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End of Season IDP Report

Reviewing the IDP fantasy players that overachieved and underachieved this season, and a recommended 2022 draft strategy.

Well, IDP managers, we’ve come to the end of the road—cue the Boyz II Men music.

Rather than provide waiver wire recommendations for Week 18, when most leagues have already completed, I thought it might be more useful to recap the year.

So, let’s talk about the highs, lows, injuries, notes and give a little look-ahead to 2022 with both a redraft and dynasty spin.

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Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) celebrates with teammate defensive tackle Armon Watts (96) after sacking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Minneapolis.

Overachievers

Linebackers: Foyesade Oluokun had a decent 2020 season, but he took it to another level this year and likely has a big lead as the overall LB1 in scoring. De’Vondre Campbell may have been a late sleeper, but he likely went undrafted, yet he’s produced like Roquan Smith and Bobby Wagner. To be fair, we’ve been waiting on Denzel Perryman to have a big year for years now. Injuries and inconsistency held him back. Who’d have thought a late summer trade before this season to the Raiders would be just what the doctor ordered? Cole Holcomb really blossomed this year in Washington and took the stats some were hoping would go to rookie Jamin Davis.

Defensive linemen: Cameron Heyward has never been the most attractive DL option despite being a low-end DL1, but he put it all together in 2021 with high tackle production combined with healthy dose of sacks. Trey Hendrickson was thought of as a possible one-year wonder after posting 13.5 sacks in 2020, but he followed it up with another huge season. “Don’t call me the other” Josh Allen bounced back in a big way after a knee injury cut short his 2020 season. Another guy who deserves an honorable mention is Sebastian Joseph-Day—a virtual unknown. He was a solid DL1 and flirted with DT1 overall before his season was cut short.

Defensive backs: Harrison Smith somehow managed to have arguably his best season statistically at the ripe old age of 32. It clearly doesn’t say much about the Vikings' defense that their strong safety is getting so much work, but that’s an argument for another day. Minkah Fitzpatrick has never quite been much of an IDP guy but he turned that around with career-best tackle stats. And maybe one of the most under-appreciated defenders of the year, Jalen Thompson, absolutely killed it in his third year. His 2020 season was forgettable with injuries sidelining him. Special shoutouts to Rasul Douglas and Trevon Diggs for intercepting their way into fantasy relevance.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs away from Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (90) after a catch during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.

Underachievers

Linebackers: Joe Schobert, Zach Cunningham and Tremaine Edmunds were frequently among the top names called at the linebacker position, but they fell well short of expectations. All failed to be among the top 30 LB scorers. Cunningham was cut by the Texans, although he landed back on his feet with the Titans. Schobert and the Steelers' defense didn’t look right this year. He’s never been much of a playmaker but a decline in tackles and almost no big play impact pushed him outside the top 25 in scoring. Also, what happened to Devin Bush? He missed a few games, but this was supposed to be a bounce-back year—or not.

Defensive linemen: I think this year’s biggest underachiever has to be Jason Pierre-Paul. Father Time seems to finally caught up to him, although he was dinged up all year it seemed. Maxx Crosby disappointed me this year. He disappeared for huge stretches for the season, delivering only six sacks. Since his breakout rookie year, Crosby’s production has been backsliding.

Defensive backs: John Johnson didn’t show up this year. What’s crazy to me is Grant Delpit, the second-stringer with 320 fewer snaps, had four more tackles (63) than Johnson (59). Jessie Bates saw a decline in stats although I don’t think he was bad. The position was more or less stable outside of injuries. Budda Baker had some really lousy games in the middle of the year, but he still managed to eke out a borderline DB1 season.

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Thoughts & Takeaways

Once you get past what I would call beginner IDP leagues (three or fewer IDP starters), the real strategy of this format takes shape. Generally speaking, I think this year illustrates there’s certainly a Tier 1 at every position and a smattering of Tier 2 players. Beyond that, it’s a constant rotation affected by injuries and depth chart changes.

Campbell was likely a top two or three LB this year in your league, but he was basically a throwaway free agent signing by the Packers who was on the roster bubble according to beat writers just ahead of the season. Perryman, another guy who could’ve challenged to be the overall LB1 if he had not gotten hurt ahead of Week 14, was another known commodity who had a decent, but underwhelming career up to this point. He was a breakout performer. Certainly every position in fantasy football experiences tidal forces that create a constant tug-of-war throughout the year. Injuries pile on at running back, handcuffs come in and do a solid job.

However, IDP is a bit of a crapshoot to see who settles into their respective roles. Certainty is restricted to a handful of players per position. Ultimately, it comes back to opportunity and a lack of coverage. Since offenses make all the headlines and fantasy football centers around that side of the ball, it’s harder to track and gain insight on defensive players without more research.

Conventional wisdom would tell you that big playmakers who collect lots of sacks and interceptions are your best options, but the IDP game is best experienced with a tackle-centric scoring system. Everybody knew Ray Lewis was one of the best of all-time (1,568 career solo tackles, 1st all-time), but did they know London Fletcher (1,384 solos, 2nd)? Everybody knew Derrick Brooks (1,300 solos, 3rd) was the glue that held together those incredible Tampa Bay defenses. But what about Donnie Edwards (1,135, 4th), who was terrorizing the AFC West for more than a decade?

The point being is that players with limited visibility and basically zero media coverage are often some of the best IDPs. You have to keep that in mind on draft day! How?

I would sum it up by saying it’s best to—while keeping your scoring system and roster size in mind,—cover your bases with Tiers 1 & 2 players at each IDP position, then punt your IDP bench. Assuming your offensive players score significantly more points, I’d rather snag my fifth or sixth WR and wait for my third LB.

Beyond that, every week, I am churning my IDP bench.

What I really like to do is draft three stud receivers in the first four rounds, maybe even four in the first five. This takes all the guesswork out of the position and your studs are locked in all-year. Injuries can derail any good plan though. But, for example, I had Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs and Cooper Kupp in one IDP league this year and this allowed me to churn every position while maintaining a very short WR bench. Since I didn’t have to roster more than five or six receivers all year, I took more chances on fill-in running backs and followed the hot hand in my IDP bench. Does this style work for everyone? Probably not, if you can’t commit the time to really watch the news reports, snap counts and put effort in your waiver wire to find the hidden gems.

Maybe you did all that and more and it didn’t pan out—that’s the game. But for next year, just add the guy who scored the most points the previous week.

For those diehards still reading this deep, keep an eye out for way-too-early and dynasty IDP rankings coming this offseason.

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