Like snowflakes, no two fantasy leagues are alike. (Man, that was lame.)
Are you getting points for a reception? How deep is the bench? Can you start a tight end in the flex spot? Is it a two-quarterback league?
The many variations to league structures lead to even more specific fantasy questions. I can’t even tell you how many times on Twitter I’ve gotten questions along the lines of, “Hey, in my .5 PPR, two-quarterback (no flex) with .25 points per completion league, would you take Andre Brown in the eighth round?”
The problem there is obvious: Typical analysis is done using only a handful of scoring systems. Anytime your league shies away from the traditional ways, analysis becomes a little more obsolete.
Now, you could always use numberFire’s cheat sheet and enter your specific league information. Not only is it extremely helpful for the crazy rules your league institutes, but it can give you a great understanding of how value shifts. Essentially, before you ask any questions, you should always check that out.
Fantasy owners don’t always just want lists though. They want to understand the “why” aspect of fantasy analysis. I’m sure Nik, the founder and CEO here at numberFire, is asked on a consistent basis to describe the algorithms used for our projections. Clearly he’s not going to give away how they’re formulated, especially to someone with the Twitter handle “Jason4Ever1994”. But that doesn’t mean people won’t ask. They want to know why things are the way they are.
The most common non-standard question I receive – whether via email or on Twitter – is, “What happens to your draft strategy when quarterbacks are rewarded six points per touchdown pass rather than four?” I try to answer, but it’s difficult to fit in a legitimate explanation in 140 characters or less. I’ll point them to our nifty tool, but they often times come back and want further justification.
Hopefully after this analysis, I can just send these inquirers the URL to this article.
The Scoring Impact
To begin, let’s take a look at our top-12 quarterback projections in standard, 4-points per touchdown pass leagues.
|Quarterback||Projected Fantasy Points|
|Robert Griffin III||291.14|
Why only look at 12 signal-callers? Well, from a high level, this will give us a look at how much of an advantage a team is getting versus any other squad in a 12-team league at the quarterback position. This is not the best way to do value analysis, but it’s a quick and dirty method to explain the difference in point value. Bear with me.
We’ve got Rodgers for around 341 fantasy points in standard, 4-points per touchdown pass leagues this season. The worst hypothetical starter is Andrew Luck – our 12th-ranked quarterback – who is projected to score about 268 points. The difference between the two is 73.22 points across an entire season.
Let’s now do the same, but adjust things for six points for each touchdown pass:
|Quarterback||Projected Fantasy Points|
|Robert Griffin III||331.24|
Not only did the top 12 shift, but the difference in point projections increased. Aaron Rodgers owners now have a 95.51-point advantage versus the worst theoretical starter, giving Rodgers owners a larger benefit when compared to standard leagues.
The reason there’s an increase in quarterback point margin from best to worst starter is because the elite quarterbacks are projected to throw more touchdowns than other passers. There’s not a simple shift, as the low-end QB1s aren’t throwing as many touchdown passes.
If you can’t comprehend why the math works this way, think of it from an exaggerated standpoint. If quarterbacks were rewarded 100 points for each touchdown pass, would you value Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees more than you do in a standard league? Hopefully you answered yes, because both of them are virtual locks to be near the top of the league in passing touchdowns. If they were to throw just three more scores than any other quarterback, you’re gaining a significant edge at the position.
Clearly that’s not the case, as you’re only gaining an additional two points per scoring throw when compared to the typical league. But keep the bottom line in mind while we move through this analysis: Elite quarterbacks matter more in 6-point passing touchdown leagues.
Should We Devalue Rushing Quarterbacks?
Most astute fantasy owners know that scrambling, athletic quarterbacks have historically not thrown as many touchdown passes as traditional pocket passers have. Cam Newton may be fantasy football gold to some, but let’s be real, folks – the man has averaged 20 touchdown tosses over the first two years of his career. That’s worse than Josh Freeman, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton over the same time frame.
