For a long time, fantasy football was all about offense. Running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks and tight ends (and kickers too, I guess) were the bread and butter of most fantasy leagues. We concerned ourselves on a weekly basis about yards, receptions, touchdowns and not much else. And if your defense/special teams unit happened to record a sack here and a fumble recovery there, even better. You may even have been surprised by a special team’s touchdown on those rare occasions.
But many fantasy football owners have brought scoring to the other side of the ball…the true enthusiasts. By drafting Individual Defensive Players (IDP), you can expand and enhance your league as well as your fantasy football experience. IDP adds another dimension of excitement and strategy to drafts, auctions and free agency. IDP allows you to have good players from bad teams and still score points. And while it does require you to pay attention to which players on a defense are important to their teams’ success, the additional challenge and intensity makes it worthwhile.
IDP includes linebackers (LB), defensive backs (DB) and defensive linemen (DL). They are awarded points primarily through tackles, sacks and interceptions. Often, leagues will award points for assisted tackles, defended passes, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries as well. The ultimate goal for die-hard IDP leagues is to balance scoring on both sides of the ball, thus having similar scoring and a nearly equal number of offensive and defensives players on your roster.
However, this is not for the newbie or the faint of heart. You don’t want to dive head first into the deep end, without dipping a toe in the water first. Initially, it’s best to start simple, drafting just one or two players from the three key defensive positions. Starting with one each is best for a league of IDP rookies. By drafting just three IDP (one linebacker, one defensive back and one defensive lineman), overall scoring will not be significantly affected.
As a side note, when starting small like this, defensive linemen don’t have to be specific to defensive end or defensive tackle; it can be any defensive lineman. The same is true for defensive backs; it doesn’t matter if they’re cornerbacks or safeties.
Easing your way in like this allows you to get a taste of what it’s like to incorporate defensive players into your scoring system, but in a manner that will not disrupt your league and overwhelm novice IDP owners. As the understanding and appreciation of using IDP grows (and it will) you can expand their involvement from year-to-year.
Suggested scoring for a league new to IDP should also be very simple: one point per tackle, two points per sack or interception, and one point per forced fumble or fumble recovery. Again, this allows you to incorporate IDP into your league without having them greatly influence scoring, at least initially. However, in a more typical IDP league, the scoring is more likely to look something like this:
1 point per solo tackle
0.5 point per assisted tackle
2 points per forced fumble
2 points per fumble recovery
4 points per interception
4 points per sack
4 points per safety
6 points per touchdown
Scoring can, and will, vary from league to league, so make sure you know your scoring system well before drafting (particularly if return yardage applies). If that’s the case, pay more attention to the defensive backs that also serve in a kick return capacity. Follow the news out of training camp to see to whom the return duties will fall.
A common question that frequently arises about IDP is not only who to draft, but when. First and foremost, do not drastically alter your drafting strategy. As your league starts to expand and incorporate more IDP into the lineup, there are a number of things to consider when assembling your team. In some scoring formats, IDP can easily outscore many of the offensive players on which you’ve come to rely. This can lead to an IDP novice making mistakes.
If someone drafts Patrick Willis in the third round, don’t panic. Don’t start overlooking quality offensive players because someone jumped the gun on an IDP. Here is something to consider: in typical scoring systems, the anticipated difference between the No. 1 defensive back/linebacker and the No. 10 defensive back/linebacker is approximately 30 total points for the entire season. However, the expected number of points separating the No. 1 and No. 10 wide receiver is more than 50 points. And the projected difference between the No. 1 running back and the No. 10 running back is nearly 80 points. And the disparity is even greater from 11-50, which emphasizes the value of offensive players even more. So while others reach for the upper echelon IDP, continue looking for productive offensive players.
Another thing to understand that will influence your draft strategy is supply and demand. Any given week in the NFL, there are more than 100 linebackers on the field, while in comparison there are only 32 starting running backs. What this tells you is that you can wait until you’ve taken your starting running backs, a receiver or two, and probably a starting quarterback before considering IDP. Obviously, you must heed the flow of your draft, but don’t get sucked into a ‘run’ on a particular position. That simply means there’s more value elsewhere.
Now that we’ve touched on when to draft an IDP, now let’s focus a little on who to draft. An important factor to consider is the team on which he plays. Typically, you want your offensive fantasy players to play on above average offenses, but the opposite applies to IDP. You’re not looking for the best defense, but rather a poorly performing offense. Target players from a lackluster offense and a strong defense. But be careful though, because if the defense is too good, you could see your player on the field for a quick three-and-out and then march off to the bench.