By: Gary VanDyke ll‏ (Twitter: @HBogart27)
Updated: 4/17/2017

Targeting IDPs By Position

The object of this article is to assist fantasy football players by breaking down and ranking the IDP’s by fantasy production in a simple, understandable way. IDP leagues are gaining momentum every year and as a format is here to stay.
In this article, I further aim to help “rookie” owners joining these formats to be able to target productive positions for their lineups. This information will assist in drafting and restructuring an IDP lineup that may be struggling. This can also be used to help salvage teams in leagues you may have joined in recent years that just are not producing IDP glory.

The more information you have, the less intimidating it is when deciding to join an IDP league.

The Term IDP: “Individual Defensive Player” – Roster spots for individual defensive players. Used in place of an NFL team’s whole defensive unit as in most traditional leagues.

Benefits: Can enhance the feel of the league to mirror the real NFL. When correctly using the settings for scoring it will also balance the league. Doing this allows all teams the ability to field a lineup that can compete. The offensive side of the ball is always the focal point in leagues and adding IDPs with a balanced scoring system can level the playing field. In turn, helps to extend the life of a dynasty league.

If drafting IDPs for the first time I suggest finding an existing league that uses IDPs. Locate the league’s end of the year reports from the year before and sort by IDPs overall scoring. This information provides all the players production levels along with their actual stats.

This will give you an idea of the “Studs” and “Duds.” Cross-referencing both together can be very helpful. If a player shows up higher on one than the other, then it can be a sign of an injury or an opportunity that occurred. In cases like this, you’ll need to do further research on those players. Keep in mind a “famous” player doesn’t always translate his real life production as a good player in real life into fantasy production.

I’m not advising anyone to pass on a famous player, just suggesting to make sure his name recognition matches the production needed for fantasy purposes. An example of this would be Green Bay’s, Clay Matthews. He is a famous player that hasn’t been worth inserting in a lineup for a few years now. The position of a player often means more than the “name” of the player in a lot of cases.

The Basics:
Going forward we will describe the two base defenses used in the NFL and the positions each one offers. Included will be short summaries and rankings.

My Ideal IDP Lineup Setup(Using Flex Settings):
In Order of Priority
2-4 LB > try to go with 4 LB (MLB/WLB/ILB)
2-4 DB > try to go with 2 SS
2-4 DL > try to go 2 studs
8 total starters.

*IDP lineup set ups I avoid; Specific positions designations. Asking for actual NT/DT/DE/LB/ etc. I find these too narrow, and I find it harder to enjoy leagues with these designations. This can also be taxing on the members of the league who will become annoyed by the depth of such a lineup and what it takes to maintain these rosters.

Overall Position Target Order:
Stud DE
Stud OLB
Stud DT
The rest; NT, DT, DE, CB, OLB, SLB

4-3 Based Defense
Analyzing the past few years of scoring produced by IDPs, it’s clear that the 4-3 holds more top tier players annually compared to the 3-4. When possible, target players that play in 4-3 defenses. On my current chart from Myfantasyleague.com, there were 21 of the top 25 scoring IDPs from the 4-3 based defense in 2016. This fact shouldn’t vary from league to league by much. But obviously, a league’s settings affect scoring stats. So know what your league’s settings are and proceed from there.

Referring to the 4-3 diagram, we will rank and summarize the positions.
We will be using “old school grades” of A being the best to F as in Failing.

MLB (Middle Linebacker): They held ten of the top 25 spots in 2016 for high-end stats. He is the captain of the defense and play caller. The MLB reads and reacts to the offense in general. He is a run stopper and coverage player depending on what he reads from the offense. He’ll also be used to blitz the quarterback at times. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: A+.

WLB (Weakside linebacker): He is also a “read and react” player. The WLB will occupy one of the OLB (outside linebacker) spots seen on the diagram. He will change sides of the playing field each play to the weak side of the offensive formation. The weak side of the formation will be to the side with no tight end most cases. The player in the WLB position can be the more versatile of the linebackers. WLBs are known as the “attacking” linebacker. They will stop the run, have coverage off the line, blitz and pursue from behind the offensive line. There were four in the top 25 last year for high-end stats. I believe that 2016 was a down year for the WLB position overall. Some will excel while others are just solid players. The NFL did not favor the 4-3 scheme as much in 2016 as it had in the prior years. But keep in mind that for 2017 some teams are switching to the 4-3 scheme. This will mean more of these positions to watch for. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: A.

