Cleat Geeks

The IDP Geek Huddle: 2018 Linebacker Investments 0.2

This is that time of the off-season that has guys like me reaching deep to bring up potential IDP players for the coming season to bring to our attention. This “take” will reflect that issue. What exactly do we mean by issue and reaching, well it’s not as uncomfortable as it might sound. It basically means the following players are guys we want to keep on our radars or stash on the tail end of our rosters more than making a move on them until we know. Or even possibly pay a late round pick to acquire them as their odds are as good as any late round pick to work out. With the Combine underway, free agency, and then the draft coming up many fantasy football owners will need to push players as they fall in love with a rookie or two or will become in-hammered with newly signed players. This can open opportunities for low investments on players as the roster scrambling takes hold. We should take these following players and at the least file them in the back of our minds as players that by OTAs could show even more reasons to invest one way or another for our lineups in 2018.

Calvin Munson was signed by the New York Giants out of San Diego State the last off-season after going undrafted. The plan had to be to sign him as a special teams player and add depth to the linebacker corp. Little did they know that he would end up playing 388 defensive snaps and actually be in the starting lineup for a few of their contests. The Giants had been struggling at the linebacker position for some time coming into 2017 and that didn’t change. With injuries to multiple starters, they found themselves leaning on the undrafted rookie a lot. Munson didn’t actually excel as a starter but he didn’t embarrass himself either considering the situation. With 60 combined tackles and two sacks he actually was a productive rookie when given the chance. He was a decent tackler with limitations in coverage overall. Heading into his second season with experience under his belt there will be room to grow and possibly take that next step.

Why He Should Be Tracked?

As of this moment the Giants are sitting on around $22 million in cap space, that could possibly grow if they release some players. But for now, that’s not as much as one thinks when considering what veteran free agents can cost a team. The veteran linebackers Keenan Robinson, Jonathan Casillas, and Devon Kennard are all free agents this year. And if new head coach Pat Shurmur has been paying attention over the last few years he shouldn’t be in any hurry to have any of them resigned. As a group, they just haven’t managed to get the job done for a couple of seasons now. We know B.J. Goodson will return for his third season and has high upside, but he also was injured a lot last season and has some question marks heading into 2018. As of the moment, Munson should be looking pretty good to the new coaching staff. And with a new rumored defensive scheme reportedly being inserted the situation could actually play into Munson’s skill set better than it did in 2017. Reportedly they will be switching from the 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 scheme. If Munson remains an inside linebacker he could possibly be a good fit at the run-stopping inside linebacker position. In that scenario putting Goodson in the coverage inside linebacker position. But here’s the thing about that whole scenario. When we set Goodson side by side with Munson by looking at Munson’s pro-day results and Goodson’s combine results it is splitting hairs overall. Neither linebacker has top notch speed with a range in the 4.6 area in the forty. While the rest of the results has Munson just shy of what Goodson accomplished. Both players were known more for their run stopping abilities coming out of college over their coverage skills. So can they actually use these two at the same time?

With Shurmur probably entering camp with an open mind from what he saw in 2017 game film these two players should be on a level playing field, to begin with. Could we see both on the field side by side, it’s a very good possibility. It’s doubtful the Giants spend big on the few good free agent linebackers with limited cap, nor has it been their style in the past. Will they take an upper round draft pick on a linebacker this coming draft with so many apparent needs across the board? Who knows, for now, we should consider a later to mid-round pick like Goodson was in the fourth last draft at best. We will want to pay attention if they do. If that player has speed and coverage skills he could likely compete for that coverage linebacker position leaving the fight between Goodson and Munson more relevant than most would think. It is a lot more of a critical season for Goodson heading into his third season than a surprise undrafted rookie in Munson in his second. As an IDP guy for some years now, my attention is just as focused on Munson as it is Goodson. He should be kept track of and considered for a low investment now before he surprises us again in 2018. At the least, we track what the Giants do with the personal.

I recently wrote an article that included Detroit’s Jalen Reeves-Maybin in an overall IDP team “take.” I speculate that the Lions will not resign Tahir Whitehead based off what he’ll demand on the open market as one of the better veteran options in free agency. I then inserted Reeves-Maybin into the vacated starting position for 2018 for the Lions and their new defensive scheme under new head coach Matt Patricia. With that being said we will discuss why Reeves Maybin should be a good fit for a starting role and why we should have this player on our radar.

Reeves-Maybin was drafted in the fourth round in 2017 and when we look at his measurables he fits into the mold of a smaller weighted linebacker relying on quickness over pure power. It’s a mold that many NFL teams are turning to when adding talent to their linebacker corps. The one thing that Reeves-Maybin doesn’t possess is top end speed according to his pro-day result with a mid-range 4.6 forty. That still would have ranked him tied for fifth in last years combine among linebackers, however. But it is not in the range of a Falcon’s Deion Jones. He did not partake in the combine due to a shoulder injury. I know that a shoulder injury shouldn’t affect a forty time, but we have to consider his overall health by the time his pro-day rolled around wasn’t 100%. Leaving at least us to wonder if that time would have been a bit faster if completely in shape. And in the scheme that the Lion’s are likely to insert he doesn’t have to be the fastest linebacker on the field. He just needs to be able to cover well enough to not get beat often. The scheme should rely on their three safety sets to cover that area of the field more than any linebacker. They basically need a decent coverage guy and a sure tackler to insert next to Jarrad Davis. And Reeves-Maybin has that skillset.

