• Dave Fiorella

Finding an IDP EDGE

While the use of IDP is slowly becoming more popular in fantasy football it is still being held back by the generalized position designations used by most host sites. In most IDP leagues, players will be given designations such as DL (defensive line) and DB (defensive back) where they could further be broken down into DE/DT (defensive end/defensive tackle) or CB/S (cornerback/safety). In most cases this is done to not only simplify the positions for players who may be less familiar with defensive players, but also to help balance the scoring difference between players in these more detailed positions.

Just like on offense, defensive players are valued based on opportunity so when you consider the role that a cornerback plays during a game versus a safety you can understand how the safeties will have more opportunity and therefore are likely to put up more points. While the gap between these sub-positions is less pronounced, there is a similar difference when it comes to the DL where a defensive end will often be more likely put up more points than the defensive tackles. Knowing these little variances can help provide IDP players with their own opportunities to create an advantage against their opponents in the draft.

Whether you are new to IDP or a long-term player, the most important thing to know is that linebackers will make up the scoring core of your IDP group due to their ability to provide consistent tackle production. Targeting players with high opportunity to make tackles is key in IDP. Even when splashy plays like turnovers are worth significantly more points, they are rare occurrences and therefore are unreliable. Consider Blake Martinez who is often considered to be an average talent who was in a good situation but managed to put up 155 combined tackles last season to make him the 6th highest scoring linebacker last year.

Now in the past, it was not uncommon for the first IDP player to be taken somewhere around the 8th round, when offensive starters are filled, and the talent is starting to dry up. These days it is quite common to see Darius Leonard (the top linebacker on most rankings websites) to go as early as the mid-5th. This often then causes people to panic draft and start a run on IDP players as people fear missing out on getting quality talent. Instead of continuing that trend it is better to stick to the old-school style of drafting IDP. While others are over drafting linebackers you can capitalize by grabbing those offensive players who are now falling well below their ADP. This does mean however, that you will need to be able to find extra value somewhere along the line. Some of that will come simply from knowing more than your opponents with regards to player evaluation, but there is one major discrepancy in the IDP format that will provide the most value: position designations.

As mentioned earlier, the simplification of positions helps to make IDP appealing to the masses, but anyone who is paying attention may realize that the way defenses are run in actuality means that the designation between DL and LB isn’t so clear. In fact, many reputable websites are instead using an Edge designation to better define how players line up on the field. This refers to a defender rushing on the outside of the tackles but can be applied to either a defensive end or an outside linebacker, depending on the formation. What this means is that, depending on what host platform your league is using, certain players will be given a different positional designation and a player who acts as an edge rusher may score like an LB in fantasy, but be given a DL designation. Consider a standard IDP league that runs 2 DLs and 3 LBs as starters. If you were to draft a player who fell into this category, then you would be able to put out the production of 4 LBs each week while your opponents would be limited to 3.

To understand what kind of advantage this scoring discrepancy can provide let us look at how all the DL and LB performed last year:

Using a standard IDP scoring system you can immediately see how IDP players score less than most offensive starters. The best comparison for them is usually to an RB where despite scoring less than a QB, they will get drafted earlier due to positional scarcity. Drafting defenders works in a similar way where you are trying to find those guys at the top since the position will become average quite fast. Based on the performance of players in 2019 we can see that the ceiling for DL players was under 180 points for the year while LB pushed all the way into 240-249 bucket. When we take a step back and consider the ceiling for these positions out to the last three years, this variance increases significantly for average production.

While the ceiling remains basically the same for both positions, there are more than double the number of LBs producing in the 110 to 179 range compared to DL. The average IDP league will likely be 12 members and therefore will be starting at least 24 DL as well as 36 LBs and, based on my experience, you will usually see the number of players rostered in the range of 48-50 DL and 72-75 LB. When we narrow down our average scoring results to fit only the players that would be rostered, the difference between LB and DL scoring becomes more apparent.

Even if you managed to identify and draft the top scoring DL in fantasy, he is still likely to score less points than half of the starting LBs. In fact, based on the three-year average for IDP scoring, there was only four DL who would even score within the range of all starting LBs. With such a large discrepancy in scoring between the two positions any chance you can find a positional variance caused by an edge rusher is a great advantage. The easiest way to take advantage of this is through shared positional designations used by some host site like Sleeper. Using Sleeper as our example and rankings by FantasyPros here are the edge players in our “rostered” LBs range who can be started at DL.

