The defensive end that gets to the quarterback.
The linebacker who tackles a running back for a loss.
The cornerback that tips a ball away from a wide receiver in the end zone.
On your typical NFL Sunday, we're screaming our heads off at these guys for ruining the production of our Fantasy studs. But there's a growing contingent of folks who are using these defenders, or Individual Defensive Players (IDPs), as part of their Fantasy league.
It makes sense. Fantasy Football is fun to begin with, and if you're in a league that's using only half of the NFL's vast talent pool, why not tap into the other half? Using IDPs creates a more realistic experience because you have an offense and a defense to manage.
Of course, it also means more work to do. Drafts will go longer. Balancing for bye weeks becomes more complicated. Trade talks get deeper. Using defenders means a larger committment to your Fantasy league.
But we're not talking about doing taxes or a sketchy relationship with a pretty girl (or handsome guy) here. We're talking Fantasy Football.
Much like their offensive counterparts, defensive players get their own stats, too. They score touchdowns, rack up interceptions and passes defensed, force fumbles (and recover them) and sack the quarterback.
Problem is, these stats don't get racked up as often as offensive stats. That's why many IDP leagues count total tackles toward a defender's bottom line.
If 10 yards equal one point for offensive guys, then a tackle should be worth the same for defensive guys. Assisted tackles are also recorded and can count for as much or half of a solo tackle -- that's a decision your league will have to make.
Another key decision is to figure out what to award defenders for their other stats. If a touchdown is worth six points for offensive players, shouldn't it be worth the same for defensive players? Or are they worth more since a defender is lucky to score once over a 16-game season? And how do the other stats measure up if the big score is only six points?
Every league is different, but here's a very general guideline you can base your scoring format off of:
Sacks: 1 pt
Interceptions: 2 pts
Passes defensed: 1 pt
Forced Fumble: 2 pts
Fumble Recovery: 2 pts
Defensive touchdown: 6 pts
Solo tackle: 1 pt
Assisted tackle: .5 pts
How many defenders?
In standard Fantasy play, an owner starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a DST. When using defenders, there is no standard. Whether you want to incorporate one or two IDPs or get as deep as 11 starting spots (which is feasible in a 10- or 12-team league) is up to you and your league compadres.
But a safe way to go is to use two defensive linemen, two defensive backs and three linebackers. That way, there's enough studs to go around at each spot and enough talent left on the bench to swap out in case one of your players turns to mud.
Ranking the IDPs
Of course, if we're going to talk defensive players, we better rank them too. But it comes with a huge caveat.
Because defensive scoring systems vary from league to league, it's hard to streamline rankings that jell with every IDP format. Ultimately, you want defenders that are around the ball as much as possible -- kind of like how we like offensive players that get the most touches. And that goes double for IDPs in leagues where tackles count. Take that into consideration on draft day.
You'll also learn that outside of the best IDPs in the NFL, it's hard to find players that produce consistent stats. Furthermore, you'll see that defensive stat monsters can come out of nowhere. Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil was one such player last season. Obviously, be wary of letting go of your star players, but any other IDP that doesn't produce up to par can and should be dumped for one that does. Scanning the waiver wire in IDP leagues is a weekly necessity.
Here are our Top-40 rankings of IDPs for the 2008 season.
