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2012 fantasy football profiles and projections (LBs 13-24)

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports

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Posluszny saw a decline in statistical production in his first year in Jacksonville, but he still racked up 119 total tackles, nine passes defensed and two interceptions. Those totals were good enough to finish 20th in fantasy points among linebackers, making him a low-end No. 2 option in most leagues. On a positive note, Posluszny did finish last year strong and will once again be in a good position to produce from a fantasy perspective. As long as he can avoid injuries, which has been a concern during the course of his NFL career, Posluszny should remain a legitimate No. 2 option.

If you're looking for fantasy IDP upside, look no further than McCarthy. Over the course of his last eight games of 2011, the Miami (FL) product was on pace to post around 100 tackles with 10 takeaways and six passes defensed. Now the top middle linebacker in Tennessee, coach Mike Munchak thinks McCarthy can see an expanded role this season - that should mean more time on the field, and more opportunities to make tackles (and score fantasy points). Consider him in the late rounds as a No. 2 fantasy linebacker who has the potential to be a top-10 option at the position.

Cushing finished a very respectable 15th in fantasy points among linebackers last season on the strength of his 114 total tackles, five passes defensed and two interceptions. The Southern Cal product remains the best option in Houston's linebacking corps, though fantasy owners should not expect him to make a huge leap to stardom in 2012. Remember, Wade Phillips' defenses have not been to conducive to major statistical success from inside linebackers in the past, so Cushing shouldn't be seen as an elite option. Instead, consider him as more of a No. 2 option and well worth a look in the late rounds.

The top-scoring linebacker in fantasy football in 2010 , Mayo experienced a major decrease in production last season. Not only did he record 80 fewer total tackles, but he also failed to end the year in the top 40 in fantasy points at his position. Part of the reason for his drop in stats is that he missed two games. The other and more importantly, is that he played on the weak side and lost out on a ton of tackle opportunities. Unless things change, Mayo could wind up on the waiver wire in most IDP leagues. Still, he's worth a late-round selection in 2012 fantasy drafts.

Lee has ascended up the ranks for the Dallas Cowboys, combining with Demarcus Ware as the team's anchors of the defensive unit. The Penn State product led the team in tackles last season, and is expected to build off that performance in 2012. Though he should be among the tackle leaders once again, his lack of sacks does limit his fantasy value to that of a No. 2 option in IDP leagues. However, given his youth and ability, he carries great potential and is worth a selection in the later-rounds.

Urlacher is still one of the best all-around linebackers in the game, although he is something of an enigma. He often gets sacks in bunches or he doesn't get them at all. The 2011 campaign was a not-at-all year, unfortunately, as the former Lobo failed to take down the quarterback. Normally that wouldn't dissuade us from recommending Urlacher as a mid- to late-round pick, but with the linebacker recovering from a knee injury, we're a little more hesitant to take him earlier in the draft. Take a chance on him late and hope that the recovery is full by the start of next season.

Dansby admitted to being overweight at the start of the 2011 season, but he still finished as Miami's third-leading tackler. There could be changes afoot in 2012 with Kevin Coyle taking over the defense - a switch to a 4-3 defense is even in the cards. Coyle was the mastermind behind the Bengals' top-10 secondary the past few seasons, and moving Dansby back to middle linebacker would help his appeal. As long as Dansby shows up to training camp in shape and motivated, he's one of the league's better linebackers and worthy of a later-round pick as a No. 2 option at his position.

McClain was the Raiders' second-leading tackler last season, just missing out on making 100 stops. He also became a more effective pass rusher, notching five sacks. With a new coaching staff in Oakland, there is a likely adjustment period coming - especially with coach Dennis Allen saying he plans to employ a defense with multiple looks. The good news is that Oakland plans to be more of an attacking defense, which could mean more sacks. Proceed with caution, however, because McClain has been very inconsistent overall despite his statistical upside. He shouldn't be drafted before the late rounds across the board.

After an Achilles injury shelved him for his rookie season, Butler returned with a vengeance, finishing second on the team in tackles and tied for first in fumble recoveries. The Washington product is poised to build off that performance now that he is a year removed from surgery and will be playing with veteran Takeo Spikes and rookie Melvin Ingram. The San Diego defense could surprise in 2012, and Butler will be looking to make an impact. Draft him as a No. 2 fantasy linebacker in the later-rounds as a player with plenty of upside.

A serious playmaker in Dallas, Ware is coming off another solid season that saw him record 58 total tackles, 19.5 sacks and two passes defensed. The one downfall for the Troy product is his lack of tackles. If he could post more prolific numbers in that category, he'd be a surefire No. 1 option among fantasy linebackers. Still, his skills as a sack specialist in an improving Cowboys defense makes Ware an intriguing option in the late rounds of IDP formats. Consider him a No. 2 fantasy linebacker with added value in leagues that reward heavily for sacks.

Beason comes into the 2012 season with a lot of questions. First, he's coming off Achilles surgery and hasn't played an NFL snap since last September. Second, the Panthers drafted Luke Kuechly in the first round. That means Beason could lose his middle-linebacker spot in camp. Third, he'll need to be better than James Anderson to continue to play a prominent role in the defensive backfield. He is still worth a look as a No. 2 fantasy linebacker in IDP formats, but it does appear that Beason's time as an elite player at his position is now in the rearview mirror.

Barnett burst back onto the fantasy scene in his first year with the Bills, recording his highest tackle totals since 2007. The veteran also put up a solid five passes defensed, three picks and scored a touchdown - that was good to rank him eighth in fantasy points among linebackers on NFL.com. A decline in production should be expected this season, however, as Barnett will be moved to the weak side with Kelvin Sheppard playing in the middle. Still, he's worth a look in the late rounds as a No. 2 fantasy option - again, just don't expect a repeat of 2011.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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