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Reviving the true value of the fantasy football QB

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We need to fix quarterback scoring y'all.

Even those of you who hate change, and those of you who just want to stay in blissful ignorance and play in "standard" leagues because that is how you, your father, and your father's father have always played fantasy football. Yes, you too know deep down quarterback scoring needs to change.

The NFL Fantasy crew just completed our first offseason mock draft and Aaron Rodgers was taken at the top of the fourth round, 31st overall. If you're a savvy fantasy manager, you know that sounds about right for the Green Bay signal caller.

But let's think about that for a second. Aaron flippin' Rodgers went 14 picks after Todd Gurley, a player who was an abject disaster in fantasy last year. Rodgers is a perennial MVP candidate for goodness sakes and a fantasy stud year in and year out.

Meanwhile, other quarterback studs saw even worse treatment from our seasoned fake-game experts. Russell Wilson went in the 12th round while Matt Ryan, the actual MVP from last season, went in the 14th round, 133rd overall.

When quarterbacks give you just four points per passing touchdown and just minus-two when they turn the ball over, this drafting style is par for the course. This is normal.

But it is also insane.

DEPTH AT THE POSITION


Quarterback is no question the most important position in the real life game, but in fantasy, it is one of the least important. There are a few main reasons for this but you'll likely hear "depth at the position" about a million times between now and your respective draft day.

While this is partially true, the actual reason this "depth" exists is because standard leagues create an unnatural depression of scoring differential between the game's elite and, well, Blake Bortles.

Rodgers was the QB1 in fantasy last year while Bortles was confoundingly the QB9. The quality of play between the two was massive, to say the least. Yet, from a fantasy perspective, the difference was not nearly as dramatic.

Rodgers scored 380 fantasy points in standard scoring while the Duval Pick-6 Machine racked up 270 fantasy points. That's about a 29 percent difference in scoring.

The difference between David Johnson (RB1) and Jordan Howard (RB9) was about 126 total points, a nearly 39 percent difference in production.

How are we OK with running backs and wide receivers having such massive scoring differentials, but not OK creating a sensible system that also allows for this separation between quarterbacks?

And forget about taking a long view. On a week-to-week basis many crafty managers will work the waiver wire looking for a streaming signal caller, essentially making drafting any meaningful quarterback a throwaway pick.

For example, Carson Wentz was largely irrelevant in fantasy from a season-long perspective (QB24), but was still highly useful for managers in Week 12. The rookie was a popular streamer versus a Green Bay pass defense that was ravaged by injuries and was, by season's end, one of the worst in the league. In that relatively-easy-to-predict matchup, Wentz put up 17.46 fantasy points.

For comparison, Rodgers, again the QB1, averaged 23.75 fantasy points per game on the season. The six-ish point differential in scoring is simply not enough to discourage managers from continuing to wait and wait and wait on quarterbacks during drafts.

So how then do we give quarterbacks the value that more accurately reflects their importance in the game?

I propose two possible solutions. The first is incredibly easy as you'll see below. The the other is a bit more involved and not currently available on any major format (but should/could be in the future).

Let's dive in.

CRUISING DOWN THE STREET IN MY SIX-FOUR


Like Eazy E, feel free to cruise up to your league manager with the 6-4 idea. That is, six points for ALL touchdowns and minus-four points for ALL turnovers.

We need to create separation between the elite and the riff-raff quarterbacks. The easiest way to do that is to accentuate the good (touchdowns) and punish the bad (turnovers) more severely.

I've loooooooonnnnnngggggg advocated that all quarterback touchdowns need to be six points. The common argument against this notion is that it doesn't matter because all quarterbacks benefit equally from the point increase. But there's another wrinkle to consider here.

The difference in passing yardage between Rodgers and Bortles is just 11 percent. The difference in passing touchdowns between the two is 17 total scores, good for a 42 percent difference.

If you simply give all touchdowns their rightful due (six points), yes, it's true that all quarterbacks benefit, but the scoring differential goes up significantly between quarterbacks as well. Rodgers goes from having a 74-point advantage over Bortles in standard to a 108-point advantage when all touchdowns are six points.

At an absolute minimum, to help bring more balance back to the fantasy game, we must start there. Six-point passing scores should absolutely be standard, of that there is absolutely no question in my mind.

But if we're in for a penny, we're in for a pound. Give quarterbacks six for passing scores and ding them four points for all turnovers. Interceptions, fumbles, it doesn't matter, you turn it over -- BOOM -- minus four points.

Forget about all the real-life reasons why this makes sense for a second. Purely from a statistical standpoint, in order to help create a greater, more meaningful difference between quarterback tiers, we have to smash down quarterbacks who turn the rock over.

In this 6-4 scoring system Rodgers goes from 380 to 438 total points and sees his per game average boosted from 23.75 to 27.38 fantasy points per game.

Bortles sinks from the QB9 all the way down to the QB16 on the season and the total scoring differential between him and Rodgers goes from about 29 percent all the way to 38 percent. That seems MUCH more in line with real-life value.

The difference between Rodgers (QB1) and Matthew Stafford (QB9) in this scoring system is 158 points, a 36 percent difference, up from the 29 percent difference we saw between the QB1 to QB9 in standard scoring. This seasonal uptick in relative scoring would drive Rodgers' price up on draft day, likely into the first two rounds.

