As the commissioner of multiple leagues and a participant in many other leagues, I’ve played fake football with a variety of different league settings. In this article, I’ll be taking a closer look at the differences between leagues with various scoring settings for quarterbacks. For this exercise, I’m going to assume the following standard scoring settings:
• 25 passing yards = 1 point
• 10 rushing yards = 1 point
• Rushing TD = 6 points
• 10 receiving yards = 1 point
• Receiving TD = 6 points
• 2-pt conversion = 2 points (Rocket science, I know.)
• Fumble lost = -2 points
We’re going to look at what happens to QB scoring when passing touchdowns are worth 4, 5, or 6 points, as well as what happens when interceptions are worth 0, -1, and -2 points. This data will be most useful to those who play in 2-QB leagues, but there are trends for the top 15 QBs as well. I’ll be referencing my 2011 Scoring Settings Analysis for quarterbacks a fair amount in this piece; you can find that article here.
The spreadsheet linked below shows the total and per-game points scored by QBs for each combination of league setting in 2012.
New for 2012: The spreadsheet features a sortable pivot table that compiles all the total and per-game fantasy points for each QB. The table begins with players sorted alphabetically by first name. You can click the “Player” drop-down menu to choose which QBs to display or hide. If you want to sort the players for a specific column in the table, highlight any number in that column and use Excel’s “Sort Descending” function. The table will then be reordered with the highest-scoring QBs for that column/scoring settings combination listed first.
Some quick notes on navigating the spreadsheet:
1. The first tab amasses each QB’s statistics for 2012 and shows total fantasy points and fantasy points per game, but does not order or rank the players based on these numbers.
2. The second tab shows the sortable pivot table described above.
3. The third tab ranks the players by fantasy points per game under each possible scoring setup.
4. The fourth tab ranks the players by totally fantasy points under each possible scoring setup.
5. The fifth tab is the same as the third tab, except the players are color-coded for easier identification of trends between scoring setups.
Fantasy Points per Game Trends:
• No matter the league setup, the top tier of quarterbacks was etched in stone. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady finished the season 1-2-3, respectively, regardless of scoring settings. Robert Griffin III came closest to cracking the top three, but only in leagues awarding 4 points per passing TD.
• Speaking of RGIII, he, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton make up the equally well-defined second tier of QBs. In this group, Manning was the most valuable passer in 6/TD leagues, but RGIII was more valuable in 5/TD and 4/TD leagues thanks to his rushing stats. Similarly, Cam Newton was worth progressively more as the value of passing TDs declined. Despite a shaky start to the season, Newton was the #5 QB behind Griffin and the top three QBs for all 4/TD leagues.
• The third tier of QBs might be the most interesting. Tony Romo finished the season as the #8 QB under nearly all scoring settings. Ben Roethlisberger bumped Romo to #9 in 6-per-TD/-2-per-INT leagues and 5-per-TD/-2-per-INT, but Big Ben finished as low as 12th among QBs in other formats. Roethlisberger’s low interception total (8) helped him rate higher in -2/Int leagues, but his low yardage total dragged him down in 4/TD leagues. If the Steelers can address their offensive line woes in the offseason and keep Big Ben on the field for a full slate of games next season, he could leapfrog Romo and join the second tier of fantasy quarterbacks.
• Rounding out the third tier are Matthew Stafford and two rookies: Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Stafford’s finish has to be considered a bit of a disappointment after last season’s 5000-yard, 40-TD stat line, but someone had to drop in the rankings to make room for all the first-year phenoms. Stafford and Luck each threw nearly as many picks as TDs this season, so they fared better in leagues with smaller interception penalties. Meanwhile, like Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson ranked higher in leagues deducting more points for INTs.
• In 4/TD leagues, the value of interceptions is nearly irrelevant. The top 16 for 4-per-TD/0-per-INT leagues and 4-per-TD/-1-per-INT leagues are the same. The top 16 for 4-per-TD/-2-per-INT leagues would also be identical, if not for Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford swapping spots at #10/#11 (where they differ by a measly 0.002 points).
• No matter the scoring settings, Andy Dalton and Josh Freeman finished the season as the #13 and #14 quarterbacks, respectively. Last year we had the “Matt Ryan Line” at #9. Is it possible this sort of consistency across formats is an indicator of an imminent breakout? Probably not, but if Dalton or Freeman become top-10 fantasy QB next season, we’ll have to start putting stock into this theory.
• Among quarterbacks not named “Mark Sanchez”, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, and Philip Rivers fell off the most between last season and this season. Rivers and Vick will have new coaches or teams next season and Manning was doing fine until a horrid stretch in the second half. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these three can climb back into the top-12 in 2013. My money is on Eli.
• Beyond the Dalton-Freeman line, there are mediocre QBs abound. Carson Palmer fittingly heads this group of bye week fill-ins, with Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, and the aforementioned Manning/Vick/Rivers also in the mix. The one name I left out? Kevin Kolb. Kolb actually finished higher in the Average Composite Rankings* than Fitzpatrick, Rivers, and Cutler. Before you go into your 2013 drafts and take Kolb as your backup QB, remember that John Skelton finished 2011 in a similar tier of players before laying an egg this year.
