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2014 Draft Prep: IDP rankings and strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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QB tiers | RB tiers | WR tiers | TE tiers | Draft Averages | Rankings | Draft Index

There is no such thing as too much Fantasy Football. Maybe there's such a thing as too many leagues to play in, too many trades to make, paralysis by analysis and all that excess, but when it comes to the basics like the players who are in a lineup, more is merrier.

As you know, football is not a one-sided offensive game. Defense matters. In most Fantasy leagues defense is limited to one measly roster spot that's shared with an NFL club's special teams unit. But some leagues have broken through the DST barrier and bravely utilized individual defensive players, also known as IDPs. It means longer drafts, more waiver work and bigger rosters, but it adds more fun to Fantasy. Unpredictable fun.

When you decide to start a standard offensive player like a running back or a receiver, you aim for the guy who will touch the ball the most and make the most plays. The same sort of theory rings true for defensive players -- you want to start guys who will be around the ball the most and make the most plays. Sounds simple enough but it's tough to predict weekly numbers for a player even if he plays 90-plus percent of snaps. Even the best guys in the NFL could produce four tackles and two assists on a given week. If you think basic Fantasy Football requires some luck then IDPs are even more crapshooty.

That doesn't mean IDPs are a bad idea, though. It just means you have to find the players who have a track record of success and/or are in a position to put up stats. Middle linebackers and safeties are the gold standard for top Fantasy success if your league counts tackles. If your league does not count tackles then pass rushers -- either defensive linemen or outside linebackers -- and high-interception defensive backs are in play. And you might think these players are always the big-name studs, but offenses tend to shy away from the best defensive players (when they can help it, anyway), making household names like Darrelle Revis not always the best in Fantasy. It adds another layer to your pre-draft research.

Here's a FAQ for IDPs:

Our league is beginning to consider IDPs. How many should each owner start on a weekly basis?
If you're truly new to IDPs, don't go overboard. A nice first step is to start four: one defensive lineman, one linebacker, one defensive back and a flex (yes, IDPs have flexes too). This is better than starting just one or two IDPs regardless of position. It also makes for everyone to have all-star IDPs.

What's the next step up from four starting IDPs?
We run an experts league every year that starts two defensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive backs and one flex. That's nine IDPs per team, which greatly diminishes the talent pool. Suddenly, drafting IDPs become a priority.

What's a fair scoring system for IDPs?
Again referencing our expert's league, each solo tackle is worth a point and an assist is half a point. A sack or a pass defensed is worth a point. Any turnover -- an interception, forced fumble or recovery -- is worth two points. A touchdown is worth six. Obviously, this system rewards those IDPs that make the most tackles.

Could a league run a scoring system that either devalues tackles or eliminates them altogether?
You can do anything you want but tackles are basically the equivalent to rushing yards for IDPs. If you lower their value or eliminate them the scoring will be very inconsistent for pretty much every defensive player. That may or may not be more appealing to you.

What's a basic draft strategy for IDP leagues?
Tough to answer because not all IDP leagues are built the same. The first thing you should do is find out how many starting IDPs you need, then review last year's results to get an idea of which positions score the most points in your league's setup. If the IDPs don't score nearly as much as, say, the third tier of running backs and receivers then you could conceivably punt on IDPs until the midway point of your draft. Some owners might target one or two IDPs with picks earlier in drafts (say, Round 6) just to lock up a top-tier stud and then backfill the rest with mid- to late-round picks.

Are quality IDPs hard to find like quality running backs or are they easy to find like, say, backup quarterbacks?
Again, tough to answer without knowing how many IDPs your league starts but we can safely say that every year, quality stat stuffers come out of the woodwork. Use some common sense: There are 32 NFL teams that utilize at least three defensive backs, two linebackers and two defensive linemen pretty much every play. Compare it to teams typically leaning on one quarterback, one running back, one tight end and two receivers on almost every play and you'll see that the talent pool to pick from is middle-of-the-Atlantic deep. I'm not saying you'll find players with the skills of J.J. Watt or Luke Kuechly on the waiver wire week after week but warm bodies with quality tackle production aren't hiding like pins in bales of hay.

Tackling the rankings

Through the preseason, here's our rankings of the Top 40 IDPs at each position based on the scoring system described in the third question of our IDP FAQ (tackles matter).

