Dynasty League Football


IDP Dynasty Fantasy Football: Full-time Linebackers in 2022, Part Two

Blake Martinez

In part one of this article, we detailed the first half of the NFL trying to identify a dying breed: the full-time linebacker.

Here we round out the rest of the NFL looking for the players who can fuel your IDP team’s dominant 2022.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have a new head coach in Josh McDaniels, and a new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham. Graham in particular is a major departure from Gus Bradley in 2021.

On one hand, it could be expected that these two ex-Bill Belichick disciples will deploy rotating LBs in the same way the Patriots do. On the other hand, Graham has shown a tendency to invest in one full-time LB when he’s had the opportunity.

We’ll have to wait and see more news, but at best there’s one full-time gig on the cards here. Denzel Perryman had an extraordinarily efficient 2021, but really hasn’t shown he’s that guy. Similarly, Divine Deablo has limited quality playing time on film. Jayon Brown’s best days were a while ago.

It’s unlikely that any Raiders LB is an IDP star in 2022, but there is the possibility, and we have very little idea who the favorite is.

Los Angeles Chargers

Brandon Staley took over as head coach in 2021 and many (myself included) thought it would be an instant success. That did not happen. The Chargers were a bottom-five defense with a terminally soft center.

In 2022 this could change, but LB is still very uncertain. Kyzir White departed for a one-year contract with the Eagles, and Kenneth Murray was dropped last season and does not look like a fit.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams have led the NFL in single-LB packages for several years now (with the Packers not far behind). That personnel shift delivered the best defense in the league in 2020, and a championship in 2021. Their use of two-high safety shells with an extra DB on the field caused offenses to struggle to pass the ball, which meant they either failed or ran more. Either is a great result for the defense.

However, there is bizarrely a significant group of people that think the Rams abandon all that because they really want to get Ernest Jones on the field. Jones was a third-round pick in 2021 and played 440 defensive snaps in the regular season in 11 games (40 snaps per game average). He did have a good game in the Super Bowl and it’s likely this is influencing opinions.

The situation right now though is that Bobby Wagner signed with the team in the off-season. For Jones to see full-time snaps, the Rams either have to abandon the defensive philosophy that brought them so much success, or Jones has to play in front of Wagner. That’s it. Those are the only options.

Bear in mind the Rams are run by Sean McVay – a coach who knows a thing or two about exploiting defense mismatches (which is what a second LB increasingly is).

Miami Dolphins

Josh Boyer remains the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator, but we are likely to see some sort of shift in philosophy. New Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel comes from the Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay tree and all those guys have shifted towards playing more two-high coverages because they know how effective they are against the vogue offenses in today’s NFL.

This has a knock-on effect, because it means we’re even more likely to see just one full-time LB job on this defense.

Jerome Baker is the man in possession, but he’s been used more on the edge every single of his career and he’s not a great fit as a mobile, modern LB. He still remains the favorite though, as Elandon Roberts is definitely not that guy and Channing Tindall will likely need his rookie year to get up to speed.

Minnesota Vikings

Ed Donatell is in the middle of modernizing what had become the most old-fashioned defense in the NFL under Mike Zimmer. He’ll deploy far fewer three-LB sets, but we should still see two full-time jobs. Those are very likely to be owned by veterans Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks.

Rookie Brian Asamoah was an early pick, but likely joins Chazz Surratt and Troy Dye as Vikings LB roster-cloggers.

New England Patriots

The Patriots (along with the Chiefs) are leading the NFL in situational LB deployment. They don’t employ anyone as a full-time option – they rotate them and use them where their skillset is most effective.

Ja’Whaun Bentley is likely to lead the unit in snaps but expect him to max out at about 800 snaps (around the 30th most in the NFL).

New Orleans Saints

After years of excellent defense, Dennis Allen has stepped up from DC to HC. We can expect him to continue deploying a sole, full-time LB, and that player is likely to still be Demario Davis for another year or even two.

Pete Werner has some big fans and has shown some development, but he played just 394 snaps last season with the ghost of Kwon Alexander well ahead. Werner averaged 28 snaps per game, with Alexander on 44.

That doesn’t mean the same thing will happen in 2022. Indeed, it would be a surprise if Werner didn’t pick up snaps. But the chances of him making it to full-time status are slim.

New York Giants

Blake Martinez was injured early in week three last season and missed the rest of the year. Tae Davis stood in for him, but never looked at all like making the job his own.

We should expect Martinez to walk back into his job and play every snap available.

The last time the second LB on the Giants hit 800 snaps was back in 2011. Over the past three seasons, that role has averaged 502 snaps. The new DC Don “Wink” Martindale comes from the ravens, where they’ve been solidly on the single-LB train.

You shouldn’t hold out for anyone bar Martinez in 2022.

New York Jets

The Jets were unarguably the worst defense in the NFL in 2021. Part of that was the huge hole at LB.

CJ Mosley played almost 1,100 snaps and put up good IDP scores, but it was his worst season by far. He’s 30 now and hasn’t played well over significant snaps since 2018. He could put together another good IDP season, but Robert Saleh is battling to save his job and reputation. He just might have to roll the dice on someone else if Mosley struggles again.

Quincy Williams and Marcell Harris are journeymen. Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen are both totally unproven. This again looks like a problem position.

Philadelphia Eagles

A year ago, the Eagles LB corps looked a total mess. Eric Wilson had many excited but showed exactly why it’s not smart to invest in one-season wonders who put up points on the back of injury-enforced volume.

