Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dispatches From the Anti-League: #1

by James Sinclair

My fantasy football league consists entirely of guys in their mid-to-late 20s who have excess quantities of both free time and snarkiness, so it was only a matter of time before six of us started a separate "Anti-League", in which the goal is to compile the worst team possible.

Assuming we weren't exactly breaking new ground, I looked around online for write-ups of similar leagues and, sure enough, found a handful of efforts, but none that go into any real depth about rules, settings, tactics, and in general how to create a league that actually works. So I'm going to (try to) do just that. I'll check back in after tonight's draft, and probably a few more times during the season with updates, observations, and tales of strategy decisions gone hilariously awry. For now, here's an overview of how the Anti-League is set up:

Nobody in this league is the sort of NFL fan who can name, say, the Bengals' No. 3 receiver. But, without taking a formal poll, I'd bet at least half of us can name the Bengals' quarterback. (Incidentally, I wonder if Andy Dalton can name the Bengals' No.3 receiver?) Point is, unlike running backs and receivers, quarterbacks often become household names merely by virtue of being less skilled than their peers, even if they aren't egregiously overpaid or facing criminal charges (though it doesn't hurt). So, we're going with two starting QBs, but only one RB and one WR.

At the other extreme on the skill position popularity scale, I can only name, like, eight active tight ends, and with the possible exception of Tony Gonzalez (who's on my favorite team, and I couldn't be happier for that because every so often he still does something superhuman, like make a crucial reception with an entire linebacking corps trying and failing to drag him to the ground, so I'm just going to continue ignoring the boringly rational things I keep hearing about his declining productivity) none of them belong on a roster in the Anti-League. Faced with the daunting prospect of familiarizing ourselves with a dozen of the NFL's most mediocre tight ends, we decided instead to take the lazy route and abandon the position entirely.

Finally, including a roster spot for a team defense/special teams is pretty hard to argue with, and we also have a spot for kickers, because that's just what you do in fantasy football for some reason. Thus, the rosters look like this: QB, QB, RB, WR, D/ST, K, and five bench slots.

Working within the constraints of ESPN's customization options, the idea was to accomplish the following:

  • The positions should be weighted in a way consistent with standard fantasy football, not to mention common sense (that is, no position should be weighted so disproportionately as to render the others meaningless).

  • The "best" scores in a given week should be positive numbers, thus saving us from the headache of trying to enforce a "starters have to be players who actually play" rule.

  • The players who score the most points should do so by some combination of negative play (interceptions, fumbles, etc.) and mediocre play (low completion percentage, low Y/A, etc.), not simply by contributing nothing. In other words, the league should reward a high ratio of involvement to productivity.

  • The players who score the most points should, in fact, be among the worst starters at their positions.

  • Lest I forget the only goal that matters, it should make the games more fun to watch. I'm getting excited already—the possibility of winning a 10-point missed PAT bonanza is going to be the first non-point-spread-related reason I've ever had to pay attention to extra points.

  • The penultimate item, of course, is the trickiest, with the unavoidable subjectivity that comes with any attempt to define the "best" and "worst" at something. What makes it somewhat more problematic is that there are so few truly negative stats that can be quantified for fantasy purposes (fumbles, interceptions, missed FGs, etc.), and those are things even bad players aren't necessarily expected to do multiple times a game. I'm looking forward to seeing which players emerge as the top scorers, and trying to figure out whether they deserve to be there.

    Here's what we ultimately came up with:

    20 passing yards -1
    Incomplete pass 1
    TD pass -4
    Interception 4
    2pt conversion (passing) -1
    Sacked 2
    50+ yard TD pass bonus -2
    300-399 yard passing game -2
    400+ yard passing game -5

    5 rushing/receiving yards -1
    Rush attempt 1
    Receiving target 2
    TD rush/reception -4
    2pt conversion (rush/rec) -1
    50+ yard TD bonus -2
    100-199 yard rushing game -2
    100-199 yard receiving game -2
    200+ yard rushing game -5
    200+ yard receiving game -5

    Kick/punt return TD -4
    Fumble recovered for TD -4
    Lost fumble 2

    Missed PAT 10
    Missed FG (0-39 yards) 5
    Missed FG (40-49 yards) 3
    Missed FG (50+ yards) 1
    Made FG (50+ yards) -3

    Defense / Special Teams
    Sack -0.5
    Interception/fumble return TD -4
    Kick/punt return TD -4
    Blocked punt/FG return for TD -4
    Blocked punt/PAT/FG -1
    Interception -1
    Fumble recovered -1
    Safety -4
    0 points allowed -10
    1-6 points allowed -3
    14-17 points allowed 1
    18-21 points allowed 3
    22-27 points allowed 5
    28-34 points allowed 7
    35-45 points allowed 9
    46+ points allowed 12
    Less than 100 total yards allowed -10
    100-199 total yards allowed -3
    300-349 total yards allowed 1
    350-399 total yards allowed 3
    400-449 total yards allowed 5
    450-499 total yards allowed 7
    500-549 total yards allowed 9
    550+ total yards allowed 12

    One final note: As I was writing this, it was brought to my attention that, naturally, Grantland has just announced a "Bad Quarterback League". My initial unhappiness over this blatant theft of our thunder was alleviated when I saw that their league is set up in no way like ours. To name a few differences, it only involves quarterbacks (obviously), the participants pick entire teams rather than individual players, and the point system incorporates off-field shenanigans like arrests and Favre-esque sexting scandals.

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