In 2021 we saw several highly ranked linebackers fall completely out of fantasy relevance. Others simply underperformed based on their preseason rankings, from Jaylon Smith, who found himself bouncing around from team-to-team after being usurped by Micah Parsons, to another young player in Isaiah Simmons who simply didn’t live up to his preseason hype. We’ve already covered the Preseason Top 10 and a few Surprise stars! This third installment of my “IDP Year in Review” series will cover a few highly ranked linebackers who found themselves riding the bench on our fantasy rosters.
**All rankings and ADPs will be based on Sleeper stats, and scoring will be based on IDP123 scoring.**
Where are they now???
A few preseason top-tier linebackers found themselves falling from grace and not very gracefully…
- Preseason Ranking: LB17
- End of Season Ranking: LB121
Jaylon went from fantasy stud to dud seemingly overnight. Dallas brought in Dan Quinn as DC and drafted Micah Parsons in the 1st Round of the 2021 draft. That combo spelled the end of Jaylon Smith’s time in Dallas. Smith spent a couple of weeks in Green Bay before being waived and then joined the Giants, only playing in the last couple of games. He did show promise in those games, so it’s possible he finds a home somewhere, but I doubt he’ll be relevant in fantasy any time soon. If you’re in a deep league, he’d be worth a “curiosity stash” if you have the space on your bench.
- Preseason Ranking: LB6
- End of Season Ranking: LB43
Patrick Queen was drafted in the 1st Round in 2020 by the Ravens and became an instant starter, racking up over 100 combined tackles. Many IDP experts rightfully had high hopes for him in his second year with Top 10 expectations from most major ranking sites. Unfortunately for many fantasy managers, 2021 had different plans for Mr. Queen, who saw his playing time fall from 80% in 2020 to %76 in 2021. Additionally, the Ravens also moved him over to an outside linebacker position for most plays. This led to a reduction in playmaking opportunities. He may find his way back inside with a new defensive coordinator in Baltimore. If that happens, fantasy managers will sing hymns of joy. Until then, avoid him in drafts unless he falls far below his current ADP.
- Preseason Ranking: LB7
- End of Season Ranking: LB62
Cunningham’s downfall was less about team changes and more about personal issues. He managed to find himself in his coach’s “doghouse” early in the season and never recovered. He was relegated to backup duty and eventually waived. The Titans did pick him up, and he played well. It’s possible he can right the ship and find his way back into fantasy relevance. He did manage to near 100 combined tackles (91) and finished LB62.
- Preseason Ranking: LB9
- End of Season Ranking: LB30
I mentioned Simmons in my first article of this series, but this one is a little personal, so I wanted to dedicate more time to him in this article. Take everything I’m saying about Simmons with a “grain of salt.”
Do I think Isaiah Simmons is a great player? Yes! Do I think he’s a great IDP fantasy linebacker? No… no, I do not. Maybe if he had a DB designation, I’d put him in the conversation as a low-end DB1, but he doesn’t, and he won’t get it unless Arizona does something wild.
Simmons will continue his role as a “swiss army” linebacker in the Cardinal’s defense, but I just can’t find myself putting him into the LB1 conversation like so many others are doing/have done. With Jordan Hicks being released, that paves the way for Zaven Collins to step into that role as a true “3-down” linebacker. Right now, Simmons is still being drafted as a top LB, but you’re better off drafting someone like Collins a few rounds later. My feelings about Simmons are accurately depicted in this picture of him… just kind of “meh”…
- Preseason Ranking: LB26
- End of Season Ranking: LB147
Murray was someone people were excited to see take the next step after a solid rookie campaign (107 total tackles). He played well in the first two weeks of the season but injured his ankle in Week 3. He returned in Week 10 but never reclaimed his starting middle linebacker role. Kyzir White had taken over and was playing well. Murray only registered 31 combined tackles and will likely not be relevant in fantasy in 2022.
Joe Schobert (Preseason LB13) and Devin Bush (Preseason LB18)
- Preseason Ranking: Schobert – LB13, Bush – LB18
- End of Season Ranking: Schobert – LB39, Bush – LB77
Joe Schobert Stats
Devin Bush Stats
These guys get a combined entry because they both play for the Steelers, and both came into this past season as Top 20 linebackers. Schobert was traded from the Jaguars before the season started, and Bush was coming off of an injury in 2020. Both are solid linebackers, but it’s not often a team has two 3-down linebackers, so neither of them saw the field for 100% of the defensive snaps on a consistent basis. Schobert averaged 87.8% snaps per game, while Bush was down around 83%. Those are not ideal numbers for Top 20 linebackers. Both linebackers are under contract this year in Pittsburgh, so unless one gets traded, I see them both continuing to be LB2s moving forward, with Schobert being high-end LB2 and Bush being low-end LB2.
Taking a good look back at the season was enlightening, to say the least. I hope it was informative for you as well. Perhaps you’ll look at your startup drafts a bit differently now. Maybe pass on that Top 10 LB in favor of a solid offensive player. Solid offensive players are a bit harder to come by, after all. Like I said in the first article, I’m not necessarily advocating for avoiding “Top Tier” linebackers, but maybe don’t panic if there’s a run on them in your draft.
I also hope this specific article and the “One Hit Wonders” segment of the previous one will help you avoid drafting or trading for players who may not produce as well as you might like. I know many platforms still haven’t adjusted the ADPs for IDP yet, so it can be a bit confusing to see players like Zach Cunningham and Isaiah Simmons ranked so high on your draft board.
Stay tuned for my next triplet of articles, where I’ll take a look back at how last year’s defensive backs fared. Is Jamal Adams still a DB1? What should we make of cornerbacks like Trevon Diggs and Kenny Moore? All that and more are coming soon!
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