Simplifying IDP DL Edition: It's As Easy As 1,2,4-3
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.
One of the easiest ways I found to simplify IDP when it comes to defensive ends is to focus on players who play in a 4-3 defensive scheme. Without getting to deep into defensive schemes, a 4-3 defensive scheme involves the two defensive ends playing on the outside of the two interior defensive lineman rushing the quarterback from the outside of the formation. The linebackers line up three wide behind the front four lineman, usually referred to as weak side, strong side, and middle linebackers. In a 3-4 defensive scheme teams will use a nose tackle flanked by two defensive lineman up front with the two outside linebackers playing just off the line of scrimmage and rushing the passer. So long story short you want defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme and you want outside linebackers in 3-4 scheme.
Depending on whether your league scoring system is tackle heavy, sack heavy, or somewhere in between may also dictate what scheme you want to target when it comes to selecting a defensive lineman. For sack heavy scoring leagues usually you look for defensive ends who will rack up sacks from the outside, but often these pass rushing specialists have very low tackle totals. If your league is considered a tackle heavy scoring league than a player in a 3-4 scheme or an interior lineman who is a "run stuffer" may be more valuable due to high tackle numbers. Often the interior players don't accumulate the high number of sacks that the outside defensive ends will rack up, but once again depending on your individual scoring settings this may not be an issue.
As with every rule or guideline there are always exceptions, players like JJ Watt, Aaron Donald, Kalil Mack, Von Miller, Vic Beasley, and Chandler Jones, are all going to be phenomenal regardless of scheme, or positional designation they are just that good. Speaking of positional designation this is a volatile position, defensive ends, outside linebackers, and defensive tackles, are regularly changing positional designations due to a variety of reasons. Reasons such as defensive scheme change, defensive coordinator change, head coaching change, and at times it simply comes down to how many snaps an edge player plays with his hand in the dirt versus the amount of snaps played standing up. The IDP community seems to be rallying to include an “edge” positional designation moving forward, having essentially all pass rushers fall under the “edge” classification, so regardless of whether a player is listed as an outside linebackers, or defensive end, they would be classified as “edge”.
As far as draft strategy goes regarding defensive lineman, I like to grab one of the studs from the top tier earlier than most due to the usual significant drop off from tier one to the second tier. I want that set it and forget it type double digit sack high tackle floor defensive end locked into my lineup every week. I've found targeting defensive ends on winning teams can offer late game upside, if a team is trailing late in the game it's more than likely that the quarterback will be dropping back to pass offering ample sack opportunities. As opposed to defensive ends on a weaker team that are constantly trailing chances are their opponent will be running the ball late in games, not allowing pass rushers to accumulate sacks. I know I've regularly said to look for 1000 snap defenders, but it is rare for edge rushers or interior lineman to play 1000 snaps. Only three players managed to play that amount in 2016, so look for players playing over 700 snaps as opposed to 1000. Now obviously you don't want a defensive lineman who plays on a full rotation, but a defensive rotation at DE or DT isn't an IDP value death sentence like it is for linebackers and defensive backs.
Now as I've said before nothing in IDP is simple or easy, but little things such as paying attention to defensive schemes, scheme changes, or even overall team strength may help to simplify some of your difficult decisions. Also if you can lock up and even stack as many double digit sack, forty tackle lineman as you possibly can, well than things are going to seem very simple and easy at the defensive lineman position for your squad, and setting your lineup will be a brees.