Why play in IDP Leagues?

Why play in IDP Leagues?

In launching our new IDP+ Scoring, we want to see more people play IDP. Most people are probably reading this and asking themselves “Why play in IDP Leagues? I know nothing about IDP”.

I actually first wrote about it in the 2020 Fantasy Football Playbook. However, it’s now time to update and go more in depth as to why you should consider playing IDP.

There are a number of reasons why, but I will limit it to the top 5.

Before I do that, I just want to welcome on board formally Nath, who is going to head-up IDP for us. He is a valuable resource with a passion for IDP. 

Both Stocks and I are extremely passionate about IDP and we believe IDP is underplayed and undervalued. Therefore, it is important for us to attempt to grow IDP in the UK, as well as in the community. 

I get asked extremely regularly this one question “Why play in IDP Leagues?”. Over the course of this article I will attempt to answer this question. If you find value in this article, drop me a dm, email or message. I would love to hear from you. Better yet, reach out to Nath (@natoNFL) and he will get you in a league.

Now, here are 5 answers to the question “Why play in IDP Leagues?”:

1) It makes you a better Fantasy Football Player

Believe it or not, playing IDP will make you a far better player in more standard, offense only leagues. That is because by understanding how defensive scoring works, and defensive players, you start to look at Cornerback vs Wide Receiver Match-ups. 

Why play in IDP Leagues? You start to understand which defenses are actually really good and who in particular is good at stopping the ball going through the air, and on the ground. If you can understand things like the Buccaneers having an incredible interior defensive line, and therefore are able to stop teams establishing the run, you are likely to fade questionable Running Back starters against them.

By being able to understand who the good defenses and good defensive players are, you are able to make better start/sit decisions.

2) It is a more active league

IDP Leagues are for football purists. I read recently that only 5% of all leagues have some form of IDP element to them. That is a minor amount. Therefore, you know that when you play in an IDP league, it is likely to be extremely active and engaging. 

Why play in IDP Leagues? It is also a great way to meet fellow defensive enthusiasts.

3) You can have way more draft strategies and trades

Let’s face it, we have all been in leagues where the draft becomes very predictable based on ADP. We know roughly who we are going to get based on ADP before the draft even begins. We even go into an element of autodraft syndrome because the drafts start to become very similar. I talked about this in the 2021 Fantasy Football Playbook.

However, when you add an IDP element, you expand rosters, draft more players, and therefore create new levels of strategy. Superflex has become almost the new normal in Fantasy Football because people like the additional strategy. People scream at me every week to do more Superflex content. 

Why play in IDP Leagues? If you love Superflex because of the extra strategy and unpredictability, then why aren’t you playing IDP that adds 3 new positions (or more if you play in a super advanced IDP league)? 

4) It makes watching the game on Sunday’s even more fun

Everyone loves watching their favourite players. It is what makes Redzone so fun for us. Watching someone like Nick Chubb break away from tackles and through the defensive line for a large breakaway touchdown, despite the fact we support a team not in that division and the result has no bearing on our team, is fun! So why not give yourself more opportunities to do that.

Why play in IDP Leagues? Imagine cheering Aaron Rodgers getting sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul because he has just given you those much needed Sacked points. Even better if he forced a fumble, and you are playing an opponent who has Aaron Rodgers at QB. That could be around a 10 point swing in your match-up depending on scoring. Who wouldn’t love that! (The Rodgers owner in this example of course but hey ho!)

5) You become more knowledgeable about the game

Most people, especially in the UK, want to become bigger fans. They want to take the opportunity to learn more about the game. Playing IDP has the same effect on you learning the game as regular Fantasy Football has had on many of us who have played it and learned so much about offenses and the offensive side of the game.

Why play in IDP Leagues? When you start paying attention to defensive players, you develop favourites. And then you start to watch the plays more, and you learn more. If you want to take your fandom to the next level, watch both sides of the ball and have skin in the defensive side of the game.

Individual Defensive Players Strategy

Individual Defensive Player leagues, otherwise known as IDP leagues for short, have been around for as long as Fantasy Football have. They aren’t anywhere near as popular however, due to people being scared of their own lack of knowledge when it comes to defensive players.

It is completely understandable. It seems hard at times getting a handle on 250 or so relevant fantasy football players. And now, in order to compete in an IDP, you have to get your head around another 250 or so more.

However, IDP is a great way to learn about the defensive part of the game. You will have a better idea on the nuances of players, who they are, and why they are important to their teams.

Why play in IDP Leagues? I have played in a lot of IDP leagues in the last 20 years. And no two have ever been the same. The scoring is customised quite heavily, as these leagues are normally run by fantasy football diehards. There is no “standard” scoring as there is in offensive Fantasy Football. 

So here are some tips and tricks to help when playing in IDP leagues.

Study the scoring

The scoring is the first clue into how this league will play. I have played in too many leagues where sacks are undervalued. If there was a common theme, I’ve seen sacks scored at +2 and tackles scored at +1. Then, all of a sudden, I see people taking Aaron Donald as the first IDP player off the board in rounds 3 or 4.

If you were to look at his 20.5 sack season in 2018, with his 59 tackles (41 solo tackles), 4 Forced Fumbles and 2 Fumble recoveries, and then compare that to Darius Leonard who had 163 tackles (111 solo), 7 sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles and 2 Fumble Recoveries, plus 2 Interceptions, then Leonard would have outscored Donald by close to 50 points, depending on what tackles and interceptions are worth.

