2021 IDP Draft Strategy Primer

Jul 15, 2021
2021 IDP Draft Strategy Primer

Whether you’re a multi-decade veteran of fantasy football or a wet-behind-the-ears newbie, it can always help to return to the basics of a format every once in a while.

Think of it this way: even though Pablo Picasso was painting masterpieces, he still broke each subject down into geometric shapes and experiments with colors, textures, and lines. You can see the nuts and bolts of his work—and returning to those core concepts likely strengthened his skills and inspired him to try new things.


More IDP Resources: Identifying D-Line Prospects | Identifying Edge Rushers | DBs to Target | IDP Rankings


So, even if you’ve designed the greatest Individual Defensive Player (IDP) opus magnum in the past—carefully planning out each slot, selecting each player to fill them, and executing it flawlessly—that doesn’t mean the next season will also end with a glorious piece de resistance. Practicing the fundamentals of your craft in the offseason, however, will help you ensure your next IDP go-around is a tour de force.

Winning your IDP league is has way more to it than a paint-by-numbers, but this primer will help you outline your 2021 victory.

Scoring Systems: Composing the Perfect Outline

The first part of dominating your IDP league is knowing how your particular league works. This is the fundamental step before we get anywhere near draft strategy, player and positional values, roster construction, and so on. In art terms, think of scoring systems as the underdrawings on your painting: knowing and understanding them helps guide every move you make from this point forward. You can still absolutely erase, paint over, and improvise on this sketch later on, but you have to start with an outline.

Unlike offensive fantasy football, there is no industry-wide “standard” scoring system for IDP, nor is there a commonly accepted alternative like “PPR”. Instead, what we have is a kind of spectrum of scoring systems, based largely on how tackles relate to disruptive “big plays” like sacks, tackles for a loss (TFLs), and turnovers.

On one end of the spectrum is Tackle-Heavy (TH) scoring, which we tend to characterize as a fantasy point ratio of less than 3:1 between big plays and solo tackles. On average, TH scoring tends to have a 2:1 ratio—whether 2 points per sack/TFL and 1 per solo, or 4 points per sack/TFL and 2 per solo. TH leagues are dominated by players who can rack up play stops, especially linebackers and players who feature in full-time roles for their defenses. This scoring system largely rewards volume of opportunities, and because of this, it can be difficult for non-elite players to make the same kind of impact as stars.

On the other end is what is known as Big-Play (BP) Scoring, which we can classify as scoring systems with a fantasy point ratio of more than 3:1 between big plays and solo tackles. The most typical of these that I’ve seen tend to award a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio, sometimes with turnover plays (interceptions and fumbles) earning 6:1 ratios of points. These scoring systems highly reward disruptive plays and can give big bonuses to players who may be more rotational than every-down stalwarts. BP leagues, however, also have a downside and it’s that week-to-week consistency is a little lacking in comparison to other formats. All it takes is a few highlight-reel moments and a typical DT4 type player is the leading scorer in the week.

In the middle, of course, is balanced scoring. These leagues are characterized by—you guessed it—big-play to solo tackle fantasy points ratios of about 3:1, though 2.5:1 and 3.5:1 could still be considered balanced. Some of the issues on both ends of the spectrum are solved by balanced scoring, but a middle-of-the-road IDP experience may not be what your league wants.

The table below shows the top 50 IDP players by each of the three scoring system archetypes last year, breaking them into position group and role (i.e., separating defensive line into interior and edge players, linebackers into off-ball and edge rushers, and defensive backs into safeties and cornerbacks). This will help you visualize how scoring systems pretty dramatically change who earns points and which roles become more valuable based on which system your league uses.

Top-50 IDP Fantasy Scorers, 2020
Positions Tackle Heavy Balanced Big Play
Defensive Line (DL) 0 8 11
DL-Interior 0 3 4
DL-Edge 0 5 7
Linebackers (LB) 34 34 31
LB-Off-Ball 31 27 23
LB-Edge 3 7 8
Defensive Backs (DB) 17 9 8
DB-Safety 13 8 7
DB-Cornerback 4 1 1

In TH leagues, not one defensive lineman cracked the top-50 scorers. Even edge-rushing linebackers like T.J. Watt only saw three members finish inside the top-50 in this format, while off-ball linebackers and safeties ended up the prized players.

