Patrick Willis vs. Jerod Mayo
San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Patrick Willis has 595 combined tackles in his four year NFL career. He’s had at least four sacks in three of those years and will likely remain a perennial solid choice as the top IDP selected for at least a few more years. New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo had 175 combined tackles last season, that’s a NFL record. Who had the previous single-season record for tackles? Willis, of course.
Now when someone asks Willis or Mayo? Technically, there is no wrong answer. Tackles are such a fickle statistic that barring some injury, change of position or overwhelming change in defensive scheme, both players are set to have another great year.
The only inherit difference, and this is nitpicking, is that the 49ers’ offense is very unlikely to be as good as the Patriots. Therefore, San Francisco’s defense is likely to be on the field more. If the 49ers are losing in a game, their opponent will be more likely to run the ball to protect that lead. All of this plays into the favor of Willis.
Another difference this season is that Mayo has switched positions. Although the Patriots are known as a 3-4 team, NFL defenses aren’t that cut and dry. A 3-4 defense simply allows you to present more looks or to put it more simply, they align in different ways to confuse the offense. The Patriots middle linebacker is listed as Brandon Spikes. Mayo is currently slotted as the weakside linebacker.
Now this slight change from last year may help him, it may hurt him, no one can know for certain. From my point of view, the affect will be minimal. Mayo will still rack up a ton of tackles and provide great stability to your IDP team roster.
What is for certain is that Willis is the established household name. If you want to draft Willis, you’re likely going to have to be the first player to select an IDP in your draft. That can be a tricky proposition since you don’t want to pull the trigger too early, but you also don’t want to miss out on drafting him.
Both linebackers are the cream of the crop at their position and you should be content to have either. If you don’t want to risk picking an IDP too early in your draft, consider Mayo. If you’ve got to have Willis, just remember you’re going to have to pay a premium for him by reaching in the draft.