If you’re fairly new to IDP, there can be a lot to digest early on. One of the reasons why is because the defense just doesn’t get talked about as much in the media, and when they do, the like to throw around lots of cool-sounding phrases like “Tampa 2” and “SAM linebacker” without explaining what the hell they just said. 

The key to winning at IDP is to understand how IDPs function at each position, and as that position relates to their defensive unit.

How defensive coordinators use their players to win football games can often be tricky to translate to IDP scoring. But with a little bit of background on how defenses work and how defensive players work within certain schemes, you can learn to anticipate which players will benefit (or suffer) from a change in defensive coordinators, schemes, or positions.

Let’s start with some fundamental responsibilities of each of the three levels of defense:

Defensive Linemen

Defensive linemen put their hand on the ground and spend all day trying to get past offensive linemen. There are two types of DLs when it comes to IDPs: Defensive Ends (DE) and Defensive Tackles (DT). While it used to be that DEs racked up most of the sacks and tackles while the DTs stayed home and clogged up the middle, that’s no longer the case. As defensive coordinators continue to keep offenses guessing, defensive linemen are now asked to move around the line, and essentially DTs are being asked more and more to be pass rushers and wrap up more tackles.

Some DCs use an aggressive style of defense where blitzes and penetration are key. These defenses can be identified by a large number of sacks and turnovers, even if they give up a high number of yards and/or points. Other coordinators prefer more of a containment approach, keeping their linemen in place to absorb the run for little to no gain. These defenses may not pull down high sack totals, but will be near the top of the league in fewest yards allowed. Some defenders are great at stopping the run but not at getting to the QB (Ex. Damon Harrison). Some DLs are great at penetration but RBs routinely go whizzing by them (Ex. Cameron Wake). Matching the type of player with the right defensive scheme is crucial for NFL success. Understanding those matches is crucial for IDP success.

So in general (a gross simplification for the purposes of how these players will score points for you), defensive linemen have two primary jobs: either stop the ball carrier, or sack the QB. The best DLs for fantasy do both, but if your scoring weighs either tackles or sacks (and other big plays) heavily, you can start to zero in on certain DLs based on their role on their team.

Linebackers

Linebackers stand up and have multiple responsibilities. Typically, an inside lineba...