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Home / Fantasy Football / Individual Defensive Players: Play Both Sides of the Ball

Individual Defensive Players: Play Both Sides of the Ball

If you are playing in a fantasy football league in which you have a team defense and special teams, I’m not going to say that you’re some kind of fantasy infidel who deserves to be crushed like a bug. I will say that you’re not getting the most out of your hobby.

I’ve seen one fantasy baseball team with a “team pitcher” and I think the same about “Team D” leagues.

In a league that features IDPs, you start players on the defensive side of the ball. Captain, meet obvious. Most IDP leagues are broken up as follows: Defensive line, linebacker, defensive back. There are some leagues that get even more detailed, breaking up DL into defensive ends and defensive tackles and DB into cornerback and safety positions.

Just like the so-called skill-position guys (aka guys who score most of the touchdowns), there is a hierarchy in value in these three main IDP positions. Linebackers are considered to be the running backs. They score the most points, they get the most tackles, and some of the best get turnovers and occasional touchdowns. Defensive linemen are next, even though they score less than defensive backs on average because of the relative scarcity of the position. They aren’t as tackle-heavy and you’re getting the most value out of sacks and turnovers which are prone to variance. Defensive backs fluctuate a lot, and occasionally the top players in the NFL are not the top scorers.

Take Darrelle Revis, for example. Teams facing him do not throw the ball his way very often, and as we know from RB/WR/TE scoring, reps generally lead to points. It’s often a good move to look for the cornerback starting opposite the Pro Bowler to get your value. See 2013 Alterraun Verner. When it comes to safeties, you want “in the box” guys who are going to be close to the ball and get tackles. The free-safety types are often playing center field and don’t get many opportunities to score.

To help in the understanding of IDP leagues, I brought in a ringer. Steve Schulz is part of the five-man rotation covering IDP for Fake Pigskin. I asked him some questions.

How’d you get into IDP?
I have been playing fantasy sports (starting with baseball) since about 1996. A group of guys in a small town in Minnesota where I lived spent a year studying crazy fantasy football formats, because I think a few of us were getting bored with the standard snake drafts. They created a salary cap/contracts, IDP league where the top IDP players were on par with the offensive players. That appealed to me greatly. I went into that first year with the idea that everyone would overvalue offensive players — solely because they recognized the names — and would undervalue the defensive guys. So I spent 95 percent of my time getting to know defensive players, and the rest is history.

What’s your best plea to get people to switch from team D to IDP?
Two things: variability and fun.

As far as variability, I’ve been on both sides of seeing your team defense score 1 point and your opponent’s score 36. Is it because the latter’s defense is 36 times better than the former’s? Of course not. Team defenses hinge so much on the big plays: kickoff returns for touchdowns, interception returns. Those are almost completely based on luck. With IDP, there’s a lot of variance at some positions, but with linebackers, they’re easily as predictable as, say, a top running back.

Secondly, fun is a huge part of it. What does every potential fantasy football player say as their reason to not play fantasy? “I don’t know all of the players.” What’s the response to that? “You won’t, until you play fantasy football.” And halfway through the season, everyone amazes themselves how they’ve learned the players. It’s the same with IDP. And once you start noticing those guys, the game of football opens up to you. You start paying attention to scheme and personnel. Playing IDP has enhanced my appreciation and enjoyment for the game of football a hundred fold. [Zach note: Another underrated aspect of scoring tackles means that offensive guys who get tackles after turnovers score more. Kicker tackles should be worth 100 points.]

Every play is exciting. You could have your quarterback throw a screen to your opponent’s running back. Then your opponent’s linebacker hits that running back, forcing the ball out. And then your cornerback picks it up and runs it into the end zone. You can have multiple fantasy players involved in every play. You’ll be screaming at your TV: “YES! NO! NO! YES!” on every play.

What are some of your favorite players for 2014? Some of your sleepers by DE/LB/DB in a typical 3/3/2 IDP league.
On the defensive line, I just can’t get away from the talent level and potential of three guys who should be stepping into greater roles this year: DaMontre Moore, Margus Hunt and Cornellius “Tank” Carradine. At linebacker, I love Brian Cushing if he can stay healthy, and Nick Roach and Larry Foote can be had at the end of drafts and will put up solid numbers. At defensive back, I think William Moore is really underrated. Everyone is going crazy for Honey Badger and Barry Church because they have a weak linebacker corps in front of them which should give them a lot of tackle opportunities. I think Moore is in the same boat.

Do you have a beer of choice for Thursday and/or Sunday? I am partial to the Rogue beers, and a couple made in Minnesota by the Surly Brewing Company, especially Coffee Bender (yes, it has coffee in it.) I might need the caffeine. I plan to watch every snap of every game.

Do you have any additional sites/podcasts and such besides Fake Pigskin? There are three that I never, ever miss. Footballguys with John Norton and Jene Bramel, the Pro Football Focus IDP show with Jeff Ratcliffe and Ross Miles, and anytime I can listen to Gary Davenport from Fantasy Sharks, I’m all ears. I think Pro Football Focus’s advanced stats package is very important too. I like to dig deeper into the stats beyond tackles, assists and sacks and see who is getting close to the quarterback. One guy who just joined our IDP team (there are five of us now) at FakePigskin is Mike Woellert. I read every word he writes. Superb stuff.

It always comes around to podcasts. Be a dear and follow Steve, and try to convert one of your “Team D” leagues into an IDP.

About Zach Law

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