The world of IDP is growing. However, I see even veteran fantasy players hesitate to join IDP leagues because of the seeming complexity that comes from introducing the defensive side of the ball. My goal is to help all fantasy football players remove this obstacle from their reasoning by providing a foundational article, brought to you by some of the best IDP minds in the business, that will give you the most important information to remember in your IDP leagues. Keep this list close. This is a fishing pole article, an article that gives you tools so you can fish out the players you like and confirm your thoughts with the thoughts of IDP writers. In this expanding frontier of fantasy football, these tips will set you apart from a huge percentage of other IDP owners. Before we start, I want to thank all those who contributed to this article, freely and willingly. Give them a follow on Twitter if you want continuous IDP information and advice.
Know and Understand Settings and Scoring in your IDP League
“If you don’t understand which types of defenders your league values, you will not be a successful IDP owner. I believe there are three major classes of IDP systems — tackle-heavy, balanced, and sack-heavy. You can find out which system your league fits into by dividing the points you get for a solo tackle into the points you get for a sack. This is called your sack-to-tackle ratio or STR. An STR of 3.0 or less means you play in a tackle-heavy league. An STR of 5.0 or higher means you play in a sack-heavy league. Anything in-between is a balanced league.” -Dr. Jene Bramel
“Knowing the exact amount of IDP positions you’re required to start relative to offensive positions is vital to your draft strategy. The fewer IDP starters you’re required, the later you should draft defensive players.” -Jeff Ratcliffe
As was mentioned, two of the most important things you need to know about your IDP league – the points awarded for each statistic and the players required to start every week. It is essential that you know these things about your league or as Dr. Jene said, you will not be a successful IDP owner. It is the most fundamental knowledge needed for any league exponentially important in IDP because randomly selecting 10 different leagues could bring 10 different IDP scoring settings and lineups. This is something that you won’t notice as much when you do it, but will be unbearably apparent when the games start if you haven’t built your roster with this first basic step in mind.
Snap Counts are King
“Snap counts are one of the greatest indicators of players to target in IDP leagues. Its a simple principle that is under preached when talking about defensive players. The more a player is on the field, the more opportunity he has to score points. It feels dumb saying it, but it’s forgotten all the time.” -Brian Grow
“Long held IDP strategy would argue that a middle linebacker is always more valuable than a strong side linebacker. That’s often not the case any more, as teams put more athletic players outside. An outside linebacker who plays every down is a stronger fantasy option than an inside linebacker who heads to the sideline when his team plays a passing down subpackage.” -Dr. Jene Bramel
When looking at indicators of solid IDP options for your team, the first place you should always look is at their snap counts. This is non-verbal coach speak that can’t be faked. They play the players that give them the best chance to win (well, mostly). Even poor or average players can provide fantasy production when they are getting 90 percent or more of the snaps. However, when looking for dynasty IDPs that won’t frustrate year to year, you have to look for skilled players that get a majority of snaps in positions that are valued in your league. In the short term, opportunity trumps talent, but eventually, especially in dynasty, talent wins out. Monitoring snap counts of seemingly buried talented players can alert you to when the scales begin to tip in their favor.
Don’t Draft IDP Too Early
“While your opponents start to grab defensive players, they let quality options at running back and wide receiver slide. Make them pay for it, and out-draft them later at IDP. Your goal should be to build a solid core of offensive starters during the first seven or eight rounds. Ideally, you could come away with three running backs, three receivers, a quarterback, and a tight end before you even look at defensive players. With that roster construction, you’re going to have a strong advantage on a weekly basis.” -Jeff Ratcliffe
“Don’t react to position runs. If LB’s start flying off the board, don’t be the guy to break a tier just because you’re worried about the position drying up. This is the best way to lose value.” -Tyler Huggins
“DO NOT trade 1st & 2nd round rookie picks for IDP’s unless they are legit studs. It’s a bad play almost every time. You’ll rarely recoup that value.” -Tyler Huggins
You’re going to be tested. You’re going to see big name linebackers in the 3rd or 4th round, and they will scream, ‘PICK ME’! Don’t do it. Going through a league of mine, the difference between the 1st and 15th player at each position of RB, WR, and LB should erase your desire to reach for a top LB.
