We have the long wait for the start of the NFL regular season, then it leaves us twice as fast and we’re already in the beginning stages of the off-season. For many of us this is where the fun begins.
There were plenty of eye-opening IDP performances this past season and a very impressive rookie class in all phases. With free agency coming up in a couple of months followed by the draft – and being the midst of the ever-changing coaching carousel – we’re going to have second thoughts on certain IDPs.
Those of you with taxi squads or larger rosters will be able to take some fliers, and here I will look at four linebackers who should be already on your radar heading into 2019.
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Eric Wilson, LB MIN
A converted safety in college, Wilson was a UDFA after the 2017 NFL Draft and signed with the Vikings. He got his shot this season and with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks battling injuries, Wilson stepped in as the next man up and got to start in four games. Wilson also played nearly 100% of the snaps in each of his starts, generating some IDP buzz along the way.
In the four games he started, he put up 24 total tackles and managed six quarterback pressures. Although he is still a work in progress, Wilson has flashed what he’s capable of and with Barr becoming a free agent, it’ll be interesting to see if the Vikings stick with Wilson and let Barr walk. It is a situation to keep an eye on and the main reason to hold Wilson until the picture gets a little clearer for us. Is he a game-breaking linebacker? No. But having depth helps, and if the cards are played right, he could be a weekly LB3 option.
Elijah Lee, LB SF
Lee is an interesting piece but possibly not on your waivers at the moment because he was a hot add towards the end of the season. Lee was signed by the Niners from the Vikings’ practice squad for a two-year deal for some depth, but they got more. With Reuben Foster and Malcolm Smith in and out of the lineup, Lee was the next man up and has shown he’d be capable of locking down the WLB spot going forward.
Lee was a seventh round pick in the 2017 draft and although I liked him coming out of Kansas State, his IDP future wasn’t looking bright. But he started five of the 12 games he appeared in and put together 43 total tackles and six QB pressures in those starts.
Luckily, this incoming rookie class isn’t a strong LB crop, so Lee has a solid chance to lock down the WLB job heading into 2019 – if San Francisco commits to him. This makes Lee an excellent stash and we’ll cross our fingers the Niners start him next to Warner.
Harold Landry, OLB TEN
The Titans got a steal with Landry from this past draft and one my favorite EDGE rushers has a big opportunity in 2019. With the news of Brian Orakpo hanging it up, the door is open for Landry to take control of the edge position opposite Derrick Morgan.
We got a sneak peek of it as he started the last three games of the season and provided eight QB pressures. He had 35 on the season. Landry has the potential to be a consistent double-digit sack OLB for years. The thing here is if your league doesn’t score at least three points per sack, then Landry isn’t for you. He won’t be a high-tackle guy. Check Bradley Chubb’s stats and that’s a glimpse of what Landry can become and then some.
In multiple leagues, I have Landry on my taxi-squad and can’t wait to start inserting him into my lineups next season. We start up to four LBs so plugging in someone like Landry can be an x-factor if he has a big game. Landry has big-play upside and there’s a very good chance he’s just sitting on your waiver wire. If you have dead weight to drop, don’t hesitate to make a move.
Kenny Young, LB BAL
Young pretty much spent his rookie season spelling Patrick Onwuasor in nickel but got a couple starts in when C.J. Mosley got hurt. He had a solid start to the season, recording 22 total tackles and one sack through the first three games. Young has flashed his talent and looks the part to be one of the future inside LBs for the Ravens because both Onwuasor and Mosley are free agents this off-season.
If Mosley wants big money, will the Ravens bring him back? I’m guessing Onwuasor is staying put as he’s a restricted free agent. I expect Young’s snaps to not only increase next season but I believe he’ll be starting as well. Another thing that bodes well for Young is the aforementioned weak incoming ILB crop.
If it all works out, Young has that Jayon Brown-type ceiling until he can lock down an every-down role. The Ravens look like they’ll be mixing in more youth on the defense as well and Young can become one of the young leaders.
It’s going to be a long off-season. There are plenty of other stash-worthy LBs but these are four I think will provide a bigger impact in 2019.