15 Fantasy Football Studs To Target In IDP Leagues

1 of 16

15 Fantasy Football Studs to Target in IDP Leagues

nfl
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football draft strategy and preparation has become a huge industry. It’s estimated that around 32 million Americans played in 2012 and Forbes estimated that fantasy football cost employers around $6.5 billion in productivity last year. Sites like USA Today have dedicated tremendous resources to providing fantasy information for their readers.

And it’s hard. There are as many different types of leagues and rules as there are types of players. One key difference between leagues is whether managers draft an entire defensive unit or individual defensive players (IDP). The distribution of IDPs can vary, but typically consists of some balance of defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. Obviously it can get more or less specific depending on the settings of your league.

I have always preferred IDP leagues over team defense leagues. Drafting an entire unit was too much of a crapshoot for me, and didn’t allow me the opportunity to play the matchups that I wanted. But strategy for which IDPs to select is a little different than picking offensive players.

First, drafting a defensive player is about opportunities. Some really talented players just don’t get enough chances to make plays to be viable in fantasy. When you are scouting potential defensive players, you want to look for players who don’t have to come off the field on third down, or only play in sub packages. You can’t score points sitting on the bench.

Second, you must balance the value of the big play. It’s the tortoise and the hare. Some players, particularly inside linebackers and sometimes safeties, are tackling machines. The leading tackler in the NFL in 2012 had 164 total tackles, just over 10 a game. Depending on how your league is scored, that could be a nice 10 points per game, and well worth a mid-round selection. But typically, those players don’t give you many flashy stats. What I mean by that are things like sacks, interceptions and forced/recovered fumbles. You need to balance your roster with a few of the hares as well. These are either pass rush specialists or defensive backs with a nose for the football. These are feast-or-famine type players. As a rule, a sack or interception is worth much more than a tackle so if you get a player like this, you might not be able to count on a steady dose of 7-12 point games like the tortoise, but a few times a year, they will give you numbers like a starting offensive player and that can save a week, or a season.

As I am researching for my upcoming fantasy football drafts, I have compiled a list of the 15 players I will be targeting at various points in the back half of my drafts, all of which bring a little something different to the table.

Curt covers the NFL Draft for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard and on Google+.

2 of 16

Navorro Bowman, LB San Francisco 49ers

nfl
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bowman is a tackling machine. Bowman had double digit tackles seven times in 2012, which makes him a great every-week play as he will slip in the occasional sack to boost points.

3 of 16

Cameron Wake, DE Miami Dolphins

NFL
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

If your IDP league mandates defensive linemen, Wake is hard to pass up. It seems each week he either brings it as a tackler or as a pass rusher, and with more help on defense this year, those numbers should just keep going up.

4 of 16

Charles Johnson, DE Carolina Panthers

NFL
Chris Hanwinckle-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson is a risky pick as he scores in bunches. One week he'll only have two tackles, and the next week he'll have eight with 3.5 sacks thrown in for good measure. If your team is strong enough to weather his down weeks, his up weeks will pay off.

5 of 16

Derrick Johnson, LB Kansas City Chiefs

nfl
Tim Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson is similar to Bowman in that he is a tackling machine. He finds the football all over the field. The best part about Johnson is that as he is more of an unknown, he can likely be had several rounds after Bowman and yield similar production.

6 of 16

D'Qwell Jackson, LB Cleveland Browns

nfl
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson is moving into a new defensive system this year, and it should allow him to cut loose and be even more of a fantasy stud. Getting tackles is always the key to Jackson's game, but I expect a big improvement in his coverage responsibilities, and that means more points.

7 of 16

Eric Berry, S Kansas City Chiefs

nfl
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting a defensive back is always risky because so many plays are made in front of them. Berry is going to have lots of plays funneled to him this year and assuming he's healthy, he should be a 7-8 tackle per game guy with some interceptions thrown in.

8 of 16

Geno Atkins, DT Cincinnati Bengals

nfl
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting a defensive tackle is not terribly common in fantasy football as stats are hard to come by. But if you have to draft one, Atkins makes a lot of sense. Atkins can get penetration, and I wouldn't rule out double-digit sacks for him in 2013.

9 of 16

Lavonte David, LB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

nfl
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

David make a great sleeper pick at linebacker because most have him rated fairly low. This is due to the fact that other than tackles, David doesn't bring a whole lot. However, David is an excellent tackler and I won't be at all shocked if he leads the league in tackles in 2013.

