Linebacker is a position that you can wait on during your IDP drafts. Here are some players who will vastly outperform their ADP for 2019.
Every year there are groups of linebackers who outperform their preseason ADP. Last season was the season of rookies as guys like Darius Leonard, Leighton Vander Esch, Tremaine Edmunds, Roquan Smith and even Fred Warner blow up and played at a very high level. There were some veterans that upped their game as well. I will talk some late-round linebackers that will be fantasy gold.
Todd Davis of the Broncos was not on many radars last season but showed great improvement. Cory Littleton probably showed the most improvement going from irrelevant to a top 5 fantasy linebacker. Jayon Brown for the Titans was another linebacker who probably went undrafted in last year’s fantasy drafts but finished very strong. Mason Foster had a career season last year. Who will be this year’s fantasy gems?
This year does not hold as many promising rookies as last year did at the linebacker position. Devin Bush and Devin White are on everybody’s radar and are being drafted as teams’ LB2 and LB1 on teams who wait longer. There are not many options outside of those two but there could be some sleepers for 2019.
Cody Barton- Seattle Seahawks
Cody Barton was drafted in the third round, 88th overall, of the 2019 draft. Unfortunately for him, the Seahawks currently employ a very good middle linebacker in Bobby Wagner, actually one of the best in the league. Wagner’s contract is up after 2019 and the Seahawks either need to give him an extension or see what they can get in a trade for him. A Wagner trade is one way Barton sees playing time this season, although it is unlikely.
The more likely scenario is that K.J. Wright gets injured. K.J. Wright is the starting weakside linebacker for the Seahawks. Wright was limited to only five games last season after preseason knee surgery. K.J. Wright can still be productive but is entering his age 30 season and age is not kind to linebackers’ knees. If an injury were to occur Barton would be the next man up. For dynasty he is definitely a stash candidate, for 2019 he is a late round flyer you grab in case an injury or trade happens during season.
Jahlani Tavai- Detroit Lions
Jahlani Tavai is in a spot where he has the opportunity to be in a camp battle for a starting spot this season. Linebacker is one of the weakest positions on the Lions defense. Jarrad Davis is the starting middle linebacker and though he provided solid numbers his game was hit or miss. Davis routinely missed tackles last season but did come up with six sacks. I still say Davis may be best fit for the strongside linebacker job as he is not good in coverage either. With a Davis move to strongside linebacker it opens up the middle for Tavai.
That is only one linebacker scenario where Tavai sees significant time. The other is to flat-out win the weakside linebacker job. The only bodies in Tavai’s way are Christian Jones who has underwhelmed in his career and Jalen Reeves-Maybin who cannot find his niche on the team. Tavai is the best talent of the three and also has great range and instincts. He could win the job and play alongside Davis.
2019 Late Round Gold
Kenny Young-Baltimore Ravens
Current ADP on IDPGuys- 231
With the departure of C.J. Mosley, the middle linebacker job opened up in Baltimore. Kenny Young performed admirably during his rookie season in limited playing time. Young only played on 35.7% of the team’s defensive snaps and still was fifth on the team in tackles behind only C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Tony Jefferson, and Eric Weddle with 51 total tackles. Young finished his rookie season with 51 tackles (40 solo), four tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one pass defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Young is a very athletic player and has great balance. Watch here as he is able to play off the cut block to still make the play on Alvin Kamara:
Ravens seem to have found another top ILB in Kenny Young. Traits similar to Shazier. Plus balance to work off cut block, find the ball, help make the stop. pic.twitter.com/Hd8bU7ROLW
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 1, 2018
He is also capable and maybe even plus in coverage from the middle. Here you see him drop in coverage once he reads a passing play:
More from Kenny Young in coverage. Has to honor the run action but once he reads pass, he immediately looks to his left, id's the receiving threat, sinks underneath the route and eliminates Eifert as an option. pic.twitter.com/d3aFgqcU97
— michael crawford (@abukari) April 24, 2019
Young has big shoes to fill taking over for C.J. Mosley but should see a healthy compliment of snaps and currently our ADP has him going 231st overall, near the end of the draft. Young could be a huge steal for anybody who selects him.
