IDPs 101: How to Build Your 2020 DL Core

Updated: April 23rd 2020

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than for illumination.
Andrew Lang, Scottish Novelist

Its Draft Week folks!!!  Talk about couldn’t have come any sooner too.  My fantasy circles were particularly chatty this weekend.  It got me thinking – aside from how grateful I was to have a temporary distraction from the daily stresses of the Coronavirus, I couldn’t help but wonder how we all got here.  I’m speaking in regards to my friends becoming the Dynasty nuts they are today.  It really was not too long ago I was drafting with owners who would try their best to select all Bucs’ players, or they based their decisions on whether or not someone played in the SEC.  Of course, now it seems like every owner keeps a finger on the pulse of the league year round.  We’ve got guys arguing about snap counts and average completed air yards in mid-April.  It’s beautiful!

Throughout this evolution, I have noticed a trend amongst our fantasy community as a whole.  We are all perfectly capable of taking a stance on a player & backing it up with numbers.  Whereas, we Saints’ homers used to proclaim Cam Jordan the best DE in the league simply out of Who Dat loyalty, we now back up our boasts with data (i.e., Jordan’s 40 sacks the last 3 seasons are the most of any DE in that time frame).  However, the problem is most owners are only interested in pursuing the numbers when it’s time to argue about their favorite players or the biggest names.  There is so much unrealized insight out there.  My hope is that this article can act as a springboard for reshaping your relationship with statistics, and ultimately regaining the edge you had back when your competitors were drafting Kevin Faulk in the 4th round because he went to their high school.

Take a look at some of these names:

Landon Collins – recorded 5 Ints and 4 Sacks in 2016.  He has since logged 2 Ints and 1 sack in 42 games.

Geno Atkins – 9+ sacks in 4 straight seasons. He finished with half that number last year.

J.J. Watt – only managed 4 sacks in the 8 games he played in 2019

Khalil Mack – failed to reach double digit sacks for the 1st time in 5 years.

We see this kind of stuff every season.  Big names will eventually let you down at every position, and IDPs are especially volatile.  I understand the frustration.  You signed the best IDPs in the game and it didn’t work out.  What more could you possibly do?

For starters, you must step off that carousel.  Chasing today’s biggest names will rarely yield tomorrow’s best results.  I challenge you all to try this instead.  Forget the names altogether and focus on the odds.  Therein lies my goal.  To provide RSO readers with actionable odds they can use in building their Defensive Line core this offseason.

I approached this challenge from 3 different perspectives.  The 1st – Based off the last 10 years, what are the odds of success for DL rookies in Years 1, 2 and 3?

I categorized these rookies into 3 subgroups: Top 10 Selections, 1st Rounders 11-32, and 2nd Rounders.  I determined success by the scale with which most of my RSO leagues score IDP production (1 point per Tkl, 0.5 per Assist, 2.5 points per Half-Sack, 7 points per FF or FR), along with an arbitrary target of 80 points.  Here’s what I found.

Top 10 Picks 11-32 2nd Round
Year 1 40.0% 13.2% 7.7%
Year 2 46.7% 24.5% 14.6%
Year 3 40.0% 33.3% 17.0%
1 of 3+ 86.7% 42.2% 29.8%
2 of 3+ 66.7% 24.4% 10.6%
3 of 3 20.0% 8.9% 0.0%
0 of 3 33.3% 60.0% 63.8%

The Top 10 consist of 20 players: Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Tyson Alualu, Marcell Dareus, Dion Jordan, Ezekiel Ansah, Barkevious Mingo, Jadeveon Clowney, Dante Fowler, Leonard Williams, Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, and then 2019’s Draft Class – Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Allen and Ed Oliver – whom only qualify for Year 1 figures.  Of the 15 players that came before them, only Ezekiel Ansah, Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett (more on these 2 later) have attained our definition of fantasy relevance all 3 years.

The sample size for Picks 11-32 (53) and 2nd Rounders (52) are much bigger.  As you can see, the odds increase with each season.  Also, both subgroups experience a steep descent from its antecedent.  This table’s 2 biggest takeaways:  At 40%, the Top 10 picks are 3 times more likely to be relevant their rookie season than the 1st Rounders 11-32 are.  The same holds true with the 2 out of 3 or greater successful seasons stat.  The Top 10’s 66.7% is also nearly 3 times the success rate of the remainging 1st Rounders.  This is useful information, but I was not satisfied with stopping here.  This brings us to the 2nd method of inquisition.

