By James Watkins
It is time to take a step back from looking at the in depth analysis of players that we love to do and focus on the bigger picture. Specifically, we need to answer one pressing question that most are not completely comfortable with: How do we tackle the injection of IDPs into the already complex laws of scarcity within dynasty fantasy sports? As you are aware, there are general laws of positional scarcity that are regurgitated time and time again across many fantasy forums. Things like “Waiting on drafting a Quarterback is okay because of the depth at the position” and “Running backs don’t have the same longevity in the league as Wide Receivers, so you should focus on Receivers early on in dynasty startup drafts” are understood as conventional wisdom to the seasoned fantasy player such as yourself. Often times, despite this experience with the offensive side of the ball, the same conventional wisdoms are lost on IDP situations and especially in the realm of dynasty. Are Linebackers really the “Quarterbacks of the defense” as football analysts like to say? Or are Linebackers more similar to Wide Receiver in terms of their depth at the position and longevity? I will be answering these questions and many more throughout the rest of this article, and I will be doing so through the lens of a Start-up draft. By highlighting the nuance in the relationship across IDP positions between one another and with respect to offensive positions, we can start to build the IDP focused conventional wisdoms that most of our competition is lacking, giving us an edge on our competition for years to come.
When we are doing an in-depth dissection of any startup draft strategy, the elephant in the room will always revolve around what to do with your first pick. After all, most believe that a solid first round pick can make or break a season. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but missing out on the obvious talent at the top of the pile is clearly a mistake you don’t want to make. In this conversation we’re bypassing the conversation on talent to focus specifically on positional scarcity within the bounds of the standard scoring rules and lineup requirements presented to us. This is not to say I don’t think talent is important, of course it is. But talent evaluations are what you and your competition are already doing year in and year out. I am writing to you today to couple that analysis with added insight on how to navigate scarcity and take advantage of the nuance.
That being said, what you should do with your first pick? My suggestion is to primarily focus on the Wide Receiver position early on, even in IDP formats. This was alluded to earlier in the article, but the conventional wisdom of building a dynasty around young, strong WRs is a clear truth that remains true even in IDP formats. In fact, I would go as far as to say that almost regardless of your league’s scoring format, the first 3 or 4 rounds should operate as if there are no IDPs to worry about. That is, you should expect to see the same distribution of players taken in the first couple of rounds of IDP leagues to equate to normal dynasty leagues. Of course, what typically happens in startup drafts with franchise owners newer to the IDP format is we see certain owners getting excited about grabbing the top tier of IDP talent sitting in front of them, and as a result they will pass up on taking that perennially solid Quarterback or that up and coming Wide Receiver and instead grabbing what some website told them is the best IDP player to own. I am writing to you today to tell you to NOT be this owner, but instead to grasp the relationship between offensive and defensive players in IDP Dynasty in such a way that you can take advantage of these owners by grabbing those depth picks at WR, RB, QB, etc in the early/mid rounds, letting those eager owners with little premier offensive talent left to work with. As important as it is to build a strong defensive core, fantasy football is still and will likely always be dominated by offensive players (I hope I don’t get persecuted by this site for saying that).
Let’s proceed with the assumption that you are taking my advice and drafting your squad from scratch, and you have watched some IDP talent come off the board, but you make up for it with your offensive core. You’ve gotten through the first 6-7 rounds of your draft and your offensive starting positions are looking to fill up pretty nicely. At this point, it’s time to take the dive into the other side of the ball and start building your defense. Here is my breakdown of how to handle IDP player values between position groups and the detailed positions within each group:
I could have written an article for each of the analysis boxes in the table above, but it’s important to see all of this information together. The color coded value analysis visually shows exactly how these positions should be looked at when you’re on the clock in your startup draft. After you have digested the information above, coupled with your own opinions and experience, let’s revisit the original questions posed at the beginning of this article.
Middle Linebackers are tackle machines against those pesky Running backs that rack up 3 yard runs at the end of the game, and 4-3 DEs are always the sack masters that get their own unique starting spot in your lineup. Take advantage of grabbing talent in these positions early on (but not too early!) and worry about Defensive Backs and Defensive Tackles later on. You may have missed out on the crème de la crème of IDP talent, but the combination of consistently strong WRs, a steady QB, and a mix of older, consistent talent/up and coming “yet to prove themselves” talent at IDP positions (especially at LB and DE) will put you in the best position to both win now and continue to win over time. Although talent always comes first in all dynasty leagues, understanding positional scarcity and taking advantage of it can put you ahead of your competition. These conventional wisdoms of positional scarcity remain true not only in your startup draft situation, but also when it comes time to negotiate trades, draft rookies, etc. weighting your team in favor of these laws of scarcity will put you in a position of power. So does Offense win championships? Or does Defense? I say winning the battle of scarcity wins championships.