Positional Trade Value: Offense and IDP

Updated: June 23rd 2022

A topic that has always interested me is trading IDP assets for offensive ones (and vice versa). Because let’s be honest, the best kind of fantasy football is a league with both offense and defense. However, no one has genuinely mastered league scoring that is perfect and balanced across all positions. If the scoring is, inconsistent at best, how do we determine when a trade makes sense or is “fair”? When I want to break these IDP/offensive trades down, I want to have a strong grasp of what the value of each position is within the context of my whole league (duh!) and the tiers within those. What is the ability or likelihood you can replace that position (via waivers or rookies)? Lastly, how long do positions generally maintain their value?

Let’s talk through this process and hopefully set you up with a thought process to help with those trades!

First, how big is your league, on average leagues commonly range from 10-12 teams but can obviously go way beyond this, but we will use a 12-team league for this discussion. Next, what does your starting roster composition look like, we will assume a 3-3-3 for starting IDP (DLs, LBs, DBs) and a Superflex offense, with 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, Flex. The next piece for your league understanding is the scoring tiers you for each of these positions. See below for a sample scoring of a league I have played in (it’s a tackle-heavy format, so only use the numbers as hypothetical for this discussion).

What is this showing us? The average points scored of the first 12 (tier 1), second 12 (tier 2) and so on for each position group. I recommend doing this at least once a year if you can get the data from your platform to help you better understand the general positional value in your leagues (especially if you play in multiple leagues with varying scoring settings). Knowing this arms with you a baseline to say, “Hey! An LB1 in my league scores roughly the same as a WR1 in my league” and so on across all the different groupings. Now I got you thinking, “Dang! That was easy!”

But hold up my friend, because we aren’t done yet. WRs can very easily be our apples and LBs can very easily be our oranges… and I have been told not to compare those things to each other. However, if we add some additional context and understanding, we can get them a lot closer in understanding. And the steps to getting there, are our next two things. The repeatability of success at a position group and the replaceability of a player from a positional group. Let’s take a quick look at even just the last two years at each level of the defense to see consistency from year-to-year.

So what does this mean here? In the DL position group, we saw 17 of 2020’s top 36 performers, not even get back into the top 36 the following year. For the LB position group, we saw this number hit 20 and for the DB position group it was 22. Now, a handful in each group is due to injury (which we see in every position in the NFL), but you can only attribute maybe 15-20% of turnover due to that. And we are not looking at a super high bar to try and achieve either with the top 36 for each group. And if you were to expand this exercise out to more years, you would continue to see the same situation.

It is worth noting though, that the ones that ARE able to repeat top 36 success year-over-year have a stark talent gap over a large amount of the ones we see on the lists above, missing out on repeated success. There are obviously exceptions to this observation, but I would say it is a safe assumption when evaluating talent. But this does give us a bit of a better understanding that value sustainable value does tend to flow DL >> LB >> DB in the general sense.

As for the other side of the coin, the offensive skill positions (which I leave TE out of, because it generally has its top 3-4 and then fluctuates like crazy beyond that year-to-year) we take a look at how this breaks down for QB, RB, and WR.

We see a little less volatility year-to-year across these positions than we do in the IDP space with 7 out of 24 not repeating at the QB spot. 17 out of 36 for running backs. Then 14 out of 36 for WR.

As for our last piece of information, what does it look like when you try to replace these positions with rookie performers? Some quick looks back at the last few years show us that there are performers (some of them very high-end, thanks Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase) but also some solid fantasy contributors for your lineups as well. What I looked at was the last two draft classes and saw how many rookies (or 2nd year from 2020 class) that had to a top performance (24 for QB, 36 for others). Because if you are going to make a trade, can you use existing draft capital or DB obtained in the trade to replace your expected performance of that player?

Looking at QBs, we saw 3 top-24 performances between 2020 and 2021.
RBs was 10 top-36 performances.
WRs was 11 top-36 performances.
DLs was 1 top-36 performance.
LBs was 4 top-36 performances.
DBs was 5 top-36 performances.

