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Fantasy Football 2011: The IDP 100

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David Hawthorne should make a huge splash in IDP leagues this year.
David Hawthorne should make a huge splash in IDP leagues this year.

Isn't it such a wonderful feeling that we're two days away from football? Yeah yeah, NCAA already started, but we're talking about fantasy football here. The game that makes you ignore your friends (unless you're beating them), forget anniversaries, procrastinate assignments for school or work, and/or lose hours of sleep over guys like Maurice Jones-Drew, Brian Westbrook or Peyton Manning purposely falling down at the one-yard line that costs you a win.

For some of us, the traditional fantasy league doesn't waste enough time. Many of those people tend to play fantasy baseball or basketball and some enjoy those sports more than football. There's a lot more work in those and several years ago I came up with a little analogy comparing fantasy football to baseball or basketball.
Fantasy football is like taking care of a fish tank. You can get by taking care of it a few times a week and everything will be just fine. On the other hand, taking care of a fantasy baseball or basketball team is having a dog. If you don't take care of it every day, then you'll just wind up with crap all over the place.
There's hope though, fellow fantasy fiends. Individual Defensive Players (IDP) allows us to play from four to 11 (more if you want, but 11 is plenty) players instead of the boring D/ST. All the same components apply to IDP. It's all about exploiting those matchups, strategy in the draft and making big waiver wire scoop.
Before we get down to some things to know and the actually rankings, I'm pleased to announce I'll be covering the waiver wire every Tuesday. I'll obviously be hitting all the offensive guys, but the best part is I will have all the IDP players worth adding or putting on your watch list throughout the season.

Know your scoring format- Unlike offensive scoring, most of the IDP scoring systems can very unique. My ranking below is based off a system that has approximately a point for a tackle, three points for creating/recovering a turnover, a point for a deflection and two points for a sack. Those of you in leagues that involve vast differences in scoring, adjust accordingly.

Don't be afraid to wait- Even if you're starting 11 guys on defense, the waiver wire will always be at your disposal. For every breakout back or receiver, there will be about 10 guys that will bust out on defense. I'm fine with drafting a few studs at linebacker, but grabbing a sixth or seventh back over a lineman is the prudent move. Furthermore, if you miss out on the elite guys, it's OK to wait and grab some of the Mikes in the later rounds.

Don't miss out on linebackers- I do understand this contradicts the previous sentence. The point is your strength on defense should be linebackers. Unless you're in a sack-happy or big-play league, the they're going to score the most points. They'll also do it on a much more consistent basis. Period. There are quite a few of them, so don't reach too much.

Mike linebackers are the guys to grab- No. It's not because my name is Mike. The guys in the middle will generally have the most tackles on the team. The main reason is that they're right in the middle of the action, so they'll have a chance to make a tackle on both sides. Conversely, the Will and Sam linebackers will have to come take a couple extra steps to make a play. The Mikes also have the big defensive tackle(s) in front of them to take double teams and give them more room to roam. That means I do not value fan favorites such a Clay Matthews or DeMarcus Ware over a Mike that most people have never heard of like D'Qwell Jackson.

A 4-3 Mike trumps a 3-4- There are obvious exceptions to the rule like players with mega-stud status such as Timmons and Mayo. 4-3 Mike linebackers have two defensive tackles in from of them and usually get the first crack to plug the A and B gaps once the play develops a bit for the offense.

A bad offense is a positive- If a team is constantly having three-and-out possessions on offense, that means their defense has to go right back out there. The more time a player spends on the field, the more he can score. Simple enough, right?

A bad defense is a positive- By using the same reasoning as above, if a defense can't get off the field, then that means there will be more tackles for the team as a whole. Buffalo had the worst rushing defense last year, but Paul Posluszny was third in the league for tackles. Secondly, if the defense was dreadful last year, then there's a better chance the team will turn a younger player loose. What's more, a team that is allowing a lot of yards means players are getting to the second level, which allows the safeties to make tackles. Donte Whitner, Buffalo's safety last year, led all defensive backs in tackles last year.

Matchups are your friends- I have been stressing linebackers quite a bit and the reason why is because defensive lineman are extremely inconsistent. If your stud defensive end is going against an elite offensive tackle like Jake Long, Joe Thomas or D'Brickashaw Ferguson, then chances are he won't be able to get a sack. There are 32 teams in the league and each line has two ends, so why not start a mediocre end against a really weak offensive line? The bottom line is defensive lineman should be the last starting spot filled for IDP owners (there are some exceptions and they'll be addressed later).

