Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Varsity Numbers: Honing in

Bill Connelly again looks at which college football teams the F/+ ratings are sure about, and which teams remain a mystery (led by Appalachian State).

Welcome to the Loser League

(or, Another Way to Waste Your Time)

by Jason Beattie

Do you still love Emmitt Smith and want an excuse to have him on your fantasy team? Do you need a reason to get excited about a fourth quarter missed extra point in an otherwise meaningless match-up? Do you relish the thought of reading box scores to check the stats of Brandon Lloyd and Cedrick Wilson?*  If so, the Loser League may be for you!

The Loser League puts a fun twist on traditional fantasy football: Instead of trying to pick the top performers and score the most points, the object is to pick the biggest fantasy losers and score the fewest points possible. You don't want Michael Vick, you want Kyle Boller. You want the guys that just plain suck.  Here's how it works:

Object: The object of the Loser League is to draft the players that you believe will score the fewest total fantasy points each week.

Number of Players: Ideally four or five.  Everyone should be available to participate in a weekly draft, as new players are drafted each week of the regular season.  We do ours via e-mail, and unless all four or five of you live in the same house or something, I'd suggest using that method.  Normally we draft each week on Thursday.  You can hold these drafts further in advance if you wish, but doing so usually creates problems figuring out substitutions, as players tend to get injured or (especially these losers) benched.

Rules: Each week, your league must hold a standard snake-draft** to select players for that weekend's games. The first week the draft order should be decided randomly. Each person selects a team consisting of 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR and 1 K. After the draft, just watch your losers suck on Sunday... root for them to play poorly, but not "pull a penalty" (more on that in a second). At the end of each weekend, the scores are tallied, and the weekly totals determine next week's draft order (the person with the highest score gets to pick first). Repeat this nonsense for 17 weeks... and whoever has scored the fewest points throughout your season is the grand loser champion!

Sounds easy, right? Why not just draft the third-string quarterback? Well, it's more challenging than that. You have to pick players who are expected to play in the game, or you'll incur a hefty penalty. For each quarterback that attempts fewer than ten passes, running back that rushes fewer than ten times, or wide receiver that catches fewer than two passes, you're penalized 15 points. The full scoring rules are as follows:

Scoring:

  • 1 point for each 20 yards passing
  • 1 point for each 10 yards rushing
  • 1 point for each 10 yards receiving
  • 4 points for each passing TD
  • 6 points for each rushing or receiving TD
  • 2 points for each 2 pt. conversion       
  • -2 points for each fumble or interception
  • 3 points for each field goal made
  • 1 point for each extra point made
  • -2 points for each missed field goal
  • -5 points for each missed extra point

Feel free to modify the point values. We use the particular ones above because they match the scoring system of our regular fantasy league.

Penalties:

  • 15 points for any QB who has fewer than 10 passing attempts
  • 15 points for any RB who has fewer than 10 rushing attempts
  • 15 points for any WR who catches fewer than 2 receptions
  • 15 points for any K who makes no attempts because he's been benched for another K

(Note: You only incur a kicker penalty if another kicker on that team makes an attempt and the selected kicker does not. If a kicker's team makes no attempts in a game, there is no penalty. And yes, I've incurred a kicker penalty before. It really sucks.)

Tiebreakers:
The team recording fewer total penalties wins the tiebreaker. If still tied, the team recording fewer total touchdowns breaks the tie.

Season Champion:
In addition to keeping track of weekly point totals, you can also keep a running tally of who's winning the league each week. In a league of four, each weekly winner (lowest scorer) is awarded four points, second place gets three points, third gets two points, and last place gets one point. (If you have five players, I'll let you use your wonderful powers of deduction to figure out how to modify this system.) We have dubbed this scoring method the MDSS.***

Variations, Additions and Miscellaneous Ramblings:

There has been discussion as whether to reduce the RB minimum to eight carries rather than ten, due to the prevalence of running back-by-committee around the league. We'll probably continue to bicker about this right up until the start of the season.

You could also experiment with the positions drafted, by adding a tight end or defense position. Due to having a new draft each week, we've found keeping it simple works well for us, but if you have ample time for weekly drafts, adding other positions could be an interesting variation.

As with any league, it's a good idea to have a commissioner (usually the biggest stats geek and/or the guy with the most free time), someone to be the master scorekeeper, weekly draft instigator, dispute settler, etc. We here at Football Outsiders are so damn into this league that Ian created a very handy Excel spreadsheet that will do all the math for you. (Sorry, you still have to type in the stats.) Download it here.

Finally, you should probably agree in advance upon a substitution rule within your league. For example, if a player is drafted mid-week, but it is announced on Saturday that he won't play (due to chopping off his foot with an axe or something), can he be replaced? You'll have to decide how hard-core you are as a group... We tend to lean towards the "Sorry, no substitutions, you're screwed" end of the spectrum on this one.

Want to know even more?  Read the 2003 Loser League Year-End Report.  You'll see the Loser League mentioned on the site a few times during the season -- this year our league is an all-Football Outsiders affair with me, Ian, Aaron, Pat, and Russell.  In two weeks, I'll be back with a new article previewing 2004 from a Loser League perspective.  Plus, coming soon to Football Outsiders: The Open Loser League Challenge! Aren't you tingling with excitement already?

* Lloyd and Wilson are the top two receivers on San Francisco's depth chart at the time I write this. Yes, I admit I had to look this up.

** You know, like the way most people do a regular fantasy draft: Person 1 selects a player first, then person 2, person 3, person 4 makes two picks, person 3, person 2, person 1, rinse, repeat 'til done.

*** Modified Dembsky Scoring System. Don't ask.