The Potential 2020 Darius Leonard Candidates
August 10, 2020 No Comments Article Gary Van Dyke

Welcome to The Potential 2020 Darius Leonard Candidates presented by Gridiron Ratings. A fantasy football article for IDP owners attempting to find a few rookies to target that could tip the scale by overachieving in 2020. And by overachieving like Leonard isn’t as cut and dry as one might think. So we’ll address the term and look at a few linebackers that if the situation is right, they could be considered this year’s Darius Leonard.


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The Darius Leonard Candidates Trigger

Giving credit where credit is due, @MPM13C caught my attention recently when he added this reply on Twitter to a post I was attempting to make a bad but harmless joke. And all kidding aside, Marco deserves the credit for this article idea. So thanks, Marco, and here is my run at narrowing the field down on this interesting topic.

Darius Leonard Candidates

Setting The IDP Bar For The Candidates

First off, let’s clear the air on the odds that any linebacker we discuss could potentially pull off what Darius Leonard has. Afterall in just two short years, he has become the number one ranked inside linebacker by most sites in the game. And he did it by leading the NFL with 163 combined tackles and added multiple playmaking type plays like sacks, passes defended, and interceptions his rookie season. Only to return in his second season repeating the high level of IDP production with 121 combined tackles in just thirteen contests. As well as continuing to maintain those playmaking types plays in the process.

The Realistic Darius Leonard Candidates IDP Bar

The realistic approach to finding a similar player out of these Darius Leonard Candidates is simple. We are looking for a player or players that fit the criteria of what made Leonard the IDP bar. And that is the current lack of rookie draft hype, fantasy football A.D.P, and projected 2020 IDP impact. In other words, we are going to address these comparably to the 2020 rookie class and try to locate potential under the radar inside linebackers. And as we do, we’ll try to keep in mind that the COVID has a firm grip on any rookies development right now. Decreasing the odds, even more, any rookie can overachieve, and match his rookie production level. But yet, just in case, and because everyone loves a hidden gem, we’ll see who qualifies as possible Leonard type players.

The A.D.P. Margin Of Error

There are not a lot of good IDP A.D.P. (Average Draft Position) resources out there in fantasy football land. So for our purposes, we are going to use’s A.D.P. data. Which is based more on dynasty rather than redraft leagues overall. But they are a trusted and unbiased resource that’s affiliated to any fantasy football advice site directly. And as far as this writer knows, the data is only supplied based on their actual member’s drafting habits. And isn’t corrupted by their site’s staff that’s trying to create the A.D.P. data for IDP owners.

The tricky part when comparing draft classes is each can have a different level of talent comparably to the other. And in 2018, Leonards’s class was noted to be one of the most talented linebacker classes in recent history. So that higher hype level isn’t there for the 2020 class as it was in 2018. And as we list each A.D.P., it’s something that’ll defiantly stand out. And as a result of Leonard’s class, we are only listing the top six.

One, because he was the sixth-ranked LB in A.D.P. that season. Second, six is all that MFL lists in 2018 compared to the fifteen in 2020 when sorted by the same criteria. This is likely due to the depth of linebackers and the quality of offensive players in each draft. And it points out that quantity versus quality is a determining factor each year in fantasy football when it comes to rookies. Hence, when we look at the following A.D.P.s, Leonard ranked 6th in his and had an average selection of 105th. Whereas all fifteen Linebackers in 2020 are currently at selection 102 or less. And it’s just an indication of how fickled using A.D.P can be.

The Fact Of The Matter

Before we do list the A.D.P. results, did you know, or do you remember, that post-draft Leonard was called one of the worst selections of the class? That’s right, and HERE is proof noting the date (April 30, 2018) of the article. And did you also know that apparently this sentiment was widely assumed as he wasn’t even listed in pre-draft PFF’s 2018 Top 28 Linebackers? So when we ask the question who is the Darius Leonard of 2020? So, just how obvious could the answer be when he rose from the ashes to become one of the best players in the NFL?

I’d like to mention that as a seasoned IDP writer that doesn’t pay enough credit to a rookie, nor suggest them for our starting lineups. I applaud those fantasy football owners and whoever might have seen this coming and drafted Leonard where they did or in the later rounds. Because however, you knew to do so, it was a championship-winning move.

2020 ADP REPORT / August 4th, 2020
1Queen, Patrick BAL 34.97319226
2Simmons, Isaiah ARI 37.07619026
3Murray, Kenneth LAC 40.79820126
4Gay, Willie KCC 59.231940023
5Wilson, Logan CIN 63.431234022
6Harrison, Malik BAL 71.352241020
7Brooks, Jordyn SEA 75.022138221
8Chaisson, K’Lavon JAC 80.541150519
9Phillips, Jacob CLE 81.744054611
10Baun, Zack NOS 93.402345817
11Walker, Mykal ATL 96.00455518
12Taylor, Davion PHI 97.57425337
13Davis-Gaither, Akeem CIN 99.463146610
14Uche, Josh NEP 99.97434838
15Highsmith, Alex PIT 102.10535585

Potential Darius Leonard Candidates

Based on the rookie hype this IDP writer sees socially, we are eliminating the following players. And we are doing this on the idea they are already expected to excel this coming season. So they do not fit the Leonard description we are shooting for in this particular article. After all, we are searching for a possible post-draft gem and hasn’t received a lot of hype.

