IDP Draft Strategy Guide (2021 Fantasy Football)
It’s draft day, and you’re in an IDP league because you want the ultimate fantasy football experience (read here first if I lost you at IDP). You’ve downed a dozen wings and enough of your drink of choice to settle your nerves but not so much that you draft Younghoe Koo in the third round. You’ve grabbed your offensive studs, and years of experience, and FantasyPros articles have taught you when to grab your quarterback and tight ends. Plus, you’re not a total numpty, so you won’t draft a kicker until the last round (or ideally not at all). So the big question is: when do you dip your toe in the IDP pool, and who do you take first?
Let’s take a quick step back. Firstly, it’s important to recognize that even in a balanced IDP league (with an even amount of offensive and defensive players), IDPs will always be less valuable. The reason is very simple. On a given snap, the field will typically include 1 QB, 1 RB, 2-4 WR, 1-3 TE and 11 IDP (3-4 Defensive Linemen (DL), 1-3 Linebackers (LB), and 4-6 Defensive Backs (DB)). As a result, offensive players (and running backs in particular) who get on the field regularly are rarer and hence far more valuable. So, where do IDPs sit by comparison? Well, it really depends on your format and roster construction. We’ll assume a 12 team half-PPR league with a basic offensive roster construction of 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1Flex, 1K, and 7 bench spots. Every offensive player you add will likely drop IDP players back about a round, as will moving to a PPR format. Also, keep in mind your IDP scoring settings will make a big difference here, especially your tackle, sack, and interception values. We’ll use the FantasyPros standard. I suggest if you’re setting up an IDP league, you should do the same. Let’s look at the three main styles of IDP league:
1. The Starter Pack (1 to 3 IDP Flex positions)
If you’re an IDP beginner, you will find it easiest to look for a league with a standard offensive roster and a few IDP Flex positions where any IDP player can be played in that position. As a general rule, you’ll want to be rostering a lot of LBs, with the linebackers making up 28 of the top 40 IDP scorers in 2020. Defensive backs make up the other 12, though none was in the top ten scorers, and many of these were cornerbacks, which are very unpredictable. So when playing in these leagues, you’ll want to be rostering only LBs and safeties. You also shouldn’t waste a bench spot on IDPs unless you’re rostering at least 3 IDPs. There’s enough depth that a replacement-level player is just as good as your bench guy. But when should you draft one?
If you have one IDP spot, you should see the first IDPs going off the board in the seventh round (though they’ll likely go earlier if many of your competitors are inexperienced). That being said, it’s arguably a better strategy to wait until the final rounds of the draft unless a stud like Darius Leonard, Devin White, or Roquan Smith is still available in the ninth or tenth round.
A second IDP spot will tend to move everything forward a round or so, with IDP players coming off the board from early in the sixth round at a fair value. That being said, outside the first few studs, most players shouldn’t be selected until the double-digit rounds, and it’s once again viable to wait until deep in the draft, especially if everyone is passing on offensive value. LB2s (the second twelve IDP players) and DBs shouldn’t be selected until at least the 13th round.
A third IDP spot will have little impact on the first few IDP guys off the board but does mean you’ll want to take others about another round earlier than you usually would. Each additional IDP spot pushes IDP players forward another round or so. Remember, though, that if drafting with inexperienced IDP drafters, you may find DLs and DBs get selected too early, and you can find some excellent LB value in the double-digit rounds.
2. The Next Step (1-2 DL, LB, and DB positions)
Many IDP leagues will be set up with one of each position and maybe a flex, though it’s also common to include a second LB spot. This mixes things up a lot and makes certain IDP players far more valuable than they normally would be due to positional scarcity. Let’s have a look at some tactics for different setups:
The simplest setup of this form includes just 1DL, 1LB, and 1DB. In this situation, there’s no reason to draft a bench IDP player as the drop-off in quality is minimal in each of these positions with only one of each needed. The first LB should come off the board in the seventh round, and the other studs should be selected if still there in the eighth round. If you miss these, it’s advisable to wait into the double-digit rounds before drafting anyone else. DBs follow a similar pattern with Budda Baker and Jamal Adams viable in the 10th round while the others should be drafted at least a round later, ideally as late as possible. Defensive Linemen belong anywhere after the ninth round, depending on the designation of Jason Pierre-Paul and Haason Reddick. This is one position you should target in the early double-digit rounds, possibly earlier, as it does have less depth, despite offering lower scores.
Adding an IDP flex spot has essentially the same effect as adding another LB spot, as you’ll nearly always start an LB there. In this situation, LBs are viable a round earlier, and other IDP positions can be moved back as much as a round. Adding a third LB or a second IDP flex spot (once again, always flex LBs) has the same impact, pushing IDP players into the fifth round and meaning LB2s will start to appear in the tenth round. If they rush off the board, though, waiting until the double-digit rounds is still an option as there remains plenty of depth, though in this case, only you’ll want to consider benching one LB. Once again, push DL and DB back a round.
3. The Lot (2-3 DL, LB, and DB positions or DE, DT, CB, S positions)
My preferred IDP league involves 2DL, 3LB, 2DB, and 1IDP Flex (which will, of course, be an LB in most scenarios). In this case, you would expect most players to bench at least one if not two LBs and a DL. Benching a DB isn’t really necessary here, but it is viable. You’d also expect an extra bench spot. The impact of every team starting four LBs is profound, with linebackers seeing good value from as early as the third round, with LB2s coming off the board by the fifth round. By the tenth round, you should be considering a third LB. The first DL should appear by the sixth round, and DL2s should be drafted from the tenth round onwards. DBs are viable from the seventh round, but I’d suggest being patient with this position.
Some sites also offer the option of splitting DL into DE and DT while DB can be split into CB and S. The most logical format here is to go with 1DE, 1DT, 3LB, 1CB, 1S, 1IDP Flex. This will mean you’ll want to bench an LB and consider benching a DE or S, whichever you drafted later. This change has little impact on LBs but naturally has a big effect on the other positions. Aaron Donald should be the first to go off the board around the fifth round as the best DT available. DeForest Buckner comes next around the ninth round though he’ll likely be reached for earlier. After that, you can wait until the last couple of rounds. DE should start coming off the board in the seventh round and is a position worth targeting in the early double-digit rounds if Myles Garrett doesn’t fall. Safeties come off the board steadily from the sixth round, about one a round. Finally, CB is the position you should draft last, only before kickers.
Of course, every league is different, but this summary should give you an outline of general IDP draft strategy. FantasyPros has excellent IDP rankings you can use in conjunction with these tactics, and my personal IDP rankings can be found at www.thefantasyfirstdown.com. However, if you have questions or need assistance, please reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram.
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