Fantasy Reaction: Dannell Ellerbe Signs With Miami
In one of the bigger surprises of Day 1 of the NFL year, the Dolphins inked ILB Dannell Ellerbe to a five-year, $35 million contract. This is huge money for Ellerbe and puts him among the league’s highest-paid linebackers.
Over the last three seasons, Ellerbe has been a relatively unknown commodity. When you’re sharing the same position as Ray Lewis, it’s hard to make yourself known and get on the field. But an uphill battle was nothing new for Ellerbe, as he was an undrafted free agent, signing with Baltimore in 2009.
Ellerbe proved himself to be a versatile player, having manned all three linebacker positions while at Georgia. Injuries dropped his draft stock, as a knee injury in 2008 put a damper on his season. Baltimore saw enough of him to bring him in and he matched the style of play that the Ravens defense is known for – aggressive, hard-hitting, and tough against the run.
Between the 2009-2011 seasons, Ellerbe appeared in 33 games, notching 90 tackles and a sack. Known for his run-stopping ability, he graded out poorly his rookie year (-4.8), but he managed to compile 41 tackles while missing just three. His 6.9 percent tackle frequency was not that impressive, but he managed to improve in his second season to a tackle frequency of 9.7 percent. Ellerbe battled injuries in 2011, missing six games to a thigh injury and concussion and managing just 18 tackles.
The 2012 season saw Ellerbe break out, thanks to injuries to both Jameel McClain and Lewis. Ellerbe started seven regular season games and played 667 defensive snaps. He also improved his overall PFF grading to +4.8 and his run defense to +6.2. From an IDP standpoint, he notched a career-high 92 total tackles resulting in an elite 13.8 percent tackle frequency. He also contributed a career-high five sacks, while producing 18 total QBP. Ellerbe was especially outstanding against his own division, producing 39 tackles in five games (11-plus tackles in all five games he appeared in).
Ellerbe will need to improve his pass coverage (-5.1 in 2012), especially against opposing tight ends. However, the one knock on him coming into the league was his propensity for missed tackles. That really hasn’t been the case of late since he missed just six tackles last season, which is just one missed tackle in every 16 attempts.
Following Ellerbe’s signing, the Dolphins parted ways with Karlos Dansby. This move essentially assures Ellerbe as the starter in the middle, provided Miami sticks with the 4-3. While Dansby didn’t produce elite numbers in that role last season, it’s reasonable to expect LB2 production out of Ellerbe in 2013.
Mike Woellert is a Senior Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Follow Mike on Twitter @PFF_MWoellert