What do you do when you can’t get enough? What do you do when you’re a glutton for punishment? What do you do when you feel the need to suffer through yet another NFL season, and want to get the “full” fantasy football experience?

Welcome, friends, to the IDP (Individual Defensive Player) format. Each season IDP gains in popularity, and though it’s far from the standard format, a competitive IDP league makes your appreciation for the game much more satisfying. Why IDP?

The Whole Game

You watch all of your team’s games, of course, plus the prime time matchups. You know whose number is always in on the stop. You know the defensive line rotations and which linebacker can’t be caught alone in coverage on the tight end.  You know which defensive back on your team will be fined for a sort-of-legal hit. Why not apply that knowledge? IDP gives you the chance.

Defense Wins Championships

You know this adage to be true. Offense may attract the casual fan, and can certainly make for exciting games, but there’s nothing better than a battle between two great defenses, imposing their will on the once-thought-unstoppable quarterback. Last year’s Super Bowl champion, the Seattle Seahawks, featured the Legion of Boom – the best, loudest, and most intimidating secondary the game has ever seen. The year before it was Ray Lewis, the greatest linebacker since LT (Giants fan here, I stand by the assertion), hoisting the Lombardi trophy. Why not have your fantasy teams win the real way? Unless you’re the type of person who plays Madden 7-on-7, in which case you’re either eight years old, or terrible.

Make Draft Day Exponentially Harder

You always have the best team on paper after the draft is finished (if you don’t feel that way, it might be time for a new hobby). Most leagues have similar roster setups: one quarterback, some running backs and receivers, and a tight end spot. Adding three more positions makes things much harder. Suddenly you have to wonder, late in the draft, is it more important to grab that handcuff running back or that second linebacker? If it’s an auction, just how much of your budget should you blow on J.J. Watt? These are things you can only think about in an IDP league.

Change Your Rooting Outlook

One of the fun parts of fantasy football is watching the Monday night game and rooting for individual players – you don’t care how the Packers do, but you want Rodgers to throw the ball to Randall Cobb, not Jordy Nelson, because Cobb’s on your fantasy team. Now IDP makes that predicament even more nuanced – you want Cobb to make the catch, but if he can’t score, you want him stopped by Earl Thomas, not Kam Chancellor, because you have Thomas and your opponent that week has Chancellor. Every play now carries twice the potential for fantasy points, and by knowing your defenders, you’ll become an even smarter football fan, too!

In Defense of Scoring Everything

Not only does each play have twice the potential for points, IDP helps bring us to enlightened status of scoring everything. Look at baseball, the first fantasy sport – the original rotisserie league was 4×4, meaning eight scoring categories – but just about everyone now plays 5×5 (ten categories) or more. The desire to include strikeouts and runs scored led to the game itself expanding, and now thousands of permutations exist. So many things happen on a football field – why ignore them? I’ve always said that I’d rather lose by 0.25 points than wind up with a tie. With a robust scoring system that includes individual defensive players, you can ensure that each fantasy matchup gets a true outcome, with the star performances buoyed by shrewd roster depth – the way it works in the real game.

Better than D/ST

Admit it, the D/ST position is really just there as a tiebreaker. Sure, some teams get return touchdowns in bunches, but the overall scoring impact of D/ST is always disproportionate. This one roster position can put up a big fat zero or negative number, or it can score more than the rest of your team combined with the wrong scoring system – why is that a good thing? It’s the equivalent to flipping a coin each week. With IDP, you get at least six more coins to flip, resulting in a more performance-weighted outcome, which is the point.

IDP Setup

So what is the best system to use for IDP?  It depends on the size of the starting offensive roster, of course. Most leagues follow some form of QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/TE/FLEX/K so if that’s the case, six IDPs would be recommended – DL/DL/LB/LB/DB. If you use a third WR, add a third LB there too. As for scoring, it’s another key question – anywhere between half and a full point for tackles is standard; keep in mind how much you want to count sacks, interceptions and fumbles forced/recovered, too. A tackle-heavy scoring system will make for more consistent week-to-week results, but a big-play-leaning system could add more excitement. If your league is PPR then make sure to give at least one full point per tackle, or else your offensive scoring will completely dwarf your defense.

IDP Rankings

These are broken down into the top 40 for DL and DB and top 50 for LB. The Tiers are key – there is a drop-off with every tier. So, for example, all Tier II DLs provide similar value to each other – but all of them are safer propositions than any of the Tier III guys. Projected statistics are of course the main criteria, but how likely a guy is to reach those plays a factor, too. Note “D” indicates an older player who could decline. Note “H” indicates a High-Risk, High-Reward player.

Defensive Line

The DL position is always the hardest to fill – Defensive Tackles are counted on to occupy blockers, not actually make stops – so you’ll need to look for sack-artist Defensive Ends. J.J. Watt is still heads-and-shoulders above any other DL – he should be your first overall IDP pick if given the chance. Be sure to check your league’s scoring system: in some formats, Jadeveon Clowney and Julius Peppers are DLs; in some, they qualify as LBs only due to how they’re deployed. Both obviously have more value on the D-Line. For sleepers, Dontari Poe and Jurrell Casey could both bring nice value drafted late.

