It may sound like a somewhat steep price to pay, and every draft is different (Damn you exceptions! Damn you straight to hell!). However, having a pair of Top 10 options is not only a great base for your IDPs, but it also allows you the luxury of using a “rotation” of upside picks and sleepers for your third starting spot that you can base on matchups.
Playing the matchups is a lesson we’ll get to in due time, grasshopper.
Look for linebackers with a track record where possible. If it looks like a season was an aberration, try to find out why when doing draft prep. For example, in 2010 and 2011, James Anderson (Carolina) was an IDP stud. However, the injuries that ravaged the Carolina linebackers those years not only elevated the strong side linebacker to a three down role, but also made him the team’s best linebacker by default. His numbers regressed badly last year, and now he’s out of Charlotte altogether.
A linebacker’s situation is also very important. That three down role we discussed? You definitely want that. A linebacker that doesn’t face a lot of competition for tackle opportunities is even better. Granted, Bowman and Patrick Willis are both worth IDP LB1 consideration, but that doesn’t change the fact that the 49ers teammates cap one another’s fantasy upside a bit.
There’s one more consideration with linebackers. Tackles are not an official statistic. There’s a great deal of variance from city to city in how they are awarded, and that variance can have an effect of the fantasy values of players depending on which helmet they wear.
Some teams, such as the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts, dole out assisted tackles like lollipops at a pediatrician’s office. Everybody gets one. In St. Louis, on the other hand, the Rams’ scorekeepers award assisted tackles about as often as politicians tell the truth.
That’s not the only anomaly, either. Before the 2012 season, the NFL changed the default settings for the software used to record tackles. Before 2012, when two players shared a tackle, one would be awarded a solo (shared) tackle, and the other an assist. As of last year, both players were to receive assists.
Guess what? That rule was applied about as uniformly as most rules are in the real world. Some teams went with it, which caused solos to drop, assists to rise, and a small (but perceptible) drop in IDP production for players on those clubs. Other teams, however, appeared to say, “New math? Screw that! That’s like the metric system!”, and nothing really changed.
With that said, I could write an entire article about scorekeeping. In fact, I’m going to, as one of the advanced lessons in this IDP Tutorial will address that very subject.
Now that we’ve established that linebackers are the core of IDP success, and that the ones capable of big tackle numbers are the most trustworthy assets an IDP owner can have at his disposal, we’re going to flip the script. In Lesson 5, we’ll talk the most fickle, unpredictable, Lindsay Lohan a**ed players an IDP owner has ever cursed as he threw his laptop out the …
Oh yeah, that never happened.
Next up … the defensive backs.