The Great Debate: LB vs. DB
Which position is more likely to have top 12 scorers repeat year after year? Looking at the past three years, the answer might surprise you!
During the dog days of summer, there are many great debates: ketchup or mustard? Campers or tents? And then the one nobody seems to agree on: when it comes to repeating as a top 12 IDP scorer, do you want linebackers or defensive backs? While almost everyone has a take on the subject, I find it helpful (and dare I say, fun) to look at the data. An informed view is fundamental to making sound decisions for your team’s draft or for considering any trade offers that come through.
For this exercise, I decided to look at a three-year window to see how often the top 12 scorers at LB and DB repeated that feat the following year. Three years is a good frame of reference because for most seasoned fantasy managers, that’s the “window” they’re using to evaluate their players. So much can change in three years, both in the NFL and in fantasy leagues, that looking much beyond then isn’t very helpful.
Let’s look at LBs first—the crown jewel of the IDP world. Everyone loves drafting and rostering them, and for great reason. Having a stud LB on your roster makes setting lineups so much easier. You don’t have to play the matchup game week in and week out; instead, just set it and forget it. We all love those guys.
Since 2019, there have been 23 different LBs who have finished the season as a top 12 scorer.* Twelve of those 23 have finished in the top 12 just one time. Some of these players are aging vets (Demario Davis and CJ Mosely) and others are players of opportunity we never saw coming (Neville Hewitt and Kyzir White).
Nine of those 23 have finished on that list twice. Here we have a list of names that any manager would enjoy rostering: Fred Warner, Lavonte David, Foye Oluokun, Roquan Smith, and Blake Martinez, just to name a few. Given that number, how many LBs would you expect to be top 12 three years in a row? Four? Maybe five?
It’s just two: Darius Leonard and Bobby Wagner.
Top 12 LBs (2019-21)
*Using scoring settings where every player gets 2 points per tackle, 1 point per assist, 3 points for a fumble or INT, and 2 points for defended passes.
If we now turn our attention to the DBs, which include safeties and cornerbacks, we find some similar and eerie coincidences. (Not Stranger Things eerie, but eerie nonetheless.) Since 2019, there have been 24 different DBs who have finished in the top 12. Of those 24, 13 have appeared on the list once. Aging studs like Landon Collins and Malcolm Jenkins and seemingly out-of-nowhere names like Jalen Thompson and Jayron Kearse have graced us with their presence.
Ten of those 24 have finished the season twice as a top 12 scorer, including some who’ve finished back-to-back top 12 (e.g. Kenny Moore and Jessie Bates), while some had a year in between top 12 seasons (e.g. Harrison Smith and Tracy Walker).
This leaves us with just one player who has finished in the top 12 in each of the previous three seasons: Jordan Poyer. (A quick disclaimer: Logan Ryan finished 2020 as the DB13, so he was very close to joining Poyer as a three-time repeater.)
Top 12 DBs (2019-21)
As you can see, the data is almost identical for both positions and supports the point that there is huge turnover from year to year on the IDP side compared to offense, where players are more likely to repeat performances. There are numerous reasons for this (and I just might dive into them in a future article). So not only do we as managers have the unpredictability of player turnover, but when you add in the fact that different leagues have vastity different scoring systems, it becomes paramount that you understand your scoring system before drafting and making any trades.
Some leagues are pretty standard, where all players, regardless of position, receive the same number of points for a tackle or fumble. Then you have leagues that are considered “big play” leagues that reward varying levels of points for plays based on position or the plays themselves. A guy like Micah Parsons might finish as an LB2 in standard leagues, and conversely, is often the first LB taken in big play leagues because of his penchant for sacks, tackles for loss, and QB hits. These types of changes drastically impact what your top 12 may look like, so please: make sure you understand the scoring format in your league and how it impacts player value.
So, have we settled the LB vs. DB debate today? Probably not! If you’re Team LB: awesome. And if you’re Team DB: awesome. There’s more than one way to answer this question. After all, you can put ketchup and mustard on your hot dog, right? Pick your topping and go nuts. Just know that hot dog might not have ketchup next year.
Did that metaphor make sense? Maybe not… I’m on summer break, after all!
Be sure to keep an eye out for future articles about players to target and offseason waiver wire guys to add on the cheap before they make it big time. As always, be sure to follow and listen to The IDP Show and consider purchasing The IDP Draft Kit! Also, give me a follow @Boobam131 and I’ll be more than happy to help you with your draft, your team, and your trades. Until next time friends, have a great day!