Fantasy Football: The Konami Code Aftermath in 2013
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You may have seen the hash tags each and every Sunday. #KonamiCode became a real thing over the past four months, and it had nothing to do with a re-release of Contra for newer consoles (although I’m sure not many would oppose such a thought).
No, the most famous cheat code in video game lore has become the most famous cheat code in fake football, applied to starting mobile quarterbacks for standard-scoring leagues.
For those that are unaware, or for those who aren't starting to sprout gray hairs in your beard like I am, Contra was a game based on an alien race (led by Red Falcon, for real) set to destroy humanity. Earth’s technology, in the game, is so far advanced that it has become harmonious with nature. As a marine, it was up to you prevent this Armageddon from occurring and thus maintaining that harmony.
Do you see the parallels here?
Terrifying coincidence, I know.
Now, I don’t want to label mobile quarterbacks as an alien race, but standard scoring - where you're getting one point for 25 yards passing and four points for a touchdown pass - was created without the notion that the position (and how it was played) was going to become as athletically gifted as it is. The scoring, back when it was created, was trying to police the passing aspect of the league to not overthrow the importance of the other positions.
The original introduction to this concept - found here - was mistaken as strictly advocating Terrelle Pryor for our fantasy game this season. In a way it was (he averaged 15.3 fantasy points per start), but him landing the Oakland starting job at the time was more of a platform for me to introduce just how broken our standard-scoring scoring structure was, creating inequality amongst all of the different quarterback types being infused into the league each year.
That post focused more on the big picture and how the Konami Code created above replacement-level quarterback performances based on an entire seasons worth of production. Now that the 2013 fantasy has come and gone, let's take a look back on how the code affected weekly outcomes, the current state of quarterbacks running, and how your league can combat the inefficiencies of standard scoring.
Stage 1 – The Jungle (Weekly Effect)
For the third consecutive season, quarterbacks totaled to rush for over 50 touchdowns (54 to be exact). Only twice did one passer rush for multiple scores in a game, meaning there were 52 different games this season in which we had a rushing score come from a quarterback.
|Weekly Finish||# of Games||%|
Of those 52 games, 44 resulted in a quarterback finish of 15 or higher for that week. Only three finished below QB18 in a given week, and one (Scott Tolzien) didn’t finish the game. Without even looking at what type of passing production your quarterback delivered, you had nearly a three-fourths chance of finishing as a starting-level player with a single rushing touchdown, and over a coin flips chance that they'd post an elite week.
Now let's see what kind of passing numbers accompanied a rushing score.
|Pass TD||# of Games||Avg. Weekly Finish|
|0 Pass TD||15||14.4|
|1 Pass TD||16||10|
|2 Pass TD||13||4.5|
|3+ Pass TD||8||1.8|
Looking at those same 52 games, you can see what stacking passing stats on top of the code can do for weekly dominance, but you’re still in a good place if you fail to go Peyton Manning on the opposition. This, moving forward, will be referred to as the Geno Smith Effect.
There were 15 games in which a quarterback failed to even throw for a score, and even still, eight of those resulted in a top-12 weekly quarterback finish. In other words, if your quarterback ended up rushing for a touchdown, the chance of him also scoring in the top 12 at the position given standard scoring - a QB1 - was higher than 50%, regardless of the number of passing touchdowns.
Seriously, if there ever becomes an albatross-like entity in the NFL, like Lebron James is to the NBA, standard scoring is going to self destruct.
Stage 3 – The Waterfall (Yards and History)
A rushing touchdown is the crescendo of the Konami Code - the play that results in the most unfair advantage you can gain - but the code applies to rushing yardage nearly the same. All yards on a football field are created the same, but for the quarterback position in fantasy football, they’re most definitely not.
It only takes 20 rushing yards to equal 50 passing yards (and half of a passing touchdown) under standard scoring. Does it really make sense to weigh a difference of 30 real yards the same amount for players at the same position? I may be biased, but a 50-yard passing play is far more important to a game than a 20 yard run in a vacuum.
If those 20 yards don’t seem like much in terms of quarterback rushing in fantasy, just look at how many times it’s happening in a given week.
|Year||20-YD Rush Games||40-YD Rush Games||Total QB Rush NEP|
*Week 17 excluded except for NEP
This season, a quarterback ran for 20 or more yards in a game 137 times, adding the equal of half of a passing score or 50 passing yards to their in-game fantasy scoring. Not only was that the highest total over the past six years, but ever for a season.
In 36 percent of those games, the player rushed for 40 or more yards, more than triple of what that total was just five years ago. Even if that regresses slightly to the previous three seasons, it's still a big jump from what we've previously seen.
