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Behind the Iron Curtain - IDP Analysis
by Dave Foral
August 1, 2003
  Training camps are only a few weeks away in the NFL, and already there have been major shake-ups on the defensive rosters. High-profile rookies are expected to contribute quickly (Suggs, Newman, etc.)… which will pan out to become IDP contributors? Elite free agents have been picked up by teams with varying degrees of complexity and chemistry… do they still hold the same value as last year?

IDP has fast become more and more prevalent in fantasy leagues across the country, and we at The Huddle look forward to answering the critical questions and providing you with current and accurate analysis that will allow you to flourish and dominate in your league. This analysis will consist of:

Pre-Draft Rankings

From now until the start of the season, I will offer weekly, value-based rankings of defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. The methodology is one I’ve used for several years, and is composed of:

1) Past-Performance - In assigning projections, I look at how the player performed both during the entire previous year, and in the last 4 games of the year. If a starting player is a rookie, or a veteran involved in a trade or free-agent move, I also look at his predecessor’s production, and how these numbers might be affected by a superior or inferior player. Lastly, if there is a change in coaching or scheme, I anticipate how the IDP’s performance will be effected.

The scoring system I will use is the following:

Solo Tackle = 2 points
Assisted Tackle = 1 point
Fumble Recovery = 2 points
Safety = 2 points
Sack = 6 points
Touchdown = 6 points
Interception = 10 points

2) Intangibles - Once I have projected points per game, I then evaluate IDP’s for additional criteria that will have a bearing on performance. If a player is playing in the last year of his contract, odds are he will perform at his highest level. If a player participated in all eligible, regular season games last year, he has proven himself to be dependable and tough, and is rewarded accordingly. I also believe that if an IDP is surrounded by best-in-class talent at the other positions, he will be better allowed to perform at his best. For example, if a DB has one or two defensive linemen that are in the top tier of projected rankings, it safe to assume that there will be a fair share of QB hurries and better chances for interceptions. Lastly, I take into account strength of schedule. Against an “easy” schedule, your DL and DB corps should prosper, as the opposing team will likely fall behind and resort to passing situations. Therefore, the opportunities for sacks, INTs and tackles down field increase. Against a “hard” schedule, LB corps should prosper, as the better opponent will tend to protect its lead by running the ball to chew up time. The more run plays, the more opportunities to accumulate tackles in between the gaps and in the flats.

Once projections are established, I assign rankings and values based on the number of league owners and number of starters per position. Typically, there are between 8-12 teams in a league – I use 12 teams in my analysis. Then, I account for 1 DL, either 3 or 4 LBs, and either1 or 2 DBs. Rankings provide you order. Values give you an equal playing field by which to evaluate individual defensive and offensive players alike.

Who To Start/Who To Sit

Once the NFL season begins and you’ve drafted your teams, I will analyze each game and the offense/defense match-ups and provide a list of IDP’s to start or sit. I look at how a particular IDP has played against an opposing team in the recent past, as well as how he’s played against similar offensive match-ups against other teams. I will also take into account how similar IDP’s performed in week’s past against the current week’s offensive opposition. While I will be performing this in-depth analysis week in, week out, I will always stress the importance of starting your studs (Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp, Rodney Harrison, etc.). If you are fortunate to draft someone of this caliber at his position, do not hesitate or waste time digging into numbers… ALWAYS START YOUR STUD!

Team Defenses

Last year, there was a call from members to provide a ranking of team defenses, as not everyone has evolved into the incorporation of IDP into their leagues. In breaking down team defenses down to the individual player level, it is therefore that much easier to determine which team D’s will prosper, week-to-week. So, look for a top 10 team defenses attached to my weekly contributions.

There you have it… I hope you all are as excited about this year’s fantasy football season – and the new look of The Huddle – as I am! As always, I welcome your questions, comments and suggestions throughout the year – email me, and I will respond as quickly as possible!

Thanks, good luck, and happy drafting!