With three weeks under our belts now, we can start to see some trends developing, which we can use to our advantage. For a start, we have a much better idea about who is playing as a three-down linebacker, which is arguably the most important factor in determining fantasy success. If you’re not on the field, you can’t score points, so keeping tabs on who is on the field the most, gives you the greatest chance of scoring plenty of points.
Also, the spate of injuries to elite linebackers continues to linger, as Luke Kuechly (concussion) and DeAndre Levy (hip) remain side-lined, while the Eagles duo of Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) and Kiko Alonso (ACL) also missed Week 3, as did emergent Steelers ‘backer, Ryan Shazier (shoulder), while in Carolina, veteran Thomas Davis battled through a pectoral injury, which now requires an MRI and further assessment. Before you hit the panic button, take stock of the info below, and remember, you can always hit me up on Twitter (@RossMilesNFL) and I’ll offer some advice.
Three-Down Linebackers (after Week 3)
|Arizona Cardinals||None (Kevin Minter, plays approx 80-85% of snaps)||The Cardinals use extra DBs a lot, hence no three-down LB.|
|Atlanta Falcons||Paul Worrilow and Justin Durant||Durant sneaks into LB3 consideration in a three-down role.|
|Baltimore Ravens||C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith||Smith is a LB3. He'll rise in value if he records more solos.|
|Buffalo Bills||Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown||Brown's two INTs and a FF in three games are pushing him up projections.|
|Carolina Panthers||Thomas Davis||Kuechly and Davis are both three-down when healthy.|
|Chicago Bears||Shea McClellin||Christian Jones is playing approx 90% of snaps each week.|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Vincent Rey||Vontaze Burfict continued absence makes Rey and upside LB3.|
|Cleveland Browns||Karlos Dansby||Dansby is the only LB in Cleveland worth considering.|
|Dallas Cowboys||Sean Lee||Anthony Hitchens is only playing approx 75% of snaps. Rolando McClain returns soon.|
|Denver Broncos||Brandon Marshall||Marshall has beaten out Trevathan for the three-down role.|
|Detroit Lions||Josh Bynes||With Levy out, it is Bynes, not Stephon Tulloch who is the three-down role.|
|Green Bay Packers||Clay Matthews||Nate Palmer is Matthews partner-in-crime, but playing 70% of snaps and less each week.|
|Houston Texans||Brian Cushing||Cushing has regained the three-down role he lost at the end of last year.|
|Indianapolis Colts||D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman||Both players have missed a handful of snaps (or more) each week.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith||Smith has secured his role alongside Posluszny. Both are top-15 fantasy LBs.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston||Houston rarely leaves the field these days.|
|Miami Dolphins||Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi||Jenkins is a top-end LB2, while Misi is a steady scoring LB3.|
|Minnesota Vikings||Anthony Barr||Eric Kendricks has yet to earn a three-down role. It is coming though…|
|New England Patriots||Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower||Hightower looks great this year. He's a huge riser this season, and an upside LB2.|
|New Orleans Saints||Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha||A pair of rookies in three-down roles. Kikaha is a tad boom-or-bust, but appeals as a upside LB3/4.|
|New York Giants||???||Uani' Unga was in a three-down role, but is expected to lose it to now healthy Jon Beason.|
|New York Jets||Demario Davis and David Harris||Both players lack upside, despite the friendly home stat crew. Both are high floor LB2/3s.|
|Oakland Raiders||Malcolm Smith and Curtis Lofton||Malcolm Smith is a fantasy revelation (LB2). Both players are grading poorly with PFF, so be wary of their long-term value.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Jordan Hicks (and Mychal Kendricks)||I'm expecting Kiko Alonso to miss extended time, making Hicks a highly desirable IDP asset.|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Lawrence Timmons (and Ryan Shazier)||Shazier is one of my biggest risers based on his play this year.|
|St. Louis Rams||Alec Ogletree and James Laurinaitis||Laurinaitis is only a LB2/3 these days. Ogletree is pushing to be a LB1.|
|San Diego Chargers||Manti Te'o and Melvin Ingram||Both players need to produce more in those roles. Te'o appeals as a sleeper LB3.|
|San Francisco 49ers||Navorro Bowman||Aaron Lynch (playing approx 75% of snaps) is intruging in big play formats.|
|Seattle Seahawks||Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright||Wright continues to be a solid LB3, an ideal bench player to use in time of need.|
|Tampa Bay Bucanneers||Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander||Alexander is a LB2/3 in an every-down role.|
|Tennessee Titans||Zach Brown||Blow-outs have led to some odd snap counts, but Brown is the LB to own in Tennessee.|
|Washington Redskins||Keenan Robinson||Perry Riley was a three-down LB before injury.|
Removing the players I expect to be owned in your league, below is my top ten three-down linebackers who are waiver wire candidates:
4. Jordan Hicks
5. Zach Brown
7. Vincent Rey
9. Koa Misi
10. Kevin Minter
Week 3 Pass Rushers