Khalil Mack

FantasyPros Rank: 31

2019 Points (Per Game): 139.25 (8.70)

2020 Projection: 160.50

Consistency Variable: 0.56

Difference Maker Score: 6%

Quality Game Score: 31%

PFF Grade: 86.2

2019 Snap Count: 925 (86%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 4.9%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 1.6%

2019 Sack Frequency: 0.9%

2019 Total Pressures: 70

Khalil Mack is going to probably be the most notable name on this list. Since his first days playing for Chicago there has been plenty of hype behind Mack, and for good reason. However, this also means that you will see his ADP being well above where he likely should be ranked especially if others realize there is an advantage to be found here. Based on his usage in the Bears defense we’ve seen a steady decline in the number of pressures Mack has achieved, but they did add another edge threat this season with the signing of Robert Quinn and that might provide more opportunity for Mack. The addition of Mack will be the strongest option for a fantasy team’s ability to sneak 4 LBs on their starting roster, but be aware you may have to reach on him since I’ve seen him go as early as the 7th round this offseason.

Bradley Chubb

FantasyPros Rank: 44

2019 Points (Per Game): 46.25 (11.56)

2020 Projection: 156.00

Consistency Variable: 0.44

Difference Maker Score: 0%

Quality Game Score: 50%

PFF Grade: 59.4

2019 Snap Count: 233 (22%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 7.0%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 2.1%

2019 Sack Frequency: 0.4%

2019 Total Pressures: 9

The biggest thing that will scare people off Bradley Chubb, and therefore drop his ADP is going to be the fact that he tore his ACL last season in a loss against the Jaguars. In fact, if you consider Chubb’s snap count versus the games played instead of a full season, he was on the field for just under 93% of the Broncos defensive snaps. Having only played four games his numbers seem underwhelming, but he was on pace to push 70 tackles on the season. While it is fine to be cautious when it comes to players coming back from an ACL injury, Chubb is still only 24 and has spent a lot of the offseason rehabbing at the Broncos’ facilities despite the pandemic. With an ADP in the range of the 18th round or later (I’ve seen him go as low as the 26th round this offseason), he’s a guy I’m happily going to take a chance on after establishing starters at DL/LB.

Robert Quinn

FantasyPros Rank: 49

2019 Points (Per Game): 127.50 (9.11)

2020 Projection: 114.00

Consistency Variable: 0.62

Difference Maker Score: 21%

Quality Game Score: 29%

PFF Grade: 68.5

2019 Snap Count: 647 (60%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 2.2%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 1.9%

2019 Sack Frequency: 1.9%

2019 Total Pressures: 57

After seven (mostly) successful seasons with the Rams, Robert Quinn has spent the last few years of his career as a bit of a journeyman having played with Miami, Dallas, and now heading to Chicago. Despite entering his 10th season Quinn has shown he still has what it takes by coming off one of his best seasons yet and managing double-digit sacks for the first time in his career. Quinn is entering into a favorable situation where he will be able to work alongside Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks to create an intimidating rush package. Add this to an easier strength of schedule for the Bears, plus the fact that Quinn is going undrafted in many IDP leagues, and what I see is a late pick with sell high potential.

Chandler Jones

FantasyPros Rank: 50

2019 Points (Per Game): 211.25 (13.20)

2020 Projection: 198.50

Consistency Variable: 0.78

Difference Maker Score: 38%

Quality Game Score: 50%

PFF Grade: 86.0

2019 Snap Count: 1,069 (94%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 3.0%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 0.7%

2019 Sack Frequency: 1.8%

2019 Total Pressures: 75

Chandler Jones is another candidate that is coming off a strong 2019 season. Jones managed 19 sacks for the Cardinals and was the definition of an “every down linebacker” by playing 94% of snaps. What is most interesting to me is that FantasyPros has Jones ranked 50th, which I think is well below where he should be. Granted we will likely see some regression from Jones, but I am still projecting him to put up 40 or more tackles on the year and still hit double digit sacks. At 50th a guy is unlikely to fall into the starter category, but I personally have him in the range of early 30s which would make him on par with a LB3 that you’d be able to start at DL.

Za’Darius Smith

FantasyPros Rank: 51

2019 Points (Per Game): 163.00 (10.19)

2020 Projection: 161.25

Consistency Variable: 0.87

Difference Maker Score: 25%

Quality Game Score: 38%

PFF Grade: 89.7

2019 Snap Count: 976 (84%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 6.5%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 1.5%

2019 Sack Frequency: 4.2%

2019 Total Pressures: 105

At the beginning of the 2019 season the Packers’ defense was impressing people thanks to the efforts of “Team Smith.” Za’Darius and Preston managed to combine for over 30 sacks, but Za’Darius was the real standout addition. Again, we might see some regression from Smith who had a career year in 2019, but I would think it might be minimal based on the Packers’ ability to scheme defenders. When attempting to project IDP players (or even DST) you will quickly realize that big time plays such as sacks and interceptions have a variance so high that it usually is unreliable; however, things such as total pressures and sacks can provide a more reliable picture into how a defender will perform. With that in mind, Smith managed 105 pressures last season which is the most out of any player on this list by far.

I used FantasyPros as my rankings range based on its popularity and use as a barometer for how most “experts” would rank players; however, here are a few other guys I thought were worth mentioning whether you’re in an IDP league with a larger number of starters or are just looking for a few deep picks. NOTE: If you’re drafting in an IDP league with long-term implications (Keeper/Dynasty) than it’s also worth noting that Dont’a Hightower would also be on this list, but has been left off due to his decision to opt-out of the 2020 season.

