Saturday, December 15, 2018

Fantasy Football Design and Scoring

I am in two fantasy football leagues, and have been int two others, all with different scoring. One is a family or nearly-family league, ESPN PPR (point per reception) scoring with minor tweaks - no kicker; the second started in 1979, originally played by postcard and phone. I only joined last year. Its scoring is designed to reflect actual scoring, with only minor bonuses at high levels for yardage. Interceptions and fumbles are not tracked, and there is no defense. The point was to be able to keep track of the whole business in your head, very simplified.  That is still a considerable advantage for pleasure of play, even though the computer can do the decimal-point arithmetic for you now. That league also has a home-field advantage feature of designating one backup player whose production can count instead of a starter at his position, after all the week's games are played. Nifty.

One son and I designed a league where 8 members drafted four whole NFL teams each, and were able to use any of those players. It was required to start two defenses, I believe. I was the only one who liked it.  (I also had thoughts of a league with lineups very close to an actual NFL team's positions: 1 QB, 1RB, 2WR, 1RB/WR, 1TE, 1K, with 2 Defense/Special Teams. I would have divided that into 1 D, 1ST, but I don't know of a format that allows that.) A final league I got into by accident while trying sample drafts. It was 2QB standard scoring and I didn't pay much attention to it.

People argue about these things, and some are quite opinionated.  First among complaints is that points should not be awarded for receptions, because no such points exist in the real game. Nor do interceptions, fumbles, and sacks score real-life points, though folks usually concede that they do have some correlation with points eventually scored. Similarly, a player who racks up lots of yardage, only to see the eventual scoring go to a kicker or short-yardage back doesn't have his value accurately reflected. Most leagues do not give the QB full six-point credit for a touchdown pass, or QB's would dominate scoring even more. (The 1979 league does award 6 points.) When people want to change rules or redesign leagues, it is usually in the direction of wanting to make it more like the game played on the field.

I think this is not only a difficult goal, but an undesirable one. A fantasy football lineup does not consist of people playing together for a common goal.. It is an aggregation, more like a batting lineup than a football team. Also, in actual games the defense and special teams count for as much or more of the value of a team, while in fantasy they only account for about 10%.  I suppose one could play two defenses and have a multiplier to put them on par with the offense, but fantasy defensive scoring doesn't reflect actual value that well to begin with, so there would be increasingly unfair and unreasonable results with a multiplier.

While it is true that scoring that is increasingly untethered from play on the field could become ridiculous - and thus not much fun - I don't think realism is the best overriding goal for fantasy*. I think the idea of player value should be strong, simplicity is always good when it can be managed, and rather obviously entertainment is what everyone is looking for.  Regarding player value, I think the new idea of points-per-first-down is superior to PPR. I think  QB value is tied to playcalling as well as throwing, and so total yardage, or total team scoring, should somehow be factored in. OTOH, a QB that only leads his team to 200 overall yards is something of a negative, so perhaps awarding points for team production should only start at 250 yards or so.  I still like having to play two defenses, and I dislike extra bonuses for long completions.

*Come to think of it, that's true for literature as well.**  Good fantacists try to keep reality in mind, but there are reasonable exceptions. Tolkien's battles are not much like real battles (though better than some more realistic authors), and Lewis was distressed when someone later pointed out that beavers could not have fried fish in butter in a winter world where cows could not graze. True, but it pays to remember that these were beavers with a sewing machine, so let's not get too hung up on such details. Tolkien's leaders of the West might have embarked on strategies that no general in any era would have attempted, but he wasn't going for a military science lesson.  He was trying to teach that in times of horror and confusion, sometimes clear-headed calm and courage is enough.

**As far as personal fantasies, about winning the lottery or a Nobel Prize, I have no idea.

1 comment:

GraniteDad said...

“I'll never recover it.”

Just like your playoff chances.