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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
Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower to miss at least six months
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower is going to miss between six and seven months, according to the Boston Globe.

Hightower had surgery this February to repair a torn right labrum. The team is concerned that he might not be able to be ready for the start of the reguar season. He played through the injury for a good portion of the 2014 season prior to surgery.

The 25-year-old started all 12 games he played, collecting 89 total tackles, six sacks, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.


Packers to use pistol formation more often this season
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(8:27 pm ET) After implementing the pistol formation into the offense to help take stress off of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' leg in 2014, the Packers are considering to use it more often this season, according to the Journal Sentinel.

"I like the pistol," head coach Mike McCarthy said during a break at the NFL owners meetings this week. "I think there's a lot of value regardless of the injury to Aaron. I know he likes it. There's a place for it year-round in your offense."

Although McCarthy has no intention of turning Rodgers into an option quarterback, the system provides unpredictability for opposing offenses.

"I would say this is about the third year it's been part of our pace and installation," McCarthy said. "Really, when we moved to it exclusively there at the end of the year it really wasn't a change for us.

"I liked it from a self-scout standpoint. It gives you another self-scout variable when you're in the gun, but you also have the tailback behind you. (There are a) lot of benefits to it."


Report: Vikings sign CB Terence Newman
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:29 pm ET) The Vikings have signed cornerback Terence Newman to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with $750,000 in guarantees on Thursday, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. 

Newman spent the last three seasons with the Bengals after playing nine years for the Cowboys. The 36-year-old has had at least one interception in each year of his 13-year career. The cornerback has recorded 741 total tackles, two sacks, 147 passes defensed, 37 interceptions, and eight forced fumbles. 


Kubiak wants Peyton Manning comfortable with playbook
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:54 pm ET) Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak wants to make sure that all of his players are comfortable with the new offensive playbook, including quarterback Peyton Manning, reports ESPN.

“I think you prepare to help him call that game throughout the course of the week," Kubiak said. “A lot of people put emphasis on him calling plays at the line, but you’ve also prepared to do that throughout the course of the week, so you, as a coach, 'Here’s what I think is best in that situation.' In a lot of ways you’re still working together. You’re just going about it a different way."

“You never want to put a player in a position where he’s doing something he’s uncomfortable with," Kubiak said. “One of things about having a veteran, especially like Peyton, he’s going to let you know, 'This is what I do best and this is what I feel comfortable with.' That’s what you need to go do as a coach. You might tweak things here or there that you think may help, but you’re never going to take him out of his comfort zone and what he feels like he does best.”

Manning, 39, recently took a pay cut of $4 million to help clear salary cap space for the team.


LB Brandon Magee still committed to playing in NFL
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(5:49 pm ET) After being released by the Buccaneers, linebacker Brandon Magee is going to participate in spring training with the Boston Red Sox. That being said, he is still committed to playing in the NFL, according to Pro Football Talk. 

Magee's agent, Blake Baratz, emailed Pro Football Talk regarding his client's desire to resume his NFL career.

“There have been rumors circulating that Brandon Magee, who was recently released by Tampa Bay, has given up football with the intention of playing professional baseball. This could not be further from the truth,” Baratz wrote. “While he does attend spring training for a few weeks up until the beginning of the NFL off-season program, he is 100% fully committed to playing in the NFL.”

Magee, 24, has seen action in 17 games the last two seasons, nine of which were in 2014 with the Buccaneers. He has registered 10 total tackles in his career.


Bill O'Brien: 'Sky's the limit' for WR DeAndre Hopkins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:34 pm ET) With Andre Johnson now in Indy, DeAndre Hopkins enters the 2015 season as the Texans' undisputed No. 1 receiver.

“He had a really good year last year and the sky’s the limit with Hop (Hopkins)," coach Bill O'Brien told NFL Network. "He’s an excellent young player who works extremely hard and we’re looking forward to putting together our whole receiving corps and he should be the leader of that.”

Hopkins led Houston with 1,210 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns last year. He has 128 catches for 2,012 yards and eight scores in his two NFL seasons.


Giants RB Shane Vereen will be more than third-down back
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Giants running back Shane Vereen is being viewed as much more than just a third-down running back, according to nj.com.

The team is excited about his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, but he'll be relied on to do more than that.

"I see him in that regard as a pass receiver coming out of the backfield, a pass protector, a guy who runs the ball in the three-wide offense in the run game, if you will, which is very prevalent today in our sport," coach Tom Coughlin said at the NFL Annual Meetings this week. "So I see him in that regard."

Last season the Giants did not have one receiving touchdown by a running back. Vereen, formerly of the Patriots, had three receiving touchdowns out of the backfield last year.

"Well, you know what [Vereen] can do. Quite frankly, it's something from an attack standpoint we've had some success with, but not to the extent that he has," Coughlin said. "When you look at Vereen, a lot of the [Tom] Brady hookup with Vereen was the ball was almost automatically going to him. First down, if it was zone coverage, they were dropping the ball down and he would scoot. So we know that. Will we open it up to more parts of it?"

The 26-year-old has 907 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground, adding 107 receptions for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns through the air in four years. 


Chiefs confident they'll reach deal with Justin Houston
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:00 pm ET) Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt told the Kansas City Star he's confident the team will sign standout outside linebacker Justin Houston to a long-term deal. The Chiefs put a $13.1 million nonexclusive franchise tag on Houston, which he has yet to sign.

“He knows, and his agent knows, how much we want him back,” Hunt said. “We just all have to be patient, and eventually, we’re going to get him signed to a long-term deal.”

Houston has 48.5 sacks in his four-year career. 

“I’ve been very consistent in saying that we not only value Justin as a football player, that we not only value Justin as a person and leader, and we want him to be a Chief for life,” Hunt said.


49ers waive OT Jonathan Martin
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:42 pm ET) The 49ers announced they waived offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, who played in 15 games last season, sarting nine. Martin, 25, was acquired by San Fran in a March 2014 trade with the Dolphins.

He has played in 38 career games with 32 starts.


Sean Payton: C.J. Spiller the 'most explosive player on the field'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:37 pm ET) Saints coach Sean Payton is thrilled to have landed running back C.J. Spiller, who will team with Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson in one of the league's top backfields.

"I think we expected Spiller to be somewhere else with a higher number. But it all worked out," Payton told The Advocate.

Spiller joined the Saints on a four-year, $16 million deal.

“His cutup is unbelievable,” Payton said of Spiller. ”And I’m not talking about last season because I think it became challenging, but you go back a couple of years and start looking at his screen reel, a sweep reel, a return reel.

“So when you watch his film you think of a lot of things he can do. He’s physical, he’s the most explosive player on the field a lot of times when you’re watching him. … So he’s an exciting player that clearly heading into free agency there wasn’t any thought about and then after that first rush there was some interest and I think to his agent’s credit they looked at it from a how he was going to be used standpoint, the system, the offense and wanting to be a part of it and we feel the same way.”


 
 
 
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