Every year ESPN has it’s Draft Day Manifesto, which is an entertaining read, but always rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because that article assumes little to no fantasy football experience. It’s 2015, even my grandmother knows the basics of our beautiful game. It also could be the word “Manifesto” which just comes off as un-American to me, and conjures images of Marx and Lenin. So rather than rip off our well-funded competitor, I named my annual “post the same article but update it to reflect the league’s current landscape” column after a song by a different Lennon, albeit one who was still not a resident of the 50 states and may have also been a Communist. Hey, nobody’s perfect! Without further ado, here is my annual case for including IDPs in your fantasy football leagues:
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 1500 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. In the coming weeks I will unveil my 2015 IDP Rankings, but today is all about selling the concept of IDP itself. Here are a few reasons why your league should include defensive players:
If you’re reading this site in the offseason, you clearly care about fantasy football more than the average owner.
I would never recommend IDP for a league full of fantasy noobs, as it takes most owners a few years before they learn not to draft their kicker before the last round, let alone worrying about defensive players. But if you care enough about this fake sport of ours to be looking at Razzball during the offseason, then you seem like the kind of person who would enjoy IDP leagues. Either that or you’re looking for this week’s Stream-o-Nator picks, in which case you’re a little lost.
IDP Leagues have more in-season trades and moves, so the draft is not the end of the excitement.
There is nothing like the anticipation leading up to a fantasy draft. Will I get the sleeper I want? Will I get laughed at for picking a player whose already been taken? Do I have a list of insults for my league-mates prepared? The draft is like Christmas for fantasy owners, except that you don’t have to listen to your drunk uncle’s story about seeing a real reindeer for the 500th time.
But once both Christmas and your draft are over, you have to wait another year before you get to feel that excitement again. Sure there are ways to spice things up during the season – switching to FAAB waivers instead of standard, drafting a fantasy basketball team, growing a sweet mustache – but none of it compares to selecting players that you will monitor over the course of a football season.
The best way to keep the excitement level up in your league is to encourage plenty of roster moves, and IDP leagues make this both easier and necessary. Sure there are trades and waiver wire gems in offense-only leagues, but that increases exponentially in IDP leagues. Not sure if you can get Odell Beckham Jr. for C.J. Anderson? Throw in a high-upside defensive player like Jamie Collins and it might seal the deal. Did one of your starting DBs go down with a concussion? The waiver wire will be full of guys, like Ryan Mundy last year, who can be inserted into your starting lineup, and might even end up as a top 5 DB on the year.
When you think about it, Team D/ST kind of sucks.
Is there anything worse than outscoring your opponent going into Monday Night Football, only to lose because their D/ST returns a punt for a TD and gets a pick-six off a tipped pass? Even if you benefit from such random luck, you can’t really take pride in your “victory.” Many teams rode the Eagles D/ST to a top overall seed last year, thanks to their absurd 10 regular season TDs. Those same owners got to enjoy 10 total points over the three playoff weeks (and another TD in the fantasy-irrelevant Week 17, just to rub salt in the wound).
Defensive players will score fluke TDs as well, but the scoring weight is not nearly as great as compared to Team Defense. The TD to Sack ratio in standard Team D scoring is 6:1, while in IDP it is typically only 2:1 or less. This rewards more consistent players and more predictable stats, just like the offensive side of the ball. Return TDs and yardage still play a part, and that is why players like Patrick Peterson have historically had some extra value, but teams are becoming more reluctant to put their defensive studs in the return game (Pacman Jones was the most IDP-relevant player to be his team’s primary return man in 2014, which is saying something).
IDP gives you more chances to watch the players on your fantasy team.
If your team has Peyton Manning or Dez Bryant, you’ll get the pleasure of watching your guys on national TV as they rack up the points every week. If you have Jamaal Charles or A.J. Green? You’re stuck following online updates and watching highlights. One of the underrated benefits of IDP leagues is that you have more chances to actually watch your players play.
It also helps if your favorite NFL team has a terrible offense.
If you’re a fan of a team like the Raiders or Jaguars, drafting one of your favorite team’s offensive players to your fantasy team is an exercise in futility. Watching an offensive weapon deal with double teams or an eight man box as the pathetic offense goes three and out again can make a frustrating season even worse. But anemic offenses often provide increased opportunities on the defensive side of the ball, because their inability to pick up first downs keeps the defense on the field for long stretches. In fact, the Jaguars, Raiders, Titans, Bucs, and Jets put up 6 top-10 IDP options at their respective positions in 2013. It won’t make up for watching the likes of Jake Locker, Zach Mettenberger, and Charlie Whitehurst attempt to throw the ball, but seeing Michael Griffin and Jason McCourty patrol the secondary can add a small silver lining to a miserable season in Nashville.
This is a new section for 2015 in this column, but it’s absolutely worth discussing. Watching J.J. Watt play on a weekly basis in alternately thrilling and terrifying, depending on who you are rooting for. Now imagine having him on your fantasy roster. Aaron Rodgers, DeMarco Murray, and Antonio Brown were the top scorers at their positions in 2014, and they outscored the runner-up by 3.2, 6.6, and 22 points respectively. Watt was the #1 DL for the third year in a row, and he outscored #2 (Jason Pierre-Paul) by 82.4 points! He was over 100 points better than DL3 Julius Peppers! The difference between Watt and Peppers is the same as the difference between Brown and Mike Wallace! And Watt is just 26 years old! I can’t stop using exclamation points!
My point is that Watt’s extended dominance is really unprecedented in fantasy football, and if you’re not using IDPs, then you are missing out on it entirely. The only realistic comparison I can even come up with is both cross-sports and cross-racial, and that’s the early 2000s version of Shaq in fantasy basketball. In IDP leagues, one of the biggest questions is, “When should I start drafting defensive players?” The typical answer is, “Once you have your starting offensive lineup mostly set.” Thanks to Watt, the new answer might be, “The first pick overall.”
If you can make it through your first season, you’ve done the hard part.
As I said before, IDP is not for everyone. It can be discouraging to draft stars like Darrelle Revis and Terrell Suggs and wonder why they’re not scoring as much as Ron Parker and Demario Davis. As with anything, practice makes perfect. In some leagues, IDP is adopted for a season, and then dropped because owners didn’t “get it.” But I’ve found that with each year of experience, the understanding and appreciation of IDP strategy grows, just like on the offensive side of the ball. So when you hear that the Bills hired Rex Ryan, you don’t immediately open a footwear store in Western New York, you start thinking about if Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes will be considered Defensive Ends or Linebackers.
So my challenge to you, loyal Razzball reader, is to add IDPs to one of your existing leagues, or join an IDP league (Year 2 of RazzDP leagues coming soon!) in 2015. The worst that could happen is that you feel slightly overwhelmed in one league, while learning more about Paul Worrilow than you ever wanted to know. Base case scenario? You become yet another advocate of the #NoTeamD movement.