2021 RSO IDP Linebacker Review

Updated: April 24th 2022

With the defensive linemen in our rear-view mirror, let’s maneuver our way to the second level like the crafty little scat backs we all are and weave ourselves into some glorious IDP information. Let’s take a look at the 2021 linebackers for RSO and recap what we saw.

As we look at the world of linebackers, we have a bit of the conundrum we saw in the previous article with OLBs who are truly edge rushers (or pass rushers) but end up with the designation of LB, which only muddies our ability to try and makes our analysis a bit more tricky, but we will get there! For those LBs who are in that pass-rushing role, please take a peek at the previous article, 2021 DL Review, for thoughts on how to look at players in that role and designation.

So what did the top 24 LBs look on the RealitySportsOnline platform this last year for IDP123 scoring?

An interesting list with a solid mix of players who are talented NFL performers, some LBs that I like to consider “warm body” LBs, and a few others that you were wondering how are they on this list?!? How do we identify this talent if it is not based on just NFL talent? In this case, we circle back to our first and consistent IDP indicator, the volume of snaps! Snaps! Snaps! And more snaps! #SpoilerAlert, this will come up again in the review of defensive backs in the next article too!

With linebackers, it is not just the volume of the snaps that help indicate the potential success of an IDP linebacker, there are other pieces that are solid indicators to look into. One of the first ones that stand out for me is the number of zone snaps a linebacker takes on a given week and season. This helps show us who is playing on the field for most of the snaps and the very important third-down snaps (and getting that 3-down role on their team). That doesn’t mean we don’t want to see a baseline for just overall snaps and we should be looking for players that are getting close to that 1,000+ snap baseline (which equates to around 58 snaps per game, based on a 17-game season). Lastly, you want to look at the number of snaps per game a team’s defense is actually taking on a per-game basis to understand these baselines for a defender to achieve.

Here is what some of these top performers look like in terms of these numbers. Of course, these are not gospel and the only way to determine things, there are most certainly outliers to any process, some examples not shown are Kamu Grugier-Hill and Alex Singleton both failed to surpass 800+ total snaps on the year but managed to still break the top 24 with above average tackle efficiency (average tends to show around 12-13% for league average) and some massive week performances to boot.

Moving forward with these thoughts, what are you looking for in building out your roster this year and the following ones? You want to focus on teams that keep their LBs in a strong amount of zone coverage snaps and the LBs who are getting those snaps (pay attention to who is running the defense and how they have historically). See what teams are getting enough snaps to hopefully hit that 1,000 total snap threshold based on the number of defensive snaps they are taking and the snaps a defender is getting (big hint, getting 100% of the team’s snaps is good!). Lastly, tackle efficiency helps us identify outliers a bit more as well with very high tackle efficiencies being an indication of over-production in the majority of instances (think high TD totals for a WR and how those generally are not a sticky stat).

I hope this helps you gain a better understanding of what you can look for based on what we have seen from players in the past as you get ready for your drafts this off-season. As always, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@jakekohlhagen) with any thoughts, comments, or general discussions and happy drafting!

More Analysis by Jake

2021 RSO IDP Defensive Line Review

Updated: April 7th 2022

Welcome back you IDP connaisseurs! Let’s continue our journey into the IDP world of fantasy football. We will kick off our review of the 2021 season, with the DL position group. If you recall from our intro to IDP, the DL position(s) is one that can be dictated by two key factors, the first, and most important for all IDP success, is the volume (as it is for most fantasy positions). The second factor is the NFL player’s ability to win their one-on-one matchup at the line of scrimmage. The defensive line is the unique position of IDP that generally correlates IDP success based on NFL success, similar to the offensive side of the ball. These will be things we want to keep in mind as we go forward through IDP.

Before we look at those top-performing pass-rushers from 2021, we must look at who is designated as a DE or DT. Figuring that out though is tough because defense in today’s era of the NFL is not the same kind of football from 1990 through 2010 or even just 5 years ago. Part of that understanding is that so many times people throw around the term “3-4 base” or “4-3 base” as a point of how to identify or designate players. However, thanks to the talented Tom Kislingbury (@tomkislingbury on Twitter), this base defense generally doesn’t account for more than roughly 8,000 snaps across ALL TEAMS AND 17 GAMES! Down from nearly 12,500 in just 2014! The point of this tangent is to call out that NFL defenses run so many different packages and looks, just like NFL offenses do and that has left us in a precarious situation in which we are not always accurately identifying or designating defensive players. And the greatest offender to this is in the DL position group.

