2010 IDP Draft Rankings - Linebackers (Redraft)

Here are my IDP Linebacker Rankings for Redraft Leagues. I will continually update these rankings throughout the off-season to reflect changes in free agency, defensive schemes, defensive playing time, rookie draft selections, etc.

I would love to get feedback from my readers. Often times, we get stuck in our own philosophies and tendencies. So, it's nice to get a different perspective on things. Your comments will definitely influence my rankings.

Drafting Philosophy:
Linebackers are undoubtedly the staples of a fantasy defense. However, I believe many owners often times misjudge value at this position. If you aren't able to grab a "Tier 1" or "Tier 2" linebacker, then I would wait on drafting a linebacker until the later rounds. In my scoring system, the difference between the 2nd leading point scorer for linebackers, Jon Beason, and the next highest scoring linebacker, James Laurinaitis, was 51 points. Conversely, only 51 points separated Laurinaitis from the 25th ranked linebacker Dhani Jones. This stat shows that after the 1st two tiers of linebackers, the fantasy production is very similar. Hence, why my "Tier 3" is so large.

In addition, IDP studs always emerge at the linebacker position during the early part of the season (e.g. David Hawthorne, Brian Cushing, Clint Session, Stephen Tulloch, etc.). With this being said, I sometimes like to have a player at linebacker who I feel is expendable in order to pick up a potential linebacker stud off of the waiver wire during the season.

Scoring System:
Solo Tackle = 2 points
Assist = 1 point
Sack = 7 points
Interception = 12 points
Fumble Recovery = 5 points

DSC = Possible Defensive Scheme Change
S = Sleeper/Undervalued Player
B = Bust/Overvalued Player
R = Injury Risk
ROOKIE = 2010 NFL Rookie
(xx) = Previous Ranking

Tier 1

Patrick Willis 1. RILB Patrick Willis (SF) - Willis is the obvious number one linebacker heading into the 2010 season. In his first three seasons in the league, he has averaged 120 solo tackles, 36 assists, and 3 sacks. You won't find a more consistent and reliable linebacker then Pat.

Jon Beason 2. MLB Jon Beason (CAR) – For some reason, some IDP owners have lost a little faith in Beason. I haven't at all. He played most of the season injured and he still registered career highs in total tackles, sacks, and INTs with 142 total tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 INTs. He's the best fantasy linebacker not named "Patrick Willis."

September 1 Update: Although Beason has been moved to the weak side, don't expect a dip in production. Carolina runs a ton of cover-2 schemes which generally funnel plays to that side of the field and therefore his tackle opportunities should remain aligned with previous seasons.

Tier 2

Paul Poslusnzy 3. MLB Paul Posluszny (BUF) – Admittedly, I have a bit of a man-crush on "Pos." Who could resist those long blond locks? Joking aside, Posluszny was a beast last season. In my scoring system, he averaged 20 points per game which made him the fifth highest scoring linebacker by average. He only played 12 games last season due to an injury in week 1. If you extrapolate his numbers out to a full season, he would have had 116 solo tackles, 30 assists, and 4 INTs. He has all the intangibles to make for a great fantasy linebacker; he plays on a bad defense, he doesn't have a ton of competition in the front seven for tackles, and he has a non-stop motor. The Bills switch to a 3-4 system shouldn't affect Posluszny's value at all. He's actually a pretty good fit for this type of defense as he is a big enough linebacker to fend off opposing guards. If he can stay healthy, I foresee Paul being a top five linebacker next year. DSC, S, R

For more in-depth information on Paul Posluszny, click here.

James Laurinaitis 4. MLB James Laurinaitis (STL) – I was really big on Laurinaitis coming into the 2009 season. He plays in a position in St. Louis that has proven to be very fruitful for fantasy owners over the last several seasons. Will Witherspoon, a mediocre fantasy player in my opinion, put up solid fantasy numbers there for years. Laurinaitis is much more talented than Witherspoon and it showed this season. With a full year under his belt in the NFL, Laurinaitis should be able to improve upon his top 6 2009 numbers.

