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This final edition of Reading the Defense for the 2022-2023 season reflects on results at the linebacker position. Linebackers grouped by snap share was a common theme of the column by this name under prior stewardship. Jene Bramel routinely emphasized the importance of rostering a corps of full-time players. Bramel further sought to understand and communicate expectations for rotations, as he did in this 2014 edition.
Preseason Linebacker Draft Cohorts
Through 17 weeks of this 18-week NFL season, hindsight illuminates the wisdom of preseason expectations and highlights lessons. Fantasy gamers selected 42 off-ball linebackers, including Micah Parsons, on the Sleeper fantasy football platform among 400 players at all positions. Parsons himself had the highest average draft position (55) of any linebacker and, for that matter, any defensive player as of September 1, 2022.
Thirty-two of these 42 linebackers might be considered successful selections, scoring among the top 50 at the position in fantasy points per game. Foye Oluokun leads all defenders with 15.5 fantasy points per game and 243.5 total points. Elandon Roberts, the 50th-ranked linebacker, has scored 8.7 fantasy points per game through 16 games.
Half of the top 50 linebackers were widely expected to hold full-time roles throughout the season. Many were returning defensive signal callers like Fred Warner. Some, such as Oluokun, were splashy free-agent additions. A few, including Dre Greenlaw, would play nearly a full complement of snaps alongside a teammate and signal caller at the second level.
Most of the linebackers in this cohort earned their roles in past seasons, making them holdovers. Christian Kirksey established himself in this tier via contract extension. Nick Bolton cemented his status by pushing competition for dime sub-package snaps off the roster in August.
Only three of these 24 linebackers fell outside the top 400 players drafted this past summer on Sleeper. Josey Jewell, Dre Greenlaw, and Nicholas Morrow are each without average draft positions. These three players missed most or all of the 2022 season with injuries. Fantasy gamers seemingly forgot about them, making each a screaming value from the outset of the season. Jewell, the Broncos’ defensive signal caller, and Greenlaw, the running mate of All-Pro Fred Warner, each finished inside the top ten linebackers in fantasy points per game.
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