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Opposing Views: Dynasty LB1 – Devin White vs. Darius Leonard

@Glosser13 and @50shadesofdrunk break down the overall dynasty LB1 debate. Check out what the guys have to say about this.

The Authors 

Jordan Rains – Senior Writer at Dynasty Nerds. Creator of The IDP Army and IDP123 scoring. 

Jon Glosser – Senior Writer and IDP Team Lead at Dynasty Nerds.

The Topic

Who is the overall LB1 in IDP dynasty fantasy football 

The Idea 

The Dynasty Nerds two most tenured IDP writers, will look into a hot topic in dynasty fantasy football. Who is the LB1 in IDP dynasty fantasy football? Darius Leonard has held this title for the last few seasons, but with Devin White’s emergence in just his second season, there’s now a real debate. The guys will dive into this topic and give their reasoning as to why.

IDP Fantasy Production 

Credit: coltswire.usatoday.com

Jordan Rains: My current LB1 in dynasty is still Darius Leonard. This would have been unanimously agreed with just a year ago and rightly so given the type of production we have seen from Leonard in his young career. 

Credit: pro-football-reference.com

2018

In his rookie season, Darius Leonard set the NFL on fire in a way no rookie linebacker had in recent memory. He led the NFL in combined tackles (163) and solo tackles(111), which any IDP manager knows is elite and rarely seen tackles numbers in the NFL, let alone for a rookie. that was just the appetizer. Leonard produced earth-shattering 36 impact plays to go along with his insane tackle numbers.

  • 12 TFLs
  • 8 PDs
  • 7 sacks
  • 4 forced fumbles
  • 2 interceptions
  • 2 fumble recoveries

In terms of fantasy production on the defensive side, we haven’t had a season like it since. Leonard ended the season with 404.8 points, behind only Patrick Mahomes, 420.1 points (6 points passing TD, TE premium leagues in 2018). Even more incredible is he did it all in just 15 games. That gave him an average of 27ppg in 2018. making him the highest-scoring player on a points per game basis, edging out Todd Gurley’s 26.7ppg in 2018 by just 0.3ppg. He was very deservedly given first-team All-Pro honors in 2018 and won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

2019

In 2019 Leonard missed three weeks due to a concussion injury but still had a prolific season posting 121 combined tackles and 27 impact plays, finishing as a Top 5 linebacker with 316.2 points. Leonard came down with a career-high five interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He didn’t get an all-pro nod as a sophomore which is somewhat odd in my opinion, but he still managed to give fantasy managers 24.2ppg when he was healthy. That put him only behind Christian McCaffrey (29.6ppg) and Lamar Jackson (27.6ppg) in 2019. For the second time in 2 years, Leonard was Top 5 on a PPG basis across all fantasy football positions. And almost a full 4ppg better than the LB2 in PPG, Jordan Hicks (20.4ppg).

Through two seasons Leonard has proved himself to be a true difference-maker for fantasy football managers. Although 2019 is where we can trace the beginnings of an injury narrative that followed him into the 2020 season.

2020

What most people remember about Darius Leonard’s season in 2020 is how it began. That was with an injury to his groin in Week 4 against the Bears that took him out of action through the bye week. This left managers without the likely overall number one defensive player taken for what essentially amounted to four weeks. He only played 29 snaps in Week 4, so we will just throw it in there for the sake of argument. Those were critical weeks in fantasy and when many managers and leagues are most in tune with their leagues. It didn’t help things that in Week 14, he exited with a back injury. Managers would do well to throw all that out the window, and here’s why.

This marks the first season that Leonard has been outshined on points per game basis since entering the league, but he still tied for third in PPG amongst IDPs with Jamal Adams at 20.6ppg. He was still an absolute difference maker for your team when he played. Only Devin White and Roquan Smith edged him out at linebacker, and even then, only just barely. And neither even reached Leonard’s previous seasons’ PPG averages.

He still managed to produce 22 impact plays in an abbreviated season, highlighting what a stud he is, even with perceived injury woes. I’ll quickly give Jamal Adams a huge shout-out here as well, as he played through a torn labrum and broken fingers towards the end of the NFL season and still set the NFL DB sack record (9.5) in an abbreviated season himself. Some players are just special, and both Adams and Leonard have highlighted that repeatedly through their rookie contracts. They’re defensive weapons boasting proficient skill sets all over the field to go along with elite athleticism. Buy the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). This offseason and prosper for years to come.

Credit: tampabaytimes.com

Jon Glosser: The debate for LB1 in dynasty fantasy football has become more interesting following the 2020 season. The LB position is widely regarded as king in most if not all IDP scoring formats. Linebacker is the first position you typically see taken in dynasty startup and rookie drafts. Let’s take a look at why Devin White deserves to be the LB1 in dynasty leagues.

Credit: pro-football-reference.com

2019

Devin White entered the NFL after a productive career at LSU (286 tackles, 8.5 sacks). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted White fifth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft to pair him with veteran LB Lavonte David. Devin White played 13 games as a rookie while dealing with an MCL sprain that forced him to miss three games. Despite not playing every game, he ended up with 91 tackles (58 solo), including a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Much like Darius Leonard, Devin White is no stranger to impact plays. He had 2.5 sacks, 5 QB hits, 3 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns as a rookie. White’s two non-offensive touchdowns were tied for 2nd best in the NFL.

