Linebackers are undoubtedly the staples of a fantasy defense. However, I believe many fantasy owners tend to overvalue this position on draft day. There always seems to be a huge run on linebackers early in drafts as many owners feel that securing a "top tier" linebacker is essential to having a competitive fantasy defense. Although this is a fair strategy, I think more times than not, better value is to be found within other positions at the early junctures in drafts.
The fact is that there are a plethora of potential LB1 linebackers (e.g. Worrilow, Jenkins, Burfict) that can be had rounds after the Tier 1 and even Tier 2 linebackers are off the board. Additionally, IDP studs always emerge at the linebacker position throughout the season (e.g. Telvin Smith). So often times the best strategy is to wait until the upper echelon linebackers have been taken and then come in and start plucking up the potential LB1 upside value plays a few rounds later. This will allow you to use those early round draft picks to shore up other positions such as defensive line where more relative value is to be found, while at the same time, not suffering significant losses of quality at the linebacker position.
Bottom line - The talent pool at this position is as deep as ever this season. Grab a couple of top-notch defensive ends before drafting any linebackers.
Solo Tackle = 1 point
Assist = 0.5 point
Sack = 3 points
Interception = 4 points
Forced Fumble = 2 points
Fumble Recovery = 2 points
Pass Deflection = 1 point
Defensive TD = 6 points
S = Sleeper/Undervalued Player
B = Bust/Overvalued Player
R = Injury Risk
1. WLB Lavonte David (TB) - Despite missing two games last year, David was a top 5 linebacker in the majority of scoring systems and eclipsed 130 total tackles for the third straight season. The lack of talent along the front seven should ensure David continues to compile fantasy points at a torrid pace. Ultimately, his big play production gives him the edge over Luke Kuechly for the top fantasy linebacker spot.
2. MLB Luke Kuechly (CAR) - With over 150 total tackles in each of his first three seasons, Kuechly has become one of fantasy football's safest high-tackle linebacker options. Although he's not on a same level as Lavonte David in terms of big play production, he's posted respectable numbers in that regard averaging 2+ sacks, 2 interceptions, and nearly 9 pass deflections a year. If David is 1A, consider Kuechly 1B.
3. SILB Navorro Bowman (SF) - Entering into the off-season, San Francisco had one of the most formidable linebacking units in the NFL. However, the unexpected retirings of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland have left the team scrambling to find an adequate replacement at ILB next to Bowman. The decrease in quality inside should lead to a significant bump in Bowman's opportunity. Although the injury is still a concern, he had an entire year off to rehab and he's looked good in preseason, so I'm banking on him being healthy and continuing to be an elite LB1 for us. R
4. MLB Bobby Wagner (SEA) - It's hard to believe Wagner has only been in the league for three years. He plays with great discipline and has made himself an integral part of the league's top defense. At age 24, he's only going to continue to get better and has a strong supporting cast to keep him free of blockers and allow him to blitz. He doesn't have the same elite tackle upside as Kuechly or David, but his big play ability makes up for that in a large way.
5. WILB C.J. Mosley (BAL) - Although still a solid performer, Daryl Smith is not the player he use to be. C.J. Mosley was drafted to be the leader of the defense and he took big strides towards doing so in his rookie year. For those in leagues that don't reward for assists, drop Mosley down a couple tiers as the Ravens stat crew is the stingiest in the league in terms of awarding solo tackles per opportunity.
6. WLB DeAndre Levy (DET) - After spending his first few years in the league producing at a LB4+ rate, Levy finally turned it on last year. The talent had been there, he just hadn't connected all the dots. With Stephen Tulloch coming off ACL surgery, Levy should be primed for another LB1 season.
7. MLB Paul Posluszny (JAX) - Posluszny is a straight up tackling machine. Add in the fact he's on a team with one of the league's worst offenses and you have the makings of a top 10 fantasy linebacker. There's some concern that Telvin Smith and Jonathan Cyprien will continue to take away tackles, but there's enough opportunity in Jacksonville to go around.
8. WLB Sean Lee (DAL) - If not for a myriad of recent injuries so far in his relatively short career, there's a strong case to be made that Lee would be in consideration as one of the league's elite linebackers along with Kuechly, David, etc. The Cowboys are moving him to the weak side this year in an attempt to maintain his health throughout the season. He's an LB1 when playing, but he still carries fairly significant injury risk. R
9. SILB Jamie Collins (NE) - Collins was a top 10 linebacker during the second half of the season. Although the NE front seven is crowded/rich with talent, Collins will see a full complement of snaps. He's got some really nice upside given the fact that he is able to get after the quarterback and plays well against the run. The return of Jerod Mayo will dampen us production a bit, but I think he's talented enough and will play a pivotal role in the scheme to warrant LB1- consideration.
10. MLB Paul Worrilow (ATL) - Worrilow is a classic example of a marginal player in a great situation with ample opportunity. Outside of bringing in Justin Durant, the Falcons didn't do much to challenge Worrilow so it's looking like Worrilow's job is safe at least for 2015. Continue to ride Worrilow until the wheels fall off.
11. WLB Alec Ogletree (STL) - Ogletree is one of the safer selections in this tier. Owners should be fairly confident that he hits 85-90 solo tackles with 20+ assists. Although he's athletic enough to put up elite numbers, I just think he has too much tackle competition in St. Louis to do so right now. Consider him a solid and safe LB2+.
12. WLB Jelani Jenkins (MIA) - Jenkins was a top seven linebacker in terms of solo tackles per snap last season. Owners should be fairly confident that he will put up LB2+/LB1- numbers in an every-down role over the course of a full season. He needs to improve his week-to-week consistency, but there's a good chance he finishes as a top 10-15 linebacker as he has virtually no competition for tackles outside of Reshad Jones. He’s looking like a great value right now as he’s being taken off the board as an LB3 in most drafts. S
13. WILB Derrick Johnson (KC) - Johnson falls in the rankings this year due to age and durability concerns. Coming off a torn Achilles can be tough, especially for a 32 year old player. However, Johnson has been extremely productive throughout his career and still has relatively little tackle competition, so he should still remain a nice LB1-LB2+ high floor option. He does get dinged because of the stingy KC stat crew though. R
14. ILB Keenan Robinson (WAS) - Robinson was a solid breakout candidate heading into last season and although he didn't quite reach expectations, he came close. Despite missing three games due to injury, he managed 100+ total tackles and will look to build upon that number this year. He gets the benefit of a generous home stat crew and general lack of competition for tackles which makes him a solid LB2-LB2+. S
15. WILB Kiko Alonso (PHI) - Alonso's departure from Buffalo will likely put a dent in his overall fantasy value. Not only will he now be without one of the league's most generous stat crews, but he also faces increased tackle competition via Mychal Kendricks. This said, expect some regression in Alonso’s numbers this year. He’s not a player to avoid necessarily, but you should be targeting him as a mid-to-high LB2 versus an elite LB1. B
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Last Updated: August 26, 2015 Related Posts: