A Beginners Guide To IDP Fantasy Football

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A series following my journey into learning the world of IDP fantasy football.


For most people, the world of fantasy football is dominated by those watching the offensive side of the ball. We cheer when our favorite RB goes for a 75-yard touchdown, and yell at the television when guys like Khalil Mack and Deion Jones ruin our chances at massive points.

However, there is a new fantasy format taking the fantasy football world by storm, where the defensive side of the ball is just as important. This format is individual Defensive Players or IDP fantasy football.

In attempting to learn this new league format, I came to a quick realization. There are more articles out there than a person can read to help with the offensive side of the ball. However, when it comes to the defensive side there is little information available to help a beginner.

Over the course of this series, I will walk you through the experiences I encounter while learning the world of IDP. I will not attempt to provide expert analysis, as there are plenty of people on this site who know more than I could ever possibly know. However, I hope to provide you with what I learn, and more importantly the mistakes that i make in hopes that you will not make the same ones.

Know Your Settings

The first, and arguably most important, step in fantasy football is to know your league’s scoring settings. This reigns true for IDP leagues as well. It is important to pay attention to the stats that are awarding the points. Is your league a big play league, tackle-heavy league, or balanced league?

In big play leagues, points are awarded for the “eye-popping plays”. Sacks, fumbles, and interceptions are more valuable in these types of leagues than tackles. Because of this, players like Chandler Jones and Demarcus Lawrence see an uptick in value.

In tackle-heavy leagues, points are more heavily awarded for generating tackles. These types of leagues put less emphases on pass rushers and more emphases on guys that are constantly around the ball racking up tackles. Players like Deion Jones and Bobby Wagner have a more premium value in these leagues.

Balanced leagues are simply what they sound like. Scoring is balanced between sacks and tackles. This prevents any one position from standing out above the other. Leagues that use balanced scoring are the ones that I recommend.

Know Roster Requirements

Another important thing to know while playing IDP is what your individual league’s roster requirements are. How many players from each position do you have to start? Is defensive line designated as one position or is it broken up into a defensive tackle and defensive end?

Knowing what positions are more important strictly based on roster requirements will change the way that you draft. If defensive line is broken up into individual positions than premium pass rushers need to be drafted earlier. Likewise, if your league starts multiple players from a single position those positions become more important. Knowing your league’s roster requirements is crucial while drafting your team.

Know the Schemes

When playing IDP Fantasy football knowing the defensive scheme a particular team is using is pivotal. Knowing If a defensive is running a 3-4 or 4-3 will tell you which players on that defense you want to draft for your fantasy roster.

In a 3-4 scheme, a defense is using 3 lineman and 4 linebackers. In this scheme you are looking to acquire the inside linebackers as they are the ones generating tackles. For the most part, avoid outside linebackers as they are the pass rushers and not the ones getting the tackles. Just like in any league though there are exceptions, for example JJ Watt. Also depending on what your league awards points for it could benefit you to have a pass rusher, which is why it’s important to know your settings.

In a 4-3 scheme, a defense uses 4 linesman and 3 linebackers. In this scheme defensive lineman have a much better opportunity to put up points, as your 2 defensive ends have a greater opportunity to pass rush. Just like in the 4-3 scheme your inside linebackers are the ones to target.

In the 4-3 scheme, this will be your middle linebackers. The middle linebacker is where the majority of the tackles will come from. Just like the 3-4 scheme had exemptions to this your weakside linebacker will also occasionally have a good stat line depending on how they are used for the pass rush.

Know The Players

When playing in leagues with just offensive players, running backs who catch the ball are more intriguing. Wide Receivers who are heavily targeted are at a premium. Tight ends who also run routes are ones that are drafted for your roster. As it is important to know your offensive players, it is equally important to know the skill set of the players on the defensive side of the ball.

Take your time to research which players are your tackle machines. Also, know which players specialize in pass rushing. And just as targets are important for an offensive player, snap count is important to the defensive side of the ball. Learn which players are on the field for the majority of the time as playing time equates to points, which is what we are all after.

I hope this information was helpful in learning some important first steps in playing IDP fantasy football. Again this will be a learning process for me as much as it is for you. I look forward to going on this journey with you and hopefully we can all learn 1 or 2 things about this new format taking the fantasy football world by storm.

Follow Matthew Jackson on twitter (@MoistMattFF) for more fantasy takes and tips.


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Life long Philadelphia Eagles fan from the great state of North Carolina. Looking to provide you with the tips and tricks needed to take home your league's title for years to come. Part time corrections officer/adult babysitter, full time dynasty enthusiast