Matt Ioannidis was parting opposing quarterbacks booty holes like Moses parted the Red Sea all season long.
Yeah what the hell, one more before we close it down and take a break until next season. I did an article like this last season but wasn’t able to win the title game with that team so with the success of this years IDP Guys Writers League team winning the whole thing, it makes more sense to do this again with a defense that actually won it all. 2018’s version was a championship caliber defense, 2019’s version IS a championship defense. I’ll be walking you through this team from draft to week sixteen title game and everything in between, the moves I made and why I made them. What was the pre draft strategy and how did I change up once the injury grim reaper starting clapping cheeks even before week one? I’ll go into all that and more.
This last season was year sixteen of playing IDP for me and most of this stuff I do without thinking about it so I’ll try and break down the thinking process with most of this as much as I can. First things first though let’s get the background stuff established, scoring and roster spots, shit like that.
This league was all writers from the IDP Guys and Dynasty Football Digest, there was well over a century of combined IDP experience involved in this league and between me, @Joeythetooth and @IDP_Dude all three of the dedicated IDP writers that handle the lions share of in-season work for the site were involved in this league. Tyler Joseph (IDP Dynasty Authority) was also a member of this league and has easily played IDP as long as I have and knows just as much as I do if not more, he’s seriously smart but is always jammed up with work so he’s a part time contributor for the site. Tyler Ghee of @F3pod and Vital Fantasy Football Information with Tyler Ghee, Hollywood of IDP Nation, Biddy of @F3pod and Sean and Nate of @IDPGuys podcast were also in this league. There were sixteen teams total. The rosters and points breakdown is as follows;
2x D Slots, any defensive player
4x LB Slots, can be ILB or OLB
2x DT Slots
2x DE Slots
2x CB Slots
2x S Slots, can be FS or SS
6x Bench spots
Tackle Solo 2points
Assisted Tackle 1point
Tackle for loss 2points
Forced Fumble 2points, Fumble Recovery 2points
Defensive TD 6points
Pass Defended 1point
Blocked Kick 2points
Turnover yards 25 yards = 1point
Extra point returned 2points
Damon Harrison squats and takes a shit in front of tens of thousands of horrified and shocked fans, Detroit USA Circa 2019
Let’s get into the draft and how that turned out. This is the week one version of what would end up being the championship team in this league.
I picked from the three spot and took Aaron Donald (DT) first overall as I kicked things off with my usual all IDP league strategy. For the two flex spots I knew I’d be going linebacker or safety, preferably linebacker, so I was going to need a shitload of linebackers. For most people that would mean spending their first pick on a linebacker to get ahead of the curve on acquiring those six needed linebackers. Not this guy though. I know that just by paying attention and working the waiver wire I’d be able to grab enough decent waiver wire linebackers over the course of the season to be ready with six startable linebackers by week sixteen.
The trick with these leagues is to make sure you’ve got studs at the positions where the talent drops off a cliff and defensive tackle is the preeminent example of that. By taking Aaron Donald (DT) first overall I had essentially guaranteed myself either the best or second best (depending on how much of a DeForest Buckner (DT) fan you are) defensive tackle for the season. Also he’s the president of the ultra mega cheek clapper ten thousand club and that’s just as important.
The founding member of the UMCCTTC was my overall one pick.
With my second pick I took CJ Mosley (LB) since linebackers were flying off the board left and right and I needed at least one or two decent linebackers to float this team early season giving me time to work the waiver wire and acquire the rest of the six starting linebackers that I would eventually need to make a run in the playoffs. Mosley ended up being a massive disappointment on the season but he was able to give me a few games early in the season which is what I needed him for.
If I could survive the first part of the season and sneak into playoffs the plan was to work on this team throughout the season with the week one version and the week sixteen version looking very different. There simply were too many people who knew what they were doing in this league, I was never going to be able to plug every hole on this team or have every player be consistent and reliable with sixteen people who knew what they were doing drafting and studs flying off the board early and often. With that in mind I knew this was going to be a work in progress all season so I worked that philosophy into my strategy.
The cheek clapper supreme had a dual designation in Yahoo this season making him exponentially more valuable than he already was.
