29-Year-Old Linebacker – San Francisco 49ers
2014 Fantasy Football Outlook
Willis' IDP stock has taken a sizable tumble in recent years, as the former top IDP linebacker posted fewer than 105 tackles in two of the last three years. There are two reasons for the drop in Willi...
Patrick Willis Contract Information:
Agreed to a five-year extension with the 49ers in May of 2010.
Willis (toe) is out for Sunday's game against Denver.
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Age is determined on September 1st of each season.
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A blank stat line is used above whenever a player was not on the field for any plays in the game that week.
Patrick Willis: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
Exclusive Fantasy Analysis (FREE PREVIEW)On the plus side, Willis' injury, which coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Wednesday is not turf toe, isn't viewed as a long-term concern. With the 49ers on bye in Week 8 though, we may not see the linebacker back in action before the team's Nov. 2 tilt against the Rams. If Willis sits out Sunday's game, Chris Borland would be in line for an expanded role in Week 7.
Exclusive Fantasy Analysis (FREE PREVIEW)Willis was seen sporting an orthopedic boot after leaving Monday's game against the Rams in the second quarter with a sprained toe. The 29-year-old is expected to see the same specialist that evaluated A.J. Green, and it sounds like he'll be held out at least through the 49ers' Week 8 bye. Look for third-round pick Chris Borland to take on a significant role against Denver if Willis is indeed forced to miss the game.
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Although Navorro Bowman has seemingly displaced Willis as the 49ers' top IDP, it's certainly not by much. In addition to 120 tackles (88 solo) from 2012, Willis produced two interceptions, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and a half-sack. He had two fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles, two sacks and an interception despite missing three games in 2011. Bowman, meanwhile, has only one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, four sacks and one interception over the last two years. Willis has had a bit of injury trouble over that span, though, with shoulder, wrist and ankle difficulties flaring up last year and knee, hamstring and rib ailments slowing him down in 2011. Willis is 100 percent healthy at press time, however.
Once the unchallenged king of all IDPs, Willis has seen an array of players out-produce him the last two years, including teammate Navorro Bowman. It’s time for the pendulum to swing back, though. Willis is still the NFL’s best inside/middle linebacker by a safe margin, and he should get less attention from blockers in 2012 now that Bowman, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith have established themselves as terrors in the 49ers front seven. With fewer double-teams in his way Willis will find more tackle opportunities as well as better blitzing lanes. It’s worth noting, of course, that even these last two “down years” that saw Willis miss four games (three last year) resulted in numbers that project to 129 tackles (100 solo) and 4.5 sacks over 16 games. With offensive coordinators fretting over the Smiths’ pursuit of quarterbacks and Bowman’s 143-tackle debut as a starter, Willis should see less engagement from blockers and more freedom to pursue ballcarriers, making him a good bet to regain the production he showed during his first three years in the NFL, a span that saw him average 156 tackles (119 solo) per season. The law of averages and some nagging injuries made Willis’ numbers dip the last two years, but he still hasn’t been unseated as the top IDP.
After three straight years as the clear king of linebacker IDPs, Willis' numbers fell a bit in 2010, and Jerod Mayo took the crown. But even in this "down year," Willis still totaled 128 tackles (101 solo) and six sacks in 15 games. In 2011, expect Willis to reclaim his place as the top IDP. With a rare mixture of defensive back athleticism and elite instincts, Willis is perhaps the best inside linebacker in the league. Not only does he have the ceiling of a 174-tackle season, but with 467 stops (156 per season) in his first three years, his floor is clearly unmatched. He alone is the top tier among IDP linebackers.
Tackles are king in IDP scoring, which makes Willis — the NFL’s leading tackler — an easy choice as top linebacker, and top IDP option overall. A sideline-to-sideline playmaker, Willis has averaged more than 155 tackles in his three NFL seasons. Last season, he supplemented those gaudy numbers with four sacks and a career-high three picks. Minor offseason knee surgery shouldn’t hamper Willis this season; he’s expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp. The heart of Mike Singletary’s improving Niner defense was given a five-year contract extension in May.
Patrick Willis has tallied more than 300 tackles in two seasons, which makes choosing him top linebacker – and top IDP overall – easy. But wait, there’s more. He’s got plenty of room to improve – 2009 will be his third year in the league. And he couldn’t ask for a better tutor as he continues to learn the nuances of his position – Niners coach Mike Singletary does know a thing or two about playing middle linebacker. Willis totaled 141 tackles last season, and while that was 33 tackles off his rookie pace, it was still second in the league (D’Qwell Jackson, 154). It’s all the more impressive considering the ailments he fought off to play 16 games, including ankle, hip and rib injuries. Willis, who’s big, fast and has great range, also had a sack and an interception last year. Don’t be surprised to see him get more involved in the pass rush this season – if so, treat it as a bonus.
Willis had a tremendous rookie season in 2007, totaling 174 tackles and four sacks. What's more, he played half the season with a broken hand. Willis' sack production is a bonus at a position where sacks are typically in short supply. Our main criticism (if you can call it that) is that he's not much of an interception threat, but you can't argue with this guy's nose for the ball. With tackles a prime category in most IDP leagues, you really can't do better than Willis. He's big, fast and has great instincts.
Willis, who the 49ers selected 11th overall in this year's draft, is expected to compete with Derek Smith to start at left inside linebacker in the team's new 3-4 defensive scheme. Willis is a sure open-field tackler and possesses excellent football instincts and is penciled in right now as the starting "nickle linebacker." He should thrive working under linebacker coach Mike Singletary and could also see time at the "ted" linebacking spot, which which lines up on the tight end side and has to sift through more traffic, including guards and the fullback, limiting their tackles, behind Brandon Moore. If Willis does start, look for him to contend for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.