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IDP TUTORIAL: Lesson 5 – Defensive Backs

So far in the Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Tutorial Series here at Fantasy Sharks, we’ve covered basic concepts such as
knowing your scoring
general draft strategies
. We’ve also examined the positional scarcity that gives
defensive linemen
much of their IDP value, as well as taking a look at why
are the foundation of building a winning IDP roster.

Now, it’s time to discuss the last of the “major” IDP positions, a group of players deeper than Lake Superior and about as reliable as that satellite TV installer that insures you he’ll be there to hook up your Sunday Ticket sometime between 8 a.m. and never. They’re a delightful bunch, a motley crew who are as likely to make your fantasy squad a joke as they are apt to turn it into a juggernaut.

They are the defensive backs.

So, what is it about defensive backs that make them such a pain in the ass?

That can be summed up in one tidy word. Inconsistency.

Defensive backs are maddeningly inconsistent from year to year, and even from week to week. Part of that is due to the fact that many of them (especially cornerbacks) depend on big plays for a significant part of their production. Part of it is due to the fact that anything that affects the front seven, from scheme switches to personnel changes, can have a big impact on how many tackle opportunities a defensive back sees. Same goes if they change teams. Or their underwear.

Defensive backs are streakier than Christina Aguilera’s hairdo, and it can make it nearly impossible to rank them with any sort of accuracy.

To show just how difficult, let’s take a look at one site’s Top 10 defensive backs entering the 2012 season compared to where they finished the year in
Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring

(NOTE: These aren’t my rankings, and while I may not completely agree with them, they’re certainly reasonable enough to demonstrate my point.)

Player Name



Kam Chancellor, SS, Seattle



Tyvon Branch, SS, Oakland



George Wilson, SS, Buffalo



Charles Tillman
, CB, Chicago



Eric Berry, SS, Kansas City



Roman Harper, SS, New Orleans



Eric Weddle, FS, San Diego



Mark Barron, SS, Tampa Bay



Charles Woodson, SS, Green Bay



Jason McCourty
, CB, Tennessee


As you can see, only three of the Top 10 ranked defensive backs to start the year ended it that way, with one other coming close. Not only is that not an anomaly, but, if anything, that’s a
good year.

You’ll also notice that the strong safety position dominates the top of the defensive back rankings. It used to be that in-the-box, “thumper” type strong safeties were the most desirable IDP options. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. As the NFL continues to evolve into even more of a passing league than it already was, those players are, in many cases, going the way of the dinosaur, as most are a liability in coverage.

Take the players listed above for instance. Roman Harper, who put up three straight Top 15 IDP finishes from 2010-12, was so horrific against the pass a year ago that the New Orleans Saints drafted Kenny Vaccaro in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. George Wilson was actually decent in coverage, but that didn’t stop the Bills from releasing him. He’s now in Tennessee, backing up Bernard Pollard (another thumper who sucks in coverage) with the Titans.

With that said, strong safeties remain the most desirable position from which to select IDPs, for the same reason that linebackers are the top position overall. Speaking in generalities, strong safety is the position in the secondary most likely to generate high tackle numbers. High tackle output equates to consistent fantasy production. Consistent fantasy production equates to winning your league’s championship and being able to call all the other owners “your b*****s” for six months. (I’m shooting for a PG-13 rating here … look Ma! I’m “edgy!”)

And really, isn’t that we all want … to gloat in the most annoying way humanly possible?

That isn’t to say that free safeties don’t have considerable value as well. Of the 11 defensive backs who posted 100 or more tackles in 2012, there were as many free safeties (five) as strong safeties. That can be at least partly attributed to the manner in which defenses are evolving.

The days where the strong safety played in the box while the free safety roamed centerfield are done. Some teams may still do it, but on just as many the terms “strong” and “free” is just a way to differentiate which guy is which. Many NFL teams now want a pair of safeties who are all but identical and interchangeable, capable of holding their own against the run, and in coverage against running backs and tight ends.

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