2014 Season Scoring Finishes
Difference in Points
I gather a couple things, first, I need to play in leagues with higher IDP scoring, and second, picking up less sexy IDP names will give you so much more the advantage on the offensive side of the ball, as you will see later in this article, is the for more important side. Tyler points out that you will be tested heavily by the runs that will inevitably happen.
Build Team Around Linebackers
“Thou Shalt Not Skimp on Linebackers.” -Mike Woellert
“Linebackers form the foundation of any IDP roster … Those who play all three downs will invariably be the most productive fantasy options. This is especially true in today’s pass-happy NFL where most defenses spend a majority of their snaps in their sub packages.” -Jeff Ratcliffe
“Know which linebackers are best to target. For example, in tackle heavy here is how you should generally attack linebacker options:
This is imperative to remember in building your roster. Keep in mind that this is the general ranking – there are always exceptions.” -Steve Wyremski
Linebacker is my favorite position in all of fantasy football, and as Jeff showed above they are the foundation of your IDP team. They are one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle. They provide the best scoring consistency and they have, by far, the deepest depth on the IDP side, possibly in all of fantasy football. Stopping at that information could get you into trouble, but Steve breaks down a great rule to start out with as a beginning IDP player as far as which LBs are the best for you to set as your foundation.
Understand the Role of Defensive Backs
“For fantasy purposes, defensive backs are a dime a dozen. Of the three IDP positions, we see the most year-to-year fluctuation in production at defensive back.” -Jeff Ratcliffe
“Thou Shalt Not Value Shutdown Corners in Fantasy: While Richard Sherman (#30 CB in 2014) and Darrelle Revis (#29 CB in 2014) may be elite options for their teams, they may ironically be too effective for their own good in fantasy. Unfortunately, there is not yet a statistic for “the quarterback was scared to throw at him,” leaving these elite options with only a few tackles and the occasional pass defensed or interception to represent their contributions on the field.” -JC Severe
“I find cornerbacks virtually useless in dynasty. The top corners turn over so frequently that its not worth holding depth at the position. It’s also best to drop corners in the offseason. Rookie corners are ideal CB required targets. Otherwise known as the ‘rookie-corner rule’, veteran quarterbacks will target a rookie corner resulting in a high volume of tackle opportunities and, in turn, IDP production.” -Steve Wyremski
“Over 150 cornerbacks and safeties played 500 or more snaps in each of the past three seasons. That’s a huge number of potential fantasy options to shuffle on and off your roster until you find one too consistently productive to drop.” -Dr. Jene Bramel
“Don’t ignore the elite safeties. Sure, at the end of every season there will be a ton of safeties who scored in a similar range. But picking out who they will be w2w & y2y is a chore. If the value is there (outside of top 100), don’t be afraid to snag a Burnett, Harrison type. Their consistency is huge.” -Tyler Huggins
I included a lot of quotes because DBs are my least confident position in doing rankings, and yet, I don’t feel ashamed of that fact at all, at least, not yet (until we find a way to make them more impactful in most IDP leagues.). Currently, the position can be the most easily streamed in most leagues and the turnover at the top from year to year keeps the number of “elite” DBs to a minimum. Above, there is a lot of good information as to how you can choose which DBs to stream. Tyler also reminds us when the perfect time is to jump on stud DBs if they happen to make it to us at the right time. To sum up: Avoid shutdown, big name cornerbacks, rookies provide more chances for production if you are required to play CB, the large number of DBs that are on the field for high numbers of snaps make it easy to stream the position until you find someone who produces regularly unless you can get consistency from a stud DB after the top-100 picks. Keep these in mind and you’ll do plenty to have your DBs contribute to your team.
