Most people begin their fantasy football the same. You have your standard scoring, non-complex league with roughly seven offensive starters and one team defense. Whether you began in the era of magazines and cheat sheets or even took the stats from the newspaper the day after the games, you likely started with a similar format. I believe that this style of league is a great appetizer for your fantasy football meal. If you're an obsessed football fan such as myself, you will eventually begin to dream about more complex styles of playing the game. You most assuredly will stumble upon IDP if you haven't already. Have you ever wondered whether the top IDP options correspond to team defensive success? Let's break down the top five defenses regarding points allowed and the IDP names that contributed. The more you dive into the stats and research, the more you will see that sometimes, the scheme is more important than the player in terms of team defensive production. This doesn't mean that these teams didn't have contributors, but they weren't as reliant on player dominance. Let's see where the teams stack up.
Looking at the Top Defenses
The teams were ranked based on total points allowed, contributing to team defense points in most standard scoring leagues. (This excluded the Dallas Cowboys team defense which finished #1 in most leagues. I felt this was more of an anomaly due to their defense's big plays.) I also put the rank they were in terms of rush defense and pass defense to give some additional information when determining the viability of these defenses in the actual game.
- Bills (1st pass, 13th rush)
- Patriots (2nd pass, 22nd rush)
- Broncos (8th pass, 15th rush)
- Saints (14th pass, 4th rush)
- Buccaneers (21st pass, 3rd rush)
Now let's look at each team and determine the players that stand out on the team and their respective ranks amongst their contemporaries in standard scoring IDP fantasy. Since NFL lineups often change throughout the year, let's use the Week 1 depth charts for consistent information. Here are only the major contributors and an explanation of how they scored in fantasy football.
Bills: Defensive tackle Ed Oliver, in his third year with the team, finished 22nd among all defensive tackles in scoring. The former top-ten pick finished with career highs in tackles and tackles for loss, but outside of the last three weeks didn't exactly have a good year in terms of fantasy. He contributed 12 of his 41 total tackles and 3.5 of his 4.0 sacks in the last three weeks. I would shy away from Oliver in most formats until there is more consistent production.
Before this year, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was a consistent 120+ tackle linebacker and was probably the most noteworthy contributor to this defense. Unfortunately for him and the team, this was his least productive year in the league and finished as the 37th linebacker in standard-scoring leagues. He did miss two games, and if you add the average to both, he would have finished in the Top 25, but the reality is he missed the games and didn't supplement enough stats to achieve another dominant year. I wouldn't give up on him though, he was still a 100+ tackle guy and is their most credible threat amongst all linemen and linebackers.
As you can probably already tell from their No. 1 rated pass defense, the defensive back unit of this team is loaded with credible stars and talented playmakers. This doesn't always translate to fantasy points, though. We start with star corner Tredavious White who missed a third of the regular season due to injury. On top of the lock-down corner status that ultimately hurts his ability to score points take out one-third of his games, and you get a down year. As far as corners go, though, he is one to have when healthy. The biggest contributor from the corner position was Taron Johnson, who finished as CB21 and compiled 76 tackles, 3 sacks, and 8 defended passes. If you had to pick one corner, it would be him. Of all safeties in the league, you'll find few better than Jordan Poyer in IDP fantasy football. He finished as S5, and had he put up his average in the one game he missed, would have finished as S2. He has long been a consistent performer and one of the best in the league for fantasy. He is the biggest reason this unit was number one in the NFL.
Patriots: What can be assumed from a bottom 3rd rush defense? The Patriots don't have many eye-popping players on the front seven. On the line, you have Deatrich Wise Jr and Lawrence Guy as the only notable names, but these two are not reliable starting defensive linemen for fantasy football. They combined for 4.5 sacks in 16 and 17 games played, respectively. That said, Guy had 60 total tackles, while Wise had only 41. Guy was the only one I would vouch for of this unit, but only as a bye-week filler or bench player. Davon Godchaux is another who could see some points, but frankly, I'm down on this unit for IDP purposes.
The most notable player from the front seven is linebacker Matt Judon. Judon put together a nice season of 60 tackles and 12.5 sacks. He's a sack-dependent edge-rusher, so he's very boom-or-bust in fantasy football. The other linebacker you need to know is Ja'Whaun Bentley. He is your typical inside linebacker who produces consistent tackle efforts, albeit not anything that grabs your attention. If you have the gall to pick someone from the linebacker corps of this team, he has to be the first one for the consistency he brings. He also still seems to be ascending, finishing last year with career highs in tackles and forced fumbles. Keep an eye on him.
This team finished 2nd in passing. Due to this, you'll see many fantasy football-relevant players. Let's start with my personal favorite, safety Kyle Dugger. He compiled 92 tackles and 4 picks, having missed two full games, and had career highs in all statistical categories that standard leagues score. He's 26 years old and is ascending into his prime and has the potential to be a 100+ tackle, 7-pick player. Safeties can be a dime a dozen, but the standouts can win leagues. He needs to be a player you know. Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler round out this fantasy-relevant secondary but are aging players who may not have peak production any longer. Butler is coming off a full year without playing but had 100+ tackles, five picks and 17 defended passes the year previously. As corners go, you're not getting much better than that. McCourty had 60 tackles and ten defended passes, but he's too risky for me to endorse him. He's aging and will be 35 years old when the year starts. He's more of a bench or waiver-wire darling.
Broncos: The Broncos were the most consistent on both pass and rush defense on this list. Finishing 15th in rush defense, the most significant player on their defense was Von Miller, who was traded midseason to the rams and didn't produce notably for Denver. Still, it is important to note that he does contribute to the defense even if it wasn't on the stat sheet. D.J. Jones was a big contributing factor in leading their defensive line with 56 total tackles while also garnering two sacks. As far as the defensive line goes, he's the most recognizable, but keep your eye on Dre'Mont Jones. He didn't contribute to as many tackles (31 total), but he did have 5.5 sacks. With Miller gone to Buffalo, Dre'Mont Jones will be one of the main edge rushing threats and could see an uptick in all major stat categories making him a viable buy-low option. Last year inside linebacker Josey Jewell got injured in Week 2 and didn't play the remainder of the season, but he was a big IDP contributor the year prior. Expect him to pick up where he left off, but keep in mind that the team signed Alex Singleton, a big contributor at linebacker in Philadelphia. If I had to make a pick between the two inside linebackers, I'd take Singleton. But it's a toss-up, and Denver has had multiple viable options at linebacker in the past. Finally, at weak-side linebacker, the team signed Randy Gregory, who could be their next iteration of Von Miller. When he plays, he can be dominant, but it is not always a given he plays. He only contributed stats in nine regular-season games last year.
The true strength of this defense came in the secondary. Ranked 8th overall, this unit has some recognizable names starting with veteran safety Justin Simmons. Simmons is a perennial contributor in IDP formats in a variety of ways. Last year, Simmons had 80 tackles and 12 defended passes. Like clockwork, he most assuredly will also be a contributor next year. Another consistent IDP performer was safety Kareem Jackson. Going into year 14, I'm not as high on him being anything other than a depth play, but he does have splash moments of high performance. Lastly, rookie stud Patrick Surtain II immediately contributed after being drafted ninth overall. 58 tackles, 14 defended passes, including four interceptions, is a good year for any corner, let alone year one. He could be the next big thing at corner, and if you're in deep leagues or leagues that start cornerback, he needs to be someone you pay attention to.
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