Pre-Draft Linebacker Targets
If certain teams avoid addressing linebacker with a high pick in next week's draft, these under-the-radar IDPs could be poised for big roles and serious production.
With the NFL Draft less than a week away, everyone is clamoring for the next big rookie to hit. Everyone is writing about this rookie sleeper and hyping this small school player to be the next big thing. While we all love those rookie picks, it is important to look to the waivers this time of year and find potential diamonds in the rough—especially on the IDP side of the ball, where opportunity and snaps are the most important contributors to fantasy relevance.
Here is a look at some linebackers who, potentially, could be some league winners if their current teams do not address the position next week in the draft. Many of these names may be available on your league’s waiver wire right now, or could be acquired for late-round rookie picks or as throw-in guys on other trades. All of these names are rostered in less than 5% of all Sleeper leagues.
Josh Bynes, Baltimore Ravens
Josh Bynes is the Frank Gore of the linebackers: he just won’t hang up those cleats, and somehow, he continues to find ways to put up stats. Bynes will not blow away anyone with his numbers, but if your team needs a solid 5th option or a bye week replacement, he is a perfect candidate for the job. Bynes is getting up there in age, so I fully expect Baltimore to address the position, making him my least favorite add from this list. I would not drop anyone for Bynes, but if you happen to have an open roster spot and no one else is tempting, you could do worse than adding him.
Shaquille Quarterman, Jacksonville Jaguars
With all the buzz of the possible 1st overall pick being Adian Hutchinson to pair up with the other Josh Allen, along with the signing of Foye Oluokun from the Falcons, no one seems to notice that there is nothing else left on defense in Jacksonville. With Damien Wilson and Myles Jack no longer on the team, Shaquille Quarterman has quietly found himself in unfamiliar territory: a starting role. If he is able to hold onto that spot, he should be able to be productive for the Jags, and for your team.
Divine Deablo, Las Vegas Raiders
The revolving door that is the Las Vegas Raiders linebacker room saw many names come and go in the past season. Divine Deablo was the latest name to attempt to fill the void. After a very slow start to the season, Deablo racked up some great numbers while playing a limited role down the stretch from Weeks 13-18. Deablo offers added appeal in many leagues where he is considered a defensive back. Now might just be the chance to take a look if this “loophole player” is available in your league.
Jabril Cox, Dallas Cowboys
Jabril Cox is not the linebacker you think of when you think of the Dallas Cowboys. Last season, all everyone was talking about was Jaylon Smith, Micah Parsons, and Leighton Vander Esch. One season removed from that time, we see one of them no longer with the team, another playing a hybrid DL position, and the other adding another neck roll to his uniform while hoping to avoid his next stint on the IR (this is a bit of a presumption, but still likely). Cox was a super athletic linebacker during his time with LSU and this might be the season he transforms his talents from playing on Saturday to playing on Sunday (or Thursday, or even Monday). Jerry Jones said that the presence of Cox helped them pass on signing Bobby Wagner a few weeks ago. Passing on Wagner to pile on praise to Cox is noteworthy, even from Jerry Jones.
Nicholas Morrow, Chicago Bears
Nicholas Morrow is one of those Las Vegas linebackers who exited the revolving door I mentioned earlier. Morrow is a season removed from playing after an ankle injury forced him to miss all of 2021. Now with the Chicago Bears, whose defense is nothing like the Monsters of the Midway they used to be, Morrow could be well on his way to seeing significant snaps next to All-Pro Roquan Smith this upcoming season. That role has been profitable for IDP in the past. Exhibit A: Nick Kwiatkowski in 2020.
Cory Littleton, Carolina Panthers
Cory Littleton has been the most Jekyll and Hyde player at his position over the last few seasons. Littleton came out of nowhere for a few seasons for the Rams, balled out, and then landed a huge contract for the Raiders. As we all know, Littleton failed to live up to expectations, was cut by the Raiders this offseason, and was quickly signed by the Carolina Panthers. So, the question is, which Littleton do we get this season? Given the lack of competition at the position outside of Shaq Thompson, Littleton is poised for a nice, uninhibited role in the Carolina Panthers’ defense.
Cody Barton, Seattle Seahawks
Just like dessert, we’re saving the best for last. May I present to you: Cody Barton. With All-World LB Bobby Wagner leaving for division rival Los Angeles Rams this offseason, a huge void was left in the middle of the Seattle defense. Much attention has gone to Jordyn Brooks, and rightly so, as he balled out in 2021.
But let’s not forget Cody Barton, who’s been the next man up for the last few seasons when KJ Wright and Wagner have missed time. Barton more than held his own in those spot duties, and if Seattle looks to fill the needs on the team—and there are many—Barton should be safe and have his shot to replace a legend.
Are all these guys going to make a big splash? Absolutely not, but that’s not the goal of this exercise. If you can add one or two of them now, they might just turn into a top 24 linebacker for you this season. Good luck and enjoy the draft!
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