Fantasy football player analysis: Linebackers

by Cory J. Bonini on September 2, 2011 @ 17:58:20 PDT

 


Rk
Player Team
Height
Weight
Year
Analysis
1
Patrick Willis San Francisco 49ers
6-1
240
5
A down year for Willis looked like this: 128 total tackles, 6.0 sacks, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and no interceptions in 15 games. He is easily the No. 1 fantasy linebacker in 2011 based on his history, what his floor looks like and the likelihood for a rebound in a healthy '11 season.
2
Jerod Mayo New England Patriots
6-1
245
4
Mayo broke out in a big way in 2010 by registering a whopping 175 total tackles (61 assists). He added a pair of sacks, a forced fumble and five passes defensed. New England's defense fits his style of play very well, and Mayo is in the prime of his career. He will move around and play all three spots at times as NE transitions into more of a 4-3 defense. Expect fewer tackles but a more well-rounded effort as he matures in his fourth year.
3
Paul Posluszny Jacksonville Jaguars
6-1
238
5
Poz is coming off his best season as a pro, one that largely helped him secure a massive deal from the Jaguars. He posted 151 total tackles in 14 games for the Buffalo Bills, while adding 2.0 sacks and four passes defensed. Injuries are a bit of a concern, but he moves back to a more natural 4-3 middle linebacker spot, so it's scary to think what he could accomplish this year.
4
James Anderson Carolina Panthers
6-2
235
6
In 2009, Anderson showed flashes of his talent, but his 2010 season was something else. He is a well-rounded talent and contributes in a multitude of categories for fantasy owners. Last year's line: 130 tackles, 3.5 sacks, five passes defensed, one interception and two forced fumbles. He is a bit risky as a one-year producer, but Anderson should take a step forward under Ron Rivera and DC Sean McDermott.
5
Stephen Tulloch Detroit Lions
5-11
240
6
Tulloch is reunited with his former DC Jim Schwartz in Detroit. Coming off a career year, the versatile linebacker will move around but should primarily play on the outside. He has a great front four ahead of him to free up lanes for making plays. Don't expect 160 tackles again, but 135 is reasonable.
6
Jon Beason Carolina Panthers
6-0
237
5
Beason has never missed a game in his NFL career, but Week 1 is in jeopardy because of a minor Achilles' tendon procedure. He thinks he will be able to play. In 2010, a down year, he racked up 121 stops, a sack, two forced fumbles and picked off one pass. You can probably land him on the cheap because of his injury concerns.
7
London Fletcher Washington Redskins
5-10
245
14
A 36-year-old linebacker is rarely considered a fantasy gem, but Fletcher continues to defy age. He recently shook off a minor groin injury and should be fine for Week 1. Last year, he "slowed down" to the tune of 136 combine tackles, 2.5 sacks, a career-high 11 passes defensed and three forced fumbles. He makes for a nice value pick for your No. 1 'backer.
8
James Laurinaitis St. Louis Rams
6-2
247
3
The second-year standout has 234 total stops in two seasons and hasn't missed a start. He is effective against the pass, too, picking off three passes and defending 10 others in his two pro years. Another year in this system should bring more comfort, and the Rams added talent around him to help blockers from focusing solely on Laurinaitis.
9
Barrett Ruud Tennessee Titans
6-2
241
7
The veteran linebacker enters his first year with the Titans. He is coming off what was a down year by his standards (118 tackles, 2.0 sacks). He contributes across the board and has an interception in four straight years. Expect a bounce-back performance this year.
10
Ray Lewis Baltimore Ravens
6-1
250
16
Ray-Ray hasn't missed a game in the last three years and seems to get better with age. He posted 139 total stops, 2.0 sacks, two picks, two forced fumbles and scored a pick-six last year. Lewis has always been a great source for tackles and pass defense stats. Count on much of the same in 2011 if he remains healthy.
11
Chad Greenway Minnesota Vikings
6-2
242
6
Greenway is playing for a contract after this year. He developed into quite the tackle machine in 2010 (144), and his active style keeps him close to the ball at all times. He is capable as a pass rusher (5.5 sacks in 2008) and is competent against the pass (three picks in 2009).
12
Curtis Lofton Atlanta Falcons
6-0
241
4
Coming off dual knee surgery last spring, Lofton should be fine for Week 1. He has played in every preseason game and has looked pretty good. The 25-year-old has topped 110 tackles each of the last two years; he also contributed in interceptions, forced fumbles and passes defensed last year.
