Fantasy football scoring formats breakdown

by Michael Egnak on May 3, 2013 @ 11:30:01 PDT


Finally break down and decide to try fantasy football? Looking for a new way to add variety to your existing league? Are you looking for another style of league to join? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you'll want to continue reading to familiarize yourself with some of the different scoring formats to choose from.

Scoring formats are the way players earn points for their respective fantasy teams. The three basic types are: (1) basic scoring, (2) performance scoring and (3) distance scoring. A fourth, rotisserie scoring (category scoring like fantasy baseball), isn't widely used but is worth mentioning as it adds a little variety to what is currently out there.

The system your league decides to use will depend upon several things, mostly the owners that will be in your league and how much time they can dedicate to their team. It seems the more complicated the scoring system, the more diehard the participant is - the easier the scoring, the more causal the fantasy participant is. Depending on where you fall in that spectrum, this report will help lead you toward what type of league you want to participate in.

Owners will want to understand the scoring system they use thoroughly, because it could easily mean the difference between bragging rights and being the butt of jokes until next August.

Basic scoring

This type of league is perfect for beginners to fantasy football. In this format, points are earned for scoring plays only. The most common points systems will give four points for each touchdown pass, six points for all other offensive touchdowns, three points for field goals and one point for converted extra point attempts. Defenses will earn six points for all defensive scores and, if included in your league, special teams touchdowns.

The big advantage to a basic format is that it's very straightforward. Grab the players that find the end zone often, and you should have a good chance to win your league. One of the downfalls to this league is that the obvious running back of choice for a particular team isn't always the best option. Owners need to be aware of backup running back situations on each team to make sure they pick the goal line back instead of the yardage option.

It is typical for place kickers to approach or break 100 points each season. With so many options at the position and the unpredictability over who will have the most field goal opportunities, place kickers still aren't worth picking early in a fantasy draft. However, owners will want to grab them earlier than they would in other formats.

Performance scoring

A performance-scoring league takes a basic scoring format and adds the yardage element. Additional categories could also be used, such as receptions and two-point conversions on offense. Defensively, leagues will award points for sacks and turnovers in addition to defensive (possibly special teams) touchdowns. Typically, on offense, you'll see one point awarded for every 20 yards passing or 10 yards rushing and receiving. You'll also want to see if players lose points for throwing interceptions or losing fumbles. Defensively, some leagues may penalize teams for giving up a certain amount of yardage or points.

You'll also want to check the scoring with your league as some offer up bonuses for breaking a certain amount of yards or some players won't start accumulating points until they reach a certain mark. For instance, quarterbacks might not start earning points until they throw for 151 yards or until running backs or wide receivers/tight ends break 100 rushing or receiving yards.

This is the style of league most fantasy owners will be familiar with. It is also the league where yardage backs tend to take over as the better option for a fantasy league. The biggest downfall to this style of league is that players may fall just short of scoring an additional point. Some leagues give fractional points for yardage, but the difference is not that large from 110.3 points to 111 points.

This style of league also decreases the value of place kickers to where most fantasy league owners expect them to be.

One item becoming increasingly popular is point-per-reception (PPR) leagues. These leagues reward points to a player per each reception garnered. This is incredibly important when valuing your players entering the season.

Distance scoring

A distance-scoring league takes performance scoring rules but adds bonus points for the distance a scoring play covers. For example, a touchdown longer than 40 yards will be worth more than one from inside the red zone. Some leagues will add a point for every 10 yards that a scoring play covers, while other leagues will add a few points for a scoring play of 40 yards or more. Others may break it down into yardage increments with a set amount of points for each score; i.e. a 41-50 yard touchdown is worth an extra three points while a 51- to 60-yard touchdown is worth four additional points. These types of leagues are a bit trickier to prepare for as the length of the touchdown is more difficult to predict. However, you can quickly determine goal line specialists will rarely cash in on bonus points as most of their touchdowns will come within the 5.

Owners in this style of league will want to look at stats such as yards per catch, rushes for more than 20 yards and receptions of more than 40 yards. Knowledge of who is better at scoring longer touchdowns will give an owner an advantage over some of his opponents, but it's important to remember Lady Luck also plays a role in how far away a scoring play will generate from.

Owners will also want to look at which kickers show a more accurate leg from longer ranges. While place kickers should still get drafted late in distance scoring leagues, the way you rank them likely will be affected.

Category scoring

A fourth, and less known, type of scoring system is category scoring. The first thought that likely pops into your head is that this is for rotisserie leagues, but this same format can also be applied to head-to-head leagues. Those of you who play in a head-to-head league in fantasy baseball will have a jump start on how this works, but here's a quick explanation for those of you that are new to this format.

Like the other leagues, you'll have a set group of statistics that will count for your league. However, in this type of format, points aren't used to determine a winner. Instead, you'll pit your totals for a certain statistic against your opponent for that week. For example, whoever has the most rushing yards for that week would win that specific category, gaining a point for winning the category. Anyone that has played fantasy basketball will have a very good understanding of this format, since this is the standard means of playing for the sport. After the week is over, the winner is determined by tallying up whoever took the most categories.

The nice thing about this league is that points don't get in the way. Where any of the other scoring systems are subjective to how points are given for each particular statistic, this style of league allows fantasy owners to match their top lineup against their opponent's each week and see who records the better numbers in each category.

Another benefit is that it reduces the effect of a top-tier talent on the league. Tomlinson is always nice to have on your team, but he's not going to benefit you much if he isn't paired off with another solid running back. You have to find a way to field stud running backs and receivers to take some of those categories.

The biggest downfall to this style of league is the lack of support for it. Very few fantasy league softwares currently support this format, and the ones that do aren't too well known. This could force some leagues to pretend its 1994, with the league's commissioner using an Excel chart and several hours of his Sunday night to enter in the week's statistics.

Another potential problem is that there are numerous defensive categories that can be used. For instance, most fantasy football leagues use five categories for defensive scoring: sacks, turnovers, defensive points allowed, defensive touchdowns and yardage allowed. With five categories, defenses can account for as much as running backs and wide receivers combined, giving them much higher value than in other formats. There are ways to combat this, though, such as by weighting certain categories. For example, a league could make sacks and turnovers worth just half a category, causing defenses to account for just four categories total.

Bottom line

Once you decide which format to play with and learn the specific rules for your league, it's time for you to rank the players. If you don't feel like starting from scratch, you can use a pre-made cheat sheet from KFFL or customize KFFL's player rankings to match your own league's scoring. While KFFL's rankings will help you greatly, starting from scratch allows you to become more familiar with players and see why they're ranked the way they are.

Keep in mind that fantasy leagues are constantly evolving. If you don't like your first time playing fantasy football, make sure to look for a league that fits more of what you're looking for. When you consider how many different styles and scoring formats there are to choose from, you should be able to find a league that fits what you want perfectly. Then you'll be glued to your televisions and computer screens like the rest of us on Sundays.

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About Michael Egnak

Michael Egnak is a Hot Off The Wire Analyst at KFFL and has been with the company since 2005. Covering both NFL and MLB, Egnak is also a key contributor to KFFL's fantasy services.

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