To me the hardest transition from a redraft league to playing in a DSE league was learning how to identify the right Individual Defensive Players (IDP) players. I had always played in leagues where you took a team defense, hoped for a few sacks, a turnover or two, and maybe a return TD. The team defense for the most part in the redraft leagues I used to play in was a throw away pick or something you could stream on a week-to-week basis. With the way DSE is set up you cannot simply ignore your IDP players. It took me quite a while to figure out what types of players to target at each position. I am by no means an IDP expert, but I will share with you what I have learned.
The first thing I did to gain some knowledge about how to draft and target IDP players was to read articles and follow IDP experts like Tom Kislingbury (@TomDegenerate) on Twitter. While some of this might seem simple what I learned helped me hold my own last year in my IDP league.
The hardest position for me to find contributors was on the Defensive Line (DL) and that is because most of your big sack guys like Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Vic Beasley have all been reclassified as LBs. Finding value on the DL can really be a differentiator for you amongst your competition. There are still some players that have value including JJ Watt, Joey Bosa, Aaron Donald and more. What you want to target on the DL are guys that can get to the QB. There aren’t many Defensive Linemen (DL) that rack up a lot of tackles. The leader in the NFL amongst DL in tackles last year was Damon Harrison (Giants) with 55 solo tackles. In fact, only 8 DL had over 40 solo tackles (not counting Mack). There were 15 DL that had over 8 sacks. Ideally you want to target DL on teams that are going to be in front in a lot of games. This will mean their opponents will have to throw more to try and catch up and will lead to more opportunities to generate sacks, forced fumbles and potentially fumble recoveries.
This is where the majority of your higher scoring IDP players are going to come from especially now that Miller, Mack, Beasley and others are considered LBs. Although the sack guys are valuable they are not as valuable as your tackling machines like Bobby Wagner, Kwon Alexander, Alec Ogletree and others. There were 18 LBs last year who registered more than 75 solo tackles, and 10 who registered double digits in sacks. The thing that I learned that seems the strangest about LBs in an IDP league is that you want guys on bad defenses. This might seem like the opposite of what you would want because good defenses create turnovers and get off the field. The reason you want LBs on bad defenses is that they are on the field for more plays thus giving them more chances to make tackles. If you aren’t on the field you can’t make a tackle. While this might be a simple concept it really is one that can make a huge difference. Last year the 49ers defense averaged over 68 players per game on the field, the Dolphins, Broncos, Browns and Chiefs were right behind them. Look at the IDP leaders from last year and you are going to see a lot of players form those teams near the top. If you can resist the temptation to take the guys on the top defenses like the Seahawks, Texans, Cardinals and Vikings you can reap some reward. This isn’t to say that players on these defenses aren’t valuable as they are, you just need to understand they are going to have less opportunities to make plays. Much like I pointed out in my column on Path to Opportunities for skill position players the same holds true for IDP players. The more chances these guys have to make tackles the more likely they are to accumulate some points for your team.
This is another tough position to scout and draft because most DBs don’t get a lot of sacks. When I look for DBs I want guys who make a lot of tackles and have the opportunity to contribute some other ways (sacks, INTs, fumble recoveries and even kick return yards). Again, I look for DBs on bad defenses not only because they are on the field more, but because on a good defense the DBs don’t have to make a lot of tackles. With the top defenses the ball carrier isn’t getting far enough down the field that a DB needs to tackle them. This again seems like a simple concept, but looking at most of the top tacklers for DBs they played on some average to poor defenses. The other thing I look for are teams #2 CBs where that team has a true #1 CB. Teams aren’t going to throw very often at Patrick Peterson, Malcom Butler, Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib and guys like that. The result is those players don’t have much opportunity to make plays but the guys on the other side do. A great example is Logan Ryan of the Patriots last year. Ryan is a good player but with Butler on the other side Ryan was able to make 74 solo tackles. Part of this was his getting involved in the run game but still an impressive number. Ryan finished 25th in DB scoring last year. Of the top 20 DBs in scoring last year in DSE 6 were #2 CBs (Casey Hayward, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Robert Alford, Steven Nelson, Marcus Cooper and Bashaud Breeland).
The other thing I target with DBs is Safeties (S) because they often make more tackles than CBs do. This is especially true with teams move to more nickel defenses were oftentimes the S is lined up on the slot WR. Last season there were 34 S who scored over 100 points in DSE leagues. While technically there were more CBs (39) that scored over 100 points it is much harder to predict who is going to get an interception or a pass breakup then it is making a tackle. For example, Trumaine Johnson of the Rams scored 111 points last season (he was the 29th highest scoring CB) but had only 2 games with more than 10 points. If you had him week 4 when he scored 48 points good for you but the rest of the year there was not much consistency. If you look at the 29th ranked S from last season (Mike Adams) he had 7 or more points in 7 games. For comparison sake Trumaine Johnson only had 4 games above 7 points.
As much as I want big games from my DBs I am more concerned with consistency. I want to know week in and week out I am going to get 7-10 points a game out of them. I find that this is much more likely to come from a S then it is a CB.
In conclusion, playing in an IDP league is tough. Each week you need to pay attention to the guys you have active in those slots as oftentimes the points they do or don’t contribute might be the difference between winning and losing. You are going to need to put in the time to do the research and find the players who are going to consistently produce points for you out of your IDP slots. While it might not seem like it makes sense targeting players on bad defenses, they can give you an edge due to the extra plays/opportunities they get during the course of a game. The players on the good defenses often aren’t on the field enough to consistently score a lot of points. These are some of the strategies I used last year when I started out in an IDP league and helped me go from IDK (I don’t know) to being ok in IDP.