10 of 16

Luke Kuechly, LB Carolina Panthers

nfl
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Kuechly is the tortoise of fantasy football. You draft him and he's going to give you excellent production every week. He had 10 games with more than 10 tackles in 2012, and is the type of linebacker you just plug in and forget about all season.

11 of 16

Barkevious Mingo, LB Cleveland Browns

NFL
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting rookies is always risky, but Mingo in that attacking 3-4 defense has a lot of potential. He might not be worth a draft pick but should be a priority guy to watch on the waiver wire. It won't take long to see if he's going to be an impact rookie and an impact pick-up.

12 of 16

Robert Quinn, DE St. Louis Rams

nfl
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Quinn is my candidate to break out this season. He was essentially a pass rush specialist in 2012 with 10.5 sacks, but as the rest of the Rams defensive line improves, I expect Quinn's numbers to do so as well. He's another player to leave on waivers and track as a pick-up.

13 of 16

Sean Lee, LB Dallas Cowboys

NFL
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Lee's season was cut short last year, but in his four starts, he showed what he is capable of. A new defense will be interesting for Lee, but assuming he's healthy, he is going to rack up the tackle numbers and should be able to mix in some sacks and interceptions during the course of the year.

14 of 16

Clay Matthews, LB Green Bay Packers

NFL
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Matthews had a bit of a down year in 2012, which is why I am including him as a stud due for a rebound in 2013. 13 sacks is nothing to sneeze at, but Matthews has the potential to do even more.

15 of 16

Lawrence Timmons, LB Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Problems with the Steelers' pass rush forced Timmons into more pass rushing situations late in 2012 and he really responded. If 22 tackles and five sacks in his final three games are a predictor of what to expect in 2013, Timmons should be a top target.

16 of 16

J.J. Watt, DE Houston Texans

NFL
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Hail to the king! Watt is the undisputed top defensive fantasy football player. 81 total tackles and 20.5 sacks puts him in a completely different class over other defensive players. When you compound that with the fact he is designated as a defensive end, he becomes even more valuable. It's not often a defensive end can put up those kinds of numbers, but it's completely unheard of in 3-4.

1 of 16

15 Fantasy Football Studs to Target in IDP Leagues

nfl
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football draft strategy and preparation has become a huge industry. It’s estimated that around 32 million Americans played in 2012 and Forbes estimated that fantasy football cost employers around $6.5 billion in productivity last year. Sites like USA Today have dedicated tremendous resources to providing fantasy information for their readers.

And it’s hard. There are as many different types of leagues and rules as there are types of players. One key difference between leagues is whether managers draft an entire defensive unit or individual defensive players (IDP). The distribution of IDPs can vary, but typically consists of some balance of defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. Obviously it can get more or less specific depending on the settings of your league.

I have always preferred IDP leagues over team defense leagues. Drafting an entire unit was too much of a crapshoot for me, and didn’t allow me the opportunity to play the matchups that I wanted. But strategy for which IDPs to select is a little different than picking offensive players.

First, drafting a defensive player is about opportunities. Some really talented players just don’t get enough chances to make plays to be viable in fantasy. When you are scouting potential defensive players, you want to look for players who don’t have to come off the field on third down, or only play in sub packages. You can’t score points sitting on the bench.

Second, you must balance the value of the big play. It’s the tortoise and the hare. Some players, particularly inside linebackers and sometimes safeties, are tackling machines. The leading tackler in the NFL in 2012 had 164 total tackles, just over 10 a game. Depending on how your league is scored, that could be a nice 10 points per game, and well worth a mid-round selection. But typically, those players don’t give you many flashy stats. What I mean by that are things like sacks, interceptions and forced/recovered fumbles. You need to balance your roster with a few of the hares as well. These are either pass rush specialists or defensive backs with a nose for the football. These are feast-or-famine type players. As a rule, a sack or interception is worth much more than a tackle so if you get a player like this, you might not be able to count on a steady dose of 7-12 point games like the tortoise, but a few times a year, they will give you numbers like a starting offensive player and that can save a week, or a season.

As I am researching for my upcoming fantasy football drafts, I have compiled a list of the 15 players I will be targeting at various points in the back half of my drafts, all of which bring a little something different to the table.

Curt covers the NFL Draft for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard and on Google+.

