In a division that has Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford you would assume most if not all of the teams in the NFC North would focus on defense from the 2017 NFL Draft; whether it’s pass rushers to off ball linebackers to ballhawks in the secondary. With the draft already finished and training camp has begun I put a spin on some winners and losers.
Jarrad Davis, MLB DET
Davis was drafted in the first round and shortly after it was announced he’d be taking over middle linebacker duties over Tahir Whitehead. He’ll be on the field for all three downs and would bring his physical and attack mentality on the field. He should be one of the first four linebackers taken in a rookie draft and you can expect he’ll make an immediate impact on your fantasy roster. He’s going to be the middle linebacker for years in Detroit, and a valuable dynasty asset.
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Jalen Reeves-Maybin, WLB DET
Reeves-Maybin is far better than his draft spot (Round 4, Pick 124th Overall) but due to a shoulder injury that ended his season his draft stock fell. He has sideline to sideline speed and fits the mold of a weakside linebacker perfectly as he has no problem rushing the passer or dropping back into coverage. Detroit has been searching for linebacker depth/playmakers since DeAndre Levy never got right again after his injury and Whitehead not being the lone answer. In your rookie drafts you’re able to snag Reeves-Maybin towards the end of your draft; normally round five and that’s a steal. Unless an injury occurs, he provides slim, short-term production but long term outlook is he has a top 20 ceiling as he should take weakside linebacker reigns from Whitehead in 2018.
Josh Jones, S/LB GB
The Packers focused on the defensive side of the ball in the draft and nonetheless focused on their weakness; secondary. They had two picks in the second round and with their second selection they took Jones from North Carolina State. He’s a versatile defender, has ability to line up anywhere on the field whether it’s at linebacker or safety. Packers have lost their former hybrid; Micah Hyde, to the Bills in Free Agency and Jones is here to take his vacated spot and more. He brings some much needed versatility and depth to the safety position. Hyde played around 985 snaps last season, Jones could very well see at least 600 of those and will return DB2 value. Morgan Burnett is a free agent in 2018 and if he doesn’t resign then Jones long term outlook just got better; it would slot him in the top ten in dynasty and right now he is an absolute steal in the fifth round of your rookie drafts; I would even consider targeting him in the fourth.
With the draft selections of Davis and Reeves-Maybin it definitely puts into play that they’re the future linebacker duo in Detroit. Although for the short term; Whitehead is expected to make switch to weakside linebacker in hopes to improve from his disaster PFF graded in 2016 (36.7). Worrilow has been an afterthought in Atlanta after fresh young legs came aboard, he doesn’t necessarily have a solidified role in Detroit yet but slated to be the strongside linebacker; a mold he doesn’t fit. Whitehead is a free agent in 2018 and the Lions could definitely let him walk especially if Reeves-Maybin has a full recovery and is ready to take the weakside job. I’ll definitely be passing up on Worrilow in drafts but if I’m in contention I’ll take my shot with Whitehead as my LB4 with hopes he turns it around this year.
Blake Martinez, ILB GB
Martinez has played poorly in 2016, having a PFF grade of 49.4 and just didn’t look comfortable. He’s at best an early down linebacker, isn’t that bad against the run but with Jones presence now the Packers won’t have to rely on Martinez dropping back in coverage. At the same time, Jake Ryan is improving and becoming a more complete linebacker so that eats into whatever snaps Martinez gets. If you thought about drafting him because you might think he’s a late round steal; save yourself from the headache and look at other options that’ll give you some upside in the foreseeable future.
Clay Matthews, OLB GB
The Packers drafted Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel and they’ve resigned Nick Perry to an extension could spell the end for Matthews sooner than later. He hasn’t really been relevant in IDP for a few seasons now but he’ll be around to help mold Biegel. After posting 11 sacks in 2014, the decline hit and he totalled 11.5 sacks the last two seasons. I wouldn’t bother targeting him in drafts or pick him up off waivers, the throne will be passed to Biegel shortly.