On the other side, BP leagues earned 19 edge players and defensive linemen appearances in the top-50 (nearly 40%). This came at the cost of the defensive backfield, however, with their number being halved. The lack of value for consistency in BP leagues makes highly targeted cornerbacks and box defender safeties significantly less impactful in this format.

When looking at the top-100 scorers, the effect is largely the same: linebackers stay static across the board—especially off-ball ones—while defensive linemen and defensive backs scrabble over the remaining places.

Top-100 IDP Fantasy Scorers, 2020
Positions Tackle Heavy Balanced Big Play
Defensive Line (DL) 10 16 19
DL-Interior 3 5 5
DL-Edge 7 11 14
Linebackers (LB) 50 51 51
LB-Off-Ball 40 38 37
LB-Edge 10 13 14
Defensive Backs (DB) 40 35 30
DB-Safety 33 27 22
DB-Cornerback 7 8 8

There are a million ways to supplement these broad scoring systems, however: you can buoy defensive back value in big-play leagues by rewarding passes defended (PDs), and some league software even allow different scoring systems for each position.

This breakdown should merely serve as the baseline for how you interpret the impact of scoring systems on player and positional values. The one interesting thing here is that, while cornerbacks drop precipitously out of the top-50 in BP leagues, they are pretty stable across formats in the top-100. Safeties feel the biggest loss at the expense of edge rusher gains as tackles see lower scoring relevance.

Roster Settings: A Palette of Positional Value

Every fantasy football league, by setting rules in one way or another, is making a declaration about what its managers should and should not value when constructing their rosters and lineups. This means we have to use the clues in scoring settings and roster composition to figure out where your eyes should go to find substance.

Discussing roster settings also means we need to discuss value over replacement player (VORP) – or the amount of fantasy points a player provides over the lowest rosterable player at their position. Think about how you handle quarterback in your standard offensive fantasy league: you can get away with drafting them late because you only start one, right? The same logic applies if you’re only allowed to start one defensive tackle. Raw fantasy points give us a start, but looking at how the positions relate to one another by VORP adds extra texture and nuance to that comparison.

The formula I use is to figure out the ranking of the replacement-level player is as follows: Number of teams * (Positional starters/Total starters) * Total roster size. This will give you the likely number of players that will be rostered by your league at each position, and the final one of that list is your replacement level. From there, subtract your replacement-level player’s points from every other player at that position’s points, and – voila! – you have your VORP.

The table below depicts the end-of-season fantasy points and VORP for 2020 in a 12-team league with a balanced scoring system. For ease of comprehension, here we're comparing just the starters at the three primary position groups (defensive line, linebacker, defensive back) with different VORP configurations. You can sort this table to see how the value of each position changes with each starting lineup requirement set.