The San Diego Chargers offensive line is struggling, and as expected Everson Griffen took advantage, recording 1.5 sacks and four hits, which led the league in Week 3. It’s a shame its Cleveland’s 3-4 defense that takes on the Chargers this week, as there isn’t a DL we can plug and play in fantasy… Carlos Dunlap wasn’t able to make it three straight games with a sack, but did add two hits and two hurries. He’s been a menace in all three games and looks like a top-five fantasy DL… Team-mate Geno Atkins has been equally as impressive and added three hurries to his season totals which now read three sacks, two hits and seven hurries. His name needs to be mentioned in the same breath as the hyperbole given to J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald… Talking of J.J. Watt, the All-World Texan had a quiet week by his lofty standards on the face of things (five total tackles), although he did have three hits... Aaron Donald had just the one sack. His pass-rush grade from ProFootballFocus for three games is +11.8, second best in the league to Von Miller (+16.7), who had one hit and a whooping EIGHT hurries last week… It didn’t get much better for the Dolphins D-Line last week. Cameron Wake only generated a hit and a hurry in 25 rushes, while Olivier Vernon added a hit (from 24 rushes). Ndamukong Suh managed one hurry. Between the three of them, they have combined for just 12 disruptions on 214 pass rushes, which means pressure on only 5.6% of those snaps. By comparison Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have combined for 42 disruptions in 179 pass rush snaps (23.5%)… Buffalo’s pass rush was fierce last week, as Jerry Hughes had one hit and six hurries, while Mario Williams had a hit and three hurries, with the interior rushers Kyle Williams (two hits, three hurries) and Marcel Dareus (one hit and four hurries). They may not have registered a sack, but a sack-feast looks like it is coming soon… Robert Quinn had another sack this week, adding two hurries as well, and will be in a season-long battle with Chandler Jones (three hurries) to be the No.2 fantasy defensive lineman this year… Rookie Vic Beasley is starting to draw some praise, and he added a sack (his second of the year) last week, but still graded at -1.7 for his pass rush from PFF… The ascendant Ziggy Ansah missed time with injury last week, limiting him to just one hit and two hurries… Few players are being as disruptive as Cliff Avril, who has five hits and 11 hurries on the year, but only the one sack. He’s worth stashing if you are struggling at DL.
Guys I Like
Jordan Hicks vs Redskins
Hicks has shown his scoring potential when on the field over the last two weeks. Although Mychal Kendricks is expected to return, Kiko Alonso is not, and it will be Hicks who partners him in the middle. The Redskins stat crew is one of the most favorable when awarding tackles too, which bodes well. On this note, Keenan Robinson is also a great start this week, and could threaten a LB1 score.
Preston Brown vs Giants
With Buffalo playing at home, it’s worth giving all their IDP assets a good look. Bradham has been outscored in the last two games by Preston Brown thanks to turnovers and big plays, but has also recorded less tackles too. Both are LB2/3s this week, but Brown is a shade higher.
Bengals D-Lineman vs Chiefs
The Chiefs O-Line have allowed a league leading 10 sacks, and it’s hard to blame any one player for the porous line play. Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson are all viable starts this week. I’d have Dunlap as a top-three DL, Atkins as a mid DL2 and Johnson an upside DL3.
Michael Bennett vs Lions
Both Seattle and Detroit have struggled to keep their quarterbacks clean, but Matt Stafford has been running for his life behind that Lions line, and Bennett, who has been relentless this year, should post DL2 numbers this week.
Landon Collins vs Bills
The Buffalo stat crew factor combines with a rookie safety who has been beatable in coverage. That sounds like a recipe for fantasy points in my book. I’d love to nominate Uani’ Unga or Jon Beason too, but I’m not sure how the snap count will be divided.
Eric Berry vs Bengals
Berry is back. It wasn’t too long ago Berry was a lock DB1 and a contender to be the highest scoring fantasy safety. He’s now well on the way to 100% health and an every-down player again. He’s playing well and I like him to return to his DB1 heyday, soon.
Guys I Don’t Like
Dolphins D-Lineman vs ANYONE
It doesn’t matter who they are playing right now. You can’t be confident in starting any Dolphins D-Lineman until we start seeing some statistical production. Having said that, they play the Chargers in Week 14...
J.J. Watt vs Falcons
One week after an unthinkably average fantasy day for J.J. Watt, he faces the toughest matchup in the league through three weeks! The Falcons O-Line have only allowed 13 total pressures off Matt Ryan in 123 passing plays, which means Watt could post two consecutive weeks without a sack, something he only did once last season.
James Laurinaitis vs Cardinals
It’s a tough matchup for the Rams, and Laurinaitis, who has slipped from a LB1 just a couple of seasons ago, to a LB2/3, looks set for another mediocre day. Laurinaitis is losing tackles to Alec Ogletree and in his last 19 games has just one double-digit tackle game, zero interceptions and just two sacks.
Stephen Tulloch vs Seahawks
Despite DeAndre Levy’s continued absence, Tulloch has seen his role in the Lions defense massively reduced. He was called a “role player” by the coaching staff, and has played just 68 percent and 48 percent of defensive snaps in the last two weeks. He’s borderline drop worthy right now.
Reggie Nelson vs Chiefs
Nelson has been very disappointing so far this season, playing 95 percent of defensive snaps, yet posting only SEVEN total tackles. Vontaze Burfict isn’t even on the field mopping up all the tackles. It’s time to dump Nelson and look for other options.
Chris Conte vs Panthers
Thanks to his 20 total tackles (18 solo), an interception and a forced fumble, Conte currently ranks as a DB1 after three games. I’m not sold he can keep up this rate of scoring, and would fade him for another week or two while we get to the bottom of his scoring potential in Tampa.