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The Perfect Scoring System
by David M. Dorey
July 7, 2003
 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am here today to introduce to you the product of 13 years of research, analysis and, if I may be so bold, sheer inspired genius not unlike like the discovery of penicillin (except for the part about saving lives or advancing civilization outside of fantsy football). I bring you the Perfect Huddle scoring system, the answer to stale leagues, lucky drafting and your need to exhibit razor-sharp accumen pertaining to all things NFL.

The genesis of the "Perfect Huddle" came when I joined The Coolbear Invitational a few years ago and the commissioner, Bob Scheckman, informed me that I would love the league since it used the best scoring system yet known to mankind. He was, incidentally, the creator and while he may occasionally be wrong on something, I have never known him to be in doubt. Still - he got me thinking. His system seemed close and all it needed was a bit of tweaking that was done, coincidentally, by me.

So I sat down in search of what sort of fantasy scoring would result in the "Perfect Huddle" for fantasy teams. What would it need? I came up with a few basic principles that should describe the scoring system.

  • It should provide the best equivalency of positional value, with respect to the actual values of the positions in the NFL. This helps to mix up the draft with far greater numbers of valuable players and allows more strategy than "pick the best runningback available" (PBRA™). This makes drafts deeper with more valuable players and produces the greatest amount of strategy needed to compete.
  • It should make the focus in the draft always be on the best available player - not a position. Fantasy owners should be considering all players each pick, not a position first and then who might play in it. In the NFL, all players are needed to win games, not just one great runningback (reference - the Kansas City Chiefs 2002 yearbook).
  • It should be rooted in reality. It should give the sense that an actual team is playing and that good performances by all team players are rewarded appropriately.
  • It should respect how scoring occurs in the real NFL. None of the screwy categories like "fumbles by punters" or negative points for grand jury indictments of a player. If it is directly related to an NFL game score - use it. If it is not - don't. Playing fantasy football should feel like coaching a team, not taking a class in Statistical Analysis and Probablility in Professional Sports.

First off, the question is to stick only to actual NFL scores - touchdowns, extra points, two point conversions, field goals and safeties? While certainly that satisfies being realistic, in no way could that provide equivalency of positional value. Performance leagues that use yardage for points may make the scoring a little less realistic, but does open the door for equivalency and is directly related to how well a player performs. I cannot help it if Michael Bennett gets yanked at the goal line so Moe Williams can take the score. Bennett had definite value to the Vikings last year though, so rewarding his yardage is appropriate since it was directly related to that Vikings' touchdown, even if he did not make it.

So using a performance league, what positions are used? The only positions that are rooted in reality and respect how scoring occurs in the NFL are quarterback, runningback, wide receiver, tight end and kicker. Defenses and special teams also score points and must be considered. Linemen, punters, and individual defensive players may score the odd touchdown and they certainly have an impact to the success of their teams. But linemen and punters do not produce the sort of stats that make awarding points a reasonable mirror of an NFL team.

Linemen block each play and there are no statistics related to their level of play. Punters have statistics, but their performance is directly related to the ineffectiveness of their offense in the quantity of their punts. I cannot see how rewarding a player for being on a really bad offense that always punts adheres to the principles of either reality or how scoring actually occurs in the NFL. Let's make this about more than mere numbers, people.

Individual defensive players is an entirely different area that we will discuss later. For now, let's consider just the standard players of quarterback, runningback, tight end, wide receiver, placekicker and team defense/special teams.

The most common scoring used is 1 point per 10 yards rushed or received, 1 point per 25 yards passing, 6 point touchdowns except passing is 3, 4 or even 6 points but may include negatives for interceptions. Defenses/Special Teams receive points for safeties, touchdowns, sacks and turnovers. This results in the highest scoring 24 players per position graphing out like this:

At a glance, you can see that the runningbacks are the most valuable followed closely by quarterbacks. The tight ends are relatively worthless, as are the defenses and the placekickers. The wide receivers split the uprights between quarterbacks/runningbacks and the rest. Other than the first three receivers and almost all the quarterbacks and runningbacks, there is not a big drop in the lines. This means the value from one player to the next best player is not that significant.

