Now that Jay has paved the way on the offensive side of the ball, it’s time for me to pull my weight with the 2014 Razzball IDP Rankings. As always I’m starting up front with the big boys. For the second year in a row, J.J. Watt is the class of the position, but he has some company at the top this year. Robert Quinn and Chandler Jones are both coming off breakouts in 2013, and they should be able to challenge Watt for the DL crown if things break right.

After that, things get complicated. There are a number of big names who are looking for a bounce-back after a subpar 2013, in addition to a group of prospects who look primed for the big time. If you can’t land one of the top three, then it’s really a matter of preference. I tend to lean towards DEs who rack up a lot of tackles as opposed to DTs or big-play DEs, but there is no one way to handle your DL lineup slots. My ideal situation is grabbing a Tier 1 or 2 tackler and a Tier 3 sack threat as my starters, with a high-upside youngster to complement them. That strategy gave me Olivier Vernon on multiple rosters last year, and I think of guys like Damontre Moore and Star Lotuleli in that role this year.

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If you’re looking for a good way to avoid depression in the months between the NFL Draft and Fantasy Draft Season, I recommend getting your league(s) together to discuss rule changes for the upcoming season. Will we eliminate kickers? (YES!) Will we award extra points for RBs who break 100 yards (NO!) Will we use individual defensive players? (HMMM…). That last question is complicated, and cannot be answered in one word. In fact, I’m about to spend 1200 words discussing just that question: Should your league be using IDPs?

Adding defensive players to your league is not for the faint of heart. Roster sizes will increase by only a few slots, yet the amount of players available will more than double, and you will now have to grasp the significance of stats like Assisted Tackles and Passes Defended. These changes may seem overwhelming, but in reality, defense in fantasy football is a lot like offense. Between now and Week 1, I will be outlining IDP Strategy, ranking players by position, and discussing scheme changes, but today is all about selling the concept of IDP itself. Here are a few reasons why your league should include defensive players:

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It’s been hot as hell for two months here in Texas, but the rest of the country seems to consider Memorial Day Weekend as the kickoff of the summer. The NFL is no different apparently, as it’s using the start of bikini season to get rid of those excess LBs. In this case, I’m talking about Sean Lee and Daryl Washington, but Andy Reid and the Ryan brothers can always stand to drop some weight. Let’s take a look at how the loss of two studs for the season affects the IDP landscape for 2014:

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I’ve seen several articles talk about winners and losers based on last weekend’s Draft. The winners typically include Matthew Stafford, EJ Manuel, and the NFL for getting higher ratings than the NBA playoffs for an event that is months removed from the next game-day. I’m going the other way on this one. The winner of the Draft in my mind was clearly Elton John. I’m not sure what type of rights deal he negotiated with Aloe Blacc, but I’m sure Sir Elton benefited from this weekend’s festivities as much as Emperor Goodell did.

From an IDP perspective, despite the first overall pick being on the defensive side of the ball, and a record number of DBs going on Thursday night, the people most impacted by the draft are the existing veterans in the league. More so even than on offense, defensive rookies’ fantasy value is heavily tied to the team that picks them. Other than a few elite players, and sometimes even including them, situation matters more than talent. Before apparently lighting up a fat one, Josh Gordon lit up the league the last two years while playing on a terrible team without a legitimate professional QB. On the flip side, Dont’a Hightower (taken 25th overall the same year Gordon was picked in the Supplemental Draft), has toiled away in a crowded New England LB corps.  Hightower will get his chance this year, but his owners have had to show tremendous patience, with very little to show for it thus far.

So as I run through the big names taken in this year’s draft, keep in mind that they will likely take multiple years to make an IDP impact, and their most immediate effect will likely be on the veterans that they are either complementing or trying to replace.

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Now that the dust has settled on the annual money grab that is NFL Free Agency, it’s time to take a step back and see how it affects IDP leagues. As is often the case, the biggest headlines on ESPN don’t have much impact on the IDP world (I’m looking at you Revis), but there are some significant change that took place. Whether you are in a dynasty league and taking stock of your current roster, or you’re just addicted to IDP and want to adjust your way-too-early 2014 rankings, here is what you need to know:

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With all the free agency chaos that has been engulfing the league in the last month, it’s easy to forget about the season that just ended. This will be the culmination of the positional recaps here at Razzball, and honestly it’s about time. When these recaps started, Sky was still running the show, Nick Capozzi was still in Canada, and Jay and I had never met (Note: We still have not met). Things have changed in the IDP world as well. Some of these guys are already on different teams, and others have seen their teams go out and sign players who will potentially replace them in 2014. Such is life for DBs in IDP leagues.

These recaps will focus mostly on how each player landed in the top-20 last year, and whether or not they can do it again in 2014. Spoiler alert: a lot of them can’t.

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Keeping with the theme of moving into the future while looking at the past, we move on to Linebackers. The top crop of LBs in 2013 had a lot of the expected faces, along with a couple of rookies and some throwback performances by Ghosts of IDP Seasons Past.  But before we get to the top 20, there are others that warrant some discussion:

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Sky (#NeverForget) has been dominating these pages with his offensive positional recaps, while I’ve been sitting back and enjoying the playoffs. But then I saw Navorro Bowman’s knee get mangled while he recovered a goalline fumble in the NFC Championship Game, and it made me reflect on things. If Bowman can keep giving it his all and sacrificing his body after carrying countless IDP teams to championships, why can’t I do the same thing? I thought I was the IDP expert you deserved, but not the one you needed right now, but who am I kidding? There is no offseason. So here is my first batch of 2013 positional recaps.

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For most of us, Week 17 represents the first week of the off-season. Dynasty leaguers are looking forward to the rookie draft and free agency, re-drafters are already making plans for 2014 draft locations, and all is quiet on the fantasy front for the first time since July. But there are still those leagues that hold their championships in Week 17. In some years this causes chaos, as top players are resting because their teams cannot improve or hurt their playoff slot. But this year you are in luck, as pretty much every team has at least something to play for, and it appears that only KC will be resting their guys.

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It’s hard to believe that the season kicked off a full 4 months ago, but here we are: Championship Week. I’ll be back with some rankings next week for you crazy kids with 17-week schedules, but for the majority of the free world this is it. I’m sad to say that I did not reach the finals in any of my five leagues. As much as I love IDPs, unfortunately there is an offensive side of the ball as well, and I did a miserable job drafting and setting my offensive lineups this year.

But enough of about me, you’re here for some IDP cheer just in time for the holidays. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When making turkey chili, always cook for one hour less than directed. Wait, wrong piece of advice. Let’s try again: In the fantasy playoffs, don’t get cute, start your studs. Joe Mays and someone called Dekoda Watson each put up huge days last week, but you’re not starting them over the guys that got you here.

With that in mind, here are my top players at each position for Championship Week:

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