Starting the Best IDP Fantasy Football Lineup
Setting an IDP fantasy football league lineup is pretty much the same as setting a lineup in a traditional fantasy football league. You’ll set your individual defensive players along with your starting offensive position players. Figuring out the right IDP players to start is the real trick. So I’ll go over who you should start when starting IDP position players while discussing how you start IDP players.
What Is An IDP Fantasy Football League Lineup?
“IDP” is short for “individual defensive player”. IDP leagues exist when teams start individual defensive players instead of “Team Defenses”. While team defense stats revolve around some combination of total team sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries, points allowed and yards allowed, IDP stats involve a combination of tackles, assisted tackles, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, sacks, interceptions and passes defenses.
In either case, if the defensive unit or player scores a touchdown, this is scored much like a touchdown scored by an offensive player.
The IDP fantasy football league is meant to make defensive players just as important to follow and watch as offensive players. Though Team Defense is the more common type of fantasy football player to use, it’s actually unnatural when you think about it. You might as well have “Team Offense” as a player.
IDP players force you to track individual defensive player stats and makes watching an NFL game more interesting and entertaining, because you’re pulling for a specific defender to make tackles and plays, instead of dreading your defense giving up a bunch of points. It’s more work, though, and there’s a trick to starting IDP lineups.
Which IDP Lineup to Start
Many IDP leagues only have one IDP player to start. Another common IDP format is 3 individual defensive players (either any type of defender or 1 defensive lineman, 1 linebacker and 1 defensive back).
I’m in a league that requires a balanced lineup of 7 offensive players and 7 individual defensive players (along with a head coach and field goal kicker). The number of players started and the type of players started are important, because you want to find the most consistent defenders to start every week.
Start IDP Middle Linebackers If You Can
Start as many linebackers as your league allows you to start. Start middle linebackers if at all possible. Middle linebackers typically rack up the most tackles for their team, even if they aren’t the best player on that unit.
Because good defensive players total 100+ tackles a year, but in an equivalent good year, maybe only 15 sacks, 5 fumble recoveries and 5-10 interceptions, the IDP players who get the most tackles are the most consistent. Take a no-name MLB over a big name outside any day.
Start IDP Players on Bad Teams
Here’s where IDP fantasy football lineups are counterintuitive. With offensive players in fantasy football, you want to start players on the best offenses. These players will be in scoring position more often, will get double-teamed (or have the line stacked against them) less often and will be on the field more of the day. The opposite is true for defensive players.
Defenses on bad teams and losing teams are likely to be on the field longer and play more plays. You want IDP defensive players on the field as many plays as possible, so you want to draft players on bad defenses and losing teams. Starting linebackers on the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are a good bet right now. Oakland Raiders linebackers like Kirk Morrison have been golden for years.
Start Safeties If You Have to Start Defensive Backs
Follow the same logic with defensive backs. Draft safeties, especially strong safeties, and start them, but only in positions where you can’t start linebackers. Strong safeties are the players most like linebackers, because they are called on to pinch up to the line of scrimmage and help stop the run. If a running back breaks a run, it’s the safety who’s usually called on to save a touchdown with a tackle. Safeties pick up lots of tackles, especially safeties on bad defenses that let players bust runs a lot.
There will be a few cornerbacks who get thrown at a lot in a season. These are usually rookie cornerbacks, corners across from the NFL’s best cornerbacks and cornerbacks on teams who stuff the run really well. For instance, the Tennessee Titans cornerbacks have gotten a lot of work the last two years, because nobody can run on their defensive front seven. If a team can’t run, they have to throw it, which means a lot of work for the corners. Corners on defenses in a lot of shootouts also get a lot of work, though these are harder to predict from one year to the next.
Generally, I would suggest starting safeties if you must start a defensive back. But if there are no consistent safeties left, find a cornerback in one of the situations above and start him.
Start Defensive Ends and Never Start Defensive Tackles
On most NFL defenses, defensive tackles soak up blockers and free up linebackers to make the tackle. Most IDP scoring systems don’t give points for defensive tackles and nose tackles who take on the double team and soak up blockers. So don’t ever start them.
You’ll find one or two defensive tackles who do good in a year, but that’s a fluke and certainly not a good bet. Start defensive ends if you have to start a defensive lineman in an IDP league.
Starts Defensive Ends on Winning Teams
This is the only exception to my rule that you seek out IDP players on bad teams. That’s because defensive ends are going to get most of their production from sacks. Sacks usually happen when the offense is behind in a game and must throw the ball a lot.
The quarterback has to hold onto the ball longer and this leads to sacks. So you want defensive ends who are often in situations they can pin back their ears and rush the passer. That’s why Jared Allen has been so dominant the last couple of years, or Trent Cole with the Philadelphia Eagles, Terrell Suggs with the Baltimore Ravens or Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora with the New York Giants or Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis with the Indianapolis Colts.
Also, defensive ends are going to get their numbers in bunches. One week, they will hardly score at all. The next week, they’ll get a couple of sacks and be a difference maker for your team. For that reason, be more patient if a defensive ends don’t start the season out hot.
Don’t lose faith in an elite defensive end who has a couple of bad weeks. It’s almost built into the position. In fact, if any of the elite DE’s mentioned above has a couple of down weeks, make a run at them in the trades market, because they’re likely to make up the production in the coming weeks.
How to Start an IDP Football League Lineup
Once you have your strategy down, start the IDP defensive players who best fit the profile of the strategies I’ve spelled out above. If one of your linebackers is going against a good NFL team that loves to run the ball, start that linebacker. If you have a safety in the same situation, start that safety that week.
If you have a defensive end who’s playing a team that’s likely to fall behind and have to throw it a lot, start that DE. If you have a cornerback who looks like he’s going to be thrown at a lot, perhaps by a top passing team with good wide receivers, you can start that IDP player, as well.
Setting an IDP fantasy football lineup is easy.