Simplifying IDP: Startup Draft Strategies
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. This can be applied to drafting defensive players as well, whether it be a startup draft or a rookie draft the simple answer is, wait on IDP's.
In this article I'm going to concentrate on dynasty startup draft strategy as it pertains to IDP's, I feel that each defensive position is it's own unique beast, so to speak. So I will be addressing each position individually.
First off, the only position I am willing to draft in the somewhat early rounds of a startup draft is defensive end. I prefer to build my defense around a cornerstone defensive end, and will often attempt to draft a young stud DE within the first 10-12 rounds. If your going to invest this kind of draft capitol in a defensive player do your homework regarding scheme and current defensive coordinator. There is nothing more frustrating than having your foundation defensive end get stuck with the outside linebacker all of a sudden, such as the case with Kalil Mack, and Chandler Jones. Which is just another reason to be patient when it comes to defenders in your drafts. With that being said some positional designation changes have no warning signs, rhyme or reason.
When it comes to interior defensive lineman, unless it's Aaron Donald there is absolutely any reason to select a defensive tackle until the majority of all relevant offensive players have been selected. Leagues with defensive tackle scoring premiums are becoming increasingly more common, so as always make sure you read over your leagues scoring settings prior to the draft. If your league does indeed offer a premium for DT tackles then simply using a value based drafting system to appropriately select a lineman when his value aligns with the remaining available players.
Linebacker is a particularly interesting position when it comes to drafting, because inside linebackers and outside linebackers essentially play totally different positions when it comes to IDP scoring. I can totally understand paying a premium and selecting a big time 100 solo tackle inside linebacker that you can comfortably lock into your lineup for years to come. But apart from the top couple of consistent ILB's, there is nearly as much turnover in the second and third tiers at LB as there is for the runningback position. Three down inside linebackers who can maintain top ten statistical seasons are becoming exceedingly rare, a few names that have been able to accomplish this feat over the past several seasons are. Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David, CJ Mosley, Telvin Smith, Kwon Alexander, Dion Jones, Christian Kirksey, Bobby Wagner, and Zach Brown. Outside of that select group of incredible linebackers only 30% of the top 10 statistical leaders at inside linebacker in 2014 made it back into the top 10 the following season. It was similar from the 2015 to 2016 season where again only 30% of the statistical leaders among linebackers remained in the top ten. That number slightly went up from 2016 to 2017 where 40% of the top ten inside linebackers maintained their status as a top ten statistical linebacker.
The outside linebacker position is even more volatile than the inside linebacker position, the vast majority of points scored by OLB's come from sacks and tackles for losses. There are going to be certain match ups and entire games where your starter may not register a quarterback pressure let alone a sack or TFL. The biggest thing to keep in mind regarding the outside linebacker position is whether your in a tackle heavy scoring system or a sack heavy scoring system. The difference is immense, in a sack heavy league all linebackers tend to finish reasonably close to each other in fantasy scoring regardless of whether they play inside or outside. In a tackle heavy scoring system, outside linebackers tend to be appropriately under appreciated which essentially makes them an after thought in drafts.
I use a very simple and basic method when it comes to drafting safeties, if they don't play in the box on the vast majority of their snaps I have absolutely no use for them. I will gladly stream whoever has the best match ups week to week outside of a starter or two. I will rarely draft a safety in the first forty rounds of a startup IDP draft unless the value is just to good to pass up. Outside of Landon Collins, Reshad Jones, Keanu Neal, and now Kevin Byard, it is a revolving door year to year as to who fills out the remaining top twenty statistical leaders. Every year you can acquire startable safeties that fly under the radar who prove to be viable starters, such as Jordan Poyer, Daniel Sorenson, Matthias Farley, and Jahleel Addae, all of which finshed as top 20 safeties in 2017 and likely didn't cost more than a few free agent dollars. So why waste draft picks on safeties when statistics say that he will likely be dropped in the first few waiver runs anyways?
Now onto the cornerback position, this is as basic as it gets for me. DO NOT waste draft picks on cornerbacks, they are nearly as random as kickers and are incredibly volatile dynasty assets. Allow your league mates who feel the need to fill out every position via the draft to select them. You can easily and comfortably stream CB's based on match ups all season long. When streaming the cornerback position obviously you want to look primarily for a match up against an inaccurate or turn over prone quarterback. Aside from that look to acquire rookie corners as they are frequently thrown at especially early in the season for obvious reasons, as they have proved nothing as a NFL player yet. Most importantly do not acquire a teams number one cornerback, common sense and statistics prove that intelligent NFL quarterbacks, head coaches, and offensive coordinator are going to collectively game plan to target the less talented cornerback on the field. Weird right?
I love IDP and personally beleive playing in anything but leagues that include defensive players is essentially for beginners. But when it comes to drafting IDP's in a startup draft let others use up their early and mid round picks on what will likely be an irrelevant dynasty asset before too long. Every year league winners have at least one, or possibly even more defensive players that they acquired via waivers in their week 16 championship lineup. Waivers are an absolutely invaluable resource in IDP leagues, even in the deepest leagues viable starters are plucked off waivers, so stay diligent and work the hell out of that waiver wire each and every week, because if you don't you can be assured your competition is.