What that shows me is that I need to get runningbacks pretty fast since they decline quickly, score the most and I need at least two good ones. I either take a top three receiver (and realize I am missing out on a much higher scoring RB or QB) or take a QB pretty fast once I have a RB or two. I would wait on the rest. This sound like your league?

Let's look at the actual scoring numbers from last season:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
QB 314 291 283 268 257 254 249 244 244 239 222 222 217 202 200 195 190 188 185 178 175 172 168 165
RB 365 317 299 281 267 262 258 251 249 222 214 212 211 205 199 196 192 184 179 177 175 167 164 149
WR 234 218 217 182 177 176 172 169 169 161 159 156 152 151 148 145 142 141 141 137 136 128 126 125
TE 120 111 94 82 82 77 73 68 67 65 62 59 58 56 52 50 48 43 42 42 41 39 38 36
PK 138 133 130 128 128 128 120 117 117 115 114 111 108 107 107 103 103 100 100 96 95 94 90 89
DEF 122 119 113 113 112 110 105 101 99 99 94 93 93 92 88 88 87 85 85 83 76 76 76 74

We want player equivalency, but what does this scoring system produce?

From the first to the sixth best players, QB's have dropped 60 points, RB's lost 100 points, WR's slipped 50 points, TE's slide 40 points and both DEF's and PK's give up a whopping 10 points. That alone shows RB's as the most valuable and you need two of them anyway. QB's are dropping fast and WR's, at least for now, are just a little behind. DEF and PK can wait until the end of the draft while top TE's mean a little bit so far.

From the sixth to the twelfth best players in their position, we see QB's lose only 30 points and those last six QB's are just rounding out the starters so why hurry if you missed a top one? The RB's still lost yet another 50 points and are still a hot commodity with 12 more starters needed after this. The WR's are only down 20 points - no big deal and the PK's and DEF's are about the same though you only start one of them.

Considering the sixth to twelfth QB, TE, PK and DEF that round out the first starters, you just do not lose a lot between the sixth and the twelfth best ones. Like about one point per game, maybe less. The RB lose 50 points from the sixth to the twelfth which is about the same as the drop from the sixth to TWENTY-FOURTH receiver. By that the RB's are easily twice as valuable as the receivers.

So this scoring makes the runningbacks supreme, quarterbacks hot through the first six or so, maybe the top three receivers matter and then mostly they take up the middle of the draft. The tight ends, defenses and kickers can all wait until the end with possible of exception of the best three tight ends or top defense.

Pretty standard. PBRA™ rules. First picks in the draft are huge boons since they yield the best runningbacks (in theory anyway). Everyone and their uncle, plus the weird guy that filled the 12th spot in your league, knows to take runningbacks, then a quarterback, then receivers and lastly you fill out the tight ends, kickers and defenses. Where is my cheatsheet? Does anyone have a cheatsheet I can use? Whatever happened to Ricky Watters? Did John bring the beer?

You deserve better than this. Plus you are smarter than this for wanting Huddle tools to figure things out themselves.

Ah yes, back to our purpose here. The problem with standard performance scoring is revealed and we can move on...

'Ahem'

The Perfect Huddle

Considering the four principles I wanted to follow - Equivalency, Realism,Player over Position Value and Related to Scoring, I broke down the roster positions and devised - nay, discovered! - what composes the Perfect Scoring System. Sharpen your pencils and put your serving trays in the upright position.

Quarterbacks

When scoring rules were first created, I have to believe they considered that passers passed, runners ran and receivers received. Here in 2003, it just is not that way now. Some quarterbacks run better than many runningbacks. Players like Michael Vick, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Aaron Brooks, Steve McNair and the like do well in fantasy terms because they run. If we want realism, then why do we award higher rushing points than passing points for the same player?

In the past eight Superbowls, the only "running" quarterback to make an appearance was Steve McNair as a loser (2000).In the past six Superbowls, the rushing total for all six winning quarterbacks combined was 11 carries for 13 yards. It actually goes back much farther but when I reached Dallas winning the Superbowl, I had gone back far enough. Championship quarterbacks have not ran much. It is all about moving the ball down the field so why reward moving it by running more than passing?

