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.
As some of the readers may know this is the second part edition of a co-wrote effort on the upside of Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones over Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The topic is why we should start targeting Jones over Wagner now and the benefit of doing so for our fantasy rosters.
My fellow writer @IDPGuys Mr. Jon Somerset (@orangeman ) kicked off the two-part topic by covering the Bobby Wagner side of this possible debate to some readers and can be found HERE. If you haven’t had the chance to read it you won’t want to pass up the chance to do so.
With that being said, and “Johny The Greek” doing the harder portion on Wagner, I’ll follow up in this second part and hopefully express both of our thoughts as one on Jones. We both hold Jones in high regards so this isn’t anything but me writing about my personal suggested number one IDP player off the board. Here is a big shoutout to Jon for giving me the easy part, Thanks Jon, You Da’ Man!
Deion Jones, The Next Generation Of The “Bobby Wagner’s”?
After spending four years in college at LSU the Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn targeted Jones at the 21st pick in the second round in the 2016 NFL draft. Known as a “tweener’ safety-linebacker hybrid entering at the pro-level and with only one year of starting experience in college, neither Jones or Quinn received much “love” from most of the critics outside the organization on the selection.
But while the defensive-minded “guru” Quinn was entering his second season as Atlanta’s head coach he had all intentions to inject speed into the floundering defense he had inherited. After being hired and converting the defensive personal built for a 3-4 scheme by the prior regime into a 4-3 scheme he realized the “sloth footed” Worrilow had to be replaced as the middle linebacker.
Paul Worrilow had been a strong run-stopper for the Atlanta Falcons the prior seasons but just wasn’t cutting it as the true middle linebacker in coverage or sideline to sideline speed required in Quinn’s envisioned defense.
To Quinn, the obvious answer was Jones while accessing the rookie class in 2016. He might have been what some called “slight” of build but Jones excelled in coverage and had the speed to burn. Jones was also known as a hard worker and what people would call a coach’s player, meaning he could be coached up with little to no problem.
We will just say it was Quinn that had it pegged right with Jones and not the critics suggesting he wasn’t going to be a good fit because of his 6’1” and 222 lbs frame. To the “guru’s” dismay, Jones ended his rookie season impressively, actually leading all rookie linebackers in 2016 in combined tackles while coming in 25th overall in combined tackles by the season’s conclusion.
In the prior five years, only seven rookie linebackers can make that claim of topping the 25th ranked spot and only five of the seven can claim a repeat near that level in their second season. So to establish a group of higher-end linebackers by production we have to start somewhere without listing the entire top tier. This following method seems as logical as I could possibly see among the options as a viable course of action. Here are those players that accomplished what many have not over the last five years their rookie season.
Kuechly came in first in 2012 with 16 full games as a starter and repeated the feat his second season in 2013 while coming in at fourth in 16 full games.
Wagner came in seventh that same year with 15 full games as a starter and repeated the feat his second season in 2013 coming in twenty-first in 14 full games.
Burfict came in fifteenth and also in the 2012 class with 14 full games as a starter and repeated the feat his second season in 2013 coming in first in 16 full games as a starter.
Alonso came in third in 2013 with 15 full games as a starter but did not repeat the feat his second season missing his entire 2014 campaign due to an injury.
Mosley came in seventh in 2014 with 16 full games as a starter and repeated the feat his second season in 2015 coming in fourteenth in 16 full games.
Brown came in twenty-third in 2014 with 14 full games as a starter and repeated the feat his second time in 2015 coming in eleventh in 16 full games.
Anthony came in twentieth in 2015 with 16 full games as a starter and promptly was benched in his second season in 2016.
Jones came in twenty-fifth with 13 full games as a starter and repeated the feat his second season in 2017 coming in fourth in 16 full games. We should note he recorded 138 combined tackles in 2017 and that the three above him were all tied with 144.
2017: We will note that Jarrad Davis did come in tied at twenty-eighth with just under 100 combined tackles at 96 as the leading rookie, but we are looking for rookies who did it in year one and beyond. Davis is the man to watch in 2018.
Narrowing The Field Down
We will now start narrowing down as we go from the above field of players using varying methods.
First off is to eliminate the obvious Stephone Anthony, a one year wonder who has not earned another starter spot by default. There is nothing to base anything on as part of this topic.