Anthony Hitchens- Kansas City Chiefs
Current ADP on IDPGuys- 208.50
Anthony Hitchens is still surprisingly dropping down fantasy draft boards. In his first season with the Chiefs he totaled 135 tackles and seven tackles for a loss. With almost no other stats to his credit besides tackles he is still worth a LB3 with upside. The Chiefs did absolutely nothing to take away from Hitchens. The addition of Darron Lee will not affect Hitchens as Lee has never been a consistent run defender as Hitchens has. Lee, or Dorian O’Daniel for that matter, will be the linebacker to drop in coverage more allowing Hitchens to mainly focus on tackling.
My hope for having Spagnuolo in at DC is that Anthony Hitchens can stop thinking so much and get back to just moving downhill towards the ball. pic.twitter.com/5IwSOcXd78
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) February 9, 2019
This is exactly what they need Hitchens to do and he does it well. 100 plus tackles is still going to be in the cards for Hitchens and with him going so late you can grab a LB3 with upside to LB2 in rounds 17-20.
Demario Davis- New Orleans Saints
Current ADP on IDPGuys- 217
The fact that Demario Davis is constantly overlooked is surprising to me. Everybody says he is getting old, he will be 30 years old in 2019. While that is getting up there a little in age, K.J. Wright is already 30 and is coming off of an injury riddled 2018 that required surgery. Wright only played five games last season and the team drafted two capable linebackers and yet his ADP is at 207.5, higher than anybody on this list. Davis is not only is a highly productive tackler but he is a good blitzer as well. He has had five sacks in each of the last two seasons to go along with over 100 tackles.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 30, 2018
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 24, 2018
Let’s see what Davis has done in his career as a starter. He has been a starter for six seasons now and played in 95 of a possible 96 games showing zero questions in durability. Over these six seasons he has season averages of 109.33 tackles (71.33 solo), 8.16 tackles for a loss, three sacks, and just under three passes defended. Tell me you would not want 110 tackles and three sacks in the 18th round.
Todd Davis- Denver Broncos
Current ADP on IDPGuys- 227.75
This current ADP brings Todd Davis strangely close to being Mr. Irrelevant. How is this possible? After 2018 I thought for sure he would be on fantasy radars as a LB2 but apparently not. We were all waiting on the Todd Davis breakout after being on the cusp in 2016 and 2017. Finally in 2018 he seemed to put it all together and finished the season as a top 20 LB. Though still limited in coverage he is only going to be 27 years old and has shown improvement every season. Todd Davis was great in run defense last season. Watch as he reads run all the way and makes the play behind the line of scrimmage:
4th and 1?
Todd Davis says, "Nah." pic.twitter.com/fwDcERTfkP
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) September 12, 2017
Davis is an athletic linebacker and showed here coming from one side of the line to the other to make the tackle:
This isn’t just a splash play. Broncos LB Todd Davis is one of the premier run stopping LB’s in the NFL. Excels sideline to sideline and is one of the better guys at taking on and shedding blocks pic.twitter.com/C2ywantIzP
— Justen Gammel (@gamscout) October 29, 2018
Todd Davis has averaged 97.67 tackles per season over the last three seasons including 114 in 2018. After having only three passes defended in 2016 and 2017 combined, he ended with a career high seven passes defended in 2018. The Broncos did absolutely nothing to add to their linebacker group outside of adding Dekoda Watson in trade and Joe Dineen Jr. as an undrafted free agent. None of these guys should impact any of Todd Davis’ playing time. With an ADP of 227.75 he is absolute gold so late.
With so many young players people are willing to jump for every draft there are always some overlooked players. Of this group I have listed three players who have eclipsed 100 tackles in a season and all did last season. Kenny Young will be a first year starter but was easily on pace to 100 tackles during the time he was on the field. There are also a couple of rookies who have an opportunity to make a splash this year and I mentioned two above that are outside of the obvious two. Needless to say, where ADP stands now, these guys will all be available after the 17th round and all have at the least LB2 upside outside of the rookies.
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