*NOTE: The Average Composite Rankings (ACR) rate players by averaging their rank across all the various scoring settings. For example, Cam Newton finished 7th in all 6/TD leagues, 6th in all 5/TD leagues, and 5th in all 4/TD leagues, so his Average Composite rank is (7+7+7+6+6+6+5+5+5)/9 = 5.00. It’s not the greatest statistical tool, but it allows us to see generally how these players stack up against each other and to find trends between seasons.
• The official QB outliers of the 2012 Scoring Settings Analysis are Colin Kaepernick and Kirk Cousins. In the case of Kaepernick, he played in enough games as Alex Smith’s backup to suppress his per-game point totals and sequester him near the bottom of the rankings, despite being a valuable fantasy starter down the stretch. As a full-time starter next season, he will likely finish as a top-15 quarterback. I was hesitant to include Cousins based on his tiny sample size of playing time, but it’s interesting to see which full-time QBs he finished ahead of on a points per game basis.
• This isn’t news, but Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Cassel, Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez, John Skelton, and Brady Quinn were all miserable this year. I mentioned this on Twitter, but of the seven quarterbacks to throw more interceptions than touchdowns this season, two of them – Cassel & Quinn – played for the Chiefs. That’s pretty impressive (or unimpressive, I suppose). Sanchez is the real standout in this group, though. He fell all the way from #13 in ACR for 2011 to #37 in ACR for 2012. For what it’s worth, his teammate Tim Tebow fell from #11 in 2011 to unranked in 2012. It’s mind-boggling that Rex Ryan still has his job.
• As the penalty for INTs increases, so does the value of passers who protect the football. In 2011, the value of interceptions really shaped the rankings beyond the top 10 QBs. This wasn’t quite the case in 2012, as most QBs only shifted one or two spots in the rankings between 0/INT leagues and -2/INT leagues when all other scoring settings remained the same. Still, a small handful of players were able to “manage the game” better than their competition in 2012. Colin Kaepernick and Kevin Kolb both gained value as INTs became more costly, regardless of points-per-TD. Nick Foles also fits the bill, but he only moved up two spots in the rankings, at most. Interestingly, Roethlisberger made a 3-spot jump between 0/INT and -2/INT leagues, but only when passing TDs were worth 5 points. In 6/TD leagues, Big Ben only moved up one spot and in 4/TD leagues, he didn’t move up at all.
• Turning things around, QBs who frequently gave the ball away slide down the rankings as the penalty for INTs increases. Chad Henne dropped three spots in the ranks between 0/INT and -2/INT for 6/TD and 5/TD leagues, but the best example is Jake Locker. In leagues where interceptions were 0 points, Locker was the #25 or #26 QB in points per game. In leagues with -1/INT, he was #27 or #28 QB. In leagues with -2/INT, Locker dropped all the way to #29.
• If the penalty for INTs is held constant, we can see some minor trends as the value of passing TDs changes. Pure passers like Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger fall in the ranks as passing TDs become less valuable. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks who earn their points by other means become more valuable as passing TDs lose value. The obvious examples of this are the running QBs like RGIII, Newton, Vick, and Kaepernick. The less obvious example is Matthew Stafford, who accrues so many of his fantasy points through passing yardage, that the decrease in value of passing TDs actually helps him climb past the more TD-reliant QBs around him in the rankings.
• Between 2011 and 2012, the full-time, non-rookie quarterbacks to rise the most in Average Composite Rank were Bradford (#33 to #19), Dalton (#20 to #13), Roethlisberger (#15 to #10), Flacco (#23 to #18), and Freeman (#17 to #14). Plenty of other QBs fell in ACR between 2011 and 2012, but only two held the exact same ranking: Tom Brady (#3) and Christian Ponder (#28). This is likely the only thing Brady and Ponder have in common regarding their statistical performances over the past two years.
So what does all this mean for 2013? Well, we have a great starting point for the top twelve quarterbacks, based on 2012 ACR:
1. Drew Brees
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Tom Brady
4. Robert Griffin III
5. Peyton Manning
6. Cam Newton
7. Matt Ryan
8. Tony Romo
9. Andrew Luck
10. Ben Roethlisberger
11. Matthew Stafford
12. Russell Wilson
You can move the names around depending on a number of factors, namely schedule, health, and improvement/regression. As of right now, here is my generic top-20 list of QBs for 2013:
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Drew Brees
3. Tom Brady
4. Cam Newton
5. Peyton Manning
6. Matt Ryan
7. Andrew Luck
8. Matthew Stafford
9. Robert Griffin III (Tough to rank after his injury in the Wild Card game vs. SEA)
10. Tony Romo
11. Colin Kaepernick
12. Eli Manning
13. Ben Roethlisberger
14. Russell Wilson
15. Andy Dalton
16. Michael Vick
17. Josh Freeman
18. Sam Bradford
19. Philip Rivers
20. Joe Flacco
Stay tuned for similar scoring settings analysis pieces for running backs and wide receivers based on PPR and 0.5 PPR. As always, thanks for reading and point all of your questions at me in the comments or on Twitter @gregsauce.