Player Position Group 2020 Balanced FP Position Rank 3 DL, 3 LB, 3 DB 2 DL, 4 LB, 2 DB 1 DL, 2 LB, 4 DB 3 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB
Roquan Smith LB 196.5 1 83.0 100.5 73.5 83.0
Devin White LB 196.5 1 83.0 100.5 73.5 83.0
Aaron Donald DL 136.5 1 66.0 54.0 33.0 66.0
T.J. Watt LB 173 3 59.5 77.0 50.0 59.5
Myles Garrett DL 126.5 2 56.0 44.0 23.0 56.0
Budda Baker DB 141 1 47.5 40.0 56.0 56.0
Zach Cunningham LB 169 4 55.5 73.0 46.0 55.5
Jordan Poyer DB 139.5 2 46.0 38.5 54.5 54.5
Blake Martinez LB 167.5 5 54.0 71.5 44.5 54.0
Jamal Adams DB 136.5 3 43.0 35.5 51.5 51.5
Leonard Williams DL 121.5 3 51.0 39.0 18.0 51.0
J.J. Watt DL 120 4 49.5 37.5 16.5 49.5
Chase Young DL 118.5 5 48.0 36.0 15.0 48.0
Joe Schobert LB 161 6 47.5 65.0 38.0 47.5
Haason Reddick LB 159.5 7 46.0 63.5 36.5 46.0
Montez Sweat DL 116.5 6 46.0 34.0 13.0 46.0
DeMarcus Lawrence DL 116.5 6 46.0 34.0 13.0 46.0
Lavonte David LB 159 8 45.5 63.0 36.0 45.5
DeForest Buckner DL 116 8 45.5 33.5 12.5 45.5
Marlon Humphrey DB 130.5 4 37.0 29.5 45.5 45.5
Romeo Okwara DL 115 9 44.5 32.5 11.5 44.5
Jeremy Chinn DB 128.5 5 35.0 27.5 43.5 43.5
Brandon Graham DL 113.5 10 43.0 31.0 10.0 43.0
Darius Leonard LB 155 9 41.5 59.0 32.0 41.5
Stephon Tuitt DL 110 11 39.5 27.5 6.5 39.5
Malcolm Jenkins DB 123.5 6 30.0 22.5 38.5 38.5
Keanu Neal DB 123 7 29.5 22.0 38.0 38.0
Adrian Phillips DB 122.5 8 29.0 21.5 37.5 37.5
Deion Jones LB 148 10 34.5 52.0 25.0 34.5
Jaylon Smith LB 148 10 34.5 52.0 25.0 34.5
Trey Hendrickson DL 104 12 33.5 21.5 0.5 33.5
Joey Bosa DL 103.5 13 33.0 21.0 0.0 33.0
Quinnen Williams DL 102.5 14 32.0 20.0 -1.0 32.0
Cameron Jordan DL 102 15 31.5 19.5 -1.5 31.5
Vonn Bell DB 115.5 9 22.0 14.5 30.5 30.5
Patrick Queen LB 143 12 29.5 47.0 20.0 29.5
Jabrill Peppers DB 114.5 10 21.0 13.5 29.5 29.5
Foyesade Oluokun LB 142.5 13 29.0 46.5 19.5 29.0
Neville Hewitt LB 142.5 13 29.0 46.5 19.5 29.0
Kenny Moore DB 114 11 20.5 13.0 29.0 29.0
Eric Wilson LB 142 15 28.5 46.0 19.0 28.5
Bobby Wagner LB 141.5 16 28.0 45.5 18.5 28.0
Chuck Clark DB 113 12 19.5 12.0 28.0 28.0
Taron Johnson DB 113 12 19.5 12.0 28.0 28.0
Jerome Baker LB 141 17 27.5 45.0 18.0 27.5
Justin Simmons DB 112.5 14 19.0 11.5 27.5 27.5
Jessie Bates III DB 112.5 14 19.0 11.5 27.5 27.5
Kerry Hyder DL 97 16 26.5 14.5 -6.5 26.5
Demario Davis LB 138 18 24.5 42.0 15.0 24.5