SS (Strong safety): This player is considered a part of the defensive backfield. But he is used in run support, coverage, and blitzing. A few are used as “in-the-box safeties” and can produce stats as good as some linebackers. A “in-the-box safeties” will be moved up closer to the defensive lineman and share the area with the linebackers for run stopping support. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: B.

DE (Defensive end): Most of the top DEs are from the 4-3 scheme. They can see a lot of run stopping and some coverage. But 99% of the time their job is to put pressure on the quarterback and backfield. But as any position, it depends on the player. If a top tier player is not available, I advise to move on to another position or even consider adding depth at the positions already mentioned above. The DE position can be filled later in the draft or via waivers. Most waiver wires will have your average DE on it year round. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: B when a stud. D when not.

FS ( Free safety): The only way to advise picking one up is to look for one with a history of interceptions or one playing on a bad overall defense. Scoring will vary week to week since they are considered the last line of defense. The diagram shows in the formation he is the farthest man down the field. Some can have more expanded roles with their teams than others. It’s best to know you a player at this position. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: C.

SLB (Strongside linebacker): He would be the other OLB in the diagram. As the WLB lines up on the weak side of the offensive formation, the SLB lines up on the strong side. Which is the side where the tight end will normally be? Run stopping, containment, some coverage and blitzing can all be a part of his role. But in today’s NFL, the majority of SLBs have become two-down thumpers. There are very few who aren’t and even less worth having in a starting lineup. They routinely can be caught up in the “wash” of the offensive and defensive line play. He does have the occasional coverage of the tight end off the line or running back coming out of the backfield. But few do this very well, or they would be MLBs or WLBs. Adding all of this up in addition to the fact he’s only a first and second down player, he just doesn’t receive the snaps to warrant much consideration. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: D+.

CB (Cornerbacks, including slot corners): Very simple here, CBs cover the wide receivers. They don’t even need to be good tacklers in real life. Their best trait should be running fast and able to stick to whoever is running a pass route. Avoid at all cost if possible. But some IDP leagues do require them for your lineup. There are only a few that will produce each year at a high level. Unless your defensive lineup has a requirement, there’s no real reason to suggest them. Even if a league inserts “passes defended” into the settings they vary each week leaning towards the negative side. Avoid the famous and known studs at CB also. NFL quarterbacks avoid the good ones when deciding to attempt a pass. If you have no choice, find a starting rookie or an average “Joe” across from a stud. The quarterbacks will throw balls their way all day thinking they have better odds for big plays. This gives the CB a lot of chances to accumulate stats. His chances of producing on a weekly basis grade: D.

DT (Defensive tackle): A player locked in on one real thing to do. That would be to fill the running lanes to stop the run and some attempts to pressure the quarterback if the situation occurs. But here again, only the top tier studs matter. And they should be ranked with the DEs above, just a tier below them. And there are even fewer studs DTs in the league. If there is no stud when you are in a position to afford one, move on and gather them later off the waiver wire or as late as possible in a draft if drafting. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: C if a stud. D- otherwise.

Before we move on to the 3-4 base, I’d like to point out that there are just a few changes in the positions. Additional, some of my summaries will reflect what was stated previously when discussing the positions in the 4-3.

3-4 Based Defense
The noticeable difference in looking at the 3-4 scheme to the 4-3 scheme is the lack of one defensive lineman. In place of the defensive lineman, an additional OLB(outside linebacker) is in his place. This doesn’t change a lot of the production on the field for the NFL, but this does translate differently for fantasy purposes in most cases. In the 3-4 we lose a little production overall in a couple of positions. It seems to spread the stats out among more players. And the 2016 end of the year production chart reflects this. The extra OLB will not produce any less, but if he were designated a DE as in the 4-3, then he would hold more value in that position among the DLs. Being a normal OLB puts him with the LBs in fantasy. But the production doesn’t change. We will talk more on this a little further in the summaries.

Referring to the 3-4 diagram, we will rank and summarize these positions.

ILB (Inside linebacker): We have two inside linebackers that hold the same descriptions as the MLB and WLB in the 3-4. I would like to point out that because they are side by side on the field that some productivity can be canceled out by each other occasionally. The scoring can depend upon who has the better game based off offensive play calling of the opposing team. But never enough to knock either of them out of the top tier and should always be targeted for your lineup. There were six combined total ILBs in the top 25 with high-end stats in 2016.

