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Draft Strategy

2022 IDP Strategy Guide

By Matt Schauf 5:55pm EDT 8/27/22


Congratulations.

If you’re interested enough to be reading this article, then you’re doing fantasy football correctly.

Most leagues still play only half the game, pretending that defenses are mere collections of faceless tacklers, interceptors and Aaron Donald. But we know that splitting those team defenses up into individual players adds layers of strategy and makes us pay attention to an area of the game most fans barely glance at.

If you’ve already set up your Draft War Room for an IDP league, then you can see how the players are arranged among your overall rankings. And you can try some mock drafts to find out where you might be comfortable picking them.

That said, it can be tough to truly gauge where defensive players will go in your draft. Scant ADP data for the format will leave you basically guessing at how certain players are valued. And, of course, league formats vary so wildly on both lineup and scoring settings that even a good set of ADP numbers might not apply to your drafting.

Well, I’ve projected more than 300 IDPs, numbers that now include QB hits and tackles for loss. You can check out those default site rankings, and also see how those projections fit within your particular format (Draft War Room).

But we’re here to talk about a plan of action before the draft. Well, multiple plans of action, really. Let’s get to it.


1-3 IDPs

This format makes defensive players an afterthought. It’s a cursory treatment of a pool that includes even more players than the offensive side. So you should basically treat it as an afterthought.

Leave the defensive positions until the end of your draft. That’s even more true this year, as LB looks flatter than usual. Shaquille (not Darius anymore) Leonard’s slow-progressing recovery from June back surgery is a primary culprit. It’s not yet clear just when he’ll be ready to play. HC Frank Reich said this week that they don’t plan to put Leonard on the PUP, but he said it remains a possibility. That makes it sound like we should expect at least a couple of missed games to begin the year.

Without Leonard dominating the top of the rankings, no 2 consecutive spots in our default LB rankings are separated by more than 5 total points. That’s 0.3 points per week over the 17-week fantasy season.

So just wait until late and grab however many LBs you need. Even if 1 of the guys misses, you’ll find replacement options on waivers.

I’m assuming here that your format will feature scoring that’s either balanced between tackles and sacks/pressures or lean on tackle scoring. If your scoring differs, then the Draft War Room should reflect that valuation.

I’ll have some specific LB value targets later in this article.


EDGE

In the past, I’ve gone into a few different league types here. I think that going by position will do a better job of presenting ways to attack across formats, though.

I see more potential differentiators at the top of the DL board than at LB – especially if your scoring favors sacks (and maybe other pressure stats).

There are a couple of guys near the top of my board that will likely stick around much longer in your draft.

5. Chandler Jones
6. Danielle Hunter

Hesitation on Hunter would be understandable. He played just 9 games last year after missing all of 2020. But the neck injury that claimed the previous season wasn’t an issue last year. He delivered 6 sacks and 10 QB hits before tearing a pectoral muscle in the 1st half of Minnesota’s 7th game.

There’s been no signal of lingering issues this summer, though. And Vikings DC Ed Donatell says the team’s practice approach is built around “giving ourselves the best probability” of keeping Hunter, Za’Darius Smith and others healthy throughout the regular season.

Smith’s arrival certainly can’t hurt Hunter’s pass-rushing opportunities. And the only way Minnesota’s new scheme affects his value is if your league-hosting site now calls Hunter a LB. Sites are improving at grouping “edge” players together, but we’re still evolving on that front to match a changed NFL.

Hunter sits just 11th in Fantasy Pros’ consensus IDP rankings, which I like to use here to measure market value since we don’t have worthwhile ADP.

Jones, meanwhile, sits just 39th among D-linemen in those rankings. That’s nonsense. The past 2 seasons haven’t been his best. Jones lost 11 games to injury in 2020. Last year produced his lowest fantasy total in any year of more than 12 games. That total still would have ranked top 8 among D-linemen, though.

The fact that most sites had him classified as a LB with Arizona likely lowers the perception of his value this year. But Jones has delivered at least 10.5 sacks in each of the 7 NFL seasons that has found him playing more than 12 games. He tied Nick Bosa for 5th in Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grade among all edge players.

Jones should now classify as a DE everywhere, and he’ll play opposite the highly disruptive Maxx Crosby. If you take nothing else away from this section: Draft Chandler Jones.

You won’t need to take him nearly as high as your DWR will suggest.

The whole DE-OLB-EDGE issue complicates this position most. I shifted the following players from LB to DE while working on this article. In the past, I have used MyFantasyLeague's position designations to set DS defensive positions. But I now see different designations in different places and different leagues on MFL. Sleeper and Fantrax both offer the flexibility to alter player position designations. And today I saw ESPN list these guys at DE. So time for a change.

Judging by where they rank in the Fantasy Pros consensus, this group could deliver some terrific value in your IDP draft:

T.J. Watt (FP 30th, DS 1st)
Shaq Barrett (37th, 2nd)
Khalil Mack (41st, 4th)
Harold Landry (36th, 9th)
Alex Highsmith (61st, 12th)
Rashan Gary (50th, 18th)
Matt Judon (48th, 20th)
Von Miller (38th, 23rd)
Azeez Ojulari (52nd, 26th)
Robert Quinn (25th, 27th)
Preston Smith (98th, 30th)
Markus Golden (77th, 34th)
Leonard Floyd (70th, 38th)
Trevis Gipson (45th, 52nd)

I have already found many of these guys coming off the board at terrific values in 1 of my recurring leagues of experienced IDP drafters, where all 3 were LBs last year but are now EDGE/DE. In this particular league – which rewards sacks, QB hits and tackles for loss – I drafted:

Barrett as EDGE #7
Chandler Jones as EDGE #11
Mack as EDGE #18
(plus Montez Sweat as EDGE #28)

I gladly would have taken Mack and/or Sweat earlier but was filling out positions in this deep-lineup format. And honestly, I didn't even realize how much my own projections valued Barrett vs. other edge players until the middle of that draft.

