Why and How to Play IDP
Let’s talk Individual Defensive Players.
IDP is an extremely rewarding way to enjoy fantasy and live football. It adds an element of excitement and challenge to the game, but comes with a stigma and fear of time commitment and complexity.
Fantasy football is really, at its core, just a game of numbers based on probability and uncertainty that we, as team owners, are trying to reduce by making informed decisions. This is true for building a team, drafting and auctioning, and of course, fielding a weekly roster.
My belief is that fantasy should be a rewarding experience for investing your time into something you enjoy, meaning, you get what you put in. What we give up is time, and what we receive is the pleasure of crushing our opponents and flexing out prowess, and in many cases some money and awesome trophies.
Time however is a valuable thing, and it’s what often deters people from playing IDP in the first place, but it doesn’t have to be.
I believe the time we invest in fantasy sports should be based on a tiered system, and people should play to the level they feel is the best balance for them. I can say wholeheartedly that we can help you reduce your time investment to help you navigate through the noise, get the information needed, and have an awesome fantasy experience that includes IDP.
On the offensive side of the football, getting reliable information is far more accessible than on the defensive side, and that’s primarily because the offense is much easier to predict. It’s safe and has fewer stats on top of having 5 fewer players on the field as well.
When you factor in adding those 5 players back on defense, combined with the increase to available statistics, you’re immediately starting with increased uncertainty, making it more difficult to project outcomes. However, there are reasonable ways of measuring and predicting defensive performances that can get you started in IDP with very little difficulty or time investment.
Tier 1 – Opportunity
There is no greater measure in my mind for defensive players then opportunity. The first statistic you should search for is snap count and percentage. It’s quite simple, players that are on the field for 90+ percent of defensive snaps are simply more likely to be in on a defensive play.
This is the best place for you to start, and working with snap count alone can help you see great returns in your IDP lineups.
Personally, I use Airyards for this information. Under sortable data > snap data, in the header menu. This data can be sorted by positions, season, teams, weeks and then downloaded. It’s fast, easy to use and will give you a strong idea of who the cornerstone pieces are for each team. It can also be used for offense,
Tier 2 – Matchups/Tendencies
The second level, if you choose to add more time to your defensive research, is understanding matchups and tendencies of opposing offenses. This is commonly shown in most platforms as OPRK or some variation, but essentially, it’s your opponent’s ranking against that player’s position. Although this measure is quite helpful when gauging offense, the defense is a different beast when it comes to measuring a player’s performance. Not all defensive players or coordinators are made equal!
What I mean by this is, if your linebacker ranks well against an opposing team, that doesn’t mean that you’re particular linebacker does, it simply means linebackers do. There’s a significant difference between the play styles and roles of Von Miller and Bobby Wagner so that ranking won’t portray an accurate reflection.
What you want to look for is the matchup and tendencies of the opposing team. Does the opposing team have a weak offensive line and allow a significant amount of sacks? If so, then your Von Miller play will probably yield more opportunity to score than your Bobby Wagner play.
Simple things to look for in this category are Offensive Line Running and Passing performance, the team’s tendency to run or pass, turnover amounts and types.
Pro Football Focus is a great resource for offensive line grading and they publish weekly articles on rankings and matchups. You can also use any of the large sites to acquire turnover numbers.
Tier 3 – Deeper Understanding
The final level of commitment I would recommend would be developing a deeper understanding of the game, particularly defensive schemes and the coach’s and coordinators behind the mics calling the plays.
Understanding the differences in a 3-4 Zone Blitz Defense compared to a Tampa2 and how those schemes affect the players on their respective rosters will give you a strong sense of when particular matchups favor your players. Every Coach also has play calling tendencies that might favor some players over others when you’re considering building your roster.
When you look at the success this year of say, rookie Safety Derwin James, you can attribute much of that to Gus Bradley and having his scheme open up opportunities for James to play the exact way his skill set allows him too. If you’re able to understand the scheme, the coach and the player, then you’ll unlock a lot of knowledge when it comes to building your Dynasty.
In conclusion, applying each of these tiers requires the previous, but even investing a small amount of time into the first level will yield results and give you the confidence to play IDP without sacrificing much time at all.
I would recommend IDP to everyone who likes to play fantasy, because watching a Khalil Mack Sack, Force Fumble, Recovery TD in one play, is far more exciting than any run or catch you’ll see on the offensive side of the ball, I promise.