by Jim O'Dell
November 7, 2003
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    Generally speaking, he is the field general, the heart and soul of a defense.  They call the formations.  They make the audible call.  They are all over the field making plays.  These are the guys you want to lead your fantasy IDP defense.

    Usually, the middle linebacker will lead his team in tackles on a weekly basis.  Having good personnel surrounding him helps, like a few big tackles in front of him clogging the line of scrimmage.  This frees him up to make plays.  Guys like Zach Thomas, Ray Lewis, and Brian Urlacher exemplify the play of the MLB.

    Just like Priest Holmes, Clinton Portis, or Ricky Williams would be the cornerstone of your fantasy offense, a strong middle linebacker IS your running back on defense.  They are the players that week in and week out lead your defense in scoring with good tackle numbers, plus maybe even a sack, a fumble recovery, an interception, or maybe even a touchdown.  Your number one priority in drafting IDP's are getting playmakers.  Try to avoid the linebackers who are just interested in sacking the quarterback.  They might get you a sack every other week, but their tackle numbers will suffer.

    Selecting guys on bad teams is a way to go as well.  Teams who play from behind often (San Diego, Detroit, Arizona) will have teams running the ball at them, giving guys like Ron McKinnon, Earl Holmes and Zeke Moreno some value as later round selections.

    When selecting linebackers for your lineup, take a look at the match-ups.  Start guys who are playing against Ricky Williams, Jamal Lewis, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Clinton Portis.  Teams with a tendency to run the ball will provide linebackers ample opportunity to make plays.

    Here is a quick list of MLB's, broken into tiers:

    Tier One - Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking

    Tier Two - London Fletcher, Michael Barrow, Al Wilson, Ron McKinnon, Jay Foreman, Anthony Simmons

    Tier Three - Jeremiah Trotter, Kendrell Bell, Nick Barnett, Mike Peterson, Shelton Quarles, Napoleon Harris

    Tier Four - Rob Morris, Zeke Moreno, Dan Morgan, Mike Maslowski

    Remember, playmakers lead your defense, and a good middle linebacker will lead your IDP team to victory!

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