion Jones takes over as the No. 1 IDP linebacker either this season or definitely in 2019.
In part one of this article, I lay out the reasons why Wagner’s value is decreasing in my eyes. In part two, Gary Van Dyke talks about why Jones’ value is increasing. Between these two segments, we argue the case for Jones taking over as the best IDP linebacker in the NFL.
Projected Decrease in Snaps for Wagner
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Wagner’s future is how the Seahawks draft went in the offseason. Seattle spent their first round pick on Rashaad Penny. Penny is an outstanding running back from San Diego State. He finished fifth in Heisman voting in 2017 and led the nation with 2,248 rushing yards. The Seahawks are obviously trying to improve their 23rd ranked rushing attack from last year. The team finished the season with only 1,629 rushing yards as a team.
They also added some depth to the offensive line with the signings of Isiah Battle, Willie Beavers and DJ Fluker. With this renewed focus on running the ball, Seattle should improve on their 2017 time of possession. The team ranked 23rd (29.19 min per game). This will inversely decrease their overall defensive snaps and time the defense spends on the field.
The Seahawks also get to play the Rams and 49ers twice this season. In 2017, the teams’ rushing defenses ranked 28th and 22nd overall. Additionally, they play the Lions (18th), Chargers (31st), Packers (17th) and the Chiefs (25th) this season. Seattle plays half of their season against run defenses ranked 17th or worse in 2017.
Even with their less than ideal offensive line, Seattle should be able to take advantage of eight matchups against defenses giving up 112 rush yards per game or more. All signs point towards an improvement in Seattle’s run game this season. Maybe not a huge improvement, but it will be enough to improve their time of possession ranking. Less time on the field for Wagner equals fewer opportunities to make plays and score IDP points.
Concerns with Wagner’s Health
Another concern of mine is Wagners ability to stay on the field. Last season Wagner was noticeably hobbled from a hamstring injury in their 42-7 loss to the Rams in week 15. He left with five minutes left in the 3rd quarter and got into a spat with teammate Earl Thomas after the game over playing when he was clearly not 100 percent.
Yes, he has not missed a game in the past two seasons, but that does not mean he has not been injured and just playing through it. I am not a huge fan of this trait. Playing through an injury can cause a more severe injury, and Wagner could end up missing a good chunk of time. I would rather see him miss a game or two and play at 100 percent rather than risk a larger injury.
Prior to these last two seasons, Wagner has never had a year where he played all 16 games. The first four years of his career he missed one game in 2012, two games in 2013, five games in 2014 and one game in 2015. Looking at this, I think it is fair to say Wagner is injury prone seeing he has only played complete seasons two out of the six years he has been in the league.
This means only 33 percent of the time you get a full season out of Wagner. Now he is going into his seventh season. He will be even more involved and needed on a defense that has been gutted since the end of last season. With the departures of Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Micheal Bennett, Sheldon Richardson and the retirement of Kam Chancellor this defense needs Wagner now more than ever.
He will be expected to play the vast majority of snaps. While that is a great thing for his IDP production, I think it also leads to more wear and tear and increases the likelihood that 2018 will be another season where we see Wagner go down with injury at some point. Overall wear and tear over a six-year career, an increased demand on his playing time and overall involvement in the defense this season is a recipe for a breakdown at some point in 2018.
Seattle Still has Talent on Defense
A false narrative also seems to be going around that Wagner will be the only guy with any talent left on the defense. Many believe this will improve on his recent stats by adding production since there is no one else left to help him. That is crazy talk.
With the retirement of Kam Chancellor, I think it is safe to say we will be seeing Bradley McDougald moving into the starting lineup. McDougald got a good chunk of playing time last season. He showed flashes of excellent IDP production with solid combined tackles numbers. He took over for the injured Kam Chancellor last season in week nine and put up 61 combined tackles in nine games as the starter.
That averages out to almost seven combined tackles per game. It also puts him on pace for around 110 combined tackles per season. Now while it is not set in stone that McDougald will take over for Chancellor. However, you would figure if he lost the job it would be to a superior talent. Someone who would be equally capable of putting up those kinds of numbers.
Another piece of the IDP puzzle in Seattle is KJ Wright,. The veteran weakside linebacker has played seven seasons. He has averaged 114 combined tackles per season over the last four. Wright will undoubtedly maintain or even improve his production this season. You also cannot forget about Earl Thomas. Thomas is the other side of the starting safeties. He averages 80 combined tackles per season himself.
Barkevious Mingo also comes to Seattle from Indianapolis to start at strongside linebacker. Mingo averaged five combined tackles per game in his six starts with Indy last season. While the defensive line has certainly taken some hits, guys like Frank Clark and rookie Rasheem Green look to make their mark this season.
Wagner himself was quoted in May saying “Don’t sleep on this defense. A lot of people are sleeping on the talent that we have in the room.” So there you go. From the mouth of the man in question himself. Just because it is no longer the legion of boom does not mean there are not talented guys on this defense. And there are certainly several players who will be IDP relevant besides Wagner. The narrative that all the production is now his is misguided in my view.
Wrapping This Up
Just so we are clear here. I am not bashing Wagner. I like Bobby Wagner. He has been a part of several IDP defenses of mine that have significantly helped me win fantasy championships. If I am in an all IDP league looking for my first linebacker. Or if it is that time in a combined offenseIDP league to draft IDP. I personally am not going Wagner No. 1 overall for linebacker.
Based on the makeup of the teams involved and by what their offenses will probably do this season, I am taking Deion Jones or CJ Mosley as my first linebacker overall. Wagner would be my No. 3 choice. The Seahawks should have fewer snaps on defense this season. They still have plenty of IDP relevant guys around Wagner. Plus, I believe the likelihood he gets injured to be high.
Looking past this season, I see the Seahawks continuing to rebuild their offensive line and focusing even more on the run game. As they do this, their defense will see fewer and fewer defensive snaps as their time of possession ranking improve via the upgraded run game.
Now that I laid out the case why Wagner’s value is decreasing and will continue to decrease in the future, please stay tuned for part 2 of this article. Gary Van Dyke talks about Deion Jones’ value and how it is going through the roof. Thanks for reading.