2 of 16

Navorro Bowman, LB San Francisco 49ers

nfl
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bowman is a tackling machine. Bowman had double digit tackles seven times in 2012, which makes him a great every-week play as he will slip in the occasional sack to boost points.

3 of 16

Cameron Wake, DE Miami Dolphins

NFL
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

If your IDP league mandates defensive linemen, Wake is hard to pass up. It seems each week he either brings it as a tackler or as a pass rusher, and with more help on defense this year, those numbers should just keep going up.

4 of 16

Charles Johnson, DE Carolina Panthers

NFL
Chris Hanwinckle-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson is a risky pick as he scores in bunches. One week he'll only have two tackles, and the next week he'll have eight with 3.5 sacks thrown in for good measure. If your team is strong enough to weather his down weeks, his up weeks will pay off.

5 of 16

Derrick Johnson, LB Kansas City Chiefs

nfl
Tim Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson is similar to Bowman in that he is a tackling machine. He finds the football all over the field. The best part about Johnson is that as he is more of an unknown, he can likely be had several rounds after Bowman and yield similar production.

6 of 16

D'Qwell Jackson, LB Cleveland Browns

nfl
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson is moving into a new defensive system this year, and it should allow him to cut loose and be even more of a fantasy stud. Getting tackles is always the key to Jackson's game, but I expect a big improvement in his coverage responsibilities, and that means more points.

7 of 16

Eric Berry, S Kansas City Chiefs

nfl
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting a defensive back is always risky because so many plays are made in front of them. Berry is going to have lots of plays funneled to him this year and assuming he's healthy, he should be a 7-8 tackle per game guy with some interceptions thrown in.

8 of 16

Geno Atkins, DT Cincinnati Bengals

nfl
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting a defensive tackle is not terribly common in fantasy football as stats are hard to come by. But if you have to draft one, Atkins makes a lot of sense. Atkins can get penetration, and I wouldn't rule out double-digit sacks for him in 2013.

9 of 16

Lavonte David, LB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

nfl
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

David make a great sleeper pick at linebacker because most have him rated fairly low. This is due to the fact that other than tackles, David doesn't bring a whole lot. However, David is an excellent tackler and I won't be at all shocked if he leads the league in tackles in 2013.

10 of 16

Luke Kuechly, LB Carolina Panthers

nfl
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Kuechly is the tortoise of fantasy football. You draft him and he's going to give you excellent production every week. He had 10 games with more than 10 tackles in 2012, and is the type of linebacker you just plug in and forget about all season.

11 of 16

Barkevious Mingo, LB Cleveland Browns

NFL
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting rookies is always risky, but Mingo in that attacking 3-4 defense has a lot of potential. He might not be worth a draft pick but should be a priority guy to watch on the waiver wire. It won't take long to see if he's going to be an impact rookie and an impact pick-up.

12 of 16

Robert Quinn, DE St. Louis Rams

nfl
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Quinn is my candidate to break out this season. He was essentially a pass rush specialist in 2012 with 10.5 sacks, but as the rest of the Rams defensive line improves, I expect Quinn's numbers to do so as well. He's another player to leave on waivers and track as a pick-up.

13 of 16

Sean Lee, LB Dallas Cowboys

NFL
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Lee's season was cut short last year, but in his four starts, he showed what he is capable of. A new defense will be interesting for Lee, but assuming he's healthy, he is going to rack up the tackle numbers and should be able to mix in some sacks and interceptions during the course of the year.

14 of 16

Clay Matthews, LB Green Bay Packers

NFL
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Matthews had a bit of a down year in 2012, which is why I am including him as a stud due for a rebound in 2013. 13 sacks is nothing to sneeze at, but Matthews has the potential to do even more.

15 of 16

Lawrence Timmons, LB Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Problems with the Steelers' pass rush forced Timmons into more pass rushing situations late in 2012 and he really responded. If 22 tackles and five sacks in his final three games are a predictor of what to expect in 2013, Timmons should be a top target.

16 of 16

J.J. Watt, DE Houston Texans

NFL
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Hail to the king! Watt is the undisputed top defensive fantasy football player. 81 total tackles and 20.5 sacks puts him in a completely different class over other defensive players. When you compound that with the fact he is designated as a defensive end, he becomes even more valuable. It's not often a defensive end can put up those kinds of numbers, but it's completely unheard of in 3-4.


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