The age old question… is it the player or is it the scheme? What if you took this player and put them on that team, would he still be a beast? Before you say absolutely, let’s take a look at Kiko Alonso. Kiko started his career winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in Buffalo, making 159 tackles. He was traded to Philadelphia, where he only put up 43 tackles. He was then traded to the Dolphins, where he went back to form and racked up 115 tackles. The difference can’t be the player, so what could it be? If we look into the schemes the defenses played, we will see that Kiko thrives in the 4-3 defense of the Bills and Dolphins, while he struggled in the 3-4 in Philadelphia. So, is there a way that you can predict a players fantasy production by looking at the scheme the team is running? To answer this question simply, YES! Let’s look into it.
We will start with the D-Line. To receive fantasy points a player must make a tackle, sack, safety, force/recover a fumble, pass defend (breakup), or intercept a pass. No player receives points for clogging up holes and taking on blockers. So why on Earth would you choose a Nose Tackle? If you’re trying to win your league you wouldn’t choose a Nose Tackle at all, unless you take a homer pick in the 83rd round! There are exceptions to everything, but staying away from Nose Tackles is the smart thing to do. Defensive Ends in a 4-3 scheme will have the most opportunity to make a tackle, sack, and force a fumble than any other D-Lineman. The top 10 scoring linemen and the top 16 out of 20 all came from the DE position, so drafting them before the other D-Line positions makes sense. The lineman in a 3-4 scheme are more about taking on blockers and freeing up linebackers than the 4-3 scheme. 3-4 defenses are starting to become more and more popular for NFL teams, so make sure you keep an eye on which teams switched their schemes before selecting your D-Linemen. DEs in a 4-3 scheme are the easy first choice when selecting a DL. I would follow that by a DE in a 3-4, a close third being the DT in a 4-3, and a far distant last place going to the Nose Tackle.
As of a couple of years ago, Middle LBs in a 4-3 scheme were easily the way to go, when choosing IDP. Now, DEs in a 4-3 scheme is the best option to take first, because there are fewer elite DE players to choose. Every LB position, minus the Strong Side, are capable of putting up consistent numbers.
Schemes must keep up with the times, and the pass happy NFL, by changing schemes during the game. So when choosing a LB, you must be aware of the team switching from 4-3 to nickel, or from man to zone. Will that LB be on the field in all situations? Be aware that when a DB comes in, they typically replace a LB. Outside LB’s in a 3-4 scheme are becoming more and more like a DE and are getting many more opportunities to make a Big Play in the backfield by making a sack or forcing a fumble. A pair of AFC West outside LBs in a 3-4 scheme, Khalil Mack (Oakland) and Von Miller (Denver), can produce great consistent fantasy numbers and keep up with the Middle Linebackers.The MLB in a 4-3 scheme is still top dog, when it comes to the positions fantasy value. If you’re looking for a big play LB, who is poised to have a couple huge games throughout the year, the outside LB in a 3-4 scheme would be the player to look at. I would give the second place nod to the interior LBs in a 3-4 scheme, followed closely by the outside LBs in a 3-4 and then the Weak Side LB in a 4-3. The weak outside linebackers are typically the most athletic out of the linebackers, and stay on the field no matter the scheme because of their ability to drop in coverage and pass defend. The Strong Side LB in a 4-3 is the player you want to avoid, because the scheme doesn’t allow for them to make the plays the other LBs do.
The DB position of IDP is the toughest to have consistency for fantasy production. No matter the scheme, Safeties are the safer choice, especially the Strong Safety. The Strong Safety in a cover 2 or 3 scheme have put up the most consistent fantasy production over the past couple years, because they have the ability to play down closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. If a team is playing man or mixes up the scheme in the secondary, then there’s less production coming from the safety position, but still more than the other DB positions. Tampa 2 schemes require CBs to play closer to the line and help out in run support, because the safeties are dropping in coverage. I’d always go SS first and FS second. If you must go CB, I would try and find one that plays in a Tampa 2 scheme or plays more zone coverage. I’d try and avoid teams that run a man coverage scheme, especially for big name CBs. The ball won’t find its way to your fantasy CB, if the QB is afraid of throwing the ball his way. I would go all safeties if possible, but CBs can have games where they put up triple the numbers of an average safety. With the potential of a big day, taking a chance on a CB opposite of an elite CB in a man coverage scheme could be worth the risk. The SS in a zone coverage scheme is the safe choice, and the CB is that home run hitter that may strike out four or five times before they have that blowout game.
Here’s how the individual positions stack up rankings wise when it comes to IDPs.
IDP Position Rankings
D-Line: Defensive Ends (DE) and Defensive Tackle (DT)
- DE in 4-3
- DE in 3-4
- DT in 4-3
- Nose Tackle (DT in 3-4)
Linebacker (LB): Middle LB (MLB), Inside LB, and Outside LB
- MLB 4-3
- Inside LB 3-4
- Outside LB 3-4
- Weak Side LB 4-3
- Strong Side LB 4-3
Defensive Backs (DB): Strong Safety (SS), Free Safety (FS), and Corner Backs (CB)
- Strong Safety (SS) in Zone Coverage, then Tampa 2 and Man
- Free Safety (FS)
- Corner Backs (CB) in (1) Tampa 2, then (2)CB opposite of elite CB in Man, then (3)CB in Zone, then (4)CB in Man
Knowing a team’s scheme is extremely important, when designing your dynasty football empire. The more you know about where and how much each player is playing is vital to your success in choosing IDP. Deciding IDP picks can make or break your team, because in some leagues they represent half the starting roster. If you want the edge on selecting your IDP roster look into the schemes the team runs, and make that decision with confidence. Knowing talent is great, but combining knowledge of talent with the proper schemes is going to help you bring home that CHAMPIONSHIP!