There aren’t any hard and fast rules to fantasy drafts, especially in IDP leagues. Each draft really has its own character. So if you go in with a rigid plan, you’re essentially locking yourself in a box and limiting your potential to exploit your opponents’ mistakes.
Fantasy drafts are a lot like improvisational jazz. You don’t necessary know where you going to end when you start. You just have to know how to play the right notes. In fantasy drafts those pitch perfect notes are value picks.
While you don’t want to script your draft, there are a few strategies you can look to employ that will help you build a strong fantasy squad.
Before we talk draft strategy, here's this week's round of shameless self-promotions. Make sure you're following me on Twitter, and of course be sure to check out the Rotoworld Player News Feed. While you're at it, check out the 2014 Rotoworld Draft Guide and the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide IOS app for award-winning football analysis, projections, and player rankings. The Draft Guide has insights for all types of leagues including PPR, IDP, dynasty, and auction along with over 500 player profiles. It's truly the best product on the market. Okay, let's do it.
1. Know your league settings.
This may sound obvious, but folks overlook their league settings on a far too frequent basis. While it’s good advice for any fantasy league, it’s especially important to be keenly aware of your scoring system and roster requirements in IDP leagues.
IDP leagues come in all shapes and sizes. Some leagues slide just one IDP flex spot into the roster, while others require you to field a full 11-man IDP squad. However, most IDP leagues lie somewhere in between. Knowing just how many defensive players you start is vital to your draft strategy, as you’ll need to key certain positions at specific points in the draft. More about that later.
Just like on the offensive side of the ball, IDP owners also need a strong familiarity with scoring settings and how these settings impact IDP fantasy production. The first thing you need to figure out is the relative value of IDPs to offensive players. The easiest way to do so is look at your tackle scoring. If solo tackles are valued at one point, then your IDPs won’t produce comparable fantasy points to the output on the offensive side of the ball.
I know a lot of leagues like to score solos this way, but if you look at IDP production at the end of the season, the top defensive players are often on par with kickers. I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t sit well with me. That’s why I prefer scoring solos at 1.5 points per game. With this setting, the top defensive players rival the top offensive players in fantasy production. With just one point per solo, I’d wait until the late-rounds to select IDPs, though you’ll have to start in the middle rounds if you score solos at 1.5 points.
From here, you also need to consider the value of tackles compared to other defensive scoring categories. Some leagues tend to be more tackle-heavy where sacks and interceptions are worth roughly double the value of tackles. In terms of fantasy value, linebackers who play off the line of scrimmage dominate in these leagues.
Other leagues weight big plays more heavily. In these formats, sacks and interceptions are worth four times or more the value of solo tackles. Obviously, your strategy has to change in this format. Here, you’ll want to prioritize rush outside linebackers, sack-producing defensive ends, and ball-hawking defensive backs.
At Rotoworld, we use balanced scoring settings for our rankings and projections where solos are valued at 1.5 points, sacks at four points, and interceptions are five points. These settings achieve the most parity in fantasy production between the three IDP positions.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's games. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
2. Don’t draft IDPs too early.
The biggest mistake I see even out of seasoned IDP vets is drafting defensive players too early. Sure, it’s great to own J.J. Watt or Luke Kuechly, but consider their price tag. In the recent Rotoworld IDP mock (which you can view along with my insights in the Draft Guide), Watt went in the third round and Kuechly in the fourth. While the teams that take these players are certainly set at IDP, they’re nearly always behind the eight ball at their offensive positions.
Let’s say you’re in a 12-team PPR league, and your starting lineup requires eight IDPs – two defensive linemen, three linebackers, two defensive backs, and one flex spot. Just like in the mock draft, Watt goes at the tail end of the third, and Kuechly gets scooped up in the mid-fourth. Don’t panic. There's going to be plenty of strong options for you later on. Just continue to build up your offensive roster.
While your opponents start grabbing defensive players, they let quality options at running back and receiver slide. Make them pay for it, and out-draft them later at IDP. Your goal should be to build a solid core of offensive starters over the first seven to eight rounds. Ideally, you could come away with three running backs, three receivers, a quarterback, and a tight end before you even look at defensive players. Just think of the competitive advantage you’ll have on a weekly basis.