IDP Draft Strategy

published 08/20/19 7:34:39 PM EDT
by Justin Varnes

IDP drafts present numerous variables, including scoring variance, league size, and position designation. The following draft plan for the 2019 season will cover a strategy based on value for each of the three big designations - DL, LB, DB - as well as four league sizes.

Before we dive into the draft plan, here are some IDPs that I’ve labeled to help make the process simpler. These labels will be referred to often, and any of these IDPs under these labels should get the job done for you. For those of you who have read my draft plans before, you’ll recognize these labels.

Elite DLs

  • Aaron Donald

  • J.J. Watt

  • Joey Bosa

  • Myles Garrett

  • Danielle Hunter

  • Cameron Jordan

  • DeMarcus Lawrence

Solid DLs

  • DeForest Buckner

  • Calais Campbell

  • Frank Clark

  • Trey Flowers

  • Carlos Dunlap

  • Derek Barnett

  • Melvin Ingram

  • Ndamukong Suh

  • Chris Jones

  • Akiem Hicks

  • Nick Bosa

  • Olivier Vernon

Anchor LBs

  • Bobby Wagner

  • Darius Leonard

  • Luke Kuechly

  • Deion Jones

  • Tremaine Edmunds

  • Cory Littleton

  • Leighton Vander Esch

  • C.J. Mosley

Solid LBs

  • Blake Martinez

  • Roquan Smith

  • Myles Jack

  • Lavonte David

  • Demario Davis

  • Devin Bush

  • Anthony Hitchens

  • Jordan Hicks

  • Todd Davis

  • Jaylon Smith

  • Zach Cunningham

  • Eric Kendricks

High-Upside LB3s

  • Kwon Alexander Devin White

  • Jerome Baker

  • Jayon Brown

  • Patrick Onwuasor

  • Alec Ogletree

  • Fred Warner

  • Nick Vigil

Elite Pass Rushers (LB)

  • Khalil Mack

  • Von Miller

  • Bradley Chubb

  • T.J. Watt

  • Chandler Jones

Elite DBs

  • Jamal Adams

  • Budda Baker

  • Landon Collins

  • John Johnson, III

  • Keanu Neal

Reliable DBs

  • Tyrann Mathieu

  • Jordan Poyer

  • Harrison Smith

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick

  • Kevin Byard

  • Shawn Williams

  • Justin Reid

Upside DBs

  • Eddie Jackson

  • Jonathan Abrams

  • Jabrill Peppers

  • Antoine Bethea

  • T.J. McDonald

  • Rock Ya-Sin

  • Damarious Randall

  • Adrian Amos

  • Ronnie Harrison

The above list comprises my targets this season, and in tiers based on where I’m looking to draft them. Now let’s break this down by league size.

IDP Roster: 1-3 Flex Positions

DL Strategy: Avoid drafting a DL.

Put simply: even studs like Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt usually fall well short of your average LB in value. Let someone else waste a high draft pick on Donald, while you snag LBs off the Anchor and Solid lists. Yes, there will be a few DLs and DBs to crack the top-50 in this league, but it will be utterly dominated by tackle-soaking LBs. Chances are the top 25 IDPs will all be LBs. Every time someone takes a DL or DB means you’ve just upped your chances for those top 25 LBs.

LB Strategy: Grab an Anchor LB in the mid/late rounds, then fill out your roster with Solid LBs late in the draft.

If you only need one IDP, then grab one of those Anchor LBs and sleep like a baby. If you need two or three IDPs, then you’ll have one elite player and two Solid LBs. Due to the depth at LB this season, the mid-tier guys are all projected to put up solid numbers, and remember there’s about 20-25 of them.

DB Strategy: DBs are off-limits. Don’t even think about it.

With so many flex options at LB and even DL, and DBs historically being so volatile from season to season, you’re better off passing on a DB for your flex. Are there any exceptions? Not really. Will a few DBs put up IDP3 value? Yes. But why take a risk on which few that will be when you can grab any Solid LB and focus on offensive players.

IDP Roster: DL/LB/DB (one each)

DL Strategy: Grab an Elite DL

Preferably after you have all or most of your offensive starters. Keep an eye on those names above and when that list starts shrinking, grab one. Some of my favorites from that list are Cameron Jordan and Danielle Hunter, because they’re going a round or two later than the top DLs, yet they have a good chance of finishing in the top 5. This should likely be the first IDP you draft, as the drop off to the second and third-tier DLs is more significant than the LBs.

LB Strategy: Look for a low-end Anchor LB, but be satisfied with a Solid LB

Linebackers are the IDP equivalent of QBs: the difference between the top 5 and #10-15 is only a few FPG. The reason you should be satisfied with a Solid LB this season is because you can use the rounds that your league mates are picking up Luke Kuechly and Deion Jones to draft high upside offensive players. So when you see Jones come off the board, zone in on stacking your bench with some talented RBs and WRs that could have a breakout year (Joe Dolan and Tom Brolley have some great suggestions for these types of players on our site.) Lavonte David and Demario Davis are great targets after the big name LBs have been drafted. And if you wait even longer, players like Devin White and Patrick Onwuasor give you LB1 upside several rounds later in the draft.

DB Strategy: Take a DB in the last two or three rounds

There’s no need to try and grab Landon Collins early, when 100-tackle stalwarts like Harrison Smith have been lasting into the 15-20 ADP range. If you’re in a 12 or even 16 team league and you only need one DB, this is your chance to wait and let one of these consistent producers fall to you at the tail end of your draft. Often, I will use my very last pick on a DB and I’ll still struggle to pick from several juicy options. DBs like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shawn Williams, and Justin Reid have been going undrafted in some shallow leagues this season, and all are good candidates to finish in the top 10.