Maxx Crosby DL 94.5 17 24.0 12.0 -9.0 24.0
Za'Darius Smith LB 137 19 23.5 41.0 14.0 23.5
Jordan Whitehead DB 108.5 16 15.0 7.5 23.5 23.5
Kamren Curl DB 108.5 16 15.0 7.5 23.5 23.5
Daniel Sorensen DB 108.5 16 15.0 7.5 23.5 23.5
Malcolm Butler DB 108 19 14.5 7.0 23.0 23.0
Emmanuel Ogbah DL 92.5 18 22.0 10.0 -11.0 22.0
Khari Willis DB 106 20 12.5 5.0 21.0 21.0
Logan Ryan DB 106 20 12.5 5.0 21.0 21.0
Jordan Hicks LB 134 20 20.5 38.0 11.0 20.5
Fred Warner LB 134 20 20.5 38.0 11.0 20.5
Kevin Byard DB 105 22 11.5 4.0 20.0 20.0
Marcus Maye DB 104 23 10.5 3.0 19.0 19.0
Antoine Winfield Jr. DB 104 23 10.5 3.0 19.0 19.0
Troy Hill DB 104 23 10.5 3.0 19.0 19.0
Alex Singleton LB 131.5 22 18.0 35.5 8.5 18.0
Tyrell Adams LB 131.5 22 18.0 35.5 8.5 18.0
Josh Sweat DL 88 19 17.5 5.5 -15.5 17.5
Daron Payne DL 87.5 20 17.0 5.0 -16.0 17.0
Tre Boston DB 101 26 7.5 0.0 16.0 16.0
Adrian Amos DB 100 27 6.5 -1.0 15.0 15.0
Fletcher Cox DL 85 21 14.5 2.5 -18.5 14.5
David Onyemata DL 84.5 22 14.0 2.0 -19.0 14.0
Ndamukong Suh DL 84.5 22 14.0 2.0 -19.0 14.0
Myles Jack LB 127 24 13.5 31.0 4.0 13.5
Yannick Ngakoue DL 84 24 13.5 1.5 -19.5 13.5
Donovan Wilson DB 98 28 4.5 -3.0 13.0 13.0
John Johnson DB 98 28 4.5 -3.0 13.0 13.0
Zach Sieler DL 82.5 25 12.0 0.0 -21.0 12.0
Jeff Gladney DB 97 30 3.5 -4.0 12.0 12.0
Sheldon Richardson DL 82 26 11.5 -0.5 -21.5 11.5
Mike Hilton DB 96.5 31 3.0 -4.5 11.5 11.5
Justin Reid DB 96.5 31 3.0 -4.5 11.5 11.5
Minkah Fitzpatrick DB 96.5 31 3.0 -4.5 11.5 11.5
Kenny Vaccaro DB 95.5 34 2.0 -5.5 10.5 10.5
Eddie Jackson DB 95.5 34 2.0 -5.5 10.5 10.5
K.J. Wright LB 123 25 9.5 27.0 0.0 9.5
Harrison Smith DB 94 36 0.5 -7.0 9.0 9.0
Tracy Walker DB 93.5 37 0.0 -7.5 8.5 8.5
Alexander Johnson LB 121 26 7.5 25.0 -2.0 7.5
Justin Houston DL 78 27 7.5 -4.5 -25.5 7.5
Cameron Heyward DL 78 27 7.5 -4.5 -25.5 7.5
Grady Jarrett DL 77.5 29 7.0 -5.0 -26.0 7.0
Rayshawn Jenkins DB 92 38 -1.5 -9.0 7.0 7.0
Jason Pierre-Paul LB 120 27 6.5 24.0 -3.0 6.5
Darnell Savage Jr. DB 91.5 39 -2.0 -9.5 6.5 6.5
AJ Terrell DB 91.5 39 -2.0 -9.5 6.5 6.5
Jonathan Bostic LB 119.5 28 6.0 23.5 -3.5 6.0
Denico Autry DL 76 30 5.5 -6.5 -27.5 5.5
Khalil Mack LB 118.5 29 5.0 22.5 -4.5 5.0
Tyrann Mathieu DB 90 41 -3.5 -11.0 5.0 5.0
Jalen Mills DB 90 41 -3.5 -11.0 5.0 5.0
DeShon Elliott DB 90 41 -3.5 -11.0 5.0 5.0
Johnathan Abram DB 90 41 -3.5 -11.0 5.0 5.0
