The short and simple answer is it's a different variation of drafting defense. So instead of drafting a team defense like the Washington Redskins, you'd draft the individual player from that team who gets the most tackles. In this example, London Fletcher is the best IDP player on the Redskins and the middle linebacker.
Let's get right into the reason you are probably reading this article. You are either new to IDP or thinking about playing IDP next year.
The first thing to know about IDP is it is not near as intimidating as many people make it out to be. Think of IDP players like any other player to target in the late rounds of your draft. Only instead of drafting your 4th running back in the 12th round of your fantasy draft, you're looking for your starting linebacker.
First and foremost, it gives you the opportunity to have your favorite defensive players in the league on your team. Let's face it, there are many more pre-madonnas and unappreciative offensive players in the league than defensive players. Here's your chance to own those quiet hard hitting guys that you've always respected. IDP also teaches you to be a better all around NFL fan because you learn defensive schemes and all the different defensive positions along the way.
Personally, I believe playing IDP as opposed to traditional team defense makes drafting so much more interesting. Specifically in the later rounds when it tends to get a bit boring grabbing bench guys who you know will be dropped a couple weeks into the season. Traditional team defense has become a lot like drafting a kicker. You wait until close to the end of your draft and roll the dice. Of course, you have some owners who will always reach early for Baltimore, Chicago, San Diego based on their "big names", but part way into the season, you quickly find out that it is nearly impossible to predict the top team defenses prior to the season. It's even hard to predict the matchups week to week unless your team is going up against Detroit, Oakland or one of the other poor offenses.
However, with individual defensive players, it's much easier to play the "matchups". For instance, play your defensive backs against Arizona. Why? Because you know Kurt Warner is going to throw and you know Fitgerald & Boldin are going to get their catches. Especially if Arizona is playing a team like the Colts who are also going to put up big numbers. "Shootouts" equal lots of opportunities for your defensive backs.
On the other side of the spectrum, if Pittsburgh is playing Baltimore, get those linebackers in your starting lineup. The final score of those games over the past 3 years averages out to be Pittsburgh 9, Baltimore 6. Those teams are going to grind out the run all day on each other and wait for the other team to make a mistake and turn the ball over. There are very few "big plays" in games like that, but MLB Ray Lewis has the potential to finish a game like that with 10 tackles.
Fears & Reluctance
So let's talk about some of the fears and reluctance I've heard about playing IDP. The first fear I hear is it takes too much time to research both offensive and defensive players for a draft. This is true, it does take a little more time to prepare and might not be for someone playing fantasy football for the very first time. That being said, you can pick up a free pre-season IDP ranking list by doing a simple Google search for "2009 IDP Fantasy Football Rankings" (or 2010 for example). Find one you agree with and use that to get you started. Then, after you draft your team, you can add and drop guys off the waiver wire during the season.
Playing the Matchups
This brings up another strong advantage to IDP. It allows you to get more involved in the waiver wire during the season. You have an opportunity to play the matchups much more in IDP than you do with your offensive players. Let's face it, you're not going to bench or drop Clinton Portis just because he's facing Pittsburgh or Tennessee. However, you can do this in IDP with a starting middle linebacker like Miami's Channing Crowder or even a guy as good as Denver's super IDP stud D.J. Williams. Generally, there's a lot more selection on the wire in IDP and new guys are having big games every week.
Setup & Scoring
That brings us to the details of how many players and how the scoring system works in IDP. Generally, you draft IDP players in conjuction with your offensive players, but ALL IDP leagues do exist where you draft only defensive players. For the purpose of this article for people who are new to IDP, I'll keep it simple.
Standard scoring is not too different from the scoring for traditional team defense. Below is one suggested way:
Solo Tackle (2)
Assisted Tackle (1)
Forced Fumble (2)
Fumble Recovery (2)
Pass Defended (1)
Blocked Kick (2)
I would suggest 2 ways to implement IDP players into your draft/league.
The first and easiest way is to start with 3 to 5 individual defensive players from any position. Drafters take the best defensive players available whether that be linebackers, defensive backs or defensive linemen. This type of league would lead to more linebackers being drafted than any other position since linebackers are the most consistent tacklers and have the best chance of getting a team points.
The second setup suggestion is 1 to 2 guys from each of the standard IDP positions. The standard IDP positions are broken into 3 groups; LBs(linebackers), DBs(defensive backs) & DLs(defensive linemen). For instance, you might want to require 2 LBs , 2 DBs (this includes corners, strong safety & free safety) and 2 DLs (this includes DEs & DTs)
Defensive Definitions Legend:
Just like any hobby, IDP comes with it's own vernacular. Here are some defensive acronyms & terms and what they stand for.
LB - linebacker
DB - defensive back
DL - defensive linemen
Dflex - defensive flex position
MLB - middle linebacker
ILB - inside linebacker
WLB - week side linbacker
SLB - strong side linebacker
CB - corner back
S - safety
SS - strong safety
DE - defensive end
DT - defensive tackle
NT - nose tackle
Solo or ST - solo tackle
Asst or AT - assisted tackle
Sck or sack
TL - tackle for a loss
INT - interception
PD - pass deflection
FF - forced fumble
FR - fumble recovery
SF - safety
BK - blocked kick
BP - blocked punt
sleepers - guys that will over-perform based on their current value
Once you try IDP it's not as complicated as it first seems. It will blow your mind how many points these guys can score for your team. In 2007 I made the Super Bowl in my top money league and I was going into Monday Night Football down by 20 points thanks to my opponent luckily starting back up Redskins QB Todd Collins and Collins putting up 254 and 2 TDs on Sunday Night. All I had left was D.J. Williams. All D.J. did was put up 10 tackles and 2 assists that night and helped me win the championship by 2 points. Those are moments in FF that get you hooked for life. So trust an old FF fanatic and give IDP a try. You will not regret it!