Philosophy

Written by Sean Kirby (@scurvyIDP)

Don’t lose.

It sounds obvious, but I win a lot of fantasy football games when my opponents lose.

I love “risky” players in fantasy football.  However, I like to keep that risk on the offensive side of the ball.  I view my IDP players as the floor of my fantasy team.  Sure, I want that floor to be as high as possible, but I never want it to collapse.  I find that if I can establish a reliable IDP floor, my opponents will frequently defeat themselves with a high risk/reward IDP lineup.  If their IDP lineup does happen to deliver, my floor has kept me close enough that my high ceiling offensive players can still frequently win the day.

 

Build a high floor.

Luckily, a high floor is fairly reasonable to expect on defense.  Offensive production varies markedly.  Very few teams produce excessive yards, touchdowns, and receptions every week.  Additionally, the team leader for any of these stats frequently shifts from game to game.  In contrast, we know there are going to be quite a few tackles in any NFL game.  Defensive schemes funnel these tackles to key players, so the team leader for tackles is fairly consistent from one game to the next.  Vontaze Burfict and Luke Kuechly are extreme examples of this phenomenon.  Sure, their athleticism and ability to fly to the play is helpful, but even average starters can become elite IDP commodities due to defensive scheme.  For example, Paul Posluszny is frequently idolized in IDP leagues for his 100+ tackle seasons, despite more realistic real life football grades.

Accordingly, I almost always target these high volume positions over positions that are more dependent on big plays.

  • Linebackers: You typically want to target the guy with a headset in his helmet, because he’s going to be on the field a lot.  Specifically, I’m often looking to find a middle or weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense or Tampa-2 system.  There are quite a few reliable inside linebackers in 3-4 systems as well.  Just try to avoid 3-4 outside linebackers or strong side linebackers, unless they have a convincing track record.
    • Example: Justin Houston is an outside linebacker in KC’s 3-4 defense.  He’s a great player and an effective pass rusher.  In fact, many of our RANKERS have him far ahead of where I value him.  While he’s one of the rare 3-4 OLBs I would consider, I’d prefer a more consistent option, like the much lower ranked Nick Roach.  He’s not as sexy, but I’d sleep better at night, knowing that he’ll provide me a relatively high floor.
  • Defensive backs: Safeties are generally more consistent than cornerbacks and less dependent on interceptions.  Specifically, the strong safety will get a lot of nice looks at the ball carrier after the blocking has been diminished.  Also keep an eye out for punt/kick returners if your league awards return yards.
  • Defensive linemen: These guys are a little tough, as blitzing schemes are pretty variable and they are not at the end of the previously described “tackle funnel”.  Defensive tackles and nose tackles are almost always accounted for by the offensive line, so you generally want a defensive end (unless your league requires DTs).  The right end in a 4-3 system is probably your safest bet, but JJ Watt might dispute that.  Additionally, keep an eye on your specific league format, as there is a big grey area between OLB and DE.  Jason Worilds is a frequent offender, who is not a great start at linebacker, but a decent play at defensive linemen.  Keep a close eye on the rookie class.  Many talented rookies will make good DEs should they escape the OLB classification.  Unfortunately, the once in a decade talent, Clowney, will likely be an OLB casualty.

 

Get some studs.

I like stud IDP players.  Again, this may sound obvious and a more accurate statement would be that I like reliable and consistent IDP players.  This allows me to keep my IDP roster pretty slim.  There are so many offensive boom or bust candidates, that I want to horde in order to capture rare breakout players.  One way to increase your number of lottery tickets is by drafting “sure things” ahead of their ADP on defense.  This allows you to hold very few IDP players (possibly as few as 1 bench player at each position) creating the added value of an open roster spot.  Obviously, “sure things” don’t exist in fantasy football, but IDPs come close if you carefully analyze the defensive scheme, depth chart, and player scouting.

If you’re reading this and seeing this year’s rookie class,  CJ Mosley seems like one of the safer bets.  I am certainly not suggesting he’s a 1.01 rookie candidate.  However, once you feel like you’re past the “sure things” on offense (it won’t take long), think about getting a guy that you can plug in and forget about, especially if it will open up roster spots for more high risk/high ceiling running backs and wideouts.

 

CAVEAT

The very safe approach I’ve outlined applies to leagues where there is a relatively balanced or tackle-friendly scoring scheme.  Obviously, if your league has a more aggressive scheme, such as inflated big play scores or no assisted tackles, you may need to take that into account.

Finally, I wanted to thank DFW for the opportunity to share my thoughts with all of you.  After this big picture article, I look forward to diving into some specific draft strategies, player profiles, and scheme analysis.