Know Thy Scoring System

Contributed by: Todd DeVries and Jon Millman
Last Updated: Jul 05, 2013 12:46 PM

This is the first in a series of articles geared toward winning your college fantasy football league. 10th Commandment - Know Thy Scoring System This is one of the most critical aspects of winning any league. Here are the keys we're focusing on:Player UniverseScoring System Starting RequirementsRoster SpotsNumber of TeamsFree Agent PeriodsFantasy

This is the first in a series of articles geared toward winning your college fantasy football league.

10th Commandment - Know Thy Scoring System

This is one of the most critical aspects of winning any league. Here are the keys we're focusing on:

  • Player Universe
  • Scoring System
  • Starting Requirements
  • Roster Spots
  • Number of Teams
  • Free Agent Periods
  • Fantasy Playoff Schedule

Player Universe

What is a Player Universe?  It’s quite simply the pool of players you are allowed to draft from for your fantasy league.

NFL leagues are cut and dry.  Everyone uses the same player universe of 32 teams. 

In college fantasy football leagues, you have some flexibility in how you set up your league.  Here are your options:

* All-FBS, a.k.a. "All-124" leagues
Includes every school, every conference

* BCS-Only Leagues
Includes players from the BCS conferences:  ACC, AAC (formerly Big East), Big12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, plus Notre Dame.

* Conference Leagues
You might start a league including players from the SEC-only or the Big Ten-only.

* Multi-Conference Leagues
You might start a league including players only from the Big 12 and Pac-12.

If you are a first-time player, our advice is to start off with a smaller Player Universe and expand as the years go on.  For example, start with a conference or multi-conference format, and upgrade to a BCS or All-FBS league in a future year.

Scoring System

All leagues are different and you MUST fully know and understand how players score in your league. Sometimes you get 1 point per reception, sometimes you don't. Sometimes only certain positions get points for receptions. If you get points per reception (PPR), often that bumps up the value of WRs, and always bumps up the value of receiving RBs within the Running Back rankings.
Another major divergence amongst scoring systems is for Passing TDs and yardage. This rule is VERY important to know as it will help you decide when to take a QB. Typically leagues award 4 points per pass TD and either 1 point per 20 or 25 passing yards. In these scoring systems, we generally advocate waiting on your QB until nearly your whole league has a starter so you can load up on RBs and WRs and still get one of the top 10 or so QBs we like (see the 5th Commandment).

However, sometimes you will see QBs getting 6 points per pass TD and/or 1 point per 15 passing yards, and in those leagues we do look to get elite QBs on our teams if the price isn't too costly.

The same thing holds true for the coveted "dual threat" QB. They can be the exception to the "wait on a QB" rule. We're talking about the elite ones: Tim Tebow, Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel.  They are worthy of a top pick on draft day.

There are many scoring intricacies that will help you decide the best picks each round, and that may include players getting credit for return yards and TDs, or it could be players losing points for interceptions or fumbles, but the key is to FULLY know and understand your scoring system.

Starting Requirements

The next most critical aspect of each league is how many players at each position you start. A typical league generally starts: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, 1D.

Often you will see a flex option that can be a RB, WR or a TE instead of, or in addition to one of those spots above. Sometimes you may be able to flex in a QB in that flex spot. Sometimes TEs are counted as WRs, sometimes they are not. Some leagues require two starting quarterbacks, thus enhancing the value of the QB position. There are MANY variances to starter requirements and every one of them will impact how you should build your team.

Roster Spots

This is the next most critical aspect of knowing your league, as it will determine how many backups you can carry at each position. Some leagues may also have a maximum or minimum you have to carry at each position, so you want to know this in advance.

-If a league has a small roster, maybe 16 or 18 slots, you generally want to carry only 1 Kicker and Defense, so you have spots left to back up your Studs (see the 7th Commandment).

-If a league has a large and open roster (20 spots or so), then you can have some backups, maybe even a 2nd Defense to play matchups, and definitely some of our fliers or deep sleepers or even freshmen that are a bit unknown.

The point is, know how many you can or can't draft beforehand and devise a strategy to best use those spots.

Free Agent Periods

This is more of In-Season maintenance, but knowing when you can pick up Free Agents and how to do it is CRITICAL to your success. I've always said:
“Championships are not Won at the Draft, but they are born there. They are won on the waiver wire”.

You can't win your league at the draft, but you can lose it if you really have a bad draft.

But the fact is every league I've won I've done well on the waiver wire. Sometimes it's only 1 or 2 key pickups, but they are absolutely imperative to your success throughout the season. So to succeed on the wire, you must know:

1 – How you pick up players – Does it go by the reverse order of the standings each week, or is it Blind Bidding, or something else?

2 – When you pick up your players - Is there one Free Agent period per week, or multiple? Is there a Free for all period? Can you pick up guys on Saturday? 

All of these are options in different leagues I am in and I am sure there are many more options, so make sure to know yours and make moves every week to improve your team.

Number of Teams

This is getting a bit more intricate, but there are differences with how to draft in a 10, 12 or 14+ team league. Without getting too specific, be sure to know how many teams there are. It will affect how long you can wait for your QB, or other positions knowing if the talent pool is a bit deeper, like in a 10 team league, or much thinner as in a big league.

Fantasy Playoff Schedule

Most college fantasy football leagues typically hold their “Super Bowl” title game the week PRIOR to the conference title games (SEC, Big Ten, etc.).  However, there are some leagues that wrap things up during conference title week (a stupid idea, but we digress).  If you are the commissioner of your league, we highly suggest you end things the week PRIOR to conference title week.  Too many teams don’t play during conference title week, and your title game will become a waiver wire free-for-all.

Note: some years, the conference titles are in Week 15, other years they fall in Week 14.

Bottom line: before your league draft, always know when your fantasy playoffs and title game will be held.  Then, look to see which players have bye weeks during that critical period. 


The message here is to take the time to decipher and dissect your league scoring and then to develop a custom strategy for building a team to take advantage of it. If you are not sure what that is, be sure to reach out and one of our experts here on staff will assist you.

Follow Todd DeVries on Twitter: @CFFGeek

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