The NFL has officially changed extra point rules in a way to make the play more interesting. They pushed the extra point kick back to the 15-yard line, meaning it’s now a 33-yard kick. The opposing team can now score two-points on a failed PAT if a fumble, interception, or blocked kick were to occur. These changes could make you want to pay more attention to what was previously a sure-fire point, but could they also affect how you play fantasy?
Before thinking about what the fantasy implications might be, I thought it was important to try to identify whether or not head coaches will be forced to even consider changing their PAT strategy. Before this rule change, the extra point had a nearly 100% success rate, so any amount of pushing it back clearly should have some effect on misses.
Last year, 36 players kicked at least one 30-39 yard field goal, and only one (Billy Cundiff of the Browns) missed more than two. Overall, the percentage of 30-39 yarders sits around 90% for the past few years. This means that there definitely will be more misses this year on extra point attempts, but not by a drastic degree.
The most interesting variable to watch during this season is whether or not the playing conditions affect head coaches’ strategy for the PAT. Jonathan Adler from Harvard Sports Analysis found that between 1998-2008 there was a significant difference between the success of 30-39 yard field goal attempts outdoors vs. indoors, while there was no difference between success within the 20.
Clark, Johnson, and Stimpson of MIT further specified which environmental variables affected field goal success, and they found that cold temperature, precipitation, and wind all had significant effects, all clearly factors that will only occur outdoors and usually in northern states. This suggests that while overall there shouldn’t be a huge shift in extra points missed this year, more of the misses will be outdoors than indoors, with especially large variation in northern stadiums like the Packers’ Lambeau and the Patriots’ Foxborough.Can snow and wind cause more teams to attempt two-point conversions over extra points? Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports
Will head coaches during windy games be more likely to go for two? Or can precipitation lead to an emphasis on two-point tries? No one has any idea until the game starts being played, but it’s definitely worth paying attention to.
Although this rule change will be very interesting from a pure football perspective, it isn’t affecting my draft strategy. The difference between kickers is negligible (the 3rd best-14th best kickers were within 2 points per game of each other) and predicting their scores from week to week is often a crapshoot anyway. I might slightly prefer someone kicking in a dome vs. the snow during the fantasy playoffs, but you shouldn’t be holding onto the same kicker for the entire season anyway, with a few exceptions.
And even if two-point plays rise in popularity, they won’t have enough of an impact on season-long statistics to put them into consideration while you’re drafting. As a rough example, Jamaal Charles was 21 points behind the next best running back, Eddie Lacy (in a .5 PPR league). That would mean that even if Charles got 10 two-point conversions through the duration of the season, he still wouldn’t have gotten enough points to move up just one spot.
From a defensive perspective, the added incentive of being able to score two points on botched PAT also should be ignored when looking at the big picture of a season. I can’t imagine any team defense having even more than a couple opportunities of a turnover, let alone taking it 100 yards to the house. Trying to project out which teams are going to go for two, who will get the targets, and if defenses will score off the attempts is impossible with next to no data as we currently possess.
While this rule will have a negligible effect season-long leagues, a couple extra points here or there can make a significant difference in daily fantasy leagues. This definitely shouldn’t be a consideration for week one since we have no way to predict how the coaching strategies will bear out. But if trends start arising with certain players getting two point opportunities, it could become a sneaky way to get a leg up on your competition.
Overall, this rule change is an interesting step towards making the PAT a more enjoyable play to watch instead of just a chance to grab some snacks or use the restroom. From a fantasy perspective, especially in the preseason and the first couple of weeks of the regular season, I’m keeping it out of my player analyses. But I will enjoy watching Chip Kelly try to revolutionize the league by going for two with Tebow after every touchdown.
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