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IDP Draft Strategy: Top 5 Tips

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Quality IDP draft strategy is important to having a successful fantasy football season. Here are my top five tips and IDP sleepers.


Whether you’re new to drafting Individual Defensive Players (IDP) or have been for years, these basic IDP draft strategies will help you field a competitive team to vie for your league championship. Next, I’ll cover some alternative IDP strategies to consider and provide some 2022 IDP Sleepers. Let’s dig into fantasy IDP draft strategies that will help bring home the league trophy and the bragging rights that come with it.

Know Your League’s Scoring

If there’s only one piece of advice I could give to a beginner or novice fantasy IDP participant, it would be to know how your league scoring works. Most people believe scoring systems are uniform across leagues. However, it’s not until they review their league’s settings that people realize how different rules can be. Take a look at Joseph Haggan’s article on scoring customization for more information.

Listed below are the three main factors to consider.

Scoring Style

Even though league scoring is individually customized, determining ratios between points received from tackles vs. points received from turnovers and sacks helps put scoring systems into general categories for further analysis. As explained by Gary Davenport, let’s look at the three types of scoring.

1. Tackle-Heavy Scoring

“If the ratio between tackles and big plays is 3:1 or less (say 1.5 points for a solo tackle and four points for a sack), then your IDP league is tackle-heavy. It’s the most common form of IDP scoring and one that heavily favors linebackers.” 

2. Big-Play Scoring

“If the ratio between tackles and big plays is 4:1 or more, then you’re playing in a big-play heavy scoring system. In those IDP leagues, rush linebackers like Von Miller of the Denver Broncos and ball-hawking defensive backs receive a boost in value.” 

3. Balanced Scoring

“If the tackle to big play ratio is between 3:1 and 4:1, then the scoring in your IDP league is considered balanced. Edge-rushers and ball-hawks are more valuable there than in tackle-heavy formats, but tackle vacuum linebackers and safeties still reign supreme.” 

IDP Scoring Relative to Offensive Scoring

You’ll want to analyze how the projected scoring for each IDP position (DL, LB, DB) compares to the projected scoring for each offensive position (QB, RB, WR, TE). Looking at the projected total points for both will give you a rough idea of where you might expect to see the top defensive players picked.

Looking at ADP or any Value-Based Drafting (VBD) analysis would also help decide when to draft IDP in your fantasy leagues. If you are looking for ADP data, check out IDP Guy’s exclusive Redraft IDP ADP.

Number of Starting IDP Lineup Spots

I assume most casual or re-draft leagues use a two DL, two LB, and two DB format. However, if you are in a league that uses more or less IDP, it could drastically change your draft strategy. For example, if your league only has three IDP spots, you should wait even longer until you draft your first defensive player due to a lack of player scarcity.

Know Your League’s Scoring

I can’t emphasize this point enough, so I’m going to list it twice. Know your league’s scoring! IDP Guys has a Custom IDP Scoring Tool that can generate projections that are tailored to fit your particular league’s scoring settings.

Linebackers

In most IDP leagues, linebackers are the key to having a solid defensive roster. Therefore, I typically recommend an IDP draft strategy that involves picking a linebacker in three of your first four IDP selections. I also advise ignoring all IDP in the first five rounds.

Not only are linebackers the highest-scoring defensive players, but they are also the most consistent. The pre-snap positioning of linebackers near the line of scrimmage or in the box puts them in prime position to rack up tackles.

Since a linebacker can’t make a tackle unless he is on the field, it’s of vital importance to identify which linebackers will stay on the field for all three downs. Certain linebackers may be pulled off the field in passing situations like third down and be replaced by an extra defensive back. For three-down linebacker information, check out this Every-Down Linebacker article.

When selecting linebackers, you generally want to pick inside or middle linebackers instead of outside rushing linebackers. This suggestion is again due to the emphasis on tackles over sacks in most IDP fantasy scoring systems.

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Defensive Linemen

Unless your league has a scoring system that heavily favors sacks and tackles-for-loss, I would rank defensive linemen second of the three IDP positions. There is a drop-off after the top 10 defensive linemen, so I would recommend selecting one of them before all 10 come off the board. For the best defensive linemen, you should check out our Top 5 IDP Rankings.

