The FPC and the Action Scoring Rule

The Footballguys Players Championship Analysis - Looking at the Action Scoring Rule

Footballguys continues to advance the world of fantasy football. With several additions to their offerings last year, the much heralded Best Online Content Site for 2009 joined the world of High Stakes Fantasy contests and made an instant splash. Joe Bryant and David Dodds teamed with David Gerczak and Alex Kaganovsky of the Fantasy Football Players Championship (myffpc.com) to create the first annual Footballguys Players Championship contest in 2010 and by all measures it was a huge success. Now the FPC and FFPC are back again for their fifth season, ready to knock it out of the park once again in 2015.

By studying the rules of both the FFPC and the FPC along with some of the history and previous performances by FPC players, insights can be found that will help many players to not only compete well in both contests but also to be in a position to win their league and be in the running for a top prize in the championship round.

As the summer rolls on, I will continue analyzing many aspects of the Footballguys Players Championship and the Fantasy Football Players Championship. Through these articles I hope to provide extra help with fully understanding how to best build a top notch fantasy team within the contest. As someone who has competed against the best players in the world and in several contests much like the FPC and the FFPC, I fully understand how every possible advantage and extra edge can make all the difference in the world.

ACTION SCORING

Under the microscope this time around is the special Action Scoring Rule for position players. According the rules of the Footballguys Players Championship, the scoring rules for Action Scoring are implemented as follows:

Roster/Scoring:

  • Action scoring is implemented for all TDs: any TD scored by a player is scored as 6 points to that individual player, in addition to any D/ST scoring that may apply.

So how do you analyze the impact of this additional scoring rule to the current crop of potential fantasy players? We need to dig into some numbers.

First, let's take a look at the 2014 production for kick returners (kickoffs and punts). Listed in Table 1 are all the NFL players who had at least 10 kick returns of either type last year (with a special thanks to Doug Drinen's Pro-Football-Reference.com for the data):

