No surprise to see the rankings dominated by linebackers, as they are the higher scoring position and the most consistent. Darius Leonard comes in as the number one option again, as he dominated scoring all while missing a few games as well. Leonard is great in racking up tackles, and also has shown the ability to force turnovers in back-to-back years. Turnovers and touchdowns are tough to predict for defensive players, especially because they do not happen on a grand scale. Leonard has been the top linebacker each season since returning and barring a major injury, it is hard to see that changing for 2020.
There continue to be other consistent linebackers, like Bobby Wagner and Cory Littleton. Both are strong weekly plays who bring consistent production, and Littleton also breaks out that weekly upside now and then. Pittsburgh was the top-scoring overall fantasy defense last season, and that brought some strong names to the table. T.J. Watt was one of the top IDP plays last season and a force in terms of bringing down the quarterback. The rookie Devin Bush also produced a strong year. While he isn’t in that top tier of defensive lineman, Cameron Heyward was a reliable option that generated a lot of production out of the nose tackle spot. That isn’t necessarily easy to do.
The yearly scoring for defensive lineman continues to fluctuate. Look at Aaron Donald for instance. Coming off a strong 2018, he was double-teamed a ton in 2019 and didn’t have the same fantasy impact. J.J. Watt has fallen off as well, leading to new names like Danielle Hunter and Cameron Jordon to be the more reliable edge rushers. Hunter and Jordan both have dominated in the sacks department, and the Bosa Brothers are not far behind either.
Outside of just a few names, the secondary position scoring is a wildly variant one to trust. Jamal Adams, Budda Baker, and Eric Reid have been consistent, but outside of that it is a tough position to trust. Secondary players that also do make tackles is a big advantage, but you generally will have to draft higher to get them. Tracy Walker and Budda Baker are two names that surpassed 80 tackles last season. A lot of the time you are relying on the big turnover plays or hoping for a few pass deflections. This results in a lot of lower floor weeks compared to the rest of the positions.
IDP Draft Strategy
There are a lot of different roster formats that tie into IDP leagues. You can have rosters that just require to have a few defensive players, where positions do not matter. There also can be truly designated positions with cornerbacks, safeties, defensive ends, etc. Most of the time you will have just a set of defensive lineman, linebackers, and secondary players. It is important to understand how the roster format is, as well as how scoring works. There is a lot more creativity in IDP leagues, so it can vary draft strategies. Scoring could weight tackling higher, be balanced, or weight turnovers and touchdowns higher. This is also very important to understand. It plays into your offensive players as well, because if defensive players score closer to offensive players, then drafting will be different. If offensive players are weighted much higher, that means you can sit back in the draft and wait till closer to the end.
Looking at each position, we will start with defensive linemen. There is a pretty clear front few guys that will go a few rounds ahead of the rest of the defensive options, but this is a pretty inconsistent position at times. There are also not a ton of options, even though the league has been getting deeper here over the last few games. This is a position to watch and wait for. I don’t necessarily want to bite on any of the top names at their ADP unless I feel comfortable with the rest of my lineup, but missing out on at least the first few tiers, you could be struggling to fill these needs later on.
Linebackers are the easy plug and play options each week. If your league does not have designated slots, and instead just use defensive players, linebackers are the most consistent options and also the deepest of any of the defensive positions. They are dependable, and there are a few things to look for when drafting IDP players, and that is mostly how many snaps they are playing. Linebackers sometimes will play the first two downs and then leave the field, while some come in solely for third-down purposes. You also have workhorse backs who play all three downs.
The secondary is a position with a lot of depth. This is also an easy position to stream weekly. Scoring is volatile, but that is going to affect everyone, not just you. Because there will be waiver wire options and this will not be a high fantasy scoring position, look to wrap up the rest of your positions before drafting players in the secondary. There are going to be names that didn’t finish in the top 30 last year be in that range for 2020, and vice versa.