Quarterback yardage should be combined - rushing and passing together since it represents the distance the quarterback was directly responsible for moving his team down the field. The NFL does not score more for McNair plunges than for Manning passes. Yardage should be combined and touchdowns should be six points no matter how it is made. Quarterbacks also throw interceptions which are easy to find statistically and negatively impact his team. True - fumbles are the same but there are much less of them.

Quarterback scoring in the Perfect System is 0.05 points per yard gained rushing or passing or receiving (for the one annual pass to a QB). For every 20 yards of offense a quarterback generates, he gains one fantasy point. He loses one point for each interception. That yields this scoring using last season's production:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Old 314 291 283 268 257 254 249 244 244 239 222 222 217 202 200 195 190 188 185 178 175 172 168 165
New 410 376 370 366 362 359 347 333 328 324 323 306 299 284 274 266 265 265 254 252 249 247 238 208
Drops 50 points 40 points 100 points
Old 60 points 30 points 60 points

Scoring becomes a less concentrated at the top and drops off much more in the second string. It reduces the mix of rushing versus passing quarterbacks and focuses on a quarterback moving the ball down the field and scoring touchdowns. There is the same overall drop in top twelve but makes getting the quarterback pick wrong harder to make up since second string quarterbacks do not perform as well.

Runningbacks

I will actually leave these as is with exception of awarding 0.1 point per each ten yards gained in any manner as opposed to the 1 point per 10 yards. This added about ten points per player since they gained a little when they rushed for more than increments of 10 per game. Using decimal scoring is a little less "realistic" perhaps, but it is a better measure of their success and provides far fewer ties in fantasy games.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Old 365 317 299 281 267 262 258 251 249 222 214 212 211 205 199 196 192 184 179 177 175 167 164 149
New 373 324 307 289 272 270 264 259 256 228 224 219 217 209 207 203 201 190 185 184 179 173 171 154

Wide Receivers

This position needed an overhaul to take it out of that nether region between runningbacks and all the worthless positions. Like runningbacks, I award the 0.1 point per every yard gained and six point touchdowns, but the spin here is that I add one point per reception. This somewhat magically rises the position to where I want to see it and rewards the receiver for advancing the ball down the field via a catch. You can consider it a bonus point to whatever yardage they gain on the play. It is certainly more difficult to catch a ball down the field knowing the safety is about to cut you in half than it is to take the handoff from a quarterback on a draw play. While runningbacks do make catches as well, typically they are dump off passes and they are not being covered by a cornerback down the field.

That changes things thusly:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Old 234 218 217 182 177 176 172 169 169 161 159 156 152 151 148 145 142 141 141 137 136 128 126 125
New 384 337 322 294 289 272 265 264 257 257 255 251 247 238 237 230 227 223 220 219 216 210 207 197
Drops 110 points 20 points 50 points
Old 60 points 20 points 50 points

Tight Ends

Here is the position that needed a major overhaul if you are going to use it separately. You should - every team uses a tight end, some much more than others and they have an impact on scoring. It adds another position for you to get right and others to get wrong. It increases the strategy in the draft and makes the draft a bit more diverse and deeper.

Like wide receivers, touchdowns continue to be six points but what works best is to double the point awards from that of receivers for receptions and yardage. That makes 2 points per reception and 0.2 points per yard gained. That yields this very significant change:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Old 120 111 94 82 82 77 73 68 67 65 62 59 58 56 52 50 48 43 42 42 41 39 38 36
New 347 339 323 277 244 243 218 202 201 200 198 193 182 176 166 162 161 158 147 146 146 140 136 135
Drops 100 points 50 points 60 points
Was 40 points 20 points 20 points

This gives tight ends an obviously higher value than before and makes them a valuable addition to your roster. Before you lost 60 potential points if you had the twelfth best tight end versus the best one. Now the difference shoots up to 150 points. The drop in scoring for tight ends is far more pronounced and actually gives greater value to picking one earlier. This rewards those tight ends that catch appropriately since a good receiving tight end is literally an extra receiver for a team versus one that does not employ one.