Player Team Punt Returns Kick Returns Total
Returns
Ret Yards TD Ret Yards TD
Devin Hester ATL 18 240 1 45 1128 0 63
Jacoby Jones BAL 30 275 0 32 978 1 62
Dwayne Harris DAL 30 275 0 30 742 0 60
Jarvis Landry MIA 25 204 0 34 954 0 59
Andre Roberts WAS 28 208 0 30 710 0 58
Jeremy Ross DET 32 284 0 23 584 0 55
Adam Jones CIN 22 262 0 27 844 0 49
Ted Ginn ARI 26 277 1 22 417 0 48
De'Anthony Thomas KAN 34 405 1 14 428 0 48
Bruce Ellington SFO 23 188 0 24 614 0 47
Travis Carrie OAK 26 195 0 15 362 0 41
Griff Whalen IND 26 187 0 15 379 0 41
Darren Sproles PHI 39 506 2 1 15 0 40
Leon Washington TEN 7 47 0 31 738 0 38
Josh Cribbs IND 19 125 0 19 608 0 38
Jordan Todman JAX       38 972 0 38
Tavon Austin STL 35 391 1 2 19 0 37
Danny Amendola NWE 16 132 0 20 482 0 36
Brandon Tate CIN 18 174 0 18 397 0 36
Benny Cunningham STL       35 963 0 35
Cordarrelle Patterson MIN       34 871 0 34
Ace Sanders JAX 32 227 0 1 16 0 33
Percy Harvin 2TM       32 778 0 32
Antonio Brown PIT 30 319 1 1 0 0 31
Marcus Sherels MIN 27 297 0 4 110 0 31
Isaiah Burse DEN 29 211 0 1 7 0 30
Knile Davis KAN       29 829 1 29
Preston Parker NYG 8 53 0 21 509 0 29
Bryan Walters SEA 27 207 0 2 43 0 29
Chris Williams CHI 4 30 0 24 579 1 28
Philly Brown CAR 16 153 1 12 273 0 28
Marcus Thigpen 3TM 16 220 1 12 285 0 28
Solomon Patton 2TM 10 112 0 18 416 0 28
Marc Mariani CHI 7 29 0 20 510 0 27
Travis Benjamin CLE 15 127 0 12 246 0 27
Jeremy Kerley NYJ 25 199 0 1 12 0 26
Keshawn Martin HOU 25 154 0 1 19 0 26
Leodis McKelvin BUF 21 183 0 4 64 0 25
Julian Edelman NWE 25 299 1       25
DuJuan Harris GNB       22 456 0 22
Dexter McCluster TEN 22 155 0       22
Brenton Bersin CAR 14 86 0 7 167 0 21
Odell Beckham NYG 21 171 0       21
Chris Davis SDG 1 4 0 19 476 0 20
Walt Powell NYJ 12 48 0 8 233 0 20
Markus Wheaton PIT       20 494 0 20
Latavius Murray OAK       19 429 0 19
Micah Hyde GNB 14 221 2 4 96 0 18
Jalen Saunders 4TM 15 125 0 3 139 0 18
Frankie Hammond KAN 15 200 0 2 74 0 17
Paul Richardson SEA       16 376 0 16
Damaris Johnson HOU 9 54 0 6 136 0 15
Randall Cobb GNB 14 112 0 1 0 0 15
Travaris Cadet NOR       15 364 0 15
Josh Huff PHI       14 415 1 14
Bobby Rainey TAM 7 55 0 6 158 0 13
Omar Bolden DEN       13 429 0 13
Saalim Hakim NYJ       13 279 0 13
Danieal Manning HOU       13 267 0 13
Marlon Moore CLE       13 322 0 13
Perrish Cox SFO 10 35 0 2 60 0 12
Andre Caldwell DEN       12 278 0 12
Quintin Demps NYG       12 255 0 12
Chris Polk PHI       11 340 1 11
Doug Baldwin SEA 6 42 0 5 81 0 11
Brandin Cooks NOR 10 35 0 1 12 0 11
Michael Cox NYG       11 261 0 11
Carlos Hyde SFO       11 268 0 11
Fozzy Whittaker CAR       11 262 0 11
Keenan Allen SDG 11 99 0       11
Eddie Royal SDG 11 100 0       11
Wes Welker DEN 11 74 0       11
C.J. Spiller BUF       10 306 1 10
Dri Archer PIT 1 2 0 9 161 0 10
Totals       12     6  

Table 1: 2014 NFL Kick Returners (Minimum 10 Returns)

A few things can be observed from this list. First, there are plenty of return men that are being utilized across the NFL. Over 65 players had 10 or more returns last season, and 43 had 20 or more. Another important fact is that several of these specialists are not only non-starters for several teams, but they are also non-offensive players. That really will not help fantasy teams.

The other item to pick up on here is that roughly 20-30 of these players are draftable fantasy players (highlighted in Table 1). That's the good news here - these are the players that might benefit from Action Scoring this season. Unfortunately, there is also a bit of bad news.

The first downside to this list is that several of these players are moving up the depth charts of their teams this year. Why is that a bad thing? Well, take Brandin Cooks for example. Few franchises will ever want to risk a high upside starting wide receiver as a kick returner. The added workload and the increased risk of injury are both too great a price to pay for potential yardage gains. Teams take a more conservative approach over 90% of the time and put a lesser talent back there, especially for kickoffs.

The other piece of bad news is that yardage does not matter in Action Scoring - only touchdowns make any impact to the fantasy scores. Table 2 shows that only 18 total returns (6 kickoffs, 12 punts) were taken all the way for the score last year – or barely more than one per NFL week. That number is the lowest in the past four years, and has continued the trend since the NFL moved the kickoff line to the 35-yard line prior to the 2011 season.  Since then, only  lower than the last four years, only 35 touchdowns have been scored on a kickoff return - less than the combined total for 2009 and 2010.

