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IDP -- Who Do I Start Basics
Darin Tietgen
July 14, 2005

Following up on last season's “First Time Tips for IDP” column, I suppose the eventual question is, who do I start if players are so similar? Or, in today’s fantasy football lingo: WDIS? This column is not geared to answering questions like “WDIS: Ray Lewis or Zeke Moreno?”, but hopefully it can shed some light on those WDIS questions that you have during your studs’ bye weeks, or if you have to decide on similar mid to lower- tiered players. For example, Ian Gold and Joey Porter could certainly post similar overall fantasy numbers in 2005, but it’s Week 8 and Gold is facing Philly and Porter’s facing Baltimore. Who would you start? Hopefully I can give you the tools to answer that and similar questions here in this column.

WHEN IN DOUBT…

When it comes to linebackers (“LBs”), IDP experts will always recommend drafting/starting middle linebackers (“MLBs”) if you have the choice. On the other hand, strong-side linebackers (“SLBs”) are the least desirable LBs, as they have an extra blocker (the TE) to contend with. If you MUST start at SLB over a MLB or weak-side linebacker (“WLB”) try to pick a SLB facing a traditionally better pass-catching TE such as Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez. For example, Scott Fujita (SLB – KC) had a 10-tackle game vs. San Diego last season, by far his best game all season. Two of DJ Williams’ (SLB – Denver) best outings towards his torrid end of the 2004 season were against San Diego and KC. Coincidence? Perhaps, but something to consider.

With regards to defensive backs, I know it sounds super basic, but starting DBs that are facing pass-happy QBs is a great way of deciding between two similarly-ranked DBs. To expand on this, try picking a DB that faces a QB that is known to throw interceptions, or is facing a mistake-prone rookie QB, or is on a team that doesn’t sack the QB well. We’ll certainly expand on DBs later in this column.

How about defensive linemen? Well, If you’re deciding between a couple of similar DLs, it’s more than obvious that you should take the DL that is facing a team with a sackable QB. What may not be obvious to the novice IDP fantasy footballer is that right-side ends face best the best offensive linemen, as this is typically the QB’s blind side. Again, just something to consider.

Well, how about some numbers to go along with these statements? It’s easy to use a couple of studs like Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers for this discussion but take a look at Freeney’s monster sack games last season. Back-to-back games of 3 sacks each came against Houston (3 sacks allowed per game in 2004) and Tennessee (2.75).

And Peppers’ big sack games came in a 3-week stretch in November of 2004, facing Oakland, San Francisco and Arizona (two of the three worst QB-protecting teams in 2004).

STUD DB THEORY

We all know LBs are the RB-equivalent for IDP leagues. That said, if given the chance to draft/start a stud LB, you take it. However, the situation is somewhat different for cornerbacks. Avoid stud/shutdown corners (Charles Woodson, Champ Bailey for example) because they just don’t get as many opportunities to make tackles or intercept the ball as your more “average” CB.

And as a corollary, it’s a good idea to target DBs that start opposite stud DBs as sleepers or bye-week fillers. The opposing QB will be quick to test the “number two” DB as opposed to the shut-down corner. Some examples of “number two” DBs that could be considered deeper sleepers this season include:

  1. Andre Dyson/Kelly Herndon - Seattle: Marcus Trufant is a true stud and QBs will be avoiding him like the plague. Dyson will probably get the starting gig, and could post decent fantasy numbers.
  2. Carlos Rogers - Washington: More on this guy later in the column, but with the very solid Shawn Springs on the other side, Rogers could post great numbers and essentially be the “number one” at some point this season. But since he’s a rookie, QBs will continue to test him. Of course this all depends on if Rogers’ stress fracture heals up well and the rookie is fine for the start of the season.
  3. Lenny Walls/Darrent Williams - Denver: Here’s the perfect situation for a no-name (Walls) or rookie (Williams) to step in and make some plays. QBs will avoid Champ Bailey whenever possible.

THE SAFETY DANCE

When considering a strong safety versus a free safety, it really comes down to where your IDP fantasy team is strong or weak. Strong safeties are more like LBs (helping in run coverage), whereas free safeties are more like CBs (helping in pass coverage). So depending on your teams’ needs week-to-week, you can opt for one or another. FSs will ball-hawk in the passing game more, increasing opportunities for INTs, while SSs will help with run support, offering more tackle numbers.

ROOKIE CORNER THEORY

As noted in the “Tips” column, Rookie corners are usually tested, and in recent past, have put up decent fantasy numbers. Dunta Robinson had a fabulous rookie campaign in 2004, posting 73 solo tackles, 3 sacks and 6 INTs. Champ Bailey posted a huge rookie season in 1999, amassing 78 total tackles and 5 INTs. Who’s gonna be this season’s Robinson or Bailey? Here are some possibilities:

  1. Fabian Washington - Oakland: He’s currently the #3 CB, but will probably get the starting job. Al Davis LOVES having speed on the field, and Washington is by far the fastest rookie of 2005, probably one of the NFL’s fastest, period. Having the very solid Charles Woodson on the other side will ensure Washington will be afforded many opportunities to make interceptions (or if nothing else, batted balls or tackles).
  2. Carlos Rogers - Washington: Discussed above, Rogers (if healthy) could certainly be a solid cornerback, both NFL-wise and fantasy-wise.
  3. Antrel Rolle - Arizona: Probably the odds-on favorite to post the best fantasy numbers for a rookie CB this season. He is slated to start even before training camp has opened. David Macklin’s on the other side, and while Macklin isn’t regarded as one of the NFL’s elite shutdown corners, you can expect opposing QBs to test Rolle before they test Macklin, who posted very solid numbers last season.