IDP Roster: 2 DL/3 LB/2 DB

DL Strategy: Elite DL early, then wait on another DL in the #15-20 range

Because you’ll need two DLs (likely three if you can afford the bench spot), this is a good year to grab a top-5 option in this type of league. They’re like WRs: you don’t want to miss out on those top few studs at this position. But after you have one of those DLs, the separation between DLs #9-20 isn’t significant, so you can afford to compensate for drafting a DL early by waiting a round or two later for your second DL while loading up on offense. Derek Barnett and Carlos Dunlap are good targets for your #2 DL slot.

LB Strategy: One Anchor LB, one Solid LB, then wait on a high-upside LB3

Because you’ll be drafting an Elite DL with your first IDP pick, you’ll likely miss out on the top 5 LBs, but that’s ok. As I said earlier, the LB field is so deep this season that you can afford it. If you have a queue in your draft software, set it up by stacking all those Anchor LBs above and when you see that list start to move, grab one with your next pick. Then you can wait a minute on your LB2. Guys like Demario Davis and Eric Kendricks have been coming off the board around the #25-32 LB range, which is great value for two players with locked-in roles and LB1 upside. You can also find guys who have solid roles and had solid seasons, but have gone unnoticed like Alec Ogletree, Fred Warner, and Jordan Hicks even later in the draft. Then for my LB3, this season I prefer high upside over safe floor, so I’ll go for Jerome Baker or Jayon Brown, two players who should see their roles grow over the season.

DB Strategy: Two DBs?? Nope, I’m still waiting until the end.

There are so many unsettled DB situations this preseason, that there are bound to be several productive DBs available at the end of drafts. And the flip side to that is that you might draft a DB in the middle rounds who won’t end up with a starting gig or a productive role. How many people drafted Reshad Jones or Tony Jefferson last season based on past roles instead of waiting on some upside guys like Derwin James or a Steady-Eddie like Harrison Smith?

IDP Roster: 3 DL/4 LB/3 DB

DL Strategy: One Elite DL, and Two Solid DLs

For a league this large, we have to be more aggressive, particularly in the DL category. I like coming out early for an Elite DL, then 2-3 rounds later grabbing a solid DL (#10-30 DLs), then a few rounds later, I'll grab a backend Solid DL, or possibly wait and grab a situational pass rusher for my DL3. If I'm loading up on tackle machines with my first 2 DLs, I can stand the swings of a situational pass rusher when he doughnuts, but more often than not even 1 sack or big play from my DL3 will be enough to carry his spot. More importantly, I put myself in a position to enjoy those weeks where he has multiple sacks and a fumble recovery because I have such a solid floor with my other two DLs.

LB Strategy: One Anchor LB, Two Solid LBs, and a pass rusher

After I have my Elite DL, I want my Anchor LB next. There are more Anchor LBs than Elite DLs, so I prioritize that DL roster spot. However, in a league this deep, I can't afford to wait too long on my first LB. And really, I can't afford to wait on my second and third LBs either. So I'm going to draft at least two LBs who are 3-down players with a clearly defined role. As long as I have at least two of those, I'll be comfortable mining the middle rounds for some high upside offensive talent. Then I'd go back and get one of two types of LBs for my last 2 LB slots: a player who will likely grow into his role like Jerome Baker or Jayon Brown, or I’ll go with a part-time pass rusher for my last LB slot. Guys like Lorenzo Alexander, Whitney Mercilus, and Rashan Gary will have a handful of tackles each game, and will contribute a sack every few games, and as the 4th LB, I’m cool with that. I have steady production everywhere else, so I’ll take a few fireworks games from my last LB.

DB Strategy: Finally! You should draft one (but only one) DB before the last few rounds.

In a league where you need three of these headaches, there is definitely value in trying to lock up a player whose role you think is clearly defined and has a good track record. These are players who have done it for a few years, whose DCs haven’t changed in the offseason, and whose secondary hasn’t changed much around him. That matters too. For instance, let’s say a SS has been playing in the box because his FS has been so good as the lone deep man. But then that FS is no longer there for 2016. The DC may change their coverage packages and that SS is no longer able to stay up. Hence why this is such a week-to-week proposition with DBs. Their coverages change often, dramatically changing most of their production. That Elite DB list is short for a reason, and I’m going to try and grab one of them, but honestly I’m not sweating it. That second list of Reliable DBs will do me plenty.

While we have DBs ranked higher than these guys, there is still uncertainty around most of their production. At least with the above guys, they should find themselves in the same role and therefore have a solid floor.

Parting Thought

One last piece of advice: when you get to the point where you are considering grabbing an IDP, perform this annual IDP draft self-check:

  • Is your offensive roster mostly filled out and strong?

  • Is there a full round worth of IDPs at that position that are in their list or the list just below them?

  • What offensive players are available and do any of them have a legitimate chance to break out this season?

Those few questions have helped me frame my decision when, for example, I see some LBs come off the board and then worry that I’ll miss out on the LB boat. Drafting Patrick Mahomes, Phillip Lindsay, or handcuff-turned-league-winner James Conner in the middle rounds last season instead of taking an IDP a round early might have drastically changed the fortunes of some IDP owners.

Now go get that IDP ‘ship!!

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Justin Varnes
Justin Varnes


When he isn't glued to the TV every Sunday in the Fall, Justin plays drums professionally and drives his daughter to basketball practices. A Jacksonville, FL native, Justin currently resides in Atlanta, GA. Justin grew up idolizing Dan Marino (the Jags hadn't made it to Jax yet) and his appreciation of defensive players started with the '85 Bears and cemented with former Dolphins LB Zach Thomas.