Everything You Should Know About IDP True Position

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Are edge rushers devalued in your fantasy league because they have linebacker designations? True position may be the answer.

I'm keen for everyone who plays IDP formats to understand more about true position. In this article, I'll talk about what it is, how it overcomes shortfalls in the traditional approach to determining player positions, and how you can implement true positions in your league.

It's probably too late to implement league changes ahead of the 2022 season, but you can start preparing to make changes for 2023.

The Problem with Traditional Position Classifications on Popular Fantasy Platforms

Edge rushers vs. linebackers (MFL)

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You don't have to know much about NFL defenses to appreciate that edge rushers like T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa, and Rashan Gary are asked to perform a very different role from off-ball linebackers such as Shaquille Leonard, Bobby Wagner, and Fred Warner. And yet, all six players receive the same position classification — LB — in leagues using MyFantasyLeague's default positions. It's madness.

Here is a very narrow, very crude view of what each of those six guys spent their time doing in 2021:

Player Pass rush snap % Run defense snap % Coverage snap %
T.J. Watt 55% 39% 6%
Joey Bosa 55% 42% 3%
Rashan Gary 68% 31% 1%
Shaquille Leonard 6% 37% 57%
Bobby Wagner 4% 40% 56%
Fred Warner 4% 39% 57%

This table needs little explanation — you can see what I'm getting at. As I said earlier, edge rushers and off-ball linebackers do different things. It's no great surprise that the statistical output of one is entirely different from the other.

This table compares the average output of the top 36 players at the edge rusher and LB positions from the 2021 regular season:

Position Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles Sacks Total Pressures
Edge rushers 30.5 10.2 11.2 55.0
LBs 90.5 31.4 2.0 13.1

Why would we possibly apply the same scoring settings for these two positions that do such different things? It makes no sense.

DTs and edge rushers vs. DL (Sleeper)

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Leagues hosted on Sleeper have it just as bad, if not worse. Granted, some guys have dual designations, overcoming the problem mentioned earlier, but Sleeper still lumps together all DTs and edge rushers as defensive linemen (DL). That's a problem because the statistical output of DTs and DEs is quite different from one another.

This table compares the average output of the top 36 players at the DT and edge rusher positions from the 2021 regular season:

Position Sacks Total Pressures Solo Tackles Assisted Tackles
DTs 6.3 39.9 32.3 13.6
Edge rushers 11.2 55.0 30.5 10.2

This chart makes it obvious why DTs are devalued compared to edge rushers on the Sleeper platform and on any other platform where you aren't required to field a DT.

Safeties and cornerbacks vs. DB (Sleeper)

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Sleeper also lumps all CBs and safeties into the same position, DBs. That's egregious. Per the examples given earlier, CBs and safeties also perform different roles, and therefore, the statistical output of one differs significantly from the other. It's not fair to compare the two.

Scoring Settings

Some fantasy leagues claim to overcome these shortcomings by using scoring systems that make all positions roughly equal in value. Unfortunately, most popular scoring formats fail to achieve that outcome.

Differentiated scoring, customized for each position or position group, is the best way to achieve balance. But before you apply differentiated scoring, you need to group players who perform similar roles.

True Position

This is where true position helps. The true position is a version of IDP leagues that more accurately group players together based on their role:

  • All interior offensive linemen who typically line up inside the offensive tackles are considered DTs. E.g., Aaron Donald, Jeffrey Simmons, and Cameron Heyward. Note: this includes DTs and what we might have previously known as 3-4 DEs.
  • All edge rushers who line up outside the tackle are considered edge rushers. The edge rusher group includes outside linebackers and defensive ends who typically line up outside the tackles. E.g. T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa, and Kayvon Thibodeaux. This dispenses with the outdated notion that 4-3 ends and 3-4 outside linebackers have different roles. It's not the 1990s, after all.
  • All linebackers who spend more time in an orthodox linebacker role are considered ILBs, or just LBs. E.g., Roquan Smith, Devin White, and Bobby Wagner.

So how do we convert to using true position?

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The unfortunate truth for you Sleeper peeps is that you can't change players' positions in your leagues. That's OK, provided you're happy with certain positions being devalued. Besides, Sleeper offers one of the best interfaces and apps of any fantasy platform. That's reason enough for some to accept the shortcomings mentioned here. It's completely understandable; I play in some Sleeper leagues myself.

However, if you're currently using MFL or are considering it as an option, converting to true position has never been easier. Adam Tzikas, IDP Lead for DLFootball and co-host of the Read and React podcast, has created a tool that does most of the hard work for you. Check it out here.

This tool will cycle through your league and convert player positions so they align with those mentioned above. You only need to adjust your scoring settings and the number of starters at each position.

Things to be mindful of

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  1. As I alluded to earlier, a true position changes the number of viable options you have at each position. Removing all the edge rushers from the linebacker pool leaves you with a scarcity of viable options at the linebacker position. Therefore, reducing the number of linebackers required in your starting lineups is advisable. This more closely mirrors what we see happening in the NFL.
  2. Certain players cannot easily be categorized into a position or position group, whether we use true position or not. For example, Micah Parsons spent significant time as both an off-ball linebacker and an edge rusher in 2021. Leonard Williams spends more time lined up outside or over an offensive tackle than he does as a true DT. This stuff is not an exact science. However, true position gets you closer to something that makes more sense than the alternative options.
  3. Adam Tzikas points out that his conversion tool is not always perfect. "Due to the intense customization possible with MFL, some unique leagues or settings may not display correctly," he says. He lists the position changes his true position conversion tool will make. Check them before and after making changes to ensure you're happy with the outcome.
  4. Check out this article from IDP Guys' David Kelly for more information about how adopting true position affects your fantasy league(s) scoring.

Thanks for reading my article 'True position in IDP: what it is, why it is necessary, and how to convert.' I hope you found it helpful or interesting. Check out my other IDP Guys articles here, follow me on Twitter @JaseAbbey, and IDP Guys @IDPGuys.

Jase Abbey

I'm an IDP-obsessive and have been playing fantasy football for 20 years. I write the weekly IDP start/sit for IDP Guys in-season, redraft IDP content during the offseason, and appear on the odd podcast from time to time. I am a big, big believer in data-driven and evidence-based content. I'm UK-based, love most sports, and study sports journalism at university. My favorite two things in life are family and sarcasm.

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