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Early IDP Tiered Rankings & Analysis for 2020

Individual Defensive Player (IDP) formats are becoming more popular in fantasy leagues, but not all IDP leagues are the same. Your IDP ranks can and should change depending on your league's format. An example might be that if your league requires you to start a defensive tackle (DT) specifically, then Aaron Donald's fantasy value would be higher in your league than in leagues that use only a general defensive line (DL) position.

Our ranks are rooted in IDP leagues that use only DL, linebacker (LB), and defensive back (DB) positions. My rankings  rely on a common IDP scoring format that I will refer to as "standard scoring." This scoring system awards one point for a solo-tackle, a half-point for a half-tackle, two points for passes defensed, two points for a safety, three points for a fumble recovery, three points for a sack, four points for an interception, and six points for a touchdown.

Below you'll find my analysis of our IDP rankings.

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Tier 1: One Defender Who Should Go Top-90

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
1 Darius Leonard LB 1 1 1 1.000

As you can see, RotoBaller rankers universally agree that Darius Leonard is the top individual defender in fantasy. His short but impressive NFL resume proves he is capable of leading the NFL in tackles while picking off passes like a corner, sacking quarterbacks like an end, and scoring touchdowns. In standard scoring formats last year, Leonard had two games of 24+ fantasy points, and he scored eight or more fantasy points in 12 of his 13 games. That kind of ceiling/floor combo in a fantasy defender is almost unheard of, and it places Leonard in a tier of his own. This Colt is young too, making him the top defender in both dynasty and redraft stables.


Tier 2: Defenders Worth Drafting Before a WR4

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
2 Bobby Wagner LB 2 2 3 2.333
2 Joey Bosa DL 3 3 5 3.667
2 Danielle Hunter DL 4 6 2 4.000
2 Cory Littleton LB 5 5 4 4.667
2 Jaylon Smith LB 7 7 8 7.333
2 Jamal Adams DB 8 10 6 8.000
2 Myles Garrett DL 12 4 10 8.667

This tier of defenders offers a good lesson in positional value for those new to the IDP game. The LB position in fantasy is incredibly deep, while the DL and DB positions are top-heavy. The lack of elite supply at DL and DB means that the top players at these positions will often hold more value than most fantasy LBs, even though LBs typically score the most points amongst defenders. Although players like Leonard and Bobby Wagner should go early regardless of their position, fantasy owners should prioritize the likes of Joey Bosa, Danielle Hunter, Myles Garrett, and Jamal Adams over almost any LB.


Tier 3: Mid-Round Defenders Who Can Win Their Position

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
3 Aaron Donald DL 9 11 9 9.667
3 Blake Martinez LB 6 17 7 10.000
3 Landon Collins DB 11 12 11 11.333
3 Roquan Smith LB 10 14 12 12.000
3 Budda Baker DB 14 9 16 13.000
3 Joe Schobert LB 13 13 13 13.000
3 Tremaine Edmunds LB 18 19 15 17.333
3 Leighton Vander Esch LB 16 24 14 18.000
3 Devin Bush LB 17 18 23 19.333
3 Zach Cunningham LB 20 20 20 20.000

There is a solid argument for Budda Baker to be included in the second tier of our defender rankings. Tackles (especially solo tackles) are the best indicator of consistent weekly performance in IDP, and Baker is the first DB to lead the NFL in solo tackles since 1996. That spells an uncommon fantasy floor for any DB, and good draft value in the double-digit rounds.

Another player who may be too low on this list is Aaron Donald, especially for those playing in leagues that utilize a starting DT slot. If you have to start a DT, Donald should arguably be one of the first three fantasy defenders drafted due to the giant drop from him to the next DT on the list. If he gets back to his 20-sack form, the Pitt product could be the top overall DL.