My third pick was Chris Jones (DT) who has a dual designation in Yahoo as a DT-DE which was key for bye weeks allowing for more flexibility in setting lineups and for going after waivers. Jones ended up missing some games this season but I was able to cover most of his missing production with guys like Tyeler Davison (DT) earlier in the season and N’Damakong Suh (DT) later in the season. By going back to defensive line though I had put myself in an even deeper linebacker hole so I would need to nail the later picks at that position. It was worth it however to start two of the three best defensive tackles with Donald and Jones, this gave me a massive advantage at the defensive tackle position overall.
I took Trey Flowers (DE) fourth overall and while he ended up having an acceptable season it was far from what most of us thought it would be. He was able to recover during fantasy playoffs and put up serviceable games more often late in the year. He certainly didn’t start out fast though and people were quick to want to shitcan him after a slow start. Flowers would eventually end up as my other starting defensive end along with Matt Ioannidis (DE). Not the greatest duo but with my dominant one two punch of Donald and Jones at defensive tackle I was able to get away with having decent not outstanding defensive ends. Flowers did not do what I expected him to do but he served his purpose and fulfilled his role and helped this team take home the title.
Jordan Hicks had a monster season and was able to stay off the injury report which is as surprising as pooping solid after Taco Bell.
Jordan Hicks was my fifth overall pick and would end up as the overall linebacker one in most IDP scoring formats. This was huge. While many people took guys like Deion Jones (LB) and Darius Leonard (LB) far earlier, first round in most cases, I was able to grab the eventual top scoring IDP linebacker in the fifth round.
I am no Nostradamus so I won’t lie and say I called this, I most certainly did not, in fact I am on record saying I thought there was no way Hicks would play all sixteen games this season because he’s made of glass and I sure as shit didn’t think he would end up as IDP linebacker one. But you need luck as well as strategy to win these things so here’s where my luck came in, I had one other player that was drafted late and would end up as the overall IDP points leader for his position as well. These two random events were significant and helped this team succeed no doubt about it.
Shawn Williams was my sixth pick and had another excellent, consistent and reliable season at strong safety for the Bengals. He ended the season at the end of tier one for IDP safety and made a solid contribution to this team all season. I would’ve been equally happy with Jessie Bates (S) but he was gone by this point, either Cincy safety does the trick for me I love them both. I was also less worried if for some reason Williams under performed this season since it’s pretty easy to find safety help via the waiver wire if you need to replace someone. Good pick that did what was expected, nothing to see here.
Shawn Williams makes up one half of the excellent safety duo of Williams and Bates. Will Mr. Bates ever find happiness with Anna?
TJ Watt (EDGE) was something new I tried this season. Normally the makeup of these all IDP rosters is the same for me every season, all the linebackers or IDP flex slots where I usually plug in linebackers would be solid tackle floor guys. The big play dependent or sack dependent guys who play EDGE or OLB are usually something I stay away from, the consistency just isn’t there and for me consistency is king. However this season I decided to dedicate one of my six linebacker slots, four legit LB slots and two flex IDP slots, to an EDGE or OLB linebacker.
For me this decision came down to who was available for that role with this pick, if Chandler Jones (EDGE) or Khalil Mack (EDGE) was there I would’ve been equally comfortable with them in this role on my team as well. Luckily for me TJ Watt (EDGE) was available and I scooped him up. While he did have several weeks where he let me down due to the nature of his position (EDGE guys don’t score consistently because sacks aren’t a consistent stat) he also had many weeks where he went off with sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles and recovered fumbles. He was an X factor for me. I figured I could live with one guy that might let me down every once in awhile as long as he delivered those monster and often week winning performances just as often, that describes TJ Watt (EDGE) precisely.
Ed Oliver was my eight pick and the first legitimate mistake of the draft, he was hyped up beyond belief after the NFL draft and was expected by many in the IDP community to be an absolute monster this season. That did not happen. While he had flashes of this kind of production his overall playing time for the season was not ideal at all and it became evident fairly quickly that he was still just a dynasty piece that will hopefully be that dominant force in the coming seasons, it sure as hell wasn’t this season though. I kept him on the bench as long as I could then blew him out the airlock once the writing was on the wall. No one nails every draft pick and this was definitely a miss on my part.
