Jerod Mayo - 100 Tackle Rookie
Now using fairly standard scoring in a PPR (points per reception) league, let's take a look at where these defensive players ended up relative to offensive players in 2008. Jason Witten was last season's top scoring Tight End with 204 points. The points for the guys above would have equated them to the best TE, the 23rd best Wide Receiver and 40th best Running Back. I used a PPR format because most leagues using IDP also include points per reception, but if you happen to be in a league that doesn't, Witten only scored 123 points, and the defensive players above would have equated to the 30th best RB, and Andre Johnson, the second highest scoring WR. This is why it's imperative you know your scoring system and do the research.
So knowing this, where would you start drafting defensive players based on the current ADP (average draft pick)? Well. Jason Witten is currently going in the third round and I think we can all agree, that's too early. However, round eight is not too early to grab a top IDP. BUT... I don't recommend it. I'd wait until somewhere between the 10th to 13th rounds to start drafting IDPs for the reasons listed below.
Before you start drafting IDP's it's important to keep a few things (rules) in mind.
Rule 1: While IDPs can outscore a lot of offensive players, there is good depth at IDP positions so you can wait and get them later, and if you've done your homework, steal the gems. Always fill your active offense first (kickers excluded) and key depth at QB/WR/RB. Then you can stock up on IDPs.
Rule 2: Go for the tackle monsters who consistently score points each week. Sacks and interceptions are nice, but both are rare and mercurial. You can go three weeks with none then get two in one game. The most sacks by a player in 2008 was 20, and only a dozen players had 10 or more. The most interceptions was nine, and only five players had more than five. At least 30 players had 100 or more total tackles. That's the equivalent of one touchdown per week on average. Consistency wins championships.
Rule 3: If you reach for an IDP early, grab a top DL first. They are the thinnest fantasy relevant position. There are only about 6-10 worth grabbing early. If you miss out on them, wait. Do some research on sleepers and rookies at that position. Every season a couple of new names emerge who have fantasy value. Last year LB Jerod Mayo was touted as an IDP rookie to watch. He had 100 tackles in his first season. I took him in every draft in my final few picks. This season at the DL position rookies like Cliff Avril, Derrick Harvey and Brian Orakpo are guys worth a look, who you can get late.
Rule 4: Work the free agent pool and waiver wire as the season progresses. While other owners are snapping up the guy who had a career week on offense, that he's never likely to repeat again, you keep an eye on who is consistently putting up points each week on defense. Don't be afraid to upgrade a proven name who is not performing, with someone who is getting the job done now. The reverse of that is, keep an eye open for top guys who started slow who get dropped by owners who had no patience. Wait until at least week three or four of the season before snapping guys up. Which leads me to...
Rule 5: Don't grab a guy simply because he put up 10 tackles one week. Unless you have a deep bench to watch how he does over several games, you may hurt your team grabbing a fluke one week performer. Throughout the season, guys who regularly get only a couple of tackles and minor fantasy points will have a huge week. It's called luck, and can't be counted on. Next week they'll crash back to earth.
Rule 6: Other owners are almost universally going to work on improving their offense first. This is where getting your depth on offense early in the draft will pay deep dividends after the draft. Guys who lack depth or came up short in some area or another will need to make trades. If you have what they need, you want to include an upgrade of your own on defense. A lot of owners will give up too much to get the offense they want. As an example, in a draft I did the other night I got Jason Witten and Dallas Clark at tight end. Another owner thought he was hurting for a quality tight end (he got Owen Daniels) so I offered him Clark for Daniels and LB Kirk Morrison (who had 100 tackles last year). He took the trade. I still have depth at TE to trade, and I have another 100 tackle IDP. You may not get a guy this clueless, but you can always make a better trade for yourself when you shoehorn in an IDP coming back to you.
Some final repetitive advice: Know your league scoring as this can quickly change your strategy, and put as much effort (if not more) into your defensive research as you do offensive. Everyone seems to know who the top offensive players, rookies and sleepers are. Most owners only do minimal work on researching their IDP picks. This is why you will win your league, because you're reading articles like this one.
Check back next week for updated IDP rankings, sleeper and rookie picks.