Mason Foster, LB, TB - Foster was arguably the best linebacker in all of college football last year, resembling a heat-seeking missile as he piled up 162 tackles (105 solo), 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 13 games. He’s expected to start at middle linebacker for Tampa now that Barrett Ruud is in Tennessee, and he should be a top IDP option right away.
Nick Barnett, LB, BUF - Barnett steps into a Buffalo 3-4 defense that allowed Paul Posluszny to put up big numbers, and while he shouldn’t be expected to be quite that productive, Barnett immediately turned into one of the top IDP options for 2011 when he signed with the Bills. Since he has some experience in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense, there shouldn’t be any schematic concerns. Durability, on the other hand, is not a given with Barnett—but that never stopped Posluszny from being an elite IDP option. It just made him a bit of a headache occasionally.
Stewart Bradley, LB, ARZ - Bradley never posted huge numbers for Philadelphia, but he’ll get more opportunities to pile up tackles in the middle of Arizona’s 3-4, which was very friendly to Paris Lenon’s numbers last year. Bradley is almost definitely a better player than Lenon, so given that Lenon posted 125 stops (94 solo) last year, Bradley could do something similar in 2011.
Akeem Ayers, LB, TEN - Ayers reportedly is standing out in Tennessee’s training camp and has a good shot to start at outside linebacker as a rookie. Tennessee has several options at linebacker, so check back closer to the season’s start to confirm where Ayers is on the depth chart. Still, regardless of where he lands, his abilities as an edge rusher make him especially intriguing in leagues that heavily reward for sacks.
Arthur Jones, (3-4) DE, BAL - This is admittedly a reach, but Jones is a sleeper to keep an eye on in leagues that mandate multiple defensive line starters. Despite being a former fifth-round pick, the talented Jones opened training camp as a starting end for Baltimore, at the expense of veteran Cory Redding. If Jones can hold onto that starting spot, he’s someone to keep an eye on if you need defensive line help during the season.
LaRon Landry, S, WAS - Landry was the favorite to be the top IDP option among defensive backs heading into this year, but he gets a big downgrade because his Achilles injury apparently is still an issue, and it sounds as if there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready for the beginning of the season. If good news emerges on Landry’s health, he’s worth moving back up, but the uncertainty around him right now makes him too risky to be a top IDP pick.
Paul Posluszny, LB, JAC - Posluszny should remain a decent IDP option as he heads to Jacksonville, but his days of elite status may be over. No Jaguars player surpassed 100 tackles last year, and the team's leader (Daryl Smith) in 2009 finished with just 107. Posluszny can probably make a push for 120 or so, but that's a significant drop-off for a player who had been averaging about 10 tackles per game.
Stephen Tulloch, LB, DET - Tulloch finished last year with 160 tackles (111 solo), but his production will take a step back this year. While it’s not clear just what the significance of his expect shift from middle linebacker to outside linebacker is, the fact that he’s not being viewed as the centerpiece of Detroit’s linebackers (like he was in Tennessee) is generally not good. He’s still likely to approach or surpass 100 tackles, but anything above 120 or so seems unlikely.
Donte Whitner, S, SF - Whitner should still be a useful IDP option in most scenarios this year, but his departure from Buffalo means he loses out on one of the most ideal settings to pile up stats. Still, after posting 140 tackles (96 solo) a year ago, there's little doubt that Whitner should be able to find ballcarriers no matter where he's playing. Just expect the total to be closer to 100 than 140.
Dashon Goldson, S, FA - Goldson could still land in a situation favorable for IDP production, but the fact that he remains on the market is not particularly encouraging. Average (at best) safeties Gerald Sensabaugh and Abe Elam are even signed already, so either Goldson is asking for way too much money, or he simply is not especially valued around the league.