2014 In-Season Accuracy: 59.0% (2nd out of 21 Experts, 61.0% Highest, 45.5% Lowest).
On the offensive side of fantasy football, it’s a common debate about whether it’s a good or bad strategy to pair up a QB and WR on the same team. Some argue that it’s great because you get double the points for every TD, while others say it’s twice as bad when that team has a bad week. I’m not hear to offer my opinion on that particular discussion, but in the IDP world there is a similar debate: Is it a good idea to pair up two players from the same team that play the same position? Let’s take a closer look.
The most common place this situation would arise up front is with bookend Defensive Ends. In theory, if you have two dominant pass rushers, it’s impossible to double team both of them, which means everybody eats. Different defensive schemes obviously affect the positional designation of the big boys up front, but for our purposes let’s keep the focus on DEs specifically, whether they are 4-3 or 3-4.
Looking at the top 25 DLs on the year so far, 10 of them come in pairs, with tandems from New England, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Miami and the Jets (and Philly has a DT in there as well). Some of the players involved here a high-profile, and often highly-drafted, but not all of them. Guys like Chandler Jones and Mario Williams always put up points, but they also cost a lot in drafts and via trades. The sweet spot here is identifying the no-names like Olivier Vernon last year and Jerry Hughes this year who are primed to breakout opposite the clear-cut studs, and cost next to nothing.
So what can we take away from this? Next August, look for rookies or new starters who are starting for the first time opposite a big-time DEs. As for the rest of this year, there are still some good options out there. Robert Ayers has had 8 tackles and 2 sacks in the last two weeks, so it looks like he’s establishing himself next to JPP. For IDP leagues with deep rosters, Chris Long is set to start practicing soon and should step right in and produce. It’s also important to note that DEs who play with pass-rushing LBs like Allen Bailey fall into a similar category of potentially undervalued DLs.
These guys are the top IDP scorers because they can do so in a variety of ways. Sure, tackles are the life blood that fuel the heart of champions, but many LBs make a living rushing the passer or chasing around receivers as well. The scheme matters even more here, as a team can obviously have two 3-4 ILBs contribute on a weekly basis, but it’s rarer to see a high-scoring 4-3 MLB flanked by another top producer on the weak or even strong side.
The list of top 25 LBs only have 4 sets of teammates, and in reality it’s only 3, as Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown have each really only been startable when the other is either hurt or suspended (though that is starting to change). For our purposes, let’s look closer at the other three pairs for the Jets, Panthers, and Ravens. The Jets and Ravens both play an attacking 3-4 scheme that relies on their MLBs to make plays. This has paid dividends for everyone involved this year, though the profiles of those players very drastically. The Jets have succeeded with mediocre talents who are in a position to make plays thanks to their dominant D-Line. Baltimore has more talent at MLB, so Daryl Smith and CJ Mosley have been more consistent on a weekly basis, and have a higher ceiling overall.
Carolina presents the more unique situation. Luke Kuechly was a top-5 drafted IDP, so his success is no surprise. But the fact that Thomas Davis is able to succeed alongside him is truly impressive. Davis has always been a jack-of-all-trades, but surprisingly enough, his contributions next to Kuechly haven’t really strayed too far towards pass-rushing or pass defense; they remain very tackle-heavy. The logical explanation here is that Kuechly is so talented that teams focus their efforts on sending extra blockers his way even downfield. They clearly aren’t slowing him down too much, but the extra attention has afforded Davis an opportunity to rack up tackles himself. We haven’t really seen this since the hey-day of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, but as long as Davis is healthy he should keep reaping the rewards.
There obviously aren’t too many Luke Kuechlys in the world, IDP forces of nature who make everyone around them better, but there are plenty of 3-4 teams out there with LBs who are waiting to break out. The Smith/Mosley dynamic shows that rookie can step right in alongside a more experienced LB and put up stats. And the David Harris/Demario Davis situation shows that you don’t need the most talent in the world to put up stats if the system works.
There is often no real rhyme or reason to which DBs put up stats, and the way that teammates in the secondary interact is no exception. If anything, a lower-tier CB (based on talent) is more likely to get targets as well as safety help, so there is some correlation there. But in general, looking at the way the specific players are used, their snap-counts, and their matchups is the best way to go.
Finally, just as an update, I will be out of the country for the next two weeks on my honeymoon in Argentina. Scheduling my wedding and honeymoon in the heart of football season wasn’t my brightest idea ever, but don’t cry for me. While I’m gone, our very own JFOH will be taking a closer look at the two RazzDP leagues that we kicked off this year, and I’ll still be submitting my rankings from abroad. I likely won’t be able to get to all of the questions in the comments, but otherwise it will be business as usual on the IDP front. See y’all in December.