Individual Defensive Players are an odd duck when it comes to fantasy football. There are so many variables that determine the value of the players themselves to your team. IDP’s are the only positions that are so dependent on each specific league’s scoring setup that depending on the league, JJ Watt is a first round pick or eighth round pick. For example, in one of my leagues, I have the ninth overall pick and I am seriously considering taking Watt. In another, he fits better in the third or fourth. Before you do anything, you need to understand how your league is set up. I like leagues that put more value in IDP’s as opposed to making them afterthoughts. In some leagues, it’s like IDP’s were added because the league Commissioner felt bad and wanted to include everyone. I’m sure they all get a trophy, too.
Unlike standard positions, IDP’s don’t have a standard scoring setup like a Standard versus PPR league. In some leagues, sacks are worth seven points. In others, two. So you’ll really need to look at your scoring and where they finished last year to help you gauge where to pick a guy. If JJ Watt scored more than 400 points in your league last year, he score more than 99% of the league. Consider that when drafting an RB2 or RB3 if Watt is still on the board because in all likelihood, Watt will outscore them.
I am going to use my own league as the example. I value IDP’s as a legitimate position because I value defense in general. Here are the general point settings for my league: Sacks (7), Tackles (1.5), Fumbles recovered (5), Safeties (6), Interceptions (7), Forced Fumbles (5), Passes Defensed (5). This may appear to be exceptionally high scoring, but take into account the fact that quarterbacks throw roughly 30 touchdowns per season at a six-point per TD clip. Also consider this: Marcus Peters was the league leader in Interceptions (8) and Passes Defensed (26) totally a total of 186 points, or 11.6 per game. Factor in tackles and Peter’s averaged 18.3 points per game. Not bad. JJ Watt averaged 18.5 points per game, LaVonte David at 22.1 and Reshad Jones at 20.
Here’s where it becomes relevant. These are the leaders at their position with decent averages. The offensive leaders with PPR scoring are in the same arena: Russell Wilson (20.6), Adrian Peterson (15.4), Antonio Brown (23.8), Rob Gronkowski (15.8). All the leagues I play in with IDP’s score roughly the same way. The reason I like it is because it puts defensive players in the conversation of best players in the league and not best defensive players in the league. With a late first round pick, Watt, Luke Kuechly, David and even Reshad Jones become considerations of the close back to back picks to have a premium defensive player who could possibly outscore your quarterback. Will you have to “punt” another position? Sure. You may end up not drafting a tight end until the 8th or 9th because you’re looking at a solid defense. But that is not the worst idea because of the premium position that tight end is. If you don’t pick up Gronkowski or or Greg Olsen, you are better off going after Gary Barnidge in the 8th or even Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the 14th so you can sprinkle a couple elite defensive players in with you quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. If your league scoring is something that puts defensive players in the back seat, my suggestion is to not draft any of them until the middle-late rounds because you are far better off. But hopefully you have realized that before this long.
Here are some general rules about drafting IDP’s:
- Don’t Draft Cornerbacks. I know I used Marcus Peters as an example. But let someone else draft him. Along with Richard Sherman, Josh Norman, David Amerson and Trumaine Johnson. I know, it’s going to be hard. But quarterbacks, no matter how bad some may be, know better than to throw anywhere near Richard Sherman. So they don’t. Draft safeties. They play center field and rack up a lot more interceptions, passes defensed and tackles than cornerbacks who are always away from the play.
- There Are Only 10 Elite Defensive Players. If you don’t happen to draft JJ Watt, Luke Kuechly, LaVontae David, Jamie Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Telvin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Malcolm Smith, Khalil Mack or Corey Graham, save it. You can pick up a number of defensive players who are outstanding much later in your draft. Guys like Kwon Alexander, Joey Bosa, Harrison Smith, Morgan Burnett and Bobby Wagner are going to be available. Don’t get distraught on missing out on those top ten. There’s plenty of talent to go around. Remember, drafting those top ten mean compromising somewhere else.
- Defensive Players Make Great Trade Fodder. Everyone wants JJ Watt on their team. That is indisputable. Last year I took JJ Watt in the 2nd Round of my draft, much to the chagrin of the rest of the league. One, I changed the dynamic of the league very early and the other guys had to start thinking that I would probably be drafting off that elite list unless they stepped in. Two, I traded JJ Watt the day after the trade for three guys, one of which was a top-five quarterback. People wants these guys on the border of being unreasonable.
- Take JJ Watt Early. Be That Guy. Yeah, I said it. This puts you in the driver’s seat of your entire draft. If the other folks in your league don’t budge when you draft Watt in the second, take Luke Kuechly in the third. They will have to start paying attention. If someone else takes Kuechly right after you take Watt, the avalanche begins freeing you up to pick up more premium players at other positions and you still have JJ Watt. You have to adjust to how they respond. It’s an excellent strategy because again, if they don’t budge, see rule #3.
- Remember To Keep Your Overall Strategy In Mind. Keep your eye on the prize. You have plenty of other positions to fill. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out exactly how you want. If you see a certain position getting drained, you may have to get someone before you’re drafting Johnny Maziel’s Liver because there aren’t any quarterbacks left. I love defensive players but every mock draft I’ve done where I end up with Watt, Kuechly, Reshad Jones and Jamie Collins means I am lacking severely on the offensive end meaning I need to make some moves and lose some of these guys anyway, which is fine, but involves more work that was avoidable.
Well, there you have it, folks. How to draft your IDP’s. This works every year for me and it will continue to work. It’s not rocket science. They’re just football player.