Cassy Aite

What Is IDP Fantasy Football? Everything You Need To Know

Oct 16
8 minutes

Fantasy football leagues have matured and expanded over time. And while options like dynasty leagues, redraft leagues, PPR leagues, and superflex leagues have offered increased flexibility, scoring, and more ways to enjoy the game, IDP leagues have become equally popular.

Featuring a defensive-based philosophy, IDP leagues offer more in the way of strategy and enjoyment for both seasoned and novice fantasy football players. If you’ve never played IDP before, find out why you should make the jump and how to become successful in this dynamic and exciting fantasy football format.

What Is IDP Fantasy Football?

Defensive football player diving for the quarterback

So what is IDP fantasy football exactly? IDP stands for individual defensive players, which as the name would suggest, is a format that allows you to draft and start singular defensive players — much like you would on the offensive side in a standard or flex format league.

IDP leagues still allow you to draft and start offensive players, but you’re also tasked with doing the same on the other side of the ball. When you're drafting or strategizing for your starting lineup, you have to conduct extra research to see who’s a stalwart on the defense, who has a knack for big plays, or who’s been playing out of their mind recently.

A major distinction is that IDP fantasy football focuses more on the performance of individual players rather than an entire defensive unit that you’d find with your D/ST position. This may seem obvious, but oftentimes, a D/ST scores fantasy points not based on their skill or prowess, but rather on the mediocrity of the team they’re playing.

As such, an IDP fantasy football league requires more strategy, attention to detail, and consistent reshuffling of your starting lineup via the bench or the waiver wire. For players who want a logistical and managerial challenge, no other format beats IDP fantasy football.

The Difference Between D/ST and IDP

Both D/ST (defense/special teams) and IDP focus on the performance of players not on the offensive side of the ball. However, IDP takes this idea one step further. In standard leagues, each fantasy manager must choose a team defense/special teams each week to fill the D/ST spot. Though this format is far easier in principle, it negates the fun and excitement of choosing IDPs.

So instead of using the D/ST spot, IDP allows you to choose singular players — generally in the range of four to five, but up to as many as eight — akin to your offensive starting lineup.

But think about it: what if you simply had to select a team for your offense instead of individual offensive positions? It would be a bit boring, right? Well, that’s just what IDP aims to do — make the entire fantasy game more exciting by offering players chances to score more points each and every week.

Available Positions in IDP Fantasy Football

On the offensive side of fantasy football, you get to choose a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end,  and flex spots to accumulate points. Not surprisingly, IDP functions the same way by letting you select players from any and all defensive positions. The list of IDP players includes:

  • Middle linebackers and outside linebackers
  • Defensive linemen, including defensive tackles and defensive ends
  • Defensive backs, including cornerbacks and safeties

Depending on the league you’re in, the names of the actual positions may vary, such as whether an edge player is an OLB or a DE. But in most cases, you will have to fill a minimum of one of each of these positions in a vast majority of IDP leagues.

Scoring in IDP Fantasy Football Leagues

Much like the offensive scoring in fantasy football leagues, IDP scoring systems will vary. So a solo tackle from your defensive line, linebacker, or cornerback in one league might be worth a half-point while another IDP format may give you a full point. The idea is to know your scoring through and through. This will help you devise a plan on who to draft, what positions are the most valuable, and how to avoid overstocking on a single position.

Regardless of how your league divvies up points, you’ll earn those points based on these defensive plays:

  • Defensive touchdowns
  • Forced fumbles
  • Fumble recoveries
  • Interceptions
  • Sacks (both solo or split between two players)
  • Tackles (total tackles, solo tackles, and/or assists)
  • Pass breakups or passes defended

Some leagues may also use pass-rushing points systems, such as hurries, QB hits, and pressures. These aren’t always the norm, so again, make sure you know your league’s scoring format to avoid any surprises (or lack thereof).

How To Draft for IDP Fantasy Football Leagues

A defensive football player seen through the helmet of the offensive player

Now that you’ve answered the question, “What is IDP fantasy football?” you can move on to the more intricate parts of the league itself. But prior to crafting a strong defensive lineup, you need to know how to conduct your IDP-based fantasy football draft — whether you use a snake or an auction draft.

On the whole, defensive players are going to score fewer fantasy points than offensive players. So unlike a true NFL draft, selecting the best available player isn’t the best option. In IDP leagues, defensive players tend to go in the later rounds based solely on the lack of chances to accumulate points compared to offensive players. That’s not to say you can’t snag a gamer early on, but you should certainly weigh the importance of your offensive squad before you move to the defense.

In most drafts, you can target a defensive player starting somewhere near Round 8 or later, depending on how many players you need. Just as you would in a standard league, you should keep an eye on the preseason IDP fantasy football rankings by player and average draft position (ADP) to ensure you aren’t drafting a player too early or too high.

ESPN, CBS Sports, and are excellent resources for preseason IDP rankings, so include this research as part of your entire pre-draft strategy.

What Position Should I Take First?

One of the major questions that follows “What is IDP fantasy football?” is “What positions are most valuable?” It’s an important question to answer, as failing to do so can result in an absolute disaster on the defensive side of the ball.

In general, linebackers are the most valuable position in IDP fantasy football. The talent pool of linebackers is larger than other positions, however, which means you have more opportunities to find high-quality options later in the draft.

Superstar defensive linemen are far more difficult to find, as are quality cornerbacks and free safeties. If a player like T.J. Watt or Myles Garrett are available, you should absolutely grab them.

But if you’re going for a safer pick, always opt for a linebacker or a strong safety that stays in the box. These positions have more chances for a tackle, interception, or fumble recovery, which gives you more opportunities for points.

However, IDP leagues that have pass-rushing stats can make your early draft selections more difficult and convoluted. Whereas you would normally go with an LB, you may want to get Tier 1 or Tier 2 defensive linemen based on pressures, hurries, and hits.

To recap,

  1. Select valuable offensive players first.
  2. Opt for LBs first in almost all cases.
  3. Snag superstar defensive linemen whenever possible.
  4. Choose strong safeties over free safeties or cornerbacks.
  5. Know your scoring system to ensure you select the right IDP in a suitable round.

Who To Start in IDP Fantasy Football

Football player holding the ball in a well-lit stadium

A great place to figure out who to start in IDP fantasy football is ESPN’s IDP rankings. ESPN updates these rankings each and every week, which can help you navigate bye weeks and the waiver wire with ease.

Beyond that, the real-life NFL matchup will have a huge impact on who you start. For example, if you have a solid defensive lineman — not necessarily a superstar that you’d start every week — and he’s up against a soft offensive line, that’s a red flag that he should make your starting lineup.

The same goes for a defensive back who’s up against a quarterback who throws picks like he’s Dave Grohl at a Foo Fighters concert. Most of the time, it’s just going to make sense. All you need to do is look at the matchup. If you have IDPs on your bench facing an anemic offense, you might want to throw them in the lineup, especially if your current starter is going up against a high-octane offense.

Finish Your Starting Lineup

“What is IDP fantasy football?” It’s all about avoiding the temptation to load up on defensive players instead of securing your offense. The IDP offers a plethora of scoring opportunities and strategies, but only if you have a strong offensive core to supplement it.

One way you can shore up the offense is by using Wise Guys Edge to compare players for your starting lineup. With up-to-date stats, odds, and details used by Vegas sportsbooks, you have everything you need to put together a winning formula — on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.