2020

If there was a buy-low opportunity on Devin White after 2019 and you happened to take advantage of that, it paid off big time. White came back in his 2nd NFL season as a man on a mission. White would finish 5th in the NFL in tackles (140) and tied for 14th in sacks (9). Devin White staying healthy was everything; he only missed the last regular-season game due to contact exposure to someone with COVID-19.

Devin White would finish the 2020 season as the LB1 overall with 355.2 points in IDP123 scoring, fifteen points more than the next closest LB. He averaged 23.2 fantasy points per game and was the only non-offensive player to finish with an average over 22 ppg. For reference, Devin White would have been the QB11, RB4, WR1, and TE2 across all offensive positions in Superflex and TE premium leagues.

The 2020 season ended picture-perfect for Devin White and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl in their stadium. White would play 93% of defensive snaps, up from just 73% his rookie year. He would also increase his impact plays which is what led to him being the LB1 in 2020. White racked up 9 sacks, 16 QB hits, 4 passes defended along with one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. In 2020 White had 88 fantasy points alone on impact plays. That’s 24.79% of his fantasy points on the season or a quarter of his production.

Startup value

Jordan Rains: Given his track record as a true difference-maker, I still believe Leonard should be the first defensive player taken in fantasy drafts. Assuming the league is Superflex with a full roster of individual defensive players, generally 7-11 starters,

Leonard should be on your dynasty radar no later than the 6th round of startups. In SF startups I’ve participated in this season, he’s been taken LB1 6.03, 4.06 LB1, 6.04 LB1. The market still respects what Leonard brings to the table, and so do I.

Jon Glosser: It may be viewed as too early in his career to think Devin White can be this consistent producer year in and year out. The tackle numbers alone should reassure any doubters that White will be a top 3 dynasty LB for a long time. We are talking about a player who racked up over 192 tackles in High school, 286 at the collegiate level, and through just 28 games as a professional has 231 tackles.

The impact plays are what separate the good linebackers from the great in IDP leagues. White increased his sacks, tackles for loss, QB hits and passes defended from 2019 to 2020.

I’ve participated in two dynasty startups this off-season, with White being taken as LB2 (5.3) and LB1 (5.16). It feels he is only just scratching the surface of how good he can be as a dynasty asset. Recency bias is a huge part of fantasy football, and even more so on the IDP side, it seems. It seems the gap between LB1 and LB2 has narrowed significantly in the dynasty community.

3-5 Year Window

Jordan Rains: Given his impeccable record of success and being attached to a quality NFL organization. Over the next 3-5 years, Leonard’s trajectory could see him becoming the NFL’s highest-paid off-ball linebacker of all time. If he can keep himself healthy, he could put up some historic numbers at the position given his on-field versatility. He has yet to fall below 20 ppg in his career or fall out of the Top 10 at linebacker, even though he has missed a few games to injury. He’s currently 25 years old and in the prime of his career.

Jon Glosser: One of the biggest factors in ranking players in dynasty fantasy football is consistency and youth. White has shown improvements in his game from playing on a top-level SEC defense at LSU to now being a centerpiece for a Super Bowl defense in the NFL. He just turned 23 years old in February and already has an LB1 season under his belt.

If 2020 is a sign of things to come, dynasty managers should be thrilled for the future. You potentially have yourself a top 5 dynasty LB for the next five seasons or more. White will also need to stay on the field as he’s yet to play a full 16 game season. Although, his production through two years has been enough for dynasty managers to get excited about.

Closing Arguments 

Jordan Rains: It was hard for me when the 2020 regular season wrapped up to keep Darius Leonard as my dynasty LB1. Devin White won people championships this season and he did it similarly to Leonard as a rookie. In dominant fashion and with style. The more I looked at the consistently high level of fantasy production Leonard has produced, the more I reminded myself that recency bias shouldn’t sway my convictions more than a proven record.

There’s nothing wrong with asking Devin White to turn in one more elite season before I dethrone Leonard. So for me, for now, Darius Leonard reigns supreme among off-ball linebackers for IDP fantasy football. 

Jon Glosser: Dynasty managers should be thrilled that we are having this discussion. We often have such a small tier at the top of a position, much like the TE position is on the offensive side in dynasty fantasy football.

The biggest argument I can make for Devin White to be LB1 overall is his age. White turned 23 years old in February, while Darius Leonard will be 26 before the 2021 season. Age isn’t everything in dynasty fantasy football, but it surely plays a big factor. Especially when players are as close in talent and on the field production as these two are.

The Wrap-Up

We loved bringing this to the #IDPNerds. We hope this can help give you two educated opinions on who the LB1 in dynasty leagues is. At the end of the day, we are fortunate to have two players of this magnitude playing at the highest level and, most importantly, scoring fantasy points.

If there are any other hot topics on your mind, feel free to reach out to @Glosser13 and @50shadesofdrunk on Twitter. We would love to break them down for you and give our thoughts on all things IDP. Keep your eyes open for all things dynasty fantasy football at DynastyNerds.com.

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