The impact of this change is felt less and less the lower you go down the list of quarterbacks, meaning streaming will still be a popular option for those managers who miss out on high-end quarterbacks (Wentz would have scored 15.46 points in the example above instead of 17.46).

Even in 6-4, only 3.3 fantasy points per game separate the ninth-highest per game scorer from the 18th-highest. For comparison, there's only a 1.92 FPPG differential in standard leagues for that same range.

Yet, while the 6-4 system is a good start, it's not enough.

KILL THE STREAM


I want to effectively kill streaming quarterbacks. I know what you're thinking, "Whoa, relax Koh, let's not get crazy here."

Nah, we're going Nas on Jay-Z here and ether-ing this joint.

Why kill this very popular fantasy strategy? Well, let's remember the premise of this whole piece: quarterbacks are unrealistically devalued in our precious fake game.

If fantasy reflected real life, having Rodgers or Brady should put you in line to win a bunch of ballgames. If you have Cam Newton and he has an off year, guess what, you lose. Conversely, if you gamble and wait and wait and somehow hit on Matt Ryan, a tip of the cap to you as you go on to win the league. Or hell, if you have a totally serviceable quarterback like Kirk Cousins or Andy Dalton and surround him with great running backs and wide receivers, you can win that way too.

The only way you can't win? Streaming. Because streaming is stupid. If you want to run your club like the Browns and rotate a bunch of busted quarterbacks, let's be real here, you deserve to lose.

And listen, I've done it. I remember getting to a fantasy championship one year using some gross combination of J.T. O'Sullivan and Dan Orlovsky. There were probably some other zombie quarterbacks that I rode that year too but those two names stuck out to me and were the impetus to me realizing how incredibly stupid it is you can win fantasy this way.

I get that fantasy doesn't totally capture real-life value but come on. How are we OK with it being that disconnected from the real game? It's something that's always bothered me and I know it's irksome to a lot of other fantasy managers as well.

It's time to fix that.

QB RATING FOR THE WIN


If we use quarterback rating (currently not feasible on any major platform) in addition to the 6-4 scoring system we can effectively establish the true value of elite quarterbacks in fantasy, and make streaming almost a fool's errand.

First, we have to establish that a quarterback rating of 90 is about average in today's game. To that point, last year 16 teams had a team quarterback rating greater than 90 and exactly 16 teams had a team quarterback rating of less than 90. We can obviously adjust this number as the years go on, but for now, let's start there.

If you award .1 points to any QB rating point over 90, a quarterback rating of 100, for example, will net you one additional fantasy point. But here's the key, if you also penalize .1 points for any QB rating point below 90, a quarterback rating of 80 would subtract one point from your total.

See where I'm going here? As with the 6-4 setup, we're rewarding good play and penalizing bad play.

This system would have resulted in nine quarterbacks averaging more than 20 FPPG last year, and another three with at least 19 per contest -- basically your top 12 quarterbacks. In standard scoring leagues, there were only five total quarterbacks giving you 20-plus per game, and none averaging 19-plus, creating the space for streaming quarterbacks to be relevant each week. So, this raises the question: can you stream a quarterback and get top-12 results in this new QB rating-adjusted system?

Well, incorporating quarterback rating, Wentz in Week 12 goes from 17.46 points in standard to 14.01 because he had a quarterback rating of 75.5, costing him an extra 1.45 points (in addition to the extra two points he loses from the 6-4 scoring). In standard leagues, his 17 points would be extremely competitive in terms of per-game scoring, on par with Matthew Stafford and Dak Prescott and just fractions off a top-10 performance (on average). In this new system? His 14 points puts him outside the top 18.

Matt Barkley in Week 15 (again against Green Bay) was another popular streaming option. In standard leagues, he gave owners a very respectable 14.48 points, this despite having four turnovers. Sure his point total in standard would likely put him outside the top 18 from a per-game average standpoint, but he's still within two points of a probable top-12 finish. Just two measly points. You can easily make that back somewhere else on your roster.

So even in a game where Barkley suffered four turnovers, in standard leagues, the penalty is relatively minimal. In the 6-4 system Barkley had 10.48 points, But when you factor in his 81.7 rating, his output falls to 9.65 points. When the top 12 are scoring on average 18-28 fantasy points per game in this system, that's potentially a week-crushing performance -- as it should be.

As you can tell, 6-4 makes hitting correctly on a streamer much more difficult and calculating in quarterback rating makes that task even more improbable, giving proper value to the elite passers. Even if you were to correctly predict breakout quarterback games from unheralded arms, the upside is not nearly as high when compared to the game's best.

Oh, by the way, the difference between Rodgers (still the QB1) and Marcus Mariota, the QB10 in this model, is about 170 points or approximately a 37 percent difference. The difference between David Johnson (RB1) and Mark Ingram (RB10) is 131 points, about a 40 percent difference.

Again, if you are OK with a running back having a 40 percent difference in scoring compared to another back in the top 10, why are you so damn resistant to changing quarterback scoring to reflect similar values?

Join me, my friends. Let's start with the 6-4 revolution and let's burn down the antiquated "standard" scoring system that makes some of the league's best players irrelevant.

-- James Koh is the host of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast and an analyst on NFL Fantasy LIVE. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast!

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