Let’s get back on course and take a look at our top 24 (ish) “defensive linemen”, and you will see the top 12 on RSO based on designation and then the other “DL” or “EDGE” players that get LB designation (scoring is based on IDP123 scoring):

Top pass rushers 2021

Cool, a table that shows the top 12 DL in RSO and those you can’t use due to designation, you say. But the table highlights our initial article about understanding your league’s roster composition and the difference between elite DLs and those at the replacement level. If you got inside the top 5 for this position, you were very happy with the production of your DL spot(s). It also showcases the need to understand positional designation for your leagues as well. Then, how do we get it so you can identify these players for you so you can get them on your roster?

For IDP, the first piece is getting on the field, and understanding an IDP’s snap counts is the first step to finding those who will succeed. The next step at the DL level is those who are winning their reps as much as possible each play. When you find that intersection you will see the top of your list here.

Baseline Analytics

After this elite level, you see things start to mix up with either higher snap counts (800+ total or ~50 per game) or consistent QB Pressures ( 50+ total or ~ 3 per game). These are baselines and basic analytics you want to search for to help you with your search for consistent IDP DL production. As for the Pass Rush Win Rate, this is a PFF analytical stat, so you can rely on a source like them to provide this via their site or you can use the eye-test if you are able to watch enough games or replays to see which defensive linemen are winning those snaps each play at a consistent rate and getting to the QB. I like the mix of this to help round out my search for my IDP assets.

Well, picking out All-Pro and Pro Bowl players is easy because that is what this list looks like. While you are correct, there are outliers and information in both directions that can help us avoid making mistakes or help us find the next top performer. Looking at players who had an abnormal amount of snaps (Cameron Heyward is up almost 125+ snaps based on previous 4 seasons’ averages) or one who showed consistent success with QB pressures but just did not find a way to convert this into statistical success. Examples from this past year would be Maxx Crosby (100 pressures, first in the league) and Rashan Gary (81 pressures, third in the league).

The last point I want to call out is to pay attention to players’ and coaches’ movements when it comes to IDP position designation. This is still an inexact science at this point and as you can see from the first table, there are players who are true pass rushers but have that LB designation so they don’t get to score at a DL position. And as defensive coaches and schemes change, LB and DE position changes can change along with it like Chandler Jones moving from Arizona’s “3-4 base” to Las Vegas’s “4-3 base”, will he stay with the LB tag? Will he shift to DE? And the inverse for Danielle Hunter (assuming he stays with Minnesota), where will his designation end up?

I hope this gives you some insight as to who the 2021 successes were, how they got there, and how you can work to understand it going forward for your drafts, trades, or anything else IDP related!

If you ever want to discuss IDP thoughts, IDP strategies, or just talk about fantasy football, you can reach out to me on Twitter @jakekohlhagen.

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RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 15

Updated: December 20th 2020

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RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 14

Updated: December 13th 2020

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RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 13

Updated: December 6th 2020

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One Big Thing – NFC – Week 12

Updated: December 5th 2020

Every week we learn a little bit more about how a team sees each player as a part of their offense allowing fantasy footballers to react (positively or negatively) to those actions. Each week I will look to capture the “One Big Thing” that should have an impact on each team going forward and how you, the savvy fantasy player, can use that to your advantage.

NFC EAST

 Washington

Antonio Gibson looks to be the 2020 answer to why third-round rookie picks can get propped up in terms of value because when you find a guy like Gibson and are paying him less than $1 million over four years it is a sweet feeling. Both he and James Robinson have been the two contenders for the best rookie running back heading into this offseason. This, a year after neither was being talked about as a top 20 pick coming out of the draft. Gibson’s transition to the position is what has made his early success even greater as he was playing a different position for much of his collegiate career and in theory, is still learning how to play running back. He has probably warranted enough production to prevent the team from investing any real capital in the position next offseason so his workload could continue to rise. I am sure my value model chart will show that he is one of the best contracts in RSO heading into 2021.

 Dallas

Do not resign All-Pro running backs to massive second contracts seems to be gaining more and more steam as recent examples of Todd Gurley and now potentially Ezekiel Elliot has shown. The fifth-year running back continues to disappoint both fantasy and Cowboys’ fans as despite still controlling the majority of snaps Elliot has not been able to put up the extraordinary numbers he had been doing in his first four seasons. Along with this Tony Pollard is seemingly doing more with fewer touches which is never a good sign that it is just a factor of the offense not having its star quarterback. The option to trade Elliot could be a talking point this offseason as a post-June trade would only cost the Cowboys $1.2 million in cap space. Knowing Jerry Jones though, it is unlikely he would take that kind of hit to his ego for being that wrong about a player he has stood by through so many off-field situations.

