Updated: Overhauling America’s New Favorite Home Sport… Fantasy Football

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I wrote this piece last year for my old blog. I have updated it a bit and reposted it here on the new blog in the hope that you fantasy fans may enjoy my lengthy opinions. Fantasy Football is here. Tis’ the season!

I love fantasy football. Fantasy football is so American. It takes football, the already perfect epitome of the “BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER” attitude of the good ol’ U.S. of A, and kicks it up another four notches. Because watching absurdly tough men crush each other for several hours on a Sunday is simply not enough. We need MORE. The NFL recognizes this craving for more and more football by making the home experience better and better. The Red Zone channel, something journalist Dan Le Batard accurately describes as “football crack“, the 4 hour long pre-game shows on multiple networks, and the ability to purchase a crystal clear 40 inch flat screen for just 500 dollars all contribute to the NFL’s emergence in the home. Just 50 years ago, fans learned about their teams through a selective highlight montage during halftime of ABC’s Monday Night Football. They read about their starting quarterbacks and middle linebackers in the newspaper. If they were lucky, maybe there was a fuzzy black and white photograph of Jack Lambert, snarling like a hungry tasmanian devil, that they could nail to their wall. Today, if anything happens to my beloved 49ers, I know about in approximately 6 seconds via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayarea.com’s twitter, my friends know because I have POSTED A STATUS IN CAPS LOCK TELLING THEM THAT “WE JUST GOT SENECA WALLACE!” in four seconds, and can read David Fucillo’s opinion (@davidfucillo) about it at NinersNation.com in the time it took you to read this exasperating sentence.

Please pause and take a breath.

And don’t stop reading!

I haven’t even reached the summit of the article yet! To further my point, we no longer get our football information through the newspaper’s appraisal of impressive quarterbacking and line play. If I want any information regarding football, I can get in within 5 swipes of my index finger. At the most, I type half of what I want into Google and let the genius of two Stanford graduates and 16 years of innovation complete the task. I can pull up something as obscure as Andy Lee’s net punting average from last season (44.6, dude’s a beast), without any noticeable body movement. It’s easier than taking candy from a baby, or getting Mike Vick to fumble (10 cough-ups in 9 games last season!), or playing against Chilo Rachal!

Now, THAT’S EASY.

As the football watching experience starts to fade away from waiting 17 years and spending lots of cheese to sit on a bench, shirtless, and braving “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field” (did you read that in the NFL Films guy voice, because I did) and more towards the warm comfort of my living room filled with Wingstop and Tivo, an entire new industry has consumed America’s new national pastime: Fantasy Football.

Fantasy football, is the foam at the top of your glorious football beer. The jalapeños on the football nachos. Mmmm nachos.

It takes football, something more suited for the home viewer than ever before, and makes it better for YOU. Not you, the season ticket buying, paying, loyal customer. YOU, the loud mouthed couch potato who screams ridiculous things like “FREE PLAY” and “GET HIM” at your 60 inch LCD with one hand down your pants and the other wrapped around an onion ring. Please don’t take that as a criticism, if there is an opportunity for me to have my hands in that scenario, it’s happening. No questions asked. But I digress–Fantasy Football is perfect for today’s football guzzling America. Well, almost.

Now I love fantasy football just as much as the average Matthew Berry Love-Hate column reading lover of the NFL and this may come off as nit-picky and stupid, but here goes.

Fantasy football could be a whole hell of a lot better. I’m not saying that fantasy sucks, I’m just saying its not reaching its maximum potential.

This is how I would redesign fantasy football. Prepare to be amazed or be bored until your eyes glaze over and you begin to resemble a creature from The Walking Dead.

  • The Positions

ESPN’s standard starting roster currently looks like this:

One (1) Quarterback, Two (2) Running Backs, a Flex (1) (RB/WR), Two (2) Wide Receivers, One (1) Tight End, One (1) Defense/Special Teams, and One (1) Kicker.

This system is all fine and dandy. It serves its purpose. It does its job.

But, it should look like this:

One (1) Quarterback, One (1) Running Back, Two (2) Flexes (RB/WR), One (1) Wide Receiver, One (1) “Modern Flex” (RB/WR/TE), One (1) Defense/Special Teams, One (1) Kicker, and One (1) Punter.

The Justification for this absurb upheaval:

Modern Flex

The flex is the most exciting thing in fantasy. It forces you to make decisions. To check schedules and game splits, injury statuses and game times. Sure it’s fun to debate playing Andre Johnson over Calvin Johnson but starting him over Arian Foster! Now we’ve got a controversy. Take away the TE as a solo spot. More flexes = more fun.

What is a “Modern Flex” you ask? It’s the newest position in fantasy football. With tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and Vernon Davis emerging as pass catching monsters, these hulking hybrids deserve the ultimate challenge. The Flex. Sure, everyone drafts running backs and receivers way ahead of tight ends. But, would you rather have a 3rd receiver or running back over a ball hawking TE? Is Santana Moss a better play than Owen Daniels? Jimmy Graham or Demaryius Thomas? The possibilities are endless! Besides, do we all need tight ends? Should anyone own Zach Sudfeld or Brandon Pettigrew? Who IS Zach Sudfeld? All that bitching and moaning about Jermichael Finley’s “manos de piedra” would be erased. Thank God.

