Linebackers are the most important part to a successful IDP roster- stocking your roster with linebackers that will fill the stat sheet with the all-important tackles will lead to success. A solid linebacker corps will carry your offense through the crazy up and downs of the season. Linebackers that can average 10-12 tackles a game will anchor your team and lead you to a great season. I am a firm believer that you cannot have too many starting linebackers- I focus on one or two absolute LB1s to anchor the unit and fill my roster with as many LB2/LB3 players as I can get comfortably.
I want to take a look at some of the rookies and young players that may still be available on your waivers at the end of the season, some may be owned but possibly traded for as a throw-in. One of my favorite things to do is getting a potential future starter as an added ‘bonus’ on a trade that someone may be disenchanted with after the long, unproductive slog of 2017.
Zach Cunningham, ILB, Houston Texans
Zach is likely heavily owned but he presents the most upside for the future other than Rueben Foster from the Class of 2017 in my opinion. Zach produced throughout the year in limited playing time but has really stepped up in the past three weeks- posting 18 solos, 7 assists, and 4 deflections over weeks 14, 15, and 16. He should be a target if you are looking to bolster your linebacker production, he should fill this production role consistently going forward and could cut into the role of Bernardrick McKinney as well. Zach Cunningham needs to be a target in the offseason if you need linebacker production.
Zach Vigil, ILB, Washington Redskins
Zach, not all of these will be named Zach I promise, has stepped into the every down role of the Redskins and I don’t see him looking back. Zach has great size and range, he looks the part of a prototypical linebacker and will fill a need for Washington. Zach posted 7, 6, and 12 solos the past three weeks and chipped in 2 assists each week as well. Zach works hard, possesses above average coverage skills, and could man the three-down LB role for the Redskins for years to come. He is likely owned because of his recent production but could be had less expensively or possibly dropped in upcoming weeks.
Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Miami Dolphins
Raekwon was one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the draft for me and was stepping into a role on a team that needed linebacker help. The stars were aligned for him to produce in 2017, then a torn ACL sidelined him like it seemed to get many players in this cursed year. He was a great producer at Ohio State and now has had the sidelined season to study the pro game- this hopefully will lead to big things in 2018. I have seen Raekwon on the waivers in a few leagues, but most likely he is stashed on an IR and can be had as a throw-in on a trade because he missed this season. Take advantage if you are able, he goes into 2018 in a prime position to be a three down starting linebacker for the Dolphins.
Future Steady Producers
Alex Anzolone, OLB, New Orleans Saints
Alex flashed some of his promise in the first few weeks before going on IR for the season with a shoulder injury, injury problems have been a concern in his career thus far and could plague him so this pick comes with a disclaimer. He will likely be available to stash and should be if he is. Alex has tremendous quickness and range, can cover as well as rush the passer, and has above average instincts in the run game. The role is there and the Saints have a need as there has been uncertainty despite Craig Robertson’s production. Alex, if healthy, will be a solid producer going forward- posting 70-80 tackles along with 5-6 sacks and be a solid LB3/4 for years if he can stay on the field.
Blair Brown, ILB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blair has a slightly congested path in front of him and is likely available, but definitely worth a stash. Telvin Smith mans the middle and isn’t going anywhere while Myles Jack has also shown solid production thus far but has been unspectacular. Blair is a bit shorter than most starting linebackers but showed tremendous instincts and a nose for the ball at the collegiate level, known for sniffing out screens- a valuable asset in today’s linebacker. Blair should challenge for more playing time in 2018 and could certainly earn a role going forward.
Patrick Onwuasor, ILB, Baltimore Ravens
Patrick in is his second year of the league and is also a bit smaller than the ‘prototypical’ linebacker but has displayed great instinct and playmaking ability. He has a growing reputation as a big hitter, a converted safety, and appears to fit the mold of what the Ravens have always had in their defense. He posted 64 solo tackles and 22 assists but that number should grow as familiarity in the defense and his role grows. He should be a steady LB3 for years to come with LB2 upside and his role could grow if CJ Mosley regresses or falls to injury.