I recently took a retrospective at what the fantasy community could do to make the quarterback position more important to our fun game. The main argument I made was that quarterback is the most important position in sports but not very important at all in fantasy. A position so scarce in the NFL just isn’t scarce at all in fantasy. I think that’s problematic, while others don’t.
For those rebels who like the idea of mixing up scoring systems, I have good news – I decided to do it for every position.
The next position I worked with is running back. So, how broken is running back scoring? There are arguments made in favor of points per reception (PPR) and those against it. Point per first down (PP1D) scoring has gained some traction in the last year or two thanks in no small part to John Paulsen and Scott Fish’s Scott Fish Bowl. I started using a PP1D variant in my The Bull Horn leagues last year, and I’ve continued to love it.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
What I learned when I studied quarterback scoring variants is that PP1D for quarterbacks is terrible. It greatly narrows the gap between top quarterbacks and the less than great ones. As a whole, first downs are gained pretty consistently across the position. Of course, there is some variance, but not nearly enough to separate the good players at the position from the not good.
Going into this study, I didn’t expect the same from running backs. I used eight scoring variants, none of which were standard. I think the DLF community has a strong enough grasp on standard to negate the need for its inclusion. I used different variations and combinations of PPR, PP1D, points per carry (PPC), and yards per carry. The chart below outlines the point totals for RB-1, RB-6, RB-12, RB-24, and RB-36. It also shows the percentage difference scored from the RB-1 to each of the rest.
Every variant scores yardage at .1 point per yard, six points per touchdown, negative four points per turnover (the same I used with quarterbacks), and two points per two point conversion. The yards per carry variant awards .3 points for every .1 over 4.0 yards per carry and deducts .3 points for every .1 under.
So, what we are looking for is a difference of 40-50% from RB-1 to RB-12. Yes, you are looking at this correctly. Every variant is approximately the same. In fact, it’s approximately the same across the board. The biggest takeaway for me is that the total points could realistically be the determining factor for leagues. If you want to keep scoring low, you can use yards per carry or .5 PPR. For higher scoring leagues, points per carry scoring or 1 PP1D would work. The real differences came in individual player scoring, but even that wasn’t incredibly varied for most players.
Above is the ranking in each scoring system for the top 36 running backs for each variant. Any player who made the top 36 in one variant is ranked for all, so there will be some gaps from 36+ in some. I colored red any drop of three or more spots from a player’s average and green any bumps of 3 or more.
A total of 23 out of 26 colored cells are in 1 PPR or .5 point per carry. The total distribution of points remained consistent across all variants, but certain players had vastly different rankings in these two. The expected players, James White, Duke Johnson, Chris Thompson, TJ Yeldon, and Ty Montgomery saw their finishes spike in 1 PPR. They still remained within six spots of their average, suggesting to me that PPR really doesn’t elevate pass catching running backs nearly as much as many of us think it does. Evidence of that can be seen with Theo Riddick. He remained consistent in everything but .5 point per carry.
Speaking of point per carry, it increased the value of some backs quite a bit. Jerick McKinnon and Devontae Booker wouldn’t have even made the list without .5 point per carry. Other backs who weren’t as productive on a per carry basis, such as Rashad Jennings and Tim Hightower, bumped up quite a bit, as well. Latavius Murray and Mark Ingram went from low end RB-1’s to middling RB-2’s based on this system. Both of them were very productive in fantasy on a per touch basis and saw their value tank in point per carry.
So, what is my takeaways from this? Really, there are a lot of different scoring variants that work well for running backs. Even yards per carry works if you don’t mind a low total. In fact, yards per carry would probably work exceptionally when combined with PP1D or PPR. The difference in individual player ranking in these different variants really only gets substantial in points per carry. Not even PPR changes the finishes enough to really be weighed into rankings for individual players more than two or three spots for me.
For me, points per carry can be completely scrapped. It elevates scoring for players who aren’t very good at football far too much. Other than that, all of these are viable in one way or another.
I know this is a cop out, but I promise I will have one chosen when I conclude this series. All positions will have a finalized scoring system that balances them and actually matches real on-field production as much as possible. To go along with balancing and real on-field production, my hope is a scoring system that is easy to calculate on the fly emerges for all positions individually and an overall system for all positions combined. Cross your fingers for me.