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How to Start an IDP Fantasy Football League

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If you reached this article, you are looking to expand your enjoyment of playing fantasy football by starting an IDP fantasy football league. I’ll walk you through all the basics!


Whether you are a seasoned fantasy football veteran, or a newbie looking to increase their experience, starting an IDP fantasy football league is a great idea! You’ll need a good group of managers passionate about football to have a successful league. We’ll take you through all of the steps and reasons to play!

What is an IDP Fantasy Football League?

A fantasy football league that uses IDP (Individual Defensive Players) incorporates the defensive lineman, linebackers, and secondary players into your draftable player pool. Instead of drafting a boring old team D/ST, you can roster the players who comprise those statistics. The “other side of the ball” shouldn’t be a scary part of fantasy football!

IDPs earn their fantasy points similar to their offensive counterparts, through recorded statistics. There are plenty of options to choose from! The most common are tackles (you can split assisted and solo or combine them), sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries, blocked kicks, and touchdowns.

From there, you can get even more in-depth by scoring tackles for loss, hits on QB, defended passes, or forced fumbles. And even awarding points for yardage on interceptions and sacks is an option.

How Many Points Should IDPs Score?

This is a hotly debated question when starting an IDP fantasy football league and so there are many opinions. However, most players and commissioners look to achieve a balanced scoring system between offensive and defensive fantasy players.

That is usually accomplished by somewhat heavily rewarding the “big plays” on defense – sacks and interceptions. Four to six points per sack and interception is a good start. And solo tackles between one and two points also help.

Test your scoring settings! Then review previous years’ fantasy finishes to see where the offensive versus defensive fantasy players finish is best practice. There are a couple of good IDP scoring systems to use as a starting point for your league. IDP123 and Big 3 Scoring are great options.

Where Can I Play in an IDP Fantasy Football League?

Most fantasy football platforms offer IDP capabilities. It is the scoring customization options that greatly differ from platform to platform. For more basic settings, ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS are great starters.

However, if you are really looking to dive into the deep end, platforms such as Sleeper (free) and MyFantasyLeague (aka MFL – fees) offer incredible scoring customization. They have flexible roster construction as well.

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How Should I Set Up My IDP Fantasy Football League?

Another sometimes intimidating or confusing aspect of starting an IDP fantasy football league is position designations. And then how many starting roster spots to allocate towards IDPs. Sleeper offers positions by DL, LB, and DB. While MFL offers DT, DE, LB, CB, and S (this is “true position designation”).

ESPN finally made strides by designating certain players as EDGE rushers, an increasingly confusing and argumentative aspect of IDP fantasy football leagues.

Ultimately, you should discuss with your league mates what you think is best! If you have a lot of beginners, it may be best to stick to the more vague designations that Sleeper offers in DL, LB, and DB. If you have managers who know the game well outside of fantasy, then position-specific on a site like MFL might work better.

As far as the number of starters, that’s part of your league startup conversation too. Again for beginners, maybe starting slow with one player from each level of the defense plus a FLEX would be appropriate. And then for more advanced players, mirroring an NFL starting defense might suit your league for maximum enjoyment.

Starting a full 11 defenders is really fun and you can break it up however you like.

How Do I Know Which Players to Draft and When?

IDP fantasy football leagues exist in the same formats as offense-only: dynasty and redraft/seasonal. The strategies will vary but here’s some advice based on position.

Linebackers

These are the bread & butter of an IDP fantasy football league. Generally, the top linebackers end up being the top IDP scorers, as they just inherently have more opportunities to record statistics. The top LBs are much more valuable in dynasty than redraft. So you’ll see them start to go off of the board as early as round five and on average between rounds 6-8.

LBs are sort of like WRs for IDP fantasy football. The top studs go early and are usually worth it, but it is also a relatively deep position. You won’t get hurt if you don’t start the run on LBs in your draft. Just don’t wait too long in the middle of an LB run and don’t get left out grabbing a top LB!

Defensive Line/EDGE

The DL/EDGE is a bit harder to discuss without knowing league-specific settings. This brings me to an excellent point, KNOW YOUR LEAGUE SETTINGS WELL BEFORE YOUR DRAFT! If sacks are at least four points, and especially if there are stackable points for TFLs (tackles for loss), then D-linemen/EDGE rushers become much more valuable than usual.

The more sacks are worth, the more valuable this position becomes. EDGE rushers and D-lineman can sort of be compared to RBs. There are a few elite options, and some managers choose to stack them heavily, others decide to fade. Both strategies work. If sacks are heavily rewarded, you may even see top DL/EDGE players drafted before the top LBs starting in round five.

Similar to RBs, it is a more shallow position, but you can get by should you choose to implement a “Zero DL” strategy. Top DL/EDGEs get drafted right along with the top-tier LBs. Linebackers will continue to sprinkle into the mid-rounds. Most DL/EDGEs only pick up again in the much later double-digit rounds after the top 5-10 options are gone.

Defensive Backs

Defensive backs are by far the deepest position in IDP fantasy football. Many savvy owners “punt” cornerbacks and safeties until they draft offense and DL/EDGE + LBs. And safeties are usually the way to go when building your roster. Unless you are using position-specific designations, cornerbacks are incredibly volatile week to week and tough to trust.

Strong safeties who wrack up tackles are the safest targets, but some free safeties are worth the gamble on their big plays. The top-tier DBs may go as early as round six or so and due to their depth, will be sprinkled in the mid and late rounds throughout the draft.

This is another position where you can afford to miss out on the perceived top-tier players, just don’t get caught with your pants down after a couple of DB runs. 

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Why Should I Play in an IDP Fantasy Football League?

Easy answer? Because it’s fun! Everyone should give it a shot at least once during their fantasy football experience. And if you just don’t enjoy it and decide it’s not for you, that’s OK! The IDP fantasy football community is one chock full of great analysts looking to help others and grow the game!

I’ve compiled some feedback from across the Internet on why you should try out an IDP fantasy football league:

Ultimately, our goal here is to help grow IDP fantasy football league awareness and help managers get over the hump and intimidation factor. Twitter is an incredible resource and if you want to take the plunge, sign up for an IDP Guys membership (early bird special right now)!


Follow me on Twitter at @DYNASTYSANTA for lots of spicy fantasy football takes (and taeks). Follow the @IDPGUYS main account for the best articles and fun IDP + offensive fantasy football banter, and check out our rookie draft magazines for that nostalgic aroma of using a book to help win your drafts!

Steve Tomasin

After being introduced to fantasy football in 1999 as a wee lad still in middle school, I was hooked. I then began commishing my own keeper league 2 years later as a sophomore in high school, which has been running since. I used a computer program that required me to manually input weekly stats and had to print out summary packets each week to deliver to league owners at the bowling alley. I loved it. Stats and numbers and the competitiveness of being "right" about players was just an incredible high that not many other activities or hobbies have ever provided me. Around 2005 we migrated to the CBS sports site. I found a new love then, writing about our league. Each year after the draft I would "grade" each owner's team. It became almost as anticipated as the draft itself. Also, most weeks I'd recap the league's games and criticize start/sits while boasting my own accolades as long as I won that week. Dynasty, IDP & Superflex are the next evolutions in my fantasy football journey. I'm a Philly suburbs guy, GO BIRDS. Follow me on Twitter @dynastysanta
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