Eric Rowe DB 89.5 45 -4.0 -11.5 4.5 4.5
Kyle Van Noy LB 117.5 30 4.0 21.5 -5.5 4.0
Shaq Thompson LB 117 31 3.5 21.0 -6.0 3.5
Dre'Mont Jones DL 74 31 3.5 -8.5 -29.5 3.5
Kareem Jackson DB 88 46 -5.5 -13.0 3.0 3.0
Jamie Collins LB 116 32 2.5 20.0 -7.0 2.5
Tremaine Edmunds LB 116 32 2.5 20.0 -7.0 2.5
Akiem Hicks DL 73 32 2.5 -9.5 -30.5 2.5
Leonard Floyd LB 115.5 34 2.0 19.5 -7.5 2.0
Sam Hubbard DL 72.5 33 2.0 -10.0 -31.0 2.0
Marcus Peters DB 87 47 -6.5 -14.0 2.0 2.0
Anthony Harris DB 87 47 -6.5 -14.0 2.0 2.0
Shaquil Barrett LB 115 35 1.5 19.0 -8.0 1.5
De'Vondre Campbell LB 115 35 1.5 19.0 -8.0 1.5
Morgan Fox DL 72 34 1.5 -10.5 -31.5 1.5
Dalvin Tomlinson DL 71.5 35 1.0 -11.0 -32.0 1.0
Dexter Lawrence DL 71.5 35 1.0 -11.0 -32.0 1.0
Vince Williams LB 113.5 37 0.0 17.5 -9.5 0.0
Benson Mayowa DL 70.5 37 0.0 -12.0 -33.0 0.0
Jerry Hughes DL 70.5 37 0.0 -12.0 -33.0 0.0
Tre Herndon DB 85 49 -8.5 -16.0 0.0 0.0
Nicholas Morrow LB 112 38 -1.5 16.0 -11.0 -1.5
Frank Clark DL 69 39 -1.5 -13.5 -34.5 -1.5
Chris Jones DL 69 39 -1.5 -13.5 -34.5 -1.5
William Gholston DL 69 39 -1.5 -13.5 -34.5 -1.5
Josey Jewell LB 111 39 -2.5 15.0 -12.0 -2.5
Carlos Dunlap DL 68 42 -2.5 -14.5 -35.5 -2.5
Xavien Howard DB 82.5 50 -11.0 -18.5 -2.5 -2.5
Jarran Reed DL 67.5 43 -3.0 -15.0 -36.0 -3.0
Arik Armstead DL 67.5 43 -3.0 -15.0 -36.0 -3.0
Bilal Nichols DL 67 45 -3.5 -15.5 -36.5 -3.5
Lawrence Guy DL 67 45 -3.5 -15.5 -36.5 -3.5
Brian Burns LB 109.5 40 -4.0 13.5 -13.5 -4.0
Poona Ford DL 66.5 47 -4.0 -16.0 -37.0 -4.0
Jonathan Allen DL 66.5 47 -4.0 -16.0 -37.0 -4.0
Carlton Davis DB 81 51 -12.5 -20.0 -4.0 -4.0
Eric Kendricks LB 109 41 -4.5 13.0 -14.0 -4.5
Michael Brockers DL 66 49 -4.5 -16.5 -37.5 -4.5
Grover Stewart DL 66 49 -4.5 -16.5 -37.5 -4.5
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson DB 80 52 -13.5 -21.0 -5.0 -5.0
Tarell Basham DL 65 51 -5.5 -17.5 -38.5 -5.5
Sean Murphy-Bunting DB 79.5 53 -14.0 -21.5 -5.5 -5.5
Isaiah Oliver DB 79.5 53 -14.0 -21.5 -5.5 -5.5
Everson Griffen DL 64.5 52 -6.0 -18.0 -39.0 -6.0
Jeffery Simmons DL 64.5 52 -6.0 -18.0 -39.0 -6.0
Harold Landry LB 107 42 -6.5 11.0 -16.0 -6.5
Avery Williamson LB 107 42 -6.5 11.0 -16.0 -6.5
Jourdan Lewis DB 78.5 55 -15.0 -22.5 -6.5 -6.5
Carl Lawson DL 63.5 54 -7.0 -19.0 -40.0 -7.0
Tre'Davious White DB 78 56 -15.5 -23.0 -7.0 -7.0
Danny Trevathan LB 106 44 -7.5 10.0 -17.0 -7.5