1A. MILB (“Mike” Inside linebacker): He is the the captain of the defense and play caller. While his main responsibility will be for run stopping purposes, he does occasionally blitz and assumes some coverage assignments. Like the main 4-3 LBs, he also reads and reacts, just not at the same level. This is because in the 3-4 he’ll have more of an assigned role. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: A.

1B. WILB (“Will” Inside linebacker): He can be the more versatile player in the 3-4 as the WLB was in the 4-3 scheme. When describing the WILB the WILL description still applies for the most part. He will stop the run, blitz, and go into pass coverage often as part of his assigned role. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: A.

*I’ll add here that same as the SLB and WLB in the 4-3 switched sides on the field based off the offensive formation, so will the MILB and WILB here in the 3-4 scheme. But more based on the defensive play called and assignments than just where the weakside and strongside of the field are.

SS: Same description as the SS in the 4-3 with less a little less run stopping support and leaning more on pass coverage. With the two ILBs, there is less of a need for him in run support by most teams. But still, can have a significant role any given week. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: B-.

OLB ( “True” Outside linebacker): His primary responsibilities reflect more of a DE in the 4-3. The biggest difference would be that an OLB starts from a stand-up position. And the DE is a down lineman in a three-point stance to start the play. I want to add here that this is a stud target position only. Unless his name is Von Miller or Khalil Mack you’ll want to avoid for a proven weekly source of production overall. Mack was a top tier DE in Oaklands 4-3 scheme last year. But they are one of the teams I mentioned that will be switching schemes in 2017. So Mack likely remains relevant enough to be serviceable as depth. Even if last year’s production was outstanding as a DE, that same range makes him average at OLB. An OLB rushes the quarterback as his number one task. Then he has some containment and coverage assignments also. He will find himself pursuing the ball behind the offensive line a lot also. Each of these will put him in a position to make a play, but not to the point of ILBs. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: B- if a stud. C- if not.

FS: refer to #5 in 4-3.

CB: refer to #7 in 4-3.

The DE (Defensive end) and NT (Nose tackle): The best I can say about the NT is to look at the DT in #8 above in the 4-3 scheme again. Just basically a name change as the nose tackle lines up over the center instead of a gap between the other offensive lineman. His primary job includes filling inside run lanes and be a big body to clog up things. He will see a lot of double teaming and down blocking from the offensive line. A virtual wasteland in production 99% of the time. The DE of the 3-4 does have a handful of studs but can just be average at best stat wise. They are more comparable to the DT of the 4-3 scheme. Unless landing one of the studs late or off the wire, both the NT and DE in a 3-4 should be avoided when first assembling your lineup. His odds for producing on a weekly basis grade: C- if a stud. D- if not.

The players I assigned less than glowing summaries can always be found on waiver wires, even in leagues as large as 32 teams. They are players you pick up to start weekly, use for bye weeks or injury fill-ins when desperate. I’d advise when you are drafting to not worry about the needs at those positions.

If there is a notable LB, SS or stud you can add over drafting these players, always go that way. Linebackers and Strong safeties will hold much greater trade value, and you can always find what you need for those other positions in a trade or off the wire. Another detail would be to avoid starting OLBs in your main lineup at LB. Because other than a small handful of OLBs, they will not be real helpful. The studs can be reliable but more average in scoring you points. Owners will draft them for their names but will only get the same production out of a mid-tier LB you pick up a few rounds later.

I prefer getting “name” OLBs and trading them for an average MLB, ILB, and WLB. Because I can usually get them to upgrade me elsewhere or add something for them to own the name. The only true OLB last season in the top 25 was Jamie Collins of the Browns. Even though he was designated an OLB, he was used just as much as an ILB in 2016. If your league starts four LB do your best to fill all four without using an OLB. You can not count on the weekly stats from the OLB position.

As for SLB, I would avoid them even more. Even one of the few every down SLBs from this past year took a step back. Minnesota’s Anthony Barr would be the only one I’d consider as a depth player. And he took a big step backward in 2016. The SLB can just be taken out of the play to often. And most NFL teams insert their weakest “starter” LB in that position.

IDPs – Bogart Style.