13
Brian Urlacher Chicago Bears
6-4
258
12
The veteran bounced back nicely in 2010 by tallying 125 tackles and 4.0 sacks. He forced a pair of fumbles, too. Urlacher says he feels great at age 33. The lockout could have helped him remain fresh. Urlacher's name will precede his actual worth in many cases, though.
14
Lawrence Timmons Pittsburgh Steelers
6-1
234
5
Timmons developed nicely last year by recording a career-best 135 combined stops. His sacks fell off a bit (3.0 from 7.0 the year before), but his game was more even. He defensed nine passes, picked off two and forced a pair of fumbles. He was rewarded with a huge contract, so will he regress a little out of comfort?
15
Rolando McClain Oakland Raiders
6-3
255
2
McClain could be in for a breakout year. He has improved his workout routine, studied film relentlessly and is determined to become a playmaker like he was in college. He says he understands the system much better, too, which will make him quicker to the ball. We may even be too low on him, despite predicting a breakout year.
16
D.J. Williams Denver Broncos
6-1
242
8
A dislocated elbow may cost him the first two games of the season, but Williams could play with a brace. The veteran 'backer has posted at least 119 tackles each of the last two years. Draft him with caution, but you may land a steal if he falls because of the injury.
17
DeMeco Ryans Houston Texans
6-1
248
6
Ryans lost most of last year because of a torn Achilles' tendon, but he has looked great in practice and should be ready for Week 1. He registered at least 112 tackles in every year prior to 2010. He doesn't contribute much in peripheral stats.
18
David Hawthorne Seattle Seahawks
6-0
246
4
Expect big things from Hawthorne in 2011. He moves to the middle to replace Lofa Tatupu and should shine like he did a few years ago in this spot. An unheralded player, he could go under the radar in your league. Hawthorne contributes three-digit tackle figures, plus sacks, interceptions, PDs and FFs in reasonable quantities.
19
Jonathan Vilma New Orleans Saints
6-1
230
8
Vilma is healthy and played every game last year for the second time in three years. He has made at least 100 tackles in every healthy season of his career, with an interception in each year as well. Vilma forced three fumbles last year and logged a career-best 4.0 sacks.
20
Lance Briggs Chicago Bears
6-1
244
9
Last year was the first season since his 2003 rookie year that Briggs failed to top 100 tackles (89). He is in a contract dispute with the team and has requested a trade that we don't expect the club to grant. Briggs contributes across the board on some meaningful way and should be a midrange second fantasy linebacker.
21
Karlos Dansby Miami Dolphins
6-4
250
8
Dansby missed two games last year but managed to make 95 tackles and record 3.0 sacks. He forced two fumbles, too. He may not be as well known to casual IDP owners, so consider him a possible value pick depending on the savvy of your league mates.
22
Brian Cushing Houston Texans
6-3
259
3
Cushing is coming back from a knee injury and has been out of condition. He has improved each day of practice, though, and played two preseason games without a problem. He missed four games last year because of a banned substance violation. He posted 76 tackles and 1.5 sacks on the year. Consider him a risky No. 2 fantasy selection.
23
Clint Session Jacksonville Jaguars
6-0
235
5
Session comes over from the Colts after a five-game season. He hasn't been a stranger to injuries in his career but can produce fantasy-worth stats when on the field. In 2009, he notched 103 tackles and two picks, one of which went for a score, in 14 games. He is a risky, low-end second fantasy linebacker.
24
E.J. Henderson Minnesota Vikings
6-1
245
9
The veteran returned nicely from a broken leg and racked up 105 tackles to go along with three picks. He should be even better in 2011 now that he is 100 percent healthy, but Henderson's ceiling is limited with Chad Greenway next to him. Draft Henderson as a value pick later in your draft.
25
David Harris New York Jets
6-2
250
5
Harris plays in an ultra-aggressive defense and has been a sound tackler as well as pass rusher in his career. He isn't elite in any category but deserves consideration as a low-end No. 2.
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About Cory J. Bonini

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.

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