Johny The Greek takes you through how he built a championship caliber team in the 2018 season.
With the fantasy season-ending recently I’m back to writing about random topics that tickle my fancy. I’ll be returning to my “NFL’s Greatest Defenses & The Coordinators Behind Them” series that caused such an uproar on both Twitter and Reddit the last offseason and also some hot take articles and probably some other ones that will get me into hot water like my “In Defense of Emmit Smith” article I did last summer.
For my first article in months that hasn’t been an instant reaction and waivers or a start or sit, I will be talking about my strategy for building my IDP rosters over the course of the season. I have a perfect example of a team I was able to employ my strategy from the IDP Guys Writers League we ran this season. I will be breaking down this team, how it started, how I built it through the season, and how it finished.
First things first, here is the team.
I will be diagnosing this team from the draft to my moves I made right before the title game. Why I did what I did, what worked and what didn’t, and how you can use these principles and strategies in your own leagues to field the best defense. A little background this is an all IDP league, no offense whatsoever. Tackles are two points, assists – one point, tackle for loss – one point, sacks & interceptions – five points, passes defended – one point, blocked kicks – two points, safeties – two points, and return yards were – one point every 25 yards. Let’s start with the draft.
My overall strategy going into this league was to draft the positions where the drop off was biggest first. These positions are defensive ends and defensive tackles. Safety and linebackers prioritized later and corners can be streamed. I was intentionally ignoring linebackers except for maybe a stud or two to give me a chance at the start of the season. I knew that by paying attention I would be able to add multiple linebackers that would end up being excellent starters through the waiver wire over the course of the season.
My aim was to be good enough to make playoffs and by that point, I would have my complete team ready to roll. What I started within week one and the team that went to the finals were two very different things and that wasn’t by accident. For reference here is what the week one version of this team looked like.
The differences are apparent. A seasons worth of injuries, adjustments and waiver claims are quite noticeable. My biggest priority in this draft was getting those players at positions that were scarce who could be difference makers. I knew that just by the nature of me paying attention I would be able to snag more than a few solid linebackers throughout the season. The same thing with safety. My priority was establishing a dominant defensive line and a solid crew of corners to stream.
Just a quick note for the final version of the team from the beginning of this article. I got rid of a couple of those corners to get some backup at defensive tackles since both of my guys were questionable this week. There were more cornerbacks than what you see and I used all of those corners throughout the season. I would stream for the best matchup. I was not afraid to pick up a corner because they had an ideal matchup. When it comes to cornerback that is the best way to do it.
Cornerbacks not pictured in the beginning are Chicago Bears’ Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, Carolina Panthers’ Captain Munnerlyn, Minnesota Vikings’ Trae Waynes, Miami Dolphins’ Bobby McCain & Xavien Howard, and Los Angeles Rams’ Marcus Peters. All of those cornerbacks plus Kansas City Chiefs’ Kendall Fuller, Panthers’ James Bradberry, and New York Giants Janoris Jenkins were used at some point this season when their matchup was ideal.
Anyways back to the draft, so I’ve laid out my strategy and why I know it will work. Mind you, this was not filled with little fish. These are all writers or editors on the IDP guys staff. Everyone there knew what they were doing and then some. My first overall pick was Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack. He was a defensive end for the Oakland Raiders at the time. This was when Mack was rumored to be traded. There was some concern that he would end up being only a linebacker on Yahoo. That is likely why Mack fell to me at the ninth overall pick. Mack falling that far was unforeseen. With a linebacker designation or not, I had to pull the trigger. I had to hope that Yahoo would keep him as a defensive end. They did.
Despite my not putting linebackers at the top of my priority list, I did want at least one tier one stud. My second overall pick was Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander. My third pick ended up being New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan. He was an absolute steal as he was a first or second-round pick in most IDP drafts. With the one-two punch of Jordan and Mack, I was set at defensive end for the season. I ended up grabbing Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes as bye week replacement.
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Deforest Buckner dropped to me fourth round, yet another steal in my eyes. I ranked Buckner top-five at defensive tackle going into the season. He has proved to be that and much more. I wrapped up the defensive tackle position in the fifth round with Minnesota Vikings’ Linval Joseph. He is also a top-five defensive tackle. My entire defensive line as completed in the first 5 rounds of the draft. I would use the Vikings Sheldon Richardson and others for bye week replacements for both Buckner and Joseph during the year.
In the sixth round, I made my first mistake by drafting Los Angeles Rams linebacker Marc Barron. The thought at that point in time was with linebacker Alec Ogletree being traded to the New York Giants, Barron would eat up all that production as the most talented inside linebacker on the team. No one, except IDP Guys’ own Christian Gardner (@gardner_rake), had any idea Cory Littleton was about to have a huge breakout season. Nor did anyone know that Barron would be a spotty, inconsistent, unreliable and generally terrible linebacker who doesn’t play when it’s cold out.
I took a gamble Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker in round seven. I figured I could pick up safeties on the waiver wire if it did not work out. However, the gamble paid off. Baker had a monster start to the 2018 season. Over the course of the season, I played guys like Indianapolis Colts safety Clayton Geathers, Carolina Panthers’ Eric Reid, New York Jets’ Marcus Maye, and Denver Broncos’ Justin Simmons. Safeties and linebackers are always the easiest to grab off the wire throughout the season. My safeties were set after the New York Jets Adams fell to me in the eighth round.
Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan was my choice in round nine because, at that point, nearly all of the decent linebackers gone. Indianapolis Colts linebacker Anthony Walker, Kansas City Chiefs’ Reggie Ragland, and Tennessee Titans rookie Rashaan Evans were the next three rounds. All were replaced by better options from the waiver wire over the course of the season.
