Beginner's Guide to Fantasy Football, Part 3: Scoring Systems

Our beginner's series continues with a dive into scoring fundamentals and systems

You get points for your players’ on-field performance. It’s simple, right? That is the crux of fantasy football, of course. There are many ways to configure a league to convert real-world performance into fantasy football points. In a majority of leagues, sure, scoring is pretty standard. But what does that mean? And what are non-standard scoring types?

Regardless of what the scoring system, it is imperative that you know it before your draft. One of the worst feelings in the fantasy football world is when you gloat about your fantasy team only to find out that you thought it was a standard scoring league when, in fact, your league awards bonus points to certain positions that other leaguemates hoarded.

First thing’s first -- what is standard scoring? Here is a breakdown of the points in a typical standard scoring league:

League A - Standard Scoring

Offense
Pass Yard Pass TD Int Thrown Rush Yard Rush TD Rec Yard Rec TD Fumble Lost
0.04 4 -1 0.1 6 0.1 6 -2
Kicking
XP 0-29 Yard FG 30-39 Yard FG 40-49 Yard FG 50+ Yard FG
1 3 3 4 5
Defense and Returns
0 PA 1-6 PA 7-13 PA 14-20 PA 21-29 PA 30+ PA Int Fumble Rec Safety Ret TD
10 7 4 1 0 -6 2 2 2 6

Pretty straightforward, right? Each player puts up points in fantasy leagues based on these scoring categories. They get tallied up once each game is over, and your fantasy score gets updated with each starter's total. Instead of waiting for box scores to come out in Monday's newspaper, though, you can keep track of your fantasy score minute-by-minute. Modern technology is great.

LEAGUE B - PPR

Now here’s a variant of the standard: points-per-reception (PPR). For brevity's sake, we will assume kicking and defensive scoring is the same throughout these examples, so we will focus on offensive scoring differences for today.

Offense
Pass Yard Pass TD Int Thrown Rush Yard Rush TD Reception Rec Yard Rec TD Fumble Lost
0.05 4 -1 0.1 6 1 0.1 6 -2

The vast majority of leagues are standard or PPR.

Different sites or leagues may have slight variations such as six points per passing touchdown or two subtracted for an interception thrown. In the example above, passing yards are worth slightly more -- 1 point for every 20 passing yards instead of 25. These are also small variations on a theme. These subtle changes may change the calculus in player values. If your league does give six points per passing touchdown, for example, quarterbacks with high touchdown volumes will be more valuable than if they were only awarded four. But by and large, the scoring in standard and PPR leagues is virtually the same.

Now let’s look at a couple of more exotic scoring formats:

LEAGUE C - PPR, 1.5 PPR for TE

Offense
Pass Yard Pass TD Int Thrown Rush Yard Rush TD Rec TE Rec Rec Yard Rec TD Fumble Lost
0.04 6 -2 0.1 6 1 1.5 0.1 6 -2

This is a variant on PPR where tight ends get a boost in scoring. Usually, these kinds of leagues feature a flex or superflex. In this example, quarterbacks get a bump for passing touchdowns.

League D - PPR with Bonuses

Offense
Pass Yard Pass TD Int Thrown Rush Yard Rush TD Reception Rec Yard Rec TD Fumble Lost
0.04 4 -1 0.1 6 1 0.1 6 -2
Bonus Categories
300 Pass Yards 50-yard Pass 100 Rush Yards 50-yard Run 100 Rec Yards 50-yard Rec
10 2 10 2 10 2

Bonus scoring can be applied to any format, in reality. In this case, players earn bonuses for earning in-game milestones highlighted above. Aside from those bonuses, this is a typical PPR league.

Scoring Comparisons

The leagues above all have different scoring systems, which in turn should alter your approach to team-building. Let's look at some of the differences in the scoring systems and how they may affect how you construct your roster:

  • League A has a standard scoring system. There is no special emphasis on any position, but high-volume running backs tend to be more valuable because they have so many more opportunities to score fantasy points than the other skill positions.
  • League B is a PPR league, changing the scoring dynamic entirely. It's amazing what a little point per reception can do to change things. As you may surmise, this makes pass-catching running backs more valuable than their stone-handed counterparts. Guys like Dalvin Cook are going to score more -- and fetch a higher draft spot or auction value -- than the Leonard Fournettes of the NFL. It also evens the playing field among receivers. Jarvis Landry is a great example of a guy who isn't particularly valuable in standard scoring because his raw numbers aren't great, but he has caught so many passes to this point in his career that he has been a solid PPR option.
  • League C is a PPR league with 1.5 PPR for tight ends. This doesn't make quite the earth-shattering difference as the difference between standard and PPR, but it does boost the value for tight ends. In particular, tight ends who get targeted a lot are going to be more valuable than many second- and third-tier receivers and running backs.
  • League D is PPR league with some big bonuses. Basically, this league rewards home run hitters and big-time producers. Quarterbacks who are going to put up huge weekly passing totals should go quickly in this league, as will guys with the potential to score from anywhere on the field. Plodding backs who derive their value from goal line situations and short-field receivers who catch a ton of balls but don't do much after the catch are going to be less valuable in this league type.

Now let’s look at some scoring lines to see what kinds of fantasy scores these various scoring systems would produce:

Pat Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: 24/37, 265 yards, 1 50-yard pass; 3 TD, 1 INT, 3 rush, 22 yards, 0 TD

  • League A: 23.8 points
  • League B: 26.45 points
  • League C: 28.8 points
  • League D: 25.8 points
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints: 16 rush, 113 rush yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble lost; 9 tgt, 6 rec, 37 rec yards, 1 TD
  • League A: 25 points
  • League B: 31 points
  • League C: 31 points
  • League D: 41 points
Odell Beckham Jr, WR, Cleveland Browns: 13 tgt, 9 rec, 141 yard, 2 TD, 2 50-yard rec; 2 rush, 8 yard, 1 fumble lost; 1 pass att, 37 yards
  • League A: 26.38 points
  • League B: 35.75 points
  • League C: 35.38 points
  • League D: 45.38 points
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs: 10 tgt, 8 rec, 98 yards, 1 TD
  • League A: 15.8 points
  • League B: 23.8 points
  • League C: 27.8 points
  • League D: 23.8 points

Get the picture?

So why is it important to know your scoring format? Well, as in the example above, not knowing that touchdown-heavy quarterbacks are even more valuable in a six-point-per-touchdown league could leave you struggling at the position after the draft. Even worse, drafting a standard-scoring monster in a PPR league could be disastrous. If you don't understand the bonus structure in your league, you might get left in the dust right out of the gate.