Foster the tackles
Mason Foster, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Foster did a solid job last season, picking up 82 TKL, a pair of sacks and an interception in his rookie year. He is the favorite to start at middle linebacker, but he has the ability to play inside or outside. Foster's versatility and athleticism will get him on the field one way or the other.
The coaching staff flirted with the idea of moving him to weak-side linebacker, so they certainly have a high opinion of his abilities. The only knock is the staff would like him to play with more speed and confidence. Still, he's an MLB in a 4-3, so look for 110-120 TKL with a handful of sacks and a forced fumble or two from Foster.
Akeem Dent, Atlanta Falcons
He'll fill the void left by the injury to and release of Lofa Tatupu (pectoral), and Dent will be thrust into a starting role after serving primarily in a special teams role last season. He is expected to be a two-down player, with veteran Mike Petersen there to pick up the pieces if the youngster struggles. Dent has plenty of talent, speed and awareness that could make him a productive 4-3 middle linebacker.
He suffered a concussion in the preseason opener, so fantasy owners must take a leap of faith that injury won't set him back too much as he learns how to be an everyday player in the NFL. His tackle numbers might not approach the 132 average stops Curtis Lofton posted the past over three seasons, but 100-110 TKL are easily within reach.
Perry Riley, Washington Redskins
Riley managed 63 tackles last season, which is substantial since he did not record his first stop until Week 10. Riley is not going to sneak up on anyone this season. He is a proficient run stopper who will be leaned upon heavily, as he tries to stop the likes of NFC East foes LeSean McCoy, Ahmad Bradshaw and DeMarco Murray, among others.
He and London Fletcher might comprise one of the best one-two ILB combinations in the NFC. Though Fletcher is a tackle machine of his own, he might lose a step at 37 years old and leave more for Riley to pick up.
Nick Roach, Chicago Bears
Keep an eye on the knee of Brian Urlacher (knee). If his troublesome knee forces him to rest during games or miss time completely, Roach should step in and do an admirable job. He can do a solid job in the middle, and he'll rack up plenty of tackles if given the chance.
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About Daniel Dobish
Daniel is a Hot Off the Wire Analyst who joined the KFFL staff in 2010. He is a veteran of the fantasy industry dating back to 1999, with stops at CBSSports.com, The Sports Forecaster, OPENSports.com and RotoExperts.com. His work has also appeared on NFL.com and Yahoo.com. Daniel was named the 2011 Fantasy Golf Writer of the Year, 2011 Fantasy Racing Writer of the Year, and he was nominated for the 2011 Fantasy Hockey Writer of the Year. Daniel lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.
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