2013 fantasy football profiles and projections (LBs 16-30)

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports/NFL.com

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Washington would be much higher on this list except for a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. Add to it that Arizona has re-signed Karlos Dansby, and Washington will have a hard time making the same impact in 2012. When he's back on the field, he'll have plenty of value ... it's just that fantasy owners will have to wait awhile in order to see any of it.

Butler, a third-year linebacker from Washington, failed to live up to the expectations of IDP leaguers last season. Not only did he lack for tackle opportunities, but he also suffered a late-season ailment that cost him four games. There's still plenty of upside here, however, as Butler is just 24 years old and plays a role on the defensive side of the football that could lead to an increase in fantasy production in 2013. As long as he avoids the trainer's room, there's no reason Butler can't be a top-25 fantasy linebacker.

McCarthy was an enormous disappointment in fantasy leagues last season. He struggled through nagging injuries and produced inconsistent numbers on the gridiron, which was part of the reason Zach Brown emerged as a better IDP option. Fantasy leaguers should still be optimistic, though, as McCarthy should be back at 100 percent for the 2013 season - he will also see more than his share of tackle opportunities behind the Titans defensive line. While his numbers will no doubt be impacted by the presence of Brown, McCarthy should still be in a good position to finish with No. 2 fantasy linebacker totals.

Lofton has been a pretty steady, if not spectacular, fantasy performer during his five NFL seasons. A move from Atlanta to New Orleans brought more of the same last year. Now that Rob Ryan has taken over as defensive coordinator, the Saints could be a much more aggressive defensive unit ... and Lofton could directly benefit.

An ankle injury put a speed bump into the midst of what was a very good season for Weatherspoon. But because he's played 16 games just once in his three NFL seasons, health is a valid concern for fantasy owners targeting the Falcons linebacker. If he can stay on the field, he is a productive option that could threaten to crack the top 15 at his position in 2013.

Ellerbe was one of the many defections from the Baltimore Ravens defense in the offseason. He goes to a Miami defense that appears loaded for bear in 2013. With Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan coming off the edges, Ellerbe likely won't be asked to rush the passer much, if at all. His fantasy value could take a slight hit this season if he can't immediately find other ways to contribute for IDP owners.

Woodyard's tackle numbers in 2012 were good, not great. Yet they were good enough to be Denver's leading tackler last season. Add that to quality sack and interception totals and the young linebacker put together a nice fantasy campaign. With Elvis Dumervil now in Baltimore, it could open more pass-rushing opportunities for Woodyard. Look for him to climb the linebacker ranks in 2013.

Bishop has all the tools to be a top-10 fantasy linebacker when he's out there on the football field. After missing the entire 2012 season, however, he could fall off the radar of some fantasy owners. His move to Minnesota will couple him with another talented linebacker, Chad Greenway, giving the team a terrific combination at the position. Bishop is expected to be the starting middle 'backer, so he'll see more than his share of tackle opportunities. He's a viable No. 2 option at the position for 2013.

Freeman didn't receive the same fanfare as some of his rookie teammates, but the first-year linebacker was undoubtedly an impact player on a defense that had its share of issues. With another year under his belt, Freeman should see improvement and has the chance to be a breakout IDP option in 2013.

Carter (elbow) will enter the 2013 campaign at 100 percent and will have a chance to thrive in the Cowboys' new 4-3 defensive scheme. Projected as the team's starting weakside linebacker, Carter is a fast player and a solid fit for new coordinator Monte Kiffin. The 25-year-old former North Carolina standout should be considered a borderline No. 2 or 3 fantasy linebacker with upside for 2013.

Williams, a veteran out of Miami (FL), is projected to fill in for the departed Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker this season. That should allow him plenty of chances to produce nice tackle totals in his first season in the Windy City. Williams, who was limited due to a pair of suspensions last season, could turn into a viable No. 2 fantasy linebacker.

Burfict, an undrafted rookie last season, led the Bengals in tackles and is now locked into a prominent defensive role for 2013. He'll move to the middle linebacker spot after the departure of Rey Maualuga, which should equate to plenty of tackle opportunities for the Arizona State product. He'll be well worth a late-round look as a No. 2 o3 fantasy linebacker in 2013.

A second-year linebacker out of North Carolina, Brown is locked into a starting role this season and should see an increase in statistical success. While he did struggle against the run as a rookie, he still produced servicable totals. Brown is coming off shoulder surgery, but he'll be fine for the start of the season and is worth a late-rounder.

Foster put up career bests in tackles last season while helping to lead the Buccaneers and their top-rated run defense. He's slated to be at middle linebacker for 2013, though there has been talk that he could move to the strong side due to the absence of Quicny Black. Such a move would clearly hurt Foster's fantasy value, but at this point he has some late-round appeal.

Miller has proved his worth as a pass rusher, logging 30 sacks in his first two NFL seasons. Now comes the hard part -- he'll need to prove he can do it without Elvis Dumervil bringing pressure from the other side, and he'll also miss the first six games of the season with a suspension. If he can pick up where he left off when he returns, he could prove to be a solid IDP pickup from the waiver wire for the last half of the year.

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