Commissioner Changes - Scoring Changes
By Will Grant
July 23rd, 2012

For commissioners who have run a successful league for a couple years, you may be looking to make a few changes to keep things fresh and new. By now you know the owners in your league and you have a pretty good idea of what they like and dislike. Changing your league can be a great way to improve the overall experience and keep everyone interested and engaged. Changes can take a couple different forms. This article will focus on how to change your scoring rules. If you're looking for more general league changes, check out this article, and if you want to completely change the format of your league, this article can give you some ideas.

When and How to Implement

Changing or adding rules to your fantasy league is a straight forward process, but there are a few general things you should think about when you do. For starters, think about the goal of making the rule change. Is it to provide more flexibility for owners, or create more scoring opportunities? Do you want to improve the performance of a particular position, or create a more balanced scoring system? Whatever your reason, make sure that it improves the league overall. Implementing rules that only benefit two teams may actually hurt your league rather than help it. You should always consider the good of the league before making any changes.

Always make sure to implement a rule change between seasons. Unless it is an immediate need that will really hurt a majority of the owners if it doesn't happen, it is better to wait until the offseason when everyone is on the same footing. Owners build their teams each year with different strategies in mind. Some draft starters and backups while others play the waiver wire fast and often. Some target specific players because of bye weeks and others draft players from their favorite division. Whatever the case, implementing a rule change mid-season is going to impact someone in a way that they were not expecting when the season began. Even if you think it will impact everyone the same way, do not implement it until after the playoffs. Your standard position should be "This is how the rules were when we started the season." Owners might complain, but they can't say it was unfair or that they didn't know.

Scoring rule changes don't always need a consensus. Ultimately you're the commissioner and you make the rules. You can get input from the league or ask for suggestions, but it will be very difficult to get everyone to agree on every new rule. This is another reason to implement a rule change during the offseason - if someone doesn't like the rule, they have time to adjust or in an extreme case, they can drop out and you can find a replacement. That's not going to happen 99.9% of the time if you are implementing changes for the good of the whole league during the offseason. If you choose to let the league vote on new rules, as commissioner you should abstain unless there is a tie.

Different Scoring Ideas

Here are a couple ideas on how to enhance the scoring system and the general impact that they will have on the league:

Performance Scoring

If you run a touchdown-only league, changing to performance scoring is a great way to reward actual player production. If a running back breaks off an 89-yard run but is tackled an inch from the goal line, the running back receives no points in a standard touchdown-only league. If the team's quarterback then noses the football for a touchdown, the quarterback gets full credit for the score. To reward the running back as well as the quarterback, you could implement a performance scoring system. This rewards players for every yard that they gain either rushing, receiving, or passing. Typical numbers are 1 point per every 10 yards rush/receiving and 1 point for every 20 or 25 yards passing. Many fantasy owners consider this to be a more accurate reflection of how the game unfolds, but league's final scores won't be 24-18 anymore either. If you are going this route, you should consider the next rule change as well.

Two-decimal Scoring

No one likes a tie in fantasy football, and basic touchdown-only leagues can sometimes end in a tie. Even in performance scoring leagues that round or truncate their performance, you're going to have a few ties. Implementing a two-decimal scoring system will dramatically reduce the chances of a tie, and it also takes another step to really reflecting what each player's performance really is. In this case, every positive yard rushing or receiving would be with 0.1 and every positive yard passing would be worth 0.05 or 0.04.

Kicker Performance

Some leagues award bonus points for long field goals. Under a performance scoring system, you can add in the bonus based on distance more precisely. With two decimal scoring, it is even easier. A typical idea is to award 3.0 points for any field goal of 1-30 yards and then at 0.1 for every yard after that. For example: A 42-yard field goal would be worth 3.0 + 1.2 or 4.2 points.

Point Per Reception and Variants

In many leagues, quarterbacks and running backs are the most valuable players. You can improve the value of wide receivers and tight ends though by awarding a point for every reception that a player has. This rewards players who catch a lot of passes and can make possession receivers and third-down backs more valuable to your league. If you adopt two decimal scoring, you could also implement a variant that would give running backs 0.5 points for a reception and 1.5 points to tight ends. This reduces the lift that pass-catching running backs will have, but will reward pass-catching tight ends who act more like wide receivers in places like New England, Dallas, and New Orleans.

Team Defense Performance

It is hard enough to try and predict when a team defense or special teams will score a touchdown. To more accurately reflect a team defense performance, you could add in points based on how well a team defense performs in holding the opposing offense in check. Usually these points are awarded on a sliding scale such as 10 points for a shutout, 8 points for allowing seven or less, 6 for allowing 14 or less and so on. You can also award points for yards allowed such as 10 points for less than 100 passing and rushing yards, 8 points for 100-200, and so on. If you choose to award points for yards allowed, make sure to specifically exclude (or include if you like) return yards and sack yards.

Other Ideas

There are a lot of different ways to award points for performance including points for rushing attempts, points for pass attempts and completions, and special teams points for tackles and return yards. Some leagues deduct points for things like fumbles and fumbles lost, interceptions, and missed extra points. In team defense performance leagues, you could also deduct points for giving up 30 or more points or 400 or more yards as well.

Test Drive Before You Buy

Many league management software packages like Yahoo.com or MyFantasyLeague.com will allow you to set up and configure your league for free. If you want to see how a new scoring rule will impact a league, simply set up a mock league and input your current scoring system. Then add in your proposed scoring changes one rule at a time and see how that impacts the overall player performances. Pay particular attention to the performance of a typical starting player. In a 12-team league, you should look at the Top 12 quarterbacks, the Top 24 running backs, Top 24-36 wide receivers, and Top 12 tight ends, defenses, and place kickers. Spend some time playing around with each proposed rule change will help you avoid making a change that might skew too strongly toward one position or another and unbalance the next season until you can adjust it again.

Bringing It All Together

Once you've settled on your new scoring changes, make sure to update your league constitution. You may want to create a one-page summary sheet of the rules that you implemented so that everyone has one place to go for the new rules. Try to circulate the changes a week or two before the draft begins, so that owners have a chance to review the rules and create a draft strategy.

If you hold a league draft night, make sure to bring extra copies of the new changes to the draft and pass one out to every owner. You'll always get one or two guys who didn't read the email or didn't see the notice and half way through the draft will say something like "Hey, how come everyone is drafting a tight end so early? Did something change?" By circulating things early, you eliminate owners claiming "I didn't know" and prevent any issues that might come up.

Evaluate the impact of your changes after the season is over. Did your scoring changes make RBS too powerful? Did one or two owners figure out a loop-hole and exploit it to the detriment of the rest of the league? If so, look at making improvements for next season. You can always remove the rule during the offseason if you think it hurt the league too much.

Finally, put some thought into making scoring changes, but don't go overboard or obsess on making the perfect rule. Fantasy Football is ultimately about having fun, and if you keep that in mind, everything will work out. There will always be one or two owners who complain that they don't like the new format or wish things were the way that they were last season. That's OK. They may just be throwing rocks because they can. Be happy with the changes that you've made. If you make a mistake, admit it, and change it for next season. As long as people are having fun, the rest will work itself out.

As always, feel free to provide comments or suggestions to grant@footballguys.com.

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