As a special and important note, we are making our judgments off the rankings in the A.D.P. data. Because the number of drafts included in each A.D.P. is also reflecting the COVID effect on fantasy football this year. There were a total of 14,800 drafts included in the 2018 analysis. But only 410 in the 2020 analysis at the time of this article. And it’s just another stark reminder of how we all have a fear that this season won’t happen or may be cut short.

Out Of Contention Are The Ravens Patrick Queen, The Cardinals Isaiah Simmons, and The Chargers Kenneth Murry.

Basically, from this writer’s point of view, even if one or more of these guys excelled as Leonard did, they’re currently too well-hyped to qualify.

Disclaimer: This is an “opinion piece” article as the author throws darts at the topic of beating the odds that we have a Leonard type player in this year’s class.

Ravens Malik Harrison

Harrison’s Situational Recap: “Malik Harrison, pick 3.98, out of Ohio State, is just not starting to gain momentum now in the fantasy football community. He is a viable option with his situation on the Ravens roster being a favorable one. The hard-hitting rookie should have no problem earning the start next to higher profiled Patrick Queen. And if he is the mack inside linebacker, his role as the run-stopper will net a lot of combined tackles. While in the process, of course, pending if he is has a full-time role in 2020. And that is why he is currently our 10th overall (composite) ranked 2020 IDP rookie at Gridiron Ratings.”

His Darius Leonard Candidates Qualification

Harrison is one of those players that over time the hype has caught up with his A.D.P. And immediately after the real NFL draft, I can say I know that at first, he was off the rookie IDP radar. Because at the time he was going completely undrafted in rookie drafts those first few weeks. And just how do I know this? Well, at the time, I added him to my 2020 Breakout Calls based on those A.D.P. reports, and of course how I saw his situation. And he is making this list now based on the fact he is still being overshadowed a lot in hype by all the Ravens Patrick Queen love.

Harrison may not be as “elite” as some of the other linebackers in this class according to pre-draft reports. But the Ravens did put him firmly on the rookie IDP radar the moment they selected him in the third round. And simply put other than Queen, they have no other good options on that depth chart at linebacker. So if Harrison ends up getting full-time reps, he will receive the opportunity to overachieve his A.D.P.

Darius Leonard Candidates

Seahawks Jordyn Brooks

Brooks’s Situational Recap: “Jordyn Brooks, pick 1.27, out of Texas Tech, left IDP owners wishing for a touch better situational for 2020. But in overall IDP terms, it definitely could have been worse. And this rookie should slot into starting role off the top just by draft status and the Seahawks current depth chart. But playing next to veteran stud linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will certainly affect his IDP output this season. We will take note that the former third linebacker Mychal Kendricks did indeed produce like an LB1 from time to time alongside the same duo. But we have to expect that Brooks IDP window won’t open wide until 2021. When the Seahawks could move on from Wright when his contract expires. Or possibly even Wagner, as the Seahawks have an optional out written into his high-dollar contract. And something to keep an eye on although highly unlikely to happen, as of right now there is an optional out written in Wrights contract. Sorry, we don’t have the deadline for this option at this time to pass on so it might have already passed. Either way, as we sit, Brooks has a dynasty IDP LB1 glow about him.”

His Darius Leonard Candidates Qualification

It’s likely Brooks’s overall situation that has him being overlooked by IDP owners right now. But we’ll mention that last season Mychal Kendricks overachieved at times as the Seahawks third linebacker. And he was relevant enough to roster here and there, for bye-week and injury reasons. In fourteen contests with about 60% of the snaps available, he recorded 71 combined tackles. And also managed to add a handful of playmaking type plays padding his IDP scoring. So there is potential here if the Seahawks were to focus on giving Brooks a lot of time on the field. Or heaven forbid, something was to happen to Wright or Wagner early on. 

Indications right now are, if Brooks had fallen to any other team that needed a linebacker in a bad way, he certainly is just as talented as Queen and Murry overall. And personally, at times, I’ve been shocked when I hear or see just how fare Brooks has fallen in some rookie drafts. But it is completely understandable considering what we have at face value which also explains his lack of rookie hype.

Browns Jacob Phillips

Phillips’s Situational Recap: “Jacob Phillips, pick 3.97, out of LSU, is in a great position among the Browns linebacker core. They have made little to no attempt to bolster the unit with any high motored free agents or higher draft status players. But his metrics may take some time to develop to full capacity at the NFL level. And not barring the potential to outperform his completion to start, but he was considered a reach by the Browns in the draft. The one positive that could have had him inserted with the first squad, the overall state of the other linebackers he’ll be competing with. And is why Phillips is our 24th overall (composite) ranked 2020 IDP rookie at Gridiron Ratings.”

