I Don’t Play (IDP)… (Part Two)

In my last article I discussed a few reasons why you should dip your toes into the world of IDP fantasy football, because you’re really missing out!

Since then I’ve canvassed opinion from several sources on IDP uneasiness and I’ll share the main concerns they had with you and how they may be overcome.

“People don’t know enough about defensive players”

I can’t argue with this, as a 5 year player (3 year IDP) I could perhaps only name a handful of defensive players after two years of fantasy football (And two years of following the sport lazily), but after one year of IDP my knowledge increased exponentially. If you have the will to learn, and in some cases be thrust into the fire a little with your first IDP league, then it can really help your knowledge of the game. 3 years ago I probably could list a dozen linebackers, but now I feel confident in ranking 60-70 linebackers. In a way you’re forced into learning about defence if you want to win your league (which we all do!) – so whilst it’s a baptism of fire, if you’re ready to take the first leap it can really pay off.

“There is not enough mainstream coverage of IDPs”

This is a perennial problem and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The less you hear of IDP football and the more you hear of Team Defences the less likely you are to be interested in it, or even know about it at all. Whilst there is plenty of analysis out there with a quick internet search, casual fantasy players who listen to the odd podcast and ask a few questions on twitter may not even have heard of IDP. This is not the fault of casual players of course, but it does suggest that IDP football is almost restricted to obsessive compulsive fantasy football players who will do anything to add depth to their hobby. As there is no mainstream media coverage (NFL.com, I am looking at you), casual players have no chance of engaging in that side of fantasy football which is a real shame.

“People don’t have enough time to pore over defensive stats and content”

Again, a fair point is raised by this, and it relates to the point above it – adding IDP to fantasy adds a whole new level of depth and requires a whole new level of commitment. Lots of people don’t have the time to take on this extra ‘work’ and so would be averse to IDP football in principle anyway. One guy told me: “I don’t like the concept of team defense either but at some point this game feels like it becomes a job– I have enough work and I already dont get paid enough for it,” which really spells out that IDP is actually quite a lot of hard work, and unfortunately most people don’t have enough time to devote to something that is supposed to be fun, not a job! As I said earlier though, IDP does seem daunting at first, but you soon become acclimatised to it in my opinion and the effort pays off in the long run.

“Scoring varies widely from league to league so getting conversations and/or rankings going are much harder to do across leagues.”

To me, this is the chief obstacle for IDP becoming a popular part of fantasy football. Fantasy Football requires a level of consistency to give sound judgement and predictions, but IDP has no consistent scoring system in place. If I ask for IDP advice, or offer it, scoring systems must be established first, and your advice tailored to that. To combat this particular issue I would suggest that two scoring systems are adopted, similar to PPR and non-PPR formats. For IDP they may be referred to as tackle-heavy and big play-heavy.

Tackle-heavy leagues should offer no more than 3 times as many points for sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles etc, and no more than 6 points for an interception. This type of league will value tackling linebackers and in-the-box safeties more than pass rushers. Furthermore in tackle-heavy leagues there is more predictability – as tackles are the most consistent stat on the defensive side of the ball.

Big play-heavy leagues should offer at least 5 times as many points for sacks, forced fumbles as for tackles, and also offer a bonus for tackles for loss. Plays like safeties and interceptions may give as many as 10 points to reflect their real-game impact. In these leagues pass rushers and disruptive linemen will be more valuable. Whilst these leagues offer a more relative rewards system for big plays like sacks they bring in a lot of unpredictability.

I think standardising these two systems would do the IDP world a lot of good, but it takes mainstream fantasy platforms like nfl.com to promote them to the general public first.

“What makes IDP different than regular fantasy football is that every single week the players are used differently. It’s not as dependable as plugging AJ Green in and sleeping like a baby.”

This is another point that lends itself to the idea that it takes more time and effort to learn about IDP, especially in detail. Personally I feel like I’m a competent IDP player and analyst without knowing the ins and outs of each and every defence in the NFL, but to reach that top level and get the edge it would make a lot of difference, especially in predicting breakouts. Despite this, those fantasy players are likely playing in elite leagues, and you can still play in a fun, casual IDP league without needing such intense detail and application to it. To be honest, you can be a competitive IDP player without this knowledge.

“That the best football players are usually the best to own on the offensive side of the ball but that’s not always true on the defensive side.”

Revis Island? Darrelle Revis is a great NFL cornerback, but not a good IDP option – picture from www.thewhistle.com

I don’t buy this argument on bit. Whilst for cornerbacks and to a lesser extent safeties, this argument may ring true, it is not true for other positions. Typically the best IDP players are those who get lots of tackles, lots of sacks, or other impact plays like blocked kicks, interceptions and defensive touchdowns. This is true for real NFL defenders. Guys like Patrick Willis, JJ Watt and Von Miller could be regarded as some of the best defensive players in the NFL, and they are some of the best fantasy IDP players as well. The tricky bit comes for defensive backs and especially cornerbacks, where their strength comes by limiting the opposing players. We all know about ‘Revis Island,’ and as such players like Revis are undraftable in almost every IDP format. However, DBs are generally a bit of a crapshoot anyway, the tenth best DB and the fiftieth best aren’t that different, so it doesn’t really impact the league in a significant way. Furthermore, any fantasy player who chooses players solely on their ability in real NFL terms isn’t going to be successful in the long term. We all know that fantasy is a mix of ability, opportunity and luck – and you wouldn’t go into a draft without preparation and just pick the best players (otherwise there would be no need for any form of fantasy ‘analysis’ and my ‘job’ wouldn’t exist!).

So to bring this feature to a close, I’d say IDP is an unloved and underutilised part of fantasy football that really deserves more attention. Casual players may face some difficulties in picking up a whole new element of fantasy football, but these issues can be overcome with relative ease. The biggest obstacle is widespread consciousness of IDP football, which is required from the top down. Basic stats about defence, injury reports on IDPs and some general discussion every now and then on the bigger podcasts and host sites would be the real catalyst in catapulting IDP fantasy football into popularity.

‘Til then I’ll keep my soapbox and loudspeaker at the ready…

*Special thanks to the guys at NFLUK forums, those who replied on twitter and all of the helpful posts on the Dynasty League Football Forum.


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