Table 2 summaries the numbers for the past six years:

Year Punt Return TDs Kickoff Return TDs Total
2009 10 18 28
2010 13 23 36
2011** 20 9 29
2012 17 13 30
2013 13 7 20
2014 12 6 18

 Table 2: 2009-2014 Kick Return Touchdowns

**In 2011, the NFL moved the kickoff line from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line.

Table 3 summarizes the players that found the end zone via a kick or punt return last year:

Player Team Punt Returns Kick Returns Total
Returns
Ret Yards TD Ret Yards TD
Darren Sproles PHI 39 506 2 1 15 0 40
Micah Hyde GNB 14 221 2 4 96 0 18
Devin Hester ATL 18 240 1 45 1128 0 63
Jacoby Jones BAL 30 275 0 32 978 1 62
Ted Ginn ARI 26 277 1 22 417 0 48
De'Anthony Thomas KAN 34 405 1 14 428 0 48
Tavon Austin STL 35 391 1 2 19 0 37
Antonio Brown PIT 30 319 1 1 0 0 31
Knile Davis KAN       29 829 1 29
Chris Williams CHI 4 30 0 24 579 1 28
Philly Brown CAR 16 153 1 12 273 0 28
Marcus Thigpen 3TM 16 220 1 12 285 0 28
Julian Edelman NWE 25 299 1       25
Josh Huff PHI       14 415 1 14
Chris Polk PHI       11 340 1 11
C.J. Spiller BUF       10 306 1 10
Total Touchdowns:       12     6  

 Table 3: 2014 NFL Kick Return Touchdowns

Based on the results, it becomes clear just how rare a kick return for a touchdown is these days. Further, only two players last season managed to find the end zone more than once.  The prior three seasons, three different players accomplished this feat, while many more (nine in 2010, six in 2009) scored before the NFL's rule change. There is at least a little bit of good news - several of these players are worthy of a draft pick this season, highlighted by Darren Sproles of the Eagles.  Sproles has a hidden boost to his value, and right how his ADP in FPC drafts puts him in Round 10 - a nice value considering he can score as a rusher, receiver or kick returner.  A few other names (including Sproles' teammate, Josh Huff) may see more chances than others on this list.   Antonio Brown and Julian Edelman, for example, are slated to be starting wide receivers for Pittsburgh and New England, so they may only get a chance to return a kick now and then.  Looking at the table overall, there is not much point in considering anyone for a considerable Action Scoring boost - even if a player gets an extra touchdown on the season.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Every fantasy league and its rulebook is a little different. For the FPC and the FFPC, the addition of Action Scoring may seem at first to have very little impact on the scores overall, but in certain circumstances it can impact several players' values. Key return men that are expected to be solid picks such as Darren Sproles should get a little bit of a boost to their overall ADP thanks to this extra touchdown (or a few) per season. Even Antonio Brown, DeSean Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr. get minimal bumps here despite many expectations that they will not be returning kicks much longer. Rest assured that if it is just before halftime or towards the end of a close game, any of these players may find himself back there to field that key kickoff or punt return.

The tricky part of evaluating the rest of the kick returners comes after these first 4-5 guys are off the board. Knile Davis and Josh Huff are decent backups, but can they really be relied upon as spot starters? They are certainly worth drafting and if injuries or bye weeks hit, their clutch performances may give lucky owners an advantage in just the right week thanks to the Action Scoring added value. While they are not worthy of big bumps up the draft board, their added value as return men with a history of touchdowns should be a nice tiebreaker if someone is deciding between Davis, Huff or another running back or wide receiver.

The last comment I will add is more of a warning - do not be surprised if a few of these players see fewer kick return chances as they develop into regular offensive starters. Antonio Brown and C.J. Spiller are both likely to be replaced by depth players to give them both a rest and less chance of getting hurt. Keep that in mind if you are factoring in kick return value to a particular player. Turnover at both kick return spots can be quite high.

It takes a little time to get your mind wrapped around a new contest with a new set of rules, but the time spent is often well worth it if the goal is to field a competitive team. Giving a little bit of effort to get a greater understanding of the twists and turns to the rulebook can give turn a good fantasy player into a great one and a great player into a dominant force. Knowledge is power - so be as powerful as you can!

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.