By M. Britt Hayes
Bill Parcells once said, “I like Linebackers. I collect ’em. You can’t have too many good ones.” Ron Rivera must have been paying attention, because that is exactly what he’s done at the helm of the Carolina Panthers. Its not a far fetched statement to say that the Panthers have the best LB corps in the NFL. In fact, aside from a secondary that can be a little on the weak side, Carolina could possibly argue a claim as the top defense overall. This, of course means that there are some individuals tailor made for IDP Fantasy Football Leagues playing in Bank Of America Stadium on Sundays.
If you like tackles, then you like Luke. No one has made more than he has in the last 3 seasons, 473 for those of you keeping count at home. Kuechly falls squarely behind J.J. Watt as the top most coveted commodity in IDP. Easily the best LB in the game, no one is quicker at diagnosing a play and reacting then Luke. Just pick any Sunday, sit down and watch a Panthers game. Its like there is 6 of him on the field. Remember in the Matrix when Neo fought Agent Smith? Its like that. Luke is not only a tackling machine, but a ball hawk as well, with 27 pass defended. To put that into perspective Watt has 37 in 4 seasons, and they call him “Swatt.” Throw in 7 interceptions and you’ve got IDP Dynasty gold in the form of 26 year old phenom.
If stats don’t convince you, how about a list of his accolades:
- AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2013)
- NFC Defensive Player of the Year (2013)
- AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2012)
- Butkus Award (2014)
- 2× Pro Bowl (2013, 2014)
- 2× First-team All-Pro (2013, 2014)
- 2× PFWA All-NFL Team (2013, 2014)
- 2× PFWA All-NFC Team (2013, 2014)
- PFW/PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year (2012)
Just draft him, or trade the bank for him. Give whatever it takes to get him on your IDP fantasy squad. Cash, credit cards, give your Grandma’s dentures if they have gold in them. You want to invest in Luke Kuechly.
Now, I know you’re thinking that Davis is older than the Velociraptors on Jurassic World, and he’s torn his ACL more times than Lindsay Lohan has been to jail. But, what if I told you that the last 2 seasons were the best of his career? With 123 tackles in 2013, and 100 in 2014, Davis seems to be getting better with time, like an old bottle of Rex Goliath 47 Pound Rooster. Davis is still as fast as any Safety there is, and as long as Kuechly is around to garner the attention of every O-line coach in the league, then Davis is very IDP relevant.
Johnson had a slight regression in productivity in 2014 with just 8.5 sacks, but as far as DE’s go he still managed to rank just outside of the top 20 in fantasy points. At only 28 years old, age was not a factor. The Panthers adding rookie Kony Ealy and experiencing Greg Hardy acting like an actual kraken created a learning curve that stalled the defense early on. They began to click in the latter part of the year looking more like their 2013 selves. This is when Johnson came on and accumulated 4.5 of his sacks, in the final 6 games of the season. Expect him to pick up there and return to his previous form as the double digit sack monster we are accustomed to seeing.
Rookie 1st round pick, Thompson couldn’t have landed in a better spot. In Carolina with Keuchly and the ageless wonder, Davis as mentors he should have no problem transitioning to the pro level and having an instant impact. He’s a little on the small side, but then again so is Davis. He’s not just another addition to an already deep linebacking core. He is a playmaker with 233 tackles and 5 interceptions in just 3 years at Washington. Adding Shaq is going to make it even harder to move the ball on the Panthers in the coming year. Defensive Tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short should keep the offensive linemen from getting to the second level, which will keep the linebackers clear and allow them to disrupt offenses like Hope Solo at a family gathering.
In deep leagues Josh Norman, Kony Ealy and Kawaan Short may be of interest. The Panthers are in a position to be a top 3 defense in the 2015 season, but this is mainly due to the linebacker core. With Rivera running the show they will remain a strongly defensive minded program. General Manager, David Gettleman has made the appropriate moves to bring in the talent, both young and old to solidify them at the top of the defensive hill and position them to sustain that status, and that is what dynasties are all about, sustainability.