 NY Giants

Wayne Gallman may have won the award for mid-season pickup of the year as he has averaged 16.3 fantasy points since week 7 while scoring a touchdown in each of the last five (5) games. Daniel Jones’ injury will hamper the offense’s productivity so hopefully, Gallman can maintain the success he has had over the last month. The fourth-year runner has started more games this season than he had in his previous three (3) seasons combined thanks to the Saquon Barkley injury and it comes just in time for a new contract. It will be interesting to see if he stays with the Giants to resume what would be backup duties or if he tries to springboard this second-half performance into an opportunity with a more open backfield as a free agent.

 Philadelphia

Fellow RSO writer and draft expert Bob Cowper and I had an open discussion on Twitter as to whether the news that Jalen Hurts was going to be involved more in the offense heading into week 12 was coming from the coaching staff or from management, which is usually never a good sign when the two are not on the same page. The longer this rift continues the more egregious the drafting of Jalen Hurts seems. If you cannot start him over Carson Wentz because you cannot have a backup quarterback account for 17 percent of the cap but you also cannot trade or cut Wentz because it would result in a cap savings of -$24.5 million then why not try and make the best of a bad situation with Wentz and draft to support him instead of drafting his unusable replacement? The reason is that they have tried to but have whiffed so hard at receiver in back-to-back drafts that it is brought up weekly in the football community. None more obvious than watching D.K. Metcalf last week against the Eagles post 10 receptions for 177 yards while the receiver the Eagles took one spot ahead of him, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, has had 12 receptions total over his first two seasons.

NFC NORTH

 Detroit

Coming off the franchise’s first shutout in a decade the Lions needed to have a better performance if the coaching staff and players were likely to make it to 2021. They did not do that instead having three (3) turnovers in an eight (8) play span and allowing 41 points to a three-win team.  As a defensive-minded coach, letting Matt Patricia go this past week seemed like an inevitability. The team seemingly regressed since he took over as head coach after having two winning seasons in Jim Caldwell’s final years. It stands to guess whether the team will move on from long-time quarterback Matthew Stafford and look to fully tear down with a rebuild. If that is the case then who knows whether Kenny Golladay is in their plans for the future as the young wide receiver would likely be priced in the $12-$15 million range as a free agent this offseason. There could be a whole new look to the Lions in the 2021 season.

 Minnesota

We have to give it to Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense as having two fumbles returned for touchdowns on consecutive plays would have caused a lot of teams to fold like a poor soufflé but they hung around and scored 18 fourth-quarter points to steal a late victory. Justin Jefferson continues to impress and he stepped up big with Adam Thielen sidelined for COVID protocol. The rookie had his second multi-touchdown game and his fourth game with over 20 PPR points. The Vikings have done enough this season that likely the core of this offense will be running it back in 2021 which should help with the continuity of developing a young superstar like Jefferson seems to be. Look for Jefferson in the top 10 conversation for dynasty wide receivers when the 2021 mock drafts start opening up.

 Chicago

Awful, just an awful showing by the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. It looked like they might be able to hang with the Packers as their second play of scrimmage was a surprising 57-yard run up the middle by David Montgomery which led to a field goal. But two turnovers the next two drives led to the Bears being down 27-3 mid-way through the second quarter and then it was all garbage time points the second half. Allen Robinson continues to be victimized by poor quarterback play and has been the only consistent option for fantasy on the Bears offense. For your sake Allen, please go sign with a contender or at least a competent quarterback so you can spread your wings before it is too late.

 Green Bay

Please just accept the fact that Jamaal Williams is not bad as a 1B in the Green Bay offense and you will find a lot of your Aaron Jones frustration will subside. Williams has now held onto a significant role in the offense under two different coaching regimes so clearly, he has the skills to warrant the touches and snaps he receives. Aaron Rodgers has also talked about how great he is in the locker room so those asking for #FreeAaronJones might get their wish when he leaves in free agency this offseason instead of Williams. Williams’ contract value would surely be less than that of Jones to resign and the team spent significant capital in A.J. Dillion already so why would they spend a significant amount on a position which I have already talked about with the Cowboys that often does not lend itself to benefiting from signing large second contracts. It could be Dillon eating into Jamaal Williams’ workload in 2021. What a twist that would be.

NFC SOUTH

 Carolina

IDP leagues were probably a buzz with Jeremy Chinn scoring defensive touchdowns on back-to-back plays in the third quarter last week. I do not usually talk about defensive players that much since IDP leagues are in the minority of the fantasy community but Chinn’s performance this season has been outstanding as the number two scoring safety and overall 12th highest scoring defensive player. Not bad for a rookie. Going back to the offense the Panthers have the rare week 13 bye so hopefully, one more full week of rest will give Christian McCaffrey the green light for the fantasy playoffs. Mike Davis has trailed off as of late and the team could use McCaffrey’s jack of all trades skillset to finish this season on a positive one for Matt Rhule’s first year as Head Coach.

