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The linebacker position for IDP used to be flooded with talent. The difference between LB15 and LB30 was not really that far off in recent years. More recently, teams have been using Dime and Nickel defenses as their base defenses. Because of this, three-down linebackers are becoming more of a commodity. Draft strategies are now changing. Instead of waiting on linebackers, fantasy managers are jumping on the elite talent early, much like they used to do for the elite defensive line players. Linebackers score the most of any IDP position and are the position of most importance to build around.
If you miss out on the top elite linebacker talent, there is no need to sweat it. There are still options that are flying under the radar that can provide you with an ample return on investment. Here are four IDP linebacker value picks that could allow you to load up at other positions without hurting your roster too badly.
ILB Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Deion Jones is a buy-low target for me after he had a down 2021 for many reasons, all of which you can read here. Fantasy managers are sour on Jones after he was completely outplayed by his counterpart, Foye Oluokun in 2021. Footballguys consensus rankings have Jones as the LB25. This is ranked below rookies Devin Lloyd (LB14) and Quay Walker (LB24). Lloyd will be playing alongside that same player that ruined Jones' value in 2021, Oluokun, who signed with the Jaguars in free agency. To automatically assume that Lloyd will be a top-15 linebacker seems a bit foolish to me, especially with Oluokun looming. Jones is still only 28 years old, and though it is said he had a down year, he still ranked ninth in the NFL in solo tackles with 109. The depth chart is weak in Atlanta, and if Jones is there to stay, he becomes an unbelievable value and potential top-10 linebacker, being drafted as an LB2.
ILB Cory Littleton, Carolina Panthers
During the 2018 and 2019 NFL seasons, Cory Littleton finished as a top-five linebacker in almost every scoring setting. He averaged 130 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 11 passes defended, and 2.5 interceptions during those two seasons. That earned him a big payday as he signed with the Raiders in free agency. Unfortunately for Littleton, his stay in Las Vegas was less than stellar. It was littered with inefficient tackling and, ultimately, a drop in snap-share. Another change of scenery was imperative to Littleton becoming relevant again, and landing in Carolina should provide him with ample snap opportunity. Outside of Shaq Thompson, the Panthers have little, if any, talent at the linebacker position. Assuming a three-down role is a real possibility for Littleton. He is currently ranked as the LB50 in Footballguys consensus rankings, a fringe LB3/4. There is a real possibility that Littleton can finish the season as a high upside LB2.
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