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IDP Draft Sleepers: Linebacker


 

There are at least 25 linebackers (LB) in fantasy right now that are not only well-known names in the IDP community but are also consistent fantasy contributors in even the most shallow of IDP leagues. Given that kind of depth, many IDP managers in shallow leagues will have little to no use for LB sleepers this year or next.

There are, however, a lot of IDP managers who play in deeper and more unique leagues. In those leagues, finding a sleeper LB can be just as important as finding one at WR or TE. We must swim out into uncharted waters for those people, looking for undrafted or underrated fantasy LBs who stand to outperform their ranks/ADP in most fantasy circles.

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Here we will identify some of these LBs currently being undervalued in a variety of deeper IDP formats. Each of the players on this list falls outside of the top-40 LBs in most IDP fantasy rankings (including Rotoballer's), yet they have a realistic chance of finishing in the top-30 this year or next.

 

1. Anthony Walker (ILB), Indianapolis Colts

There is a fantasy superstar who plays the linebacker position in Indianapolis. He is well-known by both fantasy managers and casual fans alike. He will rack up sacks, interceptions, and tackles with the best of them. He will win you matchups in fantasy.

That superstar isn't named Anthony Walker, but Walker is pretty good, too.

Walker is currently the 45th overall LB in the Rotoballer ranks, and as the 46th best on both ESPN and FantasyPros. This rank undersells Walker's fantasy floor in tackle-centric IDP leagues, however. In fact, the Northwestern product should be an easy top-35 fantasy LB in such leagues. Over the past two seasons, Walker has averaged 7.4 tackles per game (4.9 solo). Last year, in just his third year as a pro, Walker upped his average to 7.75 total tackles and 5.5 solo tackles per game. That is valuable consistency from a guy currently going undrafted in many deep IDP leagues.

While Walker may not be a superstar in leagues that put a premium on sacks and interceptions, his contribution in these areas should continue to improve in 2020. Last season Walker collected two turnovers and two and a half sacks, but that was with Leonard missing time and Deforest Buckner playing in San Francisco. If Buckner and Leonard can demand the double-teams that they deserve, Walker should have no trouble registering 80+ solo-tackles, 10 TFLs, and four sacks next season.

That's a valuable fantasy return for a guy whose price tag is as a waiver claim or late-round draft pick.

 

2. Dre Greenlaw (OLB), San Francisco 49ers

One position battle for IDP fantasy players to watch this summer will be the fight between Greenlaw and Kwon Alexander for the 49ers' second starting LB spot in their nickel packages. Last season San Francisco ran some variation of the nickel on 58.6% of the time. That means that the team played less than three LBs on over half of their snaps last year, and that either Greenlaw or Alexander could be missing half of the team's defensive snaps in 2020 if that trend continues.

There are two reasons that Greenlaw could realistically win his battle with Alexander and get at least 70% of the 49ers' total defensive snaps in 2020. One of those reasons is that Greenlaw is the far superior tackler.

Last season, the former Razorback missed a tackle once every four games, while Alexander averaged a miss every game. Alexander's tendency to whiff is no outlier, either. When Alexander was in Tampa Bay, he missed 22 or more tackles in every season that he played more 12 or more games. For a 49ers team that may not have made the Super Bowl without Greenlaw's heroic stop in their final game at Seattle, sure tackling against both the run and pass should be a high priority going into this season.

The second reason that Greenlaw could win a +70% snap share is his low cap hit, compared to Alexander. While Alexander's contract averages $13.5 million per season, Greenlaw makes approximately $710,000 per year. Considering that Greenlaw is the younger, healthier, cheaper, and better tackling option than Alexander, why wouldn't the 49ers throw him out there and see what they have in him long-term?

If Greenlaw does manage to match or top his 70% snap rate from last season, the fantasy implications could be noteworthy. Had the former Razorback started a full 16 games last season, he was on pace to rack up 112 solo-tackles. That would have led the NFL, and it makes him an excellent bargain for 2020 IDP players who play in formats that value solos.

