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IDP: Top 5 Linebackers Under 25 (2023 Fantasy Football)

IDP: Top 5 Linebackers Under 25 (2023 Fantasy Football)
cameraIDP: Top 5 Linebackers Under 25 (2023 Fantasy Football)

On the defensive side, football is brutal. Being 30 and starting on defense these days is far rarer than it used to be even a decade ago. The average age of linebacker units in the NFL is also falling every year. Last year, the oldest linebacker core in the NFL averaged under 28 years old as a unit. Therefore, for Individual Defensive Position (IDP) leagues, finding players who are under 25 who happen to be at the top of their game is a great advantage to hold over your league mates.

Last year’s article shows the value of that, not just for fantasy football, but also for GMs and the front offices of the 32 NFL teams. Roquan Smith was traded to Baltimore as he made it clear he would not sign another contract in Chicago. And, there were many teams interested in picking up this talent before he hit free agency and cleared his age-25 year.

That is why age is really important in IDP leagues. By 28-30, most of these players are finishing their careers due to the physical beating their bodies take. Linebackers, in particular, are required to make so many tackles that it is rare to see a top IDP linebacker past 30 be fantasy relevant.

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Top 5 Linebackers Under 25

Below, I have ranked the top-5 players under 25 years old at the linebacker position for IDP formats.

5. Devin Lloyd (JAX): Age 24

The Jaguars traded back into the first round to select Lloyd with the 27th pick just 10 months ago. They believed the former Utah Ute would be the player to replace Myles Jack and improve this defensive unit. Whilst Lloyd certainly had a solid season, it would be unfair to compare him to Myles Jack just yet.

What Lloyd did bring to this Jacksonville defense was his playmaking ability and great hands. Lloyd ended up with 3 interceptions on his stat line for 2022. However, the main concern for IDP owners was the low solo tackle numbers. Lloyd ended up with 115 tackles. However, only 59 of those were solo tackles. He also missed a whopping 10.9% of his tackles as he adjusted to playing in the NFL.

Whilst his first year in the NFL was solid, but not spectacular, there is a reason for optimism and hope. Firstly, His numbers will only improve as he continues to adjust and learn the speed of the game at the pro level. The second is that playing alongside Foyesade Oluokun will only make him better. And, whilst Oluokun continues to be the LB1 and will monopolize the tackles, he reaches age 28 next season. And the Jaguars have a cheap out of his contract at the end of 2023, meaning they can save $15 million in 2024 by cutting Oluokun. There is every chance, that if Lloyd improves and continues to build on his relative rookie success, he takes over the leadership role of this linebacker room in 2024.

4. Quay Walker (GB): Age 22

The rookie out of Georgia was seen as the second-best linebacker on his college team. However, due to injury concerns with Nakobe Dean and due to the very solid rookie year, he put together, Walker makes this list at the expense of Dean. There is no substitute for games and game-time experience in the NFL and that is why Walker gets the nod. A very solid 75 solo tackles and 3 forced fumbles put up in his rookie year showed he is adapting rather well to the NFL.

Walker ranked 30th in combined tackles and 32nd in overall IDP scoring. Whilst this does not look overly attractive, it is worth remembering this Packers’ defense was nothing short of a car crash in comparison to their 2021 counterparts. And whilst Walker’s numbers remained consistent throughout the season, IDP players started to see some spike weeks from him. In week 7 he scored 15.8 fantasy points. He followed that up with 18.0. fantasy points in week 11 before hitting a supreme 21 fantasy points in week 15.

As Walker continues to gain experience and gain confidence, he will continue to be a game-wrecker for IDP players. There is room for his tackle numbers to grow. As well as his potential QB hits and sack numbers, once he is let off the leech. Walker also doesn’t miss many tackles. He was 4th best in the FBS in his final year in college with just 4.3% of tackles missed. In his rookie year, he maintained a similar number of 4.7%.

Walker will be one to watch next year. However, expect a significant spike in his numbers in 2023.

3. Patrick Queen (BAL): Age 23

The former Rookie Team of the Year linebacker has just completed his 3rd NFL season. At just 23, he still has a long way to go in his career. And it was in 2022 that he became a standout player in the position. Queen finished as the LB15 overall, yet set career-high marks for interceptions (2), sacks (5), combined tackles (117), solo tackles (79), and QB hits (14).

The adjustment in the Ravens’ scheme in 2022 really paid dividends for Queen, who is now using his experience and talent to dominate many game situations. He is also remarkably durable, having not missed a regular season game in his career to date.

The major improvement in Queen, other than the scheme and the team playing to his strengths, is his technique is vastly improved. He has improved his tackling, seeing his missed tackles number drop from 12.5% to just 7.1%.

For Queen to be an elite top 5 IDP player, he will need to maintain his gains, but break the 90 solo tackle mark. After the improvements, he made this season, don’t be surprised if he does that in 2023.

2. Micah Parsons (DAL): Age 23

Parsons might be the best defensive player in football based on what we have seen over the last couple of years. He is certainly in the conversation for that accolade. The two-time first-team All-Pro however, ends up number two on this list almost entirely due to his freakish and unrivaled talent. Unfortunately, due to the amount of time he plays on the defensive line, and defensive lineman scoring in IDP is not as valuable as linebacker scoring, Parsons does fall down the charts when it comes to joining the IDP elite linebackers.

Parsons registered 13.5 sacks in 2022, after achieving 13 in 2021. However, his tackle numbers mean the player ahead of him in this list remains more valuable from an IDP perspective. Parsons finished at the LB16 in 2022 and has a lot of safety in his numbers. In fact, if he can reach his 2021 tackle numbers of 64 solo tackles, then he would have jumped up into the top 10 at the position in 2022.

Parsons can do it all. And if you play in a league that rewards Sacks, tackles for loss and QB hits in a more valuable way, then his value skyrockets. So make sure you check your scoring format after you read this to see if perhaps Parsons would get a significant bump as a result.

That doesn’t change that Parsons will put up multiple 20-point weeks up a season. If you get 4/5 out of him a season, you will be well-placed to make a run at the playoffs. Not to mention, in most leagues, he will have dual position eligibility to help you cover your bye weeks as well. You won’t be worse off having Micah Parsons on your team in 2023.

1. Nick Bolton (KC): Age 22

2022 was the year of the Bolton breakout. Bolton led the position in solo tackles with 108 in 2022. He also finished as the LB3. With Oloukun potentially looking at one more big year, and Smith having to split tackles with Queen, 2023 could potentially be the year that Nick Bolton ends up as the LB1.

The former second-round pick is exceeding expectations. And he capped off an incredible season with a touchdown in the Super Bowl and a Super Bowl ring, following Sunday’s 38-35 triumph in Super Bowl LVII. He was very unlucky not to finish the game with a second touchdown. Bolton has shown that he is a player for the big occasion, and has shown remarkable consistency all season long.

Another strength is his technique and awareness. Bolton only missed 3.7% of his tackles, which was an increase on his 2021 number of 3.4%. There is no doubt that Bolton can repeat a 100 solo tackle season and challenge the elite for the LB1 overall position in 2023. However, when I mentioned him in my Dynasty Trade Targets piece last week, he hadn’t shone in the biggest game of all. That could mean he will be harder to acquire. However, if you are able to trade for him, or draft him in your new startup IDP league in 2023, you absolutely should do your best to add him to your roster. Because Nick Bolton has the potential to be the next NFL defensive superstar.

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Adam Murfet is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Murf, check out his archive and follow him @Murf_NFL.

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