Fantasy Football Basics: IDP Strategy Guide
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Fantasy Football Basics: IDP Strategy Guide

A basic guide introducing the strategies behind individual defensive players (IDP) for Fantasy Football players.

When you think fantasy football, you think about high-powered offensive weapons and the superstar quarterbacks who get them the ball. Now the tide is changing. In IDP (Individual Defensive Player) leagues, instead of drafting a team defense, you draft individual players at each defensive position. This format is not for the faint of heart. It really takes fantasy football to the next level. IDP leagues take a lot more time, work and dedication. Nevertheless, if you are an avid football junkie like so many of us are, it's well worth the blood, sweat and tears. Fantasy football is not just about touchdowns and yards from scrimmage anymore. It is evolving much like the NFL itself. While IDP is much more exciting, it can also be very difficult for many, especially casual football fans. This IDP strategy guide will help beginner and struggling IDP owners compete for championships in the ultimate fantasy football leagues. IDP leagues are the future of fantasy football and for many devoted players, the future is now.

The Rules

Rule 1: Tackles, Tackles, Tackles!

Draft players that make tackles. It's very difficult to predict interceptions, fumbles, touchdowns and sometimes even sacks. You don't want to have to bank on big plays week in, week out to get points. If you draft triple-digit tacklers, you will always at least get some points. If your player is getting up around 100 tackles, he will probably force and in turn recover a few fumbles. This applies to all positions, although it is sometimes tough to apply this to defensive linemen. Often times, you will have to just sit and hope for sacks when it comes to them. High-volume tacklers may not be the sexiest picks, but they'll help you get to your championship game. When it comes to defense, fundamentals are key. Stick with the sure points and hope for the big plays. You'll be thankful you did.

Rule 2: Do Not Fear Good Players on Bad Defenses

Even on the worst defenses somebody has to make the tackles. A terrible defense will often have one or two statistically dominate players. It's similar to drafting a running back on a bad team because he's the only option, and his team has no choice but to feed him. Do not be afraid to draft a great player on a bad defense, even if he's making a high number of tackles only because nobody else can. It's important to get out of the mindset of team defense leagues. Almost every defense has at least one valuable asset. Of course, this does not mean you should avoid players on great defenses. Both tremendous and tremendously bad defenses have their advantages in IDP leagues.

Rule 3: Deploy Players on Teams That Force Turnovers

When you need a plug-in player off the waiver wire, look for players on teams that force an abundance of turnovers. If you need an injury or bye-week fill-in, lean toward players on teams that are more likely to bat the ball up for an interception or knock the ball out for a fumble recovery. If you have a superstar defensive end who is always knocking the ball away from QBs or a defensive back who rips the ball away from wide receivers, draft their teammates. They will have a better chance recording a turnover. This is more of a desperation play, but it can be very effective.

You could see this tactic really pay off during the 2013-14 NFL Playoffs with eventual Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith. He is not a premier linebacker or even a guy you would start on your IDP team consistently. He is a player who is often put in opportunistic situations. On a team such as the Seahawks, who wreak so much havoc on defense, opportunity will arise. Everybody remembers superstar cornerback Richard Sherman knocking the ball away from Michael Crabtree before proclaiming him "mediocre" in a rant after the NFC Championship Game. Who caught that batted ball? Smith did. In the Super Bowl, when the ball was knocked out of Demaryius Thomas' hands, who grabbed the fumble? Smith did. And when heavy pressure forced Peyton Manning to get the ball out quicker than he wanted, who was there to take a pick-six back to the house? Once again, it was Smith. While this will not happen consistently, it's OK to go for the home run play once in a while, especially if there are no great options available. It's better to take a high-risk, high-reward chance instead of a high-risk, low-reward one.

Rule 4: Play the Matchups

Do not be afraid to play the matchups on defense more so than on offense. If you have a DB who is going against a mistake-prone QB, plug him in. If you have a defensive lineman going against a terrible offensive line, play him. Don't be afraid to play the matchups even if it means benching a slightly better player for an improved situation. Just don't go crazy and start benching great players; this rule applies to mid-level and lower-level players only.

Rule 5: Fill Out Your Offense First

There are certain times when you can stretch for an elite talent. However, in general, you should try to fill out at least your starting offense before you begin drafting your defensive players. If you want to reach a stud, that's one thing. But you shouldn't be drafting your fifth defensive player when you have only two WRs. Defensive players do hold value and can have a huge impact on a fantasy matchup. Still, be patient and wait until you're confident with your offensive depth before you get deep in to your defense.

Drafting by Position

Defensive Linemen

Linemen are kind of like the RBs of defense: There are a few elite guys, then there's a major drop-off. Try to get an elite lineman first and then focus on your linebackers. If you can't get a top-tier DL, you might as well wait and grab an elite LB instead. If your league is broken down into defensive ends and defensive tackles, DEs are much more valuable, with very few exceptions. If you can get a DL who tackles, you're in great shape. However, you will most likely have to depend on sacks and forced fumbles the majority of the time.

Linebackers

LBs are the major point-earners on defense. They are kind of like the WRs of defense: While they hold great value, there are a lot of them. Unlike at DE, you can wait and still get a great LB. You really want to focus on high-volume tacklers at this position as they are much more valuable than the pass-rushing defensive end/outside linebacker hybrids. If you can play those types of players at either position, they are much more valuable at DE; do not bank on them as consistent point-scorers at LB. Your best bet is grabbing a tackle-happy inside linebacker who will get you points every week with an occasional big play.

Defensive Backs

DBs should be the last position filled in most cases. They are similar to TEs on offense: They usually don't put up huge points consistently, but if you get a guy who does, he can give you a major advantage. With the exception of a few elite CBs, safeties hold more value. They tend to make many more tackles, which can lead to big-play points. The biggest mistake people make when drafting DBs is depending on top CBs to get the most points. Shutdown corners do not equate to major fantasy points. You do not get points for locking down a WR and forcing the QB to throw to the other side of the field. A DB actually gets more points if he gives up a bunch of receptions and then tackles the receiver. Safeties who make a lot of tackles are your best bet at this position.

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Mark Morales-Smith
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Point Pleasant NJ
FFToolbox Fantasy Football Writer since 2014
Here at Toolbox I specialize in NFL Mock Drafts. For the last decade, I play in an ultra competitive PPR IDP football league with several championships under my belt. You can find me on DraftKings playing NBA and NFL. Formerly a high school football scout, I'm now an athletic director for a youth sports camp and train almost every day as an amateur MMA fighter. My goal is to go pro in the next 2 years. I'm a father of 4 regular guy who loves sports and fantasy sports.
I'm here to help with your fantasy decisions and am readily accessible. Any questions, just let em rip!


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