Finding linebacker value in drafts is a key element to building a strong IDP unit. Listed below are some linebackers I feel make for great targets in drafts when you assess their talent and situation relative to their price.
2019 Stats: Only played 2 games
2019 was a lost year for Mosley after singing a 5 year $85 million contract with the Jets. Mosley hurt his groin in week one and was put on season ending injured reserve after a failed return attempt in week seven. Mosley was a beast for the Ravens defense his first 5 seasons in the league. He compiled four 100+ tackle seasons and four Pro Bowl appearances. At 28 years old, Mosley still has plenty left in the tank. Recently, Mosley stated he’s been cleared for all activity and is ready to get to work. A healthy Mosley should put up LB2 numbers with some possible LB1 weeks sprinkled in. This weekly upside makes Mosley a very nice linebacker value when you consider his price is in the back end LB2 range.
2019 Stats: Only played 2 games
Kirksey is another linebacker who suffered a lost 2019 season. A torn pectoral ended his season in week two last year. Green Bay chose to let Blake Martinez walk this off-season and chose Kirksey as his replacement. This role in the middle of the Green Bay defense has proven to be a valuable one for IDP. It’s a role full of tackle opportunities as the Packers deploy a lot of single linebacker looks. While Kirksey has had injury problems during his career, he also has shown the ability to put up big tackle numbers as well (148 tackles in 2016 and 138 tackles in 2017). If Kirksey stays healthy and plays a full 16 games he has legitimate LB1 upside in Green Bay’s system. Coming off the board as LB26 is a great value when you consider his upside with the role he inherits.
2019 stats: 15 games, 101 tackles (65 solo) 7 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 9 passes defensed
Matt Milano is a young linebacker that just keeps getting better, but not everyone seems to be noticing. My good friend, JoeyTheTooth, talked about this in his article back in May. You can view it here. Since then his ADP has risen some, but he’s still coming off the board as a back end LB3. Milano has steadily improved his tackle numbers each of his first three seasons and set a career high with 101 total tackles in 2019. Milano is also solid in coverage. He set a career high of 9 passes defensed in the 2019 season. If I decide to wait on linebacker in drafts and focus more on offense early, Milano is a guy I’m more than comfortable with as my LB2/3. Being drafted as a tail end LB3, Milano is a solid linebacker value with his three down role and 100+ tackle ability.
2019 Stats: 15 games, 93 tackles (51 solo), 5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception, 3 passes defended
A relative unknown beforehand, A.J. Johnson burst onto the scene for the Broncos in 2019. Johnson made his first start in week five against Tenneesee and made his presence felt right away collecting nine tackles (6 solo) and one and a half sacks. After his emergence in week five, Johnson was an every-week starter for the Denver defense playing 90% of the defensive snaps in the final 12 games. Bringing some much needed juice to the Broncos’ defense, Johnson is locked in as a starter next to Todd Davis. While Davis is a solid IDP linebacker option in his own right, his current ADP is LB22. At that price I’m letting someone else draft Davis and will draft Johnson in the later rounds instead. With a starting spot locked in for 2020, Johnson could easily eclipse the 100 tackle number and be a real nice linebacker value in drafts.
2019 Stats: 9 games, 70 tackles (50 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 passes defensed
Danny Trevathan was having a solid 2019 season until a gnarly elbow injury ended his year in week 10. While he has been prone to the injury bug during his career, he also has been very productive for both Denver and Chicago. Trevathan’s stoutness against the run, notable ability in coverage, and valued leadership were all reasons Chicago decided to re-sign him to a 3 year $21.8 million contract this offseason. Playing alongside Roquan Smith, I have no worries both linebackers can be IDP producers as they have already shown the ability to coexist. While Trevathan’s ADP has risen since my buddy JoeyTheTooth’s past article, I still feel he’s being slept on a bit. With a full offseason to get healthy, getting Trevathan as an LB4 is linebacker value I’ll take all day.
Nick Kwiatkoski Las Vegas Raiders- LB39 (217 Overall)
2019 stats: 16 games (8 starts), 76 tackles (56 solo), 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 4 passes defensed
Every time Nick Kwiatkoski was given an opportunity during his time in Chicago he produced. This led to him getting paid this offseason signing a 3 year $21 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders were looking to revamp their linebacker unit and did so by signing both Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton. While I see both linebackers being productive for the Raiders, Littleton comes at a much steeper price with an ADP of LB13. Kwiatkoski is set to be a near every down player for Las Vegas and there are rumblings going around that he might be wearing the green dot. Given his prominent role and LB4 ADP, I’m more inclined to wait for Kwiatkoski in drafts than pay up for Littleton. His knack for making big plays and first career 100 tackle season on the horizon, Kwiatkoski is a fantastic target later in drafts.
2019 stats: 14 games, 101 tackles (54 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 passes defensed
The leader and wearer of the coveted green dot, Bernardrick McKinney is a major part of the Texans’ defense. McKinney and rising star Zach Cunningham are one of the better linebacker duos in the league. While Cunningham gets more of the attention, don’t sleep on just how solid McKinney has been during his career. Over the last four seasons McKinney has amassed 430 tackles (258 solo) as well as 10.5 sacks. McKinney’s steady production and 80-90% snap rate make him a reliable weekly LB3/4 option. His LB43 price makes McKinney a fine linebacker value in drafts.
Jamie Collins Detroit Lions- LB45 (254 Overall)
2019 stats: 16 games, 81 tackles (58 solo), 10 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 interceptions, 7 passes defensed
When you look at Jamie Collins’ 2019 stat line it’s easy to see that he’s a legitimate playmaker. Even at age 30, he still possesses standout athleticism which aid his ability to make plays in coverage and as a pass rusher. Collins, was used all over the formation in New England last year. Now with Detroit, I expect a similar usage as coach Matt Patricia likes versatility in his defense. In most formats, Collins finished in the LB2 range last year. When you consider his LB45 price tag and similar versatile role in Detroit, Collins is a significant linebacker value in drafts. If you wait on linebacker in your draft and are looking for upside, Collins fits that bill unquestionably.
All draft flows are different and the positional runs can come and go at different times. In most of my drafts, I generally look to build my offense early and often. When drafting my first IDP players, I look to target top tier defensive line talent due to the position scarcity. Linebacker is a deep position and there is plenty of value to be had should you wait. If you do choose to wait, the players listed above make for great targets to fill out your linebacker unit. Be sure to check out our Combined Offensive/IDP ADP as well as our Combined Consesus Rankings to help you dominate your drafts!
Thanks for taking the time to read my article, I hope you enjoyed and found it helpful. You can find my work here at idpguys.org and follow me on Twitter @KBellf54. I’m always available for any questions or feedback you may have and my DMs are always open.