Whether you are new to the world of Individual Defensive Players (IDP) or a seasoned IDP veteran, when it comes to draft strategy the two most important factors to consider are scoring system and number of starters. Note that I didn’t mention using last year’s end of season IDP rankings, because that’s something you shouldn’t rely on. In other words, do your research and craft your rankings accordingly.
SCORING SYSTEM INFLUENCE
The reason that knowing your scoring system is so important is due to how it can impact a player’s value. A good example would be to look at a player like OLB, Justin Houston and how his value is impacted by different scoring systems. Which by the way, when it comes to different, there are two you’ll find used most in IDP leagues; big-play and tackle friendly. Houston led the NFL in sacks in 2015 with 22. In big-play scoring leagues, like this one, he was the top ranked fantasy LB. However, in tackle friendly formats he ranked outside the top 20 LBs in fantasy scoring. This article isn’t meant to get into which system you should use, so we aren’t going to broach that subject. No, it’s meant to help you understand how to draft your IDP squad and understanding the differences in scoring system is an important part of that goal. The easiest way to see if your league is a big-play or tackle heavy league is to see where Justin Houston ranked last year. Similarly you can do the same thing with Von Miller and even DeMarcus Ware in year’s past. If they rank highly in seasons they had a bunch of sacks then you know your league is big-play. If it isn’t then Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David and players of that ilk that rack up tackles are going to be the lead dogs at the LB position. When it comes to the DE position you want a marriage of sacks (big-plays) and tackles – Yes, J.J. Watt is the ultimate weapon – no matter the scoring system but big-play scoring will make it a bit easier to stream guys that play situational snaps and net the occasional sack while not doing much in run support. At DB, in a big-play format you are looking for players that generate turnovers and that can also blitz the QB. In tackle friendly formats you want guys that, well, rack up tackles. Stud DBs like Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman rarely get thrown at, since they aren’t granted many opportunities to rack up stats because QBs avoid them, their IDP value takes a hit.
The NFL is filled with talented players, some, like J.J. Watt and Adrian Peterson much more so than others, but talent abounds nonetheless. I’ll just go ahead and say it; I’m an opportunity/scheme over talent guy. By that I mean that I don’t care how talented a player is, if he’s not in a situation that will provide him with the opportunity to make plays then that’s a ding against that player. A good example, even if it means going to the offensive side of the ball, is Christine Michael. Some will tell you just how vastly talented Michael is, but guess what, it’s not talented enough to unseat Marshawn Lynch. So you don’t need me to tell you how valuable Michael is. On the IDP side there are a couple of different factors at play. You have to be on the field to make plays and score points. Hence, teams with poor offenses usually means their defense is on the field more often. That leads to more tackle opportunities. Lavonte David and Paul Posluszny are prime examples of players over the past few years that garnered additional value due to being on the field more due to an inept offense. Another factor is scheme. If a player, say Mario Williams were to get re-classified as a LB – I know, been there, done that – his fantasy value would take a huge hit. Last year, Williams scored 126.50 fantasy points in The Huddle Expert IDP league and finished as DL11 but if he were a LB that would have been good for a rank of LB66, one spot below that of Ravens LB, Terrell Suggs. Oh, Terrell Suggs, the once dominant fantasy DL that was reclassified to a LB and now is an afterthought in IDP circles. Your Honor, I rest my case! Hopefully that does help you to understand just how, and why, for me, it’s opportunity and scheme over talent.
READY TO DRAFT?
No, not yet. Before you can draft we need to talk about your starters, namely the number of starters you’ll need to field in your IDP league. In some leagues, that I like to refer to as training wheel leagues, owners will only need to start 1-3 IDPs. In leagues that start 1 IDP (from any position) you won’t even need to focus on drafting any IDP players, and the same goes for leagues that start 3 but only with one at each position. I know, where’s the fun in that. In those leagues, it’s usually an attempt to add IDP – a great thing – but in the end it probably sours on most in the league – a bad thing – because owners will be able to find viable IDPs on the waiver wire each and every week. And by viable I mean ones that can be streamed and put up numbers that rival those that rank in the top-5 in end of year rankings. Instead of drafting starters you can just use the resources we provide here at The Huddle to pick players that will lead you to weekly wins. In leagues that start 5-11 starters, you’ll need to target IDPs in your draft.