Barrett Ruud 5. MLB Barrett Ruud (TB) – Over the last three years Ruud has proven to be one of the most consistent fantasy linebackers in the league by averaging 131 total tackles per year. When drafting linebackers early, I look for reliability and consistency and this is what Ruud brings.

Curtis Lofton 6. MLB Curtis Lofton (ATL) - I don't have Lofton ranked as high as others do because he showed some signs of wearing down over the last four games of the season. Lofton started the season out hot and was a top five linebacker. However, he finished as the 16th best linebacker in my scoring system. I like that he is a 4-3 MLB because they tend to produce the most consistent fantasy results and Lofton is still young and last year was his first year as the leader of the defense. With this being said, he should be able to improve upon his 2009 totals and be a top 8 linebacker next season.

David Harris 7. RILB David Harris (NYJ) – Many fantasy owners were slightly disappointed in Harris’ production last year and I can’t figure out why. He had 131 total tackles and 5.5 sacks (both career highs). His production did slightly fall off towards the end of the season, but he was playing through an injury. He still finished as a top eight linebacker in my scoring system and should thrive under the tutelage of defensive mastermind Rex Ryan.

Brian Cushing 8. MLB Rolando McClain (OAK) – I really couldn't have imagined a much better place for McClain to land in the draft as far as fantasy purposes are concerned. The MLB position in Oakland is fantasy gold and McClain is an elite level ILB. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect McClain to put up top 10 numbers this season. McClain is a better fit for a 3-4 defense; however, the Raiders draft selections and off-season signings signal that they may incorporate some 3-4 packages this season. This will help speed up McClain's production. ROOKIE

Tier 3

Karlos Dansby 9 (10) . RILB Karlos Dansby (MIA) – I expect Dansby's production in Miami to be even better then it was in Arizona. He has even less competition for tackles and he will be playing in under the same defensive coordinator (Mike Nolan) who made fantasy studs out of Patrick Willis, Donnie Edwards, and D.J. Williams. In addition, he seems to be getting better with each coming year which makes him a great dynasty selection.

D.J. Williams 10. RILB D.J. Williams (DEN) – Many IDP websites project Williams as a low LB1/high LB2 and I agree with this projection. Williams finished as the 10th best linebacker in my scoring system and he was a very consistent point scorer throughout the year. However, Williams doesn't produce a ton of big plays. Essentially, he is slightly more productive version of Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo.

DeMeco Ryans 11. MLB DeMeco Ryans (HOU) – I think Ryans will give owners a lot of value in 2010. He was a bit inconsistent in 2009 and consequently some owners have lost faith in him. However, the fact remains, he actually improved upon his 2008 fantasy production by putting up 93 solo tackles and 30 assists. In addition, the suspension of SLB Brian Cushing should further improve his 2010 fantasy value as he will have very little competition for tackles and should consequently see a spike in his fantasy production. Ryans is a nice middle-round value. S

Ray Lewis 12. LILB Ray Lewis (BAL) – I really don’t care that Lewis will be 35 entering into the 2010 season. Did you see this guy in the playoffs last season? He looks like he’s 25. I have owned Lewis numerous times in my ten years as an owner in IDP leagues and he’s never let me down. Lewis may fall in drafts because of his age. If he does, he's gonna be a great middle-round value.

Jerod Mayo 13. RILB Jerod Mayo (NE) – Mayo is one of the most consistent fantasy producers in the league and although he doesn’t have the highest point ceiling, he doesn’t have a very low floor either. There isn't much competition in New England's front seven for tackles, so Mayo's production should remain relatively constant. He's a fairly safe bet for 95-100 solo tackles. If you’re looking for a pick with little risk, Mayo is a great option.

