What We Learned in 2023 for Fantasy Football: IDP Leagues


Before we start drafting defensive players for our 2024 fantasy football teams, we pause to look back at the 2023 season to see what lessons can be learned. 


Whether you finished first, last or somewhere in between, I think we can all become a better fantasy managers by digging into our successes and failures from prior seasons. Here are 12 key IDP takeaways from this past fantasy football season.

1. Snap Counts are King

Leading the league in snaps dramatically increases your chances of having a big fantasy season.

Aidan Hutchinson DE Detroit Lions

Each week during the season, I spent a lot of time looking at snap percentages, but ultimately volume is even more important. If you are not on the field as much, you have to make up for it with high-efficiency or big plays. Cleveland, Dallas, Buffalo, Carolina and Chicago were in the bottom five of team defensive snaps.

2. Don’t Draft Defensive Backs Early

Only six defensive backs who were drafted in the top 20 finished in the top 20 at the position. These players included Derwin James, Kyle Hamilton, Antoine Winfield, Kyle Dugger, Jaquan Brisker and Kamren Curl. But we had so many more names that really struggled. Some players suffered injury like Talanoa Hufanga, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Grant Delpit, while others couldn’t duplicate their prior-year performances like Jalen Pitre, L’Jarius Sneed and Rayshawn Jenkins.

It typically doesn’t make sense to invest early draft picks on defensive backs, since the top performers at the position turn over so much from season to season. Not many would have predicted great fantasy seasons from Camryn Bynum, Josh Metellus and DaRon Bland.

3. Never Underestimate Foyesade Oluokun

Foyesade Oluokun was the top-scoring linebacker for the third straight season. After leading linebackers in 2021, Oluokun departed the Atlanta Falcons in free agency and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Switching teams didn’t slow him down, and he picked up right where he left off. He has recorded 194, 184 and 173 tackles in the past three years. Fade him at your own risk in 2024.

4. Depth at the Linebacker Position is Critical

Injuries inevitably happen at the linebacker position, so you need to be prepared with a few good options on your bench. Instead of reserving your bench spots for an extra defensive back, make sure you start the season with an extra linebacker. It’s a lot easier to replace a defensive backs through waivers or trades. 

This past season, we saw injuries to players like Nick Bolton, Cole Holcomb, Nakobe Dean, Matt Milano and Troy Andersen. If you rostered one of these players and didn’t have a good backup, you would have been struggling to find a replacement.

We saw the Pittsburgh Steelers hit especially hard by injuries at the linebacker position. Cole Holcomb, Kwon Alexander, Elandon Roberts, Mykal Walker and Myles Jack all saw significant playing time at one point in the season due to other injuries.

5. Lower Your Expectations for Rookies

Only three rookies finished in the top 100 IDP scorers for 2023. All three of these players were defensive backs: Devon Witherspoon, Tyrique Stevenson and Brian Branch.

Rookie linebackers did very little in 2023, including Jack Campbell, Drew Sanders, Marte Mapu, Daiyan Henley, Trenton Simpson, DeMarvion Overshown and Dorian Williams, all who were drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.

Will Anderson won the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, but even he finished outside of the top 50 defensive linemen while recording seven sacks and an impressive 26% pass-rush win rate, according to ESPN. Defensive linemen typically take time to adjust to the NFL game, so I keep my expectations low and typically avoid IDP rookies in redraft formats.

6. Keep a Do Not Draft List

Sauce Gardner DB New York Jets

This past summer, I listed 11 players to avoid drafting including Jeremy Chinn, Jack Campbell, Tracy Walker, Drue Tranquill, Frankie Luvu, Sauce Gardner, Will Anderson, Nick Bosa, Chris Jones, Jamal Adams and Shaquille Leonard. All these players underperformed based on their average draft position. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my own advice and drafted a few of these players. Sometimes you need a reminder to trust your gut and avoid drafting a player no matter how far they fall on the draft board.

7. Expect Volatility from Your Defensive Linemen

Whether you lock up one of the top defensive linemen or wait on the position during the draft, expect some low-scoring weeks throughout the season. Even the second-highest scoring defensive linemen, Khalil Mack, scored less than 10 points in half of the weeks of the season.

8. Most Talented Defensive Players are Not Always Best for IDP

I saw many people drafting Sauce Gardner and Pat Surtain early in IDP drafts, but shutdown cornerbacks with name recognition should be avoided. They typically do not perform well for fantasy purposes. In 2023, Gardner finished as CB50 and Surtain finished at CB32. Even Defensive Player of the Year, Myles Garrett, can struggle at times due to the number of double teams he faces weekly.

9. Work the Waiver Wire

Some of the top-scoring defensive players were owned in less than 50% of fantasy leagues at some point during the season. E.J. Speed, Josh Metellus and Justin Madubuike are three great examples of potential league-winners. These players and so many more were listed on FTN’s weekly waiver article, so make sure you are following along during the season.

10. Expect Regression

Kenny Moore CB Indianapolis Colts

Each year I expect negative regression from players who have career seasons, especially players who are top performers due to big plays like interceptions, forced fumbles and sacks. Nick Bosa led the league in sacks in 2022 with 18 but finished with 10.5 in 2023. When a player has an outlier season, it is wise to anticipate some return to their average in the following season.

DaRon Bland recorded nine interceptions and five defensive touchdowns in 2023, but I can’t imagine he will be able to repeat this performance in 2024. It is extremely difficult for any player to record Bland’s 2023 statistics let alone for the same player to do this in consecutive seasons. In 2024, I will wait on drafting a cornerback and will target a slot cornerback with a decent snap percentage. Slot cornerbacks include players like Kenny Moore, Taron Johnson, Brian Branch, Trent McDuffie, Nate Hobbs and Roger McCreary.

I have found it helpful to identify positive regression candidates as well. Josh Allen only recorded six sacks in 2022, but I saw strong potential for an increase in 2023 since he had recorded 77 quarterback pressures, according to PFF. Allen even ended up exceeding my lofty expectations and finished with an impressive 17.5 sacks in 2023.

11. Do Your Homework

The most important thing you can do is understand your league’s scoring format. If you aren’t paying attention, you may be in a tackle-heavy league but inadvertently draft a player who is better suited for sack-heavy formats. I prefer to customize my IDP projections for each individual league, but even I can neglect this essential task when faced with multiple ongoing drafts.

I also recommend paying attention to defensive depth charts, injury reports, playing time and defensive coordinator changes. All of this information can give you an edge over your league mates. There are a lot of great IDP resources available, but feel free to reach out to me on X, @MasterIDP, if you need help locating any of this information.

12. Have Fun

I recommend trying something new each year. There are so many different types of leagues, and you never know, one of these could become your new favorite. Examples include: Dynasty, Devy, Auction, Salary Cap, Guillotine, Best Ball, IDP-Only and 32-team leagues.

This past year, I tried IDP Best Ball for the first time and it was a blast. Why should offense-only leagues have all the fun when it comes to best ball? IDP Best Ball is a fun way to draft your favorite defensive players without having to worry about waiver wires and setting weekly lineups. Other than winning championships, drafting seems to most everyone’s favorite aspect of fantasy football, so give IDP Best ball a try.

That’s a wrap on the 2023-2024 season, I hope you are already looking forward to the 2024-2025 season and keep some of these takeaways in mind before you start the new season. Cheers to all of you who play IDP.

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