This gives us an idea of where we can potentially find the most value within rookie draft picks and those rookie contracts to try and replace talent lost or given away / obtained in trades. Offense clearly seems to be the spot to find immediate impact for your roster, specifically at the RB/WR positions. There is value to be found on the IDP side for sure, but replacing that in the rookie draft might be a little trickier.

I know this is a lot of information when considering trading pieces, but having this baseline understanding should give an initial comfort level when considering trading across different positions, most specifically, how does an IDP asset compare or stack up against an offensive one in terms of pre-trade and post-trade. Additionally, the age of the player has a significant role as well, but I didn’t dive into that factor as most likely that is potentially considered in since on our favorite platform, Reality Sports Online, you are making smart contracts anyway!

Hoping this helps you make it through the minefield that is off-season trading! Happy trading everyone!

More Analysis by Jake

Looking Forward: Expectations for the NFL Salary Cap

Updated: June 23rd 2022

Covid issues created unique salary cap problems for the NFL following the 2020 season.  The NFL salary cap unexpectedly dropped substantially after significant NFL revenue losses in 2020.  The article details a brief history of recent cap progression to the current state and what we can expect in the future.  The writing also examines how Reality Sports Online GMs may take advantage of the changing cap.

What happened?

Many teams played with near-empty stadiums primarily due to state Covid restrictions drastically reducing ticket and game day revenue while also seeing TV ratings dip in 2020.  This resulted in the NFL losing approximately $3 to $4 billion in revenue that season.  The NFL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) dictated those losses applied to the following year’s salary cap which would have resulted in the cap dropping by about $70 to $80 million in 2021.  NFL owners and the NFL Players Association, however, came to an agreement in which those losses would be spread out over a three year period instead of the single year.  In effect, the NFL would have three seasons of relatively modest below-market salary caps versus one year with a massive salary cap reduction.  This move mitigated potentially disastrous team salary cap problems throughout the league and kept players from seeing drastic salary reduction in 2021.

What does the Salary Cap look like going forward?

The NFL salary cap averaged about 7% annual growth in the seven years before the 2021 season.  The 2020 CBA increased player revenue shares to 48%+ in 2021 and going forward while an anticipated new TV deal was also expected to raise revenue significantly.   An 8.5% annual growth in the NFL salary cap for the near-term future was a reasonable projection prior to the 2020 season.  The new TV contract, sports betting deals, and potential international expansion may result in even bigger increases.

The chart below displays some of the effects on expectations to the salary cap due to the decreased revenues of 2021 and projections going forward using growth estimates stated above.  The NFL salary cap decreased from $198.2 million in 2020 to $182.5 million in 2021.  While this was only about a $16 million cap decrease, it also probably translated to approximately $30 or $35 million less cap space than NFL teams were planning for before 2020.  The 2022 cap is set to grow a hearty 14% from 2021 but the cap will still be far below what was expected previously.  2023 will show much the same.  These cap decreases have had real NFL consequences, particularly for those teams who were already up against the cap and essentially borrowing against future cap to pay for current player production.  New Orleans and Dallas, for example, were forced to trade individuals (Amari Cooper) for little compensation or allow players to hit free agency (Terron Armstead) they would have preferred to keep if not for cap restraints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actual and Projected NFL Salary Cap 2020-2025

Things get back to normal in 2024, in terms of the salary cap, as the 2020 revenue losses will have been fully accounted for after the 2023 season.  One consequence of this is that 2024 should see an enormous spike in the league salary cap with $40 to $50 million cap increases possible depending on further adjustments.  We have already seen teams calibrating for this reality by heavily back-loading contracts (more than normal) and increasing the usage of “dummy” contract years (items such as voided years at the end of the contract in which the player won’t actually play on the contract but serves as a way to extend cap accounting into the future).

The Los Angeles Rams provide a nice example of this.  Many question how the Rams keep paying big money extensions to players on the team.  They are simply using the rules of cap accounting and taking into account the expected explosion in future team cap.  Matthew Stafford’s contract contains cap hits of just $13.5 million and $20 million in 2022 and 2023, respectively, then balloons to about $50 million per year in future seasons.  Aaron Donald’s new contract added multiple voided years at the end of the deal to help spread his signing bonus over.

