Offseason Extra: A few points on PATs
Everyone knows it's good to be in charge and that's certainly the case when it comes to being the commissioner of your Fantasy league. But the ultimate league Commissioner -- Roger Goodell -- recently floated a proposal that would slightly alter the scoring system of the NFL.
He suggested that the extra point become a thing of the past. Touchdowns would become seven-point plays instead of six-point plays. Teams would then have the option of risking one point on one offensive, untimed play from two yards out (just like a two-point conversion is under current rules). If a team scores, it gets the point; if it doesn't then they lose the point and only six points go up on the scoreboard. It is not meant to encourage "going for it" any more often than a team goes for two points now, but it does mean the NFL recognizes the extra point as a boring, unexciting play.
The pro game wouldn't change much as a result; some scoring records would fall. But in Fantasy, the ramifications would be significant. Extra points made up 32.7 percent of all kickers' Fantasy point totals in 2013, assuming all field goals were worth three points. That's a big chunk of their collective stats being sliced off by Goodell's rule change. It opens up a pretty big can of worms for Fantasy owners and commissioners to think about.
Should kicker scoring change?
If kickers aren't kicking extra points anymore, should field goals be worth more in Fantasy than the three points teams get in the NFL? Unless you're trying to preserve the value of kickers it's hard to make the argument for it -- all touchdowns are worth six points in the NFL so they're worth six points in a standard-scoring Fantasy league (for now, keep reading). The exception to that is leagues that give four points for a passing touchdown, but that's done because quarterbacks score more often than other positions.
It goes without saying that if you kept kicker scoring as-is, then you'd see a pretty serious drop in production. For instance, top Fantasy kicker Stephen Gostkowski would go from 168 Fantasy points (that's with bonuses for 50-plus-yard field goals) to 124 without extra points. He'd still be second-best behind Justin Tucker , who would be tops at 126. But take away Matt Prater 75 extra points and he'd go from the No. 2 slot at 162 points to No. 13 with 87 points. Only nine kickers would have reached 100 or more Fantasy points in 2013 if extra points were eliminated prior to last year and none would average even 8.0 Fantasy points per game.
If we were to try and "bake in" the points lost by extra point elimination into field goals, then we're talking about making field goals worth four points. It's increasing the original number by 33 percent, or about the amount of Fantasy points lost on average if extra points were history. Kickers should continue to score about as many Fantasy points as they do now if that were to become the case. It doesn't feel "right" but it's an option.
Should the kicker be combined with the DST?
Combining kickers with DSTs encompasses all the necessary evils of football into one tidy position on your roster -- and actually makes it more valuable.
As of now, the best DSTs can land anywhere from 225 to 260 Fantasy points in standard leagues over the course of a season, as much or more than the top receivers and tight ends typically get. Throw in field goals and we're talking about units that could deliver well over 300 points per year. That's way better than what you'll get from running backs, receivers and tight ends -- it's on pace with the decent quarterbacks in Fantasy.
But it also makes an already unpredictable position even more of a crapshoot. Predicting special-teams scores is borderline impossible, save for the unit that consistently gives up huge returns week after week. Predicting field goals isn't quite as impossible but it's still a challenge since kicks can be missed. Predicting defensive play is the easiest of the three, but how many times have we preached a "favorable matchup" because of an offense's ineptitude only to see it collapse? All three are huge wild cards when it comes to Fantasy.
It also doesn't change the fact that defenses are still the primary producer of the unit. We took the Fantasy point totals from DSTs last year and added what their corresponding kickers would have scored if only awarded points for field goals (and a two-point bonus for 50-plus yards). While the combined units scored way more, their ranking was basically the same:
This paints the picture that if your league were to combine kickers and DSTs that you could get away with ignoring the kicking aspect since the results seem based more on the success of the defense than anything else. In this case, kickers are fairly immaterial -- something that you might have felt even before Goodell's idea came to light. The difference is that an owner could start a kicker from a different team than his defense and potentially scored more Fantasy points. But it still suggests kickers are frivolous when it comes to Fantasy.
And if this is the case, then the question must be asked ...
Should the kicker be eliminated from Fantasy?
Look, if they're already not doing a lot for us and are going to do 32.7 percent less, then why have them at all? Just because NFL teams have them? Just because we've had to deal with them all these years?
If a league booted kickers from lineups and did nothing else then it would be a little sad. One less round to draft, one less spot to fill and one less player to accrue points from. I'd rather have a kicker to put into lineups and get some points than nothing at all. Hopefully your commissioner isn't so uncreative and boring that they'll just bounce kickers and do nothing else.
What would be more fun is to eliminate the kicker but not the roster spot he leaves behind. League commissioners could replace kickers with a flex, a second quarterback or something else. There's a world of possibilities, and if kickers are set to score fewer points than they have in the past then they shouldn't be sacred. Imagine cutting a kicker and adding a flex -- the challenge and fun of Fantasy would be kicked up a notch.
Should touchdowns count for seven?!
So if the NFL flushes extra points and gives players seven points for a touchdown, should the players get credit for those seven points in Fantasy instead of six?
The answer is yes. Why not? We give the full six points for a score now -- if the score counts for seven with the extra point out of the rulebook then the player(s) responsible should get credit for it.
And when teams go for the conversion and get it, the players involved should pick up an extra Fantasy point. Only makes sense.
Here's where things get sticky: What happens when a team goes for the eighth point and doesn't get it? The team loses a point, but should the player who scored in the first place also lose a Fantasy point? What about the players involved in the conversion attempt itself?
Commissioners have the option to make touchdowns count for whatever they want, but it stands to reason that the act of scoring a touchdown under these proposed rules is a seven-point play, period. The decision to risk a point on the conversion is a separate play that shouldn't impact the previous play, especially if the player scoring has nothing to do with the conversion attempt. I would also rule that there is no individual penalty for a failed one-point conversion attempt even though the NFL team will lose a point for trying it. It keeps the bookkeeping simple and leaves turnovers as the only meaningful way to lose Fantasy points. That's the way I'd lean on it.
We're looking at the first possible time in professional sports history where a team can lose points after scoring them on a previous play. It's unchartered territory for all of us, including the league involved. Whatever it takes to enhance the Fantasy experience based on the rule change is what's most important.