While they may not have the appeal of the skilled guys, defensive players should not be overlooked when it comes to Fantasy Football.
That’s right, I’m talking IDP.
For those of you who are new, IDP stands for Individual Defensive Players. There are separate leagues where fantasy owners strictly draft defensive players and go through the season that way. Or, in my case, you can do your normal league with skilled players and incorporate IDP into the league. It brings a whole new element to the game of fantasy. Each and every year, this format becomes more and more popular, almost becoming an expected way to play Fantasy Football. Still, while it isn’t the most popular way to play, one defensive player can change the outlook of a fantasy matchup. Take me, for instance. A few years back, I was down by six points with only Terrell Suggs left to play for my roster. Suggs ended up getting multiple sacks and tackles and put me over the top. Trust me, it makes a difference and quite frankly, is fun because it allows owners to look at games in a whole different light.
For instance, say there is a Browns, Ravens game on and it’s a defensive outing. The score is 9-6 and there is no fantasy relevance from guys like Ray Rice or Trent Richardson. Instead of immediately turning the game off, people will tend to actually watch the game to see if their IDP guys can make a play. That’s one of the beauties of Fantasy Football in general. If you haven’t tried IDP yet and are considering taking the plunge, I’d advise everyone to at least try it. Regardless, it’s the middle of June and we are approaching the start of fantasy leagues. For those who will be giving IDP a go this year, I have provided you with some of the top guys to target in your drafts. Keep in mind, however, that just because you are drafting defensive players, that doesn’t mean you need to reach on them. I’d wait until between rounds eight and ten to grab your first guy, and if a run of defensive guys occurs, so be it. Add more depth to your offensive guys. Anyway, keep the following players on your IDP radars this summer.
J.J. Watt, Houston Texans: After a dominating 2012 campaign, there is no doubt that Watt should be considered the number one IDP guy as we approach 2013. Last year, Watt posted 20.5 sacks (1st in league), 81 combined tackles and four forced fumbles. Yikes, alliteration much? This elite performance led Watt to the Defensive Player of the Year award and has him atop of the IDP rankings. Watt was constantly in the opponent’s backfield, as 23 of his 81 tackles went for a loss. For what it’s worth, Watt wasn’t even 100 percent healthy all of last season, as he dealt with a significant elbow injury throughout the year. Fantasy owners knew what they were getting out of Watt last season. He posted five multi-sack games and at one point, went six consecutive games with one. And of course, if your league rewards points for pass deflections, J.J. Swat, as many called him, will make for an elite fantasy option.
Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers: If you are anything like me, you will be targeting linebackers to carry the load for your IDP players. And after an absolute breakout rookie campaign, why not look at Kuechly? As a rookie, this kid led the entire league in tackles with 164. While he only finished with one sack, Kuechly did have two interceptions and recovered three fumbles. If you want tackles, look no further than Kuechly. Like I said, he led the league, but his week to week safety was top notch. Fantasy owners received a whopping 10 games in which he finished with double-digit combined tackles. It will be interesting to see what happens when Jon Beason returns from injury (only played four games last year), but the bottom line is Kuechly is a stud and warrants IDP attention.
London Fletcher, Washington Redskins: As a Bills fan, I was devastated when they let Fletcher go. He is one of my favorite players in football, so of course I am putting him as one of my top IDP options. 2012 was Fletcher’s 12th straight season posting at least 110 tackles, which speaks volumes about his consistency. I’ve watched Fletcher a ton over the years and he is one of the smartest players in the game. He always knows where to be and is involved in literally every play. As for 2012, Fletcher finished inside the top-10 in tackles and posted a career high five interceptions, which only adds to his fantasy value. Like Kuechly, Fletcher tackles everything, posting seven double-digit tackle games. At 38-years old, many worry about him aging, but he has been heavily producing for years now. Expect a bit of regression, but not enough to bump him out of my top options.
Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars: Another former Bills player grabs my IDP attention. Posluszny continues to emerge as one of the best young linebackers in football. The 28-year old finished the 2012 season with 139 combined tackles, which landed him inside the top 10. It was his fifth straight year with at least 100 tackles in a season and is the anchor of that Jaguars defensive unit. Known for his tackling, Posluszny also contributed in other aspects for fantasy owners. He tied for a career high with three interceptions and forced two fumbles. After experiencing some issues staying on the field in Buffalo, Posluszny has now played in all 16 regular season games in each of the past two years. He is still young and quite frankly, can only get better from here.
For the most part, linebackers rule the IDP world, mostly because they have the best chance to get fantasy owners a little bit of everything. Clearly, they will tackle everything that moves, but can provide a few interceptions and sacks as well. Outside of Watt, that is the position you most likely want to base your IDP unit off. Of course, it also depends on your league settings, which should be scrutinized before drafting.
Give IDP a try, won’t you?
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.