Since I recently took a look at inside linebackers, I thought it would be fitting to kick the focus to the exterior and examine the top 10 highest-scoring fantasy performances of 4-3 outside linebackers during the 2011 NFL season. That said, it serves well to use Khaled Elsayed’s rankings, from the main side of Pro Football Focus, to provide intelligence to the rawness of fantasy data. As always, my lists are compiled using the Pro Football Focus IDP scoring settings to determine these lists. Here they are, once again.
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9t. D.J. Williams, Denver Broncos: Week 14 vs. Chicago Bears (23.5 PFF Fantasy Points)
Williams is one of three Broncos to have made this list, and he begins the countdown with a dominant performance in a likely week of fantasy football playoffs. Williams’ owners would surely take his line of nine solo tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss during any week, let alone one that may have clinched a fantasy football trophy win. His season-high +1.8 grade in pass coverage in that game was nice to see as well.
9t. James Anderson, Carolina Panthers: Week 14 vs. Atlanta Falcons (23.5 PFF Fantasy Points)
James Anderson was our top-scoring 4-3 outside linebacker during the 2011 season, and to see him make this list is hardly surprising. Though he was typically a low-graded player, Anderson never skimped on the fantasy points. His Week 14 performance was no exception, as he tallied an impressive 17 total tackles, half a sack, a tackle for loss and a defensed pass.
8. Kamerion Wimbley, Oakland Raiders: Week 10 @ San Diego Chargers (24 PFF Fantasy Points)
Sometimes, you don’t need a well-rounded stat sheet to get fantasy points. Sometimes, a player can just focus on one column to rack-up his weekly total. That’s essentially what Kamerion Wimbley did versus the Chargers, evidenced by his four sacks. His seven solo tackles and defensed pass was a nice bonus as well, and aided him in earning the highest-graded single-game performance among all 4-3 outside linebackers (+10.6).
7. Kavell Connor, Indianapolis Colts: Week 4 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (25 PFF Fantasy Points)
If James Anderson was graded poorly over the course of the season, then Kavell Connor was absolutely dismal. The overall -12.5 graded linebacker had something in common with Wimbley’s game in that he lumped his points almost exclusively in one category. His 18 total tackles and one tackle for loss during one of his lowest-graded individual games of the season earned him a dominant performance fantasy-wise, but not elsewhere.
6. Von Miller, Denver Broncos: Week 11 vs. New York Jets (26 PFF Fantasy Points)
It’s only fitting that our highest-graded defensive player of the 2011 season (+50.4) earns a spot on this list. Unlike Connor, there was no discrepancy between our grades and Miller’s best fantasy output of the season. In fact, they correlate, as his +8.7 individual grade was his best mark, and second only to Wimbley’s dismantling of the Chargers. Miller finished his game with 10 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one defensed pass and three tackles for loss, which also earned him AFC defensive player of the week honors. Rightfully so.
5. James Anderson, Carolina Panthers: Week 7 vs. Washington Redskins (26.5 PFF Fantasy Points)
Like Miller, Anderson’s best fantasy output came during his highest graded performance of the year (+3.9). Anderson was all over the field versus the Washington Redskins, and his stat sheet was indicative of that. Twelve total tackles, a fumble recovery, a sack, a defensed pass and two tackles for loss showed just how well Anderson can gravitate to the ball on any given play.
4. Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears: Week 3 vs. Green Bay Packers (27 PFF Fantasy Points)
Briggs was an absolute monster in the run game in an early-season matchup against the Packers, as three of his 10 solo tackles were logged in the backfield. Exacerbating his rivals’ headache even further, Briggs also forced a fourth-quarter fumble which ultimately got his team back in the game, though it ultimately was not enough for the Bears to pull out a win versus the then undefeated Packers. With a 27-point output, it was not likely that his fantasy owners felt the same pain of defeat the Bears did that afternoon.
3. Rob Ninkovich, New England Patriots: Week 10 @ New York Jets (27.5 PFF Fantasy Points)
Here’s where the surprise fantasy performances of the season really begin. With about seven minutes to play in the game, the Patriots already had a convincing 30-16 lead over the Jets. Meanwhile, Rob Ninkovich already had an interception in the game, and was enjoying his best fantasy performance of the season with a respectable 15.5 points. Apparently, that wasn’t enough. In a matter of seconds, Ninkovich nearly doubled his day’s value after picking off Mark Sanchez for the second time, but this time rumbled for 12 yards into the endzone to cap-off a 12-point play and a tremendous prime-time effort.
2. Jordan Senn, Carolina Panthers: Week 15 @ Houston Texans (30.5 PFF Fantasy Points)
What a game. Senn did just about everything a linebacker could do over the course of an afternoon, overwhelming a Texans offense with T.J. Yates at the helm. That’s just for fantasy purposes, though. Grading wise, it was actually Senn’s worst performance of the season, logging a miserable -4.3 overall. But for his fantasy owners (which may have been about two people), this was pretty much as good as it could get. Along with his 14 total tackles, Senn also forced a fumble, defensed a pass and intercepted Yates to make him one of just two 4-3 outside linebackers to eclipse the 30-point plateau.
1. Mario Haggan, Denver Broncos: Week 13 @ Minnesota Vikings (32.5 PFF Fantasy Points)
Mario Haggan started a total of one game in 2011. And what a game it was. The Vikings didn’t have the respite they may have expected with injured Von Miller being out of the lineup that day, as his replacement countered Adrian Peterson effectively, and was even a factor in coverage. Haggan’s early pick-six gave him 12 quick points, and he did nothing but pile-on from then on out. An additional defensed pass and three more tackles for loss on top of 13 total tackles gave anyone who scrounged the waiver wire to replace Miller the heftiest reward of the season.