In fantasy football, there are some new trends that I enjoy writing about: dynasty leagues, and individual defensive player leagues. This weekly column will combine two of those by discussing two young IDPs. I will give my scouting thoughts on how they played a particular week. Today I will be discussing the young Oakland Raider linebacker corps of third year player Miles Burris and rookie sensation Khalil Mack. I had hoped to also write about Sio Moore who had an outstanding first week with eleven tackles, two forced fumbles, and a sack. He, unfortunately suffered an ankle injury during the second game and was unable to play in week three. These injuries ravaged their linebackers including middle linebacker Nick Roach, who has yet to play this season.
Miles Burris, ILB- The first off the bench is third year backer, Miles Burris. There were several reasons why Burris wasn’t initially in the starting lineup when the 2014 season began. The linebacker looks a bit slow-moving laterally and is more reactive, than instinctive. That is a no-no for inside playmakers. Burris has difficulties getting off blocks and struggles despite having good positioning covering running backs in the passing game. Patriots running back, Shane Vereen, discarded him quickly, leaving him gasping for air on most routes. The third year backer just isn’t athletic enough to keep up with the likes of Vereen.
I will say that Burris can diagnosis plays quickly and is a solid tackler in the running game. This is where his play benefits the Raiders and your fantasy teams the most, against strong running games. It is hard to question his effort as he dove to attempt an interception and does not give up on plays. Burris gets caught off-balance against quicker footed players and seems best suited for a middle linebacker, two down role. I would wait to throw Burris back into the waiver wire until the Raiders linebackers are at full strength, but he is not someone to count on.
Khalil Mack, OLB- He is simply a beast, if I do say so myself. Mack gets good initial pressure off the line on pass rushes, using his hands and feet well to set up the offensive lineman to commit one way or the other. When teams chose to run at his side, the backer is rather stout at holding his position on the line of scrimmage and shedding his block on the way to making the tackle. Mack knocked Tom Brady around and played well against the run, which the Patriots did not seem to anticipate as they kept on trying to run Stevan Ridley. The linebacker sees the field well and does not get fooled my misdirection. There were a few times that Mack lined up in a four point stance to get better leverage against the offensive tacklers. I love the way he flows up and down the line, working through trash to find the ball carrier and smash ’em!
When Mack gets asked to provide pass coverage, he always finds the ball quickly and delivers a good hit. He does need to work on preventing the catch from happening versus just tackling the catch. The linebacker flows from sideline to sideline and does not give up on plays. With the Raiders overall teams as dreadful as they are, tackle opportunities will be plentiful for the super athletic Mack. I wouldn’t call him a LB1 just yet, but you could do worse than start him as a LB2.