Most who follow Matt Schauf of RapidDraft.com on Twitter seethe at each “IDP” tag and wonder how he can make light of internally displaced persons. In this case, however, we’re talking individual defensive players, who add realism to your fake football leagues and gripes for the whiny leaguemate who always finishes last anyway. Schauf will be stopping by once a week to help you beat ol’ whiny even worse.
In leagues that do it right, IDPs should act more or less like their offensive counterparts in fantasy. However, just like with hitting a golf ball and dental hygiene (yeah, I’m talking about you), a whole lot of folks don’t do it right.
In my experience, the typical IDP league often includes something like three or four starting slots. That’s understandable if you’re just getting into the whole defensive player thing. It’s scary to jump all the way in the first time. Water wings are comforting.
Once you learn to dogpaddle, though, you should realize that only using that many defenders is akin to crafting a fantasy lineup with three or four starters from the entire pool of running backs, receivers and tight ends. Actually, the defensive pool is even deeper because it includes all defensive starters for every team.
If you do fall into that group that starts fewer IDPs, however, it’s important to realize the advantages. The primary focus for today is that the deep pool makes it easier to draft risky players. You might shy away from investing in Laurent Robinson because his injury history could leave you in whatever a lurch is (OK, and because he’s a Ram). If/when Bob Sanders gets hurt, though, you probably won’t have to search nearly as hard to find a replacement. Bernard Pollard finished last year averaging more points per game than any other defensive back in most fantasy outfits (that’ll confuse the Google bots), but he started the year on the waiver wire.
With that in mind, here are some other defenders you can take a chance on in your shallower-lineup IDP leagues …
Bob Sanders, SS, Colts — You know he’ll get hurt at some point, but you should also know that he reached 90 tackles (that’s good for his position) each of the two years he made it to double-digit games. The last time he stayed around for most of the year, Sanders was the defensive player of the year. Go ahead and draft him. Melvin Bullitt will be around if he gets hurt.
Nick Barnett, ILB, Packers — He tore up a knee two years ago and started last year slowly as a result. Some swelling in that knee and resultant downtime this summer has led to recent worry, but Barnett’s expected to be ready to go for the regular season. If we find out in the first few weeks there was reason to worry, we’ll adjust. For now, take the guy with top-10 potential at his position.
Jonathan Vilma, MLB, Saints — Two opinions told Vilma he doesn’t need groin surgery, and at least one even came from a doctor. He should start Week 1 and has top-five scoring potential.
DeAndre Levy, MLB, Lions — This second-year guy has been one of those sleepers who might not really be a sleeper because so many folks call him a sleeper. (That make him a napper?) Either way, the fact that he missed a lot of camp practices with a back injury and then a more recent groin injury hurts his draft status, which makes him a much better value. Levy might miss Week 1, but as long as you’re ready for that possibility, you can get yourself a prime breakout candidate.
Kenny Phillips, S, Giants — Last year at this time, those around the Giants (who must look tiny by comparison) were excited about Phillips. The off-season brought worries that his career could be in jeopardy (or was that Ken Jennings?) because of a deteriorating knee condition. He now appears on track to start the season, though, and has star potential.
D’Qwell Jackson, ILB, Browns — When a guy finishes one season on IR with a torn muscle and then suffers an injury to the same area (chest) the following year, it can be worrisome. No tear this time around, so Jackson should be back soon. He has been a favorite of Eric Mangini and a tackling machine (seems unfair) when in there, so Jackson should be drafted at the later stage he’s likely available.
A few others with camp injuries about whom you should be confident
Lance Briggs, OLB, Bears
Gary Brackett, MLB, Colts
Two others to roster if you have a backup spot but who won’t start right away
Shaun Rogers, DL, Browns
Calvin Pace, OLB, Jets
Five injured players to ignore
Darren Sharper, S, Saints — The knee on which he had microfracture surgery appears likely to sideline him early this year. The inflated fantasy numbers from nine INTs and three TDs last year were reason to look away from him in the first place.
Jairus Byrd, S, Bills — He made a name for himself last year (which probably insulted his parents) by picking off a lot of passes as a rookie, but Byrd didn’t tally too terribly many tackles. Look at the overall numbers (plus as many groin injuries as he’s had pro seasons) and you’ll understand why to not draft him.
Channing Crowder, ILB, Dolphins — You women out there who like your men mysterious might be fans of Crowder and his “undisclosed” leg injury, but I want no part of it. He doesn’t produce consistently enough to be worth the wait.
Matt Schauf is the senior football writer for RapidDraft.com and the brains behind (or would that be inside?) the “Suit” character in their free fantasy football game. Challenge him and 10 other fantasy Pros for a guaranteed $100,000 grand prize.