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How To Evaluate and Draft IDP

IDP Drafting Tips

With any type of fantasy football draft format, drafting by the numbers and not drafting your favorite players is the most obvious rule for success. This is particularly the case of Individual Defensive Players (IDP). I will be honest: I am relatively new to IDP; however, for the purpose of writing this article I think that is a good thing. I came into the research with an entirely open mind and wanting to learn all I could. I did notice consistencies in most articles I read while researching. There are points that I agree with and others that I simply don’t understand. But, I do typically draft differently than others, so maybe that’s why. Either way, I know that what I do works for me as I average making it to the championship games in 3 out of the 4 leagues I play in every year.

In IDP talent evaluation and drafting strategy articles you will see everyone talk about two key points: Scoring system and player positions. Most articles I have read in the past talk about how the scoring makes the largest impact but I am here to tell you that, in my opinion, the most important key to drafting IDP depends on the position, not scoring. I will prove this to you in a breakdown of the two key points and compare different players throughout, but first, a quick story.

I have been a football fan since I was a child; my wife, on the other hand, has never had an interest in the greatest sport on earth. It has been my mission since we started dating to get her into football, and of course fantasy football, but it’s a long slow journey. This week though I was talking with her (not to her, because that implies that she is listening) about Defensive Back IDP talent evaluation and draft strategies and she cut me off halfway through my explanation and simply said, “Oh, so you want to draft opportunity, not actual talent.” At first, I was a little taken aback at the thought that I wouldn’t want the best DBs in the game on my fantasy team, but then I considered what she was actually saying and I realized that this is the premise of my entire article. Out of the mouths of babes and such.

Now, I’m not saying to punt on your IDP entirely. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that you have to get your guys, but is it really worth it to get J.J. Watt at the price he will undoubtedly be selling for when he is drafting by some Houston fanboy in the first round? No, he isn’t, and neither is Luke Kuechly, as much as I want them both on my team. The key to my player positional drafting strategy is to know which defensive players have viable depth but can be drafted in a later round, and which you have to snatch up as soon as the occasion arises.

Now I obviously don’t recommend reaching for players, but unfortunately, for the big uglies (DL/DE) sometimes you have to reach. Top tier depth cuts off quickly, and unless you get one of the top guys then you will be struggling at that position for the entire year or career in a dynasty league. This is the one position that it is tough to go to the waiver wire to cover yourself for a week or two. Last year, only Khalil Mack and Calais Campbell started all 16 games and averaged 10+ points per game (ppg). Only 3 others, Joey Bosa, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Sheldon Richardson, averaged more than 10 ppg, but they all started less than 14 games in the season.

The next step is your DBs, who I like to think of as your RBs. They are pretty deep; but at some point, if you wait too long, you will be trying to convince yourself that you can still get to the championship with Matt Asiata instead of LeSean McCoy who you passed on with your ridiculous Zero-RB strategy. DB are interesting because the superstars aren’t always the ones you want to get, and your CBs typically score fewer points than the S position. If your league rules allow you to play an S at the DB position and doesn’t force you to play both S and CB then you are going to be in good shape. Recently we here at Gridiron Experts started a Dynasty league. After the draft I was looking at who was still available and I saw that one of my favorite CBs around, Patrick Peterson, was still available and I instantly got excited because I love that guy! But then I looked at numbers. Peterson averaged only 6.2 ppg last year, while Bashaud Breeland averaged 11.3 ppg. Last year there were 7 DBs who started 16 games and averaged 10+ ppg or better and there were 18 who started 10 or more games and averaged 10+ PPG.

The LB position is like TEs and QBs in my mind. They are deep, there are a lot of variances that you can get depending on your scoring systems, and they will consistently give you points. In tackle-friendly formats, the LBs can be your consistent baselines that will give you 10+ points every game, and in Big-Play formats you can always target pass-rushing LBs who will still grant heavy tackles and sacks. I recommend waiting, but at some point, you need to pull the trigger. Don’t wait so long that you end up shooting yourself in the foot. I typically would recommend waiting for the first 15-20 LBs or so go off the board and then picking up a couple of them. In that time you can let everyone else waste their picks on guys like Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, and Jamie Collins, who were 1, 10, and 15 last year, according to FantasyPros. After they go get those guys you can still pick up LBs such as Mason Foster, Karlos Dansby, or Melvin Ingram, who all averaged 10+ points and played all 16 games. In fact, there are 25 LBs who started all 16 games and averaged over 10 points per game.

IDP Scoring

Here is where I differ in my opinion from that of other websites and articles which rate scoring as the most important variable in IDP drafting.  I think the scoring system should be a secondary concern after considering the depth and available opportunities in each position as detailed above. However, you have to score points to win the league; so the question is, how does the scoring system play into all this?  Let’s look at the two core scoring systems that people utilize: Big-Play Scoring and Tackle-Friendly scoring. To explain the differences we will look at Von Miller, Calais Campbell, Sean Lee, and Malcolm Butler.

2016 Stats Solo Tackle Assisted Tackle Sacks Fumble Recoveries INT
Von Miller 62 16 13.5 0 0
Calais Campbell 34 19 8 3 1
Sean Lee 93 52 0 1 0
Malcolm Butler 48 15 1 2 4

Big-Play scoring focuses more on game changing plays like sacks, fumble recoveries, and interceptions. An example of this scoring format would be as follows:

  • Tackles – 1 point
  • Assisted Tackles – 0.5 points
  • Sacks – 6 points
  • Fumble Recoveries – 4 points
  • Interceptions – 4 points

In this style of scoring, players like Von Miller are terrific to have on your team largely because he racked up 13.5 sacks. He would have finished with a total score of 151, versus Campbell’s score of 107.5, Lee’s score of 123, and Butler’s score of only 85.5.

In Tackle-Friendly scoring formats, the focus is mostly on, of course, tackles. This is the type that I prefer, but that’s because my favorite position in football is the LB, and these guys love to tackle people. An example of this scoring format would be:

  • Tackles – 2 points
  • Assisted Tackles- 1 point
  • Sacks – 3 points
  • Fumble Recoveries – 2 points
  • Interceptions – 3 points

In this format, Sean Lee leads the pack with his 93 solo tackles and 52 assisted tackles. He would finish here with 240 point total. Trailing him would be Von Miller, who is a superstar in any format, with 180.5, Malcolm Butler with 130 and Calais Campbell with only 120 points.

Because of these differences in scoring most people recommend understanding your scoring system first and foremost, and while that isn’t particularly wrong, I think that the best place to start is to look at the opportunity of the players. Target your DL/DE early, then snag a stud S for your DB position, preferably a historically high tackling S. Finally, after most people have taken their first and possibly second LB make your move and in the meantime stock up on other key players by adding depth with WRs and RBs, or possibly snagging a QB who you really believe in, like Jameis Winston.

Bottom line: Get your big uglies first; the rest of your IDPs can wait until later in the draft.

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About the author

David Machado

David Machado

David is a University of California, Berkeley graduate with degrees in Communications, Psychology, and the Middle East. In order to put those degrees to good use, he now is writing about fantasy football. He's constantly willing to get in a debate about literally anything, especially football and the superiority of the Cal Bears. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife who is also an avid sports fan, just of the other football. She's teaching him to be a San Jose Earthquakes fan and he's teaching her to be a fan of the Patriots and Jaguars. Along with football and soccer they both also enjoy backpacking, mountain biking, and general outdoor mayhem. David has lived and travelled all over the world and would love to convince you to do the same. Hit him up on Twitter, Facebook, & Instagram. Go Pats, Go Jags, Go Quakes, and Roll On You Bears

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