You’re trying your hand at a league with Individual Defensive
Players (“IDP”) this year, are you? Excellent. You have
passed the threshold into true fantasy football geekdom. This isn’t
your garden-variety FF league where you can peruse the ESPN headlines
and get the job done. Time to sink or swim, baby. With rosters upwards
of 53 players, there are many more things to consider building and
managing your team, so every decision is tougher. These are leagues
where doing your homework isn’t an option... if you want to
What is your first step to help you get acclimated to IDP leagues?
Read and React. There is such a wide range of league structures
these days that you really need to understand the value of the IDP
component in your particular league to be successful. To do this,
you need to Read your league rules carefully with regards
to IDP, and React accordingly. The main points to take
notice of and understand in your league rules are the following:
1. Number of IDP Starters
2. Scoring System
3. Lineup Options
4. Defined IDP Positions
5. Waiver Wire Flexibility
Understanding the proper impact of each of these things will be
crucial for draft strategy and in-season management so you are not
placing too much, or too little, importance on IDP relative to the
offensive side of the ball.
of IDP Starters
Except in some unique cases, by far the biggest determining factor
in assessing the value of IDP to your league overall is the number
of defensive players you trot out into your starting lineup each
week. This is where IDP leagues differ greatly from one to the next.
Some leagues start as little as 3-4 defensive players each week
per team. I believe this is the Yahoo format, or as I like to call
it, “token” IDP league. In these leagues, IDPs have
very little value. They tend to rank somewhere between TE and K
in terms of importance.
If I want to be a little tongue in cheek about it, there is only
one defensive stud in fantasy football, Ray Lewis (BAL). Writing
this a year ago, Brian Urlacher (CHI) and Roy Williams (DAL) would
have gotten the nod for stud consideration as well, but a quick
look at the stats from 2003 and we know how that turned out.
After Lewis and a small handful of others at each position, a lot
of these guys are very similar to one another in terms of point
production. With such a small number of IDP starters per team, there
are lots to choose from while remaining competitive. Therefore,
why draft IDP early? Build up your offense and then fill your IDP
draft slots later.
Moving beyond 3-4 starters, a lot of leagues use somewhere in the
neighborhood of 6-8 IDP starters. Now we’re finding a greater
difference between the top guys and the bottom guys. The top end
players increase in value, and the middle ranked guys are looking
more attractive to fill up those roster spots. Some pretty straight
forward value-based drafting concepts here.
Instead of kickers, a good comparison would be the WR position from
about the 3rd or 4th tier down. Still lots to choose from, but definitely
some preferences as different groups of guys start to shine through.
And then there are the hard core leagues, starting 11 (or more?)
IDP every week. Unless you’re starting guys along the OL,
your IDP roster probably just shot past the offensive side. These
leagues are typically reserved for dynasty format, because a 40
or so round annual draft gives even the biggest football junkies
among us a shiver up our spine. If there is beer at the draft, forget
about getting this done!
Let me make sure I’m clear here in saying that in most scoring
systems, even in these leagues, offense is still the most critical
part of your team! The IDP studs remain studs, but they still
shouldn’t find themselves into the top 2 (even 3-4) rounds
of a re-draft or first year keeper/dynasty draft. You will benefit
much more by still concentrating on building the offense and waiting
on IDP, even if you have to sacrifice losing a few of the studs.
In reality, a top defensive player in these leagues seems to be
worth about a mid to late 1st round pick in a rookie only dynasty
draft. That would equate to anywhere from a round 4-5 pick, to much
later, in a combined veteran/rookie draft. Taking a rookie IDP 1st
round in a deep dynasty league isn’t necessarily unwise either,
if reserved for only the very best “can’t miss”
prospects. It will depend on the available talent. The 2004 rookie
class is very deep with offensive talent, so Sean Taylor is still,
justifiably, falling to the 12th-20th rookie pick off the board
in a deep IDP, rookie only dynasty league draft.
Pool: The defining concept in all of this is that there are
a lot more quality IDP players to choose from than offensive players.
Obviously there is less choice the more starters you and your league
mates need, but the IDP talent pool comes from drafting among 11
starters (DL, LB and DB), plus specialists, on the defensive side
of the ball from each of 32 NFL teams. On offense, we are typically
drafting from a group of only 5-6 players (QB, RB, WR and TE) from
each of 32 NFL teams. Below are some numbers to sketch this out.
| Talent Pool Analysis
(1) NFL starters and players who are potentially acceptable fantasy
producers, even if they don’t technically start.
(2) Estimate based on 1 primary starter plus extra RB for teams
employing running back by committee approach.
(3) Estimate based on 2 starters per team plus extra for teams
with productive 3rd WR.
(4) 4 DL starters * 27 teams + 3 DL starters * 5 teams using 3-4
alignment primarily (PIT, HOU, BAL, NE, SD).
(5) 3 LB starters * 27 teams + 4 LB starters * 5 teams using 3-4.
(6) 4 DB starters * 32 teams. Does not include nickel and dime
(7) Fantasy starters plus backups on roster in league starting
1 QB, 1-2 RB, 3-4 WR, 1 TE, 2-3 DL, 3-4 LB, 2-3 DB.
Kind of reinforces the value of getting quality RB and WR early,
doesn’t it? As you can see, there are tons of IDP players
to choose from. Obviously not all will be of much use, like one
or both DT on an NFL team, and the CB position is generally pretty
weak. Overall though, the IDP cupboard is reasonably stocked well
after the offensive side has gone bare. Even if we changed to
an 11 starter IDP league (assume the roster would hold 5 DL, 6
LB and 6 DB), it would be a similar story, just to a lesser degree.
This analysis does not take into account quality backups who are
expected to start some day, but believe me they are just as or
more plentiful for IDP than offense.
One final point I should mention, and one that can confuse some
people, even myself at times, is the belief that if the overall
scoring system is more heavily weighted to IDP than normal, then
IDP must be more valuable than offense and worth drafting earlier.
That is not entirely true. Since all players at the same position
score on the same basis (x for tackles, y for sacks, etc.), even
with an enhanced IDP scoring system the difference between having
the 6th ranked LB and the 20th ranked LB is not worth sacrificing
the 6th ranked WR for the 20th ranked WR. The key is not how many
points a position scores, but what the difference is across each
The number of IDP starters your league uses is a much bigger influence
on how valuable IDP is thanks to the deep talent pool the NFL
provides for us to choose from. So overall, whether your league
starts 3 or 11 defensive players, still make sure to focus on
the offense first. Don’t overpay for IDP early in your draft.
This can often happen to people especially when IDP is a new concept
to them, but I’ve seen experienced IDP fantasy players fall
into the same trap as well.
That closes out Part 1 of Read and React Defense. Part
2 continues discussion on other aspects of IDP leagues that
should be considered to properly strategize for the draft and
to get a leg up on the competition. Scoring systems, available
formations, how positions are defined and waiver wire flexibility
all contribute to how valuable IDP is to your league. More…