Apparently when Sean Weatherspoon went down with a torn ACL last month, it was just the tip of the bad news iceberg for IDP dynasty squads. On Tuesday it was reported Kiko Alonso, the second year stud linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, was also lost for the season with a torn left ACL. With respect to hyperbole, his loss can’t be expressed strongly enough.
During his rookie campaign, he played 100% of the team’s defensive snaps on his way to 159 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Even though tackles aren’t an official NFL stat, are tracked by home scorekeepers, and therefore sometimes flawed, you couldn’t watch a Bills game and not notice #50 flying around the field like a wrecking ball. Of his 159 total tackles, 87 were solo and 72 were assists. This leads me to believe the score keeper was being plenty liberal with awarding assists to anyone around the ball. As a team, only the Patriots’ 426 assists awarded were more than the Bills’ 377.
For a young team on the rise (both offensively and defensively), this is a massive blow. He was the team’s centerpiece on that side of the ball and can’t be easily replaced by the “next man up” in real life just like he won’t easily be replaced in IDP leagues. In the DLF IDP league he finished the year as the LB8, just behind Luke Kuechly.
So what happens next?
First, the Bills will look to fill his shoes in house and the two most likely candidates are Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham. Brandon Spikes is locked into a two-down role at the MIKE position while Keith Rivers will play all three downs from the SAM position. This leaves a prime opportunity for one of the youngsters to see big time snaps this year but who is the best man for the job?
Preston Brown was the 73rd pick of this year’s draft out of Louisville. He goes 6’1”and 251 pounds and caught the eye of coaches during summer practices. Referring to TheFFGhost’s ORANGE Report from this year:
“Brown is a great downhill tackler who will meet a ball carrier in the hole, delivering big hits while wrapping up.
He doesn’t have any issue moving through traffic and can get to the ball carrier very quickly. Brown seems to instinctively know where he should be and where the ball carrier is headed. He’s solid in coverage both in zone and man, showing an ability to mirror the quarterback and defend the pass well.”
The thing which caught my eye was his ability to stay on the field in all situations. This is where the loss of Alonso will be felt the most. His main competition will come from Nigel Bradham, a third year veteran from Florida State. He’s 6’2” and 241 pounds. During his first two years in the league he has yet to record more than 59 total tackles while starting 13 games and appearing in all 32 contests. On one hand, he has an advantage being a young veteran with experience on all three downs, but on the other hand, the other two starting linebackers on this team are newly signed, making this a moot point. As recently as last month there were rumors he could be on the roster bubble and might not even make the team – that obviously all changed when Alonso’s knee fell apart.
The player I would feel most comfortable rolling the dice with is Preston Brown. He was selected by the new regime and handpicked by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Schwartz was able to take an average linebacker in DeAndre Levy and put him a position to record 117 total tackles and six interceptions in 2013. His scheme funnels tackles to the weak side while his front four pins their ears back to attack quarterbacks and force them into bad throws. Obviously this was more exciting when this meant Alonso would be the beneficiary, but Brown has the ability to approach the numbers put up by Levy last year as long as he wins this job outright. The worst thing that could happen is this job turns into a timeshare and he leaves the field on passing downs but we won’t know more until later in the summer.
For the Kiko Alonso owners out there, you join the NaVarro Bowman, Sean Lee and Sean Weatherspoon owners who have to see their shiny toy sit on the shelf for most of, if not all, the 2014 season. The closest thing to a silver lining in all this is it happened in July and even though he’ll likely sit out all of this season, he should be ready in time for all football activities next year. The last thing you want to do is panic and sell him for pennies on the dollar. Like Bowman, his first real injury won’t knock him out of the upper elite IDP rankings at linebacker. In start-ups I wouldn’t let him slide outside of the top 10 at his position. He’ll only be 25 years old when next season starts.
Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.