2012 Fantasy Football Linebacker Report
The fantasy football season is a little over a month away, but it is never too early to start looking at player rankings. Below is my full 2012 fantasy football report for linebackers:
1. DeMarcus Ware, DAL – Ware has racked up a staggering 91.5 sacks in his last 96 NFL games and has become the outside linebacker in which all others are judged. Ware’s combination of strength and speed makes him impossible to contain on the edge. He may not have the tackles numbers of the other premier linebackers in the game, but his ridiculous sack totals and the fact that he has never missed a professional game, makes him the best fantasy linebacker hands down.
2. Patrick Willis, SF – Willis is no longer producing the dominating tackle statistics that he was earlier in his career. Willis went from an NFL-leading 174 tackles in 2007, to only racking up 97 last season. His drop in production could be due to the emergence of fellow inside linebacker, NaVorro Bowman, but it most likely due to the fact that teams simply avoid running at the monster in the middle. Willis may be number two in fantasy terms, but he is easily the best linebacker to suit up on any given Sunday.
3. London Fletcher, WSH – The 37-year old linebacker surprisingly lead the entire NFL with 166 tackles in 2011. Fletcher is underestimated every season, despite recording at least 128 tackles in each of his last ten seasons and not missing a single game in his 14-year career. Fletcher will easily reach 120 tackles this year and even add a couple sacks.
4. Jerod Mayo, NE – Mayo has averaged an amazing 8.5 tackles per contest over his four-year NFL career. Mayo has suffered some unlucky injuries through his brief career, but has proven to be a tackling machine when healthy. He is all that the Patriots have in the middle, so expect him to rack up around 130 tackles again in 2012.
5. Curtis Lofton, NO – Shockingly, the Saints were able to sign Lofton in the off-season, despite all the negative attention the team received from the bounty case. Lofton has tallied an amazing 147 tackles last season in Atlanta and will now be the new face of the problematic Saints’ defense. Lofton remains a premier fantasy linebacker and the move down to the Bayou will give him plenty of chances to work on his coverage skills. He can be drafted as a number one linebacker in any IDP leagues.
6. James Laurinaitis, STL – Laurinaitis has continued to improve with each season in the pros. The former Ohio State Buckeye has played in every professional game and has averaged 125 tackles per season over his first three years in the NFL. He has matured into an amazing tackler, even tough he may not be the best in coverage. However, he will still continue to be a strong fantasy option, and is good for around 8 tackles a contest.
7. Von Miller, DEN – Miller showed how fast he can be on the outside, as he was able to total 11.55 sacks in his rookie season with Denver. Miller did slow down as the season wore on, with 2 tackles and no sacks in his last three contests, but his phenomenal potential is too hard to ignore.
8. Pat Angerer, IND – The Colts’ offensive problems last year kept their defense on the field for long drive after long drive. This helped Angerer post an amazing 148 tackles, which was good for fourth in the league. The Colts’ offense does not look like it will be any better in 2012, so expect Angerer to rival his amazing stats from last season.
9. NaVorro Bowman, SF – Bowman has developed into an amazing compliment to four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, Patrick Willis, in San Francisco. Bowman was able to bring down 143 ball carriers in 2011 and the 24-year has developed into a great fantasy option in IDP leagues.
10. D’Qwell Jackson, CLE - Jackson is consistently one of the most promising linebackers at the beginning of each season. He has only finished a full 16-game season twice in his five-year career, but in those two seasons he averaged an amazing 156 tackles. “DQJ” is one of the best tackling players in the game, but he has to prove that he can stay healthy to be a reliable fantasy option. He can be a great number one linebacker, but he will never be an elite option, until he shows that he can play a whole season.
MVP: DeMarcus Ware, DAL
Bust of Year: Lance Briggs, CHI
Comeback Player of Year: Jon Beason, CAR
Rookie of Year: Luke Kuechly, CAR
Breakout Player: Von Miller, DEN