London Fletcher 14. MLB London Fletcher-Baker (WAS) – LFB has established himself as the Chris Carter of the IDP world. As an undrafted free agent out of John Carroll, he has put up 118 total tackles or more in all nine seasons he's played in the NFL. Fletcher's production may dip slightly with the Redskins transfer to a 3-4 defense, but this guy is still money in the bank. DSC

Lance Briggs 15. WLB Lance Briggs (CHI) – Briggs has been outperforming Brian “Big Name” Urlacher for years as far as fantasy production is concerned. Over the last six years, Briggs has averaged 94 solo tackles and 22 assists. With Urlacher coming off an injury and another year slower, Briggs should remain the solid IDP producer he has been for the last several years.

Jonathan Vilma 16. MLB Jonathan Vilma (NO) – VILMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I thought Vilma had a pretty good year considering the New Orleans defense wasn’t on the field a ton this year and, when they were, teams were usually passing to play catch-up. Vilma doesn’t have much competition for tackles in New Orleans and will therefore remain a solid linebacker next year.

Stephen Tulloch 17. MLB Stephen Tulloch (TEN) – Tulloch had a fantastic year in 2009 and I expect him to improve upon those numbers moving forward in his career now that he is the main, three-down linebacker in Tennessee. With Keith Bulluck now in New York, Tulloch is the leader of the defense and I expect numbers close to Bulluck's 2002-2006 seasons.

Kirk Morrison 18. MLB Kirk Morrison (JAX) – Morrison getting traded to Jacksonville hurt his fantasy value. The MLB position in Oakland was one of the best spots for fantasy production at that specific position. Jacksonville is a good landing spot, but I don't see Morrison putting up LB1 numbers like he did in Oakland. He still remains a solid LB2 though.

Tier 4

Stewart Bradley 19. MLB Stewart Bradley (PHI) – In 2008, Bradley showed flashes of low LB1/high LB2 potential and finished the season with 108 total tackles. However, he ended up missing the entire 2009 season due to a knee injury. He has had a good amount of time to recover from surgery and has been quite impressive this preseason and has been rushing the passer more than expected. It's reasonable to expect high LB2 numbers out of Bradley. S, R

DeAndre Levy 20. MLB DeAndre Levy (DET) – Levy has been on the watch lists of many IDP owners since he was drafted with the 2nd pick in the 3rd round of last year's draft and now he finally has established himself as the starting middle linebacker. He has the skills to be an above-average NFL linebacker and will get plenty of tackle opportunities in Detroit. It may take him a few games to get used to playing the position. However, I still expect 85-95 solos out of him next season. S

Clint Session 21. WLB Clint Session (IND) - Session could prove to be a great value pick this year. Before he went down with an injury in week 15 last season, he was a top 10 linebacker. Even though I don't think he will return to top 10 status this year, I still think Session is a top 25 linebacker. Indy plays a lot of cover-2 which bodes well for Session at his weak side linebacker position. In addition, that position has proven to be a lucrative one for fantasy players in Indy (e.g. David Thornton, Mike Peterson). S

LaMarr Woodley 22. LOLB LaMarr Woodley (PIT)I tend to shy away from players who rely heavily on big plays (e.g. sacks). However, Woodley was an absolute stud the last eight weeks of the 2009 season. During this span, he registered 11.5 sacks. Admittedly, this is somewhat of a high risk/reward pick. Woodley could end up with numbers similar to James Harrison’s 2008 campaign or Harrison could rebound and take away from Woodley’s numbers.

