You can find top IDP fantasy football players by looking at offenses and finding the diamonds in the rough.
If there’s one thing we talk about constantly in the IDP world it’s that most of the guys we draft aren’t the most talented defensive players in the league, but are in great situations to score IDP points by default. Most of these players are on teams with really bad offenses. Whether it’s via three and outs, turnovers or stalled drives, these offenses end up spending most of their time riding the bench.
As a result, the players on these defenses end up with more defensive snaps than most other teams. More playing time = more time to make plays. Players like Joe Schobert and Blake Martinez took advantage of the Browns 32nd ranked offense (points per game) and the Packers 21st ranked offense in 2017.
The third man who tied for the league lead in combined tackles last season, Preston Brown, played for the 27th ranked Bills. Of course there are always outliers, but these are usually the gifted players who are talented enough to get their stats without the benefit of extra playing time, due to bad offense. Guys like Alec Ogletree who managed 95 combined tackles in only 15 games for the LA Rams and their 3rd ranked offense last season.
There are others of course but if you look at the teams that finished in the top 10 in offense last season you start to see a picture. Those teams were:
- Philadelphia 1st
- New England 2nd
- LA Rams 3rd
- New Orleans 4th
- Pittsburgh 5th
- Jacksonville 6th
- Kansas City 7th
- Detroit 8th
- Baltimore 9th
- Minnesota 10th
(stats are 2017 points per game rankings, regular season)
The worst 10 teams offensively last year were:
- NY Jets 23rd
- Arizona 24th
- Cincinnati 25th
- Denver 26th
- Buffalo 27th
- Miami 28th
- Chicago 29th
- Indianapolis 30th
- NY Giants 31st
- Cleveland 32nd
If you look at those teams one by one and start to pick out the IDP studs on each squad, you’ll notice a pattern.
Philadelphia, overall 1st in offense (points per game) in 2017. Best linebacker was Nigel Bradham, 88 combined tackles. Best safety or DB was Malcolm Jenkins, 69 combined tackles. Best defensive lineman was Brandon Graham, 47 combined tackles and 9.5 sacks.
Now look at the last place team in points per game in 2017, the Cleveland Browns. Best linebacker was Joe Schobert with 144 combined tackles, 2nd best linebacker was Christian Kirksey with 138 combined tackles. Best safety or DB was Jason McCourty with 65 combined tackles. Best defensive lineman was Myles Garret, who only played 11 games and only started 9, with 31 combined tackles and 7 sacks.
The Browns have two linebackers with better stats than the Eagles first best linebacker, and if you combined Jamie Collins and James Burgess (Burgess was Collins replacement when he got injured) you would have three linebackers with far better tackle stats than the Eagles best linebacker, Bradham and his 88 combined tackles.
Both teams have similar stats when it comes to their best DB, Jenkins with 69 combined tackles for the Eagles and McCourty with 65 combined tackles for the Browns.
On the defensive line the Browns Myles Garret didn’t play enough games to get a decent read but clearly Graham was superior with 47 combined tackles and 9.5 sacks.
So the Browns, with their exponentially higher amount of defensive snaps, were able to field 2x linebackers with over 130 combined tackles and if you combine Collins and Burgess (who together filled the SLB slot the entire year) you get a 3rd linebacker with at least 100 combined tackles. While the offensively terrific Eagles managed zero linebackers with 100+ combined tackles.
Their secondaries produced about the same IDP points-wise but I think the more we look into this the more we’ll see that’s an outlier.
On the defensive line, a pattern I’ve noticed is that the teams with the best offenses are the teams that essentially were the best overall in the NFL last year, and all in the top 10, except the Ravens and Lions made the playoffs. Most of these teams have really good pass rushes and the defenses of these teams are all good enough to cause turnovers and three and outs often. In effect, helping their own offenses have more possessions and more chances to score.
It is my belief that if you can predict the teams with really bad offense you will have a better chance at finding draftable linebackers and DBs who will score a lot of IDP points by default. Defensive line will probably be the exception to this idea that you are far more likely to find MLB, WLB, ILB and S that score a lot of IDP points by default on teams with bad offense.