Nick Vigil was my ninth pick and despite his inconsistency on the season, his end of year numbers were about what was expected from him. As a linebacker four on my team I was able to live with the ups and downs of his season. He had several monster games and more than a couple stinkers as well but most weeks was good for serviceable points and remained better than most options on the waiver wire. He always played 100% of snaps and the Bengals offense was vomit worthy the majority of this season so I knew he would be seeing the field more often than most full time linebackers, he was a good option at linebacker four and did what I needed him to do this season.
Eric Reid squats and takes a shit on the field in front of tens of thousands of shocked and horrified fans, Charlotte USA Circa 2019
Eric Reid was my tenth overall pick and ended the season as overall safety one in many IDP scoring formats. Getting Hicks and Reid as the overall linebacker one and safety one was the little bit of luck I needed to help this team along all season. He was expected to have a good season and end up as a safety tier one but what we actually got out of him was incredible. He legitimately had a month plus streak of monster games week after week.
His return on investment here was incredible, paying a tenth pick for the overall safety one was a home run of epic proportions. Between him and Shawn Williams (S) my safety situation was solid and set for the year. The remaining picks from this draft were guys like Rashaan Gary (EDGE) or Brian Burns (DE) who played in week one or during the first part of the season until it became clear that their playing time and role weren’t going to cut it production-wise and were ultimately cut and blasted out the airlock.
There were many, many, many corners on the season, Donte Jackson, Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Joseph, Kenny Moore, Chidobe Awuzie, Kendall Fuller, Jalen Mills and at least ten to fifteen others. If anyone has ever read my instant reaction article or the start or sit article I did all this season you know my theory on corners. They are replaceable depending on matchup, my general rule of thumb is to keep about four of them on my roster at all times and always look a week ahead or two and add those corners from waivers ahead of time so I’m always starting corners with ideal matchups.
Use them, look and see if they have another ideal matchup coming up next week or the week after and if not blow them out the airlock and find someone else who does have that ideal matchup this week or next. As long as they play 100% of snaps and are in a matchup against a team that throws the ball early, often and effectively that’s about as good as it gets. Corner itself is a naturally inconsistent and spotty position so the best you can do is get guys that play all the snaps and are in a good matchup and hope it works out. I used this strategy all season and it worked out perfectly.
Donte Jackson was one of the many different corners I streamed based on matchup this season in a perfectly executed strategy.
I touch on this elsewhere in this article but another thing you can do instead of using the cornerback strategy I just talked about is to acquire safeties that are listed as corners, guys like Jimmy Ward (S) and Julian Love (S), hidden safeties if you will. This is essentially a cheat code. This allows you to play three or even four safeties instead of two safeties and one or two corners. Safety is a far more consistent position overall, especially strong safety and guys like Julian Love (S).
I was able to add Love later in the season and then went with a combination of these two strategies, I would start Love every week as essentially a third safety and then a regular cornerback in the second corner slot as long as it was someone in an ideal matchup that played 100% of snaps. This worked to perfection all season for me and was another key element in this team winning the title. I’ll touch on this more later in this article.
There were many waiver wire moves throughout the season to fill holes, short term injury replacements and warm bodies for bye weeks. Some of the more noteworthy moves this season include Damien Wilson (LB) Chiefs who was IDP relevant for a few weeks while there was an injury to Anthony Hitchens (LB). Tyeler Davison (DT) who had a super hot start to the season and was an excellent bye week fill in at defensive tackle. Blake Cashman (LB) was relevant for a little while before he also ended up on IR. Kevin Minter (LB) who was a good multi week fill in for linebacker while Devin White (LB) was injured and out. Ricardo Allen (S), David Mayo (LB) and Troy Reeder (LB) were all flashes in the pan that served a purpose and were just a quickly blasted out the airlock for the next warm body.
Alas, Troy Reeder flew too close to the sun and was only a flash in the pan this season. He served his purpose for my team though then was blasted into space as garbage.
Harold Landry (EDGE) was a nice roll of the dice but I only wanted to roll out one OLB or EDGE guy on this team, TJ Watt (EDGE) who was along with Chandler Jones (EDGE), Shaq Barrett (EDGE) and Khalil Mack (EDGE) are really the only EDGE or OLB guys I would consider consistent enough to start weekly on an all IDP team where I can find solid tackle floor guys pretty easily. I was a victim of the Najee Goode (LB) shenanigans just like a ton of other people, the week where he was suddenly benched for Quincy Williams (LB) with no news of it ahead of time I got fed up with the baggage attached to him and blew him out the airlock as well.
