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.

More Analysis by Jake

Should We Retire D/ST Position?

Updated: July 8th 2016

#NoMoreDefST

Where did the D/ST position come from? I understand that, like prop bets, it’s fun to have action on every aspect of a football game, but I believe the D/ST increases the randomness of weekly contests and makes fantasy football a less fun and skillful hobby. I’ve long believed the scoring outputs are too matchup and touchdown dependent, and are often aided by fluke, unpredictable plays. The quality of the defense matters less than it does at any other position. This has been a theory of mine for years, but I wanted to dive into the data and see if my theory was actually true.

There has been a movement to get rid of the kicker position, which has even been adopted by DraftKings and MyFantasyLeague. Why isn’t there much of a push to retire the D/ST position? Let’s examine why there should be #NoMoreDefST.

Weekly Matchups Impact D/ST Outputs More Than Any Other Position

Through analyzing ESPN’s 2015 Points Against Data, I discovered that defenses (D/ST) were affected more dramatically by weekly matchups than any other positions. Defenses facing the Tennessee Titans‘ offense averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game. Cleveland‘s offense was just behind Tennessee at 10.4 fppg. Ranking as the 32nd best matchup, defenses facing the Arizona Cardinals‘ offense averaged only 1.6 fppg. Teams facing the best matchup, Tennessee, scored 719% more points than those facing Arizona, the worst matchup. Looking at that same metric, it’s clear that other positions are far less affected by weekly matchups – QBs 197%, RBs 216%, WRs 196%, and TEs 260%. As unpredictable as the NFL, do we really want our weekly contests being decided by whichever defense is lucky enough to face a team like Tennessee or Cleveland?

How Does The Season Schedule Impact The D/ST Scoring Leaders?

Since we’ve found that weekly matchups matter greatly to fantasy D/STs, I wanted to determine if the frequency of good matchups dramatically impact the season long scoring leaders. To test this theory, I tallied how many top 10 matchups (using the aforementioned ESPN Points Against Data) each of the top 10 and bottom 10 fantasy scoring defenses faced in 2015. Teams that finished in the top 10 in scoring, according to ESPN’s 2015 Scoring Leaders, averaged 5.8 top 10 matchups during the season, while bottom 10 teams averaged only 4.1 top 10 matchups. A difference in nearly 2 top 10 matchups per team appears to have impacted the standings. This isn’t to say the quality of the D/ST doesn’t matter, but to explain that factors outside of their control impact their scoring outputs more than any other position.

Are TDs Too Heavily Weighted For D/STs?

The Philadelphia D/ST scored 7 TDs in 2015, tied for the most of any team. This aided the Eagles D/ST into becoming a defense that warranted consideration from many fantasy owners. On the season, Philadelphia finished 16th after a poor final month. Of the top 23 D/STs in 2015 scoring, no D/ST had more zero or negative point games than Philadelphia. Philadelphia had 5 such games. 7 plays  –Darren Sproles return TDs, a blocked punt, a fumble, and several interceptions caused the Eagles to swing several matchups in 2015. I’d argue that the randomness and unpredictability of these TDs required little preparation and skill from their fantasy owners.

Verdict

Fantasy football has never been more popular than it is right now. Major networks such as ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, and NFL Network now produce weekly shows to help fantasy owners set lineups before kickoff every Sunday. Fantasy football platforms with unique offerings like Reality Sports Online are rapidly growing in popularity. With all of this growth in the industry, the widely accepted standard roster positions and scoring have mostly remained intact. With more resources for preparation and news information available than we have time to read, we should also aim to optimizing the experience on Sundays. Nothing is more frustrating than watching your season end as a defensive lineman runs into the endzone for a TD on a recovered fumble. You saw that coming? Me neither.

Join me in retiring the D/ST position on Twitter (@DaveSanders_RSO) by using the hashtag #NoMoreDefST!


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each. 

More Analysis by Dave Sanders