Placekickers

Like the runningbacks, this is a position I leave alone. Kickers are notoriously difficult to predict because their success is not so much dependent on their ability, but on the ineffectiveness of their offense that yields them with more or less opportunities. Kickers are a definite part of the game and I would leave them exactly scored as the NFL does. In assembling a fantasy team, you are looking to find talented players. It is less realistic to make them any higher scoring since they are not as much a pick of a talented player, it is a pick of an offense that is good enough to get close, but not good enough to score.

The Perfect Huddle Scoring System

In changing the scoring rules, the aim was to appropriately reward players for their impact to the offense. More than that, it was to equalize the fantasy value of players across scoring positions in order to increase the potential strategy and deepen the draft. It removes first round PBRA™ luck in creating a team and makes for a much richer fantasy experience. Putting together the above scoring changes graphs out the fantasy points for the top 24 players of last season like this:

Now we see quarterbacks as highest scoring and that is appropriate since they are only a "one starter" slot on your team and the first twelve scoring quarterbacks are almost all slightly higher than the other positions, but not that much. Taking an early quarterback can make a difference or you can try to get one of the lesser starters right. If you get a starting quarterback wrong in your draft, it will be hard to make up given the steep decline in scoring.

Runningbacks are still valuable, but no longer king. What we see is that through the top ten, the runningbacks and receivers are scoring about the same. After that point, the receivers remain - slot for slot - slightly more valuable. Which do you take? Ah - strategy...

Tight ends are no longer afterthoughts in the thirteenth round. The first half dozen are very valuable and are on par with both runningbacks and receivers. After that, they decline a bit more sharply than the other two positions. Kickers bring up the rear and still remain end of the draft fodder. Know what? There is your realism. Some coaches never even learn their kickers names. Some teams change their kicker every year because they are cheap and easy to find.

This scoring produces a draft that instead of raiding the runningbacks, top three receivers and quarterbacks and forgetting the rest, now has easily ten difference makers in the four ball handling positions with commensurate value. You bring a standard PBRA™ mindset to this league and you might get killed. When you take that 12th ranked runningback in the second round, are you willing to pass up a receiver or tight end that might score 100 points more knowing that skipping the next six runningbacks only costs you about 20 points?

Here is the new scoring breakdown using last season's stats:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
QB 410 376 370 366 362 359 347 333 328 324 323 306 299 284 274 266 265 265 254 252 249 247 238 208
RB 373 324 307 289 272 270 264 259 256 228 224 219 217 209 207 203 201 190 185 184 179 173 171 154
WR 384 337 322 294 289 272 265 264 257 257 255 251 247 238 237 230 227 223 220 219 216 210 207 197
TE 347 339 323 277 244 243 218 202 201 200 198 193 182 176 166 162 161 158 147 146 146 140 136 135

Let's compare what we have now to our principles:

  • It should provide the best equivalency of positional value - Positions are far more equivalent and the draft is far deeper in big point players. The drops in points from the top twelve in their position for QB, RB, WR, TE went from 90-150-80-60 to 90-150-130-150 as the receivers and tight ends became more commensurate in both total points and relative decline in points.
  • It should make the focus in the draft always on the best available player - Since positions are all high scoring in their top dozen with similar declines, it makes the best player the best player to pick, not PBRA™. With the higher scoring from non-RB positions, the relative values of positions become much more equalized.
  • It should be rooted in reality and respect how scoring occurs in the real NFL- The newer scoring related positions to the yardage they gain in whatever form as they bring the ball down the field. All touchdowns are six points and kickers are still kickers.

So now we have much more closely valued positions, with respect to reality and equivalency and we have made picking the right player more important than picking the right position. Still, the HPS seems to be missing something...

Oh yes - the other half of the game.

Defenses

There is no denying that defenses are a critical component of the game. As they are such a major part, it is appropriate to consider them in fantasy football and our attempt to make fantasy football "rooted in reality". First off, the decision is between grouping all players together as a Defense/Special Teams or splitting them out as individual players.