IDP Fantasy Football Rankings Frequently Asked Questions
Darius Leonard was one of the best again, despite playing just 13 games. He was the top scoring defensive player in 2018, with Aaron Donald and JJ Watt just behind him. In 2019 he finished as the 7th best player, while missing a few games. It was JJ’s brother, TJ Watt who had the best overall IDP season, finishing with over 190 points. His eight forced fumbles and 14.5 sacks were a big reason why he dominated. Shaquil Barrett is coming off of a 19.5 sack season, finishing second, and Chandler Jones was right there again. Now the only issue with these guys and drafting them for next season is that they will have to duplicate similar numbers in sacks to produce this many fantasy points. If they don’t, they won’t be up top.
This is one of the most popular questions for those now in an IDP league. It throws a wrench into the draft process. Like above, knowing your scoring system and roster format is going to be a big help, because it will dictate how you draft. One of the main rules I want you to keep in mind, is to not reach on defensive players. There are going to be more than enough to go around, and don’t draft solely on name value either. We would love to get Aaron Donald because he is a monster defensive lineman, but if you are passing up on some good wide receivers or running backs to do so, then that is a problem.
If there are just a few defensive positions to worry about on your roster, look at names later in the draft. The best way to go is to make sure your offensive roster is set on guys you like, but also still having depth before you dive into the defensive positions. You will be able to adjust on the fly with these defensive names.
What Defensive Player Has The Most Fantasy Points?
It was a monster year for TJ Watt and the Pittsburgh Steelers defense as a whole. Watt had 14.5 sacks, but he crushed in the turnover department. He had eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and two interceptions. Watt played all 16 games, and averaged 12.1 fantasy points per game.
What Defensive Player Has The Most Sacks?
It was Shaquil Barrett who led the league in sacks in 2019, sitting at 19.5. Chandler Jones finished just a half sack behind him. Barrett’s production came out of nowhere, as it was his first year with Tampa Bay after playing in Denver his entire career. He never had more than six sacks in a season while playing there. A change of scenery and in a new system as certainly changed his career outlook, and Tampa will look to retain him.
Going in line with the rest of the strategies, I wouldn't suggest overpowering your bench with defensive players if it takes away from having more flexibility with your offensive players. The answer is also going to be based on how many bench spots you have. Now if you have plenty of room to back up each of the three positions with a player, go ahead and do so. If not, there are going to be names to grab off the waiver wire instead.
How Do I Determine What The Best IDP Matchups Are?
Just like any other position, defensive players have strong and weak matchups. We can look at last year and find that the Titans, Panthers, and Jets were some of the weaker teams against opposing defensive lineman. For one they had weak offensive lines and allowed a lot of penetration early. Opposing offenses and offensive lines also can allow more production to linebackers, as once again Carolina was up there, but we really started to see the weaker teams in the league allow a hefty amount of fantasy points to opposing linebackers. Teams that threw the ball a lot, had bad quarterback play, or were always trailing tended to give up a lot of points to defensive backs. Now early on in the season these numbers won’t even out until later, but we will know who the poorer offensive lines to target are, and the same goes for pass happy offenses.
How Do Stream Defensive Players?
Streaming defensive players is just like streaming any other position. Identifying strong matchups off the waiver wire is a priority, and it creates the ability to adjust on the fly. Now if you drafted solely to stream defensive players, you also took advantage of loading up on offensive players while others were taking defensive guys. The one thing that is different is that injuries do not necessarily create instant production for other defensive players. Looking at who is performing in new roles or has a new system in place for this year is also going to give you an advantage over the field. This helps you view guys off the waiver wire. Matchups as mentioned above will be something to note as you can look into the weekly matchups and pluck the best names out there in the best spots. On occasion stronger defensive players will be dropped by opposing teams just due to bye weeks or an owner wanting to grab a strong offensive player over them. Don’t panic if your draft didn’t go as planned or you have found yourself with some injuries, streaming is an easy way to go.