D'Qwell Jackson 23 (12) . RILB D’Qwell Jackson (CLE) – As far as pure tackling production is concerned, Jackson is about as good as they get. Not only does he compile a massive amount of solo tackles, he compiles a ton of assists as well. If he had not’t gotten hurt early in the season last year, he would have finished as the #1 overall linebacker in most tackle-heavy leagues. Jackson does come with some injury risk, but if that doesn't bother you, feel free to grab him somewhat early in your 2010 fantasy draft, especially if you're in a tackle-heavy league. R

August 23 Update: Jackson strained his pectoral muscle and is expected to be out 3-8 weeks and will probably miss the 1st couple games of the regular season. This news is disconcerting since Jackson tore his other pectoral muscle last year and has had troubles staying healthy. I still expect him to be undervalued though. He's ADP is likely to plummet and he may only miss a game or two. I still look for Jackson to be a top 15 LB with upside. If you're in a league that allows you to have a bench or an IR spot for players that are out, Jackson's ranking improves into the 12-15 range.

Tier 5

E.J. Henderson 24 (31). MLB E.J. Henderson (MIN) – Henderson reminds me of a poor man's Karlos Dansby and is capable of putting up similar numbers when healthy. E.J. suffered a horrendous leg injury in week 13 against the Arizona Cardinals, but has recovered quickly and is on track to start at MLB week 1 for the Vikings. R, S

August 23 Update: Henderson posted 7 tackles during his first preseason game and looked to have regained a majority of his quickness and explosiveness. Through his combination of solid tackle numbers and big-play ability, Henderson has LB1 potential when healthy. Broken femurs are not chronic injuries and Henderson should therefore be able to fully recover and move on from that injury. Henderson's one of my favorite value picks this season.

Gary Brackett 25. MLB Gary Brackett (IND) – Brackett has been one of fantasy football’s best kept secrets the last few years and although he doesn't have much big play upside, when healthy, Brackett is capable of putting of solid low LB2/high LB3 numbers in a tackle-heavy league. The emergence of Clint Session doesn't bother me much because there are enough tackles to go around for two solid tackling linebackers on the Colts defense. S

Chad Greenway 26. SLB Chad Greenway (MIN) – Greenway, along with Brian Cushing, are oddities in the IDP world because of their solid production at the SLB position. Greenway finished as the 23rd ranked linebacker in my scoring system by registering 99 total tackles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 3 interceptions. I typically shy away from players like Greenway who had a lot of their production as a result of big-plays, but he's proven in his 1st three seasons in the league that he's that type of player.

Nick Barnett 27 (24). RILB Nick Barnett (GB) – Barnett rebounded nicely from his season-ending knee injury in 2008. Over his seven years in the league, Barnett has proven to be one of the more consistent tackling linebackers in the league by averaging 86 solo tackles and 34 assists. Look for him to continue to perform well in Dom Capers' 3-4 defensive system.

September 1 Update: Barnett hasn't been practicing due to knee pain. This is a little bit alarming to me. There are some injuries that linebackers can play through, but knee injuries typically aren't one of them.

Brian Cushing 28 (23). SLB Brian Cushing (HOU) – I was a bit skeptical of Cushing early in the season last year because of the historical lack of fantasy production from strong side linebackers. However, Cushing ended up having a fantastic year and his fantasy production actually improved as the year progressed. I still remain leery of Cushing because his fantasy numbers were inflated due to a number of big plays and his tackling production was a bit shaky; he had five games with three solos or fewer and nine games with five solos or fewer. Furthermore, Cushing has been suspended four games for testing positive for HCG. This really hurts his value in redraft leagues as he will most 1/4 of the season at the very least. B

James Harrison 29. ROLB James Harrison (PIT) – The one stat that concerns me about Harrison is that he only registered two sacks in the final nine games last season. On the other hand, he did have eight sacks in his first seven games. Even though I believe the LaMarr Woodley has now become THE sack guy in Pittsburgh, I also believe that there are enough sacks to feed Harrison as well. In addition, Harrison tends to generate a good amount of tackles for a big-play linebacker (he's averaged 93 total tackles over the last three seasons) and even though he had an off-year, he still finished in the top 30 linebackers in my scoring system.

