The following IDP draft strategy & rankings all depends on your scoring system for points per tackles vs. INTs vs. assists vs. knock downs etc.
My league is tackle heavy so I tend to lean toward tackle heavy safeties, corners and D-linemen. Either way, the LBs, DBs & DL rankings you'll find in the links below and on the right side of the site will get your season jump-started in the right direction no matter what scoring system you use.
Please keep in mind that both I and this blog concentrate primarily on “waiver wire pick ups.” Drafting defensive guys is the least stressful part of my draft because I know well we can all do by picking up waiver wire guys with good matchups from week to week. So I have that strategy in the back of my mind while drafting my offensive players. I get as many offensive players & sleepers as possible with the knowledge that I will be able to pick up defensive guys like a “David Hawthorne” or a “Bryan Scott” off waivers as the season rolls on.
There is only one exception to this rule and that is if your league requires a Defensive End (DE) position. DE’s are very slim pickins’. My strategy is to draft them before you take any other defensive player. In fact, I personally feel that there are only 2 actual DEs that I would want on my team this year: Jared Allen & Trent Cole. Obviously there are other strong potentials like Julius Peppers, Justin Tuck & Mario Williams. I like Will Smith & Ray Edwards also, but DEs are such a crapshoot as we all found out last year. Quite honestly, if you miss out on any of those guys (and please do not reach for Peppers, Tuck, Williams, Smith or Edwards) then I’d just wait a few more rounds at that position and stock up on an awesome Safety like Bernard Pollard or a sweet core of LBs like P Willis, Poz or Laurinaitis. (remember no Thomas Davis in Carolina this year -ACL)
The good news is many of us found loopholes in our leagues where LBs were listed as DEs. We all found that this is the way to go. It’s such a shame about the injury to Elvis Dumervil who was counted as one of those special DE/LBs. Surgery to his pectoral will cost him the rest of the season, but he would have been at the top of my list for this category. If you’re really lucky, maybe a LaMarr Woodley is listed as a DE in your league due to where he lines up, but you’d have to be very lucky.
The important thing to keep in mind is I’m here all season so don’t stress in the draft if you don’t get an ALL Madden Defensive Team. Personally, I would rather grab Clinton Portis in round 15 to add insurance to my running backs rather than MLB E.J. Henderson. Especially when I’m pretty sure I can get a sleeper like the potential starter MLB Dan Connor for Carolina in one of the last rounds of the draft. Because if you do the opposite strategy and you think you can grab a starting NFL RB in the last rounds, you’ll be sorely mistaken and left with a guy like Atlanta’s Snelling who will barely see the field and won’t help you much if one of your starting backs goes down. And we all know the stiff competition to snag a good RB off waivers (like Jamal Charles last year).
But sneaky Defensive Players always popup on the wire. TRUST IN THAT FACT when drafting. Go with this slogan “Get Your Core, but Then No More” (at least not until much later in your draft). In otherwords, let’s say you need 2 DEs, 2 DTs, 2 LBs, 2 S, & 2 CB and you have already drafted Trent Cole, Gregg Kelly, Karlos Dansby, Bernard Pollard & Charles Woodson. Those are your core guys and now you can concentrate back on offense again for awhile. Don’t pass up Santana Moss as a backup WR to grab a second DT too early just to fill the position. DTs are practically a dime a dozen and nearly impossible to predict. DE’s are extremely tough too. Playing matchups from the waiver wire with DE’s, DT’s, & even CBs is the way to go. If I were to reach for anyone with my second defensive picks, it would be Safeties & LBs first. Unless you see another elite DE, DT or CB at that Defensive position who got completely forgotten in your draft for some reason, don’t just grab a defensive person to fill a spot.. Laurence Maroney will end up being so much more valuable to your team in the long run than Randy Starks. Because I can guarantee you that I will find a more valuable defensive guy off waivers than you can draft in the 17th round. But I cannot guarantee you that I can find a viable NFL running back off waivers who can get you competitive points if your starting RB gets injured, has a bye or just ends up being a bust like so many RBs in the past. (taking Matt Forte in the first round killed me last year)
So remember to draft "Your Core, but No More" and don't stress if you see Willis & Beason go too early. Stick to your game plan and trust that there are a lot more big time defensive point scorers to be found on the waiver wire then there are offensive players. My personal drafting strategy is to have both of my starting RBs & both of my WRs before leaving round 4. Then I try to target a Schaub or Rivers, but it's hard to lay off Antonio Gates this year considering he'll be so busy. But the TE position is the deepest in the whole draft and you will do absolutely fine to have Zach Miller or Heath Miller as your starter. Both can be had as last as rounds 16 or 17. So good luck to all and I look forward to another great season!