2011 IDP Undervalued Sleepers – Linebackers
The linebacker position has to be the funnest position to talk about in IDP fantasy football, as players at this spot on the field, tend to be in the mix all over the field. When given an opportunity to shine at the middle linebacker spot, you can find option that may not have been fantasy relevant turn into late round gold and I believe that will be the case with Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga in 2011.
In addition to Maualuga, you will find other linebackers like soon to be star David Hawthorne of the Seahawks, that I believe are worthy of selecting on draft day. Keep an eye on these names as we head through the preseason to make sure they land starting jobs, if so, they should be worth adding on your squad this summer.
David Hawthorne - With Lofa Tatupu finally out of the picture, David Hawthorne will roam around at the middle linebacker position, like he did in the second half of the 2009 season. Down the stretch, that year, Hawthorne performed like a LB-1, and I fully expect him to at least produce like a respectable LB-1 throughout this season. The Seahawks have an underrated defensive line that should help Hawthorne thrive to fill gaps and make plays. Expect over 110 tackles this season, and he should make the occasional big play as well.
Rey Maualuga - With Dahni Jones gone, Rey Maualuga will return to his familiar middle linebacker position, and is now a relevant option for IDP leagues. Jones had no problem racking up over 110 tackles a season, and I expect a younger Maualuga to have no problem providing that total, as the Bengals defense will be on the field often. Look to Maualuga as an option that you can get as your No.3 linebacker but he is worthy of using as a starter as early as week one of the regular season.
Nick Barnett - What a great fit for Nick Barnett as he takes over Paul Posluszny’s old middle linebacker job in Buffalo. Barnett has had problems will health in recent years, but you can easily grab Barnett up as a No.3 or even No.4 linebacker on draft day and his upside is worth the risk.
D’Qwell Jackson – Health is the key word for D’Qwell Jackson as he will continue to play in the middle as the Browns switch over to a 4-3 defense. Before his pectoral issues, Jackson was a top-end IDP stud at linebacker, and you can acquire him as a N0.4 linebacker on draft day, and when healthy, he should perform as a No.2 option.
Rolando McClain – I’m not sure if Rolando McClain will start out of the gates as a productive starting option, but he should play better than last year. The lost time in OTA’s has hurt many second-year players in terms of development, but thankfully, I haven’t heard anything bad about McClain this summer.
Stash McClain as a backup on your squad and wait to see if he does, in fact break out and become the IDP beast we all thought he would be when he was drafted out of Alabama.
Daryl Washington - The Cardinals seem to be raving about Daryl Washington as the second year inside linebacker is set to start. Washington will have to compete for tackles, but he’s worth stashing as a depth option in the later part of the draft.
Casey Mathews – It looks like the Eagles are set on giving rookie Casey Matthews the starting job at middle linebacker and keeping Jamar Chaney at the weak-side on early downs. It will take Matthews some time to get his footing down at the pro level, but he’s worth a late round selection, as the Matthews family has a high IQ for football.
Update - Casey Mathews looked out of sorts in the second week of the preseason, which has given way to reporters questioning if the team would move Jamar Chaney over to the middle. The Eagles defense is going to take some time to gel this season, but IDP fantasy owners need to keep an eye on this battle going forward. Obviously, Chaney would have better value and Mathews less if this switch happens.
More 2011 Fantasy Football Draft Tips