I still remember my first fantasy football league.
Actually, we didn’t call it “fantasy football” because I don’t believe the term had even been coined up to that point.
The year was 1996 and me and five buddies from my hometown decided to spruce up our Sunday NFL binge watching by drafting our own squad of players.
This might sound routine in today’s era of fantasy fandom and round-the-clock analysis, but 25 years ago we thought this was a revolutionary way to enjoy the NFL games.
Because fantasy football isn’t what it is today, we did what we thought we were supposed to do — we drafted an ENTIRE roster of players.
This included offensive linemen, punters and even a head coach (and yes, we found ways to count points for each of those).
Because we didn’t know any better, we also drafted defensive players to our teams.
Now, the funny thing is that I don’t remember a single offensive player on that particular team, but to this day I still remember my three best defensive players — Zach Thomas of the Dolphins, Derrick Brooks of the Buccaneers and Victor Green, a safety from the Jets.
Thanks to the monster tackle totals from those three players — Green actually led the entire NFL in total tackles in 1996 — my long love affair with the fantasy football format called “IDP” (Individual Defensive Player) was born.
Sadly, even as fantasy football has evolved into a billion dollar industry played by tens of millions of NFL fans, the number of people playing in formats that utilize individual defensive players is relatively miniscule.
I can’t really pinpoint the reason, other than the fact that when you watch or listen to the endless amount of fantasy football analysis on television or the internet less than one percent of it is dedicated to talking about IDP formats.
The other reason is because most fantasy players are intimidated by the prospects of having to seemingly pay twice as much attention or invest double the amount of time on their fantasy team.
This really doesn’t have to be the case.
If your fantasy football league has never used defensive players and you are open to the idea my recommendation is to start small.
You can incorporate defensive players into your league by simply adding three starting lineup spots — one each for a defensive lineman, linebacker and defensive back.
While there are a myriad of defensive scoring categories that your league can incorporate, rewarding points for tackles, sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries and defensive touchdowns is a simple way to get started.
Once your league is up and running with defensive players you will find yourself paying closer attention to that side of the ball and gaining a deeper appreciation for the greatness of guys like Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett or T.J. Watt, or discovering players who maybe you didn’t realize were stars like Darius Leonard of the Colts or Budda Baker of the Cardinals.
Best of all, by going to an IDP format, your league can also eliminate the boring and roster-draining team defense/special teams position.
I recommend giving IDP a try next season. From my experience, once you commit to it, you’ll never want to go back to your league’s current offensive player-only format.
Penn State Alumni Fantasy Update
*Even though Trace McSorley only played a handful of snaps for the Ravens on Wednesday against the Steelers, his 70-yard TD pass to Marquise Brown and 16 rushing yards earned him more fantasy points in Week 12 than fantasy MVP candidate Kyler Murray and solid starting QB options like Cam Newton, Jared Goff and Derek Carr.
*While his Bears were mauled by the Packers on Sunday Night Football, Allen Robinson continued to deliver for fantasy owners, catching eight passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns. His 27.4 fantasy points (ESPN standard scoring) were fifth-best at the position in Week 12, and for the season he is averaging a strong 16.7 points despite a shaky quarterback situation in Chicago.
*We’ve all have seen enough of the Eagles’ offense this year to know that nothing is working right. Perhaps part of the reason is the lack of usage and creativity for the team’s best skill position weapon, Miles Sanders. Inexplicably, he totaled just six carries for 15 yards in Monday’s loss to Seattle. His two highest carry totals of the season came all the way back in Weeks 2 and 3. This is a concern for fantasy owners with the playoffs on the horizon.
*Mike Gesicki found the end zone in Week 12, his first TD catch since Week 3. The third-year tight end isn’t putting up consistent numbers, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center his fantasy prospects are certainly much brighter. All three of his TD grabs this season have come from Fitzpatrick so fantasy owners are certainly hoping the veteran QB can hold off rookie Tua Tagovailoa for the starting job in Miami for the fantasy playoffs.
*Robbie Gould nailed the game-winning field goal in San Francisco’s 23-20 win against the Rams last Sunday. While Gould remains a solid NFL kicker, he ranks 26th in fantasy scoring at the position in ESPN leagues. His conversion numbers (16-of-18 on FGs) aren’t the problem, however. The 49ers offense just hasn’t given him enough field goal opportunities to make him a useable option in fantasy leagues.
NFL Week 13 Fantasy Plays and Fades
(Note: These picks come from the week’s consensus Top 10 rankings at each position)
QB- Aaron Rodgers (GB vs. PHI)
RB- James Robinson (JAX @ MIN)
WR- Davante Adams (GB vs. PHI)
TE- T.J. Hockenson (DET @ CHI)
DEF- Miami (vs. CIN)
QB- Deshaun Watson (HOU vs. IND)
RB- Austin Ekeler (LAC vs. NE)
WR- Calvin Ridley (ATL vs. NO)
TE- Mark Andrews (BAL vs. DAL)
DEF- LA Rams (@ ARI)
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