This year we’ve got TJ Edwards in place with Kyzir White arriving as a modestly-paid free agent, and Nakobe Dean in the third round of the draft.

Many are falling over themselves to anoint Dean as the new superstar, but it’s likely that we again see all of these options as full-time players at some point this season – not even including Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley.

There’s a wide array of possibilities here. We could definitely see one (or even two) of these guys play 1,000 snaps. We could also easily see none of them broach 800. Keep an eye on this situation, and don’t overpay for now.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Last summer the Devin Bush vs Joe Schobert debate was scorching hot. Both sides were adamant that their guy really was a good player.

Neither were right. Both played really badly on the worst run-stopping defense in the league, and they played just 1,683 snaps between them.

In 2022 Bush is still clinging on, although he looks like a clear bust at this point. He’s been joined by Myles Jack, another athletic LB who has been much-hyped at times but has posted multiple average-poor seasons in a row.

The smart money is again on neither of them securing a full-time role and hovering around in the limbo of playing 55 snaps per week.

San Francisco 49ers

Dre Greenlaw was injured early last season and never quite got back to full health. Azeez Al-Shaair stepped in to play for him for most of the season but left much to be desired.

Lots of people saw Al-Shaair score well for them as an IDP and think he is a good player who will play high volume again, but he is not that guy. He is deeply limited and lacks any sort of trump card as a player. Expect Greenlaw to rejoin Fred Warner as a full-time player.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have led the NFL in defensive snaps the last two seasons straight. If you had no historic context of how rare this is, then it would be easy to assume they will do it again. But we do have history, and it’s extremely likely they play less than their ludicrously-high 1,200 team defensive snaps (over 70 per game).

This is relevant because Jordyn Brooks is being drafted as a top-three dynasty LB right now. He was one of just three LBs to play over 1,100 snaps in 2021. The others were Foye Oluokun and Bobby Wagner. It cannot be overstated how big a factor volume is in IDP LB scoring.

Brooks is going to play on a team that is likely to play significantly fewer spans next year, and he’s unlikely to stay as healthy. Just 21% of week one starting LBs played in every game last season. That paints a picture of serious regression risk. It doesn’t mean he can’t be a good IDP. It just means right now he’s likely at the peak of his value. Especially given he’s one of the worst coverage LBs in the NFL.

Next to Brooks, it looks like Cody Barton is going to get the chance to step into a starting role. He’s a red-hot name in IDP. Fifteen years ago, he’d be a sleeper, but these days everyone knows everyone so he’s just a breakout candidate.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Todd Bowles has moved up to head coach, but we can expect the same use of LBs. The Bucs are one of the dwindling number of NFL teams who are absolutely committed to always keeping two of them on the field.

Last season Devin White was a great example of why betting on blitz-heavy LBs can be risky. After his nine-sack season in 2020, he was being drafted as the clear top option in 2021. He wasn’t bad at all, but clearly, he didn’t warrant being drafted a round or two ahead of all other LBs. Don’t pay that price for last season’s stats.

Lavonte David still mans the other spot. He’s being pretty undervalued in drafts right now because of his age, but you can trust him for 2022.

Tennessee Titans

Yuck. Last season David Long led the unit with just 634 snaps. Neither Rashaan Evans nor Jayon Brown even got to 500. Evans and Brown have departed the team now, and Long has a legion of fans, but the truth is that the unit is not much more settled.

Zach Cunningham is onboard too, but he suited up as a Titan five times, and averaged just 39 snaps per game. Monty Rice played just 179 defensive snaps as a rookie in 2021. He could step up, but it’s a leap of faith. Rookie Chance Campbell posted some good athletic scores, but there’s very little correlation between those to good LB play, and sixth-round picks don’t pan out very often.

This is another situation where we’ll have to keep watching through camp and pre-season. And may well fluctuate through the season.

Washington Commanders

The Commanders invested a first-round pick into Jamin Davis, then promptly gave him just 581 snaps all season. There’s every chance he plays more in 2022, but Ron Rivera has history here. He left Shaq Thompson on the bench for years in Carolina while Thomas Davis was outplaying him.

What we do know is that Cole Holcomb and his magnificent mullet are the only sure thing in this unit. Expect him (them?) to line up for 1,000 snaps injury-permitting.

IDP Dynasty Fantasy Football: Full-time Linebackers in 2022, Part Two
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Michael Chraplewski
8 months ago

Great article!!! I believe it was Tae Crowder rather than Tae Davis for the Giants last year but you are right that he did not show like the job should be his this year.

Paul Reuben
8 months ago

“Brooks is going to play on a team that is likely to play significantly fewer spans next year…”
How is this? The Seattle offense will struggle to stay on the field more than 20 minutes per game.

ken conlogue
Reply to  Paul Reuben
8 months ago

Opponents won’t need to score as much.

Paul Reuben
Reply to  Tom Kislingbury
8 months ago

OK, but the 2022 Seahawks offense is going to make the 2021 Jags offense look like the Faulk/Holt/Bruce St. Louis Rams.

ken conlogue
8 months ago

Nice work, Tom. A lot of uncertainty in many places. However, in the case of the Rams, LA hasn’t had stable LB play in many years. Thus, the ‘D’ suits the personnel…as the Rams will use Wagner and Jones together quite often. Defenses must always adapt and evolve, otherwise, predictability is inevitable.

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