Know eligibility- This isn't that big of a deal. However, there are a few guys that have a nice little eligibility bonus and they will be mentinoed at the bottom.

Let's get to the rankings (team, position and defensive scheme listed in parenthesis). I've also provided an asterisk next to the guys I really like and will provide a reason at the bottom:

Follow me on Twitter: @MikeSGallagher

1. Patrick Willis (SF- MLB 4-3)
2. Lawrence Timmons (PIT- ILB 3-4)
3. James Laurinaitis (STL- MLB 4-3)
4. Jerod Mayo (NE- OLB 4-3)
5. Stephen Tulloch (DET- MLB 4-3)*
6. Curtis Lofton (ATL- MLB 4-3)
7. Paul Posluszny (JAC- MLB 4-3)
8. London Fletcher (WAS- ILB 3-4)
9. David Harris (NYJ- ILB 3-4)
10. Tyvon Branch (OAK- SS 4-3)
11. Derrick Johnson (KC- ILB 3-4)
12. David Hawthorne (SEA- MLB 4-3)*
13. Eric Weddle (SD- SS 3-4)
14. Eric Berry (KC- SS 3-4)
15. T.J. Ward (CLE- SS 4-3)
16. Pat Chung (NE- SS 4-3)
17. Ray Lewis (BAL- MLB 4-3)
18. Yeremiah Bell (MIA- SS 3-4)
19. Desmond Bishop (GB- ILB 3-4)
20. LaRon Landry (WAS- SS 3-4)
21. Julius Peppers (CHI- DE 4-3)
22. Jared Allen (MIN- DE 4-3)
23. D'Qwell Jackson (CLE- MLB 4-3)
24. Jonathan Vilma (NO- MLB 4-3)
25. Mario Williams (HOU- OLB,DE 3-4)*
26. Justin Tuck (NYG- DE 4-3)
27. Donte Whitner (SF- SS 4-3)
28. Barrett Ruud (TEN- MLB 4-3)
29. Jon Beason (CAR- MLB 4-3)
30. Karlos Dansby (MIA- ILB 3-4)
31. Brian Urlacher (CHI- MLB 4-3)
32. Roman Harper (NO- SS 4-3)
33. Trent Cole (PHI- DE 4-3)
34. Ndamukong Suh (DET- DT 4-3)
35. George Wilson (BUF- SS 3-4)*
36. Quintin Mikell (STL- SS 4-3)
37. Charles Johnson (CAR- DE 4-3)
38. Danieal Manning (HOU- FS 3-4)*
39. Troy Polumalu (PIT- SS 3-4)
40. Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG- DE 4-3)
41. Demeco Ryans (HOU- ILB 3-4)
42. Chad Greenway (MIN- OLB 4-3)
43. Daryl Washington (ARI- ILB 3-4)
44. Terrell Suggs (BAL- DE, OLB 4-3)
45. Rey Maualuga (CIN- MLB 4-3)
46. D.J. Williams (DEN- OLB 4-3)
47. Rolando McClain (OAK- MLB 4-3)
48. Brian Cushing (HOU- ILB 3-4)
49. Kam Chancellor (SEA- SS 4-3)*
50. Dawan Landry (JAC- FS 4-3)
51. Clay Matthews (GB- OLB 3-4)
52. Brandon Spikes (NE- MLB 4-3)*
53. Nick Barnett (BUF- ILB 3-4)
54. Chris Long (STL- DE 4-3)
55. DeMarcus Ware (DAL- OLB 3-4)
56. Charles Woodson (GB- CB 3-4)
57. Earl Thomas (SEA- FS 4-3)
58. Kerry Rhodes (ARI- FS 3-4)
59. Takeo Spikes (SD- ILB 3-4)
60. Michael Griffin (TEN- FS 4-3)
61. Joe Haden (CLE- CB 4-3)
62. Antoine Bethea (IND- FS 4-3)
63. Pat Angerer (IND- OLB 4-3)
64. Darnell Dockett (ARI- DE 3-4)
65. Mason Foster (TB- MLB 4-3)*
66. Sean Witherspoon (ATL- OLB 4-3)
66. E.J. Henderson (MIN- MLB 4-3)
67. Robert Mathis (IND- DE 4-3)
68. Elvis Dumervil (DEN- DE 4-3)
69. Casey Matthews (PHI- MLB 4-3)
70. William Moore (ATL- SS 4-3)*
71. Kenny Phillips (NYG- SS 4-3)
72. O.J. Atogwe (WAS- FS 3-4)
73. Bradie James (DAL- ILB 3-4)
74. Matt Shaughnessy (OAK- DE 4-3)
75. James Harrison (PIT- OLB 3-4)
76. Charles Tillman (CHI- CB 4-3)
77. James Anderson (CAR- OLB, MLB 4-3)
78. Louis Delmas (DET- FS 4-3)
79. Jarrett Johnson (BAL- OLB,DE 4-3)*
80. Morgan Burnett (GB- SS 3-4)
81. Clint Sessions (JAC- OLB 4-3)
82. Brandon Flowers (KC- CB 3-4)
83. Gary Brackett (IND- MLB 4-3)
84. Calais Campbell (ARI- DE 3-4)
85. Adrian Wilson (ARI- SS 3-4)
86. Lance Briggs (CHI- OLB 4-3)
87. Ray Edwards (ATL- DE 4-3)
88. Donald Butler (SD- ILB 3-4)
89. Jason Jones (TEN- DE 4-3)
90. Thomas Davis (CAR- OLB 4-3)
91. Glover Quin (HOU- SS, CB 3-4)*
92. Joe Mays (DEN- MLB 4-3)
93. Bernard Pollard (BAL- SS 4-3)
94.Jim Leonard (NYJ- FS 3-4)
95. Kyle Vanden Boesch (DET- DE 4-3)
96. Justin Smith (SF- DE 4-3)
97. Patrick Peterson (ARI- CB 3-4)
98. Cortland Finnegan (TEN- CB 4-3)
99. Cliff Avril (DET- DE 4-3)
100. Chris Clemons (SEA- DE 4-3)
Stephen Tulloch- Mr. Tulloch has Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh in front of him. He should have a lot of room to roam the middle and teams will still try to run on Detroit, but this time it will be to keep the high-powered Lion-O off the field. Thundercats? What?

