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PLAYER SKILLS

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OUTLINE

There are lots of different things we can add more variety without adding too much extra complexity to the game. On this page I'll try to sort things into the order I think they might be added, on the usual basis of doing things gradually, a bit at a time, starting with the ones that seem reasonably natural to the design we've already got.

Some of the extra skills tinker with the "experience" value of players, and it's open to question whether that's a good idea at present, when the experience value of players isn't visible. It's not shown in game reports, even though it can have a lot of effect on play. When you make a change on your roster you want it to be show up somewhere in the totals.

There are a whole bunch of skills that could be included but aren't, because at present they're already covered by the existing player strengths. One option would be where the existing strengths have double meanings we could simplify them by splitting one of those meanings off into an additional skill (an example of this is ORI for RBs - which counts for both power running and for blocking, depending on context). But this is a lot more complicated and would be more difficult to put into practice.

FEEDBACK

The ideas on this page are not a definitive set. They're a starting point, and I'm sure that coaches are going to be able to think of more things we can add along these lines.

PLAY BY PLAY - ROSTER STRENGTHS

At present we assess strengths and player skills for the roster as a whole, and only at the start of the game. Mostly that's to reduce complexity and processing times, but I don't think there's much need for that any more, and we could make that assessment on each every every play according to the matchup of plays and formations. That would reduce the playing strengths on the field, which would help us move back towards the proper play balance, and raise a premium on "every down" players who can play in every situation.

SKILL RANGE

For most positions and skills the current skill range is 0=journeyman, 1=star, 2=superstar. We could change this to produce some interesting effects, the obvious schemes being either to extend the use of double values (downrating the effect of each value accordingly) or to make a step shift to 0=weakness 1=journeyman 2=star 3=superstar.

POTENTIAL

We've already looked at potential in a previous update, and it didn't attract much interest. Which is surprising, since it's a feature in almost every other game of this type except Gameplan. The usual rules are either that you can only coach (or whatever) players if they've got potential, or it's more expensive if they don't have it, or it causes players to improve automatically as they gain experience.

We don't actually NEED any of those rules. We've already got rules for age (which is what the "must have potential" rule is actually doing - when the potential runs out the player starts to decline) and we've got rules for experience, so it looks like a complication for little actual benefit.

What potential would give us is a slight difference in value between players in the draft, so that each and every draft pick is going to be worth slightly more than the next, and/or a team-building decision between jam now or jam later. You can draft for players who are worth more immediately, or for players who will be worth more in a couple of seasons (if potential means they can be coached more cheaply). Which is a definite benefit to coaches who stick around and plan ahead.

EXPERIENCE

In real life there are some players who step straight into the league and play like veterans. They don't need experience, because they play like they've already got it. I'd guess it's to do with self confidence (confidence is what people gain with experience - when you're doing things you already did before, that you already know you can do, then you do them better because you don't waste effort on worrying).

There's also the players from colleges who play a pro-style offence, who have genuine experience that coaches and scouts know they can use.

This is a really easy thing to add. At present each player counts experience for "age" (which is actually the number of years they've been in the league) plus a bit extra according to their playing position (running backs are often very effective as rookies, and quarterbacks usually aren't, for example). So we can easily allocate some extra experience to some or many players. We could move the extra experience according to position to be part of the visible extra experience, as well.

It's an easy strength to quantify as well. Ten years of experience are worth about the same as an extra playing strength, which is usually worth about 10 LPs. So a point of extra experience is worth one LP on signing costs and waiver values.

LEADERSHIP

Teams have leaders, who make other players perform better. The leader is not always the best or the strongest player (although it helps if they are, and it's probably not a good thing if the top player in a team doesn't have the qualities to go with the position).

This is another easy strength to add, if we go down the route of fiddling with experience. Leaders make other players more confident. But it's much more valuable strength, because the effect is more widespread. Everyone in that unit plays better, not just the guy with the leadership skills. So it's probably a full-sized strength, worth the full 10 LPs, and it's probably not common and certainly isn't coachable. On the other hand, the rule is very similar to the proposed rules for assistant coaches, so maybe it isn't really adding anything.

Whether the skill applies to all positions or just a few is open to question. QBs and usually the center, and either a linebacker or a safety on defence, for sure. Other players can show leadership as well, but maybe those three are more important. For a QB or a center it's almost part of the job description.

SQUAD STRENGTHS IN REPORTS

At present team strengths are added up and shown in game reports without including experience. That's because we don't actually add it into the calculation in your squad strengths. It's added to the play by play strengths along with training. It wouldn't be difficult to change this, so that strengths that at present are hidden would appear in the listings. I'd do this by expanding or replacing the squad and form totals along the lines that I'm already doing in the Yeovil leagues (where there's a section showing your combined squad and form strengths relative the the average strengths for the whole league).

INDIVIDUAL SKILLS

There are an assortment of individual skills we could add by counting them directly on the play calls for which they relate, or directly to the numbers used by the simulation. I'd probably add these by giving each player a possible single extra skill, although for these it would be much more difficult to translate them into LP values. The best bet would probably be to treat them the same as special teams strengths.