Lofa Tatupu 30. MLB Lofa Tatupu (SEA) – With the sudden emergence of David Hawthorne and the drafting of Aaron Curry, many people are starting to forget about Lofa Tatupu, which is a mistake. The Seahawks gave Tatupu a six-year, $42 million contract extension and he will remain the leader and focal point of the defense. He managed over 100 total tackles in three of his first four seasons in the league. He was injured for pretty much the whole 2009 season but should return completely healthy in 2010. Consequently, at this point in time, I can't justify having a one-year performer like Hawthorne ranked higher than a proven reliable fantasy linebacker like Lofa (even though Hawthorne's upside is quite large). DSC, R

Michael Boley
31. WLB Michael Boley (NYG) - If you look at Boley's 2009 stat line (66 solo tackles, 19 assists, and 2 sacks), you may be disappointed. However, Boley missed 5 games due to injury. If you extrapolate these numbers over 16 games, he would have finished with 96 solo tackles, 27 assists, and 3 sacks. These are D.J. Williams-type numbers. In addition, the Giants signed defensive coordinator Perry Fewell in the off-season who tends to use a good amount of cover-2 schemes. This should further increase Boley's value next season. DSC, S

David Hawthorne 32 ( 36). MLB David Hawthorne (SEA) – Hawthorne was a top five linebacker last season and he didn't even start five games. However, the Seahawks gave Lofa Tatupu a ton of money and he will be back starting at the MLB in 2010 and should remain the top fantasy option in Seattle. However, Hawthorne is starting on the weak side and the Seahawks are going to get him involved in the defense in various ways. I'm expecting solid LB3 numbers out of Hawthorne with LB2 upside. DSC

For more in-depth information on David Hawthorne, click here.

August 23 Update: The Seahawks seemed to be running a hybrid version of the 4-3 (which looks quite similar to a 3-4) with an "Elephant" position which is essentially a standup defensive lineman. Hawthorne will slide into the inside during this formation and he should see an increase in tackle numbers.

DeMarcus Ware 33. ROLB DeMarcus Ware (DAL) – Ware had his worst fantasy season since his rookie year way back in 2005. Both his tackle numbers and sacks were down compared to previous years. I don't think we'll ever see another 20 sack season out of Ware, but I do expect him to improve upon his 11 sacks from 2009. With the emerging play of LOLB Anthony Spencer, Ware shouldn't have to face as many double teams next season and, consequently, he should see a rise in his fantasy numbers.

Geno Hayes 34. WLB Geno Hayes (TB) – This is one of my top sleeper picks for this season. Hayes came on like a banshee during the last few games of the 2009 campaign. He was the #6 overall linebacker in my scoring system over the last eight weeks of the season and the WLB in Tampa Bay has proven to be lucrative (e.g. Derrick Brooks) due to the defensive scheme. Keep your eye on this kid! S

Tier 6

Brian Urlacher 35. MLB Brian Urlacher (CHI) – Urlacher remains one of the most overrated fantasy linebackers in the game. He started showing signs of wearing down in 2008 when he failed to register over 100 tackles and then he missed pretty much the entire 2009 season with a wrist injury. On the positive side, Urlacher is the leader of the Bears defense and has a non-stop motor when it comes to tracking down the ball-carrier. Lance Briggs is the best fantasy linebacker option in Chicago, but Urlacher can still provide some good value, just not top 20 value anymore. B, R

Stephen Cooper 36. RILB Stephen Cooper (SD) –I've always been a fan of Stephen Cooper. For the last couple seasons he has been grossly undervalued. He started off the 2009 season with a bang by averaging 9.5 total tackles per game for the first 8 games. He quickly cooled off however in the 2nd half of the season as it appeared fellow linebackers Tim Dobbins and Brandon Siler began more heavily competing with Cooper for tackles. The Chargers have a very young and talented linebacking crew and I'm concerned that Cooper may have a difficult time establishing himself as the focal point of the defense in 2010.