 

3. Micah Kiser (ILB), Los Angeles Rams

While the Rams have moved on from Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator, they are reportedly keeping the 3-4 scheme with which most of their defensive holdovers are familiar. That means that the players still in Los Angeles won't face a massive change in their defensive system, so they can hopefully hit the ground running. That type of advantage could be essential for a player like Kiser, as he looks to take over for the ultra-productive Cory Littleton.

Kiser's college career, and the accolades he got out of Rams camp late last year suggest that he could be an impactful fantasy defender in this defense. At the University of Virginia, he averaged 133 total tackles and 6.3 sacks per season over his final three seasons. Though viewed as a limited athlete in the Draft, the Rams valued Kiser's superior nose for the ball and potential to man the middle.

Going into his third year as a pro, Kiser has the daunting task of replacing the elite production that Littleton had in Los Angeles, and replicating the role Roquan Smith played in Chicago under the Rams' new defensive coordinator.  While Smith and Littleton may be impossible comparisons for Kiser to live up to, remember that the former Cavalier doesn't have to match their athleticism or production to be an LB3 or LB4 in fantasy. He simply needs to rack up 100+ junk tackles, while batting a few balls and grabbing a few sacks along the way.

Given Kiser's production in college and his beneficial role in the middle of a defense that plays against a lot of high-volume rushing attacks, Kiser is worthy of a late-round flyer in your deeper IDP leagues. Littleton was once a sleeper himself before racking up tons of stats playing behind Aaron Donald. It's worth a late-round pick in deep IDP leagues to see if Kiser can take similar advantage of a similar situation. If he can come close to 110 tackles and four sacks, he will be at least a decent bench stash on your fantasy roster.

 

4. Logan Wilson (ILB), Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati had been looking for a leader in its linebacker corps for years. During that time, the defense has been a sieve against both good and bad offenses. It has lacked both leadership, and superior tackling ability, at the second level.

This prolonged deficiency is why the Bengals passed on offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and instead selected the roughneck named Logan Wilson.

During his time in college, Wilson was 13th in the FBS in career tackles per game and 10th in career solo-tackles per game. He wasn't just a sure tackler, either. The Wyoming Cowboy scored three touchdowns on defense in college, proving his big-play ability. While these plays didn't come against top competition, Wilson showed he had NFL level athleticism at the NFL Combine, too. Though Wilson's film shows he has a long way to go in pass coverage, he should be considered a decent bet to lead the Bengals in tackles as soon as he earns a starting job.

Considering that Wilson should lead early in Cincinnati, while going against some of the more run-heavy offenses in the NFL, it is safe to say that the former Wyoming standout is an attractive dynasty IDP target. He should be considered a top-45 dynasty rookie draft selection, and a high-upside stash in 14-team redraft leagues that start two LBs.

 

5. Zack Baun (OLB), New Orleans Saints

Baun is different from the others on this list because he is a dynasty sleeper, but not a real redraft option. The kid has the drive, talent, and motor to be elite someday, but he landed on a talented and veteran team that could bring him along slowly. If this Wisconsin grad had gone to the Jets, he could have immediate fantasy value. In New Orleans, fantasy players may have to wait before utilizing the former Badger.

When he does take the field regularly, however, you should look out.

At Wisconsin, Baun was an all-around force. He showed himself capable of blowing up plays against big-time programs like Michigan in a variety of ways. Baun won with power, speed, and finesse while playing at both linebacker and defensive end. He could also drop into coverage off the line, showing the ability to bait quarterbacks into bad decisions and big defensive plays. While this all-purpose defender may not be an elite athlete, his game showed shades of dominance in the Big Ten for most of his senior year.   I had Baun as one of my top-25 players in the entire 2020 Draft class, and he fell to a team that can afford to groom him and unleash him in a variety of fantasy-friendly ways.

As a long-term fantasy asset, Baun has the ability and tenacity to be a real force. During his senior year of college, he posted 12.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 75 total tackles. His skillset and drive suggest he is capable of putting up similar numbers in the NFL, if he is used properly and stays healthy. Fantasy players should value him particularly high in leagues that pay a premium for sacks and TFLs. Like Logan Wilson, you should target this former Badger as a fourth-round pick in your rookie-drafts and stash him in your TAXI.



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RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More