Rethinking League Settings

Updated: April 17th 2018

A person recently asked me about auction values for some available players (all running backs and wide receivers) in his upcoming RSO free agent auction.  After looking over his team, I noticed he had a big need for tight end and quarterback and so asked him if he had any questions about QB and TE values.  His response essentially was “Who cares?  They are tight ends and quarterbacks so I will just take what is left over”.  Is that really how we want our leagues set up?  This issue is common in many leagues.  You can look at the big disparity in franchise tag values between positions or notice how late in rookie drafts tight ends and quarterbacks typically start going off the board to understand the issue.

With many leagues yet to begin, now is a good time to review league settings before startup auctions begin, particularly scoring and starting position requirements.  This article gives you a few ideas about how to address the big value differences between positions in your leagues.

Player Scoring

Let us do a quick review of player scoring among positions before we proceed.  I used data from the last four NFL seasons (2014-2017) to compute averages for player scoring on a Points Per Game (PPG) basis among the primary position groups in a fairly typical Points Per Reception (PPR) setting with quarterbacks scoring 4points per touchdown pass, -2 points per interception, and 1 point per 20 passing yards.  Figure 1 displays the results from which we can derive a few key insights to keep in mind going forward.  First, all position groups follow a similar pattern where the difference between player scoring tends to lessen as we get further down the ranks.  Second, quarterbacks generally score more as a group than other positions for most typically used scoring settings.  This becomes more important for those incorporating an RSO Open Flex (Superflex) spot.  Third, tight ends are drastically outscored by running backs and wide receivers.  This means a tight end will almost never be a good choice for your flex option.  Next, we examine what this means for player value.

Figure 1.  Average Player Scoring among Position Groups

Player Values Issues

Our next step is computing player values using our player scoring from above.  The question becomes what is player value?  In this context we define value as the difference between a starter’s PPG and the first league bench player for each position.  For example, say that the RB10 scores 15 PPG in a 10 team, start 2 running backs league and the RB21 scores 10 PPG.  The RB10 would have a value of 5 PPG.  A person may calculate each starter’s value using this methodology and examine the total values associated with each position group and relative to the other groups.

My baseline setting for this exercise is a typical 12 team league starting 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, and 1 TE using the scoring rules stated earlier.  Note that changing from a 3 WR league to a 2 WR plus 1 flex spot does not materially affect player values as wide receivers typically outscore running backs and tight ends over the flex spot range in a PPR league.  Figure 2 shows the values corresponding with our typical league using the averaged player scoring data detailed previously.

Figure 2.  Average Values among Position Groups in Baseline League

The above chart brings into sharp focus the big value differences between QBs/TEs and RBs/WRs.  The quarterback position, for example, holds only about 1/4th the total value of running backs and 1/5th that of wide receivers while the top quarterback averages about half the value of the top running back.  The average starter value of quarterbacks and tight ends are also significantly below that of running backs and tight ends.  Another issue involves the value concentration for the top quarterbacks and tight ends.  The top-6 quarterbacks and tight ends hold approximately 5/6th and 4/5th, respectively, of the total value at each position.  Many leagues use deeper starting requirements with more flex spots where the value differences between positions become even more pronounced.

Solutions to Value Issues between Positions

Thankfully there is no shortage of ways addressing the issues stated above.  Changing starting requirements, the number of teams, or scoring rules can have big impacts on player values.  RSO offers multiple scoring and roster options which provide plenty of flexibility to suit your league tastes.  Let’s examine one example of league settings which help balance our player values, a modified version of our baseline 12 team league adding another QB/Superflex and tight end spot with quarterbacks scoring 6points per touchdown pass and -3 points per interception plus giving tight ends 1.5 PPR scoring.  Looking at figure 3 below, the effect on league values is dramatic and presents some pleasing traits when compared to our baseline league.  Total player value is far more balanced between positions with the average starting player holding similar values among all positions.  The top players at each position also approach values far closer to one another.

Figure 3.  Average Values among Position Groups in a 2QB/2TE League

The modified league provides just one example address valuation differences and should not be thought of as a “be all” to every league.  There are countless league size, scoring variations, and starting lineup changes which can affect player valuations in positive ways.

2QB vs Superflex

I have used 2QB and Superflex leagues somewhat interchangeably in the above valuation analysis but there are differences you need to be aware of in your leagues.  The quarterback position is somewhat unique for fantasy purposes in that all NFL teams essentially play one quarterback each week barring the occasional injury or benching.  Each week there are at most 32 realistic starting options available, and as little as 26 in some bye weeks, for starting QB spots on RSO teams.  This means that, generally, some teams will likely be left without a viable quarterback for their second quarterback spot during bye weeks.  Taking a zero at the highest scoring position is extremely difficult to overcome in a given week which makes quarterbacks far more valuable in a 2QB league.  Backup quarterbacks also become roster considerations in 2QB leagues given the importance of fielding a QB.  A superflex league gives a team the ability to place another skill position player in play which is very appealing in many circumstances.  Superflex leagues also offer more strategic flexibility in how you construct your roster through trades, free agency auctions, and the rookie draft.

There is an argument that 2QB leagues should create an active trade market as competitive teams in need of quarterbacks are forced to look at other teams’ rosters for replacements.  Every league is different, but in my experience trade markets tend to freeze up for quarterbacks in deeper 2QB leagues due to the scarcity of starting options available.  The type of quarterback who should be part of an active trade market , veterans on expiring contracts, are not typically held by uncompetitive teams and competitive teams rarely want to depart with QB depth.  Nobody wants to give up quality starters on long-term deals.

Conclusion

There is no right or wrong way to set up your league but league settings will have big consequences on player values.  If you are bored of having quarterbacks and tight ends holding little value, consider starting your new league by adding an additional starting slot for each and/or changing other settings to bump up the value.  The result is a more challenging league which truly rewards good players no matter the position.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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