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The début of CBS Thursday Night Football featured two first round linebackers playing against each other from their college days into their now bitter rivalry in the AFC North.  In every single rookie or start-up IDP draft I participated in this cjmospring and summer, former Ohio State backer, Ryan Shazier, got drafted first.  Then perhaps a few picks later former Alabama backer, CJ Mosley, got selected. Each linebacker has a talented veteran anchoring the inside along with them in 3-4 defenses, giving the rookies more of a free flow to the ball with fewer responsibilities.  Let’s look at their performances against each other’s teams to get a better feel for their fantasy and NFL futures.

CJ Mosley, ILB, Baltimore- The young backer flowed quickly to the ball, using good vision to maneuver around the line of scrimmage. He is a bit more physical than Shazier (even though they are very close in physical stature), stepping up taking on blockers while filling the hole on running plays.  Mosley is a wrap up tackler who doesn’t give up on plays.  I watched him roaming from sideline to sideline making sure the ball carrier got stopped. The linebacker tries to deliver big hits and successfully separated the ball from Heath Miller on a crucial play.  The Ravens backer recovered his forced fumble, setting up Baltimore almost inside the red zone.  He is decent against the pass and lined up directly across from Le’Veon Bell when the back got split out in a five wide-set that surprised me.  Mosley stayed on the field the entire game, which makes him even more valuable to fantasy owners.  While I’m not ready to make him a LB2, just yet, he is a solid LB3 who is only going to get better this season.  He might be a LB2 before the end of this year with more improvement to come.

Ryan Shazier, ILB, Pittsburgh- My new “fantasy taz” has a lot of speed (4.38 40 time), but lacks the necessary body control.  Shazier is a bit on the lite side, 237 lbs., for an inside linebacker and struggles, at times, to shed blocks on the ball to the ball.  When the backer a knife thru the line of scrimmage untouched (he is quick enough to do this at least 40% of the time, then he is hard to contain.  Most of the time the former Buckeye uses his entire body to wrap the player to the ground, usually flipping his hips.  Shazier took some bad angles and jumped on a few offensive players’ backs while holding on for dear life until help got there to bring the ball carrier down.  His speed may kill, but that burst is very similar to fellow Steeler Troy Polomanu’s reckless style aka they might be in the right place to make the play, but they are too quick for their own good and work themselves out of the play just as quickly.  Shazier is better than Mosley in pass coverage and always finds himself in better positions to tackle the catch.  It surprised me that Shazier got substituted out a few times during the second half, but the young backer needs to get better body control instead of playing like a wild man.  Much like Mosley, Shazier is only a LB3 than can certainly become a LB2 quickly if he gets under control.

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