IDP Fantasy Football Scoring
Individual Defensive Players – Fantasy Scoring Systems
Let’s talk about drafting IDP or individual defensive players in your fantasy football league. There is a trick to drafting IDP players, because the stars of the NFL often aren’t the ones with the best stats lines. The impact of a defensive player on an NFL game isn’t always measured by the stats sheet, at least as they affect fantasy football. A “quarterback pressure” seldom is given points in fantasy football scoring systems, so they are useless for your reasons. There is a system for stacking the odds in your favor when drafting individual defensive players, though.
When drafting in an IDP league, think tackles, tackles and more tackles. Getting the 3-sack game from your defensive end is nice. Getting the big interception or fumble recovery for a touchdown from your DB is even nicer. But these events are rare enough in the NFL (15-20 sacks a year at most, 5-10 turnover per year at most) that you’re going to lose games waiting for those to happens.
Tackles Rule in IDP Scoring
But some defensive players can average 10 tackles per game, and therefore the tackle becomes the way your IDP player consistently scores. That’s why you like running backs, for their conistency. Just remember: the middle linebacker is the halfback of the defense in IDP leagues.
Losing Defenses Rule in IDP Scoring
Two, think defenses on losing teams. This is counter-intuitive, because you’re conditioned to seek out fantasy players on the best offenses who do the most scoring. That’s because they’ll be on the field more and have more scoring opportunities. It’s completely the opposite with IDP defensive players, though.
On defense, a player is usually on the field more when they are losing. They are giving up long drives in the first half to get behind. In the second half, the opposing team is likely to be running the ball a lot, to run time off the clock. If that’s working, then your defense gets tired, stays on the field a lot and has a lot more chances to make tackles. So you want defenses that are on the field a lot – ie defenses that are losing. (The only exception is NFL defenses that give up big play touchdowns a lot, since they’ll be on the sideline a lot.)
So when drafting IDP players, think Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions a lot. Cincinnati Bengals are pretty good bets. The last few years, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers were good. Last year, the Cleveland Browns had good IDP players.
I’ll touch on the lousy defenses theory against later. Right now, let’s get to specifics.
IDP Linebackers – Fantasy Scoring Systems
Play as many linebackers as you can play. Draft as many middle linebackers and inside linebackers as you can. Usually, a lesser known middle linebacker is going to be more valuable than a big name outside linebacker in individual defensive player leagues, because the guys who collect a lot of tackles are a lot more consistent than the guys collecting sacks and interceptions. Middle linebackers (in 4-3 defenses) and inside linebackers (in 3-4 defenses) are going to usually lead their teams in tackles. Grab as many as the league allows and play them. If your league has a defensive wildcard or flex position, drafting linebackers and start them.
Even better, draft linebackers on lousy football teams. Think about this. A defense that gives up a lot of points is going to be on the field for more plays. More plays means more chances for defensive stats. So when projecting linebackers (and safeties), don’t target players on the elite NFL teams. Target players on the worst teams in the NFL.
The last two years, Patrick Willis was the overall best linebacker. The year before that, Demeco Ryans was the best linebacker. All three years, Kirk Morrison was Top 5 to Top 10 linebacker. Those three players have three things in common – they were all on lousy teams where they defense was on the field all year.
Safeties in IDP – Fantasy Scoring Systems
When drafting defensive backs, draft safeties. When you can, draft a strong safety before a free safety. The strong safety is the closest thing to a linebacker in the defensive backfield. Their closer to the line and therefore are involved in more plays. Strong safeties make the most tackles of any defensive backs, so they are more consistent performers.
Don’t take this too far, though. NFL experts will say there’s less of a difference in free safeties and strong safeties than a generation ago. These days, both have to play the pass, while both will drift towards the line of scrimmage these days. Look at the numbers to see if a team’s free safety isn’t the most consistant performer. When in doubt, go strong safety.
Also, draft safeties off the worst teams in the NFL. Once again, teams losing are going to usually have their defense on the field more. More plays means more potential production for defenders.
You’ll notice there are some cornerbacks who jump up and are among the leaders among defensive backs. The problem with cornerbacks, though, is that it’s impossible to predict in preseason who that’s going to be. Two years ago, the Cleveland Browns were in a lot of shootouts, so their cornerbacks had a lot of balls thrown at them and got a lot of tackles – and a few interceptions.
Last year, the Tennessee Titans won their first 10 games, so teams were having to throw on them a lot to catch up. That meant their two starting corners got lots of tackles and interception opportunities. This year, I’m sure some other team’s corners will have these opportunities, but I have no idea who that will be.
The one thing both the Browns and Titans had in common, though, was the fact that both cornerbacks for both teams were available in free agency. So avoid cornerbacks in the draft. If you need a defensive back a few weeks into the season and there’s a team whose corners look like they’re going to get thrown at a lot, draft those corners. Look for team in lots of high-scoring shootouts, or teams that are constantly ahead.
That being said, only pick up free agent cornerbacks in a pinch. Usually, a more consistent option will be the safety.
IDP Defensive Linemen – Fantasy Scoring Systems
This one corresponds more closely to the NFL standards. Pass-rushing defensive ends are the players to collect in IDP leagues that use defensive linemen exclusively. Defensive line players are a lot less consistent than linebackers or even defensive backs, because they make less tackles. Defensive tackles, despite playing on the inside, a lot of the times eat up blocks and let the linebackers make the tackles. Few defensive tackles or nose tackles are worth drafting in an IDP league.
Defensive ends, on the other hand, will have sacks and forced fumbles to give them big weeks. If you have a star defensive end who doesn’t perform for a couple of weeks, have patience. Defensive ends will get a lot of their production at once, so don’t sit the player when he’s making up for a couple of off-weeks. When a defensive end does come through, that can make your week, because you’re likely to have a big advantage at that position that week.
If your IDP league doesn’t discriminate between positions, then don’t draft any defensive linemen. They just aren’t consistent enough to keep up with the linebackers – even the star DE. That might be lame that the stats don’t reflect impact on an NFL field, but we’re trying to win fantasy football titles – not NFL titles.
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