Individual Defensive Players (IDP) is a small but growing facet of fantasy football and it requires considerable more knowledge and effort to do well. In essence, it can easily double the number of players you must consider for a fantasy draft. I am electing to not use individual defensive players in the Perfect Scoring System since they are not directly related to a football score. Defenses are pretty much created to prevent opponent scores.

IDP's do yield numerous statistical categories to use, but in keeping the scoring related to NFL scoring and making the fantasy game more akin to a football game than a statistical contest, the Perfect Scoring System will use all players together as a defensive team. Hats off to the IDP leagues of the world though, since that is not like going from playing tennis to playing doubles tennis. Adding IDP is like changing from analyzing boxing to predicting a riot. It is just much more involved.

Special Teams will be included as well, but only for touchdowns and they are considered as a part of the team defense. Rewarding special teams for yardage goes back to rewarding the wrong thing - the number of kick returns which are produced when a team has allowed their opponent to score.

The fundamental difference for scoring of fantasy defenses is that we want to mirror the NFL. A defense does not typically score many points, their job is to prevent them. If a defense held an opponent to zero points and minimal yardage, it is an extremely successful game. If a defense allowed 600 yards of offense and 52 points but managed two sacks and an interception, it is unrealistic to award them with points for their effort.

What we want defenses to do is to protect the offensive performances from your players. In the rare case, defenses do score and win games but much more likely is that the defense cannot stop their opponent and gives up points allowed to the offense. The margin of victory for a football team is generally the points scored by the offense minus the points allowed by the defense equals the winning (or losing) difference. It should be the same for fantasy football.

The Perfect Huddle counts six points for any touchdowns scored by the defense/special team and gives two points for each turnover since they are a significant measure of the effectiveness of a defense. It also awards one point for every three sacks. Rewarding a point per sack is excessive. A sack is just a tackle behind the line on one specific player (the quarterback). Just as important is dumping anyone behind the line and rewarding tackles is already suspect since there is one almost every play.

Three safeties in a season is very good - only four teams managed that last season. We'll allow safeties to be the NFL two points each.
Total Yards
Allowed
Fantasy
Points
0 - 150 10
151 - 250 5
251 - 350 0
351 - 400 -5
401 - 500 -10
501 + -15

So a defense can score points - turnovers, touchdowns and safeties and sets of three sacks. However, the defense must stop the offense. The Perfect Huddle scoring system gives a negative three points (-3) for each touchdown allowed the opponent by your team defense. It also uses a sliding scale for offensive yardage allowed as shown here to the right.

The average game last season had 317 yards of offense per team. That sort of output would give your defense zero points but would not hurt your team either. Giving up less than 150 yards is a major accomplishment and is worth 10 points. Allowing over 500 yards of offense means that your defense had a very bad day and is dinged with a whooping -15 points.

  2002
Defense
FF
Pts
PPG Yds
ALL
TD's
ALL
TO's Sack Saf TDs
1 Tampa Bay 105 6.6 4050 18 38 43 2 6
2 Philadelphia 33 2.1 4748 26 38 58 0 4
3 Carolina 22 1.4 4646 30 33 53 1 4
4 Green Bay -3 -0.2 5003 39 46 41 0 4
5 Miami -10 -0.6 4656 29 30 46 0 2
6 Atlanta -23 -1.4 5336 35 39 48 0 3
7 NY Giants -26 -1.6 4949 29 25 37 0 2
8 Oakland -28 -1.8 4979 36 31 43 0 6
9 Washington -31 -1.9 4787 35 26 39 1 3
10 Pittsburgh -34 -2.1 4834 38 36 51 0 2
11 Denver -36 -2.3 4826 36 22 41 1 3
12 Tennessee -38 -2.4 4964 37 29 40 0 4
13 Indianapolis -45 -2.8 4909 35 27 35 0 1
14 Dallas -47 -2.9 5258 32 30 25 0 5
15 St. Louis -52 -3.3 5030 33 25 37 0 2
16 Baltimore -54 -3.4 5353 36 31 34 0 6
17 New England -61 -3.8 5377 40 29 34 0 6
18 Houston -69 -4.3 5229 38 21 35 3 5
19 Cleveland -71 -4.4 5347 33 29 29 0 3
20 Jacksonville -74 -4.6 5335 33 27 36 2 1
21 San Fran -86 -5.4 5158 40 27 31 0 2
22 Chicago -95 -5.9 5601 37 29 35 0 1
23 New Orleans -98 -6.1 5796 43 38 39 0 6
24 Buffalo -98 -6.1 5173 46 19 31 0 3
25 NY Jets -99 -6.2 5463 35 23 29 0 4
26 Seattle -113 -7.1 5852 42 30 27 0 5
27 Cincinnati -119 -7.4 5265 50 20 25 0 4
28 San Diego -123 -7.7 6034 42 27 40 1 4
29 Detroit -145 -9.1 6121 46 24 34 0 6
30 Minnesota -153 -9.6 5769 50 23 27 1 1
31 Kansas City -155 -9.7 6248 46 31 33 0 4
32 Arizona -169 -10.5 6021 49 25 21 0 3

