By: David Connors @DConBlitz
Like many Fantasy Football enthusiasts, I enjoy leagues with unique rules and customized scoring. One of the league types that is often played, especially in Dynasty Formats that are Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Leagues. In these leagues, fantasy players will select players on the defensive side of the ball. .Most leagues require teams to field at least one defensive lineman (DL), a Linebacker (LB), a Defensive Back (DB), and a flex defensive player (DP). Scoring in these leagues vary, fortunately, the advice in this piece will be mostly universal across scoring formats. In over a decade of playing in multiple IDP variations, I have found very little advice for playing in this format. Therefore, I wanted to share what I have learned over the years. Whether one is new to IDP, or a seasoned veteran to it, this article will have helpful tips. I will also close the article with the player I am targeting and why.
Wait for Them
Even if Defensive players are flying off the board you can wait for them. Normally when fantasy experts give the advice to wait on a position, they are simply saying wait for a specific tier. However, when it comes to IDP, you can find good players even at the end of the draft. Unless your league is requiring teams to start more than 10 players on defense, there are plenty of good defensive players. I know Darius Leonard is tempting, but allow your league mates to have him and continue to build up your WR/RB depth and you will be able to find comparable players much later.
Except for Defensive Lineman
If your league requires you to play Defensive Lineman then, you need to be aware of who is on the board. There are fewer players who rack up meaningful snaps in this position than the others. It's important to be aware of players who are disruptors and the players who rack up the stats. A great example of this comes from the Dallas Cowboys Defensive line in 2019. De\Marcus Lawrence is known as one of the best defensive linemen in the league and the Cowboys rewarded him with a healthy contract before the start of the season in 2019. Even though Lawrence was an impactful player for the Cowboys defense, his stats did not reflect it. With only 45 tackles (30 solo), 10 TFL, and 5 sacks, he was not an impactful fantasy asset. On the other hand, his teammate Robert Quinn benefitted from Lawrence/s disruption. He was given more one-on-one opportunities and racked 11.5 sacks and 13 TFL in 2 fewer games. Defensive lineman can still be waited on, but drafters need to be aware of whose on the board. If you are in a league that requires you to play an interior defensive lineman, there are few of those players that will put up meaningful stats for your fantasy team. Granted there are more this season than I remember, this is a rare spot you can snag a positional advantage from an IDP. With that being said, you do not have to be the player that grabs Aaron Darnold early. However, if you can get a top tier interior player like Fletcher Cox, Chris Jones, Forest Buckner, of Cameron Heyward, you give yourself an advantage over teams that do not have one of those players.
A lot of redrafts do not require teams to field-specific positions, but rather have teams play 2 or 3 IDP flex and remove team defenses. In these leagues, focus on off the field Linebackers and box safeties. They are the players that will rack up the defensive points. I know the sacks and interceptions are sexier stats, but tackles are consistent and will give you more opportunity to boom while not busting. For the average league, sacks get 2-4 points. Only 15 players in 2019 were able to achieve double-digit sacks and even at the high end, the advantage is limited. Shaquil Barrett led the league with 19.5 sacks in 2019 which only translates to 78 points if your league is on the high end (4 points) of points per sack. 44 different players had 100 or more tackles last season. Tackles are generally worth 1 point, which means 44 players are far more valuable fantasy assets then the league's best sacker in 2019. Furthermore, 43 of 44 of those players were either off the ball Linebackers or box Safeties. Populate your flex spots with these positions while your teammates jump early on the sexier picks like Khalil Mack.
The DB Position
Always avoid Cornerbacks, especially in dynasty formats. The good ones do not get thrown at, therefore do not rack up stats, and the bad ones that do get tackles are allowing catches and will not be starting for long. There are plenty of good box safeties out there to populate this position. If you are in the few leagues that require you to field CBs specifically, look for players who play opposite elite corners. I have had a lot of success with Eli Apple for the Saints. Teams would avoid Marcus Lattimore and target the other side of the field. Also if your league has corners who have transitioned to safety but still carry that CB tag allowing them to still be used is a fantasy cheat code. Logan Ryan is the one player who “technically” is not a safety or a linebacker to eclipse 100 tackles.
IDP leagues are a great way to make a league more interesting. The most important takeaways from this article are this:
Wait on IDP in your draft, there are plenty of good ones.
Focus on Tackles above all else. If you have a player that is a guarantee 5 tackles a game, Your defensive players will never lose you a week.
As promised, here are a few players I am targeting late in my drafts.
He is a consistent player who in the past five years, he has gotten at least 45 tackles and 15 tackles for a loss each season. He has also gotten at least 15 sacks in 4 of the past 5 seasons. Saints have a good offense that plays most of their games with a lead which allows Jordan to pass rush most of the game.
Robert Quinn can be a liability if an offense can focus on him, however if he is playing opposite of a stud (like Khalil Mack) and can get 1-on-1 looks, he can feast like he did last season with Dallas. Quinn will have an opportunity to produce.
Clark will have plenty of opportunities to get fantasy-relevant sacks. His team has the best QB, the best offense, and one of the best interior players next to him. I am absolutely flabbergasted that he is basically free.
Blake Martinez has been a good fantasy asset with the Packers because the Packers basically only use one LB on the field. Now they have an LB who can actually cover too. Kirksey should be on the field 100% of the time for the Packers defense.
The Jaguars are the Vegas favorite to pick first in the 2021 draft. Teams will be able to get an early lead against Jacksonville and run the ball often. It helps they are in a division with 2 of the run heaviest teams in the league (Titans and Colts). Schobert will rack up tackles in 2020.
- Jordan Hicks
Jordan Hicks had 150 tackles for Arizona last season. I know they drafted Isiaih Simmons, but Hicks will still rack up tackles. He is a safe player that will have a few games where he rips double-digit tackles and a couple of TFLs and win you a week.
Taylor had 100 tackles as a rookie. The team allowed the team’s best tackler, Corey Littleton, to leave in Free Agency. Rapp has excellent play recognition and is near the football on almost every play.
Year after year Harrison Smith is an IDP stud who never seems to move up draft boards. Not only is a safe bet for 80+ tackles, but he will rack up TFL, sacks, and picks. He has been a staple on my IDP teams since his rookie season.
As mentioned before Logan Ryan is the only player to eclipse 100 tackles that is not a safety or linebacker. If your league requires a CB specifically, Logan Ryan is a cheat code, and he is a solid DB as well. Pay attention to Jaylin Mills as well. The Eagles are moving Mills to Safety, but if you are in a league that makes you play a CB and Mill still has a CB designation, he could be an asset.