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IDP Is Hard: Spot Value in Scheduling to Win Your League

jjwatt

As a ridiculously obsessed Individual Defensive Player (IDP) fantasy baller, I’ve been working on a series of articles so that I could earn a stripe on my RotoViz white belt.  With my research, I’ve stumbled on some nice trends.

For those new to IDP, defensive player scoring is whack for the most part. So much of it is based on scheme and opportunity. The talent matters too but there are plenty of examples of players coming out of nowhere to become IDP studs just because of the environment.1 My focus in this column is on opportunity. Due to the effect weekly matchups have on IDP scoring, I figured I might be able to spot an actionable trend and it looks to be the case. Instead of opinion-based IDP rankings with no metrics, I’ve developed schedule-based metrics that will help you dominate your draft, evaluate offseason trades, and no longer play waiver wire catch up.

First consider that most of us have seen at least some representation of this chart below which is last year’s tackle opportunities among the top and bottom five teams in the league and fantasy points scored from those opportunities. This means that Buffalo’s opponents recorded solo tackles vs. Buffalo offensive players 1,299 times in 2013. (I’ve used 1.5 points per tackle and 0.75 points per assist scoring.)

Top 5
TEAM SOLO AST TOTAL SACK SOLO FP AST FP TOT FP
Buffalo 875 424 1299 48 1312.5 318 1630.5
Washington 777 465 1242 43 1165.5 348.75 1514.25
Denver 887 227 1114 20 1330.5 170.25 1500.75
San Diego 878 227 1105 30 1317 170.25 1487.25
Cincinnati 774 430 1204 29 1161 322.5 1483.5
Bottom 5
TEAM SOLO AST TOTAL SACK SOLO FP AST FP TOT FP
Jacksonville 777 166 943 50 1165.5 124.5 1290
St. Louis 783 154 937 36 1174.5 115.5 1290
Tampa Bay 733 253 986 47 1099.5 189.75 1289.25
Miami 742 235 977 58 1113 176.25 1289.25
Dallas 736 196 932 35 1104 147 1251

But we can do better than this. Consider the view from a divisional perspective as that’s where the scheduling comes to help us.

2013 Division Tackles Fantasy Points by Opponents

AFC East 5757
AFC West 5729
AFC North 5570
NFC East 5534
NFC North 5480
NFC West 5435
AFC South 5420
NFC South 5329

We look to be spotting a clear advantage to drafting IDP players who play opponents in the AFC East or AFC West. The AFC North is interesting as well.  Shall we check to see if this is an outlier? Of course we shall . . .

IDP Tackle Opps by Division
When we look at the IDP tackle scoring over the last three years it’s hard to ignore the trend in the AFC East and AFC West. They’ve been on a steady climb toward the 5,800-point range. We also can note that while the AFC North isn’t approaching 5,800 points they’ve been a consistent bet to reach 5,500 points which is some solid production.

The only noteworthy NFC division is the East where an impotent Giants offense caused their blip last season so I think we could probably expect a rebound there. However, Washington’s offense under the Shanahan Dynasty has carried that division for tackle opportunities so it could be a wash.

2011 2012 2013
Washington 1421 1457 1514
NFL Avg 1370 1376 1383

Consider the S2K effect when evaluating the tackle opportunity growth prospects of the AFC North as the Browns offense could pick up some S2K mojo. That’s been a steady 1,400-plus tackle scoring machine for the past three years. A quick scan of the division seems to give credence to the likelihood of another solid year in the AFC North with the upside of a 5,600-plus point season.

Our Grand Champion Divisions

AFC East and AFC West

(Notable IDP Targets: Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Nigel Bradham, Mario Williams, Phillip Wheeler, Koa Misi, Nick Roach, Donald Butler, Demario Davis, Muhammad Wilkerson, Derrick Johnson, Manti Te’o)

Well that was easy. The two tackle environments containing the most combustible elements are scheduled to play each other this season. Add in the fact that the AFC West has had a standard deviation of only 62 points over the past three years and I feel comfortable with this trend.  Neither draws a particularly good matchup from the NFC though. I’d have to think that this is good news when deciding between tackle studs such as Denver’s Derrick Johnson and Houston’s Brian Cushing. Miami in particular plays their first four games in these two divisions (NE, @Buff, KC, @Oak). New England and Buffalo in particular draw the best matchup schedules that I can find for IDP outside of Miami.  Ironically they are both limited by Miami’s historically terrible tackle opportunity numbers as they play them twice in division. For a deep sleeper I’ve decided that Nick Roach is going to be a common late round target for me based on this information and I’m even considering a tryst with Manti Te’o in the late rounds as well. I don’t see why Te’o can’t become the next Mason Foster.

NFC West

(Notable IDP Targets: Patrick Willis, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, Robert Quinn, James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree, Kevin Minter, Larry Foote, Calais Campbell)

These teams get the luxury of playing the tackle opportunity haven AFC West.  They also get the chance at good numbers versus the bounce-back candidate NFC East. This could be the money information here as there are already so many stud defensive players from this division. Bobby Wagner and Patrick Willis would seem to be strong candidates to lead the league in tackles this season.

Nice Value Upside – AFC South

(Notable IDP Targets: Paul Posluszny, Johnathan Cyprien, Brian Cushing, D’Qwell Jackson, JJ Watt, Robert Mathis)

A slate against the likely upward trending AFC North division and the potential rebound of the NFC East offers more upside than downside.  Paul Posluszny is a guy that jumps off the page for me here as he had a bad schedule for opportunities last year but still played out of his mind for IDP. With a better sled, perhaps he can take over Kiko Alonso’s spot as lead tackler in the AFC.

Toughest Spot – NFC East 

(Notable IDP: Dallas LB, Perry Riley, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, John Beason, Jason Pierre-Paul, Barry Church)

They draw the NFC West and AFC South who offer a Larry David sandwich of ineffective ball control and inept offenses. Their own division isn’t impressive to begin with when it comes to opportunities. I’d move guys like Riley and Kendricks down a few notches. Instead of trying to figure out who is going to take Sean Lee’s role, you may just want to avoid the situation completely in shallow leagues.

Final Observation

For now I’ll leave you with the thought that perhaps some of those banner years turned in by Thomas Davis, Lavonte David, Luke Kuechly, and Paul Worrilow had a lot to do with their talent and situation but also with being matched up with the AFC East in last year’s scheduling.  Perhaps the 80-tackle threshold is achieved when talent and a three-down role exist and perhaps a shot at a top 10 IDP season exists when the schedule is in your favor. I’m finding this information is quite actionable all throughout my positional rankings for IDP.

Look out for my IDP rankings which will be adjusted for IDP schedule strength. I will release defensive line and linebacker rankings and am working on a sleeper defensive back piece so that readers don’t need to sweat that position.

  1. Denver’s Danny Trevathan comes to mind although I was on him before most as I’ve played in college IDP leagues . . . that’s how I roll.  (back)
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