Playmaking Abilities Per Snap or (P.A.P.S) for short. We’ll use a formula in this next step created to show how often an IDP player makes an additional play per snap count. This will likely weed out the possible production by default or the linebackers unable to make those game-changing plays.
It will also separate the upper tiered talent from the average Joe benefiting from his franchises situation rather than overall talent.
I created this formula and it has not let me down as of yet. To be as direct as possible in the outcome we will be using each remaining player’s career stats versus their total career snap counts. To note I have never applied the formula for more than a single seasons worth of stats before.
This should be interesting, and please keep in mind that every .25 to .50 on the P.A.P.S scale increases in lost production. So the higher the whole numbers go versus snaps the greater the value decreases. It isn’t splitting hairs as much as one would think at first glance, let’s have a look.
Statistics are according to a combination of NFL.com, pro-football-reference.com, and footballoutsiders.com.
At this point, I think we can determine that Alonso and Brown can be dismissed and explain why.
We will start with the highest career P.A.P.S with Brown. The sure lack of playmaking plays is a bit alarming over the 4255 total snaps and in 62 starts. As my co-writer and I, both agree this is a sure sign of production by default. He has not really consistently had much of a challenge to his production in any given year either due to some injury or the lack of effort to bring in talent to challenge him as he had remained a fixture in the lineup for Buffalo.
If they did happen to bring in one talented player to play alongside him like they did when they had Zach Brown, they simply did not keep him for long. Again, leaving Brown as a default starter on a team with a dysfunctional offense for the most part. If you would like to do a comparable side by side just simply look at Mosley above Brown. Both with 62 starts, but yet 1,085 more snaps for Brown.
That is not a drop in the bucket between the two. And considering that Baltimore has no high flying offense themselves, just what does allowing all those extra defensive snaps mean for Buffalo’s offense over the same span of time. Sorry Preston Brown fans, he is mainly dropped due to his non-existent game-changing playmaking abilities.
Additional information: Preston Brown
PFF 2014 Overall Grade: 79(Average)
PFF 2015 Overall Grade: 30.7 (Poor)
PFF 2016 Overall: Grade: 44.7 (Poor)
PFF 2017 Overall Grade: 71.6
Overall Career Average: 56.5 (Poor)
Next is Alonso, who ironically was with Buffalo his rookie season in 2013 and recorded a monster year of 159 combined tackles. Only in turn to tear his left ACL the following July during a personal workout causing him to miss all of 2014. How then did the Bills handle possibly having one of the best looking linebackers in the league?
They traded him the Eagles for running back LeSean McCoy after Alonso recovered. He then struggled through the 2015 preseason with the Eagles only to re-injure the knee in late September. He was unable then to recover to receive any significant playing time for the rest of that season.
He has managed a couple nice season’s as an upper tier 2 for our fantasy purposes with the Dolphins in 2016 and 2017. But we will likely never know what could have been because of the knee injury. In any case, his P.A.P.S may be respectable but when we add in the fact of the lower 31 total playmaking plays out of the 3,683 snaps on the field, he falls short here and is dismissed.
Additional information: Kiko Alonso
PFF 2013 Overall Grade: 87.5 (High-End)
PFF 2014 Overall Grade: N/A (IR)
PFF 2015 Overall Grade: 34.5 (Poor)
PFF 2016 Overall Grade: 51.7 (Poor)
PFF 2017 Overall Grade: 38.9 (Poor)
Overall Career Average: 53.15 (Poor)
A really ironic fact, in Preston Brown’s rookie season in 2014 he was not entering camp as a starter. It was Alonso’s injury that bumped him up a spot on the depth chart. At that point, the projected starters were Brandon Spikes, Keith Rivers, and Nigel Bradham, who then struggled with either injuries or personal off the field issues.
Brown became a default starter each week as they did. Those good old Bill’s, be sure to catch Jon’s recent article on owning IDPs from the Bills HERE. He’ll explain more in depth what owning Bill’s IDP players over the last decade or so has meant. And no I didn’t intend for Brown and Alonso to be in this article together to prove some point. Remember, I went off the top 25 ranked at the end of the season in combined tackles the players recorded their rookie year. So it was just an odd coincidence, but notable to say the least.
Step Two: Applying P.A.P.S To Rookie & Sophomore Seasons
As we look at this final graph, keep in mind that the PFF grades are not actually focused in on Fantasy Football. And as handy as PFF’s are they are more focused on the real world level of play on the field. A player can be a better or worse in real life than his P.A.P.S score versus his PFF grade.
