How we play Fantasy football is always evolving. Our beloved hobby began in the 1960s, but only really started to take off with the advent of the internet. Touchdown-only scoring ruled the early years, then yardage was eventually added. Additional changes like point per reception (PPR) have become increasingly popular over the past decade.
This game has changed before, and in all likelihood, it will again. But evolutionary processes are slow and leave behind remnants for which we don't really have a modern use. I still don't understand why I have an appendix.
So let's talk about that. Not about my appendix, but about how the modern, pass-happy NFL features more Fantasy-viable receivers on each team, and how the decline of the 350-carry workload has meant multiple viable backs on many rosters. The NFL is different in 2020 than it was in 1995, and it's time Fantasy football reflected that.
We talked about several listener ideas on Friday's episode of Fantasy Football Today. Listen below and be sure to subscribe for non-stop Fantasy football content.
From the mild to the extreme, here are my five favorite ideas to fix problems you didn't know existed — and spice up your Fantasy league:
1. Superflex/Tight end premium
Let's start with something that's already becoming more common. In an effort to balance positional value, Superflex and TE Premium leagues have increased in popularity in recent years. Superflex leagues are those in which one flex spot can be used to start a second quarterback, while TE Premium is a type of scoring that awards 1.5 points per reception for the tight end position, a half-point premium over the PPR other positions earn.
How it plays out: Adding both to the same league creates scarcity at quarterback and elevates the scoring ceiling of the true difference-makers at tight end. In drafts, you'll see the top quarterbacks and tight ends go off the board in the first round, which in turn pushes back running backs and wide receivers. There is increased flexibility about which positions to take early and which to wait on late, and it's easier to build a powerhouse crew of backs and receivers if you dare wait on QB and TE.
2. Deeper starting lineups
The one quarterback, two running backs, two or three wide receivers and one tight end thing is played out. In an NFL atmosphere more conducive to larger lineups than when Fantasy football was in its infancy, it's time to expand. Consider starting, say, two quarterbacks, three running backs, five wide receivers and two tight ends. Concerned about fewer options on the waiver wire? Use a shallower bench.
How it plays out: The impact of each player is lessened. Christian McCaffrey would have still been the best Fantasy player in 2019, but a deeper team behind him would have been necessary to win a league. Injuries don't hurt quite as bad with more lineup spots to make up the difference, a dud score in your lineup is less of a week killer, and kickers and defenses have less of an impact.
3. Two "backup" lineup spots
The most radical, and also my favorite proposal. Early-game injuries can crush Fantasy weeks, and with new concussion protocols and a greater focus on player safety, they have become more frequent. The worst-case scenario is a tough lineup decision where the player you chose gets hurt and your other good option goes off on the bench. Consider a world where you set a starting lineup and then name two players on your bench as "backups" for the week. As in Best Ball formats, if a backup outscores one of your starters, he is automatically inserted into your lineup. Unlike Best Ball, your whole roster wouldn't be available every week.
How it plays out: A Best Ball league with waivers has its issues, like people building out their benches to maximize weekly upside, which makes holding onto injured players or long-term stashes difficult. Two "backup" slots means there are still weekly decisions to make, and the majority of your bench is still just that — a bench. There's a little insurance if an injury occurs, and the best rosters will be put in better positions — as long as managers pick the right backups.
4. Quarterback scoring overhaul
Quarterback is the position most in need of a scoring overhaul, and the best way to go about it is to lower the weekly floor at the position with greater negatives for bad events. Using six points per passing touchdown but negative-four per interception is one option, as is penalizing quarterbacks more for lost fumbles or even taking fractions of a point away for incompletions. The industry-wide Scott Fish Bowl tournament is known for unique scoring rules, and features this type of quarterback setup for 2020.
How it plays out: The biggest problem with quarterback scoring is they are generally locked into plenty of volume each week, and the majority have a comfortable floor of passing yardage and a good shot to be part of scoring plays. Harsher penalties for negative plays doesn't have a major impact on the weekly ceiling of the position, but it lowers the floor and makes it more difficult for losing quarterbacks to put up good garbage time scores, because they will likely also rack up incompletions and potentially interceptions.
5. Point per first down (PP1D)
I'm a fan of PPR scoring, but it has its detractors. One reason for that is receptions at or near the line of scrimmage aren't actually inherently valuable in the NFL. PP1D is an alternative where an additional point is added on top of the yardage gained only if a first down is achieved. This starts to parse out the less successful plays from the more valuable ones.
How it plays out: PP1D sounds great in theory, but much like touchdowns, sometimes the player who achieves the first down isn't the one who made the most valuable play. Consider, for example, a 9-yard reception followed by a short run on 2nd and 1 to pick up the first. Outcomes like that are fairly frequent, and running backs see more of a boost in PP1D scoring, as do rushing quarterbacks. Still, it's a fun variation, and my favorite implementation is a 0.5 PPR and 0.5 PP1D hybrid scoring system, another Scott Fish Bowl staple.