We are all well aware of Isaiah Simmons, Patrick Queen, Jeremy Chinn, and Chase Young. Once you get to the depths of your draft or even post-draft you have all these taxi squad spots (at least you should have taxi squads if you’re playing dynasty). Who are you going to stash? Let’s take a look at my deep taxi squad rookie stashes for 2020. This week we’ll look at linebackers.
Late Round Taxi Squad Targets: Linebackers
Mykal Walker, LB, Atlanta Falcons: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 74
Walker is not guaranteed anything in 2020. He does have a chance to start either at the weak side or strongside linebacker spot for the Falcons. However, he faces some veteran roadblocks in Foyesade Oluokun and newly signed Deone Bucannon. Considering Bucannon has been bouncing from team to team, I don’t see him sticking as a starter. Walker’s availability makes him a good taxi squad candidate.
Oluokun could take the starting job next to Deion Jones. Oluokun played a majority of his snaps toward the end of the season, but that doesn’t mean Walker couldn’t make an impact as early as this season. He’s a prime taxi squad stash because should something happen to Deion Jones or Oluokun he would be thrust into a starting prominent role. He is currently being drafted around pick 76.3 in rookie drafts.
Troy Dye, LB, Minnesota Vikings: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 44.33
I did the IDP Guys Magazine video review and write up on Troy Dye. He’s a versatile linebacker that can do it all. He can pass rush, run stop, and cover well. Minnesota may play Dye in 2020, but my best projection for him is when they come to their senses and cut a bad Anthony Barr contract in 2021 and allow Dye to pair with Eric Kendricks to make for a great athletic duo.
If the Vikings keep Barr, Dye could play the strongside linebacker role and still see some decent playing time in base packages. Dye is currently being drafted at around pick 76.5 in rookie drafts. Great value for your taxi squad considering our ranking in the rookie class.
Anfernee Jennings, LB, New England Patriots: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 51.33
Jennings is one of three linebackers drafted by the Patriots in 2020. They needed to replace the mass exodus of defenders to South Beach and Brian Flores. Josh Uche was drafted a round higher and is going much earlier in rookie drafts by about 20 picks. Jennings was a highly regarded recruit in 2019 and considered coming out in the 2019 draft, but stayed in school. He actually increased almost all of his statistical categories in his senior season, but he slipped to the 3rd round.
Jennings will have other competition besides Uche. Fellow draftee Cassh Maluia, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Brandon Copeland will all compete for the snaps left behind by Kyle Van Noy and Jaime Collins. A total of 1,621 snaps are vacated by those two departures. Jennings could prove valuable as a pass rusher for the Patriots very soon. He is currently being drafted around pick 89.9 in rookie drafts.
Justin Strnad, LB, Denver Broncos: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 71.33
Remember Josey Jewell? Yeah, I remember when he had value. You know Alexander (A.J.) Johnson? Me too! Who is to say that Johnson isn’t just this year’s Josey Jewell and the Broncos will fade him for the rookie Strnad. He is a talented linebacker who can play the run and is decent in coverage.
Another reason to add Strnad to your taxi squad is Todd Davis’s contract is up at the end of the season and may move on if he isn’t an impact player on the defense. Josey Jewell is the only competition behind the starters at inside linebacker and Strnad is an option to replace Davis. Strnad is going around pick 90.4 in rookie drafts.
Tanner Muse, LB, Las Vegas Raiders: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 81
Tanner Muse was drafted as a safety out of Clemson, but the Raiders plan on converting him to linebacker. He was drafted in the third round and as one of the hybrid safety linebackers. He could stick on the field on third downs as a slot corner or third safety depending on the creativity of the defense.
Muse will probably not be used a ton in his rookie season, but towards the end of 2020, the Raiders may want to see what they have in Muse going forward. I like hybrid linebackers because normally their coverage skills keep them on the field for three downs. Tanner Muse is currently being drafted around pick 88.3.
Jonathan Greenard, LB, Houston Texans: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 79.67
The Texans used a third-round pick to bolster their linebacker crew. Greenard could be used on the outside or inside, but wasn’t asked to cover much in college. In the NFL I could see him being in a timeshare on the outside with Brennan Scarlett and Jacob Martin. Whitney Mercilus will be around for a few years, but the Texans have a potential cap cut after 2021. Greenard is probably a better option than either Scarlett or Martin, but will have to prove it on the field. Greenard is currently being taken around pick 93.3 when he is being drafted.
Alex Highsmith, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 65
I’m not a big outside linebacker guy. So he would be a bit higher on this list if this was a high sack league or big-play scoring. Pittsburgh is one of those teams that use the draft to stock positions that they feel they will need in the future. Also, they love drafting linebackers. They have drafted 16 of them since 2010. A few have panned out nicely, but they have a lot of busts in there too. Highsmith was a third-round selection and could be evidence that after Bud Dupree plays out his franchise tag season, he could be on his way out.
Highsmith isn’t going to overtake T.J. Watt anytime soon, but Dupree is a possible free agent in 2021 who leaves the door open for Highsmith to prove himself and take the job and make Dupree expendable. Highsmith is currently being drafted around pick 86.
Kamal Martin, LB, Green Bay Packers: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 113.67
Martin isn’t ranked very highly. Also, he’s not being drafted highly. One thing we know about fantasy football is that opportunity can come at any time and be in the right place at the right time can serve a purpose. Martin is playing behind two players who have missed time the last two seasons, Christian Kirksey and Oren Burks. Martin is not necessarily part of the Packers plan in 2020, but an injury to one of these players could open up an opportunity for Martin. He is currently being drafted around pick 104 if he is selected at all.
Clay Johnston, LB, Los Angeles Rams: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Rank: 132.67
Why not Johnston? The Rams linebacking core has been about 67% of the questions I get asked about when we field IDP questions. Depending on who you ask, you get a completely different answer. The old adage, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none,” applies to the Rams linebackers.
They don’t have any standout guys so they could let anybody play. Johnston was a 7th round pick, so his likelihood of hitting is slim. However, your taxi squad should be used for high upside lottery tickets and if Johnston lands a starting role with the Rams that could be a high ceiling position. He is currently not being drafted except in SUPER deep leagues.
Bryce Huff, LB, New York Jets: Current IDP Guys Consensus Rookie Ranking: 112
This one is a little biased. We spoke to Bryce Huff on IDP Nation about a year ago. He’s a quality young man who was great to talk with about football. I’ll be rooting for him to take over one of the outside linebacker spots at least in a rotational role to utilize his pass-rushing skills. Huff had 18 sacks over his three seasons he played a major role, and was good at shedding blocks and getting hurries in 2019.
His path is unclear and faces an uphill battle being an undrafted free agent. The good news is pass rush is a need for the Jets. They have a few players returning from last season in Jordan Jenkins and Harvey Langi. The biggest issue may arise in that the Jets have so many inside linebackers that they may use them in an outside role and not worry about specialty rushers. He is not currently being drafted in rookie drafts.
A special “Thank You” to Darrell Winstead, “Hollywood,” for his rookie draft database that was used for the ADP rookie data.