Five Rules for Drafting IDP

Five Rules for Drafting IDP

By Anthony Stalter (4for4 Scout), last update Aug 18, 2012

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Anthony Stalter is co-host of the mid-day show on sports radio 101 ESPN in St. Louis and a pre-game host for the Rams Radio Network. Anthony hosts 4for4's Most Accurate Podcast and contributes as a Scout and columnist.

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Whether you are a seasoned veteran or rookie who is still wet behind the ears, there are always a few tips and tactics you need to follow when drafting for your IDP League. 

1. Know your league’s scoring setup.
The quickest way to torpedo your draft is to not familiarize yourself with the scoring setup in your league. You wouldn’t make drafting a quarterback your No. 1 priority if your league only gives you 2 points per touchdown pass so why would you draft a cornerback or defensive end when you’re awarded 1 point for every tackle your IDP racks up? It’s easy to over think things on draft day, so make things simple on yourself by knowing how to acquire points. If you understand your league’s scoring set up, you can also avoid reaching on certain players. There will be plenty of quality IDP targets later in your draft so while other owners are reaching for the so-called elite defensive players, you’ll have confidence taking defenders with similar projections towards the end of your draft (all while nabbing quality offensive depth in the process).
2. Linebackers are king.
There was a time when you didn’t think about drafting anything but a running back in the first round of your fantasy draft. They were as good as gold because their carries, yardage, and touchdowns were easy to project. Times have changed on the offensive side of the ball but for IDP leagues linebackers remain king. If you draft a durable middle linebacker that has a history of recording 100-plus solo tackles every season, that’s 100-plus points in a league that awards 1 point per tackle. Even in a league that awards 3 points per interception, a defensive back that only averages 50 tackles per season would have to intercept  16 passes just to match the linebacker that racks up 100 tackles. (You’re welcome for that math lesson.) It’s easy to get caught up in big plays like sacks and interceptions but do yourself a favor and take the guess work out of drafting. Target linebackers that will consistently rack up tackles week-to-week.
Note: If you have to draft a defensive back, pick a safety that has a history of making tackles over the shutdown corner that QBs are afraid to test. A 4-3 defensive end that can make tackles and rush the QB has more fantasy value than a space-eating 4-3 DT or a 3-4 defensive end whose role it is to take on would-be blockers. 
3. Understand the role of the player you’re drafting.
It wouldn’t be wise to draft a wideout that’s the fourth option in his offense and only sees the field in three-receiver sets. The same can be said for two-down ‘backers, 3-4 rush linebackers that only play on passing downs or 4-3 defensive tackles that can’t rush the passer. In other words, know what role your IDP will serve in his respective defense. Three-down middle linebackers in a 4-3 should rack up plenty of tackles. The same can be said for an in-the-box safety who plays behind a soft front-seven (think Bucs’ rookie Mark Barron). Conversely, a 4-3 MIKE ’backer that’s pulled on third downs will have limited opportunities for interceptions and pass defended numbers. A 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 space-eating defensive tackle that can’t rush the passer don’t have much use to IDP owners. Plus, while linebackers are king in IDP leagues, not all of them are created equal. Have a fundamental understanding of what scheme they play in and what their role will be in their respective defense.
4. Don’t be afraid to draft rookies.
In 2005, Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma led the NFL in tackles as a rookie. That same year, Shawne Merriman of the Chargers racked up 10 sacks and 43 solo tackles. In 2009, rookie Clay Matthews of the Packers finished with 51 tackles, 10 sacks and three forced fumbles, while in 2011 first-year player Aldon Smith of the 49ers racked up 14 sacks. Drafting rookies is always a crapshoot but it’s less of a science when it comes to IDPs. The key is targeting rookies that are going to start and aren’t stuck behind a veteran with a huge contract. If the path is paved for them to make an immediate impact, by all means, draft away. 
5. Don’t overvalue turnovers.
Tackles and sacks are easier to project than turnovers. Chris Long’s sack numbers have increased every year he’s been in the league. Outside of last year when he was limited in 13 games, Patrick Willis has produced at least 100 total tackles since his rookie season in 2007. Interceptions, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries, on the other hand, are almost impossible to predict on a year to year basis. Turnovers are predicated on opportunities and being in the right place at the right time. It’s okay to take risks on draft day but it all goes back to tip No. 1 - know your league’s scoring setup. If you’re awarded one point per tackle and three points per interception, draft the linebacker that you can count on to produce 80-100 tackles as opposed to the cornerback that <em>could</em> finish between four and six interceptions if he’s given enough opportunities. Don’t try to predict turnovers on draft day because the risk likely won’t be worth the reward.
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