IDP Fantasy Football 101

Updated: March 14th 2022

Welcome to the Down to Fantasy with Reality Sports Online series around IDP Fantasy Football. I’ll be your tour guide on this adventure that is the next level of Fantasy Football, and that is the transformation from team defense and special teams to Individual Defensive Players, IDP. We are going to kick off this series with a Fantasy Football IDP 101. To have success (and ultimately fun) in IDP, there are two main things we need to consider and break down. Those two things are your league’s roster settings and the scoring for IDP players. Let’s dive into IDP roster settings and what it means for us as IDP fantasy players.


First and foremost, I have to say, you need to have enough depth in your IDP roster settings for it to be worthwhile. I see so many leagues where they have 3 or 4 IDPs. This is just not enough for there to be any really meaningful strategy or depth to your fantasy roster! Think if you only had to build out your roster with 1 QB, 1 RB, 1 WR, 1 TE, and 1 Flex. Your team would be so top-heavy and waivers would be full of tier-1 and tier-2 players, and I just don’t think most of us would find that to be a very fun league to play. Understanding that, we want to make sure you and your league take the right approach to IDP Fantasy Football, otherwise, you won’t enjoy it and there is a good chance you’ll scrap it. 

So what should your IDP roster settings look like? That opens up another question to ask and answer. Do you want to take a more simplified approach and play the three levels of the field defensively? In this scenario, you have defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. I tend to find this setup a bit more digestible for newer players to IDP Fantasy Football, but this also tends to skew towards specific position types within each level (defensive backs tend to skew towards safeties, defensive linemen tend to skew towards edge rushers). 

If you prefer to take the “deep dive” into IDP Fantasy Football, there is “True Position” IDP. This is where you have requirements for each specific or ‘true’ position for the players. You would then have starters for DE, DT, LB, CB, S. This creates more depth, strategy, and effort from GMs. This also creates a greater sense of value for some of those elite (and consistent) talents in each position as the depth greatly decreases across all levels of the field. The decision of what you want to get into or what you want to set your league as should be dictated by what kind of experience you or your league’s GMs are looking to get out of it.

Having stepped through all of that, let’s take a quick peek at some quick suggestions for roster settings for your league(s):

‘Simplified IDP’

  • 2 DL, 2 LB, 2 DB, 2 IDP Flex (DL/LB/DB)

‘True Position IDP’

  • 2 DE, 2 DT, 2 LB, 2 CB, 2 S


Now, we have “established” what your rosters would/could/should look like, what is the next step? It is how that roster turns into points each week. The scoring for IDP fantasy football though is quite possibly the biggest barrier or challenge when getting into it. This is largely due to the fact that IDP Fantasy Football has not been mainstream nearly as long as offensive Fantasy Football which has been refined over the decades of its existence. If I say “PPR”, or “6-pt passing” almost everyone knows what that means and the type of impact that it has on building a roster as well as the underlying assumptions (0.1 pts per rushing/receiving yard, 0.04 pts per passing yards, etc). There has been a push for one standard to help drive IDP scoring and make it more mainstream and more easily understood, and that is IDP123. What does this scoring look like? Here is a breakdown:

1 point

2 points 3 points

6 points

QB Hit

Assisted Tackle

Solo Tackle

Tackle for Loss

Forced Fumble

Recovered Fumble

Pass Defensed


Blocked Kick




With the understanding of this type of scoring as our format a quick note, this IDP scoring aligns very well with combined offensive and defensive leagues that use PPR and 6-pt passing TD for the other side of the ball.


Having this perspective of IDP scoring, how should you take an approach to build your roster? Well, just like for the offensive skill positions, there isn’t just one approach or strategy, there are multiple and I want to give you a general lay of the land that allows you to use your own knowledge, insight, and experience to be able to take your roster wherever you want. Starting in the trenches, one thing to note or understand with IDP Fantasy Football success for DL or DE/DT, depending on your roster setup, is this is the one level of the field that truly needs talent on the field to help correlate to IDP success. Defensive linemen need to win off their blocks to make any play in the pass or run game. If they are not doing that, they will provide little to no impact when it comes to your IDP stat sheet. With this said, it is probably the one position you want to target elite talent early and often and when it comes to rookies, spend that draft capital to pull in those top draft capital talents (Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Kayvon Thibodeaux, etc…). Your drop-off here from tier 1 to tier 2 can be pretty sharp, think, ‘bellcow’ RB versus an RBBC (running back by committee). They can still have their weeks and be relevant that way. But an elite DL talent should and most likely will deliver for you week in and week out. Let’s move to that next level, the linebacker position.


This is where people can diverge to opposite ends of the spectrum on how to approach things. There are some amazing IDP linebackers their talent on the field flows through to the IDP Fantasy Football world,  and they are set ‘em and forget ‘em type players on your roster and you love seeing them go off week-to-week. However, another belief is that linebacker is a position that can easily have greater value-based almost entirely on snaps played. A true war of attrition if you will. Find the guys who are playing most downs, regardless of pure talent and you will find your starters at linebacker. These lower-tier linebackers will get you 80% of the production at 20% of the cost is the overall mentality. Now those numbers are not set in stone, but you get the concept. Both approaches are valid, but depending on how you feel about the other parts of the field and your roster, will dictate what you think is the best approach.


Lastly, the back end of the defense. The secondary, the last line of defense, those working on an island. How do we approach this group? This one can be one of the more diversified in terms of approach whether or not you are looking for just defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties rolled up together) or you are playing ‘True Position’ and you need starting spots for both safeties and cornerbacks. If you are looking for just DB’s, the biggest indicator and target when approaching which players are the right ones for your IDP roster is based on the location of their snaps. The reason for this distinction is that DB’s can line up all over the field based on the nature of their position and skillsets and the further that alignment gets from the line of scrimmage, the lower the probability of being involved in the actual play on the ball that will lead to an addition to that box score and your fantasy team’s score. The spots you need to find are the ones that get them closer to the ball. These are the key locations:

  • The box (lining up like a linebacker)
  • Slot (lined up over the inside WR/TE)
  • On the line (right up there with the big boys)

These opportunities heavily tend to skew towards the safety position so when you are not a ‘True Position’ league, you will find yourself looking at safety primarily, but there are still other values out there we will get into with further review of the positions. As for cornerbacks, this gets quite tricky for a lot of people, especially if you are newer to IDP. When people think cornerbacks they think of interceptions and flashy plays as a true indicator of someone you want to pursue. This is almost always NOT the case for cornerbacks. Interceptions are very rarely something that sticks with a cornerback (think touchdowns for offensive skill positions and their regressions). Something much more telling is the number of pass breakups (or passes defended) and to a lesser extent solo tackles. These are much more sticky and telling stats to a cornerbacks play, success, and potential future in IDP production.

We have covered a lot here today and it may seem like a lot to take in, but as we move through this series and other articles, we will take these ideas and put them against the backdrop of previous IDP seasons for us to get an idea how they work out in practice and application. I will be walking through a 2021 recap of the IDP groups at each level and I will kick it off with defensive linemen. If you have any questions, comments, or just want to talk about fantasy football, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @jakekohlhagen.

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