Uncommon Scoring Rules: Points for Completions and Incompletions

Updated: June 7th 2020

The All About Reality Podcast league inspired me to examine a few fantasy scoring rules not used in most leagues but are becoming more popular to various degrees.  This article focuses on the effects of adding (subtracting) points for completions and incompletions utilizing data from the 2019 season.  The results may or may not surprise you but the reader might find details which could provide an advantage when entering into a league with one of these scoring settings.

Adding Points for Completions and Incompletions

The typical settings, when incorporated, involve adding (partial) points for completions and subtracting points for incompletions.  NFL starting quarterbacks almost always complete more than 50% per season with the median of the top-32 passers completing about 64% in 2019.  These completion percentages dictate that using these scoring settings adds fantasy points to the quarterback position.  Below the reader finds a chart of quarterback fantasy scoring for the top-32 passers comparing a standard fantasy scoring league with one which gives partial points for completions and incompletions.  ESPN refers to a 4 point per passing touchdown and 1 point per 25 passing yards league.  0.5COMP adds 0.5 points per completion while subtracting 0.5 points per incompletion and so forth for different weights.

QB Scoring with and without Completions

 

5COMP scoring added an average of 26% to the top-12 scorers and 28% to the top-24 quarterbacks.  While we generally see an increase for all quarterbacks, adding/subtracting points for completions/incompletions affects quarterbacks differently.   Derek Carr (43%), Drew Brees (41%), Phillip Rivers (40%), Matt Ryan (38%), and Jimmy Garoppolo (37%) saw some of the biggest gains in this scoring format.  Josh Allen (14%) and Lamar Jackson (16%) displayed some of the smallest increases among notable fantasy starters.  High volume, accurate quarterbacks receive the most help, relative to their peers, while quarterbacks who significantly rely on their legs for fantasy points are hurt the most.  The reader should also note that completion percentage generally decreases with depth of target.  We should not then be surprised that some of the quarterbacks showing the biggest increases in fantasy scoring when adding completion points were those with the lowest average intended air yards per attempt.

Maybe the more important question is how these scoring changes affect quarterback values.  As usual, the answer depends.  Notice from the above scoring chart how the slopes of the scoring curves look similar for both scoring formats presented.  This means the marginal points scored going from one quarterback to the next ranked one is similar in both formats.  Using VBD valuation, the total value of quarterbacks for 12-team, 1-QB leagues actually decreased slightly by adding completions/incompletions scoring in 2019.  NFL rules encouraging the passing game and many coaches moving to a lower depth-of-target approach have bunched mid-range quarterbacks into a somewhat similarly accurate group.  Combine with similar volume for many of these QBs and you get a very flat tier of quality options available in 1-QB leagues.

The calculation changes when you look at superflex and bigger leagues with the ability to use more quarterbacks in starting lineups.  Lower tier quarterbacks generally see less volume and throw for lower completion percentages.  This leads to bigger differentiation in scoring when using completion scoring formats when compared to standard formats as leagues start more and more quarterbacks.  Using our 0.5COMP scoring substantially increased the total value of quarterbacks in a 12-team superflex league when compared to the ESPN scoring, for example.  The table below details how total value (in points above replacement) at the quarterback position in 12 team leagues changed with different scoring settings and league formats.

Total QB Positional Values under Various Formats

 

Most notably, we see the value of quarterbacks for superflex leagues increasingly climb as more points are added (subtracted) to completions (incompletions).  Another big implication for superflex leagues is that quarterbacks become near must-starts in the superflex spot as completion scoring gets higher weights.  QB scoring attains such heights that other positional players available for use in a superflex spot simply can’t realistically contend with QB scoring.  For example, the QB20 scored 280 fantasy points in the 0.5COMP system which is more than the RB7 and WR2 in PPR leagues.  A team would have to be absolutely stacked at either the RB or WR position to competitively use one in the superflex position.

Key Implications

  1. We do not see much value added to the quarterback position due to completion scoring in smaller 1-QB leagues (at least in 2019). The deep middle class of NFL starters does not show the variation needed to create the differences in fantasy scoring for added value.
  2. Completion scoring adds significant value to quarterback position in deeper leagues like superflex formats, particularly where leagues weight completions higher. While the middle tier of NFL passers is relatively flat, the bottom tier demonstrates a considerable drop-off in volume and accuracy. This gives more separation from top and middle tier-starters in comparison to the lower-tier of quarterbacks.
  3. A superflex spot becomes a near must-start quarterback in completion scoring leagues. The increased quarterback scoring, notably at higher completion scoring weights, gives quarterbacks a big advantage over most non-quarterbacks.
  4. Completion scoring affects quarterbacks differently.  Accurate, high volume passers show the biggest increases in scoring while quarterbacks producing a big portion of their fantasy points through rushing see smaller increases.  Adjust your QB rankings accordingly.

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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Re-Examining Early 2018 RSO Auctions

Updated: March 23rd 2019

Many leagues will start-up after the upcoming NFL rookie draft.  Now seems a good time to look back at how RSO general managers spent their cap dollars in 2018 and what type of production they received for their investment.   The article will not focus on which players performed well or poorly but rather on where dollars spent in RSO auctions translated to fantasy points for various positions and how that changed throughout the given salary ranges for different position groups.  Examination of this information gives us some broad ideas of where our contract dollars can be utilized most effectively going forward.

