Welcome to the third and final installment of our IDP over and under articles. If you play in leagues that use Individual Defensive Players (IDP) then you probably already know that unlike the more mercurial defensive linemen or defensive back positions, the Linebacker position is the most straight up to draft for. Players offer more consistency year to year. There is greater depth, and really only one scoring consideration: solo tackles.
A handful of Linebackers do put up double digit sacks like their DL counterparts, and their names are good to know; James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in Pittsburgh, Clay Matthews in Green Bay, Demarcus Ware in Dallas, Elvis Dumervil in Denver and Brian Orakpo in Washington. Of these six guys, only the two Steelers eclipsed 50 solo tackles, and while I'm not suggesting you discount these potential fantasy studs, keep in mind none of them broke into the top 10 at their position, and only three made it into the top 20.
So as my mantra has become, look for the guys with the high solo tackle numbers and opportunities. Save the "sack" guys for your DL position unless you find a real value where he is taken in your draft.
When you get to the IDP point in your draft the difference between a player's ADP is usually around one full round. So the 28th linebacker off the board is going a full two rounds after the 26th. So do the math on just what a 5-10 ADP difference can mean. So relative to all other fantasy positions none has a greater need for finding value.
D'Qwell Jackson, CLE - It's hard to image a tackle beast like D'Qwell being undervalued, but it seems last year's injury has put him in an almost sleeper like draft state. FFToolobox.com and Fantasy Knucklehead's both have him ranked at #7. IDPGuru.com has him at #5. Yet his ADP is 15th--a difference of 50 picks, or 5 rounds.
Michael Boley, NYG - Boley is a guy who can get you 90+ solo tackles with a 2-3 sacks thrown in. He was on his way to a 100 tackle season in 2009 before he got hurt. I currently have him ranked at 29th, and his ADP is 41st.
Justin Durant, JAX - J.D. lost some of his value when the Jags brought in Kirk Morrison, but he put up 81 solo tackles in 13 games last season, meaning a full 16 games could bring him to the century mark. His team will spend a lot of time on defense, so the opportunity is there for a big year. I have him ranked at 34 and his ADP is 45.
Demorrio Williams, KC - Williams ranked 33rd in LB fantasy points in 2009, but he was 9th overall in solo tackles with 95. If he can repeat those numbers, or come close--perhaps add a sack or two, you've got a very undervalued pick at ADP 52
Chad Greenway, MIN - Greenway is one of those quiet producers who puts up 80+ solo tackles each season. In his first three seasons he's placed 21st, 13th and 29th in fantasy production, yet he goes into season four, with an ADP of 40. That's not just undervalued-- that's sleeper territory.
Demarcus Ware, DAL - As mentioned above, Ware was one of only six linebackers to break into double digit sacks, but he still failed to break into the top 25 at his position. This is due to his sub-50 solo tackle numbers. Ware is always a threat to put up double digit sacks, but not 100 solo tackles. His ADP is a current 17th. That's just not good value.
Elvis Dumervil, DEN - Dumervil transitioned from defensive end to linebacker and exploded to lead the league with 17 sacks. While there is decent reason to believe Elvis can hit double digit sacks again, it's rather probable that it won't be 17, and a dozen seems like the ceiling. So if you figure in his low tackles numbers (less than 40) with a dozen sacks, you get his 2007 numbers which were good for 42nd place overall. His current ADP is 30th.
Brian Orakpo, WAS - Orakpo's rookie season ended with 11 sacks, and a 54th place fantasy ranking. Heading into 2010 he's likely to replicate those numbers, and with a defensive scheme change to the 3-4, he could see an extra sacks or two. However, his tackles totals will really have to bump to get him close enough in scoring to match his ADP of 37.
Brian Cushing, HOU - Cushing is a brutish fantasy stud, and should destroy defenses for years to come. He's a top 10 LB pick for me in Dynasty/Keeper leagues, but in 2010 redraft leagues an ADP as the 5th linebacker taken overall is big time crazy. he'll miss a quarter of the season to suspension, and it will take him another few games to get into a groove. I've dropped his ranking to 12th, and that may still be too optimistic.
David Hawthorne, SEA - Talk about a fantasy revelation. Hawthorne stepped in for an injured Lofa Tatupa last season and destroyed other fantasy teams putting up 93 solos, 3 sacks and 3 interceptions for savvy fantasy owners. Tatupa is back this season, and Hawthorne moves to WLB (a less productive position usually). He also faces competition from Leroy Hill. I like Hawthorne's chance to be a beast again in 2010, but there are enough question marks surrounding this season that an ADP of 22 seems a bit overvalued. That said, of all the guys on this list of overvalued players, I think D.H. has the best chance to prove me wrong.