Draft Defensive Backs in Later Rounds

Resist the urge to draft defensive backs in the first round and wait until much later to draft your first defensive back. With every team in the NFL starting at least four defensive backs, there should be a plethora of options no matter what round you’re drafting in. In most leagues, decent defensive backs can even be found on the waiver wire, so there is no point in using an early draft pick at this position.

Another reason to draft defensive backs in later rounds is the unpredictability of the Top 12 Defensive Backs from one year to the next. A high-scoring safety from 2021 may have a steep drop in scoring in 2022. Tom Kislingbury has been looking at this data for quite some time.

Check out this handy Defensive Backs Chart for a list of starting safeties.

Bonus Tip: Have Fun

I recommend drafting at least one player that you enjoy watching or who is on your favorite NFL team. This strategy will make Sundays more enjoyable as you watch your fantasy team take on your friends and biggest rivals.

After understanding basic IDP strategy, you should check out IDP Guys if you need some IDP rankings. They have rankings, sleepers, cheat sheets, and so much more.

Alternative IDP Draft Strategy

You may have heard of strategies on offense like QB-WR stack, Robust RB, Zero RB, or even Running Back Handcuffs. Have you ever wondered if these strategies would work on the defensive side of the ball with Individual Defensive Players? Let’s take a look.

Zero IDP

Zero RB is the idea of ignoring the running back position in the first five rounds and instead drafting a combination of quarterbacks, tight ends, and receivers. Brandon Haye recently wrote an article about the Zero RB Strategy.

So, what would a zero IDP drafting strategy look like, and would the strategy be effective? In this strategy, I envision a team filling out their entire offensive starting lineup and several backups before selecting a single linebacker, defensive lineman, or defensive back.

This Zero IDP draft strategy can be quite effective and would be my recommendation to most people looking for fantasy IDP draft advice. The Zero IDP would be especially successful in the following situations:

  1. If your league has low scoring.
  2. If your league has only a few starting IDP positions.
  3. If your league has more than one or two offensive flex positions.

To effectively implement this fantasy IDP draft strategy, you will need a quality list of sleepers. Sleepers are generally players that are picked outside the Top 20 at their position. Here are a few names you will want to keep in mind for this strategy, although this list is also helpful for all IDP drafts.

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IDP Sleepers

Linebacker: Cody Barton, Divine Deablo, Nicholas Morrow, David Long, Malcolm Rodriguez (R)

Defensive Line: Gregory Rousseau, Carl Lawson, DeMarcus Lawrence, Darrell Taylor, George Karlaftis (R)

Defensive Back:  Brandon Jones, Kamren Curl, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Xavier Woods, Nick Cross (R)

Note: If you are looking for Offensive Sleepers, check out these Top Five League-Winning Sleepers.

With the Zero IDP strategy, you will also want to pay close attention to the waiver wire during the season to pick up any players that take on bigger roles as the season progresses. This is a great way to improve your IDP positions at no cost to you.
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IDP Stacking

With the popularity of daily fantasy sports (DFS) like DraftKings, the concept of stacking (drafting one team’s quarterback and the same team’s best receiver) has been trending and expanding into 12-team fantasy leagues. This season’s common examples include the following duos: Joe BurrowJa’Marr Chase, Josh AllenStefon Diggs, Justin HerbertKeenan Allen, and Matthew StaffordCooper Kupp.

So, would the idea of drafting two defensive players from the same team that plays two different positions be a winning IDP drafting strategy? I have concluded that it would not be successful for two main reasons.

First, in leagues with shallow rosters, you will run into issues with bye weeks. Second, finding two high-scoring IDPs from the same team is rare. Usually, the two good players will cut into each other’s production, limiting your overall scoring upside. When drafting fantasy IDP, the best plan is to pick the best available player with each pick.

But just for fun, let’s look at a few fantasy IDP Stacks if you tried out this IDP draft strategy.

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Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith – Minnesota Vikings

Kendricks and Smith have been paired together since Kendricks’ rookie season in 2015, and this duo has consistently been near the top scorers at that their respective positions.

T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick – Pittsburgh Steelers

Watt led the entire league with 22.5 sacks, while Fitzpatrick led all safeties with 123 tackles. If there is one duo I would want, it would probably be this pairing. However, these players are currently being drafted way too early for my liking, and I believe there is better value available in later rounds.

