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A Beginner’s Guide to IDPs

You always thought Fantasy Football started and ended on offense. And why not? That’s where the big plays are, where the points are scored, and where all the media attention is drawn to. What about those other guys, though? The ones who are in charge of stopping our #1 picks like Ladainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander. The ones who work hard, hit harder, and make it their objective in life to ruin the stats of every offensive Fantasy stud out there. Some call them defenders, but in this magical Fantasy realm where we utilize these guys as Fantasy studs in their own right, we like to call them Individual Defensive Players. IDPs, for short. Get used to hearing that acronym a lot. You’re about to learn all about them.

First things first; What are IDPs?

IDPs are Individual Defensive Players. It’s a term that covers every position on the defensive side of the ball. For Fantasy purposes, you probably wont see the positions get much more complicated than Defensive End(DE), Defensive Tackle(DT), Linebacker(LB), Safety(S), and Cornerback(CB). Certain positions are sometimes clumped together. For instance, instead of separating DEs from DTs, your league may fuse them into a Defensive Line(DL) position. Likewise for CBs and Ss, who are sometimes merged to create a Defensive Back(DB) position.

Alright, that’s cool, but why should I even bother with IDPs?

You shouldn’t. Instead, you should limit yourself to constantly yawning your way through cheap, mainstream Fantasy leagues where you follow the same vanilla formula and draft strategies every year. It’s simple to predict your draft, isn’t it? Everyone picks a running back in round one, ditto round two, then a wide receiver run starts, than someone reaches for Peyton, than you hold up the draft for hours as you ponder whether or not you want JJ Stokes for the short term, or R Jay Soward for his future potential. It’s much easier to do that, it really is. It works.

Seriously, though, does that sort of stuff REALLY excite you? Don’t you want some variety and new beginnings in Fantasy Football? Of course you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have clicked on this article written by a guy whose username clouds his gender a little too well.

IDPs are it. They’re where you want to be in the ever-growing realm of Fantasy Football. Offensively, you’re limited. You ignore key guys who pave the way, like the fullback and all of the offensive linemen. For shame, I say! There is no such bias existing with IDPs. Everybody is a candidate to be a legitimate Fantasy stud; you can’t ignore an entire defensive line like you would an offensive line.

Alright, I’m itching to get started with an IDP league already. What categories do you worry about with IDPs?

On offense, you usually worry about two facets of the game: Yards and touchdowns. It’s a much different story defensively. On defense, you’re usually faced with tracking tackles, sacks, and turnovers(Interceptions and Forced Fumbles/Fumbles Recovered).

Tackles are, by far, the single most important statistic regarding IDPs. That is where most of your players’ points will come from. Leagues sometime split up tackles into two categories: Solo and Assisted tackles, with the former usually being twice the value of the latter.

Sacks are far fewer and farther between than tackles. Since sacks can only be attributed to tackling one positional player(the QB) for a loss, it is wise to avoid making sacks too big a deal when ranking, say, the LBs and DBs. In regards to DEs and DTs, though, a sack has a bit more value.

Interceptions and fumbles occur even less often than sacks. Since most scoring systems give INTs and sacks the same value, it’s important to recognize the rarity of a causing a turnover, especially with non-DBs, and organize your draft board accordingly.

Speaking of the draft, just how does one go about drafting in an IDP league? Are there any trends to follow? Where’s the value at?

(For the purposes of this article, I will be frequently referring to the scoring system and roster requirements of Fantasy Sharks’ very own IDP-only league – The Wall. Make sure to follow the progress of The Wall, as updates will be on the front page often during the season! A general reference:

Scoring –
2 pts per solo tackle
1 pt per assisted tackle
1 pt per Tackle For Loss(TFL)
1 bonus point per 5 total tackles
4 pts per INT
3 pts per Sack
3 pts per FF
4 pts per FR
6 pts per ANY return TD
2 pts per Safety
3 pts per Blocked Punt, PAT, or FG

Starting Lineup – 1 DT/2 DE/3 LB/2 CB/2 S/1 Flex)

Linebackers, linebackers, linebackers. The key to winning any IDP league is to solidify your stable of LBs. They’re what RBs are to your basic Fantasy offense – extremely valuable, and you’re doomed without them. The thing is, there are A LOT of serviceable linebackers out there(since they’re the ones who always rack up the most tackles on a defensive unit, and every team starts 3 or 4), so it’s a must to try and get the cream of the cream at the position. You don’t want to fall in with the rest of the pack. Some key things to ask yourself when drafting linebackers:

Question 1. Does he play in a 4-3 or 3-4? This could very well be the most important question regarding the value of a linebacker.

4-3 linebackers are what you want to look for, as this scheme usually allows for all 3 linebackers to be extremely active, roaming-wise. Particularly, you want the middle linebackers and weakside linebackers in this scheme. Middle linebackers achieve the most Fantasy success, as they fill a variety of roles for defenses and they’re always active. The weakside ‘backer lines up opposite of where the TE is, freeing him up to make plays in space. The weakside ‘backer almost always will fall back into coverage in passing situations, making them the most likely to pick off a pass or deflect a pass. Keep that in mind. The other linebacker, the strongside linebacker, usually isn’t the best Fantasy option. Their main goal is to engage at the line and free up the other guys. They are, however, called upon to rush the quarterback the most, making them the most likely of the trio to tally a sack.

3-4 linebackers are a tougher group to gauge. The OLBs tend to be undersized DEs, and they’re used in very much the same fashion as down linemen. The stats reflect this. I urge rookie IDPers to avoid getting caught up with those fantastic, young talents playing outside in the 3-4 nowadays, as their excellent play on the field usually doesn’t hold much merit, Fantasy-wise. Guys like Shawne Merriman are very attractive, but avoid reaching for them on draft day. They will disappoint you with their Fantasy numbers. The middle linebackers in the 3-4 play about the same role as their 4-3 counterparts, but since there’s 4 linebackers now, there’s fewer tackles to go around.

