IDP: A Crash Course for Beginners
When people hear the term IDP (or Individual Defensive Player) thrown around fantasy circles, it seems to be followed by panic. A large part of this is due to the lack of content surrounding this aspect of the fantasy football world. It's very hard to find reliable articles, and outside of rankings, many people have a hard time understanding the concepts or type of players to target. That's why I'm here to help guide beginners into the world of IDP.
First, let's start with the scoring. In most leagues, players will earn points for tackles, sacks, forced fumbles (and recoveries), TFL's (tackle for loss), touchdowns, and interceptions.
Some leagues will offer points for assisted tackles (when a player helps another bring a defender down with a teammate), hits on the quarterback, yardage when having an interception or fumble recovery, and pass deflections; while others will allow you to stack tackle points (combining solo and assisted tackles with overall tackles)
It sounds confusing at first, but it's really just different names for similar stats you'll see for offensive players. Each league will vary on what they award points for, and it's always important to check your league's scoring settings prior to your draft.
Now, with the positions. In most cases, there's four different positions, although there can be five as well. They are DL (defensive line), LB (linebacker), DB (defensive back), and an IDP Flex player. Sometimes the DB will be split into two parts; safety and cornerback, respectively.
Often times, players will be given interchangeable positions. Some edge rushers can be aligned at DL or LB, while some DB's can be given a safety or CB role (depending on the type of league you're in). When this occurs it can provide flexibility in your lineup, and depending on the quality of the player, is someone you want added to your roster.
*Please note that one key difference between IDP and regular fantasy football positions is that in IDP, you can find great producers on the waiver wire much more frequently throughout the season.*
Speaking of players on your roster, we'll start with the breakdown of each position. This is where the misconception of IDP begins for most people.
We'll start with DL players, since that is the most cut and dry position in IDP leagues. A player on the DL will either be a DT (defensive tackle), NT (nose tackle), or DE (defensive end) on the field of play. When you're looking to draft or pick up a DL player off of the waiver wire, there's really only two things you want to take into account when looking at a player.
1) How many snaps they play.
2) Their productivity.
The more snaps a player is on the field, the more likely they'll be able to produce for you. Simple, right? This is true for every position in IDP, and especially so for the DL.
Now productivity can be somewhat misleading depending on what type of player you're coveting. Players who rack up tackles (usually DT's or NT's) are less valuable than those who play the edge in a DE role, but more often than not these players are more consistent. They won't always put up a huge game, but they won't completely disappear in games, either.
On the flip side, a player who plays the edge can have games where they completely disappear, and others where they can generate a lot of points. It's up to you to decide which risk you'll take when building your team.
In IDP leagues, linebackers are the safest position group to pick players for. Most starting linebackers rarely come out of the game, and are usually involved in a vast majority of plays. One great nuance with LB's is that OLB's (outside linebackers; usually pass-rushers) are also involved in this grouping.
When looking at building your team, the LB you will probably pick is a MLB (middle linebacker). This player is usually the 'Mike' on his team, and rarely comes out of the game. They will get a ton of tackles, and could even surprise you with bigger plays.
OLB's provide the same boom/bust potential I previously mentioned with edge rushers on the DL. While they may not be as consistent, they can provide an extra bump, or a big whiff, depending on the day.
A strategy I often see is a player using their MLB as their IDP Flex (more on that later), with an edge-rushing OLB taking over as the LB role on the team. This will provide a solid floor with booming potential if the edge rusher hits. It also allows flexibility if you wish to play another 'Mike' in the LB position instead based on matchups, or if you would rather play it safe.
Next, we have the DBs. These are the players that most people get wrong when drafting, and don't realize they've wasted that draft pick until it's too late.
In most cases you'll play two of these on your team. Sometimes a league will split them up between safeties and cornerbacks, but what you're looking for will essentially be the same; and I'll split them up between two groups.
When you're looking for safeties, it's generally the same as looking for a MLB. You want a player who will be around the ball often, making tackles. Usually this will be a SS (strong safety); a player who plays around the LOS (line of scrimmage), and is a factor in the run game as well as the pass.
These players are more often to stack up tackle points, as well as providing sacks, forced fumbles, or interceptions; whereas FS's (free safeties) are primarily only used in coverage and limit the potential scoring opportunities for you.
Cornerbacks are a group that goes completely against the grain. For all of the other groups, you want some of the best players at their respective positions. This isn't necessarily true for cornerbacks.
When it comes to CB's, you want a player who gets picked on often by opposing offenses. Generally this is the slot corner or CB2 on a NFL team, or a starter on a bad defensive unit.
You're probably thinking, 'why would I want a player that isn't that good on my team?'
The answer to that is opportunity. The best cornerbacks in the league will hardly be targeted by opposing offenses.
This means that they will have less chances to score points for you during the course of a game. You want the player that will be targeted more often if you want to score more points in fantasy football.
A good example of this is looking at the first nine games of the season and comparing former Jets' CB Pierre Desir and the only other cornerback to receive votes for the 2019 DPOY, Tre'Davious White.
Through the first nine weeks, Pierre Desir was the 4th ranked DB (#1 CB) in fantasy football. On the flip side, White was outside of the Top-50, at 59. Per PFF, during that span, White ranked 36th in coverage grade for CBs while Desir was ranked 118th out of 130 players (minimum of 100 coverage snaps).
Not all good fantasy CBs have to be bad however, and this next example will show that.
The Rams had the best defense in the NFL this year. Jalen Ramsey was a big part of that, and is one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, hands down.
Despite that, he was not a great fantasy football player. He finished the season as the 129th ranked DB. Meanwhile another CB on the team, Troy Hill, finished 19th for DBs and was the 5th best cornerback for fantasy football.
Hill wasn't a bad player at all, however. Per PFF he ranked 17th for cornerbacks in coverage grade while Ramsey was 6th (minimum of 250 snaps). He was just able to receive more opportunities given Ramsey's reputation. Hill was targeted 91 times compared to Ramsey's 64.
This is definitely the most confusing part of IDP fantasy football, but the easiest way to remember is that, 'sometimes bad, equals good'. Just make sure that they so bad that they don't see the field.
Last but not least we have the IDP Flex position. The IDP Flex is essentially a regular flex position, just for the defense.
This is the easiest roster spot to account for by far, because it's either your best, or second best player at a position! This is a player that has the highest floor on your team or the best matchup for you that isn't necessarily a starter on your team. Usually it's a LB, but it can also be an elite edge rusher, or a great safety.
Your IDP Flex, and other positions may vary from week-to-week depending on your lineup, and that's okay! Fantasy football is built around stud players, opportunity, match-ups and luck!
If you've made it this far, you've now got a fairly good understanding of IDP, and its usage in fantasy football. In due time you will find what type of lineup works best for you, and eventually be as familiar with IDP as with any other type of league.