Vic Beasley

FantasyPros Rank: 79

2019 Points (Per Game): 109.50 (6.84)

2020 Projection: 116.75

Consistency Variable: 0.80

Difference Maker Score: 13%

Quality Game Score: 19%

PFF Grade: 58.9

2019 Snap Count: 757 (73%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 3.6%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 0.4%

2019 Sack Frequency: 1.2%

2019 Total Pressures: 36

Vic Beasley is an interesting candidate for this list because his usage for this season is somewhat unknown, having joined the Titans this offseason after spending five years in Atlanta. To me this becomes even more muddy since the latest news about Beasley is that he is currently considered to be MIA by the team. The addition of Beasley to the Titans defense will provide them with some needed rush ability as he was brought in to help fill the holes created by the departures of Jurrell Casey and Cameron Wake. To me this was the ideal situation for a player to find opportunity and prove that he deserves more than a one-year deal; however, because of whatever is going on now with him being away from the team I’m leaning more towards not touching Beasley this year, especially in redraft leagues drafting before late August, in case this is leading to an opt-out.

Foyesade Oluokun

FantasyPros Rank: 87

2019 Points (Per Game): 73.00 (4.56)

2020 Projection: 112.25

Consistency Variable: 0.80

Difference Maker Score: 0%

Quality Game Score: 6%

PFF Grade: 62.7

2019 Snap Count: 310 (30%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 11.9%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 0.0%

2019 Sack Frequency: 0.0%

2019 Total Pressures: 0

Foyesade Oluokun is a name that most people will not know and will struggle to pronounce, but Oluokun is another poster child for team opportunity. This offseason the Falcons lost De’Vondre Campbell and based on sound bites from Dan Quinn the expectation is that the third year LB will be expected to fill that void. Despite being on the field for only a third of the team’s defensive snaps last year, Oluokun managed an impressive 37 tackles to hit an 11.9% tackle frequency. This likely makes him a better late round target in IDP leagues that run a tackle forward scoring system versus one that puts more emphasis on big plays, but with 0 career sacks it can only go up from here. Ultimately, I am considering Oluokun a low floor high ceiling guy that would not surprise me by somehow sneaking into the top-50.

Jaylon Ferguson

FantasyPros Rank: 120

2019 Points (Per Game): 64.75 (4.63)

2020 Projection: 58.25

Consistency Variable: 1.01

Difference Maker Score: 7%

Quality Game Score: 7%

PFF Grade: 59.2

2019 Snap Count: 533 (51%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 4.9%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 1.3%

2019 Sack Frequency: 0.4%

2019 Total Pressures: 31

I will openly admit that the addition of Jaylon Ferguson to this list might just be the Ravens fan in me. Despite a bit of a slow start at the beginning of the season Ferguson was able to work his way into Baltimore’s LB rotation and found his place in the back half of the year after getting a chance to start thanks to an injury to Pernell McPhee. There is a lot of competition for rush opportunities on this stacked defense and the sophomore LB will need to really stand out this year to keep his spot on the field. Ferguson was a third-round pick in the 2019 draft who had great potential based on his performance at Louisiana Tech. My hope is that the lack of an offseason does not impact Ferguson’s progression in the league, and he can earn a spot alongside Matt Judon. I think Ferguson is the kind of guy who has the potential for a breakout, but the trick will be figuring out just when that will happen.

Nicholas Morrow

FantasyPros Rank: 103

2019 Points (Per Game): 102.00 (6.38)

2020 Projection: 86.75

Consistency Variable: 0.61

Difference Maker Score: 0%

Quality Game Score: 0%

PFF Grade: 45.4

2019 Snap Count: 728 (70%)

2019 Tackle Frequency: 7.8%

2019 QB Hit Frequency: 0.7%

2019 Sack Frequency: 0.0%

2019 Total Pressures: 9

Nicholas Morrow is an odd man out on this list. The biggest advantage you can find in IDP is the edge role where a guy can be plugged in at DL while putting up LB numbers. When ranking positions based on scoring capability it goes LB > DB > DL so being able to make that swap in a DL starting position to “cheat” the system creates an advantage. With that in mind it becomes just as reliable a strategy to bring in a LB who can fit the DB role. This is much less common because there’s a clearer distinction between a guy set to rush the edge and a guy pushing coverage, but Nicholas Morrow might be our best example of a player who gets a LB/DB designation. It might be generous to say that Morrow has had three average years in Oakland, but he is clearly a guy they want to keep around. When breaking down Morrow’s snaps by position, the Raiders used him in coverage on just under 14% of his snaps so I guess it makes sense that they would include the DB designation. Morrow has had a few good coverage games and a few good games from inside the box, but really is not a standout for either position. Where you might find value for Morrow would be in those larger leagues where at least 100 or more LBs will be drafted.

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