  Defensive linemen Linebackers Defensive backs
1 J.J. Watt, HOU Luke Kuechly, CAR Harrison Smith, MIN
2 Robert Quinn, STL Lavonte David, TB Eric Weddle, SD
3 Greg Hardy, CAR Paul Posluszny, JAC Antrel Rolle, NYG
4 Cameron Jordan, NO Vontaze Burfict, CIN Earl Thomas, SEA
5 Jason Pierre-Paul, NYG Patrick Willis, SF Barry Church, DAL
6 DeMarcus Ware, DEN Bobby Wagner, SEA Antoine Bethea, SF
7 Chandler Jones, NE Derrick Johnson, KC Johnathan Cyprien, JAC
8 Jared Allen, CHI Alec Ogletree, STL Kam Chancellor, SEA
9 Cameron Wake, MIA Karlos Dansby, CLE Morgan Burnett, GB
10 Carlos Dunlap, CIN Lawrence Timmons, PIT Bernard Pollard, TEN
11 Justin Tuck, OAK Chad Greenway, MIN T.J. Ward, DEN
12 Calais Campbell, ARI James Laurinaitis, STL Stevie Brown, NYG
13 Rob Ninkovich, NE Curtis Lofton, NO Eric Reid, SF
14 Michael Johnson, TB Jerod Mayo, NE Tyvon Branch, OAK
15 Justin Smith, SF Khalil Mack, OAK James Ihedigbo, DET
16 Mario Williams, BUF Lance Briggs, CHI Eric Berry, KC
17 Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ D'Qwell Jackson, IND Kenny Vaccaro, NO
18 Lamarr Houston, CHI Mychal Kendricks, PHI Deone Bucannon, ARI
19 Sen'Derrick Marks, JAC Zach Brown, TEN William Moore, ATL
20 Olivier Vernon, MIA Donald Butler, SD Jairus Byrd, NO
21 Charles Johnson, CAR Paul Worrilow, ATL Charles Tillman, CHI
22 Ndamukong Suh, DET Ryan Shazier, PIT Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, GB
23 Kyle Williams, BUF Wesley Woodyard, TEN Matt Elam, BAL
24 Jurrell Casey, TEN David Harris, NYJ Tramon Williams, GB
25 Gerald McCoy, TB Jerrell Freeman, IND Aaron Williams, BUF
26 Dontari Poe, KC A.J. Hawk, GB Glover Quin, DET
27 Cameron Heyward, PIT Stephen Tulloch, DET Mark Barron, TB
28 Haloti Ngata, BAL Perry Riley, WAS Alterraun Verner, TB
29 Marcell Dareus, BUF Philip Wheeler, MIA T.J. McDonald, STL
30 Sheldon Richardson, NYJ Justin Durant, DAL Cary Williams, PHI
31 Brian Robison, MIN C.J. Mosley, BAL Janoris Jenkins, STL
32 Adrian Clayborn, TB DeMeco Ryans, PHI Donte Whitner, CLE
33 Chris Clemons, JAC Dannell Ellerbe, MIA Michael Griffin, TEN
34 Andre Branch, JAC Jon Beason, NYG Jason McCourty, TEN
35 Darnell Dockett, ARI Thomas Davis, CAR Winston Guy, JAC
36 Kendall Reyes, SD Manti Te'o, SD Dawan Landry, NYJ
37 Cliff Avril, SEA Nick Roach, OAK Jimmy Smith, BAL
38 Anthony Spencer, DAL Mason Foster, TB Tashaun Gipson, CLE
39 Osi Umenyiora, ATL Keenan Robinson, WAS Prince Amukamara, NYG
40 Vince Wilfork, NE Kevin Minter, ARI Captain Munnerlyn, MIN

IDP sleepers

We've identified a handful of sleepers for you to consider drafting this summer. These guys make swell mid- to late-round picks in deeper IDP leagues with the idea that if they start off hot for their teams, you've got a winner. If they don't then they're lemons and you throw them back and find someone usable on waivers.

Deone Bucannon, DB, Cardinals

Darqueze Dennard, DB, Bengals

Winston Guy, DB, Jaguars

Dezmen Southward, DB, Falcons

Brock Vereen, DB, Bears

Sen'Derrick Marks, DL, Jaguars

Quanterus Smith, DL, Broncos

Emmanuel Lamur, LB, Bengals

Kevin Minter, LB, Cardinals

C.J. Mosley, LB, Ravens

Keenan Robinson, LB, Redskins

Manti Te'o, LB, Chargers

Justin Tuggle, LB, Texans

Kyle Van Noy, LB, Lions

DeKoda Watson, LB, Jaguars

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Player News
Seahawks NT Brandon Mebane expected to be full go by April
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:15 pm ET) Seahawks starting nose tackle Brandon Mebane said the surgery to fix his torn hamstring went well, and he should be full go by April, reports the Seattle Times. Mebane's season was cut short after nine games. He finished with 20 tackles and a sack.

DT Kevin Williams could retire if Seahawks win
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:03 pm ET) Seahawks defensive tackle Kevin Williams did not rule out retiring if his team beats the Patriots in Super Bowl 49, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Williams, 34, is a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time First-Team All-Pro.

He played in every game this season, recording 22 tackles, three sacks and two pass breakups.