If your league still counts any/all of the players listed above as LBs, then this change might make them look more valuable in your Draft War Room than they actually are in your league. But these players will carry a lot more value when treated as EDGE/DE. So it’s the right move.


DT

Aaron Donald and DeForest Buckner should go early in formats that require any DTs. Treat them like you would Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews at TE.

Just like at TE, though, it’s not imperative that you get 1 of those top guys. Jeffery Simmons could be Kyle Pitts in this analogy, in that we might not have seen the ceiling yet for the 25-year-old former 1st-round pick.

Chris Jones and Jonathan Allen reside not far behind those guys, too – with Christian Wilkins and Javon Hargrave chasing.

Jones leads that group in ultimate ceiling, if you play in a sack/pressure-friendly scoring format.


LB

As I mentioned earlier, LB looks flatter than other seasons. What does that mean for your draft approach? Less urgency.

Leonard aside, you might remember Devin White going much earlier a year ago than many of the LBs who beat him out. Foye Oluokun and Jordyn Brooks, on the other hand, leaped from far lower draft positions to lead many scoring formats. De’Vondre Campbell and Cole Holcomb offer 2 other prime examples.

It’s quite possible that I have Leonard projected too high. As I said before, the team has given no indication about what we should expect. Perhaps Leonard is just never his usual self at any point this year.

If he does get back to full strength, though, he still brings as high a ceiling as anyone at the position. Leonard finished 11th in points per game last season despite playing the entire year on an injured ankle. That followed rankings of 2nd, 1st and 1st in points per game.

So it’s OK to fade him. But it’s also OK to take a chance – especially in shallower leagues, where replacement options will be easy to find.

White disappointed big time last year, but there’s plenty of rebound potential. White tumbled rom 9 sacks in 2020 to 3.5 last year (among other issues), but Pro Football Focus credited him with 12 more total pressures than he had in 2020.

Here are some other LB values:

C.J. Mosley (Fantasy Pros: 12th, Draft Sharks 6th)
Demario Davis (16th, 8th)
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (20th, 17th)
Foye Oluokun (21st, 9th)
Isaiah Simmons (22nd, 16th)
Christian Kirksey (29th, 18th)
Cody Barton (41st, 22nd)
Dre Greenlaw (44th, 26th)
David Long (47th, 25th)
Nicholas Morrow (54th, 38th)

You could literally wait until 20 LBs leave the board in your draft and still land multiple guys with top-20 upside.

Both expected Broncos starting non-edge LBs also belong on that list. Josey Jewell sits 53rd among LBs in the Fantasy Pros consensus; 33rd in our rankings. Jonas Griffith is the even more interesting guy, though.

He barely registers on the FP list, at 94. That means he’s almost definitely not getting picked in your draft. I have him ranked 41st, and he was higher than that before suffering an elbow injury in the preseason opener. Denver now hopes to have him back for Week 1.

Griffith delivered the 10th-most fantasy points among LBs over the final 4 weeks of last season, when he stepped out of nowhere and into the starting lineup after myriad Broncos LB injuries. He clearly impressed Broncos coaches old and new with that performance.

Griffith hit the league as an undrafted free agent and floated around for a couple of years before finding the field in Denver. But he’s a big, athletic guy with terrific speed and big college production. Griffith is an exciting add at the very end of drafts.

Lions rookie LB Malcolm Rodriguez fits that category as well. I’m just waiting on him to be officially named a starter.


DB

If you don’t need to play corners, then don’t. Just stick to safety. And to me, Derwin James looks like the biggest standout at the top of any defensive positions.

That doesn’t mean I’d take him 1st among all defensive players. But he’s probably the #1 across IDP positions that I’m most likely to draft.

James has displayed his cross-category production. He’s healthy. The team committed a big-money extension to him this offseason, and HC Brandon Staley spoke about the team’s top-of-market free-agent additions on defense helping to allow James to play to his strengths.

I don’t even need to know the specifics of that plan to be interested in chasing the ceiling.

Other than James, I’m not targeting specific safeties. There are plenty to like, none that you “can’t miss” and likely enough to leave some surprise scorers on your waiver wire.


CB

This is the most fungible position in fantasy. Even our #1 CB, Kenny Moore, isn’t worth reaching for in your draft. But he should rank among your earliest DB picks in leagues that require corners.

Moore has averaged between 4.2 and 4.8 solos per game each of the past 4 years. He has delivered 11+ passes defensed and grabbed 3 INTs in each season that has found him playing more than 11 games. According to Pro Football Focus, no CB drew more targets last year than Moore, who ranked 11th and 7th in that category his other 2 full starting seasons.

Otherwise, you’re just waiting and grabbing corners late. And don’t hesitate to swap out for a waiver option or stream the position in season. CB production relies so heavily on big plays that top scorers change often.

Just last season, Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs led the position in scoring through 6 weeks. He ranked 95th the rest of the way. Rasul Douglas opened the season without a team. From Week 6 on, he filled a starting role in Green Bay and led all DBs in fantasy points.

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