Matt Ioannidis (DE), the splitter of cheeks when he’s not splitting firewood, was a mid season addition that solidified my defensive end corps and allowed me to start Chris Jones (DT) at defensive tackle instead of defensive end going into playoffs, his value at defensive tackle is exponentially higher, he’s a top three defensive tackle while just another defensive end tier one (top 12) at D end. Getting Ioannidis was huge.
James Burgess (LB) was a huge waiver wire add when he came around, he would take over as an inside linebacker for the Jets with the injuries to most of their linebacker corps and play 100% of snaps every week until the end of the season. The Jets offense was garbage still so he would see the field often and produce very well for the rest of the season. Adding Burgess solidified my four starting linebackers and allowed me to concentrate on getting those last two solid tackle floor linebackers for my two IDP flex spots. The young, up and coming cheek clapper Maxx Crosby (DE) also saw some time on this squad at both the IDP flex spot and as a fill in defensive end for some bye weeks.
He would be airlocked right at week sixteen so I could add as many linebacker waiver wire options as possible and thereby deny those options to my opponent who desperately needed help at linebacker going into our title game matchup. Donald Payne (LB) and Joe Walker (LB) were both added when they became waiver wire options at linebacker and Payne would become the fifth locked in starting linebacker with just a week or so to go before playoffs. I would need just one more solid linebacker to complete this team and be solid all around for my playoff run.
Like Thanos collecting the stones my team was complete with the final addition of Will Compton going into week sixteen.
The final piece of the puzzle was Will Compton (LB) from the Raiders. I had noticed for about a week or two before he became an obvious and clear waiver wire option that both Tahir Whitehead (LB) and Nicholas Morrow (LB) had been receiving fewer and fewer snaps for the Raiders from week twelve onward, it was becoming clear that an opportunity for a new linebacker to get a chance at significant playing time and a meaningful role might be right around the corner. So when I saw Will Compton (LB) jump onto the scene in week 15 the time was right to make him my number one overall waiver wire pick that week, pray I got him and to roll the dice with him in the week 16 title game.
All the signs were pointing towards him getting 100% of snaps and a massive role with an ideal matchup against a Chargers team that had been giving up easy run stopping tackles all season. The gamble paid off as Compton did in fact play every snap and rattled off twelve combined tackles with ten solo that week. He was my final piece of the puzzle, the sixth and final linebacker I needed to win the title and he came the last week of the season, I had been playing Joe Walker (LB) in that final IDP flex spot prior to Compton coming on board. My overall strategy had finally come together and the team I was trying to build all season long was complete just in time for the final matchup of the year.
The point behind all this was this team was drafted incomplete, it was always going to be a work in progress. With the strategy being to have it ready for playoffs and ultimately week sixteen of playoffs, championships week, I knew I had to do whatever it took to make playoffs up to and including making over 73 moves on the season which was second most in the entire league only behind our own Joeythetooth who had a similar strategy and who I ended up facing in the finals.
Rarely if ever, especially in today’s NFL where injury, demotion and changes in scheme and role occur so frequently, will you have a team that you draft prior to week one and it will look exactly the same or even remotely close sixteen weeks later in the title game. In the real world you need to do whatever it takes every week to scratch and claw to make playoffs and then you’ve got a chance to go all the way and win it all like this team did this season. It takes work. You need to pay attention, set lineups, set alarms so you can check inactives before every game. You need to stay on top of shit or you don’t stand a chance in a league like this.
Maxx Crosby was a huge part of my bench this season, he subbed in on multiple bye weeks and even played some IDP flex when this team didn’t have enough linebackers.
The week sixteen version of this same team looks far more solid overall and has no glaring weaknesses. There were some late nights worrying about Jacksonville pulling the rug out from under me with Payne but that anxiety and worry was common among IDP players who rode the “Payne Train” this season.