A DL is a RB, a LB is a WR and a DB is a K. Say what now? What I’m saying is that the DL position is like the RB position. There are very few difference makers at the top and depth wise it’s not very pretty either. Year’s ago I would have said that LBs were like RBs in that they were the big scorers for the IDP side of the ball, but with added years of experience, hopefully wisdom, under my belt I feel LB is more reflective of the WR position. There are some very elite players at the top of the tier, then a multitude of others that give the position great depth. As for DBs, it’s pretty much an insult to the K position to compare the two. Reason being, DB is the deepest of all positions in fantasy football. Last year, 63 DBs averaged 10 PPG or better. The LB position only had 45 that could make that claim to fame and the DL position, just five. On the offensive side of the ball, QB went 43 deep, RB 30, WR 58, and TE 12. You might say, well that’s not that much deeper than some of those other positions, but consider that 52 other DBs averaged between 8-9.99 PPG. If you need points at DB, you can always find them on the waiver wire. Add in that the DB position is notorious for dramatic turnover of the top 20 (the article is a few years old but it still stands up today) and you’ll see why I place very little emphasis on that position in drafts.
CAN WE DRAFT NOW?
Yes, now we can draft. First let me say, that as much as I value the DE position, and with as much as I love J.J. Watt, I just can’t get on board with selecting him in round one of a combined draft. I’ve been in two expert IDP mocks where he has gone 1st and 11th overall. Yes, he outscored the 2nd highest scoring DE last year by around 33% but you can still target two DEs early enough to not get slaughtered at the position. OK, enough of Watt. When it comes to drafting IDP do not draft specifically off of last year’s rankings. Players could be in new schemes, retired or even suspended.
WATT IDP DO I TAKE FIRST AND WHEN?
So I lied, there’s never enough J.J. Watt. In IDP J.J. Watt is, without a doubt, the first IDP player that should be selected in a draft, but as I said above, I’m not advocating taking him in the 1st…or even the 2nd, but you know that someone else will. So when that happens, DE should still be the position you target first. My suggestion is to get two of the top 5 players at DE. I don’t care how seasoned you are; do not get cute and draft “breakout” DE candidates to anchor your IDP squad. To land two top five DEs you will most likely need to dip into IDPs in round 6, in some leagues, maybe as early as round 4/5 Robert Quinn will come off the board. Even if that happens, by the time round 6/7 roles around you should be able to land yourself two top five DEs. Next your focus shifts to LB. I know that the likes of Luke Kuechly and Lavonte David will be tempting, but when they are coming off the board there will still be difference makers on offense available and you should be focusing on them (expect for when you nab your DEs). When it comes to the LB position you can wait until 20 or so are off the board and still build yourself a strong stable. In the Huddle Expert IDP League I waited until 23 were off the board and jumped in with back-to-back picks of Stephone Anthony and Demario Davis. Overall my corps is comprised of those two plus Jerrell Freeman, Christian Jones (a sleeper of mine), and Daryl Smith. It’s not a flashy group but it’s a group that is balanced with upside and safe players. Even if you don’t want to wait as long as I did, there’s still plenty of value to be had after the top 12 LBs are off the board. It’s not like RB where the top guys are dried up at that point.
Whatever you do, never forget that a draft is fluid. You don’t want to hamstring yourself to a strategy and bypass opportunities that may present themselves to you because you were locked and loaded and unwilling to change. The way I approach a draft is with the mindset of wanting to dictate what happens (easier to do if you are drafting at the ends) instead of reacting and chasing positional runs. Taking those two DEs in round 6/7 very well could start a run on the position. When that run starts it allows other talent to fall to you. So that WR you were really salivating over, all of a sudden, very well could make it back to you. Of course understanding tiers for your rankings across all positions helps immensely with this too.
ONE, TWO, THREE…DOMINATE!
To recap, the Ultimate IDP Draft Strategy
1. Understand your scoring and starting requirements and how that impacts the value players have in your league.
2. Target DE “early,” not J.J. Watt in the 1st or 2nd round early, but early enough to roster two of the top 5 at the position
3. Target LBs starting after 20ish are off the board and slough the DB position.
Hopefully you find this article “The Ultimate IDP Draft Strategy” but if not, that’s ok because at least you’re playing the Ultimate in fantasy football when you play IDP!