This scoring system awards some points for touchdowns and turnovers and sacks, and can grant more positive points when your defense has a great day stuffing the other team. If your defense has a terrible outing, you might be out 25 points for the week and that hurts.

This scoring produced only three teams last year with positive points for the season, a whopping 105 for the Buccaneers which is appropriate considering what their defense accomplished last season and the impact it had on the NFL champion.

It is unrealistic to be able to pick up some terrible defense for your bye week and still get positive points from it because all they did was get a fumble and two sacks while giving up 44 points in a loss. If you have a bad defense, it should hurt bad.

Thanks to Tampa Bay's huge 2002 season, this scoring made a difference of 140 points between the best defense and the last starting (12th) defense. This scoring best honors the real contribution of a defense to the fortunes of its NFL team. Defenses are not supposed to win you games, they should prevent you from losing it. Same equation as the NFL - offense gained minus offense allowed equals game score. With defenses so much more valuable, you would rue the decision to hold off on one until late in the draft. No one likes to lose five, ten or fifteen or more points for the week.

Defenses are realistically aligned with their true value and have significant declines in points from waiting on drafting one. This provides more positional equivalency and suddenly makes teams as important "players" to select - not just a filler for your roster requirements.

Conclusion

There you have it - the Perfect Huddle scoring system. It mixes up the draft with many more valuable players for the early rounds by creating equivalency, it respects how points are scored in the NFL and how players contribute to their team's success and it makes drafts far more suited for "pick the best player" and not just a position. It allows greater strategy and yet prevents a team from an unfair advantage by getting the one or two lucky skyrockets for the year. You have to field a full team and get production from all positions or lose to teams that have done so.
Offensive Players Points Defense/Special Teams Points
Touchdowns 6 Touchdowns 6
Interceptions (-1) Turnovers 2
QB yardage 0.05 per yard Safeties 2
RB yardage 0.10 per yard Sacks 1 per 3 sacks
WR yardage 0.10 per yard Touchdowns allowed (-3)
WR receptions 1 per catch Allow 0 - 150 yards 10
TE yardage 0.20 per yard Allow 151 - 250 yards 5
TE receptions 2 per catch Allow 251 - 350 yards 0
2 Pt Conversion 2 Allow 351 - 400 yards (-5)
Field Goals 3 Allow 401 - 500 yards (-10)
Extra Points 1 Allow 501+ yards (-15)

Most fantasy players who have been around for more than a few years have their own favorite scoring flavors and I am sure that some elements of this will be the source of argument to my fellow know-it-alls in the fantasy community.

Consider the scoring and reasoning and try some of it if you feel it can improve your league. Step back and think about what scoring should be about and what should be rewarded. All rules are fair if applied to all teams, the question is if they can extract the greatest amount of success and satisfaction from draft strategy, football diligence and astute team management. There are countless different ways to do scoring and none of them are perfect for everyone.

Well... at least not until now.