Thank Me Later: Add One Point Per First Down to Your League Scoring

We’ve all been there. To set the scene, it’s Sunday night, and your final fantasy player is in a tight game in the fourth quarter. You’re down a few points and need a splash play or a touchdown to overcome the deficit. You know your chances are slim. But if the quarterback would JUST THROW IT TO HIM, you’ll have a chance. It’s one of the most agonizingly fun experiences that is wholly unique to fantasy football. We all watch with bated breath as we do the calculations, “Ok, three catches for 34 yards is all I need…. Or, one bomb for 44 would do it. A TD puts it out of reach.” These mini-calculations and micro-rooting for one player on a team you likely don’t even like are what hooked so many of us on fantasy.

While you were doing the math, all of a sudden, your player’s team has found its way into the red zone! The coach finally realizes he forgot to help you this whole drive and lo and behold, there’s your guy with the ball reaching for the end zone….no signal yet….. the line judges look at each other…. One of them is nodding…. And just like that, the arms go up to signal a fantasy win for you. It’s at this point your dog is sure you’ve lost it, and your significant other sends a text from the other room to ensure you’re still breathing.

Exhilarating stuff, right?

Well, what if I told you there was a way to recreate the above scenario and provide an avenue outside of TDs and bombs to erase deficits. One that both receivers and running backs can benefit from at any point in any game on every part of the field?

Well, friend, there is. It’s PPFD. Point. Per. First. Down. Who doesn’t love those moments when a player is reaching for the goal line, or a ball is in the air, and you haven’t quite determined if your wide receiver is the target? Point per first down creates dozens of mini-goal lines each game with a point on the other side. You’ll find yourself loving the QB sneak if it’s your guy under center, cursing the ref about 2nd quarter spots and thinking about picking up possession tight ends since it seems like yours hasn’t scored since Y2K.

The main arguments for this small adjustment break down like this:

  1. If you’re going to reward receptions which have no real football value, shouldn’t you reward something that does?
  2. It adds value to players who excel between the 20s, thus deepening the player pool.
  3. It adds fun where there wasn’t any before. Isn’t that why we do this?

If you’re still skeptical about adding fun to your league’s scoring system because you’re worried that PPFD will further widen the gap between elite players and the second tier, then read on, friend.

When we look at the scoring effects of PPFD, there’s no getting around the fact that elite players, as they do in most statistical categories, stand out in this measure as well. There’s no hiding from the fact that guys like Ezekiel Elliott, DeAndre Hopkins, and Travis Kelce are good, and that their skill results in fantasy points no matter how you choose to tally them. But a deeper dive reveals that all volume and yardage aren’t created equal. This makes intuitive sense when we take a step back and consider what we see happening on the field. Many teams employ what’s colloquially referred to as a “third-down back.” These backs specialize in pass catching, pass protection, and offer enough rushing ability to keep the defense honest on third and medium.

On the flip side, many teams use a “short yardage or goal line back” whose skills lend themselves to picking up tough yardage when the defense is keenly aware that running the ball presents the surest way to either six points or a first down.

The same can be said for wide receivers. Beyond do-it-all superstar receivers, we see other archetypes emerge around the league. Whether it be possession receivers, deep threats, or red zone specialists, teams deploy their personnel to take advantage of the particular skill sets of the players on their rosters.

Leaving out touchdowns, let’s take a look at running backs with and without PPFD:

As this table shows, PPFD awards efficiency over counting stat compiling. Rather than super-charging Saquon Barkley’s total, the superior efficiency of Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott brings them closer together with Elliott leap-frogging Barkley for the number one spot. Chris Carson, despite the greater yardage total, was 20 points behind James White in our original tally but closed that gap to just 12 points due to his higher first down totals. Henry meanwhile, despite a comparable yardage total, falls further behind White due to his inefficiency converting first downs.

With the benefits of PPFD for running backs behind us, let’s turn our attention to wide receivers. When looking at PPFD, no two receivers better illustrate the value created by this scoring wrinkle than Stefon Diggs and Kenny Golladay. In 2018, both receivers just eclipsed 1,000 yards but did it in very different ways. Diggs hauled in an impressive 102 receptions (11th in the league) while Golladay failed to crack the top 30. But it wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument that Golladay was the more valuable receiver:

With PPFD, the vastly superior efficiency of Golladay pulls the fantasy value (before TDs) within 5 points of Diggs. Without PPFD, Diggs enjoyed nearly a 12 point advantage despite a lower yardage total. Now, ask any coach, player or fan in the world: What’s more valuable, 7 yards on third and 8 or 2 yards on third and one? PPFD helps fantasy value more closely reflect the game we love.

Now, I don’t suspect I have to elaborate further for you, the savvy Dynasty Football Factory subscriber. You’re one step ahead of me in thinking how PPFD could reward the big tight end who is his quarterback’s favorite target to move the chains. You’re already doing the calculation of how the rushing ability of a mobile quarterback who consistently scrambles for first downs can close the gap between him and the lead-footed pocket passers with better traditional counting stats. Already daydreaming about how you can find extra value with this scoring system and questioning why we were ever rewarding receptions without caring what their result was.

With NFL teams devoting valuable resources in salary and roster space to retain players who specialize in crossing that invisible yellow line, shouldn’t our fantasy teams reward moving the chains as well?

Give it a shot, and I promise you, you aren’t going back.

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Staff Writer for @DFF_Dynasty & @DFF_Redraft #DFFArmy #DynastyFootball #FantasyFootball Chicagoan, Bear homer, BBQ enthusiast & Youth Football Coach.

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