I took Panthers cornerback Bradberry in round 13. Bradberry proved to be an absolute steal. He ended up a top-five IDP corner for the second year in a row.
Round 14 I rolled the dice on the new, rookie weakside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts, some guy named Darius Leonard. That one worked out pretty well.
I took Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard in round 15. Dennard was solid in 2017. My team needed another cornerback.
49ers linebacker Malcolm Smith, Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, Seattle Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald, Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark, and Colts safety Geathers rounded out the rest of my draft. If you play IDP, you know that more than a few of those “fliers” ended up working out quite well.
The Waiver Wire
The next phase of building this team to a championship level was using the waiver wire. I drafted the “specialist” positions early and often and made sure to lock down the positions where it is harder to find guys off the waiver wire. At the same time, I drafted enough “warm body” linebackers to give me decent production early in the year. I could find better replacements through trades and waiver wire plundering.
Early in the season, news hit the wire that 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster would move to weakside linebacker and standout rookie linebacker Fred Warner would take over permanently at middle linebacker. This initiated my first waiver wire move. I went to the waiver wire immediately and picked Warner off of waivers. Warner had an outstanding start to the season. He cooled off some towards the middle of the season but was a great deal as a linebacker three or four which is where he ended up on my squad.
My next impact waiver wire move came right after week one, grabbing Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham. Bradham was fresh off his one-game suspension and had gone undrafted in many leagues. In 13 games this season Bradham has produced 87 combined tackles, two sacks, two passes defended and four tackles for loss. Those are rock solid tier two linebacker numbers. He became a weekly starter for me shortly after joining my squad.
I also picked up Denver Broncos linebacker Todd Davis the same day. It had become apparent that fellow starting linebacker Brandon Marshall had fallen off. Davis was off to a career-best start as well. In fourteen games this season he recorded 104 combined tackles, 0.5 sacks, seven passes defended, one interception, one touchdown and six tackles for loss. Davis obviously became an every week starter for me and has had the best season of his career.
That same day I added Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller. It was apparent that the Chiefs’ offense was prolific. Opposing teams had to throw the ball early and often. Thus Fuller was going to get his chances. Fuller frequently started for me because he was targeted a ton.
There were many short-term moves like Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Kyzir White, New England Patriots linebacker Ja’Waun Bentley, and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Duke Riley. None of them stuck. Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey had a slow start leading to a league mate dropping him. He spent some time on my squad until he ended up on IR. Colts defensive tackle Denico Autry and defensive end Margus Hunt were also among the short term guys that I used.
The next impact move was picking up Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown in week nine. White and linebacker Denzel Perryman were put on IR. The next man up was Brown, who was irrelevant in IDP up to that point. I rolled the dice on him and ended up with a solid tier two producer and a weekly starter. Since week nine, when Brown became a starter, he has averaged better than eight combined tackles per game and has chipped in several tackles for loss, passes defended.
I ended up adding Bengals safety Shawn Williams after he had a fast start to the season then cooled down significantly. Since week 10 he has averaged eight or more combined tackles per game. He also added three passes defended, one interception and two tackles for loss on top of the stellar tackle numbers. Williams and rookie Jessie Bates have become a two-headed monster at safety for the Bengals. Pairing Williams with the Jets Adams essentially guaranteed at least one monster game between the two of them per week. There were many instances where they both exploded for huge days the same week.
The last two significant moves I made were adding Cardinals linebacker Gerald Hodges in week 13 and 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee in week 14. Hodges took over at middle linebacker for the Cardinals when Josh Bynes went to IR. Hodges has averaged 8 combined tackles per game since taking over that position.
Lee came to my attention when it became apparent that 49ers linebacker Malcolm Smith would be relegated to either strongside linebacker or the bench. The 49ers season was swirling around the toilet bowl on its way down to the sewer. Obviously, the coaching staff is seeing if their young guys have what it takes to be starters next season. Thus Lee has been getting serious playing time at weakside linebacker and has been producing thus far.
If you listen to the podcast you have no doubt heard me talk about my overall IDP draft strategy at some point. It seems like it comes up at least a few times a season. This team above is the best example I have of putting that strategy in action. I locked down the positions where the drop off from tier one producers to the rest was massive and the waiver wire options are usually dismal. I plugged in warm bodies at linebacker at the start of the season, with the exception of Buccaneers’ linebacker Alexander. He ended up on IR anyway. I used the waiver wire throughout the season to build my linebackers and safeties. By playoff time this team was championship caliber.
You cannot have everything when you draft a team. No one is strong everywhere. You have to pick and choose your battles. This is the strategy that works for me. It worked in this instance with a bunch of league mates who have several years of IDP experience. Though competition was fierce, and yet I was able to lock down game-changing linebackers and safeties. I added them to the positions where I had already drafted studs. These moves helped to eventually form an excellent team that went to the title game.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned. Just because the fantasy season is ending doesn’t mean we are packing up shop. There will be articles all offseason. The podcast will continue. We will be expanding into many other areas including DFS, expanded dynasty coverage, and more accurate ADP information for drafts. We will also be covering the NFL draft and all the offseason transactions. I personally will be continuing to write controversial articles to stimulate discussion.
We are adding to our team of writers and editors. If you are interested in writing about fantasy football drop, us a line on Twitter or contact [email protected] for more information. We pride ourselves in being more approachable, more transparent and never putting our content behind a paywall. We will continue to keep those founding principles as we get bigger and better. I hope you had an awesome season and you will stay with us all offseason!