Instead of going team by team let’s just list the best LB, DB and DL from each team in the best 10 offensively, and the same with the worst 10 offensively and see what we come up with.
(Tackles are combined tackles for entire 2017 season)
Eagles: Nigel Bradham LB 88 tackles, Malcolm Jenkins S 69 tackles, Brandon Graham DE 47 tackles & 9.5 sacks
Baltimore Ravens: CJ Mosley LB 132 tackles, Tony Jefferson S 81 tackles, Terrel Suggs DE 49 tackles & 11 sacks
Here’s how we’ll break it down, the BEST linebacker from each of the top 10 2017 offensive teams all combined for 949 combined tackles. The BEST DB from each of the top 10 2017 offensive teams all combined for 806 combined tackles. The BEST defensive lineman from each of the top 10 2017 offensive teams all combined for 494 combined tackles and 109 sacks.
Let’s do the same with the WORST 10 teams offensively from 2017 and see what we get. If I’m right we’ll see a ton more combined tackles for their linebackers and safeties and less production from their defensive linemen.
Cleveland Browns: Joe Schobert LB 144 tackles, Jason McCourty CB 65 tackles, Myles Garret DE 31 tackles & 7 sacks
The BEST linebackers (LB1) from each of the bottom 10 offensively in 2017 had 1,075 combined tackles, 126 more than the BEST LB1’s from the top 10 teams offensively. The BEST safeties or corners from the bottom 10 teams offensively in 2017 had 844 combined tackles, 38 more than the BEST safeties from the top 10 teams offensively.
The BEST defensive linemen from the bottom 10 teams offensively in 2017 had 469 combined tackles and 77.5 sacks. That’s 25 less combined tackles and 31.5 less sacks than the best defensive linemen on the top 10 teams offensively from 2017. That follows the theory I laid out earlier about better teams having better pass rushes and better defenses overall but not having enough defensive snaps to maintain several IDP studs on the same defense.
If you look at the defensive stats from the top 10 teams in offense from last season you rarely see more than one or two IDP studs on each squad. However these stats show us that the bottom 10 teams are far more likely to produce IDP relevant MLB, ILB, WLB and S via production by default.
When you get past the LB1’s on each of these teams the picture gets even clearer. Most of the teams in the worst 10 offensively from 2017 are supporting multiple IDP relevant LB’s, while also producing one or more IDP relevant players from their secondaries and the occasional stud on the DLine as well.
The Jets had Davis and Daron Lee while still supporting Jamal Adams. The Browns had Schobert, Kirksey and Collins/Burgess while Jason McCourty and Jamar Taylor had at least 60 combined tackles each (terrific numbers for the CB slot if you have one in your league).
The Colts had Morrison and Bostic with at least 90 combined tackles each while Mathias Farley produced 95 combined tackles himself.
Cincinnati had Burfict, Vigil and Vincent Rey who while not great were all bye week and injury replacement plays last year while also producing solid years from George Iioka, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
The Giants, while certainly not shining in the LB stats last season, were able to support Collins with 99 tackles and fellow safety Darian Thompson with 75 tackles, while also turning out an awesome season from Snacks Harrison and solid seasons from JPP and Olivier Vernon. Not only do the combined stats of the bottom 10 offensively for LB and S beat out the production of LB and S in the top 10 offensively but most of these teams were able to support several IDP studs cause of production by default.
The writing on the wall from all this is pretty apparent, if you can figure out who’s going to be really god awful on offense this year you have a really good shot at getting a solid IDP producer at MLB, WLB, ILB and S by taking the starting players in those spots for your IDP squad.
While the odds are good, you obviously don’t want to just throw darts here, so make sure it’s a guy you know will get the lion’s share of defensive snaps before you pull the trigger.
In part 2 of this article we’ll look at some of the 2018 offenses that look to be pretty terrible and the guys I like on those squads for IDP purposes. Make sure to check back.
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