• The Khalil Mack resurgence earns him some hardware: At 32 years old and after numbers were starting to decline in previous seasons, Mack bounced back in a big way in 2023.
• Devin White disappoints: Among others, White was one of the most inefficient IDPs of the 2023 season and let IDP managers down in a big way when he had such an expensive ADP heading into the year.
Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes
With the 2023 fantasy football season wrapped up, it’s time to dole out the awards to the standout defensive players in the NFL who delivered, and those that didn’t, throughout the year to help fantasy gamers secure the most important award of all — a fantasy football championship.
PFF-preferred IDP scoring:
2023 IDP MVP
Starting with the big one, this award will go to the player who was the most consistent throughout the year, delivering high-end fantasy performances and solidifying themselves as the most valuable IDP in 2023.
WINNER: EDGE T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
This was the most difficult award to settle on, but after going back and forth for a long time, the committee (me) has decided that Watt’s elite pass-rush ability, leading the league in sacks while delivering a high number of game-winning weeks without missing a game, makes him the most valuable IDP in 2023. Last year's IDP MVP, Maxx Crosby, was the closest to winning this award again, but Watt’s edge in sacks became the deciding factor.
Watt went all but four games this season without delivering a sack, and in one of those games, he came up with an interception to make up for it, so there weren't many lows for the former Defensive Player of the Year. One of the previous knocks on Watt is that he’s missed time due to injury, as he played just 10 games in 2022, but that wasn’t the case this year (in the regular season), which allowed IDP managers who spent up to draft him the ability to start him every single week without concern. He often delivered week-winning performances. Watt’s 17 sacks through 17 weeks led the NFL while his 61 total tackles were a top-12 mark. He also added 16 tackles for loss over that 17-week span, which was a top-five mark in the league while his 34 QB hits ranked second.
- EDGE Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders
- LB Foyesade Oluokun, Jacksonville Jaguars
- S Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2023 IDP Rookie of the Year
This award is given to the first-year player who performed above and beyond the expectations of a rookie. There were several strong candidates on the defensive side of the ball, but only one can take home this specific hardware.
WINNER: DT Kobie Turner, Los Angeles Rams
Turner has arguably been the best defensive rookie of the season, and not just for IDP purposes, delivering high-end metrics across the board and out-performing his draft stock already in his NFL career. Turner was considered a post-draft IDP sleeper this offseason, but most names on this list were meant for years beyond 2023, so it was certainly a pleasant surprise that he delivered immediately.
Turner led all rookie defensive players in sacks (nine) while his 56 total tackles tied for the seventh-most at the position through 17 weeks. What was most encouraging about Turner’s rookie season was how impressive he looked in the back half of the year when he started to compile these IDP-relevant numbers, finishing the year with top-five marks in overall PFF defensive grade (83.8) and PFF pass-rush grade (80.5) among all defensive rookies (min. 20% of snaps). Turner went from dynasty sleeper to one of the more valuable assets in DT-required dynasty leagues in only his rookie season, which should have fantasy managers excited about his future.
Kobie Turner’s splits in 2023:
|Weeks 1-11 (DT rank)
|Weeks 12-17 (DT rank)
- EDGE Byron Young, Los Angeles Rams
- LB Ivan Pace Jr., Minnesota Vikings
- S Brian Branch, Detroit Lions
2023 Waiver Wire Addition of the Year
This award goes to the player who went undrafted before establishing themselves as a top fantasy option to the point where they were a must-add in most IDP leagues. That player would also have to maintain that fantasy relevance for most of the year to qualify for this award.
WINNER: LB Terrel Bernard, Buffalo Bills
Heading into the 2023 season, the Bills’ second starting linebacker spot next to Matt Milano was one of the biggest question marks prior to Week 1, and there were a number of different names that the team tried out in the offseason who had a shot to emerge. It wasn’t until Week 1 actually happened that everyone found out the team had decided to go with the second-year third-round pick, Bernard, since he didn’t play at all during the preseason due to injury.
In Week 1, it was pretty clear that Bernard should be a top waiver claim in IDP leagues as he played 100% of the defensive snaps and delivered 11 total tackles. Bernard would only become more valuable for IDP once Matt Milano was lost for the season, as the Bills relied solely on Bernard as the team’s lone full-time linebacker for the rest of the year. As a result, through 17 weeks, Bernard racked up 138 total tackles (tied for 10th among LBs), added 6.5 sacks (tied for the most among linebackers), three interceptions (tied for third) and finished as a top-five fantasy linebacker in most formats. Waiver-wire linebackers are often easy to find every season, but Bernard separated himself from the pack with an elite IDP season.
- DT Justin Madubuike, Baltimore Ravens
- S Josh Metellus, Minnesota Vikings
- EDGE Andrew Van Ginkel, Miami Dolphins
2023 Fantasy Football Most Improved Player of the Year
This award goes to the player who saw the biggest jump in value from last season to this season, delivering a high-end fantasy performance in 2023.
WINNER: DT Justin Madubuike, Baltimore Ravens
When a player ties an NFL record for most consecutive games with a sack (11), there has to be some kind of award to recognize that player, and coming into the year, nobody would have picked Madubuike to be the guy to go on that streak. Madubuike was not only off the radar of most IDP managers but through his first three seasons in the league, there wasn’t a whole lot there to be overly optimistic about, even after a solid 5.5 sack season in 2022.
