Fantasy football is a lot of fun, and it has never been easier to play. Thanks to modern fantasy football applications, it’s a breeze to sign up, draft a team, set lineups, and win (or lose) games each week without having to sit down and crunch numbers. But it wasn’t always this way. Not so long ago, fantasy football fans had to bust out the calculators every time they wanted to score a game. Even now, with apps to help us out, it can be tough to know exactly what’s going on. How many points is that touchdown worth for your team? What could happen on the next play that might make or break your game?
For beginners, in particular, fantasy football’s scoring system can seem extremely opaque. But fear not, fantasy newbies. We’re here today to break down everything you need to know about how fantasy football works and how it’s scored.
The history of fantasy football
One of the best ways to gain an understanding of how fantasy football works and how scores are calculated is to go back to the earliest days of the pastime. The story begins in another sport: baseball. Baseball is a sport that is especially given to statistics: runs batted in, stolen bases, batting averages, and so on. Baseball fans love their geeky stats, so it’s no surprise that fantasy sports got their start with “rotisserie baseball,” in which fans drafted teams of players and added up season-long stats to see who could win the most categories. From there, fantasy sports evolved. Some leagues started playing weeklong games and adding up category wins from each week to simulate more baseball-like records (they play 162 games in real baseball, after all). And other stats buffs tried out fantasy with other sports, like football.
You can play fantasy football in the old “rotisserie baseball” style, with categories (the player with the most passing yards gets 1 point, the player with the most rushing touchdowns gets another, and so on) and season-long totals. But most fantasy football leagues use a newer scoring system, one that abandons categories in favor of points. Often, leagues will award a point for every 10 rushing yards, rather than simply comparing teams’ rushing totals and awarding the category to the team with more (no matter how much or how little they won by). Open up a fantasy football app, and you’ll likely see a number next to each player: a running back worth 9.7, for instance, or a quarterback worth 14.5. These precise numbers are much easier to calculate now, because we have online apps to do it all for us!
Each league can set its own scoring rules, but fantasy football leagues tend to have a standard default scoring system. Generally speaking, rushing and receiving yards will get you 1 point every 10 yards. Passing yards are usually going to be 25 yards a point. Rushing and receiving touchdowns are worth 6 points, and passing touchdowns 4. You can get points for each player involved. For example, if a quarterback you’re starting throws a 25-yard touchdown pass to a receiver you’re also starting, you’ll get 4 points for the passing touchdown and 6 for the receiving touchdown, plus a point for the 25 passing yards and 2.5 points for the 25 receiving yards.
Defensive scoring is a bit trickier. Defense and special teams slots start with 10 points (assuming you start one in that slot) and then lose points as the other team scores: 1 to 6 points will bring you down to 7, for instance, and you’ll hit 0 at 21-27 points against.
You’ll also see points awarded or deducted for specific plays. Interceptions will cost your quarterback 2 points. Players lose 2 points for fumbles, too. Defenses gain 2 points for interceptions and fumble recoveries.
Special scoring considerations
These default scoring rules are quite common, but they’re not universal. There are variations. One particularly common variation is the “PPR” league. PPR stands for points per reception, and it means that such leagues award points for touches of the ball. This makes some receivers more valuable. A slot receiver or tight end who is used in short-yardage situations has limited fantasy value because they’ll never catch that 50-yard pass; but, in a PPR league, they’ll get a point for each reception and will earn more with their slow and steady production.
Whatever your scoring system, it’s crucial to make sure that your pre-draft rankings and daily decisions take it into account. If you’re in a PPR league, you need ppr rankings; if you have custom scoring to worry about, use advanced tools to create custom rankings or use a spreadsheet to calculate your own.