|1||Jared Allen / Vikings||8||1||Patrick Willis / 49ers||9||1||Bob Sanders / Colts||4|
|2||Jason Taylor / Redskins||10||2||Brian Urlacher / Bears||8||2||Adrian Wilson / Cardinals||7|
|3||Trent Cole / Eagles||7||3||DeMarcus Ware / Cowboys||10||3||Nate Clements / 49ers||9|
|4||Patrick Kerney / Seahawks||4||4||Will Witherspoon / Rams||5||4||Erik Coleman / Falcons||7|
|5||Osi Umenyiora / Giants||4||5||Nick Barnett / Packers||8||5||Roman Harper / Saints||9|
|6||Mario Williams / Texans||8||6||DeMeco Ryans / Texans||8||6||Sean Jones / Browns||5|
|7||Will Smith / Saints||9||7||Keith Bulluck / Titans||6||7||Gibril Wilson / Raiders||5|
|8||Justin Smith / 49ers||9||8||Lofa Tatupu / Seahawks||4||8||O.J. Atogwe / Rams||5|
|9||Aaron Kampman / Packers||8||9||Kirk Morrison / Raiders||5||9||LaRon Landry / Redskins||10|
|10||Kyle Vanden Bosch / Titans||6||10||David Harris / Jets||5||10||Ike Taylor / Steelers||6|
|11||Justin Tuck / Giants||4||11||Jon Beason / Panthers||9||11||Champ Bailey / Broncos||8|
|12||Julius Peppers / Panthers||9||12||Ray Lewis / Ravens||10||12||Charles Tillman / Bears||8|
|13||Aaron Schobel / Bills||6||13||Keith Brooking / Falcons||7||13||Darrelle Revis / Jets||5|
|14||Tamba Hali / Chiefs||6||14||London Fletcher / Redskins||10||14||Michael Lewis / 49ers||9|
|15||Adewale Ogunleye / Bears||8||15||Lance Briggs / Bears||8||15||Richard Marshall / Panthers||9|
|16||Darnell Dockett / Cardinals||7||16||Julian Peterson / Seahawks||4||16||Ed Reed / Ravens||10|
|17||Gaines Adams / Buccaneers||10||17||Karlos Dansby / Cardinals||7||17||Rashean Mathis / Jaguars||7|
|18||Robert Mathis / Colts||4||18||Donnie Edwards / Chiefs||6||18||Kerry Rhodes / Jets||5|
|19||Leonard Little / Rams||5||19||Gerald Hayes / Cardinals||7||19||Troy Polamalu / Steelers||6|
|20||Derrick Burgess / Raiders||5||20||Terrell Suggs / Ravens||10||20||Marcus Trufant / Seahawks||4|
|21||Dwight Freeney / Colts||4||21||Adalius Thomas / Patriots||4||21||Terrence McGee / Bills||6|
|22||Elvis Dumervil / Broncos||8||22||Mike Vrabel / Patriots||4||22||Jermaine Phillips / Buccaneers||10|
|23||Robert Geathers / Bengals||8||23||Ernie Sims / Lions||4||23||Madieu Williams / Vikings||8|
|24||Andre Carter / Redskins||10||24||Antonio Pierce / Giants||4||24||Donte Whitner / Bills||6|
|25||Antwan Odom / Bengals||8||25||David Thornton / Titans||6||25||Ronde Barber / Buccaneers||10|
|26||Ray Edwards / Vikings||8||26||Bart Scott / Ravens||10||26||Atari Bigby / Packers||8|
|27||Antonio Smith / Cardinals||7||27||Calvin Pace / Jets||5||27||Bernard Pollard / Chiefs||6|
|28||Dewayne White / Lions||4||28||A.J. Hawk / Packers||8||28||Antoine Winfield / Vikings||8|
|29||John Abraham / Falcons||7||29||Shawne Merriman / Chargers||9||29||Chris Harris / Panthers||9|
|30||Chris Long / Rams||5||30||Angelo Crowell / Bills||6||30||Corey Chavous / Rams||5|
|31||Alex Brown / Bears||8||31||Gary Brackett / Colts||4||31||Deon Grant / Seahawks||4|
|32||Jamaal Anderson / Falcons||7||32||Morlon Greenwood / Texans||8||32||C.C. Brown / Texans||8|
|33||Charles Grant / Saints||9||33||D'Qwell Jackson / Browns||5||33||Danieal Manning / Bears||8|
|34||Tommie Harris / Bears||8||34||E.J. Henderson / Vikings||8||34||Nick Harper / Titans||6|
|35||Ty Warren / Patriots||4||35||Paul Posluszny / Bills||6||35||Antonio Cromartie / Chargers||9|
|36||Chris Kelsay / Bills||6||36||Chad Greenway / Vikings||8||36||Reggie Nelson / Jaguars||7|
|37||Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila / Packers||8||37||Derrick Brooks / Buccaneers||10||37||Michael Huff / Raiders||5|
|38||Bertrand Berry / Cardinals||7||38||James Harrison / Steelers||6||38||Leigh Bodden / Lions||4|
|39||Derrick Harvey / Jaguars||7||39||Zach Thomas / Cowboys||10||39||Marlin Jackson / Colts||4|
|40||Amobi Okoye / Texans||8||40||Vernon Gholston / Jets||5||40||Asante Samuel / Eagles||7|