The PFF IDP Scoring System Revisited
It’s been over two years since Ross Miles and I collaborated on a project designed to produce an IDP scoring system grounded in statistical analysis and reflective of actual on-the-field value. With no “standard” individual defensive player (IDP) scoring system in existence, we found that many leagues used settings that tended to inflate the fantasy value of linebackers, while deflating defensive linemen and defensive backs.
While our work was certainly eye opening and represented a step in the right direction, I look back in hindsight and see flaws in what we recommended. With countless IDP leagues under my belt and far too many fantasy hours logged over the last two seasons, I’d like to revisit our recommendations and suggest revisions where necessary.
Solo Tackles – 1 point; Assisted Tackles – 0.5 points
This one sticks out like a sore thumb. One point per solo tackle and a half point per assist is just too low. James Laurinaitis led all tacklers with 117 solos last season. Yet with this scoring setting, he ranks well outside the Top 50 combined scorers, placing him in a tier alongside WR2s and RB2s. One of the league’s elite fantasy options at his respective position should not rank so far down the list.
Revised Recommendation: Solo Tackles – 1.5 points; Assisted Tackles – 0.75 points – Not a huge bump, but it’s more reflective of actual value. With this increase, the top linebacker scorers are now comparable with the top scorers on the offensive side of the ball.
Sacks – 4 points
I’m still comfortable with this recommendation. This puts sacks at a little over 2.5 times the value of solo tackles. That ratio is perfect for a balanced-scoring format that equally weights tackles to big plays. If you’re in a league that wants to weight tackles more heavily, reduce the value of sacks by a point or two. Those who want a big-play scoring format should increase sacks to at least four times the value of solo tackles.
Tackles for a Loss – 3 points
We have a bit of a challenge with tackles for a loss. Technically speaking, the NFL defines a tackle for a loss as any tackle behind the line of scrimmage, including sacks. While some fantasy commissioner sites follow this definition, others actually subtract sacks from the tackles for a loss total. This is sometimes called a “stuff” and is significant in terms of fantasy scoring. You’ll need to figure out how your commissioner site scores this stat.
Revised Recommendation: Tackles for a Loss – 2 points IF sacks are included; 3 points if sacks are separated – I don’t enjoy the conditional stipulation, but it’s a necessary consideration. If the host site includes sacks, 3 points inflates the value of a sack so that your league becomes a borderline big-play scoring system. Make sure you do your homework here.
Interceptions – 6 points
As we outlined in our original piece, interceptions occur much less frequently than sacks. Thus, it’s not fair to place the same fantasy value on them. Last season, J.J. Watt’s sack total of 20.5 was more than double Tim Jennings’ league-leading nine interceptions. I’m fine with this recommendation, and would not go any lower than 5 points per interception.
Passes Defensed – 1 point
Here’s another place where I feel we were a bit low. One of our original goals was to produce a scoring system that better reflected actual football value. While scoring passes defensed was a step toward this goal, defensive backs still fell too far back in the pack.
Revised Recommendation: Passes Defensed – 1.5 points – A corresponding increase with solo tackles that gives a slight boost in fantasy value to corners and safeties who excel in coverage.
Forced Fumbles – 4 points; Fumble Recoveries – 2 points
We separated the two based on statistical analysis that suggested forcing fumbles is a predictive skill, while recovering fumbles is more random. With that being said, I don’t have a huge problem with scoring them equally as long as they’re worth at least double the value of solo tackles.
Revised Recommendation: Fumble Recoveries – 4 points – While our initial analysis found recoveries to be more random, they are still game changers and should be scored accordingly.
Safeties – 10 points; Blocked Kicks – 6 points; Touchdowns – 6 points
Yes, that’s right. We did not suggest two points for a safety. Think about it. How often do you see a safety? Should they really be worth just slightly more than a solo tackle give how rare safeties actually are? The same can be said for blocked kicks, though they are slightly more likely to occur. I’m fine with these recommendations.
So this gives us the following balanced scoring format:
Solo Tackles – 1.5 point
Assisted Tackles – .75 points
Sacks – 4 points
Tackles for a Loss – 2 points*
Interceptions – 6 points
Passes Defensed – 1.5 points
Forced Fumbles – 4 points
Fumble Recoveries – 4 points
Safeties – 10 points
Blocked Kicks – 6 points
Touchdowns – 6 points
As I mentioned earlier, you can tinker with this system to give a desired outcome, though I would leave the tackle values alone. For a more tackle-heavy system that favors tackle-producing linebackers, reduce the value of sacks and interceptions relative to solo tackles. If you’d prefer a big-play scoring system that inflates the value of defensive linemen, rush outside linebackers, and ball-hawking defensive backs, bump the value of sacks and interceptions up relative to solo tackles.
However, one thing you may notice is that despite your efforts, the IDP positional values relative to each other isn’t quite where you’d like it to be. For example, regardless of what you do, most defensive tackles simply will not score enough points to be fantasy relevant. So what can you do if you face this dilemma?
One method that can be successful is actually using different scoring settings by position. I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in the FPL IOP Invitational league over the last two seasons. This uniquely formatted league actually has different positional scoring settings. For example, linebackers score 2 points per solo tackle, while defensive linemen score 2.5 points per solo tackle. This and many other positional differences in scoring level the playing field between the IDP positions.
Now, I do have a few words of warning if this is something you’re considering. First, this is certainly not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to carefully test out your numbers so that you don’t end up making a colossal blunder on any stat category. Second, not all fantasy commissioner sites allow this level of customization. You’ll need to do your research here to find the sites that allow you to set scoring by position instead of just general scoring settings for all IDPs.
Ultimately, the moral of the story for all fantasy sports is having fun. There’s no better way to have fun than giving IDP-appropriate fantasy value. This revised balanced scoring system does just that, though the advanced players may find the need to add a little more customization.
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Assistant Managing Editor of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Follow him on Twitter – @JeffRatcliffe