Know Thy League
One of the most desirable aspects of fantasy football is that no uniform rules exist. Most leagues have their own idiosyncrasies and range from incredibly basic to having no shot at knowing where you stand on a Sunday without the use of a trusty calculator. Even so, most leagues fall under one of the following categories: Touchdown, Scoring, PPR (Points Per Reception), and Defensive. Here is a synopsis of each, in order of complexity.
Definitely the simplest of leagues, this type of league is almost always based on touchdowns scored. You’ll generally get six points for a touchdown, scored either by an offensive player, special teams or defense. Sometimes there are bonuses for touchdowns over 50 yards, but not always. Many of these leagues also give points to field goal kickers – three for a field goal, one for an extra point and sometimes a bonus for FGs over 50 yards. This is important to note because when the kicker is in play, this position may be your highest scorer over the course of the year. You still should focus on top position players at the head of your draft because the disparity between good and bad can be significant.
Perhaps the most common type of league is scoring. A scoring league is designed to be slightly more complicated than a touchdown league, but not so complex that you need to rely on your league’s website to know where you stand. There are several ways to earn points and a few ways to lose points. In addition to generally earning six points for a touchdown scored (quarterbacks usually get four or six points for a touchdown pass), there will usually be a deduction of points for an interception, fumble, missed PAT, etc. Many of these leagues have a simple yardage formula for earning points as well. For example, my scoring league gives a point for every 20 yards rushing or receiving or 40 yards passing. You’ll find a lot of leagues in this category have a 10/10/25 split; it’s all left to the (hopefully) good judgment of your commissioner. Defenses and Special Teams usually can earn points by interceptions and fumble recoveries and even more points if they are run back for touchdowns. Of course, there are the profitable kickoff and punt returns, which those that owned Devin Hester or Joshua Cribbs last year would be happy to elaborate on. In a scoring league, you really need to examine the rules to know who the scoring is weighted toward. If your league gives the quarterback six points for a touchdown versus four, he could well be your biggest scorer. Assuming your league adheres to the same rules as they did last year, it’s a smart idea to look at last year’s top scorers.
A PPR league stands for Points Per Reception, and its purpose is to serve the hard-core realists who strive to emulate the game on the field. It’s basically similar to scoring leagues except that receivers get one point per reception. So possession receivers like Hines Ward and Wes Welker become increasing valuable. In this type of league, it’s important to draft RBs like LaDanian Tomlinson and Reggie Bush who notoriously have receiving plays drawn up for them. This type of league will almost always offer an easier path to gaining yardage points for offensive players such as a point for every 10 yards rushing and receiving, as well as one point for every 25 yards passing. Offensive players should dominate this type of league’s Top 50 scorers.
A defensive league further mirrors the game by allowing you to draft individual defensive players. It’s pretty uncommon, but is starting to pop up for those experienced fantasy players looking for a new twist. A defensive league’s draft will be longer – sometimes 20-plus rounds – and can involve drafting all defensive positions (lineman, linebackers, and defensive backs). These individual players will receive points for sacks, tackles, interceptions, and fumble recoveries. Please note that a defensive league will still reward points for offense players, and you’ll still want to start your draft with them. Defensive players are generally taken in the middle rounds.
Remember, there is no right or wrong type of fantasy league; it’s all about what you value.