For me this is the best part of fantasy research and rankings. Typically, linebackers are some of the most productive IDP picks and generally produce the best stats. This year's class features several players I like a lot, including our own Zaviar Gooden. So where does he rank? Let's take a look.
1. Arthur Brown - Baltimore Ravens (Kansas State)
6; 0" and 241 lbs
218 tackles, 17 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions (1 TD), and 9 passes defended
Draft position: Ravens Round 2 pick #56
Brown is largely considered to be the best rookie linebacker in IDP leagues this year and its hard to disagree although I do think Kiko Alonso will give him a run for his money. Brown is a bit undersized but you forget all that when you see his big plays. He is expected to compete at inside linebacker but is athletic enough to play outside as well. He seems a perfect fit for the Ravens scheme and I think you can expect his star to shine early on.
2. Kiko Alonso - Buffalo Bills (Oregon)
6' 3" and 238 lbs
144 tackles, 21 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 9 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles
Draft position: Round 2 pick # 46
I scouted Alonso prior to the draft and i think he is poised to be a difference maker in the Bills defense. He is going to start immediately and be a force for the Bills. This guy simply has a radar for the ball and looks to be an excelelnt inside linebacker in the league.
Where I rank him: Perhaps I'm higher on Alonso than most but I saw him ranked at 62 by someone and was flabbergasted. I have seen him ranked as high as 25. I would put him around 30. He is going to be a difference maker.
3. Alec Ogletree - St. Louis Rams (UGA)
6' 2" and 242 lbs
197 tackles, 20 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 1 interception, 9 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles (1 TD)
Draft position: Rams Round 1 pick #30
While a very talented defensive player at Georgia, Ogletree's decision making both on the field and off was a cause for concern. A converted safety, Ogletree certainly has the talent to play in the league what is questionable is whether he can make good decisions. Still, he is too talented not to be #3 on my list.
Where I rank him: His average rank is around 37. His rankings fluctuate pretty strongly. I rank him at 45.
4. Barkevious "KeKe" Mingo - Cleveland Browns (LSU)
119 tackles, 29 TFL, 15 sacks, 11 passes defended and 4 forced fumbles
Has a wingspan of over 80 inches, a 40 inch vertical,
Fun Fact: His left arm is an inch and a half longer than his right arm
Draft position: Browns Round 1 pick # 6
I expect KeKe Mingo to enter the starting lineup early on and he could be starting day one. Even so, he will get plenty of opportunities to make an impact rotating into the lineup. An amazing combination of size and speed, his length and wingspan are going to make him a huge success as an outside linebacker in the Browns' system. The Browns drafted him to get to the quarterback and that is exactly what he is going to do. I see a big upside for him.
Where I rank him: The switch to OLB has many concerned about his transition to a new position. I think it will go a lot smoother than people think. In any event, his average ranking is 86. I would put it more comparable with Sio Moore, who's average ranking is around 50. I would rank him at 50.
5. Kevin Minter - Arizona Cardinals (LSU)
6' 0" and 246 lbs
206 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 1 interception, 7 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles (1 TD)
Draft position: Round 2 pick # 45
Obviously he is bit undersized but if you watched college football and the SEC you know this guy can play and he plays big. With all the issues surrounding Daryl Washington the Minter pick makes perfect sense for the Cardinals. He is going to see significant playing time and he is already making an impression in the offseason.
Where I rank him: This is a guy whose average ranking pretty much reflects where I think he should land and that is around 52.
6. Bjoern Werner - Indianapolis Colts (FSU)
6' 3" and 266 lbs
99 tackles, 35 TFL (18 alone in 2012), 23.5 sacks, 1 interception, 18 passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries (1 TD) and 3 forced fumbles.
Draft position: Round 1 pick # 24
Werner wasn't a guy I liked coming out but I have reassessed my position. I certainly think the Colts expect him to play well in their system and he seems poised to make an impact early on. The fine folks at Stampede Blue expect Werner to start over Walden and it's hard to disagree.
Where I rank him: He is mostly unranked except in Rookie IDP rankings. Like Mingo, I feel certain that this is due to the change in position. I would rank him at 55.
7. Sio Moore - Oakland Raiders (UConn)
6' 1" and 245 lbs
274 tackles, 44 TFL, 16 sacks, 3 interceptions, 21 passes defended and 4 forced fumbles
Draft position: Raiders Round 3 pick 66
Make no doubt, Sio Moore is a playmaker and he is going to play early and often for a Raiders defense that greatly needs one. To put it mildly, the Raiders defense wasn't very good last year and they are going to need Moore to be every bit the playmaker he showed at UConn.
Where I rank him: As I indicated earlier, Moore's average ranking is around 50 and I would rank him at 55.
8. Jarvis Jones - Pittsburgh Steelers (UGA)
6' 2" and 245 lbs
155 tackles, 44 TFL, 28 sacks, 1 interception, 6 passes defended, and 9 forced fumbles
Draft position: Steelers Round 1 pick # 17
Jones is a very interesting player, not only because of his personal story but also because of his neck injury and journey from USC to UGA. There are differing opinions on how his spinal stenosis will affect his playing career but there is no doubt Jones has landed in a spot where his natural talents will be used to his advantage. Will he get significant playing time as a rookie? That will be a big question.