 Atlanta

For once the Falcons offense did not have to carry the team as the defense forced five (5) turnovers and was the week 12 DST1 for those who still play with team defenses. On the offensive side, Brian Hill and Ito Smith split time with Todd Gurley out with the latter scoring a touchdown during the start of the fourth quarter. The Falcons return to play New Orleans for the second time in three weeks and hopefully, they saw enough of what Taysom Hill was the first time to have a better performance than the nine points they put in week 11. If both Julio Jones and Todd Gurley can return that would also help.

 New Orleans

Whether it is game planning or just trying to avoid putting mistakes on Taysom Hill the Saints should not feel confident with Hill as their future despite having two wins in Drew Brees’ absence. In his two starts, Hill has failed to score a single passing touchdown and has only completed 27 passes. Yes, his four (4) rushing touchdowns have kept his fantasy performances to a respectable level but against a team that did not have a starting quarterback, one would expect more as a passer if he was truly their solution. His weak passing performances have hampered what was otherwise a weekly RB1 season from Alvin Kamara who has only one (1) reception the last two games and 16 PPR points combined. Please come back, Drew. We won’t make fun of you not passing the ball deep anymore.

 Tampa Bay

This was the second game in a month that the Buccaneers got down big early and immediately seemed to abandon the run. The offensive game plan does not seem to be gelling with what Byron Leftwich and Bruce Arians want to do and how Tom Brady sees the field. It does not help that neither of Ronald Jones or Leonard Fournette appears to fit with Tom Brady’s usual check-down running back style. Both have had repeated drops on dump-down passes causing more long conversion attempts than need be. KeShawn Vaughn drafters are probably wondering how bad he has to be if he cannot be activated for games to at least be the pass-catching option. This is a problem unlikely to be solved mid-season and once again the focus will be on if the Bucs bring in a running back with receiving upside then they could shoot up the draft or auction boards.

NFC WEST

 Arizona

Kyler Murray’s shoulder injury definitely played a factor in his poor performance last Sunday but Bill Belichick just seems to have a way of owning young quarterbacks in their first appearance against the future Hall of Fame coach. Murray has only carried the ball five (5) times in each of the last two games since getting injured and the runs he does have are more breakdown, scramble drills than designed runs. He is still a good passer but he is not Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers so for Murray to keep up for the highest scoring quarterback title he needs to have his running game at full strength. If Larry Fitzgerald misses a second game for COVID protocols and DeAndre Hopkins is locked up with Jalen Ramsey this week, it could be another subpar performance from Murray.

 San Francisco

Deebo Samuel returned from his second stint of injuries to finally put his first WR1 week on the board with a career-high 11 receptions. After being this offseason’s darling for his rookie season performance Samuel has not been much help to fantasy owners in 2020, playing in only five (5) games thus far. The injuries to the rest of the team have also hurt to give support around him but Samuel showed that, when healthy, he can be a yards after the catch machine and a huge PPR stat compiler. His value likely has not waned in his fantasy owner’s eyes but Samuel could be a re-breakout candidate in 2021 once the returning cast on offense is at full strength.

 LA Rams

Statistically, this was the game that many of those who drafted Cam Akers thought would happen when they drafted the running back at the end of the first round. The rookie had 84 yards rushing and scored his first career rushing touchdown to “lead” the backfield in week 12. I say lead but Akers still played only the third-most snaps of the three running backs and 61 of his rushing yards came on a single play leaving 23 yards on his other eight (8) carries. Without an offseason to learn the offense and gain confidence with the coaching staff it made sense that Sean McVay would lean on veteran experience to start the year. But after three months of weekly practices and real game experience, it has to be worrisome that Akers has not been able to take over the backfield yet. Maybe he finds a role in 2021 but heading into the offseason I would be seeing if I could flip him for a second-round pick before the bottom potential falls right out.

 Seattle

D.K. Metcalf wanted to show the Eagles they made a mistake not take him in the 2019 draft and he delivered on Monday night. The sophomore receiver accounted for 77 percent of the Seahawks receiving yards and 45 percent of the team’s receptions while dominating Darius Slay in man-to-man coverage. While the kitchen has cooled for Russell Wilson it remained on fire for D.K. Metcalf who has been the most consistent fantasy receiver in 2020. With only two games scoring less than 13 PPR points, Metcalf is currently the WR3. Tyler Lockett has been no slouch either as the current WR7 but 57 percent of his production has come in just three (3) games so it has been more of a roller coaster ride for his fantasy owners. Games against both New York teams and Washington in the coming weeks will likely only help keep both receivers in the top 10.

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