David Hawthorne and Kam Chancellor- The Seahawks offense is going to be bad this year. Really bad. Expect the defense to be on the field a ton and Hawthorne is a darkhorse to finish in the top three for tackles.
Earl Thomas is going to be a fun player to watch and is the sexier name, but Kam Chancellor is going to be make a ton of tackles and disrupt plays all season. I do find it funny that Chancellor is 0.0 percent owned in ESPN leagues. If you're not sure about on of your defensive backs, make the switch.

Mario Williams- I mentioned eligibility and Super Mario fits the bill. He is going to play OLB for the Texans and should mix in some intereceptions and tackles to go with nice sack numbers in Wade Phillips' defense.

Brandon Spikes- There aren't a lot of people talking about Mayou playing the weak side and Spikes playing the middle in a 4-3 D. He has one of the best opportunities of any Mike.

George Wilson- He is replacing Donte Whitner. Need I say more?

Mason Foster- Foster is probably best known for laying out Ochocinco and getting fined for it. However, he is going to be the middle linebacker for the Bucs this season. He might not get work on all three downs in the early going, but he should carve out that role in a month or so.

Danieal Manning and Glover Quin- These two Texans have two unique things going for them. Manning looks like he will be the return man for Houston and should also be a nice IDP option even without the possibility of scoring a TD on a kickoff (he's a must-have DB in return-yardage leagues (Pat Peterson is the only other guy with a value boost for return yardage). Glover Quin is really the only safety in the league that is listed as a CB. If you're league requires that you fill a CB spot, Quin is your man. He is the starting strong safety and should do an admirable job replacing Bernard Pollard.

William Moore- Moore figures to get a nice chunk of action in the run-stuffing game. The third-year player did a solid job last season with 72 tackles and five picks. He is going to start and could make some impressive strides this season.

Jarrett Johnson- He is going to play all three downs as the Sam linebacker for Baltimore. He is a sneaky guy to add and might have some consistent production as a DL.

Well that's it. I'm looking forward to covering IDP this season and helping you win your league. I am a bit sad to report that I might have set the record for If-then statements in a fantasy article.
As I stated above, there are many different scoring formats for IDP, so if you're stuck feel free to drop me a line on Twitter. You can also post a comment below and I'll do my best to respond.

Thanks for reading!