After joining my first Individual Defensive Player (IDP) league this season, I’ve been taking a closer look at defensive players. I haven’t fully mastered the fantasy strategy of IDP fantasy football quite yet, but I am learning as I go. I find more enjoyment in having fantasy players on my rosters when I know a little about their backstory and their value as players.
In this piece, I will be taking a closer look at two linebackers I currently roster and explore why they might be useful additions to your IDP team, too.
Lessons Learned From Intriguing IDP Fantasy Football Mid-Season Standouts
Alex Anzalone (LB, Detroit Lions)
Linebacker Alex Anzalone was drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints and played for that team for five years. In 2021, Anzalone was signed to the Detroit Lions which, notably was also the same year the team brought in Dan Campbell as head coach, too. Anzalone is playing from the middle linebacker position, which is a role that has multiple responsibilities, including stopping the run, rushing the passer and dropping back into pass coverage. This position is also generally the captain of defense.
Anzalone is having an incredible season so far. He’s averaging 4.9 solo tackles and 2.3 assists per game. This compares to last year’s average of 4.5 solo tackles and 2.8 assists per game.
It is interesting to see the increase in solo tackles but a decrease in assists. Is Anzalone getting better at handling things on his own, or is the rest of the team falling behind? The other Detroit linebackers are Jack Campbell and Derrick Barnes. It is worth pointing out that Jack Campbell is a rookie and still adjusting to playing at the NFL level. Barnes has only been in the NFL since 2021. Therefore, Anzalone is the more experienced linebacker, so it would be expected for him to accrue solo tackles.
Germaine Pratt (LB, Cincinnati Bengals)
Another interesting linebacker to consider is Germaine Pratt, who also plays from the middle linebacker position. He was drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Pratt is averaging 4.8 solo tackles and 2.8 assists per game. Last season, he saw an average of 3.3 solo tackles and 3.3 assists per regular season gam. Similar to Anzalone, the solo tackles have increased, and the assists have decreased for Pratt. Pratt’s fellow linebackers include Logan Wilson, who has stayed consistent between this year and last year with an average of 5.5 solo tackles and roughly 2.6 assists, and Akeem Davis-Gaither, who has been injured for the majority of this season. Perhaps Davis-Gaither’s injury is playing a role in Pratt’s increase in solo tackles?
Week 10 Outlook
PFF’s Week 10 IDP fantasy football rankings for Linebackers list Pratt at No. 30 and Anzalone at No. 35. These are not necessarily top-tier linebackers, but they are definitely consistent and reliable for fantasy leagues. In my IDP league on Sleeper, Anzalone has averaged 15.5 fantasy points per game, while Pratt has averaged 15.2. These are IDP fantasy football players who are trustworthy to roster and are also less than 30% rostered on the platform.
Lessons Learned From These Improving Linebackers
Fantasy leagues aside, let’s get back to the curious question: Why are Anzalone and Pratt both seeing an increase in solo tackles this year but a decrease in assists? Maybe all kinds of narratives can be played out for any stat you hold your magnifying glass to. What if, in this case, these players are just getting better at their craft and are subsequently telling their teammates, “I got this.”
Both of these players are several years into playing in the NFL, and undoubtedly, with time comes experience. In the earlier years, perhaps there was more focus on building up their skill sets and assisting other players with tackles. Not to mention, both the Lions and the Bengals used to be teams on the struggle bus. Both have improved significantly just over the last couple of seasons. Individual player stats would be expected to increase as a result.
I wonder: Can we also attribute a similarity between players like Anzalone and Pratt to the rest of us in life?
I think sometimes we get too comfortable relying on others to help us get the job done. Maybe there comes a time in life when we can let go of how we used to do things. We no longer need to resort to assists in those situations when assists are not necessary. We get to a place in life where we can go out there and say, “I got this,” and tackle whatever obstacle comes our way just perfectly fine on our own.
With time comes experience. This is true both in football and life. The lessons we learn along the way influence how we handle new challenges. As we gain more experience in this thing called life, maybe like Anzalone and Pratt, we will all see an increase in our “solo tackles.”
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*Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff – USA TODAY Sports*