Watch for Scheme Changes and Depth Charts
“A scheme change could have a huge impact on IDP value. For example, there’s been a lot of discussion this offseason surrounding Mario Williams. Last season, he played defensive end in a 4-3 defense. With the hiring of Rex Ryan, some thought he’d play outside linebacker and his position eligibility would change to LB resulting in a drop in IDP value” -Steve Wyremski
“Depth Chart: Important to know especially if an edge rusher moves to DE or DE moves to OLB ala Jerry Hughes, position change can be a game changer in value. Knowing who’s behind whom, especially in deep leagues can assist you in finding a gem to stash.” –Bee
Let me tell you a story. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was still getting into IDP leagues. I was pretty set at quarterback at the time, so thinking that I could trade away some ‘age’ at the position in Drew Brees with Andrew Luck waiting in the wings. I traded Drew Brees for Vincent Jackson, coming off a top-10 season, and up and coming DL Aldon Smith. Feeling confident going into the next season soon became another hole in my roster as the 49ers changed to a 3-4 base defense and Smith’s designation changed to OLB. In a tackle heavy league, he went to completely useless. A little more research on my part would have allowed me to make a better decision and avoid losing a lot of value. I may have lost that trade, but the lesson I gained has made me a much better understanding of what to look for in my IDPs.
Understand the Impact of Stat Crews
“There is a lot of inconsistency among stat crews. Some teams have stat crews that don’t award many solo tackles and hand out assists like candy. If your scoring system doesn’t award points for assists this could be killer. Know the tendencies for each crew your players are working with each week.” -Steve Wyremski
“Simply put: All home stat crews are not created equally.
The NFL does not define a tackle as an official statistic, so home crews award these statistics based on a set of guidelines that outline what constitutes a tackle. The ambiguity in these recommendations results in significant variation in how tackles are recorded across the league.
Here are the top five most tackle-friendly venues with solo percentage and tackles awarded per opportunity in parentheses: New York Giants (73%, 1.39), Buffalo (67%, 1.41), New York Jets (58%, 1.44), San Diego (78%, 1.27) and Tampa Bay (80%, 1.23).” -Jeff Ratcliffe
Honestly, when I set out to compile this article, I didn’t have this in my initial ideas for what would be included in the 10 tips. But, that’s what I love about this community, not only were so many people willing to provide advice but I learned something that I hadn’t seriously considered prior to this interaction (Full disclosure: That’s why I want to write about fantasy football, it forces me to hone in my opinions and knowledge in order to make me a better fantasy football owner). I’m going to let these quotes from Steve and Jeff stand on their own and just take the time to thank them for opening my eyes and hopefully yours too.
“In startup drafts, I always lean offense over defense. Scheme’s change and other outside forces often impact defensive player values. A larger percentage of offensive players maintain consistent or better value year over year. In addition, it’s much easier to trade for defense than offense, so I’ll always load up on offense. This is especially true in annual rookie drafts. Owners will always reach for IDP talent, but it’s very easy to find value on the wire on a weekly basis. Offense should be the target.” -Steve Wyremski
“Simply put, a strong offense can carry a so-so defense, but it’s almost impossible to compete with a studly defense carrying a so-so offense. Shrewd players can use IDPs to push through IOP trades that usually wouldn’t happen. Build your team with offense in mind, you’ll be able to plug plenty of holes on the defensive side of the ball.” -Brian Grow
Outside of the elite DE’s, POUND offense until its dry. I’ll very rarely scoop any IDP other than Watt, Quinn, Chandler, & what used to be JPP in the early going unless value just whacks me over the head. Offensive talent is infinitely more difficult to acquire outside if the startup. I’d much rather have Keenan Allen in the 3rd and Demario Davis in the 13th than Kuechly in the 3rd & Brandon Lafell in the 13th. -Tyler Huggins
As much as I love defensive players, offensive players still rule. Just by numbers, there are only 6 offensive players on each NFL team that will score points for your fantasy team, where there are 11 players on defense that have the opportunity to put up point for your team. Steve also mentions the volatility of defensive turnover year to year, and that offensive players have much more stability. Tyler does provide us with an exception to the rule. Elite DEs do have their place in earlier rounds of drafts for the same reason Gronk gets selected in the first round – positional scarcity.
