What We Learned in 2020
We learned that the young star linebackers were prepared to dominate once again! Both Roquan Smith and Devin White came into 2020 with extremely high expectations, and both delivered with resounding success. These two superstars combined for 280 total tackles (140 each), 32 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks on the season. Finishing just behind these two phenoms was a trio of consistent veterans in Zach Cunningham, Blake Martinez, and Joe Schobert. Barring any major unforeseen changes, the 2020 top five should produce well again in 2021.
Multiple defenses produced two top off-ball linebackers in 2020. Tampa Bay, Houston, Jacksonville, and Atlanta defenders produced two top 20 finishers in 2020. In Tampa Bay, White and Lavonte David complimented each other nicely. Houston produced Cunningham and a surprise star, Tyrell Adams. Myles Jack joined Schobert in Jacksonville. And finally, Atlanta’s duo of Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun finished strong. Logically, many of the top off-ball linebackers come from defenses that struggle to stop opposing offenses, so continue to target studs on bad defenses going forward.
Finally, injuries loomed large during the 2020 season. For off-ball linebackers, the 2020 season knocked out Devin Bush, Eric Kendricks, and Jayon Brown, each before the fantasy playoffs, sending owners scrambling to fill those roles. At 22 and 24-years old respectively, Bush and Brown provide elite IDP upside. Kendricks may be on the back end of his career, but if you are looking to make a 2021 title run, Kendricks may be a nice veteran target one could trade for at a discount.
Player Comparison – Top 20 IDP producers
|Rank||Name||Age||Team||Tackles||TFLs||Assists||Fum Rec||Fum For||Int||Sacks|
Kenneth Murray – LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The 22-year old rookie had a strong initial NFL campaign. As a first-round pick, much was expected of Murray, and he did not disappoint! The Oklahoma alum registered 107 total tackles, five TFLs, and defended three passes. Murray’s future is looking mighty bright in LA.
Bobby Okereke – INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Okereke is a 24-year old, former third-round draft pick out of Stanford. The off-ball linebacker balled out in 2020, putting him in prime position to start at middle linebacker for the Colts in 2021. After 73 total tackles in 14 games, look for Okereke to leap into the triple-digit tackles club next year.
De’Vondre Campbell – FREE AGENT
Campbell is about to embark on his sixth season as a pro, and at only 27-years old, the former Golden Gopher is currently a free agent. Production-wise, Campbell has been excellent, racking up 90+ tackles each of the past four seasons. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, it looks like the lowered cap impacted the 2016 fourth-round pick’s opportunity to sign a long-term contract. As of now, without a team to play for, Campbell is not someone to target in IDP.
Keanu Neal – DALLAS COWBOYS
Neal has not had luck in his young NFL career. The 2021 offseason hasn’t been any different for Neal. After spending all of 2018 and 2019 injured, Neal produced a solid 100 tackle season for Atlanta in 2020. As a free agent, the former first-round pick signed a one-year contract with Dallas to play a hybrid linebacker position. Unfortunately, the NFL draft resulted in the supremely talented Micah Parsons falling to Dallas, creating a roadblock for the former safety. However, Neal may be asked to play safety, but if Neal moves to LB this season, his value plummets with the addition of Parsons.
Troy Reader – LOS ANGELES RAMS
The third-year pro totaled 60 combined tackles in the Rams’ final six games of 2020. Undrafted out of Delaware in 2019, Reader has worked his way into the starting lineup in LA. If he continues to show what he did in 2020, we’ll all be talking about Reader as an LB1 in 2022.
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