Keep an eye out on teams’ depth charts for all the latest on the above queries.

Question 2. What about the team circumstances? Does he play for a very poor offensive team? A terrible offense is a Fantasy gold mine for IDPs. They find themselves on the field far more often than the defense of a great offensive team, which results in far more opportunities to give you some Fantasy points.

Now, while the linebackers are the big cheese, there’s still a lot of value available at DB. Particularly, at the Safety spot. Safeties can sometimes be described as fourth or fifth linebackers sometimes, so getting a great one could give you a big edge on the competition. Great safeties are usually granted permission to roam wherever they please, so again, try to grab the Ed Reed’s and Adrian Wilson’s of the world.

Like linebackers, you should worry about team circumstances when deciding which DB to pick. Cornerbacks, especially, require a lot of research. They are the most unpredictable players in IDP leagues, usually stringing together a few great games with a bunch of 0-fers. Of course, an 0-fer game can sometimes suggest that they’ve completely locked-down their assignment, but regardless, they’ve disappointed us, and we matter most!

On the subject of “lockdown” corners: Avoid them. Chris McCallister might be the class of CBs in this league today, but he’s abysmal in Fantasy Football thanks to the lack of action on his side of the field. This really isn’t much of a concern, though, since more and more offenses are opting to pass more, resulting in some pretty good numbers from some of the leagues best corners. Guys like Ronde Barber and Champ Bailey dominate on the field and on our stats screen.

Another factor to consider is personnel. Rookie cornerbacks are usually lambasted and criticized for their awful play, but we Fantasy owners find that to be a lovely compliment! The more a CB gets beat, the more often he has to recover and make the tackle. Guys like Dominique Foxworth and Antrel Rolle “shined” for Fantasy owners at times last year. A bad corner in real life is a great corner in an IDP league. Remember that. Jason Webster and Shawntae Spencer can use our assurance that they’re worth something!

DTs and DEs are usually the lowest-scoring IDPs, and they usually have the lowest priority in a draft. There are a few that are consistently good from year-to-year, though, and nabbing one of them will keep you from pillaging the waiver wire every week. One thing I’d suggest here is to avoid “sack artists.” Dwight Freeney might give you 11 sacks, but his 30 tackles make him an unattractive Fantasy option. A down linemen that can tackle is much more valuable than a guy who just purely rush the passer. Instead of drafting Dwight Freeney, pick Aaron Kampman instead. The name isn’t as sexy, but the production is much better.

Wow. Thanks for frying my brain. Alright, now for the juicy stuff. How about some cheat sheets?

Since I expect all of you to become seasoned, indestructible IDP vets after reading this article, I will grant you this one cheat sheet as a token of my gratitude. Don’t expect anymore, though! You’ll just have to follow Doug Gaskell’s “Seadog Report” if you want the latest about the hottest IDP pick-ups. No need to thank me for the plug, Doug!

DT:
1. John Henderson
2. Albert Haynesworth
3. Orpheus Roye
4. Kelly Gregg
5. Rod Coleman
6. Ty Warren
7. Kevin Williams
8. Shaun Rogers
9. Rocky Bernard
10. Travis Johnson

DE:
1. Osi Umenyiora
2. Will Smith
3. Aaron Kampman
4. Jason Taylor
5. Michael Strahan
6. John Abraham
7. Charles Grant
8. Aaron Schobel
9. Julius Peppers
10. Terrell Suggs
11. Derrick Burgess
12. Justin Smith
13. Bertrand Berry
14. James Hall
15. Simeon Rice

LB:
1. Keith Bullock
2. Ray Lewis
3. Mike Peterson
4. Johnathon Vilma
5. Andra Davis
6. London Fletcher
7. Gary Brackett
8. Brian Urlacher
9. Lofa Tatupu
10. Zach Thomas
11. Lemar Marshall
12. Jeremiah Trotter
13. Donnie Edwards
14. AJ Hawk
15. Lance Briggs
16. Danny Clark
17. Derrick Johnson
18. Marcus Washington
19. Shelton Quarles
20. Derrick Brooks
21. Keith Brooking
22. Cato June
23. Will Witherspoon
24. Dan Morgan
25. Adalius Thomas

CB:
1. Antoine Winfield
2. Nate Clements
3. Ike Taylor
4. Ronde Barber
5. Dunta Robinson
6. Terrence McGee
7. Tye Hill
8. Charles Tillman
9. Deangelo Hall
10. Dre Bly
11. Marcus Trufant
12. Ken Lucas
13. Champ Bailey
14. Marlin Jackson
15. Quentin Jammer

S:
1. Adrian Wilson
2. Gibril Wilson
3. Ed Reed
4. Michael Lewis
5. Kerry Rhodes
6. Troy Polamalu
7. Roy Williams
8. Lawyer Milloy
9. Bob Sanders
10. Erik Coleman
11. Nick Collins
12. Brian Dawkins
13. Kenoy Kennedy
14. Sean Taylor
15. Michael Huff
16. Rodney Harrison
17. Donte Whitner
18. Josh Bullocks
19. Ken Hamlin
20. Brodney Pool

There you have it, folks. This beginners lesson about IDPs has concluded. I hope you’ve taken this idea seriously, and consider an IDP-league as your next Fantasy Football outlet. I assure you, you will not regret it. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis, IDP or otherwise, at the best Fantasy website on the web: Fantasysharks.com!

About Fantasy Sharks

FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.