Let’s simplify things.  The DL position is predicated on getting to the QB right?  Therefore, Sacks are a powerful metric for which we can base our research.  I gathered all the DEs/DTs that recorded 7.5+ sacks in the last 10 seasons.  I then documented which year in the player’s career the feat was achieved.  Below is an example from 2010.

Name Year 
John Abraham 11
Jason Babin 7
Charles Johnson 4
Justin Tuck 6
Osi Umenyiora 8
Jared Allen 7
Chris Clemons 7
Robert Mathis 8
James Hall 11
Trent Cole 6
Dwight Freeney 9
Ndamukong Suh 1
Carlos Dunlap 1
Raheem Brock 9
Cliff Avril 3
Chris Long 3
Justin Smith 10
Mario Williams 5
Ray Edwards 5
Israel Idonije 7
Julius Peppers 9

Here are the results tallied up from seasons 2010-2019.

Year of Career Total
1 13
2 20
3 30
4 31
5 32
6 21
7 22
8 21
9 20
10 14
11 10
12 2
13 1

Only 13 players reached the 7.5 benchmark in year 1, 3 of which occured in 2019 (Josh Allen, Nick Bosa, and Maxx Crosby).  In Year 2 we observed a rate similar to that of Years 6-9.  Then we reach our sweet spot in Years 3-5.  I was pleaseantly surprised with how clean of a trend we wound up with here.  It energized me.  I had to know what sort of results would emerge from combining the previous 2 research methods.

The 3rd Perspective – How did each player on the list above fare sackwise in Years 1, 2 and 3?  With 92 qualifying Defensive Lineman, we had a total of 50 1st/2nd Rounders.  Here are the players of note:

3 of 3
Top 10
3 of 3
Picks 11-32
2 of 3
Top 10
2 of 3
Picks 11-32
2 of 3
2nd Round
Ezekial Ansah Dwight Freeny Myles Garrett Cam Jordan Osi Umenyiora
Aaron Donald Joey Bosa Robert Quinn Calais Campbell
Khalil Mack J.J. Watt Frank Clark
Andre Carter Jason Pierre-Paul Jabaal Sheard
Julius Peppers John Abraham
Mario Williams
Ndamukong Suh

 

 Total 3 of 3 2 of 3 1 of 3 0 of 3 2 of 3 1 of 3
Top 10 16 1 7 6 2 50.0% 87.5%
Picks
11-32
21 2 5 7 7 33.3% 66.7%
2nd Round 13 0 4 5 4 30.8% 69.2%

Our sample size decreased significantly here, but we are still able to recognize the Top 10 picks’ irrefutable edge.  So what does it all mean Basil?

Let’s assume this is your league’s first year, and you are operating with a 30 man roster that starts 2 DL.  In this scenario, I would want to roll with 4 guys.

I would start by making an aggressive push to lock up a Top 10 selection in the Rookie Draft, which this year figures to be Washington’s Chase Young.  If I have to move some picks around to lock him up, so be it.  I’m then targeting players entering Years 3, 4, 5 in the Auction since that range has the best odds.  Myles Garrett or Joey Bosa are Priority 1, and  I am willing to spend as much as 10 mil a year for one of them.

After that we have a couple of solid options at DT in Chris Jones and DeForest Buckner.  DTs often enjoy discounts since sacks are harder to come by at that position, and this pair endured a combined 11 sack dropoff in 2019.  I would want to add one of them or Yannick Ngakoue, who is severly underated.  Fun fact.  Yannick is 1 of 2 players from our list, not drafted in the 1st 2 Rounds who recorded 7.5+ sacks in all 3 of his first seasons.  The other was Jared Allen.

Finally, I am targeting a potential breakout player that has shown glimpses and will be acquired on the cheap.  Guys like Sam Hubbard, Jonathan Allen, Derek Barnett, Shaq Lawson, Matt Ioannidis, and Marcus Davenport all fit the bill.

Finding success in RSO leagues is all about planning and execution.  Although I will respect and even fear your trio of Cam Jordan, Aaron Donald and Melvin Ingram some weeks, I know the odds are in my favor to finish the year with a top DL core.  I challenge you to take a similar apporach this season.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano