2018 Rankings: Top 25 Linebackers For Fantasy Football

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Utilize our Rankings Hub for QB List’s 2018 Positional Rankings for all of your preseason positional needs.

Linebackers are the lifeblood of defensive fantasy football. These players gobble up tackles while adding sacks, big plays, and the occasional touchdown. LBs should be one of the first IDPs selected and smart plays during the season will drive those fantasy wins. Check back each week for detailed weekly plays and opinion on the best matchups of the week. One of the more important weekly tasks an IDP owner will have is paying attention to home game stat crews, exploiting matchups and scanning the waiver wire. Each week QBList has you covered and will be bringing you IDP articles and rankings to help hungry fantasy owners with the advice you need.

Today we take a look at the top 25 Linebackers for the 2018 fantasy season. All stats are based on film grades from Pro Football Focus.

Tier 1

  1. Bobby Wagner (Seattle Seahawks)
  2. Deion Jones (Atlanta Falcons)
  3. C.J. Mosley (Baltimore Ravens)
  4. Luke Kuechly (Carolina Panthers)
  5. Telvin Smith (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Bobby Wagner tops my list this year and it’s simply for his consistency. Wagner was the only linebacker who finished with a 90+ rating from PFF on all four major categories graded for the position: Run Defense, Tackling, Pass Rush, and Coverage. I expect more of the same, the clear number one LB going into the season. Deion Jones led the league in coverage, is just a marvel to watch snap to snap. He might be my favorite player to watch at the LB position, but the surprising thing is he finished with 110+ tackles, good for third in the league.  That sort of production cannot be ignored. Still just 23, Jones is ascending and is sure to top the list in years to come. C.J. Mosley finished inside the top three in tackles and is already a star at the age of 26. Baltimore has a history of dominant linebackers and while Mosley isn’t in the mold of Ray Lewis his impact is just as large. He’a clear #3 for me but would not be surprised if he tops the league. Kuechly has been the clear top linebacker for years and at full health, there is no one better. But concussion concerns bring worry not only to the fantasy community but to the player longterm. There is no question that when healthy Luke Kuechly is a top IDP LB option and the sole reason he is ranked here is that we do not know how the season will play out. Finishing off our tier is Smtih, a dynamic player who is a joy to watch. He is consistently inside the top LB simply because he is such a beast in the run game. Telvin Smith is a consistent IDP on one of the best defense in the league, sure to return draft value.

Tier 2

  1. Zach Brown (Washington Redskins)
  2. Sean Lee (Dallas Cowboys)
  3. Kwon Alexander (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  4. Blake Martinez (Green Bay Packers)
  5. Lavonte David (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  6. Christian Kirksey (Cleveland Browns)

Zach Brown will be a tackling machine again this season. Washington is one of the best home stat crews, one who hands out solo tackles at a high clip, and Brown will fall into big games and consistent scoring all season. Sean Lee is only in this tier because of injury concerns. If we knew he was to play all 16 then he vaults into the top 3 overall. Kwon Alexander missed 4 games last season but even when on the field he struggled. I expect a big bounce-back year and should finish in his familiar area as one of the better LBs in the league. Blake Martinez had a breakout year and I expect the production to continue. Although he is limited in coverage Green Bay plays in a 3-4 where he isn’t asked to do something he shouldn’t, which frees him up to tackle the ball carrier. Lavonte David has been a consistent fantasy LB for years now and his production should be right in line with years before. David has four seasons of 100+ tackles before having a couple of down years. If healthy I expect the same production we have become used to but even if he doesn’t return to his Pro Bowl form he is a solid LB1. Christian Kirksey graded out in the middle of the pack grade wise but he did lead the league in tackles. Kirksey will again patrol the middle of the field for an up and coming defense and he deserves a shot at his ADP.

Tier 3

  1. Eric Kendricks (Minnesota Vikings)
  2. Mark Barron (Los Angeles Rams)
  3. Jarrad Davis (Detroit Lions)
  4. Tremaine Edmunds (Buffalo Bills)
  5. Roquan Smith (Chicago Bears)
  6. Alec Ogletree (New York Giants)
  7. Reuben Foster (San Francisco Giants)

With just three seasons in the league, Eric Kendricks has proven himself as a consistent fantasy producer. While he has not developed into the pass rushing threat scouts saw him as his tackle numbers alone keep him among the leagues best at the position. Mark Barron is another veteran player at the position that’s made a good career patrolling the middle of the field. Never a great player in coverage, Barron has several seasons of solid production and consistent numbers. I expect big things from Jarrod Davis this season, after missing 2 games with injury and struggling during the middle of the year. His play picked up in the second half and Detroit is ripe with scoring production at the LB position. He’s a guy that I would be happy to have as a LB2 with upside. Tremaine Edmunds and Roquan Smith are the top rookies at the position and should enjoy immediate production for their respective teams. I have Edmunds one spot higher and I believe he has the potential for the better year simply because of the friendly stat crew he will enjoy for 8 homes games but I wouldn’t question the owner who likes Smith better. Either way, both players will thrive in the league almost immediately. Alec Ogletree took a step back in a new system last season but he was still a solid LB option and played every game. In a new system and for a team that is desperate for solid LB play we can expect a big bounce-back year, in a city that hands out tackles like candy. Finally Reuben Foster rounds out the tier. If not for the tumultuous nature of the player, Foster would be ranked in the tier above. But until we can trust the player the risk outways the talent. If you are risk average, grab him here and be happy you have one of the more talented players in the league.

Tier 4

19. Deone Bucannon (Arizona Cardinals)
20. Myles Jack (Jacksonville Jaguars)
21. Demario Davis (New Orleans Saints)
22. Vince Williams (Pittsburgh Steelers)
23. Anthony Hitchens (Kansas City Chiefs)
24. Benardrick McKinney (Houston Texans)
25. K.J. Wright (Seattle Seahawks)

Deone Bucannon missed 4 games last season but still finished as a solid fantasy option when on the field. He’s an undersized player so there is always the risk of time lost but when on the field he is a solid LB2 option. Myles Jack is a young up and coming player with some questions simply because he plays on such a great defense. If he was on a bad defensive team his value would skyrocket but with so many cooks in the kitchen, his production will suffer. Still, he is an awesome talent that will easily live up to his ADP. Our final set of players are all in a similar tier outlook. Each is a solid veteran patrolling the middle in a middle of the pack defense. Demario Davis moves teams but New Orleans has been looking for a consistent play caller for years now and Davis should excel in the system. Vince Williams is a two-down player but is so productive in the role he belongs in the top 25. Anthony Hitchens is my favorite sleeper this year. KC paid good money to shore up the LB corps and the teams’ defense will surely be awful this year. Hitchens could be fantasy gold this year. Finally the two veterans Benardick McKinney and K.J. Wright will again be solid verteran options on a week to week basis.

 

Marc Salazar

Born and raised in San Antonio and naturally a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan. I am proud to be "Daddy" to an amazing 7-yo little girl. I love everything about the strategy and complexity of NFL football, no other sport compares. I've been playing some form of fantasy football for 15+ years and I run dynasty leagues that include individual defensive players, contracts, free agency and rookie drafts. I hope to introduce at least one of you to the joys of this format.

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