The Punter

A punter? Are you high? Why would you do that? Here’s why. Fantasy is founded off of simple stats. Field Goals, Touchdowns, And Yards. Punting is super easy to calculate. You could do the yards similar to the way field goal yards are counted. 20-30 yards = 1 point, 30-40 = 3 points, 50-60 = 4 points. 60+ and it’s 5 points. Also, -3 points for a shank (Less than 30 yards if it doesn’t land inside the 15). Add on bonuses (2 points if the punt lands inside the 20 yard-line and 4 points if it’s inside the 10) and you’ve got a new fantasy position! And with a new position comes new strategy. Do you take a punter who’s really good but team doesn’t punt a lot or do you take a less skilled punter who punts more frequently. And no negative points for blocked punts. I don’t understand how that’s the punter’s fault when some practice scrub fails to put his body on a backup corner.

  • Scoring:

This is the biggest problem I have with fantasy football. The scoring system sucks. Here is the standard scoring for ESPN: http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/football/ffl/story?page=fflrulesstandardscoring

The Quarterback

As of right now, a player who recovers a fumble for a touchdown gets 6 points, while a quarterback who throws for a score only gets 4. As Ne-Yo would say: “it just ain’t right!” Give the QB’s more points. I like that quarterbacks get points for how many yards they throw for. It’s only right. But, I think it should be tweaked a little. You should not only get a bonus for throwing for 300 or 400 yards, but an even bigger one if you do it in less attempts. Earlier this season, Drew Brees threw for 325 yards against the Carolina Panthers. He threw the ball an astounding 49 times. A couple weeks later, Alex Smith threw for 303 yards, but on only 24 attempts. This efficiency should be factored in. Brees shouldn’t be penalized for his fantastic performance, but Smith should be compensated for a 75 completion percentage. And also, don’t we know enough about quarterbacking to simplify this process. I’m not necessarily recommending it, but don’t we have Quarterback Rating nowadays. Couldn’t we just boil everything down to QBR? Interceptions currently drop a QB’s fantasy score 2 points. I think, if it’s returned for a touchdown or thrown in the red zone, it should be an extra two. This would create fantastic scenarios in which a play similar to James Harrison’s heavily debated, frantic, runback touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII knocks one of your buddies out of the playoffs.

The Flexes (again)

I like the fact that receivers and running backs get 6 points for not only a receiving or rushing touchdown but for a return TD as well. It adds a new wrinkle to the Devin Hester’s and Randall Cobb’s of the world. The yard system is solid as well, and I like the option of PPR (points per reception) too. I would give an extra point for converting on third down to receivers, backs, and quarterbacks.

The Kicker 

The current scoring system for kickers is mostly fine. The only tweak I have is the 60+ yarder should be added to the scoring system. This is an effort to keep up with the game. Out of the 10 longest field goals in NFL history, 6 have been kicked in the last 6 years. Currently, if Matt Prater knocks one in from 51 in Denver, and Sebastian Janikowski sneaks one over the crossbar from 60 yards out in Oakland, they get the same 5 points. That’s bull. I’d give an extra 7 for 60+, they don’t happen too often. Appreciate the rarity. Points should also be added for touchbacks.

The Punter! (again!) (Yay for Ray Guy)

See above.

Defense/Special Teams

This is where the real overhaul happens. The way Defense and Special Teams is scored in fantasy football is an absolute joke. It’s ridiculous. And it could be made better so easily. As it stands right now, most of the defensive points come from the other team not scoring very many points. This system does not account for a defensive touchdown or a safety by the other team.

This point total based scoring should only be for when your team is on defense. There should be bonus points for forcing 3 and outs, a certain number of QB hurries, and if you hold the opposing team’s offense to a certain yard total.

And now, my biggest beef with fantasy football’s current defensive scoring system. The following scenario, created by my good friend Ben Blanchard (@HamburgerMMA), illustrates the most glaring hole in fantasy defense.  Let’s say you have selected the Denver Broncos to be your defense for the day. They are playing the Bears and you figure Cutler will throw picks like an irate ice fisherman. The Broncos begin on offense. Manning goes out, and on the first play throws a interception right to Lance Briggs. Now your Broncos have to go out, when they thought they were going to have more time to prepare, and defend the diverse attack of Chicago, in their own territory. They tough it out and force a Robbie Gould field goal. This is a great victory for the Broncos. They have held the Bears, with the odds stacked against them, and kept their team in the game. They kept Cutler from developing a rhythm, and did everything they could possibly do. Yet, because of Manning’s mishap, something that doesn’t reflect their defensive abilities at all, they lose fantasy points. Those 3 points could push them over the threshold. What if that forced field goal makes the difference between Chicago’s total being 12 (3 fantasy points for Denver) and 15 (1 point). Because of a circumstance outside their control, they take a 2 point fantasy hit (more in some leagues). What they have done is something positive, and they get negative points for it. This is asinine. A player(s) should never be penalized for doing something great. The defense should get bonus points for holding the other team to a field goal. Any time your defense doesn’t allow a touchdown when their offense turns the ball over in their own half, the defense should get points. 3 if they hold them to a field goal, 4 if the other team doesn’t score. This is the mark of a truly great defense. They should be praised for being able to compensate for a crappy offense.

Additionally, return yardage should be calculated and scored like running yards. And, on punt and kick return team, if you bring the returner down inside the twenty, 1 bonus point.

  • Apologies/Thanks

Thank you for suffering through this ridiculous revamp of fantasy football. If you made it to here, I bow in gratitude to you and admire your loyalty and focus. However, I question your time management skills and the number of cool things happening in your life.

Thanks anyway!

Ben Wong

benjaminwong3@gmail.com

@benwong3

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