Yesterday, I began my 2013 projections with Bruce Carter, predicting that the linebacker will record 117 tackles this season. That number included a jump in tackle rate to 13.0 percent with more snaps than he played in 2012. Carter’s production will of course be pretty strongly correlated with fellow linebacker Sean Lee. Now playing as the team’s lone middle linebacker in their 4-3 scheme, Lee will try to continue the dominant play he showed in 2012 before getting injured.
Last year, Lee recorded 58 tackles in just six games. Playing only 331 snaps, Lee’s tackle rate was 17.5 percent. That’s a remarkable number and, in all likelihood, Lee won’t be able to sustain it over the course of a full season. In comparison, he posted a 12.1 percent tackle rate in 2012.
The key to projecting Lee’s total tackles is figuring out how many snaps he’ll play. Most argue that Lee is injury prone, but most injuries seem to be the result of randomness. They happen so infrequently that it’s really difficult to tell if a player is really more susceptible to injuries than the average person or if he’s just unlucky. On top of that, even if we did label Lee as injury prone, injuries are rare enough that he’d still be likely to participate in a full season, or close to it.
With those things in mind, we can project Lee for a drop in tackle rate—probably somewhere around 14.0 percent—and around 925 snaps played. If those numbers hold up, Lee would total 130 tackles in 2013.
One of Lee’s most impressive traits is that he’s been really good in coverage despite possessing average athleticism. He’s not that fast and he’s pretty stiff in the hips, yet he’s always in the right position. In his limited 2012 action, Lee allowed 16 receptions on 20 attempts (80.0 percent) for 152 yards (7.6 YPA). The season prior—the one in which he played in 15 games—Lee allowed 50 catches on 63 attempts (79.4 percent) for 497 yards (7.9 YPA).
Those numbers are pretty steady; Lee gets targeted around four times per game, allowing around 80 percent of the passes to be completed for near 7.8 YPA. If he plays a full season in 2013, Lee would give up 51 completions on 64 attempts for 499 yards.
Final 2013 Projection: 130 tackles, 51 completions for 499 yards (7.8 YPA)
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.