September 1 Update: With rookie Donald Butler being placed on IR, Cooper's job and position as the #1 fantasy linebacker is San Diego appears to be safe for this season.

Justin Durant 37 (34). MLB Justin Durant (JAX) – Durant's value took a serious hit when the Jaguars traded for MLB Kirk Morrison and consequently moved Durant to WLB. I see Durant putting up around 80 solos and 15-20 assists next season with not many big plays thrown in. He's still young and has shown the potential to be a stud linebacker. However, playing the weak side with Morrison in the middle limits his fantasy potential. A big determinant of his value is whether he is a three-down linebacker or not this season. This has yet to be determined. DSC

Ernie Sims 38. WLB Ernie Sims (PHI) – Many people have given up on Sims after an injury-riddled couple of years in the league. I'm not one of those people. When healthy, Sims is one of the more solid run-stopping linebackers in the league and put up good fantasy numbers in each of his first three seasons by averaging a whopping 124 total tackles per year. He gets a fresh start in Philadelphia to carve out a new role for himself. Sims is only 26 years old and if he can overcome his injury issues, he will be one of the best LB3s around. R

Anthony Spencer 39. LOLB Anthony Spencer (DAL) – I'm a huge Cowboys fan and watched every game in close detail last season. Consequently, Anthony Spencer is on my sleeper list this year. During the last 6 games of the season, Spencer registered 6.5 sacks and put up decent tackle numbers. In fact, he scored in double digits every week after week 10 in my scoring system and finished as the 5th ranked linebacker over that span of time. While other people are snagging up Spencer's teammate DeMarcus Ware, I will wait and grab Spencer much later. S

Tier 7

Lawrence Timmons 40 (44). RILB Lawrence Timmons (PIT) – I'm not as high on Timmons as other IDP writers. I've seen him consistently ranked in the upper 20's and low 30's. He's the most talented linebacker in Pittsburgh. However, he plays on the inside and his sack totals are naturally going to be reduced. He had a nice year last season, but he still only finished as the #46 linebacker in this scoring system. In my opinion, he has just too much competition in Pittsburgh with outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley (13 sacks last season) and James Harrison (34 sacks in 3 seasons) there. Furthermore, the Steelers just used a 2nd round draft choice on pass-rushing linebacker Jason Worilds. Don't get me wrong, Timmons has upside, I just think he's going to be drafted too high in most fantasy drafts. B

For more in-depth information on Lawrence Timmons, click here.

Clay Matthews 41. ROLB Clay Matthews (GB) – Matthews performed extremely well as a rookie last season. With Aaron Kampman in Jacksonville, Matthews will be the Packers main pass-rushing threat. He's valuable in big-play leagues because of his ability to get to the quarterback. He registered double-digit sacks in his rookie campaign and I see no reason why he can't replicate, if not improve upon those numbers in 2010.

Brian Orakpo 42. ROLB Brian Orakpo (WASH) – Orakpo had a solid rookie season by posting 11 sacks. Keep in mind, however, that he had 4 sacks in one game and he didn't have a single sack after week 14. The Redskins switch to a 3-4 defense should help Orakpo's number even more and he could be one of the top sack producing linebackers next season. Mr. Orakpo's ranking increases in a big-play heavy scoring system. DSC

Dan Connor 43. ROLB Tamba Hali (KC) - Hali was one of the most underrated pass-rushing linebackers last season (he had a Pro Footall Focus rating of 10.1). I see him on the same upward trend as Dumervil was between the 2008 and 2009 season. Last season, Hali made a higher percentage of his team's plays than Dumervil did, despite the fact that teams ran at Dumervil like it was going out of style. He had more quarterback hits that didn't result in sacks than Dumervil did, with several more hurries. Adding up their sacks, hits, and hurries yields a total of 41 quarterback "incidents" for Dumervil - and 41.5 for Hali. Furthermore, five of Hali's 8.5 sacks resulted in a forced fumble or a safety; only three of Dumervil's 17 sacks did the same.

