Editors Note: There's a neat story behind this article. Mark Zigler has been a huge behind-the-scenes contributor to the PLAAY Games community, and has put together a number of awesome freebies. Among them were the 2016 FCS playoff college football teams for SECOND SEASON, offered in the December 2016 newsletter. Another PLAAY Gamer, Pete Stevens, reached out to Mark to thank him for the football teams, and to ask a couple questions about how Mark put them together. Mark then responded to Pete with this piece, and CC'd me on it just to make sure everything was correct (it was!). I then asked Mark if he would mind if I shared his article with the entire community—and Mark graciously agreed! Note that these tips were prepared specifically for creating college teams, but many of the principles are appropriate for creating pro teams as well.
Here are a few tips that have helped me in creating college football teams for SECOND SEASON Pro Football Game...
Don't fret the minutia! Trust the guide and the game engine, and have fun. One of the things I came to grips with early was not rating every one of the non-skilled players. If I were doing a full season replay I might think about rating the reserve defensive players but only if there is a material interception and sack rating difference between a starter and a reserve. Same thing with rushers and receivers who had only a couple of runs or catches in the season. Unless there's some compelling reason to include them, I'm OK leaving them off the sheets.
It's not all about numbers. You will find that there is a little "art" that goes along with the "science" of team and player ratings. Don't be afraid of that either. Sometimes you may find a running back who's per-carry average sits exactly between the two letter ratings. Or you will have 4.5 passing points to allocate to the offensive line and you are not sure which should get the half-point. What I recommend is this: think about it (not too long), land on a rating, and don't look back. For example, one thing I briefly considered was assigning a "split" rating and (borrowing from HMB) rolling a decider die to see which rating to use, higher or lower. But I ultimately decided that might be too many die rolls, and would take away from the flow of the game. At the end of the day, if you're not having fun with it, it will quickly become boring and tiresome. So I decided to scrap the split rating idea, choose a single rating that I thought fit best, and stick with it.
Use a spreadsheet to help allocate team points. For the FCS teams, I rated them relative to each other by added the offensive and defensive rushing and passing totals for all 24 teams, and used that as the source for the averages. The formulas are not complex at all, so any spreadsheet package would do. I tally all of the information and calculate the overall team points before starting with any individual team sheet.
Having rosters and depth charts helps a LOT! Pretty much every team has a good offering for this. For the depth chart, some teams provide starts and participation on a stats page, many have depth charts, and I also used game notes as a good source. This will also help with identifying 4-3 or 3-4 defenses. I also found every team has a good place to get stats, some are in .pdf, some in HTML. One other thing I do is to go to the conference pages and get the All-Conference teams. That helps when I have to decide who gets a full '+', or '-' rating, and as a contributor to rounding or finder charts.
Create team sheets in a logical sequence. When I started laying out the team sheets, I rated the positions in the following order...
Once these were done, I finished with the finders, specialty ratings, and other miscellaneous notes on the team sheet. I would suggest laying out all the skill position payers by position box (i.e. EA, EB, EC, FB, SB, QB) before rating any of them. When I did the FCS team sheets, I filled in the skill players as I went, then found about half the time I'd have to go back and move players around!
Careful with college quarterback run ratings. Some college QBs have as many (or more) rush attempts as the featured running back. The problem is, NCAA also counts sacks as rush attempts. So, I take a look at how many rushes a college QB would have, and also look at how many sacks that QB may have taken, to help determine the actual rushing grade.
Don't let finder columns drive you crazy. Remember, these are completely optional and if you are not careful could drive you to drink and leave you mumbling to yourself! For rushing finders, I would basically use the same finders for inside and outside rushes, except where there was a pretty obvious difference (like a WR that had a lot of sweeps or a fullback who had fifteen carries and scored 11 TDs, etc.). To calculate for rushers, I used this formula: (number of rushes for that back / total rush attempts for the team) x 20. That gave the number of numbers to allocate. Sometimes the number of numbers did not come out to exactly 20, so (again, "art vs. science") I would adjust accordingly and would sometimes use something like "20 = choice" to help. I used the same formula and technique for interceptions and sacks on the defense, and for kickoff and punt returns.
For receivers, I used a similar formula to calculate the number of numbers for Screen-Short-Medium passes. For long passes, I fiddled around with a formula that also took into account the average yards per reception (R Grade) to try and get the allocations slanted more towards receivers that caught longer passes.
A while back there was a 'Generic' finder chart guide posted on the site. I suggest using that as an alternative if you'd prefer not to spend the time and energy calculating finder ranges.
Use short cuts for return men. Sometimes a team will have one or two primary returners, then a bunch of others that had one or two returns each. In these cases, I would rate the top returners, then aggregate the rest and pick a player name to represent the bunch.
Use short cuts for infrequently-used skill players. Sometimes a skilled player would be listed on the team sheet but had less than one reception per game. Some had literally zero receptions during the entire season. Commonly, this was a running back, blocking tight end, fullback, or a player on a team which rarely called pass plays. I would include these players' R ratings in (parentheses) and add a "?" afterwards.
Miscellaneous other stuff, in no particular order...