What this means for Reality Sports Online GMs

As most Reality Sports Online (RSO) GMs know, RSO mirrors the NFL salary cap in that the NFL salary cap equals the RSO salary cap.  This means we can also expect the RSO salary cap to also dramatically increase over the next few seasons.  The previous Salary Cap Chart from above shows expected cap growth rates of 11% (2023), 19% (2024), and 8.5% (2025 and forward).  Let us see how this compares to RSO contracts.  RSO multi-year deals distribute the total value of a contract based on the number of years resulting in small salary escalations (between 6% and 10%) in each subsequent year.  The four-year contract example from RSO is detailed below starting in 2022 with expected salary cap figures from our previous estimates.

Reality Sports Online Example Contract (4 year / $100 million total value)

“Expected Cap % “is the RSO salary divided by the expected cap. Most notably, compare the RSO contract salary growth rates with the expected cap growth rates above. The NFL Salary cap shows much higher expected growth than the contract salaries. The RSO example contract salary displays a 27% growth rate from year one to four while the salary cap is expected to rise by 43 percent during that period. This results in salaries taking a smaller portion of the expected total cap during the later contract years. In other words, the real expected yearly value of the RSO contract rises as the contract progresses.

The biggest takeaway for RSO GMs is that they should be more willing to invest in long-term contracts than ever before. Acquiring new multi-year deals in free agency and trading expiring contracts for existing long-term contracts should be a strategy focus for many teams. Hits on locked multi-year contract deals could become more valuable with time and misses make for more palatable release candidates with less cap consequences.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics. He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time. Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2022 NFL Draft IDP Risers and Fallers

Updated: May 28th 2022

The 2022 NFL draft is in the books. 262 rookies have new homes with NFL teams now. With these landing spots known for the talented IDPs, let’s take a look and look at some of the biggest takeaways from the draft. Biggest risers. Biggest fallers. And some additional key takeaways. It’s draft time!

Since we are going through this stuff to try and win all of our leagues, let’s start with our biggest winners from the NFL draft, one at each level of the IDP.

Lewis Cine, Minnesota Vikings, Safety (Pick 32 overall)

The Minnesota Vikings had Xavier Woods depart in free agency and he was the only player to play 100% of his defense’s snaps. He played over 1,200 total snaps and those are completely up for grabs. The only other real player in that safety room prior to the addition of Lewis Cine was Camryn Bynum. While Bynum is still there and a solid contributor, he fits more into Harrison Smith’s role and is a strong backup and third safety when needed. One of the biggest questions is how Ed Donatell will utilize them and what they see for Lewis Cine.

Cine was a strong presence in the box and near or at the line of scrimmage. His tape shows very clearly that he struggles in coverage, especially man coverage. He has the athleticism and explosiveness to read and react in zone coverage for plays in front of him, but otherwise, this will be his most prominent area of concern. This said, it points us to the fact that Minnesota most likely has a role for him, especially early on, as box safety is his primary role. This role is one of the more valuable IDP positions, especially for the defensive backfield.

Additionally, Minnesota had its pick of quite possibly the best IDP player in this draft in Kyle Hamilton when they were first on the clock with pick #12 in the first round. A safety who has all the tools, to play quite literally, anywhere on the field. They passed on this opportunity and still saw their opportunity at pick #32 in Cine still. All of this is a strong indication that Cine is their guy and he will play!

Quay Walker, Green Bay Packers, Linebacker (Pick 22 overall)

This is may seem super “chalky”, but Quay being the first linebacker taken off the speaks volume about what Green Bay believes about him but even more, is exactly what they told us about why they drafted Quay! They believe their team needs to be subbing less and keep the same defensive packages on the field. And looking at who the talent was behind De’Vondre Campbell last year in Krys Barnes and the lack of depth at the linebacker position for the Packers, Quay should have the clear path to LB2 on the Packers and what could be an upwards of 800+ snaps as a floor. Paired with a strong defensive front, Quay has a chance to be a relevant LB3 with LB2 upside.

