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.
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.
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.
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.
|Tier I||1||J.J. Watt||HOU|
|Tier II||2||Greg Hardy||CAR|
|Tier III||7||Calais Campbell||ARZ|
|Tier IV||14||Cameron Jordan||NO|
|Tier V||28||Justin Smith||SF||H|
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.
|Tier I||1||Luke Kuechly||CAR|
|Tier II||3||Vontaze Burfict||CIN|
|Tier III||6||Paul Posluszny||JAC||D|
|Tier IV||14||Derrick Johnson||KC|
|Tier V||22||Brian Cushing||HOU||D|
|Tier VI||27||DeAndre Levy||DET|
|Tier VII||41||Kevin Minter||ARZ|
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.
|Tier I||1||Barry Church||DAL|
|Tier II||5||Harrison Smith||MIN||D|
|Tier III||17||Matt Elam||BAL|
|Tier IV||32||Dawan Landry||NYJ|