Lamarcus Joyner DB 77.5 57 -16.0 -23.5 -7.5 -7.5
Terrance Mitchell DB 77.5 57 -16.0 -23.5 -7.5 -7.5
Michael Ojemudia DB 77.5 57 -16.0 -23.5 -7.5 -7.5
Kenneth Murray LB 105.5 45 -8.0 9.5 -17.5 -8.0
Dawuane Smoot DL 62.5 55 -8.0 -20.0 -41.0 -8.0
Michael Davis DB 77 60 -16.5 -24.0 -8.0 -8.0
Kyzir White DB 77 60 -16.5 -24.0 -8.0 -8.0
Jonathan Jones DB 77 60 -16.5 -24.0 -8.0 -8.0
Derek Barnett DL 62 56 -8.5 -20.5 -41.5 -8.5
Folorunso Fatukasi DL 62 56 -8.5 -20.5 -41.5 -8.5
Rodney McLeod DB 76.5 63 -17.0 -24.5 -8.5 -8.5
Mario Addison DL 61.5 58 -9.0 -21.0 -42.0 -9.0
A.J. Klein LB 104 46 -9.5 8.0 -19.0 -9.5
Larry Ogunjobi DL 61 59 -9.5 -21.5 -42.5 -9.5
DaQuan Jones DL 61 59 -9.5 -21.5 -42.5 -9.5
Shaq Lawson DL 60.5 61 -10.0 -22.0 -43.0 -10.0
Eric Murray DB 75 64 -18.5 -26.0 -10.0 -10.0
Devin McCourty DB 74.5 65 -19.0 -26.5 -10.5 -10.5
Josh Jones DB 74 66 -19.5 -27.0 -11.0 -11.0
Ed Oliver DL 59 62 -11.5 -23.5 -44.5 -11.5
J.C. Jackson DB 73 67 -20.5 -28.0 -12.0 -12.0
Shaquill Griffin DB 73 67 -20.5 -28.0 -12.0 -12.0
Trevon Diggs DB 72.5 69 -21.0 -28.5 -12.5 -12.5
Vernon Hargreaves III DB 72.5 69 -21.0 -28.5 -12.5 -12.5
Tyquan Lewis DL 57.5 63 -13.0 -25.0 -46.0 -13.0
Javon Hargrave DL 57.5 63 -13.0 -25.0 -46.0 -13.0
Trayvon Mullen DB 72 71 -21.5 -29.0 -13.0 -13.0
Jamel Dean DB 71.5 72 -22.0 -29.5 -13.5 -13.5
Olivier Vernon LB 99 47 -14.5 3.0 -24.0 -14.5
Janoris Jenkins DB 70.5 73 -23.0 -30.5 -14.5 -14.5
D.J. Reed DB 70 74 -23.5 -31.0 -15.0 -15.0
Nevin Lawson DB 70 74 -23.5 -31.0 -15.0 -15.0
Karl Joseph DB 69.5 76 -24.0 -31.5 -15.5 -15.5
Blessuan Austin DB 69.5 76 -24.0 -31.5 -15.5 -15.5
Duron Harmon DB 69.5 76 -24.0 -31.5 -15.5 -15.5
Dre Greenlaw LB 97.5 48 -16.0 1.5 -25.5 -16.0
Pierre Desir DB 69 79 -24.5 -32.0 -16.0 -16.0
Marshon Lattimore DB 69 79 -24.5 -32.0 -16.0 -16.0
Terrell Edmunds DB 69 79 -24.5 -32.0 -16.0 -16.0
Lonnie Johnson Jr. DB 69 79 -24.5 -32.0 -16.0 -16.0
Nasir Adderley DB 68.5 83 -25.0 -32.5 -16.5 -16.5
James Bradberry DB 68 84 -25.5 -33.0 -17.0 -17.0
Quandre Diggs DB 68 84 -25.5 -33.0 -17.0 -17.0
Andrew Van Ginkel LB 96 49 -17.5 0.0 -27.0 -17.5
Josh Bynes LB 96 49 -17.5 0.0 -27.0 -17.5
Desmond King DB 67.5 86 -26.0 -33.5 -17.5 -17.5
Brandon Jones DB 67.5 86 -26.0 -33.5 -17.5 -17.5
Malik Reed LB 95.5 51 -18.0 -0.5 -27.5 -18.0
Jason Verrett DB 67 88 -26.5 -34.0 -18.0 -18.0