The Net Expected Points (NEP) column above is total number of expected points that quarterbacks created for their team on the ground this season. Not only are quarterbacks running more often, but they are doing so more effectively than ever. This isn’t just the Russell Wilson and Cam Newton types, but Joe Flacco, Nick Foles and Andy Dalton too, as they all rank inside of the top 12 in Rushing NEP this season.
As the game shifts to speed and spacing, quarterbacks are finding that created space more advantageous to themselves as well, you don’t have to be a hybrid player.
For more evidence, check out the chart below:
|Years||400+ Rush YD Seasons||Different QBs|
Over the past 43 seasons of football, there have been 58 separate seasons in which a quarterback has rushed for 400 yards. Those 400 yards are equal to adding 10 passing touchdowns, or 1,000 passing yards on to a pocket passer's fantasy point total. Almost a quarter of those seasons have come since 2010 ( Andrew Luck needs 30 rushing yards this week to join the list), and it’s being done by more players than ever.
Randall Cunninghams and Michael Vicks don't exist anymore; more passers are running the football. If Luck hits that mark in Week 17, he’ll be the seventh quarterback this season to do so. We’re talking nearly a quarter of all starters that are adding those rushing numbers onto their passing totals. At the current pace of this decade, there will be 35 seasons of 400 or more rushing yards from '10-'19, only 10 fewer than the previous 39 seasons of NFL football.
Stage 8 – Destroying the Alien Heart
It's pretty clear that quarterbacks are running the ball more, translating to more fantasy success for these players. So let me offer a few suggestions on how you can adjust your settings to make a more balanced quarterback platform.
The obvious answer that will quickly be pointed out is just making all passing touchdowns worth six points. That doesn’t level out any of the yardage, and it also weighs down the quarterback position entirely over backs and receivers. 2013 has seen more passing touchdowns than any season on average per game too, so six point touchdowns aren’t really the best option in my opinion.
At the very ending of Contra, before the credits start, you can hold SELECT + START throughout the credits to receive a special message from the vanquished Red Falcon vowing his revenge. Don’t let the Konami Code live on unless you want to deal with defeating another alien super faction in order to protect the galaxy of your league.
In the chart below, I listed the results of the top-20 quarterbacks in three different categories: standard scoring, 15 rushing yards equals one full point, and positional yardage and scoring equality (25 rush yards equal a point, four point rushing scores). Perhaps I had too much Holiday nog, but the latter is my personal preference (and the list that I believe correlates the closest to how the position is played), but I’m fully aware that won’t be well received. Either way, explore these options and add them to your own ideas and run some test scores.
|Standard||Pts||Rush YD/TD=Pass YD/TD||Pts||15 Rush YDS = 1 PT||Pts|
|Peyton Manning||383.34||Peyton Manning||382.34||Peyton Manning||383.34|
|Drew Brees||319.64||Drew Brees||317||Drew Brees||322.17|
|Cam Newton||278.5||Philip Rivers||268.76||Philip Rivers||270.63|
|Andrew Luck||276.6||Andy Dalton||263||Andy Dalton||269.27|
|Andy Dalton||268.6||Matthew Stafford||262.28||Matthew Stafford||268.25|
|Philip Rivers||268.06||Tony Romo||258.64||Cam Newton||263.40|
|Matthew Stafford||266.72||Ben Roethlisberger||254.88||Andrew Luck||260.26|
|Tony Romo||260.92||Tom Brady||245.68||Tony Romo||259.65|
|Russell Wilson||259.4||Andrew Luck||242.2||Ben Roethlisberger||259.28|
|Alex Smith||254.22||Cam Newton||237.72||Russell Wilson||251.4|
|Ben Roethlisberger||252.78||Russell Wilson||236.4||Tom Brady||246.24|
|Nick Foles||244.12||Matt Ryan||235.1||Alex Smith||243.25|
|Tom Brady||242.94||Alex Smith||229.76||Matt Ryan||237.13|
|Colin Kaepernick||241.48||Ryan Tannehill||225.12||Nick Foles||234.45|
|Matt Ryan||231||Nick Foles||222.32||Ryan Tannehill||232.96|
|Ryan Tannehill||230.26||Colin Kaepernick||211.48||Colin Kaepernick||232.81|
|Robert Griffin III||213.02||Carson Palmer||200.84||Carson Palmer||200.95|
|Joe Flacco||201.8||Joe Flacco||192||Robert Griffin||200.72|
|Carson Palmer||195.08||Robert Griffin||187.68||Joe Flacco||197.47|
|Geno Smith||176.74||Eli Manning||164.08||Geno Smith||171.70|
*Fumbles Lost were not taken out for the last two columns
If nothing changes in your league next year, don’t worry too much…
↑, ↑, ↓, ↓, ←, →, ←, →, B, A, START will always be there for you.