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The NFL Draft caused a major shift in my initial rankings due to defensive schemes used by certain teams and what roles each will play.  I am ranking these linebackers in a three to four-year window.  They got slotted by their total clowneycontribution: tackles, sacks (worth 2 1/2 times a tackle), and turnovers (worth double a tackle).

1.Jadeveon Clowney, OLB, Texans

It was a sad day for all IDP fantasy football players, because Clowney will play for the Texans as an outside linebacker, instead of a defensive end.  An ultra-talented defensive end is quite difficult to find.  Clowney remains disruptive force with his ability to rush the passer, force turnovers, and work all over the line of scrimmage.  With JJ Watt also collapsing the pocket, expect double-digit sacks and plenty of forced fumbles.  In leagues that aren’t so generous with rewarding point for sacks, drop him down to the middle of the linebacker pack.

2. OLB Khalil Mack, Raiders

He went to a great landing spot in Oakland, infusing youth into their organization.  Offenses will worry about Tuck and Woodley off the line, leaving this thick, powerful backer with excellent burst to attack whomever has the ball.  Mack flows quickly to the ball which helps him create turnovers and negative plays for the offense.

3. ILB Ryan Shazier, Steelers

Shazier gets to play the Mack inside linebacker role, which is simply to flow to the ball as quickly as he can.  With his sub 4.37 speed, that is exactly what Shazier will do in Coach LeBeau’s system.  This backer will use his speed, quickness, and vision to make the play.  IDP owners need to keep in mind this will force Lawrence Timmons to the Buck inside linebacker role which will take away from his value.  Shazier could climb to the top rookie linebacker role in heavy tackle leagues.

4. ILB C.J. Mosley, Ravens

The linebacker should start beside Daryl Smith from the opening day in Baltimore.  Mosley is a solid tackler, but plays more like a safety at times.  He is excellent in pass coverage and can blitz in a pinch.  When second year linebacker, Arthur Brown gets brought in, do not expect that to affect Mosley’s playing time.

5. ILB Chris Borland, 49ers

I love this pick for San Francisco.  Navarro Bowman is coming off an NFC Championship knee injury and Patrick Willis is a year older.  Borland is a physical backer with good vision and flows well to the ball.  Playing time might be an issue for a year or so, but it seems like between their starters, time will free up like it did last season.  Borland needs to get better in pass coverage and rushing the passer.

6. LB Kyle Van Noy, Lions

Where this athletic linebacker plays, strong, middle, or weak side is unknown right now.  Van Noy uses his quickness and fluidity instead of trying to be a thumping physical presence. He has a knack for deciphering the play before it develops and getting to the right spot to stop it from happening. This linebacker trails backs and tight ends well in pass coverage down the field. He is adept at avoiding contact.

7. ILB/OLB Telvin Smith, Jaguars

The skinny linebacker is a play maker, but he looks like he might get moved to safety due to his size.  Smith hits as hard as any linebacker, but doesn’t always have the strength to disengage blockers.  Since Gus Bradley drafted him, I have faith that the Jaguars will squeeze all the defensive production they can out of him.  This is why Smith raced up my board.

8.ILB Christian Kirksey, Browns

He surprised me by getting selected by the Browns in the second round.  Kirksey flows well to the ball, does a good job of keeping blockers off his body, and does a bit of everything.  The former Hawkeye will play the weak side backer who is free to flow to the ball.  Kirksey showed promise rushing the passer and dropping back into coverage, so expect him to have a three down role.

9. OLB Anthony Barr, Vikings

This pick seems somewhat off to me.  Barr is a physical freak with speed, strength, and explosion. His first step is amazing, but he is raw and has his struggles defending the run. He might spend a year or two as a pass rush specialist before transitioning to a full-time player, limiting his fantasy upside.

10. OLB Marcus Smith, Eagles

Smith is built exactly as a rush outside linebacker on a 3-4 team.  He has great initial burst off the line, and uses his hands well to keep blockers off his body. The linebacker flows well to the ball and is a solid tackler.  Smith has multiple moves to get to the quarterback: a club, spin, and swim.

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