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Confessions of an Individual Defensive Player Rookie
Contributed by: Rick Hawes, a.k.a. Fantasy Nostradamus
Commentary by: Kirk "Dr.Football" Bouyelas
Courtesy of Fantasy Asylum
6/6/03

I am a fantasy football junkie. I have participated in Fantasy Football since 1989, and simply cannot fathom an NFL season without it. With that said, I have just recently discovered the challenge that is IDP. Trust me on this one fellow fantasy football enthusiast's, If you are participating in a league without IDPs, quit resisting change and get with the program. It's past time to incorporate IDP (Individual Defensive Players), into your personal leagues.

IDPs increase the realism of our chosen hobby and make it complete. If you like to crunch statistics, then you get 50% more stats to crunch. If you are the type of football fan who enjoys the bone jarring hit, then the bone jarring hit provides your fantasy football squad with additional points. It makes watching the NFL games more enjoyable, because you become enamored with viewing the contest closely on both sides of the ball. It is a win/win situation for all fantasy football enthusiasts.

Although I have participated in fantasy football for 14 seasons, this is my first year of incorporating IDPs into my fantasy football experience. I have participated in several IDP type drafts during this off-season. They have all been a lot more intense than a standard offensive player (team defense) only draft. I have thoroughly enjoyed the nuances that come with rating and incorporating defensive players into my overall fantasy football strategies.

My personal "Homeboy" league has resisted implementation of IDPs for a couple of seasons now. I feel we have really missed the boat. One reason for us being so hard headed, is the statistical upkeep. We felt it would be too much to handle. Now with IDPs becoming more popular the statistics are easy to find and many league commissioning software's can do the tabulating for you.

Statistical buckets utilized in IDP fantasy football vary from league to league, but here are some of the common ones:

- Tackles (Both Solo & Assists)
- Interceptions
- Sacks
- Forced Fumbles
- Fumble Recoveries
- TDs
- Safeties

Points for each of these buckets vary from league to league, but in most scenarios you want to think tackles. Tackles remain fairly consistent while interceptions & forced fumbles can vary widely from season to season. Thus, part of the strategy and appeal of IDP fantasy football.

For example, Derrick Brooks had 4 scores last season on defense. What are his chances of duplicating said feat in 2003? Was it an anomaly, or is Derrick Brooks a player whom is around the football & makes things happen? This is only part of the overall picture you will need to analyze when ranking Mr. Brooks in 2003. Sounds like fun stuff - yes?

Before I start the next section of this article, please let me provide you with a disclaimer. I am only trying to provide you with a thumbnail sketch of IDP strategy. IF you decide to become involved in or convert to an IDP scenario, then you will need to structure your strategies to mirror your individual league scoring rules. Here are what I have found to be the basics. The commentary is supplied by Dr.Football - an experienced IDPer with several years of playing fantasy football in that format.

Linebackers
Middle Linebackers (MLB) are GOLD in IDP fantasy football. Linebackers are the defensive equivalent to running backs. They are stationed in the perfect location on the football field to produce a lot of tackles. Think Brian Urlacher & Keith Brooking in this scenario. These two players are tackling machines that rack up a lot of points. In a 3-4 alignment, players like Ray Lewis & Jamie Sharper are also very attractive. Next in the pecking order are weak side linebacker (WLB), followed by strong side linebackers. (SSLB) A strong side LB has an extra blocker (TE) to contend with which tends to make them the least attractive option in most cases.

Doc's Commentary ~ In a standard league, the running back is the dominant position for most owners. Without exaggeration, 80% of the players taken in the first two rounds of any draft are running backs. The reasons are obvious to most. Ever heard of the "Stud RB Theory"? Well, once you enter the realm of IDP, it doesn't take long to realize that the middle linebacker is the "RB" of the defense. Rick's 100% correct on this point.

Of the Top 15 IDP Linebackers last year, 10 were MLBs (middle), 4 were WLBs (weak side) and 1 was a SLB (strong side). Of the non-middle linebackers who made the cut, only 1 had more than 100 solo tackles (Keith Bulluck). The others (Derrick Brooks, Lavar Arrington, Joey Porter and Eric Barton), were propelled into the Top 15 ranking because of their sack and/or TD totals. Arrington led the group with 11 sacks and Brooks led the group with 4 TDs.

Note: IDP Scoring used for this analysis was a high performance model from the REM Expert League.

Defensive Backs
Strong safeties (SS) should be your targets when building your defensive secondary. Safeties tend to have higher tackle numbers than CBs. Think tackles! Like I said previously, interceptions vary dramatically from season to season. In addition, cornerbacks (CB) are normally locked up on wide receivers, while safeties have a lot more freedom to fill the box during running downs resulting in higher tackle numbers.

