Another fantasy football season is right around the corner, and while many of you will be gathering together with fellow league owners at someone’s house or at the local pizza parlor, others will be logging in online to play on websites such as CBS, Yahoo, NFL.com and ESPN.
On these various sites, you have the ability to have your own custom scoring rules set up, sometimes for free and other times for a one-time fee. Others may be new to fantasy or just want to have a league on the side and are looking to partake in a standard free league.
With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some of the pros and cons of each of the above hosting sites' free standard scoring rules. While I won’t go as far as to recommend one over the others, it is worth keeping in mind some of the differences when deciding which site is best for you.
As always, be sure to check each site to verify the rules, in case of changes or any mistakes on my part, before signing up.
NFL.com, ESPN, Yahoo: 10 Teams
CBS: 12 Teams
The average-size fantasy football league tends to be around 10 teams, but if you’re like me, you like to have a deep league. So, when it comes to roster size, I’ll give CBS the nod. I’ve found over the years that the deeper leagues tend to reward those of us who put the time in to prepare for a season more than the average Joe that shows up on draft day.
It doesn’t always work out, but tendencies are that the person who comes to the draft and has done little work knows the basic stars around the league like everyone else. But as you get into the deeper part of the draft, these people start to scramble for a draft selection and may hesitate to take an obvious choice because they aren’t sure why that player has fallen down the draft board, thinking they must be hurt or something is wrong.
To Flex or Not To Flex?
ESPN, NFL.com: Flex Position
CBS, Yahoo: No Flex Position
Yahoo and CBS fail to provide a flex position for your roster, and they require that you start three receivers. Having the option to shake things up at the flex position allows a fantasy owner to play to the strength of their bench. Usually, the flex position will allow the option to start a running back, wide receiver or tight end.
Fortunately, we have a deep class of receivers to select this year, so fantasy owners shouldn’t have a problem filling in three respectable starters if they opt to go without a flex option.
CBS: 6 points for touchdown pass, - 2 points for interception
Yahoo: 4 points for touchdown pass, - 1 point for interception
ESPN, NFL.com: 4 points for touchdown pass, - 2 points for interception
I will skip receiving and rushing production because they are basically identical on all four websites. Same holds true in regard to the passing, except for differences in points given for touchdown passes and points docked for interceptions.
Unlike some of the other major sites across the internet, Yahoo only penalizes you one point for an interception rather than two, and I think that’s about right. Too many times we see a quarterback fall victim to a pick and it really had nothing to do with him other than he actually threw the football.
Ball bounces off a receiver's hands, player runs an incorrect route—these things happen, and I can’t stand it when my quarterback is penalized for something that wasn’t his fault.
Points Awarded to Position Players for Kick and Punt Returns
CBS, Yahoo, ESPN: Points Awarded
NFL.com: No Points Awarded
Only one of the four sites listed in this article fail to give your position player six points for a kickoff or punt return touchdown. These are nice points to have, but the reality is most of your position players around the league won’t return on special teams.
Still, it’s nice to get those extra points, and they up the value of fringe players—like 49ers rookie running back LeMichael James—to make a fantasy roster.
I won’t break down the scoring production for kickers above, but it is worth noting that some websites like CBS and NFL.com only give kickers three points for a field goal from distances of zero to 49 yards.
I’m not a big fan of this, but for those leagues, you’re better off focusing on a kicker that is one of a high-scoring team, rather than a kicker with a strong leg like Sebastian Janikowski.
One other difference in kicking points is that ESPN actually docks you a point if your kicker misses a field goal.
If you should decide to go with them, it may be a good idea to focus on kickers with sound accuracy on high-scoring offenses. One kicker who can be had on the cheap that fits this structure well is Eagles second-year kicker Alex Henery. After the first month of the season, Henery didn’t miss a field goal, and he set the NCAA record for the most accurate kicker in college history back in Nebraska.
With the Eagles expected to have a major bounce-back season on offense, Henery will benefit and should end up as one of the top five kickers in fantasy this year.
Defense: Points Awarded for Yards and Points Given Up
CBS, ESPN: Both Points and Yards
NFL.com, Yahoo: Just Points
Oh boy, we need to pay attention to ESPN’s scoring rules for team defense. Not only do they award points for both total yardage and points allowed, but they also take points away. A decent amount, in fact, as you can lose up to seven points in total yards and five points in points allowed.
It gets tiring to say, but team defense by committee is important in all leagues, but especially a league like this. Not paying attention to they players you’re starting (and whom they play against) can cost you valuable points.
Look to cheaper defenses with breakout potential like the Bills, Seahawks, Cardinals and Cowboys as solid rotation defenses this year.