NAME POSN DESCRIPTION
Tip DL-LB An extra chance of tipping or deflecting passes.
Quick DL-LB An extra chance of beating the pass protection and blowing the play open.
Squeeze DL-LB Consistency on pass rushing, reducing the chance of getting taken out.
Bump DB Improved chance of taking receiver out of play in bump and run
Bump WR Reduced chance of being taken out of play by bump and run
Jump WR Extra chance of catching pass in contest
Block WR On running plays, on run fakes and catches by team-mates
Lead RB Lead blocking should be a separate skill, distinct from pass blocking
Bounce RB Improved chance of a scrambling on a busted running play
Cut RB Extra rating on counters and runs into gaps.
Power RB Extra chance of running over defenders for an extra yard or two.
Routes RB Extra rating when lined up as a receiver.
Jump DB Extra chance of defending pass in contest
Ding DB Doesn't need a descriotion, does it?
Scoot WR-RB-TE Run after catch
Stick WR-RB-TE Reduced chance of dropping a catch
Safe WR-RB-TE Reduced chance of fumbling
Break WR-RB-TE Extra chance of breaking off routes for dumpoff passes
Read LB-DB Extra chance of busting a play for tackle or interception, including screens
Trap OL Ability on plays requiring trap blocks
Draw OL Ability on running plays that require pass blocking
Play Action QB Extra rating on plays with fake handoffs
Pump Fake QB Extra rating on plays with pass fakes
Check Off QB Extra rating on dumpoff plays
Throw Away QB Judgement to throw the ball away rather than take sacks

If we had any plays where running backs, receivers or tight ends had options to throw than that's a skill that would be relevant. The ability to catch would be useful for linemen if we had any tackle-eligible plays. If we add the rocket-man dive for use on the goal line, then that would need an extra skill to go with it.

Commentators like to talk about QBs being able to "look off" their intended receiver so that it's difficult for the defence to read the play, but that seems like a basic skill rather than a special one. If or when we add a system of audibles then there might be a skill for how good a QB is at reading defences and making the correct changes. It's likely that all QBs have good hands if used as pass catchers. Some QBs are useful as blockers, but most aren't, and we haven't got many plays where a blocking QB can do anything useful.

For offensive linemen the ability to block in (for a play going to the outside) and the speed and agility to get outside and block in open field are actually different skills. For receivers the ability to run routes is distinct from having good hands (on short passes) and speed (on long passes) and having good hands is important on deep balls too. Then there's receivers who can take the hits over the middle, and some that can't. And receivers who find a way to get open on broken plays and ones that don't. There are QBs and receivers who can adjust on hot reads, and ones that can't.

PLAYER PLAY SKILLS

A simple addition to the player data will be for each individual player to have his own set of plays on which he contributes extra training strengths (against this, on plays where you don't have any suitable players with that play skill your training strengths will be reduced). Since this will be a new feature it will depend on formations from the start (ie. players not on the field won't count).

The normal allocations of player play skills will relate to their other strengths (so they'll tend to get plays where their skills already apply). There is probably going to be scope for adding extra skills through coaching as well - and we'll need to decide costs and limits (and budgets) for that later.

ANTI-SKILLS

I haven't so far included any negative player skills, the things that make some players less good than they could be. I don't think it would be difficult to do: we either pair them up with positive skills all the time (so you always get an upside when there's a downside) or we simply make players cheaper when the "skill" they've got is a negative one.

NAME POSN DESCRIPTION
Lazy WR-RB Reduced rating when not in the play.
Selfish WR-RB Reduced rating when not getting stats.
Trash Any Motivates the opposition (same as leadership, only in reverse).
Dumb Any Doesn't learn, experience doesn't count (or counts less).
Flaky Any Extra chance of reductions etc.
Holdout Any Always a free agent. Always wants to be somewhere else.

I haven't thought all that hard about these, because we want to focus mainly on the good stuff, and maybe we don't want the extra complication of having some "skills" that are bad, so there's probably hours of fun still to be had picking faults in players and working out what names to call them.

SPECIAL TEAMS

At present our special teams strengths are very broad, being just kicking, punting, returning kicks and returning punts. We can split kicking into kickoffs and field goals. Goal kickers can be rated for accuracy and distance, separately, and also for how steeply they can get the kick to rise (which is actually a fundamental skill for a goal kicker, to get the kick clear of the guys trying to block it - a player could hardly be a pro kicker without it). Kickoffs could be rated for distance and accuracy, although it hardly seems worth the effort. Kickoffs aren't that interesting. Punters can be rated separtely for hang time (which makes it easier to defend the return) and distance.

We could also include a strength for holders (usually a backup quarterback or the punter) and long snappers (although they're often specialists who wouldn't be on the starting roster). Skills on the kickoff and punt return teams could include blocking skills, with matching strengths on the coverage teams. This also has the disadvantage that in real life you don't use many starters on special teams, but we do have enough backups on our rosters already that we can get by without expanding rosters any further. The "Tip" skills could also count for blocking on special teams.

Some punters and kickers can tackle, but most can't. Some are useful when scrambling on broken plays or fakes, or can catch a ball when it's thrown to them, but most can't (but these things happen so rarely that they're hardly worth including).

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