Key & Diagnosis: Top 5 NFL IDP Linebackers
2022 NFL Training camps are underway and fantasy football managers are preparing for their fantasy football drafts. If you’re new to IDP fantasy football then this article is of particular interest to you. We’ll be discussing the top 5 NFL IDP Linebackers. There are reasons why these guys will be among the first IDPs taken in your drafts. They are the cream of the crop! These top 5 guys offer a high level of consistency from season to season. These are also high upside players that will provide fantasy owners with some week-winning performances. Let’s discuss what makes these Linebackers so unique and why you’ll want them on your fantasy rosters.
Parsons busted onto the scene last season as a rookie recording 84 combined tackles and 13 sacks. His 13 sacks happened to be the 3rd most all-time for a rookie defender. Both his film and advanced metrics indicate that he belongs mentioned among the elite IDP players. Parsons generated 47 QB pressures last season which was inside the top 5. He also recorded 30 QB hits which also placed him inside the top 5 in that category. Although Parsons is listed as a Middle Linebacker, he’s much more than that. The Cowboys use Parsons as both a Middle Linebacker and Edge Rusher. He’s an extremely athletic defender who can play both of these positions at a high level. Fantasy owners are getting the best of both worlds when drafting Parsons. He’s providing a solid floor with his tackling production at Linebacker. He’s also providing you with big-play upside through sacks that he accumulates as an Edge Rusher. It’s fair to say that Parsons represents an IDP cheat code. His optimal position is at DL for those managers who play on sites where he has dual eligibility as an LB or DL. Parsons should be one of the first IDPs taken in drafts.
Smith has been one of the most consistent fantasy Linebackers since he entered the league back in 2018. He’s averaged 131 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks per season. Smith also has recorded a least 1 interception in each of his first 4 seasons. The 5th year pro is still only 25 years old and he appears to be improving every season. For example, last season Smith registered a career-best 163 combined tackles to go along with 3 sacks. He also logged an interception that went for a touchdown in a week 2 win against the Bengals. In 2021, Smith recorded at least 8 combined tackles in 14 out of 17 contests. His consistency helped him finish as a top 5 fantasy Linebacker last season. His advanced metrics also show that he is performing at an elite level. Smith has proven to be one of the best coverage Linebackers in the league. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s only allowing a 70.7 QB rating when he’s been targeted. Even more impressive, he hasn’t allowed a touchdown reception while in coverage during this period. Draft Smith with confidence knowing that you’ll be getting top 5-10 Linebacker production.
Leonard has been an absolute IDP stud since he entered the league in 2018. He posted an otherworldly 163 combined tackles, 7 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles in his rookie campaign. He finished as the #1 overall fantasy Linebacker during that season. Leonard has proven to be a big-play machine through his first four seasons in the league. He stuffs the stat sheet with sacks and turnovers every season. He’s averaged nearly 4 sacks per season in his career. He’s also averaged nearly 3 interceptions and over 4 forced fumbles per season. In fact, Leonard led the league with 8 forced fumbles last season. In 2021 he failed to record a sack, but he still was a force to be reckoned with. Leonard registered 122 tackles, 4 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries last season. His knack for big plays has helped him finish as a top 12 fantasy Linebacker in each of his first four seasons. Leonard should be considered a no-brainer top 5 Linebacker selection in IDP leagues.
Wagner has been a model for IDP consistency. The 32-year-old Linebacker has finished among the league leaders in tackles nearly every season of his career. Wagner has averaged 147 combined tackles per season over the last 5 years. That’s #1 for all Linebackers during that span. Wagner hasn’t slowed down with age either, as he posted a career-high 170 combined tackles last season. He placed 3rd in tackles behind only Foyesade Oluokun and Jordyn Brooks. The tackling monster had double-digit tackles in 10 out of his 16 starts last season. This included an insane 20-tackle game in week 2 against the Titans. Wagner has also shown a knack for providing big plays. He’s recorded 3 or more sacks in 4 of his 10 NFL seasons. Wagner signed with the Rams this off-season after spending his previous 10 seasons with the Seahawks. Even though he’s on a new team it should be business as usual for Wagner. Wagner still has a lot left in the tank and he should deliver top 10 numbers again this season.
White is still a young and ascending player. The 24-year-old Linebacker has led the Bucs in tackles in each of the last two seasons. White had his fantasy breakout during the 2020 season. He recorded 140 combined tackles and an astounding 9 sacks in that season. He also finished as the #1 scoring fantasy Linebacker in that same year. White experienced regression in his fantasy numbers last season with both his tackle numbers and sack numbers declining from a season ago. However, that was to be expected, especially the outlandish sack numbers for an Inside Linebacker. The dip in production placed him out of the top 12 fantasy Linebackers in 2021. I’m encouraged by his usage and I believe that he’ll crack back into the top 5 this season. First of all, the Bucs are a blitz-heavy defense. White is used as an extension of the Bucs’ pass rush. His 133 blitzes led all Linebackers last season. Also, his 30 QB pressures were 2nd among Inside Linebackers behind only rookie phenom Micah Parsons. The Bucs will continue to blitz White at a league-high rate. He may not reach the 9 sack mark as he did in 2020, but 5 to 6 sacks are attainable with the way that he’s being used. With a solid tackling floor and high sack upside, White should be taken among the top 5 Linebackers in IDP drafts.
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