Bills' Roman: EJ Manuel getting clean slate with new coaching staff
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:41 pm ET) Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday during his introductory press conference quarterback EJ Manuel will get a fresh start with the new coaching staff, per WGR 550. Manuel was benched in favor of veteran Kyle Orton in 2014. Orton has since retired.

"I'm not going to get into specifics. but I definitely think he's done some very good things and displayed some good traits," Roman said. "We just have to get his level of consistency a little bit greater. Really, he and everybody else, once we get thru this evaluation process, we're going to have a very clean slate, once we get going because what they might have been asked to do or done in the past is really not relevant to what we may or may not ask them to do. So to sit here and pontificate about this that and the other, is a little premature."

Manuel is 6-8 as a starter over two NFL seasons. The 2013 first-round pick has a career 58.6 completion rate. He has passed for 2,810 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 games (14 starts).


Bryan Stork not a lock to play in Super Bowl
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:37 pm ET) Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork said he's working with the training staff in hopes of playing in Super Bowl 49, reports ESPN.com. Stork, who nursing a knee injury, has been limited in practice.

"Nobody's working harder than Bryan to play," coach Bill Belichick said.

Stork started 11 regular-season games but missed the AFC title game after getting hurt in the divisional playoff win over Baltimore. Ryan Wendell replaced Stork and played well in the 45-7 victory over the Colts.


Colts can void RB Trent Richardson's contract
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:27 pm ET) The Colts can void running back Trent Richardson's $3.18 million guaranteed salary for 2015 because he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, reports CBS Sports' Joel Corry, a former agent who's an expert on player contracts.

Richardson, who missed a walkthrough before the AFC title game, received a two-game suspension from the team, general manager Ryan Grigson confirmed. If Indy chooses to keep Richardson, he'd serve the second game of the suspension next season.

ESPN.com expects the Colts to exercise their option to void Richardson's contract, and the players' union to challenge that move.


Panthers LB Thomas Davis says he's not close to retirement
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:17 pm ET) Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who turns 32 in March, is not contemplating retirement any time soon, reports ESPN.com.

“I lost two and a half years to injuries, but I also feel I gained two and a half years," said Davis, who underwent two reconstructive ACL surgeries on the same knee. "This was my 10th year and I’m going on year 11, and I still feel I have a lot of football left in me.’’

Davis has one year left on his contract, and he hopes to sign one more contract after that. Davis made 100 tackles this season after recording a team-high 123 in 2013.


Union challenges Goodell on Adrian Peterson's counseling requirement
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) The NFL Players Association filed a legal brief saying Commissioner Roger Goodell's requirement that Adrian Peterson attend counseling was unlawful, reports ESPN.com. The union claims Goodell's disciplinary powers don't extend past suspensions, fines and contract terminations to counseling, the report said.

In November, Goodell suspended Peterson without pay for the rest of the season and said the Vikings running back cannot be reinstated until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May.

In his letter to Peterson, Goodell set several requirements for reinstatement, including counseling.

"In order to assess your progress going forward, I will establish periodic reviews, the first of which will be on or about April 15, 2015," the commisssioner wrote. "At that time, I will meet with you and your representatives and the NFLPA to review the extent to which you have complied with your program of counseling and therapy and both made and lived up to an affirmative commitment to change such that this conduct will not occur again. A failure to cooperate and follow your plan will result in a lengthier suspension without pay."


Bucs QB Mike Glennon on the move?
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:03 am ET) With the Buccaneers holding the No. 1 overall draft pick, the team has its choice of quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. The Tampa Tribune says "some around the league" believe other teams will try to trade for quarterback Mike Glennon, and that Glennon could net the Bucs a fourth- or fifth-round pick.

Glennon played in six games this season, throwing for 1,417 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions. The team's refusal to play Glennon "even after their slim playoff hopes faded" has many observers believing the Bucs are ready to move on from him, the paper said.


Lions see plenty of upside in WR Corey Fuller
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) The Lions are looking for a solid No. 3 receiver to supplement Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, and converted track star Corey Fuller could be the guy, reports the team's website. Fuller was Johnson's backup in 2014 and played in some multi-receiver sets, catching 14 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown.

“I think I had a big improvement coming in from last year to this year,” said Fuller, a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft. “If I just keep on progressing, who knows where I can go.”

Fuller, who brings a unique combination of speed and strength, said his main focus this offseason is improving his route running.

“The whole (route) tree,” he said. “Being able to expand the routes they throw me.”


Steelers not expected to re-sign Ike Taylor
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) The Steelers likely won't re-sign impending free agent cornerback Ike Taylor, reports ESPN.com. Taylor, 34, dealt with multiple injuries this season and finished with 16 tackles in five games.

Taylor has spent his entire 12-year career with Pittsburgh. He said this month he's OK with 2014 being his last season.


 
 
 
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