Positional Differentiation for the IDP
My fellow FF fanatics, I have been itching something fierce to write on this topic, but I had to hold back. If you’ve read my last 3 columns, you’ve learned why IDP is so amazing, how to look for the ideal IDP league, and how to create the perfect scoring settings for your IDP league. After all that, it is finally time to talk to you about what positions score more than others, specifically which positions within our three groups (DL, DB, LB) will bode well for you in your IDP ventures.
Now I want to make this clear: I’m not going to pump a bunch of numbers on here for people to get lost in. I see that all the time, and it becomes exhausting. Instead, I’m going to explain whether you should have certain positions rostered and the tier sets you must look for at all levels of the defense.
Let’s start with the DL. Aaron Donald is the point blank best defensive lineman in the game, and in my opinion unguardable. With all that being said, he is still a DT. What does that mean? It means he is taking on double or TRIPLE teams every snap… and that’s the problem.
Allow me to use a personal anecdote to make my point. When I played the game long ago I was O-Line/D-Line and I was a 3 Technique or DT (I loved taking on double teams like I loved pancaking a DE with syrup on top when I played RT for my lead runner). My job was to open up lanes for my LB/DBs to break free and make a play! This same concept can be applied at every level. Football 101 and fundamental math: 11 vs 11 one player takes on two-three players and you now have a free player or 2 to play sideline to sideline. In a nutshell, the DT position isn’t very useful when it comes to IDP unless you are part of an elite tier close to Aaron Donald. So when you’re looking at filling the DL position in your IDP league, draft a DE. The position is far deeper and they take less double teams while acquiring more fantasy points.
Lets stay on the DL for a moment and add Edge Rushers who are Linebackers, but have the ability to be both a DL or a LB. These players serve great depth pieces that you can plug in wherever you desire for points. A good example of this is Chandler Jones. In 13 games he had All-Pro numbers which means he was very helpful in your IDP leagues. While his tackles aren’t where you would like for a LB, they are more than enough for a DL. My advice regarding combo players: draft them as a DL starter for your IDP team, but don’t have him as your starting LB unless you absolutely have to.
Moving on fully to LB, this is the deepest position by far because most teams have 2-4 on the field at all times. Now let’s list the positions.
The Edge Rusher is in 3-4 Base Defense for most teams. The best edge rushing linebacker in the game, in my humble opinion, is “T.J Watt” hands down. Please don’t try to argue this point, you’re wasting your time. (See what I did there?) You have to be careful though, most edge rushers can’t produce like T.J. That’s why I prefer Edge Rushers to serve primarily as depth (bye weeks) and flex plays.
Next is the Strong Side Linebacker (SLB). It’s safe to say we are in a passing league now right? Well fun fact: most NFL teams only run a SLB for about 35% of the time. The other 65% is spent in the Nickelback/ Pass Formations where speed is needed. They start the game sure, but how long until the game opens up and they have to be taken off the field? Only a few LB’s like Leighton Vander Ecsh stay on the field for much more than that. Even with Vander Ecsh there’s a problem: his neck can only endure so much given the way he plays. All that being said, I would suggest you stay away from SLB unless they have a high snap count, but I would personally stay away as best you can.
Editor’s Note: I drafted Leighton Vander Ecsh and now I’m regretting the decisions I’ve made. Also Chandler Jones… as my Linebacker. Don’t be like me, listen to Don.
The Weak Side Linebacker (WLB) is like the 5 tool player in baseball: they can do it all. The NFL’s transition to a pass happy league had made the position evolve and now they play just like a hybrid SS . In terms of fantasy relevance, Darius Leonard is the best WLB in the game no question about it. In a 4-3 defense a good WLB can just put up outrageous numbers since they play pass coverage and run support. Since they’re always around the ball they have plenty of chances to make an impact.
Advice: look up the teams running a 3-4. Once you do, make a list of all WLB’s and put them on your watch list.
The meat and potatoes of IDP is the Middle Linebacker (MLB) or Inside Linebacker (ILB). This is really straight forward. These positions get the most tackles so there’s a 200 point floor for the majority of all starting MLB/ILB. I don’t know about you, but that sounds quite lovely when you have a league with 6 LBs that can start and you’re starting five 100+ tackles players. So I don’t really need to explain this position too much. Safe to say BUY!!
Defensive Back I can wrap all in one. This is important: .DON’T BUY CB’s!!!!! I can’t emphasize that enough. If you start a CB, you are asking for that L. They can work as bye week fillers, sure, but don’t depend on them to carry you. Free Safety is great as long as he’s Top 15 at his position… but if you want the best option, pick a Strong Safety for your DB spot: they play the run more and have the ability to be more aggressive since they have the Free Safety behind them. Look for a SS/FS for your DB need and that should keep you from having a weekly headache more so than it already is.
In conclusion, each level of the defense has cogs to make each to work effectively, and in Fantasy Football IDP leagues it’s important to know which ones get you points. Don’t blindly take players until you understand the role they will play for their Defense. This is hard to do sometimes I know, but that is where strategy comes into play during startup drafts, research NFL depth charts and actually find good rankings that match your settings. Not to worry my fellow Fantasy Addicts, I will have 250+ IDP Player Ranking coming soon each for all 3 positions. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be nice and do an overall ranking!
Until next week!