Quay was possibly in most people’s top 5 LBs for the incoming rookie class, but he has the upside of being the LB1 or LB2 from this rookie class. And why wouldn’t he with a RAS (relative athletic score) of 9.67 along with a build of traditional run-thumping linebackers of years past? This jump in value is a strong one for Quay and I don’t know that this has truly been reflected in his total value in rookie drafts just yet. Quay is someone who should be a target for you in rookie drafts in terms of providing year 1 value and long-term value as well. If you are looking for a reason to not draft Quay, he doesn’t have a stand-out weakness at this point. He is more than just a safe pick, he is a good pick at this point!

Arnold Ebiketie, Atlanta Falcons, Defensive End (Pick 38 overall)

Ebiketie has a wonderful cross-section of talent and opportunity with his film, production, and landing spot with the Atlanta Falcons. Ebiketie’s college production has shown us that he can win and produce as a pass-rusher (90.5 PFF pass-rushing grade) but he holds up in run defense too (78.3 PFF run-defense grade) which is ideal for an Atlanta Falcons defense that is pretty much depleted of talent along their defensive front, Ebiketie should find a way to snaps early and often.

Now, just because Ebiketie may see a large number of snaps in year 1, he still has some work to do to ensure he continues to grow as a well-rounded rusher. He has the ability to win on one move and get to the QB, but he is not effective if he doesn’t win on the first pass-rush move so there is still a good amount he can do to continue to grow as an NFL defender. These things said, he should have a clear path to high-volume snaps right away, worth the upside for what he can be long-term as well. He has moved up into the 4-5 range of DL in this year’s rookie class.

Now for the unfortunate flip side of the rookie draft, the fallers! Let’s get to it.

Bryan Cook, Kansas City Chiefs, Safety (Pick 62 overall)

Cook was an exciting prospect from his last season at Cincinnati. He was a large part of why the Bearcats had as much success as they did defensively. His sure tackling and ability to move around through different alignments when needed where crucial. While he did shift around, he still took the bulk of his snaps from the deep safety spot (or “free safety” as some people more affectionately call it) which on average, tends to be a lower value position of IDP.

You are probably asking, why does this make him a faller then? Well, for me, it is paired with the uncertainty around what Kansas City has in its safety room. They had Juan Thornhill already, brought in Justin Reid early in free agency, a move that states they are looking to use him a valuable piece of their defense, and now Bryan Cook. Where does everyone end up in a Kansas City Chiefs that has used 3 safeties enough in the past for them to be relevant? Does Thornhill keep his deep safety role? Does Reid take the Matheiu “star” role and move around the defense? Does Cook get that? Are they more rotational? For me, Cook is a great upside swing if your roster composition allows for it, as he might be someone you could wait on to carve out a more full-time role or he might earn day 1. But the uncertainty weighs too much on me and there is better options we stronger chances of success in the same range you would say Cook going.

Chad Muma, Jacksonville Jaguars, Linebacker (Pick 70 overall)

Muma was flipping between LB3 and LB4 for me pre-draft, and man, do I still love the talent and instincts he showcased at Wyoming. I would have been happy with him at LB1 in this rookie class with some of the better landing spots available this off-season as well. However, we saw the literal, worst-case scenario happen for Muma. He landed on a team that JUST paid an average NFL linebacker 25 million dollars over the next two years without a true out on the contract until 2024. Now, with the new defensive coordinator, Mike Caldwell, the Jaguars are going to presumably be running out 2 LBs pretty consistently (based on what they did in Tampa Bay). Except for one little problem, the Jaguars spent late, first-round draft capital on Devin Lloyd too!

All these things point to Muma being relegated to LB3 on the depth chart and waiting for an injury for any consistent or meaningful snaps for IDP purposes. If you have the luxury of sitting on a talent for one, but most likely two years, then this will be a value steal in almost all rookie drafts for you as he is quickly falling behind many other year 1 upside LBs like Troy Anderson and Christian Harris. If you want to take the injury swing and/or stash approach with Muma, you could be sitting on a potential strong LB2 or better in a couple of years.