Bobby Wagner and Aaron Donald – Los Angeles Rams

After playing his entire career in Seattle, Wagner joins Donald as a formidable LB/DT duo.

Jordyn Brooks and Jamal Adams – Seattle Seahawks

Brooks finished Top Five in IDP scoring in 2021, and there is no reason to expect him to decline with the departure of Bobby Wagner. Adams is no slouch himself, although he has not been able to repeat his top-scoring DB status from 2018.

Fred Warner and Nick Bosa – San Francisco 49ers

Bosa finished as the top DE in 2021, and Warner is consistently a Top 15 linebacker.

Robust IDP

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A robust RB draft strategy typically involves drafting running backs with your first three picks. You fill your two starting running back positions and flex position with a running back before you address the quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end positions. The theory with this strategy is that stud running backs are in short supply and other positions are a lot deeper.

A robust IDP strategy would involve drafting individual defensive players with your first few picks or much earlier than the rest of the league. I would avoid this strategy at all costs. Fantasy leagues generally give offenses a much higher scoring setup than IDP. As a result, the point difference is much greater when going from QB one to QB 20 or RB one to RB 20, as compared to LB one to LB 20 or DB one to DB 20.

My good Twitter friend, @OutlawedCommish, tried out this strategy in a Superflex charity league. I think he wanted to implement something new and have some fun while going heavy at the IDP position. I think he is in for a long season with the following starters on offense: Daniel Jones, Travis Etienne, AJ Dillon, D.J. Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Rashod Bateman, and Chris Olave.

If you have any interest in trying out the Robust IDP Draft Strategy, you should check out our Top Five IDP Rankings.

Linebacker Handcuffs

We all know the strategy of handcuffing your starting running back by drafting his backup in a later round. Handcuffing at the IDP positions is not advisable unless you play in a very deep league, like one with 53-man rosters. Most fantasy IDP leagues have much smaller rosters, and bench positions are extremely valuable.

I devote most of my bench spots to offense. When I use a bench position on a defensive player, I want to make sure that I use this spot on a player that can contribute immediately during a bye week. Injuries happen frequently in the NFL but guessing which player will get injured is like playing the lottery. If you do play in a deeper league, here are some handcuffs worth rostering.

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Krys Barnes – Green Bay Packers

Barnes had an impressive preseason and will back up De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker. Campbell finished Top three in linebacker scoring last year, so there would be scoring opportunities in Green Bay for Barnes if an opening were to arise.

Zaire Franklin – Indianapolis Colts

Franklin would see a boost to playing time if Shaquille Leonard has a setback in his recovery from back surgery and last year’s ankle and calf issues.

Robert Spillane – Pittsburgh Steelers

Spillane will back up Devin Bush, who struggled mightily in 2021 and could not lock down an every-down role. Don’t be surprised if Bush starts to lose playing time if his level of play doesn’t show signs of improvement.

Chad Muma – Jacksonville Jaguars

Muma is a rookie who will back up Foyesade Oluokun and Devin Lloyd. Fellow rookie Lloyd missed a good portion of training camp and preseason with a hamstring injury, and we all know that these soft-tissue injuries can have a habit of flaring back up.  For more information on Devin Lloyd, check out this Rookie Spotlight.

Terrel Bernard – Buffalo Bills

Bernard will back up Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. Edmunds and Milano both play three-down linebacker roles, so any missed time by either would result in a major boost for Bernard.

Troy Reeder and Kyle Van Noy – Los Angeles Chargers

Kenneth Murray should start the season next to Drue Tranquill. However, my good friend and fantasy IDP expert, Paul Newton, thinks Murray won’t be a starter by the time fantasy playoffs roll around. Reeder and Van Noy took some first-team reps earlier in training camp, while Tranquill and Murray were on the mend. Van Noy is particularly sneaky in leagues like Sleeper, giving him a DL designation.


Thank you for reading!  Follow me on Twitter at @MasterIDP. For my previous work, check out my Author Page. Please subscribe to IDPGuys.org for all your fantasy IDP needs.

Leo (@MasterIDP)

Leo joined IDP Guys as a writer and ranker on June 30, 2022. He is passionate about IDP and helping you win your fantasy leagues. Leo has been competing in IDP since 2013 in the Brooklyn Fantasy Football League (Ohio league established in 1991)
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