Finally, Blake Martinez is a tier-two prospect for two of our three rankers. He has been a tackle machine and a consistent fantasy contributor for years in Green Bay. This new New Yorker carries two question marks that could make him a risky tier-two defender, however. First, there are questions about whether his new Giants teammates can keep him as clean as his superior teammates in Green Bay did. Second, there are doubts about whether he can raise his fantasy ceiling by improving upon his unimpressive turnover numbers (five in four seasons). Those questions could be enough to put players like Baker, Landon Collins, and Roquan Smith ahead of Martinez on many boards.


Tier 4: Big Name Bargains

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
4 Jordan Hicks LB 21 25 17 21.000
4 Lavonte David LB 15 30 18 21.000
4 Derwin James DB 23 8 35 22.000
4 Nick Bosa DL 24 15 29 22.667
4 Deion Jones LB 19 28 22 23.000
4 Demario Davis LB 22 29 25 25.333
4 Fred Warner LB 29 21 30 26.667
4 Cameron Jordan DL 34 16 32 27.333
4 Devin White LB 28 35 21 28.000
4 Harrison Smith DB 30 23 31 28.000
4 J.J. Watt DL 26 32 26 28.000

Derwin James is one of the most talented DBs in the NFL, but his injury history has him ranked as just the 22nd defender in our overall ranks. If James can stay healthy, he should replicate or better the elite fantasy stats he produced during his rookie year. This former Seminole has the potential to be the top overall fantasy DB for years to come, and those kinds of players aren't usually available 21 defenders deep into drafts.

Nick Bosa also represents great fantasy value if he is the 23rd defender selected in your draft. There are valid concerns about how he will do without Deforest Buckner playing next to him, but there is still a lot of potential on that line and in Bosa's biceps. This former Buckeye's fantasy floor should be as a top-eight fantasy DL if he stays healthy in 2020.

Finally, J.J. Watt falls lower in our ranks than expected thanks to the litany of injury issues he has suffered over the past four years. The older Watt brother's inability to consistently finish seasons is a concern, and it should impact his draft value, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be valued at all. While this former Defensive Player of the Year is now too risky to go amongst the top-15 defenders, his upside at the thin DL position means he is still a substantial value outside the top-25 defenders.


Tier 5: Starters With Upside

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
5 John Johnson DB 27 34 24 28.333
5 C.J. Mosley LB 25 50 19 31.333
5 Shaq Thompson LB 32 31 34 32.333
5 Jordan Poyer DB 41 36 28 35.000
5 Keanu Neal DB 35 38 33 35.333
5 T.J. Watt LB 40 39 37 38.667
5 Kwon Alexander LB 31 60 27 39.333
5 Shawn Williams DB 42 41 39 40.667
5 Jayon Brown LB 36 46 41 41.000
5 Chandler Jones LB 43 43 40 42.000
5 Jabrill Peppers DB 48 26 53 42.333

T.J. Watt and Chandler Jones are both serviceable starters at the fantasy LB position thanks to some stellar sack and turnover production. Still, their low tackle totals keep them out of the top-tier of LBs in standard scoring IDP leagues. If your league uses an EDGE position or offers added incentive for sacks and tackles for loss, however, their fantasy value should skyrocket. Consider Watt and Jones to be boom-or-bust standard league LBs, but high-end fantasy EDGE options.

Like Watt and Jones, C.J. Mosley could also be a steal in the right circumstances. Mosley has the talent and ability to be a top-five fantasy LB, and he has been one in the past. There are valid reasons why Mosley is ranked lower than his resume suggests, however. Mosely is now on a weak Jets Defense that won't do him many favors, as opposed to the strong Ravens Defenses he regularly worked on in the past. Additionally, this former Crimson Tide is recovering from a groin injury that may or may not fully heal by the start of the season. These question marks may be enough to take Mosley out of the top-ten fantasy LBs early in this process, but he still has the upside to sneak into that range if healthy.