Avoid shutdown cornerback types. There is a rookie cornerback theory, which suggests they will be tested frequently & put up solid numbers early in their careers. However, if they prove themselves to be a true shutdown corner, then all bets are off. If the NFL quarterbacks and offensive coordinators are avoiding them, then so should you.

Doc's Commentary ~ The statistical numbers for defensive backs will change dramatically, depending on the scoring system of your league. One scoring category that Rick did not mention is "passes defensed". If your league uses this category, several cornerbacks will jump into your Top 15 ranked defensive backs. Last year, CB Brian Kelly and CB Dre' Bly both fell into this category with 21 passes defensed each.

While Rick's take on strong safeties is accurate, don't be too quick to overlook the free safety position. While they won't give you as many tackles, they will give you more interceptions, because of the nature of the position. For several free safeties, that will be enough to place them in the Top 15 DBs. Again, you'll have to look at your league's scoring system.

Defensive Lineman
When considering defensive lineman (DL), think tackles & sacks. Even though sacks are a very important consideration with defensive lineman, there are some DLs who only enter the game on passing downs. Therefore they do not tend to help your tackle output. Target every down DLs when you have the option to do so. Sack numbers are usually generated from the defensive end (DE) position or the edge. While there are some defensive tackles (DT) that will provide statistical output in the sack category, they are few & far between. Look for defensive ends with consistent tackle/sack totals for your defensive line. With that said, do not totally ignore the interior lineman, as there are a handful that put up decent tackling statistics. If you feel the sack guys are running thin during your draft, then by all means take a look at some defensive tackles with high tackle numbers & sack possibilities.

Doc's Commentary ~ Big names - forget em. Warren Sapp, LaRoi Glover, "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson… forget em already. They will not produce fantasy numbers for your team. For fantasy results, think speed and play making ability. The big boys in the middle of a 4-3 defense, are there to clog things up and push the play to the outside. In IDP fantasy football, you'll need a fast defensive end. Think - Jason Taylor or Simeon Rice. That's where you'll find the real big boys!

Now to throw you really off… Can the top ranked DL score as many points as the top LB or DB? The answer will surprise you, but yes they can come very close! Again, depending on your scoring system, a Top 3 defensive lineman can score almost as many points as a Top 3 linebacker or defensive back. The big difference is this - there is a larger drop off in talent level for the DL category than the others. Once you get past the first 6 or 7 defensive linemen, it's over. Forget em and move on to filling out your LBs and DBs.

Note: IDP Scoring used for this analysis was a high performance model from the REM Expert League.

In closing, the main reason I wrote this article was NOT to throw the kitchen sink at you in an effort to make you an IDP expert. I feel I have outlined some very basic stuff here to whet your appetite. There are many additional factors that require consideration when rating defensive players. There are also many different scoring systems to consider. Any prospective league pondering the addition of IDPs will have to ascertain how deep they are willing to jump.

Speaking from a minimum of experience, I would incorporate at least 1 DL, 1 LB, & 1 DB into your league for the upcoming season. I think with this minimal approach it will give you some insight on how much extra challenge IDPs pose when implementing them into your draft strategy. I am attempting to get fantasy football enthusiasts whom have been sitting on the IDP fence to crossover. IF you consider yourself a hardcore fantasy football junkie, then you absolutely need to incorporate them into your fantasy football experience. IF you don't, then in my mind you simply aren't a hardcore fantasy football junkie. Just one viewpoint, please don't shoot the messenger.

Doc's Commentary ~ I would certainly suggest that you jump in with both feet. Most IDP leagues start 2 DL, 3 LBs and 3 DBs. If you go with the minimum numbers, the talent pool will be too deep and strategy will not play as pivotal a role. With a standard 12 team league, there will be plenty enough full time starters to meet the requirements of starting start 2 DL, 3 LBs and 3 DBs. Consider that in the NFL right now, there are 128 starting DL, 96 starting LBs and 128 starting DBs. More than enough to go around.

:: comments to kirk bouyelas



Rick Hawes is a staff writer for FantasyAsylum.com and has fourteen years of fantasy football experience. Kirk "Dr.Football" Bouyelas is the co-owner of FantasyAsylum.com. Kirk originally founded Dr.Football. This off-season, FantasyAsylum.com merged with Komments.com, DrFootball.com and David Grey's Fantasy Football Report, to form the new and improved: FantasyAsylum.com.


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