September 1 Update: Hali is classified as DE in ESPN leagues and could very well end up being the top fantasy DL (he was #5 last season). Grab him late and ride him to the championship!

Bradie James 44. LILB Bradie James (DAL) – James has surprisingly been a top 30 linebacker in each of the last two seasons. His overall fantasy numbers were down quite substantially from 2008. However, those 2008 numbers were likely an aberration due to his 8 sacks. James' expected fantasy production should remain relatively consistent with what he did in 2009 which was garner 80 solo tackles, 30 assists, and a couple of sacks. This makes him a reliable low LB3 option.

Tier 8

Dhani Jones 45 (46). MLB Dhani Jones (CIN) – Jones isn't the flashiest fantasy pick at the linebacker position. However, he does start in the middle of a 4-3 defense which is hard to find this low in linebacker rankings and Jones has actually put up top 30 linebacker numbers in back-to-back seasons. There have been rumors that up-and-coming linebacker Rey Maualuga may take over in the middle. But all indications this preseason indicate that Jones will hold onto his MLB gig throughout the majority of the season. He deserves a spot as your LB3.

Keith Brooking 46. RILB Keith Brooking (DAL) - Brooking developed into an instant leader on the Cowboys defense and has been one of the most steady fantasy linebackers in the NFL over the last ten years. He is 34 years old and probably only has one or two years left and he did get his knee scoped in the off-season, but he still remains a solid selection in the later rounds of deeper leagues. You know what you're going to get out of Brooking: 75 solos, 30 assists, and a couple of sacks. This makes him a decent LB3 option. R

Keith Bulluck 47. MLB Keith Bulluck (NYG) - I still expect WLB Michael Boley to be the most productive fantasy linebacker for the Giants this season. However, it's hard to ignore Bulluck's consistency throughout his career. He's a player who just has a knack for making tackles. With this being said, I am tempering my expectations for this season since Bulluck is 33 and coming off major knee surgery. There is also a lot of competition for tackles in New York. DSC, R

September 1 Update: In a surprise move, the Giants are playing Bulluck on the strong side (which is actually the weak side in New York's defensive scheme). It doesn't hurt his value as much as you would think it does, however. He's still a serviceable LB4 with LB3 upside.

Daryl Washington 48. ILB Daryl Washington (ARI) - Washington finds himself in a great fantasy position as the heir apparent to Karlos Dansby in Arizona. Washington is better suited in as a 4-3 WLB than a 3-4 ILB. However, he has shown signs that he can play the inside. The ILB position in a 3-4 defensive scheme is a lot like a 4-3 WLB anyway and Washington has the instincts to pull it off. Ken Whisenhunt has already confirmed that the Cardinals think Washington is an every-down linebacker; it's just a matter of when he will become the starter. I see him as a LB2 with potential low LB1 upside once he becomes a starter. ROOKIE

September 6 Update: The Cardinals just placed ILB Gerald Hayes on the PUP list giving Washington the starting SILB job in Arizona. He should play well enough to hold that position for the rest of the year or until he takes over Paris Lenon's weak side position.

Dan Connor 49. MLB Dan Connor (CAR) - The season-ending injury to Thomas Davis opens up the door for a fantasy sleeper to emerge in Carolina. That player is Dan Connor. The Panthers are moving Jon Beason to the weak side and inserting Connor in the middle. He would be ranked higher, but he's only a two-down linebacker. Grab this guy late in drafts and enjoy his value.

Aaron Curry 50 (42). SLB Aaron Curry (SEA) – Curry is one of the better linebacking talents to come through the draft in recent years. However, he struggled to find a role within Seattle's defense and consequently was riding the pine for a large part of many games. The Seahawks have overhauled their coaching staff and I look for them to make every attempt to give Curry close to full-time playing status.

Last Updated: September 1, 2010

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