The data below will show the average auction values plotted against per game fantasy production for the top-30 at each position with polynomial best-fit trendlines to give the reader an idea of expected fantasy scoring at different salary levels for each group.  Using per game instead of season long fantay scoring normalizes production differences due to injuries.  The salary data was taken from June and prior RSO auctions after the NFL draft and opening free agent period in 2018.  The salary data combines many scoring systems so 0.5 PPR scoring was utilized as a middle ground for comparison.  The group excludes Jerick McKinnon, Le’Veon Bell, Derrius Guice, and Hunter Henry who all missed the entire NFL season.

Running Backs and Wide Receivers

We start with running backs and wide receivers as they show some similarities in the data and for fantasy teams.  These positions typically represent the backbone of most fantasy squads given the majority of league settings when compared to quarterbacks and tight ends.  When looking at the data, note the more linear production tendencies from running backs and wide receivers throughout the salary range.  This simply means that additional auction dollars spent at those positions tended to translate to fairly uniform increases in fantasy production.  This certainty is a key consideration when determining how to split your auction dollars among position groups.

The charts also show a similar average salary range for running backs and wide receivers except for a couple of exceptions.  Saquon Barkley was a big outlier in the early running back data with an average auction value of about $58 million per season in a limited number of auctions which was more than $17 million above the next back, Todd Gurley.

 

Auction Values vs Fantasy Output for Running Backs and Wide Receivers

There are a couple of differences between these groups we need to address.  Running backs had higher expected production near the upper range of corresponding salaries while wide receivers led the way at the lower end.    Seven running backs outscored the top wide receiver in per game scoring in the 0.5 PPR format.  Wide receivers came with less risk overall, though.  The variance of outcomes for wide receivers was narrower overall and they missed far fewer games.  The top-30 priced running backs averaged only 11.4 games played while wide receivers averaged almost 14 games.

Quarterbacks

It is readily apparent how different the data looks for quarterbacks.  The salary range for quarterback is, unsurprising, lower than running backs and wide receivers.  Many league settings necessitate this fact because of limited starting requirements of quarterbacks.  The trendline also becomes far flatter at a much lower relative salary ranking for quarterbacks meaning RSO owners did not see much additional fantasy scoring for the additional money spent on the top priced quarterbacks.  The main problem centers on opportunity.  The top-10 highest paid running backs, for example, averaged 21.3 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets) per game, the next ten averaged 15.2, and the final group averaged 13.  We have a decent idea of differing roles running backs will have going into the season which allows us to project variation in volume and thus differences in fantasy production.

The problem for quarterbacks is that we do not have the same type of variation in opportunity to guide us in assigning salaries.  Starting quarterbacks usually take all the snaps in a game whether they are one of the best or a middling example and thus get all of the opportunities.   The top-10 highest paid quarterbacks averaged 37.7 opportunities (passing plus rushing attempts) per game, the next ten averaged 37.5, and the final group averaged 32.  The middle tier of quarterbacks receives virtually identical workloads as the top players which resulted in similar fantasy production.  Few quarterbacks can consistently separate themselves in fantasy with the lack of difference in opportunity.

Auction Values vs Fantasy Output for Quarterbacks

It might help a little to break the information in a different form below.  The top-10 highest paid quarterbacks averaged 20.2 fantasy points per game at an $18 million salary while the next ten highest paid quarterbacks averaged 20.1 points per game at only $10 million salary.  There was virtually no difference in scoring between the top and middle tiers.  The top-10 did provide a safer option with far less variance and a safer floor than the middle tier, however.  Note there exists a significant difference between the cheapest quarterbacks and the rest.  Teams do try to limit the role of the worst quarterbacks which, when combined with poor performance, results in less opportunities and fantasy production.

Auction Values and Fantasy Output for Quarterbacks Tiers

Tight Ends

The data for tight ends might be even more out of line compared to the other positions with increasing marginal fantasy points near the top of our salaries.  Much of the reason is that we saw historic production from a couple of the top tight ends.  Three players topped 1,300 receiving yards and/or 100 receptions.  Travis Kelce and Zack Ertz obliterated the production of their previous top seasons.  One must go back to 2011, in the glory days of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, to find a season even close in production at the top.  It is a good bet we will see a reduction in the output of the top tight ends in 2019.

Auction Values vs Fantasy Output for Tight Ends

There was big value to be found at bargain prices also.  George Kittle and Eric Ebron also put up huge career seasons averaging less than $5 million in RSO leagues.  Investing in the lowest priced tight ends is a gamble, but a cheap one, with a massive range of potential outcomes.  That large range of outcomes for the the cheaper tight ends is largely the result of unknown offensive roles which remain largely shrouded in mystery before the NFL season begins.

Primary Conclusions

  1. Place your big money in wide receivers and running backs. We more accurately project those groups in comparison to tight ends and quarterbacks because we generally have a better idea of differences in expected volume for players. Confidence in the application of our cap money for these positions translates throughout the range of salaries.  Most league settings also dictate spending bigger in these areas for pure value reasons.
  2. The middle class rules for quarterbacks. We see virtually no difference in opportunity from the top quarterbacks and middle options. The difference in skill is not enough to make up for the lack of difference in volume.  Playing the value game at quarterback is a viable option, even in superflex leagues, though it comes with more volatility.
  3. The tight end position remains an either/or proposition. The upper class of players can provide very big returns on your RSO dollars. The well-established middle class typically does not offer much upside over lower-tier options but does come with a lot less risk.

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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