Winning The Off-Season: The Deep IDP Manifesto
By: Kyle Richardson (Twitter: @krich1532)
Updated: 6/16/2017

Fantasy dreams are potentially made or broken with every offseason move. Whether you are acquiring players via trade, draft or free agency, everyone has game plan when piecing together a potential championship team. This series of articles will give my take on each position and what I look for when acquiring players in the offseason. You can use a majority of this information for dynasty or redraft. I have been happy with my formula so far, and I hope you will be able to gain somethings from this as well.

The Deep IDP Manifesto

If you’re playing in an IDP league, kudos. You are someone that not only enjoys fantasy football, but enjoys the depth and numbers that come with it. If you don’t play in an IDP league, no problem! Fantasy football is still fun. Some fantasy players don’t want to worry about looking for defensive players every week. They just want to enjoy the game and watch the scoring. If you have never tried IDP, I highly suggest you try it at least once, because it is a blast.

There are many ways you can play with defenses in fantasy football. You can play team defenses or individual positions. If you play individual positions, you could have just a couple or play every position. I am going to cover all positions in this guide. So whether you play in a shallow IDP league or a deep IDP league, this is for you.

Each position will include my take on what you should look for in a player. Depending on your league settings, some of these notes could mean more or less to you. For context, I play in several deep IDP leagues, where we play a full defense, like you would see on a NFL field. We start 1 DT, 2 DE, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S and 1 defensive flex. Also, scoring is balanced between offense and defense. You could have a linebacker scoring more than a running back. Last year I saw 4 defensive players make the top 20 in points scored. Getting the most points out of every position is crucial. For the purpose of this article, I will be using the scoring system I have in place for my home leagues. If you want more information on how this is set up, please feel more than welcome to DM me on Twitter and we can talk more about it.

Defensive End
I want my defensive ends to do a little bit of everything. In my leagues, JJ Watt came in as the top scorer in back to back years. Between tackles for loss, sacks and tackles, he got a little bit of everything. That’s what I want from a defensive end, a guy that will get upwards of double digit sacks but still have the ability to make tackles on the outside. If you can grab guys in a division that face teams that run the ball a lot, it could lead to a good number of tackles for you.

Some IDP leagues may have you pick defensive line instead of splitting it up between DT and DE. If this is the case, always try to go DE over DT. There are some defensive tackles that do a lot, but your ends will be the guys to rack up the most points. Last year in my leagues, only 6 DTs managed to average double digit points each week compared to 23 DEs that averaged double digits each week.


Defensive Tackle

While you may be looking at sacks for a DE, look for tackles when it comes to DT. I want big guys up front that stuff the run. Most of the time a DT will not reach double digit sacks. To go with tackles, I want assists as well. DTs are typically the lowest scoring position and I do not spend big here. I will let guys like Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Geno Atkins for off the board and wait on players like Malik Jackson or Bennie Logan. Save the money on a position that most people will not be getting a ton of points each week and spend it elsewhere or use a later pick.

Linebackers
Here is the bread and butter of your defense. Linebackers are typically going to be your highest scoring players for a couple of reasons. The main reason is tackles. LBs obviously will have the highest tackle total every single year. Skip on the sacks here. If they come, that is great, but not worth investing in. Get those out of your DEs. Von Miller recorded 12.5 sacks last year and just cracked the top 10 in total points for linebackers in my leagues. The Top 10 consisted of:

Three of those top ten linebackers ended the year with no sacks. Miller came in with the lowest tackle total. If he had not ended with those sacks, he wouldn’t have been a start every week. If Miller can only average .78 sacks per week and Telvin Smith can average 5.68 tackles per week, I’ll take the tackles every time as a smarter and safer play.

I also try to stay away from teams that utilize 3-4 schemes and utilize pass rushers on the outside. Those guys are too busy busting into the pocket and aiming for the QB to grab the kind of tackles I want. Those guys can’t be top point scorers. Middle linebackers are also your best bet as well.
Load up on these guys as you can never have too many linebackers. In a league where you can flex in a defensive player, playing multiple linebackers is a smart move. I will typically play four linebackers every week.

If you plan on spending money or high draft picks on a certain defensive position, these are your targets. In almost every league I am in, that had a rookie draft, Jarrad Davis was one of the first two LBs off the board. The tape and scouting on this guy says he is athletic and will be all over the field making plays. In my 12 team leagues, he would go early second round.

Cornerback
CBs are always the lowest paid defensive players in my leagues. They don’t score a ton of points and they are always a rollercoaster. It’s hard to predict what they may or may not do every week. When I look at a CB, there is one thing I want to know. How good is their offense? If a team will need to throw the ball a ton against your CBs, their chances to put up more points increases. Last year, the top CBs in my leagues were:

Ryan Logan- NE
Casey Hayward- LAC
Josh Norman- WSH
Bashaud Breeland- WSH
Janoris Jenkins- NYG

Ranks in offensive points scored were New England (3), LA (9) and Washington (12). Those teams had the top 4 cornerbacks. When the other team has to throw the ball a lot to keep up, it means more opportunities for cornerbacks to make plays.

Of those 5, only Hayward cracked the top 5 in INTs. Do not fall for guys with high INT marks and over pay or overdraft. There is no guarantee those numbers will repeat every year. After having 8 INTs in 2015, Marcus Peters was the top scoring CB in my league formats. After only snagging 5 picks in 2016 with less tackles, he dropped all the way CB21. If you are playing in a dynasty format that uses contracts, sign your CBs to 1 year deals. You can always get your CBs for cheap each offseason. If you’re playing in redraft, wait on CBs till the end. There is no reason to overspend or overdraft on this position.

Safeties
As I mentioned with DEs, I want my safeties to do a little bit of everything as well. Most importantly though, I want safeties that play up in the box often. Safeties that play up in the box have more opportunities for tackles and even sacks. One of my favorite safeties the last couple of years has been Johnathan Cyprien, now of the Tennessee Titans. Last year he played a hybrid role and would actually line up as a LB at times. When Tyrann Mathieu was healthy, he was a fantastic option at safety. He played all over the field lining up in the box, deep and even playing corner at times. In this rookie class, I see Jabrill Peppers as a great comparison. That probably will not be popular among many people, but in terms of fantasy football, it could become that down the road.

Outside of linebacker, I believe safety to be the second most important position in IDP, even over DEs. Safeties tend to be cheaper and go later in drafts, making them a better option to scoop up down the line. I am not comfortable unless I have three good safeties on my team.


Final Thoughts

If you play in an IDP league with balanced scoring, I recommend building a strong defense with good linebackers, defensive ends and safeties. In my opinion, it is much easier to project a stable weekly score for some defensive players than offensive players. Luke Keuchly is almost always going to get his tackles. JJ Watt has a pretty decent chance of getting in the backfield for some TFLs or sacks. Put together a reliable supporting cast on offense and beef up your defense if need be. Don’t go looking to trade all of your offensive players though to do that. Learn from my mistakes. Early in the 2015 season, I felt I was short a top linebacker. That was the spot I needed in order to win a championship. So what did I do? I traded two young, unproven running backs to get Bobby Wagner. Those two young backs turned out to be David Johnson and Jay Ajayi. I did my scouting and nailed getting both of them in the draft, but sometimes you make those moves to win. I ended up winning it all that year, but really had a hard time watching them both have spectacular seasons last year.

Just to reiterate, a lot of this information may or may not be useful depending on your league settings. Adjust accordingly and make the proper moves. No matter the settings though, in your next IDP draft or auction, this guide will help set you up for a great year.