Rank Player Team Note
Tier I 1 J.J. Watt HOU
Tier II 2 Greg Hardy CAR
3 Robert Quinn STL
4 Chandler Jones NE
5 Sheldon Richardson NYJ
6 Jared Allen CHI D
Tier III 7 Calais Campbell ARZ
8 Ezekiel Ansah DET
9 Jason Pierre-Paul NYG H
10 Rob Ninkovich NE
11 Khalil Mack OAK
12 Muhammad Wilkerson NYJ
13 Jadeveon Clowney HOU H
Tier IV 14 Cameron Jordan NO
15 Kyle Williams BUF
16 Justin Tuck OAK D
17 Cameron Wake MIA
18 Mario Williams BUF
19 Michael Johnson TB
20 Geno Atkins CIN
21 Lamarr Houston CHI
22 Everson Griffen MIN
23 DeMarcus Ware DEN D
24 Charles Johnson CAR
25 Adrian Clayborn TB
26 Jason Hatcher WAS
27 Marcell Dareus BUF H
Tier V 28 Justin Smith SF H
29 Julius Peppers GB D
30 Carlos Dunlap CIN
31 Jurrell Casey TEN
32 Dontari Poe KC
33 Aaron Donald STL
34 Ndamukong Suh DET H
35 Olivier Vernon MIA
36 Nick Fairley DET
37 Haloti Ngata BAL
38 Gerald McCoy TB
39 Tank Carradine SF
40 Osi Umenyiora ATL D



The linebacker position is the heart of your defense. These guys are usually the No. 1 or No. 2 tackler on their team, and they get the bonus of rushing the passer and/or dropping into coverage – so in addition to the high tackle volume, you get sacks and interceptions here too. Luke Kuechly and Lavonte David currently stand at the top of the group – both are tackling machines but are also good at getting their hands on the ball and the quarterback. If you like sleepers try A.J. Hawk and pray he stays healthy; a good but safer option late would be Mason Foster.

Rank Player Team Note
Tier I 1 Luke Kuechly CAR
2 Lavonte David TB
Tier II 3 Vontaze Burfict CIN
4 Bobby Wagner SEA
5 Jerrell Freeman IND
Tier III 6 Paul Posluszny JAC D
7 Alec Ogletree STL
8 Karlos Dansby CLE
9 James Laurinaitis STL
10 Patrick Willis SF D
11 Chad Greenway MIN
12 Perry Riley WAS
13 Paul Worrilow ATL
Tier IV 14 Derrick Johnson KC
15 Jerod Mayo NE D
16 Daryl Smith BAL
17 Stephen Tulloch DET
18 Curtis Lofton NO
19 Mychal Kendricks PHI
20 Ryan Shazier PIT H
21 Lawrence Timmons PIT D
Tier V 22 Brian Cushing HOU D
23 C.J. Mosley BAL
24 D’Qwell Jackson IND
25 Lance Briggs CHI D
26 David Harris NYJ
Tier VI 27 DeAndre Levy DET
28 DeMeco Ryans PHI D
29 Nick Roach OAK D
30 Demario Davis NYJ
31 Donald Butler SD
32 Jamie Collins NE
33 Danny Trevathan DEN
34 Mason Foster TB
35 A.J. Hawk GB H
36 Dont’a Hightower NE H
37 Thomas Davis CAR D
38 Jon Beason NYG D
39 Zach Brown TEN
40 Nigel Bradham BUF
Tier VII 41 Kevin Minter ARZ
42 Von Miller DEN H
43 Rey Maualuga CIN D
44 Brandon Spikes BUF D
45 Philip Wheeler MIA D
46 Manti Te’o SD H
47 K.J. Wright SEA
48 Terrell Suggs BAL D
49 Koa Misi MIA
50 Jameel McClain NYG D


Defensive Back

Most of the DB list will be safeties – they get to roam the entire field, stopping the run, cleaning up a cornerback’s mess, jumping routes for picks, or blitzing for sacks. Some CBs do have value because they have great range and teams throw at them, but in general, the best corners are the guys QBs throw away from, muting their numbers. Seattle had all those interceptions last year simply because teams had no choice but to try to throw the ball – throwing at any Seahawk DB was the wrong move, and that’s why they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy last year. At the top, Barry Church and Eric Weddle consistently clean up the messes in front of them; Morgan Burnett can do the same but, as with the entire Packers defense, needs to stay healthy; and Jonathan Cyprien proved he’s the most capable defender on a terrible team, so it was either he made the tackle, or nobody did. Nice late-round values can be found in Aaron Williams and Eric Reid.

Rank Player Team Note
Tier I 1 Barry Church DAL
2 Eric Weddle SD
3 Morgan Burnett GB H
4 Jonathan Cyprien JAC
Tier II 5 Harrison Smith MIN D
6 Jairus Byrd NO
7 Charles Tillman CHI D
8 Bernard Pollard TEN
9 T.J. Ward DEN
10 Tyvon Branch OAK
11 Earl Thomas SEA
12 Kam Chancellor SEA
13 Kenny Vaccaro NO
14 Deone Bucannon ARZ
15 Calvin Pryor NYJ
16 Tyrann Mathieu ARZ H
Tier III 17 Matt Elam BAL
18 Antrel Rolle NYG D
19 Aaron Williams BUF
20 Roman Harper CAR D
21 Eric Berry KC
22 Mark Barron TB
23 LaRon Landry IND
24 Malcolm Jenkins PHI D
25 Donte Whitner CLE D
26 Ryan Clark WAS
27 D.J. Swearinger HOU
28 DeAngelo Hall WAS D
29 Charles Woodson OAK D
30 Antoine Bethea SF
31 Mike Mitchell PIT
Tier IV 32 Dawan Landry NYJ
33 Alterraun Verner TB
34 Eric Reid SF
35 Captain Munnerlyn MIN
36 James Ihedigbo DET
37 Stevie Brown NYG H
38 Michael Griffin TEN
39 T.J. McDonald STL
40 Ryan Mundy CHI


About The Author Jonathan Pollak