Jimmie Ward DB 67 88 -26.5 -34.0 -18.0 -18.0
Ugo Amadi DB 66.5 90 -27.0 -34.5 -18.5 -18.5
Joe Haden DB 66 91 -27.5 -35.0 -19.0 -19.0
Jarrod Wilson DB 66 91 -27.5 -35.0 -19.0 -19.0
Xavier Woods DB 66 91 -27.5 -35.0 -19.0 -19.0
Buster Skrine DB 66 91 -27.5 -35.0 -19.0 -19.0
Patrick Peterson DB 65.5 95 -28.0 -35.5 -19.5 -19.5
Tashaun Gipson DB 65 96 -28.5 -36.0 -20.0 -20.0
Darius Slay DB 65 96 -28.5 -36.0 -20.0 -20.0
Byron Murphy DB 64.5 98 -29.0 -36.5 -20.5 -20.5
Troy Reeder LB 91 52 -22.5 -5.0 -32.0 -22.5
B.J. Goodson LB 90.5 53 -23.0 -5.5 -32.5 -23.0
Cameron Dantzler DB 62 99 -31.5 -39.0 -23.0 -23.0
Jayon Brown LB 89.5 54 -24.0 -6.5 -33.5 -24.0
Anthony Walker LB 89.5 54 -24.0 -6.5 -33.5 -24.0
Bradley Chubb LB 87.5 56 -26.0 -8.5 -35.5 -26.0
Cole Holcomb LB 87 57 -26.5 -9.0 -36.0 -26.5
Germaine Pratt LB 87 57 -26.5 -9.0 -36.0 -26.5
Krys Barnes LB 86.5 59 -27.0 -9.5 -36.5 -27.0
Matt Judon LB 86 60 -27.5 -10.0 -37.0 -27.5
Nick Kwiatkoski LB 86 60 -27.5 -10.0 -37.0 -27.5
T.J. Edwards LB 85.5 62 -28.0 -10.5 -37.5 -28.0
Ja'Whaun Bentley LB 84 63 -29.5 -12.0 -39.0 -29.5
Rashaan Evans LB 84 63 -29.5 -12.0 -39.0 -29.5
Bobby Okereke LB 83.5 65 -30.0 -12.5 -39.5 -30.0
Bud Dupree LB 83 66 -30.5 -13.0 -40.0 -30.5
Chase Winovich LB 82 67 -31.5 -14.0 -41.0 -31.5
Elandon Roberts LB 81.5 68 -32.0 -14.5 -41.5 -32.0
Cory Littleton LB 81 69 -32.5 -15.0 -42.0 -32.5
Aldon Smith LB 79.5 70 -34.0 -16.5 -43.5 -34.0
Christian Kirksey LB 79.5 70 -34.0 -16.5 -43.5 -34.0
Malcolm Smith LB 79.5 70 -34.0 -16.5 -43.5 -34.0
Preston Smith LB 76.5 73 -37.0 -19.5 -46.5 -37.0
Isaiah Simmons LB 75.5 74 -38.0 -20.5 -47.5 -38.0
Kyler Fackrell LB 74.5 75 -39.0 -21.5 -48.5 -39.0
Damien Wilson LB 72.5 76 -41.0 -23.5 -50.5 -41.0
Kwon Alexander LB 72 77 -41.5 -24.0 -51.0 -41.5
Sione Takitaki LB 72 77 -41.5 -24.0 -51.0 -41.5
Robert Spillane LB 71 79 -42.5 -25.0 -52.0 -42.5
Anthony Hitchens LB 67 80 -46.5 -29.0 -56.0 -46.5
Markus Golden LB 65.5 81 -48.0 -30.5 -57.5 -48.0
Matt Milano LB 65.5 81 -48.0 -30.5 -57.5 -48.0
Tae Crowder LB 65.5 81 -48.0 -30.5 -57.5 -48.0
Jeremiah Attaochu LB 64.5 84 -49.0 -31.5 -58.5 -49.0
Kenny Young LB 64.5 84 -49.0 -31.5 -58.5 -49.0
Alex Highsmith LB 63 86 -50.5 -33.0 -60.0 -50.5
Nick Vigil LB 62.5 87 -51.0 -33.5 -60.5 -51.0
Dennis Gardeck LB 59 88 -54.5 -37.0 -64.0 -54.5
Rashan Gary LB 59 88 -54.5 -37.0 -64.0 -54.5

