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IDP TUTORIAL: Lesson 3 – Defensive Linemen

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Over the first two lessons of the Fantasy Sharks Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Tutorial, we’ve covered “broad strokes” topics, such as knowing your scoring and some basic IDP draft strategies. With those broad strokes concepts under your belt, you can emerge from many IDP drafts with your dignity intact and a fairly competitive defensive squad.

Congratulations, you’ve graduated…from elementary school.

Now, it’s time to delve a bit deeper, to get into more detail, to dig beneath the surface into the meat of IDP. It’s time to kick things up a notch, and we’re going to start that by taking a look at each of the three main IDP positions.

We’re going to begin those positional breakdowns by taking a look at the big ‘uglies,’ the men in the trenches, the bane of quarterbacks everywhere…the defensive linemen.

When preparing for your IDP league’s draft, the word of the day where defensive linemen are concerned is scarcity. The number of consistent weekly starters and so-called “elite” fantasy options on the defensive front continues to dwindle with each passing year. That, in turn, increases the IDP value of these players, and makes having at least one dependable weekly fantasy starter on the defensive line a definite advantage, if not a necessity.

The primary reason for this is simple. Speaking in rather general terms, 4-3 defensive ends are the top dogs where IDP defensive linemen are concerned, but, as 3-4 and “hybrid” fronts increase in popularity in today’s NFL, the number of those defensive ends is decreasing. Of the Top 20 IDP defensive linemen in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring in 2012, 16 (80 percent) were 4-3 defensive ends, compared to 63 percent (20-of-32) of NFL teams that ran the 4-3 defense, a number that will decrease even more in 2013.

So why is this? Why are the 4-3 ends preferable to their 3-4 counterparts? Well, once again we’re speaking in rather general terms, but for many 3-4 teams the defensive line’s job isn’t so much to force the action as occupy blockers so that the linebackers behind them can wreak havoc. They don’t exist to attack so much as hold the point of attack, and their statistical production suffers as a result.

There are, of course, exceptions. J.J. Watt, of the Houston Texans, was the top overall IDP last year. Calais Campbell, of the Arizona Cardinals, has been a Top 20 fantasy option in three of the past four seasons. However, those players are just that. They’re exceptions, and defensive ends that play in a 4-3 front continue to rule the roost.

There’s another reason why consistent defensive ends come at a high premium in IDP leagues. At a position where a large portion of a player’s fantasy production is dependent on big plays (i.e. sacks), that consistency can be hard to come by. Of the Top 10 IDP producers in 2012, only two ( Julius Peppers, of the Chicago Bears, and Jason Pierre-Paul, of the New York Giants) were also in the Top 10 the year before. The players who have a track record of posting solid numbers carry with them an increased price tag.

A look at the Top 5 players in 2011 in regards to sacks, and how they fared the seasons before and after, bears that inconsistency out somewhat.

Player Name

2010 Sack Total

2011 Sack Total

2012 Sack Total

Jared Allen

11

22

12

Jason Babin

12.5

18

7

Jason Pierre-Paul

4.5

16.5

6.5

Terrell Suggs

11

14

2 (injured)

Chris Long

8.5

13

11.5

With some players this inconsistency can be offset by high tackle numbers, which is why defensive ends that are strong in run support are very desirable fantasy options. For example, Pierre-Paul was able to finish in the Top 10 among defensive linemen again in 2012 even though his sacks dropped by 10 in large part because he also tallied 66 tackles. Muhammed Wilkerson, of the New York Jets, was a solid IDP DL2 last season even though he only had 4.5 sacks, because he also logged 70 stops.

Conversely, Jason Babin has only topped 40 tackles in a season twice in his 10-year career, so, when his sack total plummeted last year, so did his IDP value. Low-tackle, high-sack players such as Babin and Chris Long are much riskier and streakier than “two-way” ends such as Pierre-Paul and Watt, whose tackle production makes them both safer fantasy bets and less likely to saddle their fantasy owners with the dreaded goose-egg in a given week.



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