Where I rank him: His average ranking is around 61 which seems about right to me.
9. Jon Bostic - Chicago Bears (University of Florida)
6' 1" and 245 lbs
219 tackles, 19 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 5 interceptions (1 TD), 11 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles
Draft position: Bears Round 2 pick #50
Bostic is one of my favorite linebackers to come out of Florida in recent years. He was great playing for the Gators and fills an obvious need for the Bears, who has indicated they expect him to be a starter. How much playing time he gets and how early he pushes DJ Williams and Jamaal Anderson is a question mark but he is a heavy hitter and would appear to be a perfect fit for the Bears MLB position. Besides, the Bears clearly think he will contribute at all 3 spots.
Where I rank him: His average ranking is 55. I have seen him ranked as high as 37. Certainly the Bears didn't pick him high with the expectation he wouldn't earn significant playing time. I would rank him at 62 until I saw how early and often he would play. Still, I wouldn't have a problem with with anyone putting him higher.
10. Gerald Hodges - Minnesota Vikings (PSU)
6' 1' and 243 lbs
249 tackles, 21 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 Interceptions, 16 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles
Draft position: Vikings Round 4 pick #120
He is not very athletic and is a bit undersized but has good coverage skills. He makes the list because the linebacker position for the Vikings is still under construction and he could conceivably earn a starting role and at the least a significant role.
Where I rank him: His average ranking is around 55. I would rank him at 65.
11. Jamie Collins - New England Patriots (Southern Mississippi)
6' 3" and 250 lbs, 4.64 40, 41.5 inch vertical jump, 7.10 3 cone drill, and 11.55 60 yard shuttle
314 tackles, 45 TFL, 21 sacks, 3 interceptions (2 TDs), 18 passes defended, 7 forced fumbles (2 FR and 1 TD)
Draft position: Patriots Round 2 pick #52.
Collins was easily one of my favorite defensive players in the draft. If you haven't watched his performance at the NFL combine, please do so. Playing on a terrible Southern Miss team hurt his stock a bit but he is an outstanding athlete who can play LB and DE (he played his first 2 years at defensive back). The Patriots are likely to play him mostly at LB but he could see time at DE as well.
The Patriots have him listed behind Jerod Mayo currently. Mayo's contract spikes following the 2014 season. MLB Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich are entering contract years. There are certainly options for the Patriots to allow Collins to come in and earn some playing time.
Where I rank him: He is mostly unranked but fellow LB Brandon Spikes is ranked around 55 and he isn't an every down LB. Training camp will tell a lot and he could move up in rankings depending on where he sees playing time.
12. Zaviar Gooden - Tennessee Titans (Missouri)
6' 2" and 230 lbs
256 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 5 interceptions (1 TD), and 2 forced fumbles
Draft position: Titans Round 3 pick #97
I know the Titans have 3 quality starting linebackers and some questioned the pick of Gooden in the 3rd round. Not me as I took a look at Gooden for the Titans prior to the draft. There are a variety of ways the Titans could make use of Gooden and I wouldn't sleep on him to play early and often for a Titans defense still in search of playmakers. As I wrote in that early article, I think you can expect the Titans to use Ayers more as an edge rusher and I think Gooden will play not only in the base defense but in special packages.
Where I rank him: Gooden's lack of a ranking reflects uncertainty over the role he will play for the Titans but he is already showing up as a possible sleeper pick. Keep an eye on the linebacker battle in training camp as he could make a case for a starting role.
13. Manti Te'o - San Diego Chargers (Notre Dame)
6' 1" and 241 lbs
437 tackles, 34 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 7 interceptions, 17 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles
Draft position: Chargers Round 2 pick # 38
Amazing how much perception has changed of Te'o since the beginning of the 2012 college football season. I won't focus at all on any off the field issues (although they do raise serious decision making questions) and will focus entirely on how badly he got owned in the National Championship game. I have doubts on whether Te'o has the skills to be successful in the league and time will tell whether this is accurate or not.
Where I rank him: His average ranking is around 35. I think that is crazy. In all fairness some don't rank him at all. I would not rank him right now.
14. Khaseem Greene - Chicago Bears (Rutgers)
6' and 1" and 241 lbs
387 tackles, 31 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 15 passes defended and 12 forced fumbles (2 TDs)
Draft position: Bears Round 4 pick #117
Greene is another converted safety who went on to have 2 really productive years at the linebacker position. Greene had a fantastic career for the Scarlet Knights and that reflects in his stats. The Bears are still looking to see where Greene fits in their system but there is a feel that he could play MLB. Bostic would appear to be the favorite but for a Bears team looking to go younger it isn't out of the question that Greene could see some playing time.
Where I rank him: His unranked status reflects understandable concern over what role he will play for the Bears, but he is certainly a young player to keep an eye upon.