Travon Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars, Edge (Pick 1 overall)

Walker impressed everyone with his combine and RAS of 9.99 so much that he made his move all the way up to #1 overall in the 2022 NFL draft! While this is a great accomplishment for Walker and his NFL value, this, unfortunately, left him in a situation where he is being slotted in as an OLB on a lot of site platforms, most specifically, for Reality Sports Online. While Travon certainly has the athleticism to make an impact on a real NFL game, the limited value for what Jacksonville has produced for edge pass-rushers (outside of Josh Allen) is inconsistent and limited at best. Couple that with the challenge of being ranked among other LBs that will produce value much more consistently, he presents a very low ceiling given his situation.

As a fun side note, the discussion around positional designation on RSO has come up in the Twitter-sphere and there are some initial discussions around leagues having the power to shift this on a case-by-case basis, so this could go away (potentially!).

As for Walker’s pure production profile as an NFL edge rusher, he is someone that has showcased the ability to make plays in both the run and passing games, but, not so at a level to expect immediate contributions. In watching Walker’s approach to attacking in the passing game, his assignment (I assumed) was to take a step laterally or a greater focus on edge setting, versus getting upfield. This very likely is a product of the defensive scheme, but the limited amount I saw of him getting upfield and winning early against his blockers worries me about what he can do for IDP production. Walker is someone who might be great for NFL, but limited, at best, for fantasy football.

As always, would love to discuss anyone’s thoughts and you can do so by reaching out to me on Twitter, @jakekohlhagen.

More Analysis by Jake

2021 RSO IDP Defensive Back Review

Updated: April 24th 2022

For our last article in the 2021 IDP review, we are taking a look at the last line of defense on the NFL field, the secondary. Sometimes the least sexy of the IDP positions, but one that can just as easily win you a week (looking at you, week 2 Mike Edwards and your pair of pick-6s) or they can deliver week-to-week value that supports your run to a championship (thank you Logan Ryan and your IDP production of 11+ in all 15 games you played!). You know what the method is here though, let’s take a look at our top performers from the 2021 season and a surface level review how we got there!

To note, this is a combined Defensive Back set of rankings (safeties and cornerbacks together) and not True Position. There are some pretty big distinctions in how you break down each position individually, but we will try and cover it as a group idea more so today. Here is our top 24 from RSO’s 2021 season with IDP123 scoring:

Some quick takeaways from this chart? Cornerbacks don’t represent or make up much of this list (5 of the 24) but Kenny Moore II did manage to be the top-scoring DB. This will align with positioning on the field and how his team utilizes him (we will see a similar story for Jalen Ramsey). Other CBs on this list are ones that posted impressive interception numbers (Diggs, 11, and Jackson,8). This is something that you can look back several years to see the similar type of results and as for big plays, that is generally not a consistent stat for Cornerbacks and IDP purposes. We are better off looking at two things. The first, we have stated multiple times and will always continue to call out. Check out those snap numbers!! Are the playing volumes of snaps? Are they getting 90%? 95%? 100%??? (We see you playing every snap in 2021 Xavier Woods) After finding out who is taking the snaps and getting the opportunities, who has the best opportunity to make the most out of those snaps? As for this one, we just want to simplify this down to, who is closest to the ball and has the best chance to be involved in as many plays as possible.

What does this mean? We want to find what one of the finest IDP minds calls, getting those “Sweet Spot” snaps (thanks @PFF_Macri!) based on their snap alignment. Those sweet spots are Slot, Defensive Line, and Box. As a quick knowledge drop for those uncertain what that means on the field, the slot is the when the line up inside of the outside cornerback. The defensive line is exactly what it sounds like, they get right up in line with the DLs. And the box is when they are lining up like a linebacker in the second level of the defense, behind the DLs. The trick is finding an IDP DB who plays as many snaps in these given alignments. This does not guarantee success for the players, however, it gives them the best chance to succeed! As we look at our top 24 from the previous season, we will see that they consistently play 40% or more (some up into the 60’s, 70’s even) of their snaps in one of these alignments. There are of course always outliers to this but generally, there is some other piece of information that helps us understand.

