We Need To Change The Standard For IDP Fantasy Football Scoring

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Is the way fantasy football leagues score IDP a barrier for entry for new players to dive in?


Why don’t more people play IDP fantasy football? The ’85 bears, the ’00 Ravens, the ’86 Giants, and the ’13 Seahawks were all iconic teams defined by the defensive side of the ball. If you want to get yelled at on the internet, make a top ten defenses of all time list and publish it on a blog. Some fan of the ’77 Falcons will show up and make sure you know exactly how stupid they think you are.

All of those teams had iconic players who would have been fantasy monsters. Singletary, Lewis, Taylor, and Wagner are all among the iconic names of the sport and most of them are already in the hall of fame.

I realize that if you’re even reading this, you do play IDP fantasy football. You recognize that leaving half of the players on the field is a missed opportunity for fun. You understand that it adds another level of strategy, and makes watching games much more exciting. I realize I am preaching to the converted here.

Just like the rest of us, however, you’ve probably had difficulty finding players. We have all seen the glazed over eyes of a fellow football fan we wanted to recruit for a league the moment we mention individual defensive players. These are players who know football, they’re not lazy or stupid, but the idea of IDP is about as appealing to them as watching astroturf grow.

The question, again, is why. The answer is pretty simple. IDP fantasy doesn’t balance the point allocation very well in most cases.

The wrong players score in IDP

Who got more ponts in IDP fantasy for th 2017 season: Von Miller or Jon Bostic? Ask a casual football fan who Jon Bostic is, and repeat that question for Von Miller. Why is it difficult to get people to play IDP fantasy football? You have your answer. We’re doing it wrong.

IDP games are all but exclusively won and lost based on tackles in most cases. That is stupid, and it’s killing something we all love. That may be overstating the matter, but high tackle scoring is a limiter of the popularity of IDP fantasy.

Casual players are the meat of the fantasy football hobby. Sure, I have a couple cash leagues that I play in, but the vast majority of the leagues I play are composed of casual fans. They are always going to take the easier method of choosing team defense. Those of us who want to increase the prevalence of IDP fantasy need to drop the barrier to entry.

I am not saying that tackles should not score points, but they should be the yardage equivalent. Offensive fantasy, in base settings on most sites, is driven primarily by yardage. Yes, there is PPR scoring, but that is a balancing mechanism to make receivers more relevant.

Two point tackle scoring (2 for a solo, 1 for an assist) makes 80 solo, or more realistically 60 solo and 40 assist tackles worth 160 points. Most offensive leagues require 1600 yards to equal that point total. Every linebacker that gets 100 tackles gets the same number of points as the NFL’s rushing leader for their basic scoring statistic. That is idiotic.

So a linebacker that gets victimized in pass coverage is as valuable as an RB1. Von Miller is basically the equivalent of a TE2. Players that are superstars and well ranked by Vegas to win defensive player of the year are undraftable. That’s the terminal problem for the defensive side of the hobby.

Darius Slay, among the NFL leaders in passes, defended and interceptions in 2017, was also not a draftable player in most leagues. He plays cornerback you see, so the fact that he was one of the leagues most productive defensive players doesn’t matter for IDP fantasy purposes.

The core of offensive fantasy football is this: good players are what you need to win. There are other subtleties that come into play among elite leagues, but generally the players everyone knows are doing the things fantasy football players need to do to win.

The guys who show up on highlight reels are the guys who put up huge offensive fantasy numbers. In IDP, the guys who never show up on highlight reels are the bread and butter of the game. That dichotomy is what stops casual players from joining leagues. The players that show up on Football Night in America need to be the ones that drive IDP fantasy football. Here is how to do that.

A simpler and balanced scoring system

First, tackles are one point. Total tackles with no split between solo and assists. This needs to be simplified for ease of use and removing the tackle bias that rewards bad players in pass coverage. Passes defended, tackles for losses, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries add three.

Interceptions, sacks, safeties and defensive touchdowns score six. You may want to adjust scoring so that these do not count for offensive players though if you can….. Jameis Winston probably doesn’t deserve 21 points for recovering his own fumbles last year.

According to ESPN fantasy, in 2017 Von Miller scores 160 points in this scoring system in a bit of a down, year for him, but a good year by league-wide standards he is the number 21 linebacker. Blake Martinez, in a career season, scored 220 points.

Darius Slay, the NFL’s 2017 leader in both interceptions and passes defended, scores 192. The NFL’s 2017 sack leader Chandler Jones scores 210. For scale, Jon Bostic’s 2017 season scores 137 points. The order of the universe has been restored by rewarding event plays rather than something that heppens almost every play.

In standard scoring (non PPR) offensive players other than quarterbacks now tend to score about the same number of points as their defensive counterparts. On both sides of the ball, elite players are scoring fantasy points. Under this scoring system, here are the top twenty players at each position from 2017.

Defensive Tackle

Defensive end

Linebacker

Cornerback

Safety

Linebackers are still a product of tackle statistics, but the elite pass rushers are playable as LB2 or LB3 options in a 10 team league. More of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks get into the DB2 rankings. The NFL’s elite defensive tackles get into the DL2 conversation.

If you are playing in a 3 DL, 3 LB, 3 DB league, Darius Slay, Von Miller, and Aaron Donald are starting for teams. If IDP is ever going to catch on, that needs to happen. The tackle based scoring system needs to go away. It is hurting the IDP community.


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I have been playing fantasy football since before you could do it online. I have actually lost friendships over commissioner score tabulating fraud. I have a league that would be old enough to vote in the United States of America.