IDP 101 (1)

Written by Sean Kirby (@scurvyidp)

Why IDP?

Let’s start very basic.  In IDP, you roster Individual Defensive Players instead of a Team Defense.  If you play traditional fantasy football, you’re feelings about Team Defense likely fall between disdain and mild fondness.  Nobody loves Team Defense, but you could love your IDPs.  If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who owns JJ Watt or Luke Kuechly.  In this article from 2014, Bill Cervi compares non-IDP leagues to wearing only 1 shoe or hitting a home-run and stopping at 2nd.  You love fantasy football, so why play half the game?  The real question is why aren’t you playing IDP?

IDP leagues vary significantly, likely because mainstream host sites don’t offer many “standard” IDP leagues.  In this article, I’ll outline some of the main decisions you’ll face in setting up your IDP league, specifically rosters and scoring.  I’ll emphasize how important it is to commit to IDP.  Commissioners are often tempted to introduce IDPs slowly with just a couple starting spots or minimal scoring.  However, if you underpower your IDPs, you risk making them a nuisance (similar to kickers).  It’s possible a few league-mates will be resistant to the change.  Ultimately, very few owners will leave over the decision to go to IDP, but they might if they hate the experience.  Giving them powerful and exciting new weapons on the defensive side of the ball ensures they will love it.

Rosters At their simplest, IDP rosters are broken into defensive line (DL), linebacker (LB), and defensive back (DB).  Most owners play defensive ends (DE) at DL, though some leagues require defensive tackles (DT).  Similarly, most owners prefer safeties (S) at DB, but cornerbacks (CB) can be required.  Most IDP leagues also offer 1 or 2 IDP flex spots (DL/LB/DB), which are most often filled with linebackers.

COMMIT TO IDP TIP: I think it’s reasonable to match your # of IDP starters to your # of offensive starters.  Your total roster should be at least double your # of starters.  So in the example below (7 Off, 7 IDP, 1 PK), I’d create a total roster of >30 players.  For various reasons, your owners will stash many more offensive players than IDPs.

Minimalist: 2 DL, 2 LB, 2 DB, 1 IDP flex

Depending on roster depth, this minimalist lineup will leave a pretty robust waiver wire in 12 team leagues.  Starting fewer IDPs than outlined above will leave borderline studs on your waivers.  You’ll quickly find your league-mates feel no pressure to scout or stash IDPs and may opt to just “stream” IDPs based on weekly match-ups.

Extremist: 1-2 DT, 2 DE, 3 LB, 2 S, 1-2 CB, 2 IDP flex

The extremist roster is the most intensive experience, specifically requiring attention to DTs and CBs.  The rare productive DTs and CBs become quite valuable, but casual owners will be quickly overwhelmed by scouting all 5 positions.  In particular, scouring the waiver wire becomes laborious.


COMMIT TO IDP TIP: Nothing will kill an IDP league faster than wimpy scoring, where IDPs to quickly become “white noise.”  Owners will get more excited if their IDPs occasionally win their match-ups.  Consider a robust scoring system.

Tackle/Sack balance – This is the cornerstone of IDP scoring.  Owners naturally gravitate towards tackle-heavy players, as they provide more consistency than their sack-heavy counterparts.  Many leagues use a tackle:sack ratio of 1:2.  I consider this relatively tackle-friendly.  In this format, tackle-heavy players are not only consistent, but will also dominate the scoreboard.  The value of such a system is that volume tacklers are studs and everyone wants them. A tackle:sack ratio of 1:2.5 makes things more balanced, allowing elite pass rushers to become viable IDP commodities.  They remain inconsistent, but provide more potential “boom” to go along with their “bust”.  While minimalist IDP leagues often use 1 pt/tackle, I think it’s a bit modest.  I’d suggest a minimum of 1.5 pt/tackle.

Assists – There’s no reason players shouldn’t get 1/2 points for assisted tackles and sacks.  Note that IDP stats are based on home stat crews, some of which are more assist-friendly than others.

Tackles for a loss/negative yardage – I’m cautious with this one, as it quickly throws off your tackle/sack balance.  I can’t say I miss this when it’s not a part of my league scoring, but I’m ok with modestly rewarding these plays.  Keep in mind this negatively affects your tackle-heavy safeties and sideline-to-sideline LBs.

Passes defensed –  This is the equivalent of a DB tackle and should be rewarded accordingly.  DB is probably the least exciting IDP position.  Make sure you award passes defensed to help these guys justify their roster spots.

Interceptions/Fumbles – These are the IDP equivalent of a TD.  I personally feel INTs should be rewarded as handsomely as an offensive TD.  I give the same points for a fumble, but split it between the forced fumble (3 pts) and the fumble recovery (3 pts).  Based on rarity, you could argue turnovers should be valued more than TDs, but remember that pick 6’s aren’t uncommon. An 80 yard INT/TD is already worth as much as 20 points!

Safeties/blocked kicks – These are pretty rare events, but I’ve seen them rewarded from 0 to 10 points each.  I like to reward them conservatively.

Return yards – You need to decide if punt/kick returners get points for yards and TDs.  I like to reward any statistic that positively impacts the NFL game, so I like this feature.  I will acknowledge that it does give some IDPs an almost unfair advantage (It made Adam Jones the overall DB1 in many formats in 2014). I generally compromise by giving less than the 1 pt/10 yards that an offensive player would received.

“Balanced” scoring

  • Tackles 1.5, assisted tackles 0.75
  • Sacks 4 (3 for a more tackle-heavy system), assisted sacks 2
  • Passes defensed 1
  • Interception 6, forced fumble 3, recovered fumble 3
  • Touchdowns 6
  • (Interception/kick/punt return yards – 1 pt/25 yards)

Here’s how this scoring system shook out in 2014***.

Balanced (2)

“High performance” scoring – There are so many variants of extremist IDP scoring, that I can’t list them all here.  Here’s one very high performance option, where IDPs will often outscore your offensive players.  

  • Tackle 2, assisted tackles 1
  • Sacks 5, assisted sacks 2.5
  • Tackles for loss 1 pt (in addition to tackle or sack points)
  • Passes defensed 2
  • Interception 8, forced fumble 4, recovered fumble 4
  • Touchdowns 6
  • safety 2, blocked FG 3, blocked punt 2, blocked extra point 1
  • Interception/kick/punt return yards – 1 pt/10 yards

Here’s how this scoring system looked in 2014***.  It might seem extreme to see such high scores for IDPs, but notice how little difference there is from LB2-LB4.  Many IDPs offer very high floors and a lot of the scoring will get canceled out.

High Performance (1)

Final scoring comments – Many sites will allow you to play around with different schemes, seeing how they would have affected 2014 results.  I highly recommend doing so before finalizing your scoring system.

Finally, some leagues award different points for different positions (example: DL get more pts/tackle than LBs).  The goal here is to reach a balance, where each position is equally valuable.  I think this is a bit silly, as I personally appreciate that some positions are more valuable than others. (Editors note 2/12/2015: For more info on this type of scoring system, see a recent discussion in our forums)

*** Offensive scoring for tables – 1 PPR, 4 pts/pass TD, 1 pt/20 pass yds, 6 pt/rush or receiving TD, 1 pt/10 receiving or rush yards, -2 pt/fumble or interception.

 Think you’ve got a great IDP mind?  Contact [email protected] for opportunities to become a DFW contributor.