This has been one of the busiest off-seasons, from a mock-drafting standpoint, that I’ve ever been through and I love every second of it. I typically participate in 2-3 mocks just to dip my drafting toes into the water, but thanks to Jeff Ratcliffe and his Mocking One Out series, we’ve been able to compile some concrete ADP data. I’ve done at least 25 of his mocks and have noticed trends in my drafting, and more importantly, trends in the drafting of others when it comes to individual defensive player positions. I’ve had tremendous value fall into my lap, noticed reaches by others (as well as myself) and picks that really left me scratching my head. With another round of mock drafts having just started, I’ll be looking at some data that I’ve analyzed from, the now, 35+ mocks in the Mocking series. With this next piece, I’ll look at the linebackers that are being undervalued and overvalued and how you can take advantage of those picks.
Kevin Burnett, OLB, MIA – After posting 95 tackles with the Chargers in a contract year, he signed with the Dolphins in the 2011 off-season and had one of the quietest 100+ tackle season for IDP’ers last season, finishing with 96 solos. HE got off to a slow start, posting 19 tackles in his first 5 games, but finished strong with two games of 12 solos and 6 games of 8+ tackles. His sack number dropped from 6 to 3, but was a big-time run stuffer, grading out at a +6.3 and appeared in 1,052 snaps. The Dolphins are switching up schemes from 3-4 to 4-3 and is currently lining up as WLB in Kevin Coyle’s system. As long as he makes his 16 starts, he has a legit shot at a repeat 100+ tackle season in 2012. Burnett is going to provide tremendous value in tackle heavy IDP formats at his current ADP of 287 and could produce LB3 numbers.
DeMeco Ryans, MLB, PHI – I’m liking Ryans’ value heading into 2012 and is getting passed on, mainly because of his injury history and his lack of production in Houston’s 3-4. Ryans was dealt to Philadelphia, where he can adjust back to a 4-3 scheme and man the middle, a position that has been lacking production and veteran presence the last few seasons. 2010 and 2011, were lost seasons IMO, as he was dealing with a myriad of injuries, including a torn Achilles’. Even with limited snaps in 2011, he finished with 66 tackles and a tackle frequency of 9.7%, which is right near his career average of 10%. When healthy and on the field, Ryans is a tackle machine where 90-100+ tackle seasons are the norm. Don’t expect much in the way of a pass-rush, but is definitely a run-stuffer. In 2011, Ryans was frequently off the field in passing situations, but Andy Reid is expecting him to be a 3-down backer as long as the Achilles’ holds up. If he can improve his pass coverage slightly, there’s no reason to think he can’t reach the 100 tackle mark. His current ADP of 163 puts him around the 13th round of a 12-team mixed league, so an LB3 that could produce LB2 numbers.
Lance Briggs, OLB, CHI – Briggs continues to be one of the most under-rated LBs in IDP leagues as he continues to notch big tackle numbers. Over the last 4 seasons, Briggs has averaged 104 tackles including 3 of the last 4 seasons of 100+ tackles. Briggs appeared in 1,116 defensive snaps in 2011, grading out at a +8.2, 14th among 4-3 OLBs and 2nd among 4-3 OLBs in run stop% at 11.3, still proving to be a force against the run. Briggs finished with a 9.3% tackle frequency, however, his missed tackles were high (11), leading to a missed tackle in every 9.5 attempts. His current ADP is right around 275 (22nd round in 12-team mixed leagues), which puts him at an LB5, but will produce LB3 numbers at his current value.
Rey Maualuga, MLB, CIN – Maualuga appears to have avoided legal issues, as an assault charge from a Feb. 5 incident was thrown out. Now, he could face punishment from the NFL but it shouldn’t be as stiff had he gone to court. Maualuga is still just 25, entering a contract year with no competition at the MIKE position. Even though he appeared in just 699 snaps, he finished with 84 tackles, leading to a tackle frequency of 12%. The concern will be the missed tackles, as he compiled 12 of them, missing one in every 8 attempts. Maualuga’s current ADP of 296 presents excellent value for a Cincinnati MIKE, as long as he stays on the field, he should be able to compile 900+ snaps and 100+ tackles.
Others being under-valued
Rolando McClain, MLB, OAK (keep an eye on his legal issues) – 179, 30th LB
Perry Riley, ILB, WAS – 181, 31st LB
London Fletcher, ILB, WAS – 147, 22nd LB
Donald Butler, ILB, SDC – 28th LB
Aldon Smith, OLB, SFO – If it weren’t for Von Miller, Smith could’ve been the defensive rookie of the year. Smith graded out as the 2nd best 3-4 OLB (behind Cameron Wake) with a +36.4 and notched 15 sacks and produced a very respectable 12.6% QBI frequency in just 506 defensive snaps. Smith is also being considered as an every-down LB in his second season. So, with these impressive numbers as a rookie, why is he over-valued? It’s because of his over-inflated 142.50 ADP, that’s why. Smith is going to subject to debate this season and his value solely relies on scoring system. If you’re in a tackle heavy format (1.5 to 2pts per tackle), his current ADP is too high. In more a more balanced format, that isn’t as tackle-friendly, his value is about right. Even still, I’m of the mind-set that the price is way too high and I’ll let someone else assume the risk and I’ll scoop up the safer picks.
Patrick Willis, ILB, SFO – He’s been the top dog for a few seasons, but another breed in Navorro Bowman has entered the yard. Not that either of these guys can’t produce 115+ tackles, but Willis’s ADP is 61, putting him around the 5th round (1st LB off the board), while his teammate is being drafted a few rounds later. Plus, I don’t see Willis as the #1 LB heading into 2012 either. As Wills enters his age 27 season, he’s battled some injuries and missed 4 weeks,but still finished with 85 tackles in 782 snaps. He still graded 3rd among 3-4 ILBs with a +25.6 grade, but I don’t think he’s worth a 5th round pick in most mixed leagues.
Jon Beason, OLB, CAR – Beason, along with Willis, has been one of the top producing LBs in IDP leagues, but an Achilles’ injury curtailed his 2011 season. He has been medically cleared and has resumed his football duties. Beason has been rotating with rookie, Luke Kuechly, at MIKE, but appears to be slated for the weak-side and Beason himself has said that the kid is going to man the middle. Granted, the WLB position in Carolina’s defense, is a productive one, but I don’t like the Achilles’ injury and his ADP of 124, putting him right near the 10th round. Is it possible he produces at his ADP? Absolutely. However, Kuechly’s ADP is around 175, which is around 5 rounds later and if he stays at MIKE, could put up better tackle numbers than Beason at a better price.
DeMarcus Ware, OLB, DAL – There is no doubt that Ware is one of the most formidable pass-rushers in the game. According to our data, he finished with 20 sacks and graded out at a +35.6, placing him first among 3-4 OLBs. Ware finished with just 35 tackles, devaluing him in more tackle heavy formats. In fact, in one of the leagues I was in, he finished 29th in scoring among LBs. There’s no denying his ability to get to the QB, 72 total QB pressures, but his lack of tackles and ADP of 80 and being the 5th LB taken off the boards, the price is just too rich for my liking.
Others being over-valued
Von Miller, OLB, DEN – 97, 10th LB
Colin McCarthy, MLB, TEN – 95, 9th LB
Get an updated look at Jeff’s IDP ADP data and look at those linebackers that you can draft for value in your league, based on your scoring format.