The one thing I like about playing IDP is that it’s easier to find gems who people aren’t paying much attention to but end up bringing LB2 or LB3 value off of the waiver wire in the pre-season. 2017 is not different as there are several key camp battles brewing with no obvious winners at this point. Whomever wins those battles though, stand to profit from their field time and so do we as fantasy IDP owners. Here are some key battles to keep an eye on:
- Raiders ILB Battle – Oakland lost their two top inside linebackers to free agency and did not draft an ILB until the fifth round this year, picking up Marquel Lee from Wake Forest. So, we know there will be at least one new starter, possibly two as the Raiders have played a hybrid 4-3, 3-4 defense in the past two years. They also picked up John Pagano to help Ken Norton with the defense and Pagano is a 3-4 guy who last coached in San Diego. Jelani Jenkins was a quiet free agent pickup on a one year deal who could end up being the starter here. He’s a 5 year veteran who played well in Miami but was too often injured. If Marquel Lee plays well in training camp, he could run away with it as starting the rookie and letting him grow fast could also be the answer. Silver and Black pride seem to think that could happen. Others involved in this battle include Ben Heeney, Cory James and Tyrell Adams. None of these guys have shown enough to be NFL starter though. Camp Battle Advantage: Jelani Jenkins with Marquel Lee nipping at his heels.
- Baltimore ILB Battle – With Zach Orr retiring there is a hole in at WILB in Baltimore’s defense. Several candidates are rumoured to be battling for the IDP lucrative position including second year man Kamalei Correa and Albert McClellan. At the latest Ravens mini-camp the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston commented “He is moving well out there as a starter” So, there you have it. Right now Correa is starting in mini-camps and will probably start training camp that way too. Camp Battle Advantage: Kamalei Correa
- Indianapolis ILB Battle – In Indy there are very much two positions open for battle, both ILB positions. And it’s truly wide open. Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison finished the year as starters last year. Sean Spence and Jon Bostic were brought in as free agents this off-season. Also Anthony Walker was drafted in the 5th round. Sean Spence seems to have the leg up for one position, running the first team in minicamps. The other slot is open for business though Brett Mock from Stampede Blue feels Antonio Morrison could be the sleeper there. Having watched Morrison in college I know he’s a tough hombre from a big time program. Camp Battle Advantage: Sean Spence and Antonio Morrison but neither are guaranteed.
- New Orleans MLB Battle – The Saints had one of the worst defenses last year and they mercifully jettisoned James Laurinaitis from the MLB spot in the off-season, which makes it wide-open. Mante Te’o and AJ Klein were brought in as free agents, Alex Anzalone was drafted late and they still have Stephone Anthony who manned the middle two years ago as a rookie. They also have Craig Robertson who led the team in tackles at the MLB position last year. This is another battle that seems to not be figured out until training camp. Roberson is expected to battle for the WLB position with Dannel Ellerbe this year. AJ Klein was starting at recent mini camps and has the early advantage. Mante Te’o and Stephone Anthony would be next in line unless Alex Anzalone shows something special in training camp. Camp Battle Advantage: AJ Klein
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- Arizona ILB Battle – This WILB position would not be in this discussion if not for Haason Reddick being a first round pick and playing very well in initial mini-camps on Arizona. Deone Buchanon’s injury is not helping his cause either. Arizona is expecting him to play a big his rookie season. While Deone Buchanon has been no slouch at his time at LB for Arizona, I’m expecting Reddick to run away with this one from the get go. Camp Battle Advantage: Haason Reddick
- Buffalo MLB Battle – Buffalo is moving from a 3-4 under Rex Ryan to a 4-3 under Sean McDermott, two head coaches that were former defensive coordinators. At MLB Buffalo has started Preston Brown during the off-season while Reggie Ragland has been rehabbing his injured knee. Ragland will be full go for training camp but it may be too late by then. The Bills are expected to put their best three LBs on the field and that may be Brown in the middle, Gerald Hodges at WLB and Ragland at SLB. While this is not set in stone by any measure, Brown has the early leg up in this one. Camp Battle Advantage: Preston Brown
- Chicago ILB Battle – Chicago is set with one ILB spot with Jerrell Freeman but since Danny Trevathan is still recovering from the torn PCL he suffered late last season, there is an ILB spot up for grabs. While Trevathan is certainly a factor later in the season once he’s fully recovered, Nick Kwiatkoski has been starting in his place. Kwiatkoski looked like a rookie late last year but he did improve as the season progressed and with a full off-season to practice in the starter’s slot, if he plays well enough early he just may keep it. Camp Battle Advantage: Nick Kwiatkowski
- New York Giants MLB Battle – The Giants have not invested in their linebacker core since Michael Jackson was topping the charts. Last year they brought in BJ Goodson from Clemson as a fourth round draft choice and he played only 27 snaps on defense. Meanwhile, Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard platooned in that position for 2016 season with mixed results. In 2017 the Giants have said they will have an open competition for the MLB spot. That competition will include incumbant Keenan Robinson, Mark Herlich and BJ Goodson. Goodson is the one the Giants are counting on though and he has been starting during mini camps and will open training camp as the starter. It’s his job to lose, don’t expect Robinson or Herlich to put up much of a fight. Camp Battle Advantage: BJ Goodson