Finally, Kwon Alexander was an elite fantasy LB for two seasons in Tampa, and he could replicate that sort of performance if he stays healthy and on the field in SF. The problem is, Alexander's missed games in four of his five NFL seasons. Another problem is that this 'Hot Boy' may lose time in nickel packages to Dre Greenlaw, who is a far cheaper and more efficient tackler. If Fred Warner and Greenlaw are SF's nickel' backers, Alexander's playing time and fantasy opportunities will drop by half.

UPDATE: Mosley has opted out for the 2020 NFL season due to COVID concerns.


Tiers 6-7: Late Round Selections With Versatility Or Upside

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
6 Shaquil Barrett LB 33 56 47 45.333
6 Cameron Heyward DL 50 37 50 45.667
6 Khalil Mack LB 37 49 51 45.667
6 Eric Kendricks LB 39 53 46 46.000
6 Jessie Bates III DB 53 42 43 46.000
6 Tracy Walker DB 59 27 52 46.000
6 Christian Kirksey LB 45 63 36 48.000
6 Vonn Bell DB 38 68 38 48.000
6 Todd Davis LB 49 54 44 49.000
6 DeForest Buckner DL 54 47 48 49.667
6 Minkah Fitzpatrick DB 44 55 58 52.333
6 Justin Simmons DB 74 22 66 54.000
6 Isaiah Simmons LB 57 40 65 54.000
7 Sam Hubbard DL 66 58 42 55.333
7 Jerome Baker LB 58 48 62 56.000
7 Von Miller LB 51 72 49 57.333
7 Patrick Queen LB 46 44 82 57.333
7 Melvin Ingram III DL 56 62 57 58.333
7 Chase Young DL 71 33 71 58.333
7 Taylor Rapp DB 63 52 60 58.333
7 Tyrann Mathieu DB 61 61 54 58.667
7 Calais Campbell DL 52 70 55 59.000
7 Justin Houston DL 55 75 56 62.000
7 Yannick Ngakoue DL 62 66 59 62.333

Shaquil Barrett's projections for 2020 are all over the place, and our ranks reflect that. He is a fantasy starter at EDGE or DE if he is eligible in your league. Still, his viability as a top-ten standard scoring LB depends on whether he can repeat his 2019 breakout performance. Given that Barrett collected more sacks and forced fumbles last year than he had in the first four years of his career combined, it seems unlikely he will repeat as the NFL's sack leader in 2020.

Two other players worth note in this tier because of their positional flexibility are Khalil Mack and Isaiah Simmons. Mack is a valuable fantasy player in leagues that allow him to start as an EDGE or DL, but he is not a top-ten LB in standard formats. Meanwhile, Simmons is a fascinating fantasy pick in dynasties. Simmons could also be a top-five DB in redrafts if he gains DB eligibility while playing most of his snaps at LB.

Last but not least, in this tier is the best defender to come out of this year's NFL Draft, Chase Young. Young should hit the ground running just like his former teammate Nick Bosa did last year. If Young can get enough playing time, he will produce starting fantasy DL numbers in his rookie season. In dynasty formats, Young should be considered a top-five DL.


Tiers 8-9: Bye Week Fill-Ins & Deep Defense Starters

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
8 Bradley Chubb LB 65 59 64 62.667
8 Carlos Dunlap DL 47 99 45 63.667
8 Frank Clark DL 64 67 63 64.667
8 Demarcus Lawrence DL 69 57 69 65.000
8 Justin Reid DB 68 69 61 66.000
8 Jamie Collins LB #N/A #N/A 70 70.000
8 K.J. Wright LB 72 #N/A 68 70.000
8 Josh Allen DL 80 45 85 70.000
8 Jadeveon Clowney DL 60 78 74 70.667
8 Grady Jarrett DL 75 #N/A 67 71.000
8 Brian Burns DL #N/A 71 #N/A 71.000
8 Kevin Byard DB 77 64 75 72.000
8 Jarrad Davis LB 73 #N/A #N/A 73.000
8 Kenneth Murray LB 95 51 #N/A 73.000
9 Nick Vigil LB 76 #N/A 72 74.000
9 Jeremy Chinn DB #N/A 76 #N/A 76.000
9 Chris Jones DL 67 89 73 76.333
9 De' Vondre Campbell LB 78 #N/A 77 77.500
9 Rashaan Evans LB 79 65 93 79.000
9 Dante Fowler DL #N/A #N/A 80 80.000
9 Malcolm Jenkins DB 86 #N/A 78 82.000
9 Matt Milano LB 70 90 89 83.000
9 Maxx Crosby DL 92 81 76 83.000

