Simplifying IDP DB Edition: Find The Man In The Box
As every experienced IDP player knows there are a lot more intricacies and nuances regarding defensive positions than there are on the offensive side of the ball. Things such as schemes, rotations, defensive co-coordinators, quality of a teams offense, percentage played in positive or negative game scripts, positional designation changes, and even bias stat crews. So whenever possible it's nice to try and simplify things on the defensive side to a certain degree.
A few ways I found to do so when it comes to defensive backs is to acquire strong safeties who spend time playing down in the box, waiting during drafts to select defensive backs, to avoid cornerbacks unless its a CB required or CB premium league. If you do use cornerbacks in your league then generally the teams second best cornerback or rookie cornerback is the superior IDP asset, as I will address later. Also as a general rule of thumb your going to want to target strong safeties over free safeties. Another strategy I like using is to target defensive backs that play on the stronger teams. And if your league rewards punt return and kick return yards it never hurts to scroll through the depth charts to see which defensive backs also play as a returner on special teams.
There are only a handful of safeties in the league who play in the box on a regular basis, and the majority of them will only move into the box in nickel and dime packages. Of the top ten defensive back tackle leaders eight of them played strong safety and spent considerable time in the box last season. The simple explanation as to why it is advantageous to target strong safeties over free safeties is due to the simple fact usually the free safety is playing more of a “centre fielder” role, rarely impacting plays unless it's a downfield play. That's not to say free safeties can't be useful as five of them cracked the top twenty in defensive back tackles. As I do while setting my lineups when it comes to linebackers I like to utilize a 3:1 rule as well regarding my defensive backs, meaning for every one free safety or cornerback I insert into my starting lineup, hoping for an interception or multiple passes defensed. I'm going to have three strong safeties who put up consistent tackle numbers to offset the likely scenario of a minimal stat line if no big plays occur from my free safety or corerback. When it comes to starting or acquiring cornerbacks, it's best to avoid a teams top cornerback and to target the teams number two cornerback or look to the rookie cornerbacks. No intelligent offensive co-coordinator or QB is going to throw the ball towards the best defensive back on the field with any regularity, they will look for the weakest starter or rookie they believe they can exploit and he will be targeted considerably more often than a defenses shut down corner.
As far as draft strategy regarding defensive backs, whether it be in your startup draft or your rookie draft its traditionally been a position you can fill out at the end of your draft or on the waiver wire. With that being said nobody is going to fault you for jumping up and grabbing Landon Collins in your draft, as he is in a tier by himself and several tiers above the next best defensive back. But as a general rule of thumb just don't draft defensive backs, there are four starting defensive backs on each of the thirty two NFL teams making 128 starting defensive backs plus all of the other rotational defensive backs who's role could significantly increase all of a sudden due to injury or under performance.
The overall quality of the team a safety plays on can be an important factor due to the simple fact that a team that is winning on a regular basis is going to force their opponent to throw the ball in the second halves of games increasing tackle opportunities. Conversely if a safety is playing for a team that is regularly trailing chances are the teams opponents will be running the ball frequently in an attempt to control the clock decreasing tackle opportunities. An often overlooked fact is that many defensive backs return kicks, so if your league rewards return points, have a look through the depth charts to identify which defensive backs will be in on special teams. Every year head to head matches are decided by very few points and even fractions of points, so if you can get even a couple return yardage points per week it could mean the difference between a couple of wins and losses when the season is all said and done.