Madubuike not only over-delivered with 13 sacks on the year — leading his position — but he came up with 4.5 more sacks this year than he did in his three years in the league combined. Madubuike improved significantly across the board, establishing himself as one of the top IDP targets, especially in DT-required leagues in the future.
Justin Madubuike’s 2023 numbers versus his combined three years prior:
- S Camryn Bynum, Minnesota Vikings
- LB Robert Spillane, Las Vegas Raiders
- EDGE Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars
2023 IDP Playoffs MVP
Weeks 15-17 are the most important weeks of the season for fantasy managers, as it’s a small three-week stretch that can make or break an entire season. This award is given to the player who consistently delivered high-end fantasy performances for all three weeks of the fantasy playoffs and ended up being the primary reason a championship was secured once all the smoke had settled.
WINNER: S Ifeatu Melifonwu, Detroit Lions
Melifonwu emerged as a waiver wire option at just the right time heading into the fantasy playoffs and delivered a number of big plays over those final three weeks to help IDP managers potentially secure a fantasy championship. Melifonwu came into the year primarily as a backup but replaced Tracy Walker in Week 14 and then caught fire the rest of the way.
Melifonwu delivered a sack, a forced fumble and eight tackles in Week 15. He followed that up with a two-sack game, which included an interception in Week 16, and then came up with another interception in Week 17. Consistently coming up with big plays each week of the fantasy playoffs allowed him to be a potential league-winner over that span, and while it was certainly close as others had big games as well, Melifonwu’s ability to do so in each week gives him the nod for IDP playoffs MVP.
- LB E.J. Speed, Indianapolis Colts
- EDGE Bradley Chubb, Miami Dolphins
- LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns
2023 IDP Comeback Player of the Year
This award goes to the player who was on a downward trend in fantasy value heading into this year, but found a way to bounce back and improve their fantasy stock, back to a point where they were in previous seasons of their career.
WINNER: EDGE Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers
There is likely no bigger gap across the other awards than there is between Mack and the other contenders for this award, as he delivered 17 sacks in 2023, which was a new career-high for the 10-year veteran. Mack also got back to the 70-plus total tackle range he was previously at during the first half of his career. Having previously hovered around the 50-tackle mark and failing to hit double-digit sacks for four straight years, it was seemingly clear that Mack’s best days were behind him, but he proved that notion wrong in a big way with his performance this season.
Even Mack’s grades and pass-rush metrics had been on the decline, but everything snapped back across the board as he returned to his old elite self in 2023. Mack’s 91.8 overall PFF grade ranked sixth at the position while his 90.8 PFF run-defense grade ranked third, and his 86.3 PFF pass-rush grade ranked 11th. Mack’s 17 sacks were the fourth-most on the year, and his 88 total pressures were the sixth-most. Mack will be 33 years old next season so the real test will be to see if he can finish his career strong because replicating these 2023 numbers is going to be a very hard task.
- S Jessie Bates III, Atlanta Falcons
- EDGE Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals
- EDGE Harold Landry III, Tennessee Titans
2023 IDP Cornerback Streamer of the Year
Every year a new crop of cornerbacks emerges that IDP managers can comfortably pick up off the waiver wire and plug into lineups without spending much, if any, draft capital in order to acquire them. This award goes to the cornerback who was the most effective streamer of the bunch.
WINNER: CB DaRon Bland, Dallas Cowboys
How could it not be Bland? Not only did he lead the NFL in interceptions (nine), but he also broke the NFL record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a season (five). For most corners, landing interceptions is a big part of their IDP value, and while it’s near impossible to do every game, Bland certainly felt like he was getting one each week for a big chunk of the season. Eight of Bland’s nine interceptions came in the first 13 weeks of the year, which is a pretty remarkable stretch for a player who had to take over for Trevon Diggs after Week 2, so it was also nice of Diggs to pass his interception powers onto Bland for IDP managers to benefit.
Bland not only came up with a league-leading interception total, but his 68 total tackles through the first 17 weeks of the season were also a top-15 mark at the position. Bland’s big-play nature kept him locked into IDP lineups on a weekly basis, and while, like most corners, there were quieter games, his finish as the overall CB1 as an undrafted IDP makes him the best of the bunch.
- Tyrique Stevenson, Chicago Bears
- Paulson Adebo, New Orleans Saints
- Devon Witherspoon, Seattle Seahawks
2023 Disappointing IDP of the Year
The final award is given to the player who let IDP managers down in a big way in 2023, failing to live up to their ADP, and consistently disappointing on a weekly basis. The player must have played at least 12 games to qualify since injuries can’t be helped.
WINNER: LB Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
White was drafted as a top-12 IDP linebacker this season, often even higher than that, but due to inefficiencies throughout the year and missing a couple of games, he finished the season well below that mark. White’s 83 total tackles were a new career-low for him while his sacks total — part of what makes him such a desirable IDP — matched the career-low of his rookie season (2.5).
Among off-ball linebackers who played at least 50% of the defensive snaps this season, White finished dead last in tackle efficiency with an incredibly low 9.2% — with the average mark for linebackers being 13.3%. White was inefficient last season at 10.7%, but this year set a new low for him and his IDP managers suffered regularly as he had just one game all year with double-digit tackles (Week 1). White also had the worst output of tackles versus expected for the position — making three-straight years of being among the worst in the league in that regard.
White did not have his fifth-year option picked up by the team this offseason and he’ll likely be joining a new roster in 2024, though, regardless of where he lands, it will be difficult for IDP managers to invest too heavily in him considering such a poor showing in 2023.