The more players you need to start at a position, the scarcer players at that position who score a lot of points will become. Even though we just said that only nine defensive backs finished in the top-50 in raw fantasy points, their relative value changes if you’re only starting one defensive lineman and two linebackers but four defensive backs. In that case, 27 defensive backs find their way into the top-50 by VORP.

Obviously too, if you have more teams in your league, the replacement-level value gets lower and the disparity between the positions will increase. Similarly, larger roster sizes mean more players will be drafted and thus the replacement level will also fall.

If scoring settings are the underdrawing of a painting, the roster requirements are its color and hue selection. It’s all good and well to say, “this league is a big-play league, and I know that cornerbacks are often poor scorers in those leagues,” but what if the starting lineup requires you to start five cornerbacks? Only one of each position group? These questions are the shading, the tonal shifts that begin to separate IDP leagues from one another—and can be answered by using VORP (or our rankings, projections, and our own Defensive Power Rating) as a comparison tool.

A sketch and some color will get you a painting. It might not be masterful yet, but it will show the subject you chose and the tone you selected for it. In the same way, analyzing scoring and roster settings are the bare minimum you need to do to get a handle on your IDP league.

IDP vs. Offense: When to Let it Dry

Things obviously get more complicated when you add in the offensive side of the ball, but fortunately not by much. While we don’t have a Power Rating for offensive players, the same process for creating IDP VORP works on offense as well. From there, you can simply compare your IDP VORP to offensive VORP and get solid rankings to build a draft board from.

There’s no simple table I can show you to help break down offense-to-IDP comparisons, but I can offer some thoughts on how I assemble my teams.

Your VORP analysis might lead you to look at drafting a hyper-elite player like Roquan Smith, Devin White, Aaron Donald, or T.J. Watt in the same range as a Mike Davis, a Myles Gaskin, a CeeDee Lamb, or an Amari Cooper. You can go that direction, but it’s often much easier to find an IDP fill-in for a few weeks (especially in more swingy formats like Big-Play) than it is to snag a surprise riser on offense. Those third to sixth rounds should see you continue to punt on IDP as you secure your offensive core.

In a 12-team league, I would be comfortable starting to dip my brush in the IDP paint pot as early as the seventh round, when you’re looking at players like Melvin Gordon, Leonard Fournette, and Deebo Samuel. These are players that should end up being contributors on offense, but ones that I would feel comfortable passing on if there is an elite IDP available.

In my mostly balanced scoring and roster setting leagues, I like to add an early elite pass-rushing defensive end, then find solid-but-not-spectacular linebackers to fill my starting group later down the line. After that, I try to find an upside DL2 or DE2 to slot in, and then pepper in added defensive line and linebacker depth as the draft goes along. I very rarely draft defensive backs high, and if I do, they are a strong tackling safety who plays every down but wouldn’t be considered in the elite Budda Baker or Jamal Adams tier. Most defensive backs are fairly replaceable in most formats, and I tend to stream them weekly based on matchups anyway, so they are typically only filled out in the last few rounds of my drafts.

How long you wait to start clicking in those IDP really depends on where you feel confident about finding value at the end of your draft. If you are brand-new to IDP, don’t worry about getting your RB5 right away, and make sure you have a spare startable linebacker in the middle rounds. If you have a good idea about some later defensive backs you can snag, go ahead and load up on offensive fliers before you fill out your fantasy secondary.

Conclusion: The Finishing Touch

Finally, there are some general things to remember when beginning your journey into the world of IDP fantasy football.

Being flexible and responding to your draft’s flow keeps you from getting locked in on players or positions and then reaching for someone below value. In addition, it’s crucial to do your research on both your own league settings and on the players available, so that you know which linebackers stay on the field in nickel and dime packages, which defensive ends are getting rotated heavily, and which cornerbacks are on the verge of a benching.

Above everything else, you should try to be comfortable being patient as you go from IDP hobbyist to master craftsman. No one goes from sketching a stick person to illustrating the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel overnight. This takes a lot of practice and a lot of time, and (frankly) a lot of false steps and overcorrections.

Remember, though, the maxim of one of the greatest fantasy players of them all: “You don’t make mistakes; you have happy accidents.” Go make some happy accidents, learn from them, and gain experience from our draft tool kit and asking questions of others to help hone your technique.

If you do all that, your IDP masterwork will soon be hanging in the fantasy Louvre.

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