The Saints do not have one of the stronger linebacker groups in the NFL. I am going to breakdown the depth chart and who are the most fantasy-relevant options.
The Saints are constant contenders to win the NFC and are a very well-rounded team. The weakest part of their team may be the linebacker group. The group has not been an area of focus for the Saints as they have not really made any significant additions via free agency or the draft in previous years. In the 2020 draft they finally made what I think could be a pretty significant addition. Lets look further into who, in the Saints linebacker group, will top the depth chart and be IDP fantasy football linebacker worthy.
2019 Stats: 111 tackles (87 solo), 11 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 12 passes defended and an interception.
Demario Davis is consistently the most disrespected IDP fantasy football linebacker in the NFL. At idpguys.org his ADP is LB24, click here to see, which is criminal. I am guilty myself of overlooking him and have never had him on my roster until last season, where I actually drafted him to be my LB3. He finished the season as a legitimate LB1 so I decided to look back at his career wondering if I had missed something, and surely I did.
Since 2013, when Davis became a full time starter with the Jets, He has recorded no less than 90 tackles in a season. He also added 59 tackles for a loss and 22.5 sacks during that span. Could he perform any better, the answer was yes! In 2019 he turned in his first All-Pro season where he not only did his normal tackle finishing but added a career high 12 passes defended. Davis is going to be 31 this season but is showing no signs of slowing down. I am not sayingto grab him as your LB1 in dynasty, but he makes for a great LB2 and will start again for the Saints.
2019 Stats: 31 tackles (25 solo), 3 tackles for a loss and a pass defended.
Kiko Alonso had such a promising start to his career when he recorded 159 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions during his rookie season. Unfortunately for him he played only 11 of a possible 32 games over the next two seasons as injuries hindered him. He then went over to Miami and had some pretty productive numbers for an IDP fantasy football linebacker. the problem was that he was nowhere near the player he was his rookie season. His coverage ability seemed to worsen and was a bit of a liability. He finished his final year with the Dolphins, 2018, looking more like his old self, totaling 125 tackles and added six passes defended and three interceptions to go with three forced fumbles.
In 2019 it seemed that Alonso may not have been in Miami’s future and he chose to sit until traded. The Saints decided to take a shot on him, though he did not receive a starting opportunity until A.J. Klein and Alex Anzalone both went down with injuries. He had a three game stretch where he accounted for 17 tackles, three for a loss and a pass defended between weeks 9-11. Alonso unfortunately tore his ACL in the playoffs and is now on the road to recovery. Still with the state of the linebacker corps in New Orleans, if Alonso returns healthy he could be slated to start.
2019 Stats: 7 solo tackles, 1 tackle for a loss and 1 sack.
We all love the luscious locks of Alex Anzalone. He had a strong finish to 2018 where he played no less than 51% of the team’s snaps over the team’s last 8 games, outside of a 48-7 whooping over the Eagles in week 10. A lot of people thought that in 2019 he was going to have a chance to make a splash and fight A.J. Klein for the starting middle linebacker role, a role he finished 2018 playing. Unfortunately he injured himself two games into 2019 and missed the remainder of the season. He is the incumbent and does a solid job coming off of the edge on the strong-side but he has a bit more competition this year to stay on the field.
2019 Stats (Wisconsin): 75 tackles (52 solo), 19.5 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks, 2 passes defended, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and a touchdown.
Anybody who follows me knows I am a huge fan of Zack Baun. I did a player profile in our rookie draft guide that hits on his landing spot and role coming out of college, you can order that here. Baun proved to be an excellent pass rusher in college but at 6’2″ and 238 lbs, he does not have the size the play edge in the NFL. The good news is that Baun is actually a very good off ball linebacker. The Badgers just used him as an edge because it was something they needed.
Baun is terrific dropping back in coverage and is easily athletic enough when mirroring running backs and tight ends. His drop depth in zone is perfect as well. Baun has a great opportunity to challenge Anzalone for a starting spot and can fill in easily if, and when, Alonso gets injured. There is a real chance Baun becomes a productive IDP fanatasy football linebacker in year one.
2019 Stats: 27 tackles (20 solo), 2 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 pass defended and an interception.
There was a span of five seasons from 2012-2017, not including 2015 when he played in only in 12 games due to injury, where Craig Robertson averaged 94.4 tackles per season. Unfortunately since 2017 Robertson has been nothing more than depth for the Saints. Robertson is a top of the line replacement though. He was forced into heavy snaps during week 11 and a spot start in week 12 and was incredibly productive. He racked up 15 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one pass defended and an interception in those two games. Robertson is a great special teams contributor and a nice back up but that is all he is at this point of his career.
2019 Stats: 19 tackles (9 solo) and 0.5 sack
Anthony Chickillo is depth off the edge and nothing more. He does have a little positional versatility where he can line up at both defensive end and strong-side linebacker but I would not put him anywhere else. Chickillo is also a high contributor on special teams but that is mostly all he is. He is not an IDP fantasy football linebacker to target at all.
Malcolm Jenkins (Safety)
2019 Stats: 81 tackles (63 solo), 6 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, 8 passes defended, 4 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
The Saints seemed to have the replacement for for the departure of Vonn Bell with the duo of Marcus Williams and last year’s fourth round pick Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. They still decided to go out and grab Malcolm Jenkins who can play some hybrid safety/linebacker with his aggressive play style. Linebacker is one of the biggest concerns for the Saints and it is a good possibility that their base package becomes Jenkins being a box safety and running three safeties. If not for base, Jenkins should definitely shift to linebacker on passing downs with Gardner-Johnson shifting from nickel to safety alongside Marcus Williams. This makes Jenkins a nice safety target, especially in redraft.
Other Linebackers That Will Be Depth – Chase Hansen and Joe Bachie
Depth Chart Prediction
1st Team – Alex Anzalone
2nd Team – Zack Baun
3rd Team – Anthony Chickillo
1st Team – Kiko Alonso
2nd Team – Craig Robertson
3rd Team – Joe Bachie
1st Team – Demario Davis
2nd Team – Zack Baun
3rd Team/Sub Package – Malcolm Jenkins
Strongside Linebacker – Alex Anzalone
Middle Linebacker – Demario Davis
Weakside Linebacker – Zack Baun
Base Run Downs
Strongside Linebacker -Alex Anzalone
Middle Linebacker – Kiko Alonso
Weakside Linebacker – Demario Davis
Base Pass Downs
Inside Linebacker – Kiko Alonso
Inside Linebacker – Demario Davis
Money Backer – Malcolm Jenkins
The Saints made a couple of additions this off-season that should allow them to shake up their defense a little bit. The starting lineup will be all incumbent players to start the season, with Alex Anzalone, Kiko Alonso and Demario Davis. This lineup remains the same for base run downs as they are the best group in run defense. When the base switches to passing downs they will roll with a hybrid safety/linebacker or money backer. That role will be occupied by new addition Malcolm Jenkins while Demario Davis and Kiko Alonso fill the other linebacker positions as both have proven to be solid in coverage. When it some to blitzing, that lineup switches with Davis moving to middle linebacker and the rookie Zack Baun will move to weak-side and showcase his pass rushing and coverage ability.
Speaking of Baun, he will be nipping at the heels of both Alex Anzalone and Kiko Alonso for a starting spot. He has the ability to play all three linebacker positions and is highly talented. With Anzalone playing mediocre for most of his career and Alonso’s lengthy injury history, I would not be surprised if Baun is starting by the end of the season. As for an IDP fantasy football linebacker you want to target, go in order, Demario Davis, Kiko Alonso, Zack Baun, and Alex Anzalone. All the others can be left alone.