The final version of this team had six solid linebackers with a good mix of solid tackle floor guys like Jordan Hicks (LB) and explosive big play & sack dependent guys like TJ Watt (EDGE-OLB). Both safeties were rock solid and had been all season, both corners were in excellent matchups and played every snap every week or close to it or I was going with a “hidden safety” like Julian Love (S) and a corner in an ideal matchup. Two of the top three IDP defensive tackles played for this team and both defensive ends were solid and reliable, they weren’t the best but the strength across the board more than made up for the slight weakness at defensive end.
One of the bigger advantages I had going on this team was using a “hidden safety” with Julian Love (CB,S) who was listed as a cornerback on Yahoo but really plays strong safety for the Giants taking over for Jabrill Peppers (S) when he got injured for the rest of the season. Love played nearly every snap and produced reliably and consistently as a true in the box safety, the fact that he was listed as a cornerback allowed me to essentially start three safeties instead of two and to play one less cornerback which is also an advantage, corner is a naturally spotty and inconsistent position even in an ideal matchup.
This team was good across the board and the bench players were also part of the late season strategy, my week sixteen opponent, @Joeythetooth, was having issues starting six linebackers due to injuries so I emptied my entire bench championship week (didn’t need them anymore, last week of the season) and used those bench spots to grab as many IDP relevant linebackers from the waiver wire as possible effectively denying them to my opponent. If they’re sitting on my bench they can’t start for his team.
The final version of this team was exactly what I had been working to build since the first pick of the draft and looked far different from the week one version, here it is:
Obviously when you look at the week one version of this team and the week sixteen version there are many differences. The strategy from the draft was executed to perfection. I took a roster that was starting Brian Burns (EDGE), Shaun Dion Hamilton (LB) and CJ Mosley (LB) who were irrelevant, not playing enough and on IR respectively and through working the waiver wire replaced those warm bodies with Donald Payne (LB), Will Compton (LB) and James Burgess (LB) who were a MLB playing 100% of snaps, another MLB playing 100% of snaps and an ILB on a 3-4 playing 100% of snaps respectively.
I took those three useless warm bodies and over the course of the season replaced them with starting linebackers who got their chances via injury and ended up being massive producers on teams with bad offenses essentially guaranteeing that they would all play a ton of snaps every week. By knowing I could do this in week one and committing to this strategy I was able to draft the studs I needed at the positions where production and talent drop off a cliff, defensive tackle especially where I secured Aaron Donald (DT) and Chris Jones (DT), and know that by paying attention and working the waiver wire I would be able to make up the lack of six solid starting linebackers by the time playoffs rolled around and the team would be complete when I needed it to be.
Having a complete team with no weaknesses in week one is a waste and most of the time it isn’t possible. Unless you’re drafting with idiots or people who are inexperienced with IDP you’re almost never going to have a team with no weaknesses. And even if you somehow do pull that off the injury grim reaper is going to clap your cheeks for sixteen weeks and that team will likely be decimated by injury and look completely different by the time playoffs come around. The idea is to be ready when you need to be, for playoffs and ultimately for the week sixteen title game.
To that end you just need to make playoffs, having the one seed or the two seed usually doesn’t mean a lot, sure the bye week is nice if the league you’re in even has one but personally I’d much rather draft the way I did and be weak early in the season and strong at the end when it matters. By enacting this strategy my team didn’t start hot at all and I had to scratch and claw my way into the playoffs but it’s not about who starts hot it’s about who ends hot. There were several leagues this season where I just barely made it into playoffs and ended up winning the league or placing second or third, my law of thumb has always been you just need to get into playoffs then anything is possible.
Despite my strong dislike for the inconsistent EDGE or OLB position TJ Watt was clapping cheeks all season long for this team.
I hope I was able to shed some light on some of my thought process when it comes to building a championship caliber defense like I did this season with this league. Honestly most of this stuff is so second nature by now I rarely even think about what I’m doing. I’ve been playing IDP since 2004 and have been using this strategy in all IDP leagues for the last four years now and variations of this strategy in combined offense & IDP leagues for a lot longer. When it comes to building a IDP defense in a league where offense is involved as well my thought process is pretty similar to this as well with some slight changes depending on scoring and positions needed.
I’ve always been a “punt linebackers” guy since they’re one of the easiest positions to acquire from the waiver wire over the course of the season with safety being the second easiest to pick up. I’ve always valued having strength at positions where there is a scarcity of talent like defensive tackle or defensive end, if you can dominate in those positions you can always pick up guys like Donald Payne (LB) or Will Compton (LB) or Alexander Johnson (LB) over the course of the season and end up with linebackers who play every snap and are almost as productive as guys like Deion Jones (LB) or Luke Kuechly (LB) who you would have to pay a kings ransom for during the draft.
