IDP: 2019's Top 10 Linebackers

Contributed by: Walton Spurlin
Last Updated: Jun 01, 2019 10:00 AM


 

The smell of football is in the air as OTAs get underway and that just means it's never too early to begin draft day preparations. There will, of course, be training camp and preseason news or injuries that will consistently alter rankings from now until draft day. There always are. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a jumping off point and a base set of rankings to work with. Let me take on some of the heavy lifting and roll out my early Top-10 linebacker (LB) rankings for the 2019 season.

Let's get the fireworks started.

10. Tremaine Edmunds, Buffalo Bills

Yes. This would be the fourth rookie LB from last season to land in these Top-10 rankings for  2019. Despite a slow start to the season Edmunds finished just outside the Top-10. He finished with 121 total tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. At 21-years old, the 6'5” and 250-pound Edmunds is entrenched as the man in the middle for Buffalo for years to come. Look for him to improve on his rookie production and possibly flirt with Top-5 numbers.

9. Roquan Smith, Chicago Bears

There was a definite buzz surrounding Smith and the 2018 rookie LB class from an IDP standpoint and they did not disappoint. In most 12-team standard scoring IDP formats there were four rookies posting LB1 numbers including Smith. The Bears defense was fierce last season and the fact Smith stood out bodes well heading into 2019. He posted six double-digit tackle performances and was credited with six tackles for a loss. More impressively he racked up five sacks and an interception that flashed ‘splash play' potential.

8. Cory Littleton, Los Angeles Rams

After biding his time for two seasons, Littleton finally got the chance at a three-down role when the Rams traded Alec Ogletree to the Giants. To say Littleton took advantage of the opportunity would be an understatement of huge proportions. He lit up the Fantasy landscape to the tune of 125 total tackles, four sacks, three interceptions and a defensive touchdown. Those numbers landed him a Top-3 Fantasy finish last season. It wouldn't surprise me to see him outperform this ranking.

7. C.J. Mosley, New York Jets

After five seasons in Baltimore, the Jets pried Mosley away with a five-year $85 million contract. While we don't care about money from a Fantasy standpoint, we do care about performance and Mosley is just two years removed from finishing as the top Fantasy LB. Always a solid tackler (triple-digit total tackles in four of five seasons) Mosley will also be a ‘splash play' threat in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams aggressive blitzing scheme.

6. Blake Martinez, Green Bay PackersAfter a rookie season that saw him play just 438 snaps, Martinez has emerged as a Fantasy force in a three-down role. In the past two seasons he's finished as a Top-5 scoring LB, posting over 90-solo tackles while averaging over 1,000 snaps. There is no other threat in the Packers' linebacker corps to threaten Martinez for tackles, so those numbers are easily attainable again. He also set a career high in sacks last season with five and is a good bet to flirt with a Top-5 finish again in 2019.


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5. Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks

Wagner is another consistent performer that has totaled triple-digit total tackles in seven consecutive seasons. In his first five seasons he trailed the aforementioned Luke Kuechly in Fantasy production but has been Fantasy gold over the past three years. Wagner has been a Top-5 Fantasy LB over that span because he is a ‘do it all' player, averaging 146 total tackles per season and racking up a lot of ‘splash plays'. In the past three seasons Wagner has 15 ‘splash plays' with a pair of defensive touchdowns.

4. Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

Over his seven years in the league Kuechly has exhibited the consistent high-level production that IDP owners covet from a LB. He has finished with triple-digit tackle totals every season (even 2016 when he played only 10 games) and also creates ‘splash plays' in bunches. Over his career Kuechly has amassed 12.5 sacks, 16 interceptions, seven forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns. In six of his seven seasons he has posted top-10 LB Fantasy totals.

3. Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons

A foot injury derailed Jones' 2018 season causing him to miss 10 games. However, once he returned in Week 13, he showed why he is a top tier LB. He posted 44 total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception which he returned for a touchdown. From Weeks 13-17 he was a Top-5 LB for Fantasy. Look for a healthy Jones to return to elite status with a bounce back season.

2. Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

There's no reason to doubt that the top scoring Fantasy LB last season cannot pick up where he left off. In his rookie season Leonard exploded onto the IDP landscape excelling in every facet of the game. He put up over 160 total tackles (12 tackles for a loss) along with seven sacks, eight passes defensed, as well as two interceptions and four forced fumbles in 15 games. He is Fantasy gold heading into his sophomore campaign.


And finally the #1 Linebacker in 2019 is…
 

1. Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys

Despite starting last season in a limited role (he only averaged 26 snaps in Weeks 1-3) he managed to finish the season with Top-10 LB numbers. Vander Esch stepped in for an injured Sean Lee (hamstring) in Week 4 and never looked back, finishing the season with triple digit solo tackles, seven passes defended and two interceptions. In a full time roll from Week 1 he will dominate the LB position in 2019.


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