I created the P.A.P.S score knowing this and wanted actual data as a method to range the fantasy impact for our gaming. There are still variables such as the player’s team level of the offense which effects his snap counts, the type of defensive scheme, and a few other variables present. But the P.A.P.S score is directly the result of what actually has been recorded and the score that impacts our IDP players in what they offer us. Using both of these methods side by side are just another tool to maximize our best outcome for this game we play.
Note: We are looking for the better greens and blue areas overall.
The obvious thing I need to point out is that normally we see charts with the “Red” area indicating a problem. But this is not the case here. Remember we are covering some very good IDP players here. So in this case, even the red and orange areas are very solid results in terms of being among the entire IDP pool of NFL linebackers we could utilize in our starting lineups.
So we don’t get off track, we are comparing the numbers on the players who have managed to record great rookie seasons along with a repeat at a high level their sophomore year over the last five seasons. It is difficult enough for rookies to accomplish becoming relevant for IDP in their first season, not alone do it again. I believe I’ve proven this to some degree by looking HERE. But for those who can and do they all seem to continue to become the next top tier players. With that being said let’s continue to narrow down the field.
First off, it is apparent that linebackers in the 4-3 scheme included in this article have an edge on the one player, Mosley, who is in a 3-4 defensive scheme. We could go into a deep discussion as to why this looks this way, but to stay focused I’ll refer to my “IDP Bible” for setting up our IDP rosters. For our purposes on this topic, we will just recap the results needed here that are explained in “The IDP Bible”.
Through 2014, 2015, and 2016 season the most relevant linebackers for IDP by percentage was as follows, per top 64 players at the end of the season rankings by combined tackle amounts. Top 64 was the president used due to the fact that in most twelve to fourteen (standard sized) leagues the top 64 would contain the tiers 1,2,3, and 4 of all position options of overall IDP players. And please take note that the 3-4 schemed are together but divided by two as that is the amount of ILBs in that scheme. So the two positions make up that percentage.
So this is notable here as we go forward:
Kuechly plays the MLB in the Panthers 4-3 scheme.
Wagner plays the MLB in the Seahawks 4-3 scheme.
Burfict plays the WLB in the Bengals 4-3 scheme. (When he isn’t suspended.)
Jones plays the MLB in the Falcons 4-3 scheme.
Mosley plays the WILB in the Ravens 3-4 scheme the only ILB in our field.
The fact that Mosley is the only ILB is probably why his P.A.P.S and possibly his PFF isn’t quite as we would expect considering his skill set and talent. Either way, Mosley is 26 years old and just entering his prime age and will be an upper option in IDP for some time to come. Let’s say at a lower end “Wagner” for the next generation, which is still top-notch of course.
One has to now think about this as Jon mentioned him as an option over Jones if I recall. I’m sure this isn’t the last we talk about Mosley in this article when we add some the final thoughts. But at this point and no matter how much he offers up going forward he is now dismissed.
Additional information: C.J. Mosley
PFF 2014 Overall Grade: 83.1 (Good)
PFF 2015 Overall Grade: 75.2 (Average)
PFF 2016 Overall Grade: 85.5 (High-End Good)
PFF 2017 Overall Grade: 75.7 (Average)
Overall Career Average: 79.88 (Upper Average to Good)
As for Kuechly and possibly saying the next generation of “Kuechly’s”. He is entirely on a different level, talent wise. And if not for his recent concussion scares he’d never have fallen from our number one ADP player as our overall target as far as selecting linebackers. Kuechly held that honor up to the last couple of season’s, but recently it seems on average to be Wagner now by most rankings we see.
Hence, “The Wagner Generation” term. Kuechly is still only 27 years old and unless the concussion issue becomes a factor again he has at least three to maybe up to five great years left. Anyone else feels like he should be older? He has been around and that good as an IDP topic, that is why it feels that way. That also goes for Wagner. The real issue right now with Kuechly, besides the concussion concerns, is that they have tapered the defense a little bit over the last couple seasons to keep him “clean” and out of harm’s way as much.
This will likely hamper the idea he’ll ever be a top five in combined tackles in a season again. But as the graph indicates, his playmaking ability should always make him a top IDP target overall. However great of a player he is, for these reasons, he is dismissed. I’ll add this just does not feel right to do so.
