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Read & React Defense
Part 2

If you’re going to be successful in your Individual Defensive Player (“IDP”) leagues this year, and every year, you need to develop a full understanding of how IDP should impact your draft strategy and team management, based on your particular league rules. There is a wide variety of IDP league setups out there, so what works for one league could be counter-productive in another league.

Read and React refers to reading your league rules carefully with regards to IDP, and reacting accordingly. Part 1 of this series dealt with the biggest factor in assessing how important the IDP component in your league is, the number of IDP starters in your weekly lineup. This time we look at scoring systems.

Scoring Systems
I compete in two dynasty leagues that use IDP, each with significant depth. One has 14 teams and starts 11 IDP, and the other has 16 teams and starts 11 IDP. Something I did recently was go back to the rules pages to refresh my memory on unique aspects of each league. I paid particularly close attention to the IDP scoring systems, and here is what I found:

IDP Scoring Systems
Stat Category League A League B
Tackle 1 0.5
Assist 0.5 1 point for 2 or more
Sack 2 per half sack 2 per half sack
Pass defensed 1 0
INT return 5 5
Forced fumble 3 2
Fumble recovery 2 4
Blocked kick 3 1
Safety 2 5
Fantasy points awarded are per achieving 1 stat unit unless otherwise stated.

It doesn’t look much different at first glance, but the difference is very significant. In League A, sacks are scored on a 4:1 ratio to tackles, with assists worth half a tackle. 4:1 is considered high for some leagues. In the Red Eye Masters league in 2003, which is not included above, tackles are worth 1.5 points, assists 0.75 points and sacks are 3.5 points each. This is only a 2.3:1 ratio sacks to tackles. So, let’s look at what is going on with League B.

In League B, sacks are scored a whopping 8:1(!) ratio to tackles, and assists are worth less than League A because they are capped at 1 point for reaching 2 assists. Although the points for sacks are the same between League A and B (2 points per half sack), the key is the tackle scoring which is half as much in League B.

In League B, LB who are used to sack the QB like Terrell Suggs and Chad Brown get a bump in the rankings over the stay at home run-stuffers who don’t record sacks. Also, the DE position gets a real jolt in value, and it is all the more crucial to focus on and acquire the reliable sack masters.

So, as you can see, this is only one example of how what looks to be a small difference in the scoring system can really change your focus drafting IDP. Know which IDP positions are the most important based on your league’s scoring system, and make sure to properly adapt to each different league you are in. The best way to do this is to run the prior year numbers and review them thoroughly (check our sortable stats database using the My FF Today feature). Here are some general guidelines for IDP scoring and the impact it has:

In most IDP scoring systems, LB is the most important position, and this has everything to do with tackle scoring. LBs record the most tackles of defensive players, and tackles are also the most predictable stat for defense. The more significance your scoring puts on tackles relative to other scoring, the more important it is for you to build a productive and deep LB corps.

Safeties, particularly strong safeties on teams that differentiate between strong and free safeties, can record a fair number of tackles as well. This occurs the more the safety is able to move up towards the line of scrimmage in run support. Also on teams with a particularly poor front-7 against the run, the safety will record a greater number of tackles given he is the last line of defense. Greg Wesley (KC), Ifeanyi Ohalete (WAS) and Jay Bellamy (NO) all benefited in the tackle department in 2003 playing on poor run defenses.

The DL does not record as many tackles relative to other positions. Some DL are good playing the run, while others are not skilled enough at it, or too light to hold up against opposing offensive linemen and play the run very well. They will fall into a pass rushing role or a DL rotation. Put more importance on drafting every down linemen if your scoring emphasizes tackles.

Plus, since tackles are more predictable than sacks, there is a lot less risk in taking a DL who balances their scoring between a good contribution of tackle and sack stats, rather than a DL who gets the vast majority of their points through sack scoring. It is not that uncommon to see a 10+ sack player one year fall off the wagon and struggle in the sack department the following season.

Sacks are generally the second most important stat category for IDP. They are less predictable than tackles, but occur with enough frequency and have a greater degree of predictability than turnovers and defensive scoring, which are absolutely abysmal to count on. Sack scoring builds up the value of the DL, in particular DE. There are also a number of LB who play a pass rushing role and rack up significant sacks. OLB in a 3-4 defensive formation typically play a large pass rushing role, but LB in the more common 4-3 can also fall in this category if they have the requisite speed, instincts and opportunity (i.e. get the green light from the coach).

The nice thing about sacks is they get more predictable as the season progresses. Once we see for a few weeks how the offensive lines are gelling – or more importantly, not gelling together - and which QB are doing their best “deer in the headlights” imitation, we can see which players have an excellent opportunity to score big on the sack scale in a particular game. It really makes the weekly start/bench decisions, plus in-season waiver wire moves, an important element for IDP success.

Turnovers and Scoring
Usually the highest point scoring categories for IDP, and rightfully so, comes from turnovers and scoring. As mentioned above though, these are horrible to try to predict. A player scoring a lot of INT one season tends to not have a whole lot of correlation to the next season. DB, mainly CB, will score the most INT since they have the biggest pass defense role, but the unpredictability and infrequency of the INT still renders the DB not very valuable or make them worth drafting very high at all, unless they can contribute in tackles as well.

As for fumbles, these are often split into 2 parts; one for the force and second for the recovery. The better DE pass rushers will tend to be better at forcing fumbles as they get in the backfield and cause some havoc. The recovery part can pretty much go to anyone who happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Scoring is much the same. You can get big points for it, especially if a player records both the turnover and TD in a single play by themselves, but looking at IDP from a big picture fantasy perspective, these plays are essentially flukes. For my IDP projections, I don’t project any TD for any player no matter who they are. It is just too risky and causes too great an impact on the rankings for the likelihood of it happening.

Passes Defensed
Passes defensed is a scoring category that is not as common to use as tackles, sacks, turnovers and scoring, but still a fair number of leagues do use it. It is a good one to include in your IDP scoring, because it adds a little extra scoring to the DB position, which have a tough enough time as it is to give their position value compared to LB and DL.

However, even if scoring for passes defensed is the same as tackles at 1 point per, as it is in the League A example above, it is only going to result in about 8-14 extra points for CB over the course of a season compared to LB (as they score a handful of PD themselves), which is still not even a point per game. Therefore don’t give it too much weight.

I realize stating “know you scoring system” is not a revolutionary concept for fantasy football, but it cannot be reinforced enough. This applies especially for IDP because it has many more role players who will excel in one stat category, but score below average in another, which greatly influences their value. Overall, know and adapt to your IDP scoring system. Understand which IDP positions are the most valuable to you in terms of scoring.

Next time, we close out our Read and React Defense series with Part 3, discussing optional starting lineup formations, the effects of leagues defining different IDP positions and waiver wire flexibility.