If you play in a deep or unique IDP league, such as ones that start DTs and defensive ends (DE), this tier of players should interest you. These deep league values include Grady Jarrett and Chris Jones as top-five DTs, Bradley Chubb as a starting Edge option, and Brian Burns as a promising EDGE or DE. Jones is arguably the second-best DT in fantasy, and Burns should be able to add to the 7.5 sacks he had as a rookie now that Bruce Irvin and Mario Addison are no longer in Carolina.

Other interesting deep league additions in this tier include Jeremy Chinn and last year's rookie surprise Maxx Crosby. Crosby notched ten sacks last year and should have more help around him this year, as Las Vegas added several good defenders in free agency. Chinn is an all-around defender who is likely to take over for Eric Reid in Carolina, and he could clean up playing behind a young and flawed defense that should be on the field a lot.


Tiers 10: Super Deep League Adds & Waiver Watch Players

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
10 Micah Kiser LB #N/A 83 #N/A 83.000
10 Myles Jack LB 91 73 86 83.333
10 Za'Darius Smith LB 90 77 83 83.333
10 Terrell Edmunds DB 82 80 91 84.333
10 Dante Fowler Jr. DL 85 85 #N/A 85.000
10 Trey Flowers DL 83 94 79 85.333
10 Logan Ryan DB 84 #N/A 87 85.500
10 Anthony Walker LB #N/A 86 #N/A 86.000
10 Danny Trevathan LB 81 97 81 86.333
10 Ronnie Harrison DB #N/A 87 #N/A 87.000
10 Anthony Hitchens LB 96 82 84 87.333
10 Eric Reid DB #N/A #N/A 88 88.000
10 Kyle Fuller DB #N/A 88 #N/A 88.000
10 Adrian Amos DB 98 74 95 89.000
10 Reshad Jones DB #N/A #N/A 90 90.000
10 Arik Armstead DL 94 84 94 90.667
10 Jamie Collins Sr. LB 87 95 #N/A 91.000
10 Antoine Bethea DB #N/A #N/A 92 92.000
10 Benardrick McKinney LB 88 #N/A 96 92.000
10 Logan Wilson LB #N/A 92 #N/A 92.000
10 Tahir Whitehead LB 89 91 98 92.667
10 Johnathan Abram DB 100 79 99 92.667
10 Hasean Clinton-Dix DB 93 #N/A #N/A 93.000
10 Mack Wilson LB #N/A 93 #N/A 93.000
10 Dre Greenlaw LB #N/A 96 #N/A 96.000
10 Matt Judon LB #N/A #N/A 97 97.000
10 Bud Dupree LB 97 #N/A #N/A 97.000
10 Marlon Humphrey DB #N/A 98 #N/A 98.000
10 Jonathan Allen DL 99 #N/A #N/A 99.000
10 Bradley McDougald DB #N/A #N/A 100 100.000
10 Marshon Lattimore DB #N/A 100 #N/A 100.000

This final tier of players should remain on waivers in all but the deepest of formats, such as leagues that require you to start cornerbacks (CB) or a full 11-man defense. Players like Kyle Fuller and Marshon Lattimore are fantasy starters at CB, but they aren't consistent performers at the DB position. Dre Greenlaw, Za'Darius Smith, Logan Wilson, Benardrick McKinney, and Anthony Walker all could be starters in deep leagues that require you to play an outside linebacker (OLB) and inside linebacker (ILB).

More Fantasy Football Analysis

Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.