A quick look at some of these would be Minkah Fitzpatrick at #5 only played 20% of his snaps in the sweet spot and #8 Xavier Woods only played 38% of his snaps in there. Minkah’s supporting cast on his defense in the second level was one of the weakest this last season allowing him to make more plays from the deep safety alignment and he capitalized with a career-best 124 tackles. Minkah has been a solid IDP piece even from the deep safety alignment previously due to his big-play ability, but this year he moved up even more thanks to the strong tackle production. Xavier was a pure volume play, with lower than average tackle efficiency of around 8%, he lead the entire NFL in defensive snaps played and never missed a single play all season for his team. Sometimes the best ability is truly avail-“ability”.

Hopefully, these recaps help you understand why the top performers were able to produce for IDP the way they did at each level, and what to look for as you go forward for either redraft, dynasty, or contract style IDP leagues too. Stay tuned as coming up we will put together some information around the IDP rookies from the NFL draft, the start of season previews, and other articles. I will be participating in a live mock draft as well for the IDP Show after the NFL draft, so make sure to be checking out their content regularly for that and just great IDP news and entertainment as well at TheIDPshow.com.

More Analysis by Jake

2021 RSO IDP Linebacker Review

Updated: April 24th 2022

With the defensive linemen in our rear-view mirror, let’s maneuver our way to the second level like the crafty little scat backs we all are and weave ourselves into some glorious IDP information. Let’s take a look at the 2021 linebackers for RSO and recap what we saw.

As we look at the world of linebackers, we have a bit of the conundrum we saw in the previous article with OLBs who are truly edge rushers (or pass rushers) but end up with the designation of LB, which only muddies our ability to try and makes our analysis a bit more tricky, but we will get there! For those LBs who are in that pass-rushing role, please take a peek at the previous article, 2021 DL Review, for thoughts on how to look at players in that role and designation.

So what did the top 24 LBs look on the RealitySportsOnline platform this last year for IDP123 scoring?

An interesting list with a solid mix of players who are talented NFL performers, some LBs that I like to consider “warm body” LBs, and a few others that you were wondering how are they on this list?!? How do we identify this talent if it is not based on just NFL talent? In this case, we circle back to our first and consistent IDP indicator, the volume of snaps! Snaps! Snaps! And more snaps! #SpoilerAlert, this will come up again in the review of defensive backs in the next article too!

With linebackers, it is not just the volume of the snaps that help indicate the potential success of an IDP linebacker, there are other pieces that are solid indicators to look into. One of the first ones that stand out for me is the number of zone snaps a linebacker takes on a given week and season. This helps show us who is playing on the field for most of the snaps and the very important third-down snaps (and getting that 3-down role on their team). That doesn’t mean we don’t want to see a baseline for just overall snaps and we should be looking for players that are getting close to that 1,000+ snap baseline (which equates to around 58 snaps per game, based on a 17-game season). Lastly, you want to look at the number of snaps per game a team’s defense is actually taking on a per-game basis to understand these baselines for a defender to achieve.

Here is what some of these top performers look like in terms of these numbers. Of course, these are not gospel and the only way to determine things, there are most certainly outliers to any process, some examples not shown are Kamu Grugier-Hill and Alex Singleton both failed to surpass 800+ total snaps on the year but managed to still break the top 24 with above average tackle efficiency (average tends to show around 12-13% for league average) and some massive week performances to boot.

Moving forward with these thoughts, what are you looking for in building out your roster this year and the following ones? You want to focus on teams that keep their LBs in a strong amount of zone coverage snaps and the LBs who are getting those snaps (pay attention to who is running the defense and how they have historically). See what teams are getting enough snaps to hopefully hit that 1,000 total snap threshold based on the number of defensive snaps they are taking and the snaps a defender is getting (big hint, getting 100% of the team’s snaps is good!). Lastly, tackle efficiency helps us identify outliers a bit more as well with very high tackle efficiencies being an indication of over-production in the majority of instances (think high TD totals for a WR and how those generally are not a sticky stat).

I hope this helps you gain a better understanding of what you can look for based on what we have seen from players in the past as you get ready for your drafts this off-season. As always, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@jakekohlhagen) with any thoughts, comments, or general discussions and happy drafting!