Taking a look at the shift in rankings though, there’s a different story told. Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson only dropped one slot when the scoring was modified, and Robert Griffin III actually stayed put. Hmm…
Does this mean we shouldn’t devalue rushing quarterbacks? Not exactly. You see, one thing to keep in mind is that they do get worse – in terms of points – compared to the elite passers. Cam Newton, for instance, is no longer part of the elite discussion. The other thing to remember is that the rushing passers may not have as high of a weekly floor. We’re only looking at year-end results here. There’s a possibility – and a good one, too – that Cam Newton secured a significant amount of points in just a handful of games. True pocket passers, on the other hand, will give you more game-to-game consistency.
Replaceability and Fun Times With Economics
The first thing you learned in any economics course was the basic functions of supply and demand. According to The Google, supply and demand is defined as “the amount of a commodity, product, or service available and the desire of buyers for it, considered as factors regulating its price.”
“Why are we talking about this in a fantasy football article?” says Barney.
Because it’s important.
The second half of the definition, “the desire of buyers for it”, is the demand aspect of the equation. The desire, in fantasy football, is the need to fulfill a lineup requirement. At quarterback, this lineup requirement is, quite simply, “one”.
“The amount of a commodity, product, or service available…” is the “how many useable quarterbacks are there to fulfill my lineup obligation?”
That’s where things get a little fuzzy.
Everyone – even my dog, Henry – has been saying the quarterback position is deep in 2013. It’s true. We’ve talked about it many times here at numberFire. You could, however, based on supply and demand principles, make the argument that the quarterback position is deep every year.
When you only need one in your standard lineup, there’s an excess of supply. Regardless of your scoring rules, there are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, and only a dozen will be started in your 12-team league. Some may have passers on their bench, but the Brandon Weedens of the league will more than likely be free agents.
And now you’re probably asking, “Why would I want to start Brandon Weeden? So what if he’s a free agent?” Well, you don’t want to start Weeden, but consider this: There were 25 different quarterbacks who cracked the position’s top 12 last season four or more times. Considering you only need one in your lineup, that surplus is much greater than at wide receiver and running back. And it’s only because of lineup limitations, not because of the positions’ importance on a real football field.
This is all to say that fantasy football is a weekly game. When you draft a quarterback, a wide receiver or a tight end, you’re not locked to starting them each week throughout the season. You make lineup decisions up until Sunday kickoffs. Because there’s only one lineup slot for your signal-caller, you can realistically build a quarterback Frankenstein while stocking up on your running back and wide receivers throughout the draft.
Replaceability: How easy is it to replace a particular position in fantasy football? Because of supply and demand principles and weekly lineup changes, you can actually devalue the position in single-quarterback leagues, even if you’re getting more points for touchdown passes. There will be weeks where Brandon Weeden outscores Aaron Rodgers, and you can capitalize because it’s one of the more predictable positions in fantasy. Unfortunately, wide receiver and running back production isn’t as foreseeable each week, as usage from waiver wire commodities is always questionable.
How to Approach 6-Point Passing Touchdown Leagues
The idea mentioned above is what fantasy analysts like to call “streaming”. You start a different player in a lineup slot each week based on matchup, rather than going with one, plug-and-play option. Because of supply and demand, positions with just one spot in your lineup (QB, TE, D/ST, K) are streamable. Wide receiver and running back slots are not, unless you’re in a four-team league.
Your goal at draft time should never be to stream. However, know that it’s a worst-case scenario situation. And it’s not a bad one.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is why 6-point passing touchdown leagues may not skew quarterback strategy as much as advertised. It’s not to say elite quarterbacks don’t hold more value, because they do. But reaching for one could be an unnecessary venture in 2013 because of the depth and replaceability at the position. Even in leagues where you get more points for each scoring toss.
You may see it as risky, but to me, the true risk is losing an opportunity in getting a library full of solid running backs and receivers – the scarce resource in fantasy football. That doesn’t change when you receive an additional two points for each throwing touchdown. It only does when the demand of your lineup requirements is altered.
In essence, there will more than likely be an owner who selects a quarterback early in one of these leagues. While he – they – do that, you know what waiting on a quarterback means. It’s not to say you shouldn’t go for Matt Ryan, Tony Romo or Matthew Stafford. It’s to say that drafting one in the first couple of rounds may be overrated.