By The “Don” Piccolo
As the legend goes, the sport of Fantasy Football was born into existence in a dingy Manhattan hotel room in 1962 by Wilfred Winkenback, a man colloquially known as ‘Wild Bill’. Wild Bill, a financial stakeholder in the Oakland Raiders (before they moved to L.A), had been playing ‘fantasy style’ games in the sports of both golf and baseball for over a decade. Winkenback developed the framework for this game through the lens of football, compiled the rulebook, and created the first known fantasy football league in 1963. Rumor has it that Wild Bill wished to call the inaugural league ‘The Manhattan Project’, which due to trademark concerns never came to pass, so he and his league mates decided to roll with the name ‘Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League’ (GOPPPL for short). For a man laden with oodles of creativity and mindfulness, one would think Wild Bill would have come up with a slightly catchier name. Ridiculous name aside, Winkenback’s GOPPPL league would pave the way for a pastime that is now played by millions of people with money to burn, only growing in popularity year after year.
It doesn’t take more than a few keystrokes on Chrome (or Firefox if you’re into that) to find pages upon pages of data that will tell you pretty much anything you want to know about the history of fantasy football, how many people play it every year, and countless websites that will market themselves as the “best fantasy advice around” (this one included). Fantasy Football has hit a point of saturation and when you compound that with the modern microwave culture that demands everything be optimized, the days of redraft leagues featuring standard lineup structures with Kickers and single D/ST units are all but over, save the few diehard ‘OG’ leagues that enjoy the ‘classic’ form of fantasy. Today, Fantasy Football is all about dynasty, keeper, and survivor leagues that each have to possess certain wrinkles such as Superflex spots, Tight End Premiums, and Devy systems to afford managers great flexibility to keep the midnight fires burning, inspire competition, and create the most challenging experience possible. Casual players will froth at the mouth like a pack of hungry wolves when the topic of adding roster spots or bringing on Taxi Squad is brought up, but dare one suggest the notion of adding defensive players to the mix, and everyone jumps overboard.
You do not have to be a brain surgeon (or even a regular surgeon for that matter) to understand why people react the way they do to the topic of defenses in fantasy football. NFL coverage is all about offense, offense, offense. Collinsworth and Michaels talk the same topics into the ground (cue the “Now here’s a guy..” jokes), fantasy-devoted channels like RedZone focus on it exclusively, professional fantasy football degenerates like Matthew Berry and Matt Harmon are paid handsomely to analyze it for a living, the list goes on and on. In a league obsessed with where the ball is going, the guys on the other side of the field have been getting shafted for years. Defense has been marketed as something that is boring, violent, and unexciting, and in fact only one of those things is true (have you ever been hit going across the middle of the field by a 225 LBS strong safety? Would not recommend). If fantasy football fans really want a challenge, one designed to upset the homeostasis of a comfortable fantasy experience in the most adrenaline inducing way possible, then it’s time to compete in a league that features Individual Defensive Players, or IDP.
Many are scared away by the concept of IDP simply because they either have no idea what to look for in a ‘good IDP value’ or they have been scarred by the memories of their IDP league from 2012 that made everyone in the league (besides the guy who drafted Luke Kuechly and J.J Watt) miserable. The fact of the matter is, that competing for a championship in a league that employs IDP requires an extra level of time, energy, and patience that offense-only leagues do not necessarily require. However, there is no greater challenge than embracing the fullness of the game, to expand your fandom and love of football to a place where offense alone cannot take you.
Just take a moment to think about what fantasy football did for the average football fan. Instead of passionately following one team and knowing everything there is to know about the Jacksonville Jaguars for example (GO JAGS!, by the way) and being semi-familiar with other teams and players, playing fantasy football forces one to know more about the league as a whole, allowing an enriched enjoyment and appreciation of players from every team in the league, even when your own team is on a bye week. Personally, I now know more about the sport than I did before subscribing to this ‘addiction’ (as some might call it) because of fantasy football. Yet before I played in an IDP league, I only knew and cared about defensive players from my favorite team (GO JAGS!) due to the fact there are no individual accolades for good defensive performances in non-IDP formats. Now, let’s take a moment to consider the compounded satisfaction that comes with knowing everything there is to know about the offensive AND defensive sides of the ball (did your brain just explode too?). That’s what IDP does for you, it expands the fantasy football experience, breaking down barriers, and opening up a whole new vantage point for you —a richness and purity that simply can’t be felt by embracing the Saquon Barkley’s and JuJu Smith-Schuster’s of the world alone.
The Golden Age of Fantasy Football is here and now, with IDP being the key to unlocking this experience. All are called, but only a few will answer. For those that do, they will fulfill the vision of Wild Bill and usher in an era of equality where players like Myles Garrett, Darius Leonard, Aaron Donald, and Jamal Adams are respected with the same love and admiration as Alvin Kamara, DeAndre Hopkins, George Kittle, and Patrick Mahomes. An era where both sides of the ball are appreciated, where defensive players are not forced toil in obscurity, a balance where both sides of the ball are appreciated and enjoyed. An era where fantasy football enthusiasts who already immerse themselves in this beautiful game can be born again, reach an awakening, another level of enlightenment, and can discover the way to experience the game of football in its full glory for the first time. IDP challenges owners in ways that no amount of tinkering on the offensive side of the ball alone can do. It is not for the faint of heart, but for those that accept the call to arms, the result will be splendid.
Make sure to follow @PiccoloPodcast on Twitter for fantasy football content, IDP madness, Jags fandom, and more. Follow @3CoSports and be the first to see our content on your screens!
Edited by Alex Kurpeski