In a league where sacks are only worth 2 points, taking a sack leader so high is a waste. Just take the best linebackers with a history of 100+ tackles in a season, including very high solo tackle numbers. They will always beat the sack leaders. However, IDP+  scoring makes these Sack Leaders far more relevant. 

Why is scoring so important?

Scoring is arguably more important than in offensive fantasy football leagues. Because the scoring settings will make other positions and types of players more relevant than others.

It is a fair assumption that in 80% of the leagues you will play IDP in, Defensive Ends (DE) and Linebackers (LB) will be the highest scoring positions, whilst Defensive Tackles (DT), with the exception of the top 4 or 5 and Defensive Backs (DB) will be far more irrelevant. 

There are usually flex IDP spots as well. This means you can play an IDP of any position. In most leagues, I stack mine with LBs and let them play in those slots, due to the safe floor and the upside they bring.

I have not played in too many IDP leagues that make DBs overly relevant. However the new IDP+ scoring makes them one of the more important positions, and getting a premium DB will give you a significant advantage. 

So, rule number one, before you come up with any strategy for an IDP draft is study the scoring. There are tools out there like Football Guys League Dominator app, that lets you customise the scoring and see where players would rank. This tool literally does the hard work for you.

You will still need to discover coaching changes, personnel changes, draft picks etc in order to determine if a player is likely to gain more in the stats department the following year or less. However, that is really stage two. The first part is to understand what players are most important and how many players in that position are relevant.

Look at the depth of the position

When looking at the stat leaders, it can be a little confusing. Because, depending on scoring in your league, you need to see if solo tackles are awarded more points than a combined tackle. In most IDP leagues this is the case. Therefore, when you are looking at your IDP stars, especially LB, then you need to find solo tackle numbers.

43 players broke the 100 tackle mark in 2020. However, only 1 broke the 100 solo tackle mark. That was Zach Cunningham of Houston with 106. That means you need to not just look at the tackle number, but the solo tackle is also important. These stats start to create tier breaks (refer back to the value based drafting guide as to why that is important).

The next thing to identify depth is to look at how Interceptions are scored. If they are scored significantly, say +3 for example, then that will create some significant tier breaks. However, with the leaders of the NFL only having six interceptions, it goes to show how devalued the DB position is in standard IDP leagues. Therefore finding a high tackling DB will always be a better bet than taking a player like Stefon Gilmore for example, who is a former AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. 

Why IDP+ Matters

However, having IDP+ include stats like pass breakups means that you are bringing more relevance to the Cornerback position than ever before. In most leagues, most CBs don’t even get drafted as they don’t make many interceptions and don’t tackle that much, therefore making them an irrelevant position for most scoring formats. However, with the addition of pass breakups and passes defended, Zavian Howard became an important commodity as he led the league with 20 of them in 2020.

Identifying good and great is half the battle. Once you have done it, it is time to start seeing how player moves have affected players. Have players been traded or moved on in Free Agency? 

Following Player Movement to Identify Sleepers

What did their teams do in the NFL Draft? Did the teams change coaching staff? All of this will play into the scheme and therefore the effectiveness of the players. 

A key example of this is Shaq Barrett. He was allowed to leave Denver in Free Agency in 2019 after barely getting playing time behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Yet he lands on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff with new Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles and ends up on a 3-4 defense, which suits his style. This leads to him leading the NFL in sacks with 19.5 and earning him his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

No one could have predicted Barrett would be the sack leader. However, he was a candidate to see a lot of production. It is gems like Barrett that appear as draft sleepers every year that you can jump on. Barrett was going in the final three rounds of drafts. 

Whilst sleepers do not exist as much in offensive fantasy football due to publications and podcasts galore (including ours!) In IDP they are everywhere. You just need to understand the player movements, the depth in each position, and the scoring. If you can master that, you will be on to a winner. 

Waiver Wire

As most people end up focusing on their offense in an IDP league, there are always plenty of guys you can pick up on the Waiver Wire. 

A typical strategy for me is to have at least one streaming LB, sometimes two. These players benefit from playing against slow, poor offensive teams. If you are able to stream one or two highly effective LBs every week, you will be in a good position. You will probably be the only person doing it also. 

I normally do the same with 1 DB spot. Try and get a corner who is playing against a Tua Tagovailoa or Ryan Fitzpatrick, or even rookie Quarterbacks. Streaming a DB, if done correctly, will yield more INTs in a season than a static DB. It all comes down to match-up based streaming.

The other thing to watch is players who start the season injured or banned. These players get left on the Waiver Wire more often than not. Therefore, a productive starter could be grabbed one week before he is due to return, for a cheap FAAB price or waiver claim. That way, you get another highly productive starter for practically free. Remember, always be one step ahead of your league mates and claim these players one week earlier than they are thinking of picking them up.

So Go and Join an IDP+ League by 5 Yard Rush

Take the plunge this year and give IDP a go. IDP+ scoring makes it far more interesting and means every position should be respected. However, if you also want to try a more standard scoring league, then do try that. It just means not all players will be as relevant. 

Why play in IDP Leagues? Because they are fun! 

If you are interested in the 5 Yard Rush IDP+ leagues, @natoNFL will be running some leagues. Therefore, get in contact with him and get playing with him.

If you enjoyed this article or have any further questions, then please do get in touch with me and feel free to send me a message.

If I can get more of you playing IDP in 2021, then this article was absolutely worth it. 

Ask yourself this, what do you have to lose? Some time and coming last is probably the worst possible outcome. However, you will likely gain some new friends, a new appreciation for fantasy football and a better outlook on football as a whole. I call that a worthy investment, whatever the result. Wouldn’t you?


– Murf (@Murf_NFL)

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