Fantasy football has become so ubiquitous around the world that it is ludicrously easy to get into as a hobby, even for some who have never played before, or for those who football is not their primary sport. Because of this, variation between leagues will always happen, and indeed is always welcome.

There are scoring format changes, such as standard vs. point-per-reception (known as PPR), or even simpler changes such as whole points vs. fractional points.  There are enough different roster formats to fill a dictionary: two RBs + three WRs, or two QBs/the superflex (where the FLEX spot is QB/RB/WR/TE). Some even have a full roster of FLEX spots, where you can have one QB, and five FLEXs, in addition to a kicker and D/ST.

If that’s not enough for you, another popular change is the addition of Individual Defence Players, or IDP for short. One of Callum’s picks for how to spice up your league, it’s a fun way to include the other half of NFL players that usually get left by the wayside when it comes to fantasy football.

Of course, as nothing in life is easy, scoring for IDP leagues can vary even more wildly than the aforementioned offensive settings. Typically, however, they look something within the range of this:

Solo Tackles – 1 point
Assisted Tackles – 0.5 point
Sacks – 4 points
Tackles for Loss (TFL) – 3 points
Safety – 10 points
Interceptions (INT) – 6 points
Passes Defenced/Deflected – 1 point
Forced Fumble (FF) – 4 points
Fumble Recovery (FR) – 2 points
Blocked Kick/Punt – 6 points
Touchdown – 6 points

Given that the highest point earners on this list (INTs, Safeties, Blocked Kicks/Punts, Touchdowns) are not exactly something to a) count on or b) easy to predict, the best way to build a high scoring defensive unit via IDP players are actually via tackles.

Between defensive linemen, defensive ends, and linebackers, there are a wealth of guys out there that can generate points for your team. In today’s NFL, defensive ends are more prone to generating points than tackles – in fact, in my dynasty league (a topic to cover for another day) with settings similar to the one’s we’ve discussed, 2015’s top four linemen were all DEs: JJ Watt (Texans), Fletcher Cox (Eagles), Carlos Dunlap (Bengals), and Ezekiel Ansah (Lions). Unless you have a wrecking ball at DT such as Aaron Donald (Rams) or Gerald McCoy (Buccaneers), your time is best served investing in DEs.

Linebackers, in my opinion, are the real backbone of any IDP team. They are the tackle machines, the big hitters, and the heart of your fantasy scoring. Take Watt, for example: he is a force of nature, a generational talent at his position, and probably a household name to anyone who has watched the NFL since he was drafted in 2011. His 250+ points – 50 points more than Cox, the next-closest lineman in points – would rank him 10th at LB, with Cox placing 32nd. That is not a knock on those men: it is just the way that fantasy points are calculated combined with the fact that linebackers just have more opportunity to tackle their opponents.

As for defensive backs, the interesting thing to note is that the best fantasy players are almost never the best players in real life. Why? The answer is because opposing QBs simply don’t throw at them, knowing that chancing a pass towards the Shermans, Petersons, and Revises of the world can more than likely end up as an INT on their stat sheet. In that regard, try and look for a team’s #2 or #3 cornerback – you don’t get penalized for yards given up in most leagues, which is why they can be useful to have. Safeties are more useful, as they get a little more free rein to roam around, and generally touch the ball more than their CB counterparts.

With all that swirling around in your mind, here are the top five players at each position (DT, DE, LB, S – I’m going to leave out CB as it is more or less impossible to give an accurate list) to look out for when constructing a fantasy team in IDP leagues:

DT DE LB S
Aaron Donald (Rams) JJ Watt (Texans) Luke Kuechly (Panthers) Reshad Jones (Dolphins)
Kawann Short (Panthers) Fletcher Cox (Eagles) Lavonte David (Buccaneers) Corey Graham (Bills)
Ndamukong Suh (Dolphins) Carlos Dunlap (Bengals) CJ Mosley (Ravens) Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals)
Gerald McCoy (Buccaneers) Ezekiel Ansah (Lions) Khalil Mack (Raiders) Landon Collins (Giants)
Geno Atkins (Bengals) Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets) Jamie Collins (Patriots) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Packers)
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