Additional information: Luke Kuechly
PFF 2012 Overall Grade: 80.7 (Good)
PFF 2013 Overall Grade: 86.3 (High-End Good)
PFF 2014 Overall Grade: 94.7 (Elite)
PFF 2015 Overall Grade: 98.8 (Elite)
PFF 2016 Overall Grade: 93.1 (Elite)
PFF 2017 Overall Grade: 93.9 (Elite)
Overall Career Average: 91.25 (Elite)
Now we come to Burfict with a couple obvious issues and why we aren’t going to even think about a “Burfict’s Generation”. The first and foremost is we are really only interested in these players because of the rookie and sophomore years in comparing. And there is some production by default indicated in his rookie season with only five playmaking or game-changing stats there. But that is not the major issue.
The real obvious thing is that Burfict, after his last couple of seasons worth of shenanigans, has been dropping like a rock and no longer a safe option as a top-tier play. He, in my opinion, just can’t be trusted at the level we want to discuss here. What is this, like the third or fourth year in a row he has been suspended for one thing or another?
It appears the reason the Bengals were able to sign him as an undrafted free agent his rookie season has surfaced per rumors of his character problems coming out of college. Until further notice, he has to be looked at as a first guy option off the bench for our depth. Just one hell of a depth option the way he manages to produce. But he is now rightfully dismissed.
Additional information: Vontaze Burfict
PFF 2012 Overall Grade: 75.3 (Average)
PFF 2013 Overall Grade: 87.5 (High-End)
PFF 2014 Overall Grade: 67.6 (Below Average)
PFF 2015 Overall Grade: 85.3 (High-End Good)
PFF 2016 Overall Grade: 87.1 (High-End)
PFF 2017 Overall Grade: 84.7 (High)
Overall CareerAverage: 81.23 (Good)
“Bobby Wagner Generation”
While Jon already covered Wagner in depth in our first edition of this two-part article, let’s sum up why we are focusing on Jones as the next Wagner for the next generation of top-tier linebackers.
Besides the fact that current Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn spent time as Wagner’s defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014, he also tweaked Wagner’s position those years into what we are also seeing take shape in Atlanta. Quinns most unique adjustment to the 4-3 base defensive scheme was to introduce the LEO position in Atlanta, which is basically the strongside linebacker becoming a hybrid defensive end.
For more on this transitioning of the Atlanta defense into the Seattle defense please refer to one older and one newer article I have included links for at the end of this edition. The explanation would have been in length and both those articles are well written and can break down the situation for us without consuming more of our time here.
But basically here is the “gist” of what happens with Quinn’s defense approach, it helps free up the middle linebacker while also funneling the offense to your most athletic player on the field. Of course, this could be debatable with Atlanta now being stacked with talent. But per position, we are talking about Jones as the “Wagner” in the middle linebacker position. So we will stay on track here with making a few observations.
It is apparent that Quinn targeted the smaller and faster Jones as the middle linebacker as his ideal player in what the position should be from his perspective. Bobby Wagner was actually drafted the season before Quinn and as well as it worked out with Wagner the defensive-minded Quinn envisioned more speed as well as versatility.
Again, Wagner is just as top notch as they come, but Jones did offer up slightly more speed and his slightly better coverage skills indicate more sideline to sideline coverage. Let’s not forget, Quinn selected the one-year starter out of LSU in the second round and it was a head-scratcher to most “guru’s” at the time with so many other viable options still left on the draft board.
But yet, Jones was the most productive rookie linebacker, in the end, his rookie season. Not to mention that there were no other rookie linebackers even in the top 64 that season with the closets on being Jatavis Brown at 74th.
By Their Best Pre-Draft Numbers:
We should keep in mind a few things. Both players are about 6’0″ to 6’1″, but Wagner did outweigh Jones by 20 lbs. That is very impressive for Wagner at a recorded 241 lbs at the time. But if there is one thing to note there, body mass and strength can easily be added, but with speed, not so much. Noting Jones’s top wide receiver type speed, that is just physically impossible for most linebackers.
And in today’s NFL, the focus is on speed, instincts, as well being a solid tackler over size and strength of the good old days. Also to just keep piling it on, speed and instincts can’t be taught, but tackling techniques can be. In the 2016 draft Jones was the fastest linebacker in the class, likely a huge focus of Quinn. While we note that Wagner was also one of the fastest in the 2012 class as well.