More Analysis by Jake

2021 RSO IDP Defensive Line Review

Updated: April 7th 2022

Welcome back you IDP connaisseurs! Let’s continue our journey into the IDP world of fantasy football. We will kick off our review of the 2021 season, with the DL position group. If you recall from our intro to IDP, the DL position(s) is one that can be dictated by two key factors, the first, and most important for all IDP success, is the volume (as it is for most fantasy positions). The second factor is the NFL player’s ability to win their one-on-one matchup at the line of scrimmage. The defensive line is the unique position of IDP that generally correlates IDP success based on NFL success, similar to the offensive side of the ball. These will be things we want to keep in mind as we go forward through IDP.

Before we look at those top-performing pass-rushers from 2021, we must look at who is designated as a DE or DT. Figuring that out though is tough because defense in today’s era of the NFL is not the same kind of football from 1990 through 2010 or even just 5 years ago. Part of that understanding is that so many times people throw around the term “3-4 base” or “4-3 base” as a point of how to identify or designate players. However, thanks to the talented Tom Kislingbury (@tomkislingbury on Twitter), this base defense generally doesn’t account for more than roughly 8,000 snaps across ALL TEAMS AND 17 GAMES! Down from nearly 12,500 in just 2014! The point of this tangent is to call out that NFL defenses run so many different packages and looks, just like NFL offenses do and that has left us in a precarious situation in which we are not always accurately identifying or designating defensive players. And the greatest offender to this is in the DL position group.

Let’s get back on course and take a look at our top 24 (ish) “defensive linemen”, and you will see the top 12 on RSO based on designation and then the other “DL” or “EDGE” players that get LB designation (scoring is based on IDP123 scoring):

Top pass rushers 2021

Cool, a table that shows the top 12 DL in RSO and those you can’t use due to designation, you say. But the table highlights our initial article about understanding your league’s roster composition and the difference between elite DLs and those at the replacement level. If you got inside the top 5 for this position, you were very happy with the production of your DL spot(s). It also showcases the need to understand positional designation for your leagues as well. Then, how do we get it so you can identify these players for you so you can get them on your roster?

For IDP, the first piece is getting on the field, and understanding an IDP’s snap counts is the first step to finding those who will succeed. The next step at the DL level is those who are winning their reps as much as possible each play. When you find that intersection you will see the top of your list here.

Baseline Analytics

After this elite level, you see things start to mix up with either higher snap counts (800+ total or ~50 per game) or consistent QB Pressures ( 50+ total or ~ 3 per game). These are baselines and basic analytics you want to search for to help you with your search for consistent IDP DL production. As for the Pass Rush Win Rate, this is a PFF analytical stat, so you can rely on a source like them to provide this via their site or you can use the eye-test if you are able to watch enough games or replays to see which defensive linemen are winning those snaps each play at a consistent rate and getting to the QB. I like the mix of this to help round out my search for my IDP assets.

Well, picking out All-Pro and Pro Bowl players is easy because that is what this list looks like. While you are correct, there are outliers and information in both directions that can help us avoid making mistakes or help us find the next top performer. Looking at players who had an abnormal amount of snaps (Cameron Heyward is up almost 125+ snaps based on previous 4 seasons’ averages) or one who showed consistent success with QB pressures but just did not find a way to convert this into statistical success. Examples from this past year would be Maxx Crosby (100 pressures, first in the league) and Rashan Gary (81 pressures, third in the league).

The last point I want to call out is to pay attention to players’ and coaches’ movements when it comes to IDP position designation. This is still an inexact science at this point and as you can see from the first table, there are players who are true pass rushers but have that LB designation so they don’t get to score at a DL position. And as defensive coaches and schemes change, LB and DE position changes can change along with it like Chandler Jones moving from Arizona’s “3-4 base” to Las Vegas’s “4-3 base”, will he stay with the LB tag? Will he shift to DE? And the inverse for Danielle Hunter (assuming he stays with Minnesota), where will his designation end up?

I hope this gives you some insight as to who the 2021 successes were, how they got there, and how you can work to understand it going forward for your drafts, trades, or anything else IDP related!

If you ever want to discuss IDP thoughts, IDP strategies, or just talk about fantasy football, you can reach out to me on Twitter @jakekohlhagen.

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