Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Guest post: Schauf on IDPs

It has been a busy week at FFLibrarian so I've recruited my friend, Matt Schauf, whom I met several years ago at a Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) meeting, to do a guest post on here on IDPs. Matt writes for DraftSharks.com now and he's basically my favorite IDP writer plus just a smart cookie, so if you're in an IDP league and looking for IDPers that may well outperform their draft position, read up. Much of DraftSharks.com's content is behind a paywall so consider this your lucky break if you're a DSharks fan.

I'll be back tomorrow with some really excellent links for the week - seriously, I'm already pretty excited about some of the links I have lined up for you.


By Matt Schauf

Do you use IDPs in your fantasy football league? I'm guessing you do because you decided to read past the headline. I'm also willing to bet that you don't put as much work into preparing for the defensive portion of your draft as you do the offense.

I can't blame you. Most fantasy players don't. But I do, and it pays off handsomely come draft time. That's why I decided to stop by my friend Sara's blog here and pass along some tips to dominate your IDP draft.

First of all, don't be afraid to start the run on defenders. Texans DE J.J. Watt and Panthers LB Luke Kuechly project well ahead of the others at their positions. If you're the kind who says "I'm not taking an IDP before Round 10," you'll miss out on fantasy's defensive versions of Jimmy Graham and Calvin Johnson.

Beyond the top guys, though, draft values are abundant. ADP has become so familiar to fantasy football players that everyone reading this probably already knows what it means without me spelling it out. You can find the offensive numbers all over the place and shape your strategy accordingly.

That's tougher to do on defense, however. IDP drafts are nowhere near frequent enough to build reliable ADP stats, and individual site's rankings will vary more wildly than they do on offense. I checked out MyFantasyLeague.com drafts that have started since July 1, though, and found these 10 defenders who are set to significantly outperform their draft position and help you win a title.

Defensive Line

Osi Umenyiora, DE, Falcons
Among the 31 D-linemen who had been picked in at least 5% of drafts, Umenyiora ranked a lowly 24th. I get it. The guy will turn 32 in November, played a diminished role for the Giants last year and missed 7 games the year before.

But Umenyiora delivered 9 sacks in the 9 regular-season contests he did play in 2011. He contributed 6 more last season as the New York's No. 3 DE, just a half-sack less than Jason Pierre-Paul's team-leading total.

Umenyiora will play right DE full time in Atlanta and should at least approach 10 sacks. He has also proved an adept collector of tackles and forced fumbles, knocking 31 loose over the past 8 seasons (3.9 a year). Don't be surprised if Umenyiora winds up among the top 12 fantasy D-linemen -- barring injury.

Rob Ninkovich, DE, Patriots
This one, quite honestly, is tough to get. Ninkovich finished each of the past 2 seasons among the top 10 IDP linemen. His current MFL ADP sits somewhere outside the position's top 31. Unless I overlooked the report of him losing a leg, this simply doesn't make sense.

Ninkovich faces no real challenge to his starting left DE job. If anything, his work might get easier with second-year DE Chandler Jones developing and the team adding veteran DT Tommy Kelly. Ninkovich has proved a multi-category producer in his 2 seasons as a full-time starter and improved his sack total each of the past 2 years. He can start for your IDP squad.

LINEBACKERS -- 48 listed

D'Qwell Jackson, ILB, Browns
Jackson ranked outside the top 20 fantasy linebackers in many formats last year, but that'll change in 2013.

You might read about how he struggled against the run the last time Cleveland lined up in a 3-4 front. That's true. Pro Football Focus graded him third-worst among 46 qualifying inside linebackers in run defense back in 2008. But it also doesn't matter. Know how I know? Jackson also led the league in tackles that year.

He could challenge to do so again in his first year under new coordinator Ray Horton -- especially with Craig Robertson and a bunch of other guys you've never heard of manning the other ILB spot. Look for Jackson to assume some of the blitzing duties that helped make Daryl Washington the top fantasy linebacker last year. The whole package should easily outperform Jackson's current LB14 draft position at MFL.

Bruce Carter, OLB, Cowboys
Everyone in Dallas seems to expect this guy to break out under new coordinator Monte Kiffin. That's not surprising, considering Carter will play the weak-side role that helped make Derrick Brooks a star in Tampa Bay and has worked smaller wonders for players from Lance Briggs in Chicago to Cato June in Indianapolis.

Carter stands 6-foot-3, 246 pounds and has reportedly been timed in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash. He's a big, fast man who returned each of his three college interceptions for at least 41 yards. This is a playmaker whose new scheme is setting him up to make plays. MFL has him going a respectable 20th among linebackers so far. Fantasy Pros' aggregate "expert" rankings says the fantasy community likes him just 25th at the position. Neither set goes nearly high enough.