That strategy is not for everyone and it’s certainly not something I would recommend to newer players of IDP. Even if I am punting linebacker I’ll still usually grab at least one or two studs to float my team until a few weeks into the season when these waiver wire linebackers start to become available due to injury or demotion. And while linebackers and safeties are always plentiful on the waiver wire cornerbacks are in another category entirely. There are very, very few “lock” IDP cornerbacks, this season it was Logan Ryan (CB) and that’s basically it, the year before it was Kenny Moore (CB) or Kendall Fuller (CB) and that was it.
Corners are generally inconsistent and spotty with their production so by relying on matchup and streaming week to week you put yourself in the best position for succeed with this position group. Corners are always readily available on the waiver wire and fall in and out of favor with teams defensive coordinators all season. Hell sometimes I don’t even draft corners during the draft and will wait until just before week one and grab a couple off the waiver wire that have an ideal matchup. Remember what I said about the “hidden safety” corners as well, if you can plug in guys like Julian Love (S) or Jimmy Ward (S) in those corner slots you’re giving yourself a massive advantage over everyone else.
Julian Love (S) was listed as a corner on several sites and was essentially a cheat code as a “hidden safety”.
If all this read like gibberish to you just keep playing. It took me a long time to be able to think up, enact then stick to a strategy like this all season and make it work year after year. Just like anything else it gets easier with practice and doing it over and over. I hope if you took anything from this to help you in your IDP leagues next season it’s that yes, luck definitely is part of this, but a bigger part is having a plan going into the draft and sticking to it. Being able to be comfortable with the week one version of your team knowing that it will change it’s makeup many times over the course of the season is also key, now more than ever you need to be adaptable as an owner in fantasy football.
Pay attention, roll with the punches and do whatever it takes to get into playoffs and you’ve got a shot. Once you get there hopefully you’re close to what you wanted your team to look like when you did your draft and first enacted your strategy for the season. Just for the record here’s how the week sixteen title game against Joeythetooth, who is an extremely smart IDP mind and very successful in IDP fantasy football season after season, went: (And nope, the zero projections from Yahoo never bothered me, they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to IDP, they’re always weeks behind on shit when it comes to that side of the ball)
The strategy I embarked upon at the draft, six solid linebackers, four in the linebacker slots and two in the flex spots, plus the two dominant defensive tackles, two tier two but still solid defensive ends, two excellent safeties and two corners following the streaming corner or hidden safety strategy I mentioned, all came together for playoffs and resulted in a monster of a defense that destroyed all in it’s path. From draft to title game you’ve now seen the journey from conception to championship.
Don’t give up if things don’t go your way early, this team started off losing a lot in the first two months of the season and barely snuck into playoffs as a five seed before I added the final pieces to this squad with Donald Payne (LB) and Will Compton (LB) and had completed what I had envisioned during the draft months earlier. Pay attention, take care of the things you can control and that will limit how much say the fantasy gods have over the outcome. Thank you for reading and I hope you all had a successful season and clapped many opponents cheeks.
Just a heads up for our podcast listeners we’ll be back the week before the Super Bowl for an interview with the one and only Dr. Super Bowl himself. We’ll also be covering yearly awards and making our Super Bowl predictions as well as announcing upcoming offseason content. Joeythetooth and IDP Dude will also be joining us to discuss the season and talk some Super Bowl as well as a recap of the entire season for IDP purposes. We’ll likely do another podcast after the Super Bowl to wrap up the season and we’ll be on break until the draft after that.
As for the website side of things we’ll be pumping out plenty of dynasty and draft related content over the off season as well as whatever the hell I feel like because I can do that here, it’s nice. For next season I’ll be writing a college fantasy football article and bringing back the always popular instant reaction and IDP waivers article for a third season as well. The start or sit will be getting retired but between our matchup charts and the other content we’ve got planned we should have you covered in that respect as well. Enjoy the offseason my friends and thanks for reading. As always I can be reached @Orangeman3142 on Twitter or through the contact us box on idpguys.org
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