Again, a 4.39 is outrageous when we compare to mid 4.0 ranges. According to NFL.coms numbers, there have only been two linebackers break the flat 4.0 in the 40-yard dash since 2012, that would be Jones at the 4.39 and this year’s darling Shaquem Griffin at 4.38. Guess who drafted Griffin this year, it was Pete Carroll back over there in Seattle where Quinn came from.
Splitting The Hairs:
A quick Note, added Mosley’s 2017 to basically show as great as a talent that he is, that the 3-4 still limited him as we mentioned before, even in his fourth season. He is still top tier target, but as Jon bounced his name around in going forward we need to consider him a mid-Tier 1 option perhaps, for now.
We should wonder just how Jone’s was scored as he was versus Wagner’s grade in the PFF 2017 breakdown. But this is why I like to rely on the P.A.P.S as well when it comes to the actual fantasy football output. It is all one big puzzle at times when splitting hairs.
We can see that Jone’s to Wagner is comparable within range of each other in their rookie seasons. The advantage goes to Wagner in the tackle department while Jones’s playmaking ability stands out. Think of it this way when looking at both seasons with Jones, that is 31 times in 29 games that he has made a play that was possibly considered a game-changing play or momentum changing play made.
And if we refer back to the graph way above, no one was on the plus side in their rookie reason accept Jones. Mosley was within 3 at 29 for 32 games, and Kuechly and Wagner at 5. Still all very respectable, but Jones has something extra there. The speed is nothing if it is not backed up by great instincts.
Even with Wagner hitting Elite status his rookie season we can see that in 2013 under Quinn he did not repeat as an Elite as he did in 2012. By the chart both P.A.P.S and PFF Jones’s improved his second season, Wagner did not. Jones clearly has some work to do by the PFF grade in run support versus Wagner in his 7th season, but as we mentioned, that can be taught and will likely come with time.
Now to finally answer the question as a whole as to why Jones should be considered the “Next Generation Of Bobby Wagner’s”.
Location, Location, Location, it is 50% of the truth. Quinn has his lighter, faster, and possibly better prototype player in Jones to play the “Wagner” role for so many more years to come than Wagner likely has in the NFL. Jones is just 23 years old and only entering his third season, which is a season that most young players actually take a step forward in their early careers on average.
Quinn has built the defense to cater to his star MLB and everything goes thru Jones in terms of anything being done with the defense. Just one more season in Quinn’s system and Jones’s talent could vault him into the “Jones Generation” topic within a year or two when Wagner and Kuechly begin to start declining. Just like Mosley’s scheme affects him, so does Jones’s in Atlanta.
Jone’s does have work to do, but what young player doesn’t. If you are in a dynasty league you might want to consider Jones over Wagner now before the hammer falls. Both Wagner and Jones played complete seasons in 2017 and yet Jone’s outproduced him by a small margin in combined tackles despite the lower run support PFF grade. The snap counts in 2017 were even about the same.
I personally see the hammer falling on either side of the nail for the next couple of seasons. Wagner just may be able to out tackle Jones in 2018, and maybe the game-changing plays aren’t there as well for Jones in 2018 either. But his talent, youth, and the Quinn scheme will have him in that “Jone’s Generation” soon enough as we now call him the “Next Wagner Generation” for a good reason.
I have to add, I’m excited to see Jones’s trend versus the rest of the field in the main graph way above. For Jones to take a step up in both the P.A.P.S. as well as the PFF is encouraging enough to think he’ll have a shot at an Elite status at some point as Kuechly has been.
Before I sign off I would like to throw out a special “holler” at Jeff DiMatteo (@NFL_DiMatteo).
Thanks Jeff for your collaboration in rounding up some of the information in this article, You Da’ Man. For those of you not following Jeff I suggest you jump on board and click on his twitter handle for a direct visit and follow him, he has some great stuff to add to our Fantasy Football world.
And as promised, those links:
Note: This next article is actually written from the Eagles Wire.
Thanks again for reading and I hope you have enjoyed the collaboration between Jon (@orangeman3142) and I (@HBogart27) on this two-part article to break the situation in half and hand you the real deal in IDP. Be sure to follow us and feel free to reach out anytime for anything IDP, it’s what we do and do at that next level to give you that winning edge.