Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To Kick Or Not To Kick



New extra point rule & fantasy implications


The NFL has decided to throw a curve ball at the fantasy football world this year, by implementing the new extra point rule. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but there is reason for fantasy GMs to take notice. So we at Fantasy JoneZ have decided to give you a breakdown of the fantasy implications the new extra point rule may have.


Rule Explanation

So what changed? Well the NFL voted to lengthen the distance for extra point attempts from the 2 yard line to the 15 yard line. Teams now have the option of attempting an extra point from the 15 yard line or attempting a 2-point conversion from the 2 yard line. The new rule also now allows defenses to return 2-point conversion turnovers for 2 points of their own.

What will NFL teams do?

The majority of NFL head coaches are not risk takers. This is why, when given the option, they choose to take the extra point the majority of the time. With kickers making 99.9% of extra points, it’s almost a no-brainer for coaches. But what if more risk were added to that extra point attempt? That is exactly what this new rule has done.

So let’s take a look at the math. Last season NFL kickers averaged 90% for successful field goals from the 15 yard line. That is a 10% drop from the 99.9% average of successful PATs from the 2 yard line. The average success rate for 2-point conversions has hovered around 49% over the last decade. With the old rule, a team would record 9.9 points out of 10 attempts by kicking the extra point. They would record 9.8 points out of 10 attempts by attempting a 2-point conversion. The extra point is favored here. With the new rule, however, the percentage for successful extra points drops to 90%. So, in the same scenario using the new rule, a team would record 9 points out of 10 attempts by kicking and 9.8 points out of 10 on 2-point conversions.

The math says to go for 2 every time, but this will not be the case. One factor will be time and score. If a team is down by 1 point with very little time left in the game, it’s very likely the coach chooses to take the extra point. It also depends on kicking talent. The average around the league may have been 90%, but some kickers were far higher. Connor Barth, for instance, was 100% between 30-39 yards last season, while Billy Cundiff was 77% from this distance. And, of course weather will definitely play a factor as well later in the season. The weather alone in November and December may dictate how often. Teams like Philly, New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay, Buffalo, and Seattle all play outside in inclement weather. Given the option to kick a 32 yard extra point in the wind, snow, or rain or to attempt a 2-point conversion from the 2, most teams will choose the latter.

It will of course depend on the coach, but expect to see plenty of 2-point conversion attempts in 2015. The extra point is not being done away with either. Let's be honest, it’s still easier for a coach to blame a kicker than himself.


How much value is added to fantasy defenses?

Now that defenses are able to return 2-point conversion turnovers, it does add some value to defenses, but very little. Since fantasy football drafting websites began back in the late 90s, defenses have only returned turnovers for TDs from the oppositions 2 yard line .004% of the time. Using this average, defenses would have to see 250 2-point conversion attempts before they converted a turnover into a TD. While the turnover itself may also award 2 points, there is not enough value here to warrant an owner moving a defense up in his/her draft.

What about kicker value?

Generally, you want to save your very last draft pick for your kicker. There’s not a lot of thought that needs to go into choosing a kicker. Just choose best available we always say. Not all kickers are created equal, though. Some kickers are far more accurate from 32 yards and the new rule will benefit them the most (or their team, rather). Some kickers may be 100% on extra points in 2015, while others may struggle at 75%. Using an average of 2 attempts per game, that only gives the better kickers an 8 FFP advantage by season’s end. Another situation that does not warrant an owner moving a kicker’s draft position any higher than the last round.


So where is the true value?

Make no doubt about it. NFL teams will attempt far more 2-point conversions in 2015 than any previous years. The positions that should see the most value are the RBs and read-option QBs.  An average of one successful 2-point conversion a game will net an additional 32 FFPs. That’s enough for a guy like Cam Newton to finish better than Tony Romo or Matt Ryan. Or LeSean McCoy to finish better than CJ Anderson or Matt Forte. It also moves power backs like Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, & Jeremy Hill up cheat sheets. TEs and WRs may benefit as well. Big targets like Jimmy Graham, Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones all could see an uptick in FFPs.


Summary

Keep in mind that if a team has attempted to go for a 2-point conversion, they may be more likely to attempt it again in that game. Either they had success the first time and feel confident, or they were unsuccessful the first time and need a 2-point conversion to tie.

When drafting be aware of the teams that have head coaches who are likely to go for 2. Teams like New England, Seattle, or Philadelphia. Skill positions on these teams may be more valuable to you.

The new rule change may lead to more offensive points, but defenses in the NFL always make adjustments. Don’t reach for players just because you feel they may get a lot of 2-point conversion opportunities.