Take it from someone who has been playing IDP (individual defensive player) leagues since before it was cool. I’ll admit that I don’t know if it’s cool now either, but that’s beside the point: like the offensive guys, scoring in IDP is about opportunity and what you do with that opportunity. Most scoring settings for IDP leagues ensure that tackles are the bread-and-butter of scoring, with “extra” points for the splash plays (forced fumbles, sacks, interceptions, etc…). Let’s project the best IDP landing spots for 2020 rookies based on that context, and reach out to @PFNDynasty if you’d like to discuss individualized questions!
*I’m going to choose a “best fit” for each level of the defense, ranging from most important to least important.
There’s no more lucrative a value in individual defensive player leagues than a three-down linebacker. Linebackers typically have a higher volume of tackles and have the most access to the “splash plays” compared to the different levels of the defense. This year has a variety of interesting options, and the PFN Dynasty Team will be sure to check back as offseason developments and training camp competitions help sort out the type of opportunity these players will get.
There’s no rest for the wicked so let’s project the IDP landing spots for 2020 rookie linebackers that are going to get us the most points:
Best Fit: Patrick Queen, Baltimore Ravens
I’ll admit this was a tough decision — how do you go against Isaiah Simmons with the Arizona Cardinals, widely known for his ability to stay on the field and do all things? More on that later, but Mr. Queen is landing in a spot that has historically produced top-10 IDP numbers for linebackers when the Ravens have “their guy,” and I believe they have found him in Patrick Queen.
The New York Jets signed Patrick Onwuasor, who had the third-most snaps for the Ravens at LB in 2019. Matt Judon had the most production in 2019, but he makes his living coming off the edge and will not take snaps away from Queen. The only other LB to have 50% of the defensive snaps last year? Jaylon Ferguson, who had just 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks, minimal splash plays. This is Queen’s show.
Do not let the Ravens’ top-five rushing defense fool you, that’s more of a reflection of getting out to early leads than it was their per play efficacy. The Ravens average per rush ranked bottom-half of the league, and if I’m an opposing offensive coordinator, I’m looking at how I can establish the run to keep a prolific offense off the field, not to mention it puts more pressure on Lamar Jackson to complete passes. All the more important that the Ravens know how to stop the run and make teams one-dimensional — Queen will be integral in that process.
I believe Queen has every chance of being a three-down linebacker in an aggressive defensive system. They’ll be competing six times a year against AFC North opponents who will be looking to solidify an offensive identity and figure out how to keep the Ravens’ offensive juggernaut sitting on the sideline. Queen should have plenty of tackle and splash play opportunities.
Runner-up: Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals (not far behind — Kenneth Murray, Los Angeles Chargers; Willie Gay, Jr., Kansas City Chiefs)
Simmons has all the makings of a fantastic football player, and his versatility is well-documented. I’d be surprised if he weren’t a three-down player for the Arizona defense. The ability to play the slot and center field at safety is a true luxury on the football field, but it diminishes his value in IDP — playing deep safety and covering the slot aren’t near enough action to yield the fantasy points you’re looking for. Queen is more of an “in the box” LB, and Simmons has the potential to move around too much for IDP purposes.
Whatever minuscule weaknesses Simmons has in his game, it’s as an MLB near the line of scrimmage playing downhill. Four of Arizona’s six games will be against two of the most “run thumping” teams in the NFL in the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. It might be just enough to tilt the needle in Queen’s favor in terms of overall scoring. I believe Simmons will have more interceptions, but Queen will have more tackles and sacks, thus eeking out the number eight pick.
The second most important position on IDP rosters is safety, headlined by “in the box” safeties who get lots of tackles. These players have as many opportunities for interceptions as middle-of-the-field safeties, while also having the benefit of having more access to sacks, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries by virtue of being closer to the line of scrimmage.
After the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft neglected to see a safety come off the board, four of them were selected in the first 13 picks of the second round. Of those four players, I’m removing Grant Delpit of the Cleveland Browns off of the potential due to the fact he’ll most likely be playing center field, which is not typically a position that yields many points.