If you get nothing else from this list, make sure to put Bruce Carter in your IDP lineup this year. (Draft Sharks Insiders can check out our LB rankings to see just how high I have him.)

London Fletcher, ILB, Washington
Fletcher's bound to break down at some point ... right?

He's heading into his age-38 season. Only two linebackers have ever started 16 games in an NFL season at 38 or older: Sam Mills for Carolina in 1997 and Clay Matthews for Atlanta in 1995. No player has reached 100 total tackles at that age. Only Mills and Fletcher have done so at 37. Throw in the multiple injuries that nearly cost Fletcher a game or more last season, and he could nearing the cliff.

But you know what? He ranked among the top 5 fantasy linebackers last season. And the year before. And in 2010. And he finished 2009 among the top 10. Fletcher's age makes me more wary of him than a younger guy with the same profile, but it doesn't make me forget about him.

The veteran has been the 29th linebacker off the board at MFL. That ain't right.

Erin Henderson, MLB, Vikings
According to the My Fantasy League ADP, Henderson isn't even consistently getting drafted. PunchDrunkWonderland.com is running a series of IDP-only drafts -- I took part in No. 13 -- and said that Henderson went undrafted in seven of the first 14 exercises.

Apparently most people thought that Desmond Bishop would automatically take over in the middle after signing. They were wrong. Henderson has stayed there and continued to impress coaches. The only thing standing between him and consistent starting fantasy value is a three-down role.

Henderson struggled in coverage the past two years and lost those duties to MLB Jasper Brinkley last season. But head coach Leslie Frazier has continued to tout Henderson's upside and would like to see him earn every-down work. I'm more than willing to grab Henderson as a third or fourth fantasy linebacker and see what happens.

DEFENSIVE BACKS -- 36

William Moore, SS, Falcons
Moore has been going 18th among defensive backs in MFL drafts since July 1. That's actually down from 15th for the whole year. Why?

I can only guess that people are ignoring his per-game production last season, which ranked second among all defensive backs in many IDP setups. Moore missed the final 4 weeks with a hamstring injury, which dragged down his total fantasy score, and the injury issue has recurred throughout his young career. But this is the easiest position in fantasy football at which to find a replacement.

I had Moore as a top breakout candidate last season -- projected third among DBs -- and he delivered. I see no reason to back off him this year.

Reshad Jones, SS, Dolphins
If you watched Sunday night's Hall of Fame game, you probably noticed Miami's issues with tackling (among many other football fundamentals). The Dolphins played without starting middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe but had their other two LB starters. Continued issues on that front would only mean more opportunities for Jones.

Of course, he doesn't need crappy linebacker play to deliver IDP results in 2013. Jones finished 2012 -- his first full starting season -- with 95 total tackles, 4 interceptions and a No. 8 ranking among fantasy DBs. Pro Football Focus graded him the third-best overall safety in the league. For some reason, he's going 16th among defensive backs on MFL.

T.J. Ward, SS, Browns
Ward's low rating among drafters is easier to understand. He finished last season outside the position's top 50 and missed half the season in 2011. But don't forget about a stellar rookie campaign that ranked
Ward among fantasy's top 10 DBs.

He finished second among all NFL defensive backs in both total tackles (123) and solos (95) that year and could generate big numbers again in that area. New coordinator Ray Horton played Adrian Wilson in the box a lot with the Cardinals, and Ward has already professed excitement for the "downhill" approach. He entered the league out of Oregon with a well-earned reputation for big hits.

Behind a questionable group of linebackers, Ward could deliver consistent scoring for your fantasy squad.

Matt Elam, SS, Ravens
You want a safety made to play in the box? Elam stepped into the lineup as a sophomore at Florida on one of the nation's best defenses and led the team in tackles for loss. Last year he tied DT Shariff Floyd for the lead in that category. (Floyd, by the way, just became a Viking in the first round of April's draft.)

Elam also finished second on the team in total tackles each year and tallied five career sacks and six interceptions. So he's a stout tackler who also presents big-play upside. No wonder head coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome were excited to get Elam at the end of Round 1.

Fantasy drafters can get him pretty much whenever they want so far. Elam doesn't show up among the 36 DBs in MFL's average draft position list.

Matt Schauf writes about IDPs and everything else fantasy football for DraftSharks.com. Online since 1999, Draft Sharks won the 2010 and 2012 FSTA awards for most accurate fantasy football projections.

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