In part III of Collin Hulbert’s series on fantasy football season leagues, he goes in-depth with variations in league settings.
Welcome to part three in this three-part series. I’ll be covering league settings in fantasy leagues in this article.
In part one, we covered League Types: Re-draft versus Dynasty. In part two, we covered Draft types: Snake versus Option. This week, we are covering league settings: PPR versus Standard scoring and ancillary settings.
League settings are critical in determining an appropriate draft strategy. Not only is it crucial to decide upon the league settings before the draft, but you also have to craft a strategy for how you’re going to manage your team and plan out your season for the post-draft period.
Too often, people get into leagues without taking note of the settings and it costs them to an extent down the road. Fantasy performance often comes down to who can maximize their output at each position. If you are conscious of the league settings, you can have an advantage over most of your league without them ever realizing it. Unlike draft types and league types, most people don’t pay attention to league settings unless they’re voting on it in a startup league.
Even those who do may forget by the time the league rolls around, so choosing appropriate league settings can not only give you an advantage, it can help balance your league as you fine-tune the settings to everyone’s liking.
PPR vs Non-PPR vs PPFD
Points Per Reception (PPR)
The scoring format is the core setting for seasonal leagues. Often, before people inquire about what type of drat the league has, or whether the league is a re-draft or dynasty, they first want to know if it’s standard scoring or PPR.
Points Per Reception is a concept that has been around for a while but gained a lot of national traction around 2009 and 2010 when ESPN and other platforms began promoting it. Eventually, it took over as the “standard” format a few years back on ESPN and other platforms, almost like there was some collusion involved.
The premise for these leagues is simple. In PPR scoring, a player gets a point for every reception. The reason this method became so popular is quite simple. Around 2006-2008, teams became more reliant upon running back by committee approaches. For example, there were three running backs in 2006 who scored over 300 points and six total over 240 points. There were five running backs in 2008 who scored between 242 and 286 points. None scored more than 300. By 2010, one back scored over 300 and three backs scored in the 240s.
As every year passed, the ceiling for running back scoring seemed to shrink overall in the league. With the implementation of these committees, fantasy players wanted more value from these committees. If you weren’t one of the four of five teams with a stud running back, you were often playing roulette amongst an array of guys who touched the ball 8-12 times a game, hoping one would find the end zone because you knew the rushing and receiving yardage probably wasn’t going to suffice.
For this reason and the desire for wide receivers and tight ends to help level the playing field in terms of competitiveness and draftability, fantasy players felt awarding points on the basis of receiving would be a clever way to create more parity in the field. For a few years, it seemed like a good change. I have been in multiple leagues for a long time now and I blissfully accepted the changes because I felt like the depth would be good for the league. However, there are a few reasons why we should’ve stopped to actually think about it before we did it.
Everyone surged into the PPR era because it “leveled the field.” In truth, all it did was award arbitrary scoring and take away from the true value a player provided to his team in a game. I think it was around a year after any of my league switched to PPR before I began realizing how silly it actually is, and how it actually doesn’t help create more parity.
My biggest issue is the arbitrary nature of it all. If a player gets a one-yard reception, he shouldn’t be rewarded the same as someone gaining ten yards on a run. Scoring should directly reflect performance. By choosing PPR, whether it be half point or full point, violates the fundamental principles behind fantasy point-scoring.
Shamefully, I recall one game where I had Buck Allen starting at running back in a bye week. He finished his day with 11 receptions for 15 yards. Because of this, he scored 12.5 points. I won the week by four points because my opponent’s last player rushed for 75 yards on 12 carries. I had a one-point lead prior to the game and felt disgusted with the way I won. Not only did it not seem just, but it was also downright stupid. When every player at every position is rewarded points based on merit, the system is fair and equal. But when we reward players for receptions, when a reception for no yards means nothing in an actual game, that’s where I have the issue.
The second issue I have with it is the parity. It actually doesn’t create more parity. It tends to excessively inflate the value of the top tier players. For example, Michael Thomas was already the best receiver in the NFL in non-PPR formats. He was 36 points better than Chris Godwin, the number two. If you were playing in a PPR format, Thomas was a whopping 98 points better than Godwin. That’s a ridiculous difference and goes completely against the case for PPR being a good way to create parity. Christian McCaffrey, in a non-PPR format, scored 78 more points than Derrick Henry, the number two guy. In PPR, McCaffrey outscored Henry by 177 points.
This value bump helps players near the bottom, for sure. However, the added value it provides for the players at the very top can destroy your league by giving a few teams a massive advantage over the rest of the field. If you think it’s helpful to some teams in your league to get an extra eighteen or nineteen points for their entire team over the course of a week, that’s fine.
Just remember: for every nineteen points you’re getting from the value plays among the ancillary options on a roster, one team is getting nineteen or twenty more points a week from just two players. Chew on that before you decide on making a league PPR. Even at half-point, you’re getting around ten points across an entire team while the teams with the elite players who also happen to be target hogs are getting more than you from two guys. The point still stands; PPR isn’t a just system.