Best fit: Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers
Another toss-up in a sense for the best IDP landing spots of 2020, but this was less about the player’s talent as it was projecting the team’s offense. Another strategy in individual defensive players is to target players on teams with bad offenses. Why? Well, if the offense can’t stay on the field, guess who is on the field? The defense! As of this writing, the Carolina Panthers offense and New England Patriots offense look to have obstacles to overcome. I believe Teddy Bridgewater is the better quarterback, but I trust the Patriots’ scheme and ability to compensate more than I do the Panthers’ offense.
Chinn is already the largest safety on the Panthers roster and almost undoubtedly carved into the strong safety role. The Panthers were in the bottom-five in rushing yards allowed, and their long-time field general Luke Kuechly retired. New head coach Matt Rhule and the Panthers’ front office invested all seven draft picks on defense. Chinn will be an instrumental part of improving the run defense and setting the tone.
Runner-up: Antoine Winfield, Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Kyle Dugger, New England Patriots not far behind)
I like Antoine Winfield, Jr.’s situation with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the “in the box” safety. He could easily find himself as the overall best rookie spot for the secondary, especially if Tom Brady and his new offensive weapons take time to gel and need the defense to step up. The NFC South division rivals all have reasons to lean on the run in 2020, putting Winfield, Jr.’s skill set even more in the crosshairs of IDP production.
For Dugger, the logic is the same as Chinn in that I think this is a Patriots’ offense that could struggle, meaning the defense is needing to step up and make plays and take away the opposing running game — there will be many tackling opportunities for Kyle Dugger if he’s able to carve a three-down role.
I’m a bit hesitant to buy the chess piece moniker if simply because it’s a bit overused for anybody the Patriots draft, but for Belichick’s defense, a versatile safety is necessary. It just so happens that Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are still on the Patriots roster. There are a few more obstacles in Dugger’s way to IDP success, but if he ends up playing the bulk of snaps, he could be the best of the group.
Defensive line/edge defender
The defensive line doesn’t have the tackle opportunities that second and third-level defenders have, and thus their production is almost exclusively based on sacks, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries. The latter two are such volatile stats that the best strategy is to pick the guy who you believe will have the most sacks. This is the easiest 2020 IDP landing spots question to answer, as Chase Young is such low-hanging fruit that I can’t ignore him.
Best fit: Chase Young, Washington Redskins
The comparisons to the Bosa brothers will be inevitable, but for the scope of this article, the question is plain: Will Chase Young have more sacks than the other edge person drafted in the first round, K’Lavon Chaisson? I don’t see the guys drafted in the second round as talented as either of these two gentlemen, so this swiftly became a two-person race for me.
Both Young and Chaisson’s respective offenses could be sputtering this year, which is always a mitigating factor in IDP players’ production. I believe Jacksonville has enough QB play and running game to be a mediocre offense in 2020; I lean towards Washington’s offense needing a bulk of 2020 to establish an identity and get into a flow. From an overall team standpoint, it points the needle towards Young playing more snaps on defense than Chaisson and thus likely leading to more statistical production.
Runner-up: K’Lavon Chaisson, Jacksonville Jaguars
If Yannick Ngakoue gets his way and finagles his trade out of Jacksonville, Chaisson is almost the exact same body type to step right in. However, he’s still listed as an edge in some spots and linebacker in others, and could very well serve in a multi-dimensional role — the more “linebacker” snaps he gets, the more it boosts his value. I don’t think it’s enough to leapfrog Young in production, but it’s something to keep our eye on as we go forward.
When it comes to fantasy football and NFL rookies, landing spots are so crucial for production trajectory in 2020 IDP leagues. Patrick Queen, Jeremy Chinn, and Chase Young lead the best fits at each level of the defense, but we will revisit things often as roles are carved out, rosters continue to churn, and team plans become less murky.
The landscape can change quickly in individual defensive player leagues just as in your typical fantasy rosters, not to mention scoring settings and fantasy roster/bench size has heavy implications on the lens we’re looking through — follow @PFNDynasty for all the latest and send us a DM if you have any fantasy questions, IDP or otherwise!