Lance Briggs | Chicago Bears | 6-foot-1, 242 pounds | 8th year
Fantasy tip: Briggs enjoyed his best season since 2006 last year (118 tackles, 2.5 sacks in 15 games). He contributes lightly in the sack column, but Briggs has always been adept in pass coverage (15 passes defensed, four INTs the last two years). He's a reliable but unspectacular No. 2 IDP linebacker.
Jerod Mayo | New England Patriots | 6-foot-1, 245 pounds | 3rd year
Fantasy tip: The third-year Tennessee standout has been quite consistent on a per-game basis through two seasons. He missed three games last year and still posted 103 total stops, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He doesn't contribute enough in the peripheral stats to be considered a No. 1, but Mayo has enough upside to get there. Draft him as a second linebacker.
Brian Urlacher | Chicago Bears | 6-foot-4, 258 pounds | 11th year
Fantasy tip: Urlacher is coming off a dislocated wrist that cost him 15 full games in 2009. He is supposed to be healthy and should be hungry to show what he still has. After a year off, Urlacher could be fresher than we've seen in recent years. He provides help in tackles, sacks and passes defensed but has never been much of a source for forced fumbles. Urlacher's skill set is diminishing a bit, but he is a sound No. 2 as long as he remains healthy.
Demorrio Williams | Kansas City Chiefs | 6-foot-1, 232 pounds | 7th year
Fantasy tip: This is a risky projection, we know. Williams is battling Derrick Johnson and Corey Mays for a starting spot at weak inside linebacker. Williams is the best player of this trio in our eyes, and he backs it up with quality IDP stats (117 tackles in 13 starts in '09). You have to pay close attention to this battle. We feel Williams is a No. 2 'backer if he wins, but he can probably be had as a No. 3 given the uncertainty.
Gary Brackett | Indianapolis Colts | 5-foot-11, 235 pounds | 8th year
Fantasy tip: Brackett plays like he's a warthog - squatty in stature but is meaner than hell on the field. Injuries have cost him six games over the past two years, but Brackett has still turned in fine efforts in his abbreviated seasons. He has totaled at least 99 tackles every year since 2004. He's not much of a sacker or fumble forcer, but the Rutgers vet is capable pass defender. He's a midrange No. 2 with limited upside.
David Harris | New York Jets | 6-foot-2, 245 pounds | 4th year
Fantasy tip: After an injury-shortened 2008 season, Harris turned in his best campaign as a pro in '09. He racked up 127 total tackles, which tied a career high, while adding 5.5 sacks, two picks and two forced fumbles. Harris is in the prime of his career and could be in for an even better season being two years removed from injury. He's a quality No. 2 with upside.
Paul Posluszny | Buffalo Bills | 6-foot-1, 238 pounds | 4th year
Fantasy tip: The neck-less wonder from Penn State posted his best year as a pro in only 12 games last year, totaling 111 stops, a sack, four passes defensed, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He is a beast, if he can stay healthy. There's a little concern for a letdown with Buffalo transitioning into a base 3-4 alignment, but he played with elements of that in college. Fantasy owners drafting Poz can have No. 1 IDP linebacker talent for the cost of a No. 2.
Ernie Sims | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-foot, 230 pounds | 5th year
Fantasy tip: A hamstring injury robbed Sims of five games in 2009; he tallied at least 113 total tackles for the first three years of his career before last season. Sims doesn't contribute much other than sacks, and he needs to adjust to a new system in Philly after being traded from the Detroit Lions this offseason. Sims is a No. 2 fantasy 'backer with some risk and little upside.
Stephen Cooper | San Diego Chargers | 6-foot-1, 235 pounds | 8th year
Fantasy tip: Cooper has recorded at least 98 tackles (12 games, 2008) in each of the last three seasons since becoming a full-time starter. He didn't intercept a pass last year but had six in the previous two years combined. Cooper's 8.5 career sacks illustrate his lack of use and skill as a pass rusher. He's a low-end No. 1 fantasy linebacker.
Nick Barnett | Green Bay Packers | 6-foot-2, 236 pounds | 8th year
Fantasy tip: Barnett is two years removed from a severe knee injury. He started every game last year, posting 108 combined tackles, 4.0 sacks and seven passes defensed. He intercepted at least one pass every year from 2003 to 2007 but isn't much of a source for forced fumbles. Barnett is a low-end No. 2 with very little upside.
E.J. Henderson | Minnesota Vikings | 6-foot-1, 245 pounds | 8th year
Fantasy tip: A devastating compound leg fracture ended Henderson's 2009 season after 12 games. He has missed 16 games over the past two seasons. Henderson is expected to start Week 1. He notched 109 tackles (2006) and 118 in 2007, while chipping in 7.5 total sacks, two picks (one TD) and four forced fumbles. If he can return to that level of play, our optimistic projection will make him a valuable No. 2. You can likely land Henderson as a third or even fourth IDP linebacker.
Curtis Lofton | Atlanta Falcons | 6-foot, 242 pounds | 3rd year
Fantasy tip: Lofton has started two straight years for the Falcons and enjoyed career highs last year in tackles (133 total) and forced fumbles (two). He's not in on many passing downs and has just five passes defensed in his career. His lone career sack isn't encouraging; Lofton is a tackle-centric No. 2 or b No. 3 fantasy linebacker.
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.