His Darius Leonard Candidates Qualifications
It’s a very good possibility that Phillips fits the qualifications the best out of all these candidates. And it if you’d like a bit more on why this writer thinks so, just check out this recent article HERE for more. The scenarios are so similar in this writer’s opinion that it’s a little uncanny to examine. And we aren’t just talking about the lack of hype here because it goes deeper than that.
When we think of the situation that Leonard walked into with the Colts, his college reports, and even some of his physical traits. Everything seems to mirror and be in-line for Phillips to have the opportunity to overachieve and pull this off. And if we wanted to dig real deep, which we aren’t here right now, there is a lot to like when comparing Phillips to Leonard across the board. But again, this is an opinion article, so we’ll just leave it at that. But I will go as far as saying, if I had an “authors pick”, I’d have a hard time not taking him over Harrison at this point.

Eagles Davion Taylor

Taylor’s Situational Recap: “Davion Taylor, pick 103 in the 3rd, out of Colorado, couldn’t have landed in a more mixed review situational in Philly. On paper, he has little to no real competition for a starting gig. And his draft status and metrics directly deserves the chance to earn a starting gig. But here’s the thing, it’s going to be really hard to gauge at what capacity this rookie can perform at with this defensive scheme. Over the last few seasons, there has only been one full-time linebacker in the play in any given season. So he does deserve the First Squad designation, but just keep in mind it isn’t as clear cut like we want in terms of IDP opportunity.”

His Darius Leonard Candidates Qualification

There are two HUGE words everywhere you look when referring to Taylor, and those two words are extremely raw. It seems his situation coming out of college is he wasn’t a polished player that relied more on his athletism and speed. And reportedly, he has very little experience in the box after playing the star linebacker position for Colorado in college. And he didn’t have any high school football background going into college on top of that.

But great news, these only add to the scenario we’re looking for, and it certainly helps when we look at the Eagles linebacker depth. That depth is either, re-treads, lackluster, or unknown. So putting Taylor in here may be deep, but it certainly isn’t out of the question. If he truly is this athletic specimen, learns the playbook, outshines those other guys, and earns one of the two linebacker positions that’s reportedly open, it only leaves one other obstacle. And that is that the Eagles haven’t used a linebacker in a full capacity role we’re looking for since Jordan Hicks. Other than pointing out these things, we aren’t going to say it isn’t going to happen. And that’s because something has to break eventually, so why can’t Taylor be that catalysis?

Darius Leonard Candidates

Vikings Troy Dye

Dye’s Situational Recap: “Troy Dye, pick 132 in the 4th, out of Oregan, could be a stunner slipping that far in the NFL draft. He checks off all the right metric boxes to make an immediate impact at the pro level. And it is just too bad that he did fall to the Vikings when it comes to 2020 playing time. Our best-case scenario is he wins the weakside linebacker position for the Vikes. Which traditionally is at best a part-time role. But he is slotted into our Gridiron Ratings at 24th solely based on his high potential dynasty value for a few good reasons. But our main great reason is that long time veteran  Anthoney Barr does have an out in his contract for the Vikings in 2021. Possibly opening the window now for IDP owners for a great grab and stash in dynasty leagues. If only his situational had been on many of the other linebacker needy teams, we would have had a First Squad pick up.”

His Darius Leonard Candidates Qualifications
How in the NFL world Dye fell so far in the draft is a mystery. He was among so many top linebacker prospects pre-draft rankings that the pre-draft hype alone should have had him drafted in the top two rounds. But yet, he went in the late fourth to a team that did need linebackers, but more as depth players. And in so many other cases, Dye fits the bill to be allowed to start for so many other defenses in the league.
Dye was a four-year starter for the University of Oregon Ducks and known as a mentally tough player. And in his college career, he recorded 391 total tackles (234 solos,157 assisted), 13 sacks, 41.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and five interceptions. And just think, according to the A.D.P. reports, he isn’t even being drafted in dynasty leagues. So what isn’t there to like about this reportedly athletic linebacker? Because all he needs is the Vikings to give him a window for some real playing time, and the rest could be history.

What Happen To Gay And Wilson?

Why didn’t the Chiefs Willie Gay and the Bengals Logan Wilson get any Leonard like love in this article? Well, shockingly enough to this IDP writer, they don’t qualify based on making the top five in the A.D.P. And believe me, coming into this article, I had no clue that I wouldn’t have them as options to write about. But let’s mention that I’m not quite in love with what hype they have from some fantasy football fans. And I was struggling to think that either player’s opportunity, with their respected teams, would translate here anyhow. But in the end, it is any given season, and these two might not fit the bill exactly as we’ve approached it. But they still could qualify by overachieving as rookies this season and come within the margin of production needed to have qualified.


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