Non-PPR is traditionally referred to as the “Standard” format for leagues. When fantasy football first began over 40 years ago, scoring was limited to actual scoring, with players accumulating points only through touchdowns. As boring as it sounds, this was a pure and just system in its inception.
Over time, yard accumulation became a more popular means of adding to scoring, once newspapers began publishing stats in the box scores in the 80s and 90s. It made leagues easier with calculations and made yardage accumulation reasonable. As time wore on, people got bored from standard formats and sought more creative ways of accumulating points.
Non-PPR is simple and fair. If you’re just getting into fantasy, Standard format, Non-PPR is a good way to go, because there’s less to consider from a player evaluation standpoint. Though it’s been shown most fantasy players prefer half-point PPR over standard, I think more people will realize over time that standard is the fair way to go.
Point per first down (PPFD)
This one is relatively new, but an option on platforms like Sleeper and a few other sites. Point Per First down is a good way to inject further scoring in your league and give third-down backs a nice boost in value. In PPFD, you get a point or a half-point for a player getting a first down.
It’s not as meaningless as PPR, and it can really be quite fun when you’re justifying adding value-based points to your league. The only issue with PPFD is that it tends to really inflate the already-inflated value of running quarterbacks. As if it isn’t enough running quarterbacks carry more value than pocket passers, running quarterbacks get an additional boost via PPFD.
That downside may not be a huge deal for some, but for many, it’s enough to turn people off from PPFD based on the complications to ranking quarterbacks for projection purposes. Once more rankings are put out by industry pros, I think we will see a lot more leagues moving towards this format, but as of now, it’s too much of a task for many fantasy players to take on themselves.
Other settings you should take note of
Some settings are cleverly left off most league agendas, but should be noted for assessing player value and better determining your draft strategy.
I am in a league where kickers lose a point on extra points and don’t lose a point on missed field goals. I am in another league where kickers didn’t lose a point for missed PATs but did lose a point for a missed field goal.
Had I been the one to make the rules there, I’m absolutely going with the first option. I think if a guy misses a 55-yard attempt, he shouldn’t be punished but missing an extra point certainly warrants losing a point. Regardless, you have to take note of these things because there are guys out there like Justin Tucker, who doesn’t miss on extra points and it could make the difference in any given week. That alone is a two-point swing, so take note and if your league penalizes kickers for any missed FG or PAT, you may want to take a guy like Tucker a round or two early.
Defensive scoring is very different on every platform. Some formats benefit defenses who shut down opposing teams, while others benefit teams who force more sacks and turnovers. If you’re in the first category, it will be a lot easier to get a feasible list together, since turnovers are higher variance. Be sure to check out your league settings for defense and make sure they align with the settings of whatever platform promoted articles you read leading up to your draft.
This one is low-key important. Most leagues have 14 roster spots, with nine starters and five bench slots. If you’re in a ten-team league, this can affect your draft strategy. The more bench spots and more teams you have in a league means there will be less talent on the waiver wire.
A good draft strategy in a 12-team league with 15 roster slots is to go for the depth plays. If you’re drafting in a snake league, get as many number one and two options you can at receiver, get a tight end in a tight end friendly system, get as many bell cow backs as you can, and get three quarterbacks.
You want to do this to maximize your chances of getting players who will have big years. If you are going in on rookie receivers and sleeper candidates, that’s a high-risk situation for deep leagues. If it’s this format with an auction draft, don’t spend too much on the top tier guys. Spend your money on getting as many second and third-tier players as you can. Odds are, many should be solid and a few will pop.
If you’re on the other end of the spectrum in a ten-team league with 14 roster slots, you’ll want to go big, knowing there will be plenty of options on the waiver wire throughout the year to plug in holes on your roster. If you’re in a snake draft, you will be limited with choices but in an auction draft, you should spend up on the high-end players.
Even if you can only afford two or three really top tier guys, the value differential will make it worthwhile. In a league last season, I spent most of my money on Saquan Barkley, Tyreek Hill, and Derrick Henry. Henry was a pleasant surprise but Barkley and Hill missed most of the season with injuries.
It didn’t seem to matter because Henry made up for so much by the output I got from him as a top tier guy, the replacements I had for Hill and Barkley didn’t ruin my chances. I ended up riding the team to a title. This is why I lean towards this strategy more than others, especially in the smaller roster and ten-team leagues. Having one or two studs will carry you in weeks when the rest of your team has a down week and the end of season player rankings show the high-end guys make the difference between making the playoffs and not.
A standard league will have one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE, a Flex, a defense, and a kicker. If you’re in a league with anything other than this, make adjustments accordingly.
For example, if you’re in a three WR league, you need to prioritize getting at least one stud receiver. For value purposes, you can’t afford to go cheap at a position with three slots. When you consider positional depth per team and the scarcity of receivers that will be available on the waiver wire, you’ll understand receivers are going to need to be a priority.
League settings matter! No matter how long you’ve been in a league, it’s always a good idea to check your league settings and make sure you have taken the rules, roster sizes, and scoring into consideration before you start your draft this fall. I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part series of articles.
Follow me on Twitter @CollinHulbert and be sure to check out my DFS articles in the fall and other gambling-focused articles posted throughout the year on my Twitter page.