Why He Should Be Tracked?

Much like Munson above, a fact that the Lion’s are limited in cap space comes into play here, which just got smaller while tagging defensive end Ezekiel Ansah to about an $18 million hit. That leaves the Lions approximately with $27 million while also needing a lot of pieces across the board to get things together and compete. In the article, I “guessed” that Ansah would be the resigned free agent as a defensive lineman was a must for Patricia’s scheme and with little to being offered on the open market. And then “guessed” that they wouldn’t resign Whitehead due to what his production by default cap would demand on the open market also. The later has not happened just yet, but still a viable “take” at this point.

Reeves-Maybin started seeing more playing time towards the second half of the season and performed well. It is a situation that we have a hard time saying just exactly how well he played because he was not inserted into the role that he likely could play in 2018. With Whitehead getting the job done Reeves-Maybin seen a lot of the strongside linebacker position which normally isn’t much more than a position taking up space and protecting the line in most 4-3 schemes. Thus not showcasing his skill set in the open field. We should also consider that most strongside linebackers are stout and physically larger players than his 6” 230-pound frame. An indication that the Lion’s wanted him on the field gaining experience no matter the position. Overall here Reeves-Maybin and Munson’s situation mirror each other. As my article stated HERE about Detroit’s front office trying to turn the Lions into the Patriots, they are likely not going to draft high in the draft at linebacker or are they going to sign a big name free agent to fill the hole when/if Whitehead gets paid elsewhere. Reeves-Maybin is in a perfect situation to enter 2018 as the odds-on favorite as the second linebacker on the field. If he does we could expect LB2 type numbers depending on game planning each week and the scheme that Patricia wants to have on the field. The moment we know about Whitehead’s status we should know what type of investment to make. He is likely to have a role either way in that scheme and an investment of keeping track of the situation is warranted no matter how it plays out. We could be looking at a third or fourth linebacker for depth on our rosters with upside.

While staying on a theme here we will also discuss why we should be watching what happens in New England with outside linebacker Marquis Flowers. Another player I added a small blurb about at the end of the Lions IDP team “take.” He also warrants some monitoring as his situation and the way that the latter part of last season unfolded has him in a position to be invested in. Not to completely give away my Lion’s article here we will address this from the Patriots point of view. I do suggest if you’re interested more in how Flowers was thrown into Lion’s take you give that a read. But for now, we’ll assume he’ll come into play for New England in 2018.

Flowers was drafted in 2014 by Cincinnati in the late sixth round. Without tripling the size of this “take” on him let’s just say the first 3 years of his career have no real notable things to talk about while he was a Bengal. And we will just flash forward to the trade that sent him to New England. From what I’m seeing he was acquired from the Bengals around the end of August of last year for a conditional seventh-round pick. And indications will be that the conditional part worked out for the Bengals better than it did for them having Flowers as a depth player. I’m now flashing to the Van Noy trade I discussed in my Lion’s article, imagine that. So before we move on I’d also like to state that I do not normally “take” on an OLB. It’s a personal matter as they just are not players I suggest for us to line our rosters with at the linebacker position. But in Flowers case, I’m intrigued enough to think his role could be more relevant in 2018 at possibly any one of three roles. And should be worth an investment at the right cost. Possibly as little as checking our waiver wires.

Why He Should Be Tracked?

You’ll see that a few “gurus” are calling Flowers a surprise for the Patriots in 2017. I beg to differ, noting that Bill Belichick does with his roster should be a surprise, it should be a mystery on how he pulls it off. What actually looked like a depth move at the time resulted in a key contributor down the road for the defense in New England. To best describe Flowers role we should compare him to Patriots former stand out Rob Ninkovich, remember him? The linebacker/defensive end hybrid that kept stacking respectable stats for all those years. Flowers thrived well in that type of role from about week eleven onward. For a player that had no real experience in his prior career, he made plays on the field that helped the Patriots make it to the Superbowl. His stats were far from outstanding, but his play on the field for then-defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was exactly what Bill saw in making the trade. Think about it, Bill doesn’t make trades for “shits and giggles”, that’s what signing free agents are for. The Patriots are notorious for turning other teams “scraps” into viable players on the defensive side of the ball. And betting we can name a few offensive guys if we look hard enough. With Flowers having a low cap hit, from being a sixth rounder at less than $600,000 per season, look for the Patriots to pay this guy at the least a prove it deal and watch him enter 2018 as a key member on that defense. If we are lucky he’ll get a DL designation in leagues, if not look at him as a possible solid LB2 with upside as Ninkovich had been. This “take” for us to watch is pure as it gets on a “gut call”, but one we shouldn’t sleep on with an investment as low as a waiver wire pick up at the moment. Bill love’s his hybrids, it’s just not publicized so much that he does. I’ll just leave some info on Flowers in closing this “take” for us to ponder. By the way, read my article on Lion’s and tell me on twitter it can’t happen, but I’m laying money I know where he lands if it’s not with the Patriots.

Wondering why there are no P.A.P.S charts? Simple, Munson and Reeves-Maybin will be in a new system so last season doesn’t matter much, and Flowers just got started towards the end of 2017.

Thanks for reading, catch me on twitter @HBogart27 for everything IDP. And get all your sports news, updates and articles with cleatgeeks!

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