Don’t Rely on Last Year’s Statistics
“Have a short term memory. Forget what happened last year especially if they weren’t spectacular the year before, everyone has down years.” –Bee
“The offseason can drastically affect the expectation of a defensive player. A coaching change will often bring a new scheme and new roles to an established depth chart. A player changing teams in free agency may find himself in a new role. And the draft can shuffle a depth chart quickly. Take the time to consider these role changes before making your draft board. Sometimes, these changes and re-classifications are helpful (e.g. Clay Matthews and Mario Williams this year). Sometimes, they are harmful.” -Dr. Jene Bramel
Chasing points is a great recipe for finishing middle of the road or worse every year. While you look back to see the talent players have, you have to prognosticate a bit in order to understand the value of various players moving forward. Throughout this article, you’ve been given the tools you need to look at future production – snap counts, positional designations, scheme changes. In the ever changing landscape of IDP football, basing your decisions on last year’s stats will make you miss more than hit.
The Great Advice that Wouldn’t Fit into the Other Categories
“For a beginning league getting into IDP the minimum starting lineups you should have should look like:
2DL, 2LB, 2DB, 1DFlex
That is perfect for getting your feet wet and there will still be plenty of guys on the waiver wire, so you can see what kinds of players are valuable, but you won’t be sunk if you waited too long in your draft to pick up top IDP players. Any less and the IDP section of your league will pretty much even out, because everyone will have studs.” -Brian Grow
“Be aggressive. Don’t fall into the trap of taking the ‘names’. Do your homework. Study the depth charts. Be bold & try to predict situations that will change. If a young up & comer is behind a guy who has been consistently meh, that’s a guy who will likely get his shot. Don’t wait for the breakout to happen or it’ll be too late.” -Tyler Huggins
“Thou Shalt Not Play in DEF/ST leagues” –Mike Woellert
“Age ain’t nothing but a number – don’t forget the savvy vets who’ve been doing it & still able to produce at high level. They may not have intriguing upside as others but their floor could be high. Plus coaches trust those who’ve been in system longer; example Karlos Dansby.” –Bee
“Rookie Lust – not every rookie will be a CJ Mosley or Kiko Alonso, it’s nice to own them but at a good price don’t pass on guys like Demario Davis or Derrick Johnson for Eric Kendricks. They’re nice to own but it’s best to get the vets here as a healthy Derrick can out score Kendricks. If you do lust over the rookies, temper expectations otherwise you’ll just be disappointed.” –Bee
“Opportunity is more important than talent
More so than the offensive side, opportunity is the target for IDP. As long as a player has tackle opportunities, he’ll produce in IDP. The talent doesn’t always rise to the top in IDP. For example, Darrelle Revis isn’t a great cornerback option because he’s so good in coverage. Because of that, he sees fewer tackle opportunities. This is the same with 3-4 outside linebacker. Someone like Brian Orakpo is a great NFL player, but his position keeps him from a high volume of tackle opportunities making him less valuable in IDP.” -Steve Wyremski
I hope that even though we didn’t discuss many specific players, that you are able to see the principles that allow you to become an experienced IDP owner. Now, go reel in those big IDP fish! And as always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, or just want to chat IDP, find me on Twitter @FantasyOutlaw.
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I'm Brian, and I'm from Southern California. Currently attending school in Idaho, where I'm studying Sociology. I've been playing fantasy football for about 12 years and dynasty for 5 of those. I'm a big IDP guy (#NoTeamD). Big fan of the Indianapolis Colts. I own John Brown on almost every single one of my Dynasty teams. Hit me up on Twitter @FantasyOutlaw.