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SITE ANNOUNCEMENT: Positional Eligibility (Or How to Make the Internet Hate You in Three Easy Steps)

If you play in a league at MyFantasyLeague, you probably saw the recent announcement that the depth charts at Rotoworld will no longer be the officer determinant of player position eligibility.

If you didn’t, come on man! Try to keep up! There is no offseason!!!

Instead, the depth charts and some behind the scenes stuff that we do here at Fantasy Sharks will be used to determine whether Arizona’s Chandler Jones is classified as a linebacker or a defensive lineman. Whether Denver’s Kareem Jackson will have eligibility as a cornerback or a safety.  And we’re all really hoping that Kordell Stewart doesn’t decide to play again.

For the most part, the responsibility for maintaining those depth charts is a group effort but the IDP side will primarily fall to Fantasy Sharks’ IDP Senior Staff Writer — me.

And oh boy, am I already hearing about it.

Given this potentially significant change, I figured it might be a good idea to tell the IDP community my thoughts on how best to attack this new responsibility. Make no mistake — I take this new role very seriously, and at day’s end I want the same thing IDP players want — for the positional eligibilities to be as accurate as possible.

OK, some of you just want defensive lineman and/or dual eligibility for every edge-rusher in the NFL. Greedy little boogers.


Rotoworld’s method for determining player eligibility was simple — position eligibility was determined by a team’s base defense. Edge-rushers on 3-4 fronts were labeled linebackers. Edge-rushers on 4-3 teams were labeled defensive ends. Done and done.

In no way am I criticizing how they choose to do it. It is just that — their choice. The staff at Rotoworld is as hard-working and knowledgeable as you’ll find anywhere. And it was a consistent system.

The thing is, consistency has rather gone out the window defensively in the 21st-century NFL.

According to Bryan Knowles of Football Outsiders, NFL teams were in their base defensive sets just over 33 percent of the time in 2017. Just three of the league’s teams (Cleveland, the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina) were in base defensive sets 50 percent or more of the time. For the rest, subpackages have become the default defensive set — 52.3 percent of snaps overall were spent in the nickel.


Now, at this point you’re probably saying, “Well then, just make the nickel the new base defense and adjust eligibilities accordingly.” On some level that would make many IDP owners quite happy — it would mean players like Chandler Jones and Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney getting defensive lineman eligibility.

However, that wouldn’t necessarily be accurate either.

As I stated above, there are also still a few teams who run more base sets than subpackages. If the Rams are in the base more than the nickel, then two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald should be classified as a defensive end, not a tackle.

This isn’t to say that the obvious will be ignored. Once I have the personnel percentage data for 2018 (working on it — believe it or not, I don’t just have that laying around) if there’s a 3-4 team with continuity of scheme that was predominantly in subs last year, then the edge-rushers on those teams will have positional eligibility that reflects it.

Cue Clowney owners hopefully smiling.

Again, this is about getting this right for the long-haul.

Of course, that data won’t be of much help in places like Arizona, New York and Cincinnati, where there have been coaching and/or scheme changes. In the desert, for example, Arizona is going back to a three-man front under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who told reporters (via Jess Root of Cards Wire) that he wants to run more base defense in 2019.

Two years ago in Denver, Joseph’s defense was in the base just over 40 percent of the time. Does he mean more than that? Or more than Steve Wilks ran in 2018 in Arizona?


There’s also the matter of the “hybrid” fronts that are gaining popularity in today’s NFL. New England has long run both three and four-man fronts. Bill Belichick’s disciple Matt Patricia does the same in Detroit. Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington has pledged to run more variable fronts this year — raising the question of whether rookie Brian Burns and veteran Bruce Irvin are defensive ends or linebackers.

Subpackages. Hybrid fronts. The cold, hard truth is that there aren’t nearly as many definitive anwers about positional eligibility as there were 10 years ago. Or even five years ago. There’s no one source of information that will come close to answering these questions.

So we’ll use several to sort through all the gray.

Sorry. That wasn’t helpful. Had to be done, though.

Personnel Alignment Data: Like I said, if a team’s spending 70-plus percent of its time in subs, player eligibility should reflect that reality. And it will.

Depth Charts: Yes, we’re still going to consult depth charts, whether it’s at Rotoworld, Ourlads or any of the other sources out there. We’ll even use the ones put out by the teams and/or league, although as we move into camp and those start being used as a motivational tool, they can get rather comical.

If three or four sites all have a player listed in a certain position, problem solved. When there are disparities (and there often are), then more digging will be necessary.

Other Research: There are any number of resources available that can show snap counts at a particular position and fun stuff like that. Many require subscriptions that we’ll be paying for because I’m such an awesome person. Whether it’s that, digging through articles or reaching out to the various beat writers we know (and we know quite a few) we’re going to gather as much information on the questionable calls as we can. We also have GamePass (because of course we do) and we ain’t shy about watching tape.

The IDP Community: That’s right — you goofballs. Whether it’s the numerous IDP pundits we like and respect or all the folks who play in the format, it’s entirely possible you’ll see something we haven’t. If you think something’s been missed or is incorrect (and have something to back up that assertion other than your opinion or how it best fits your own fantasy team) then hit me up at @IDPSharks and I’ll hear you out.

However, if hitting me up involves a bunch of “you suck” and profanity, I’ll just mute you and you can scream at nothing until your lips fall off. Got no problem with criticism. But if you act like a child you’ll be treated like one.

Time out for you, young man!

Coin Flip: I’m not actually going to flip a coin. That would be silly. But there are going to be borderline players where compelling arguments can be made for both sides. At that point I’m just going to have to use my best judgment and make the call. I’ve been doing this a while now, and despite my best efforts the consensus seems to be that I know what I’m doing.


The positional eligibilities on May 15 and those on June 15 aren’t going to line up 100 percent. Ditto with July 15. And Aug. 15. We still have mandatory organized team activities (OTAs), training camp and the preseason ahead of us. Things are going to change.

The fact is, if you draft early and you’ve been in IDP for any amount of time, you have an idea which guys might be on shaky ground in regard to positional eligibility. If you aren’t sure, ask me or any of the other IDP “experts” out there.

There’s a reason some edge-rushers are available at a discount early — fear that said player will lose defensive lineman eligibility.

We may well see a day in the not-too-distant future when 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker are lumped together in an “EDGE” category. It’s an idea that’s been talked about a lot in recent years, and it’s gaining steam. But there are problems there as well that will need to be worked out before that idea becomes implementation.

There are also going to be mistakes. I’d love to say there won’t be, and I’ll try hard to minimize how many, but we’re human.

But as I said before, my main goal with this is to get it right — for MyFantasyLeague to continue to be the gold standard in IDP leagues, in no small part because it has the most accurate positional designations in the industry.

You may now pelt me with tomatoes.

No freezing them beforehand though — that’s just mean.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an nine-time FSWA Award finalist and three-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last four years. He won the honor in 2017 and 2019. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.