You know the drill by now. It’s August, which means regular season football is right around the corner. More importantly for some (if not most), so is fantasy football. That lovely game that makes all of us past-their-playing-days folks still feel like part of the action. More than likely you’ve been playing fantasy football for at least a few years and have at least one pretty established league that you’re in. Maybe it’s with friends, or maybe it’s with family. The bottom line is that every good league stays good for one reason; it’s open to change.
The fantasy game is ever evolving with new ideas, rules, formats, etc. If you’re a commissioner, or even just a very active league member, it’s your duty to stay on top of new trends and ideas to keep your league fresh and ahead of the curve. It’s kind of like if you said “Nah man I love my Playstation 2, what could be better than this?!” A lot could be better. A lot.
So let’s take a look at some ideas for your league. It’s most likely too late to implement these changes in 2013, but stash them away for next year, and you’ll have plenty of time to see how your league-mates feel about them.
First things first: Before you go all crazy and try to implement a ton of changes you need step back and think about your league. Is this a league with die-hard players who live for this just like you do? If so, then you’ll probably be met with little resistance. Is this a league with family members where your buddy’s girlfriend picks her players based on the team’s mascot and jersey color? May just want to stick with the rules you’ve got and not confuse her. Let’s move on…
Draft in Person
Obviously for everyone this isn’t possible, especially if your league is scattered around the country/world, but if at all possible, draft in person. The atmosphere will always be great, and you’ll have a ton of fun. If you have a Buffalo Wild Wings or a Hooters near you, go do your draft there. They give you a ton of free stuff just for showing up, which is always a good thing.
It’s unlikely that you haven’t heard of auction drafts by now. Just about anyone who has been part of one will tell you that they are much more enjoyable than your standard snake draft. If you don’t know, auctions work like this: Each player has a pre-determined budget (usually $100 or $200) that they use to bid on players. A player gets nominated for bidding and then the league members bid that player up until someone eventually wins with the highest bid. Pro-auction people will tell you this format is superior because it gives everyone an equal chance at every player, instead of just the player with the first pick in a snake draft automatically getting the best guy. If you’ve never done an auction and don’t want to just take a leap of faith with your league, go do a mock auction on one of the big sites and see if you like it. Better yet, have everyone in your league do the mock with you.
Free Agent Acquisition Budget
Along the lines of an auction is the Free Agent Acquisition Budget (or FAAB). FAAB is an alternative to waivers. The concept is that each player gets a certain amount of FAAB money at the beginning of the season to spend on free agents. During the acquisition period (typically from the time the first game starts until Tuesday or Wednesday) players place a blind bid on a free agent they want to acquire. At the end of the acquisition period, whoever placed the highest bid on that player gets him. You have to manage your money obviously, but again, it gives every player a shot at getting a free agent, not just whoever had the first waiver priority. I’m also pretty sure most of the major sites support this now.
Two Quarterback Leagues
This has become a personal favorite of mine. With the NFL being such a pass happy league, there are more quarterbacks who are relevant in fantasy, and probably close to 20 who are at least serviceable on a week-to-week basis. If you play in an 8 to 10 team league, this is a great format, because there will always be talent available. You can also make things easier on the league. Instead of making two mandatory QB roster spots, make one QB spot and one Offensive Flex where a QB, RB, WR or TE can be played.
PPR is extremely common now; in fact PPR leagues actually outnumber standard scoring leagues on most sites. Points per reception is a great idea for any league, mainly because it provides more opportunity for scoring. Not only are WR’s more valuable, but certain running backs gain an edge too, because they are great pass catchers. You’re probably already in a PPR league, but if not, I strongly encourage you to make the switch.
One thing every league should have is some sort of prize. While fantasy is fun on it’s own, adding a little incentive just makes it that much more fun. Obviously monetary payouts are always popular, but if this is a league where you know the players are going to return year after year, then get a customizable trophy. My personal recommendation is Affordable Trophies. They come with a lot of nameplates where you can engrave the winner’s name every year, and it’s fun to hand it around to the different champions.
If you have a solid league with serious players who come back every year, think about adding keepers. Set a number of players that each team can keep from their roster every year and go from there. Keepers really give owners a sense that they’re ‘building’ their team, like a real GM would for a professional team. If you want to get real serious, consider doing a Dynasty league, where teams keep their entire roster from year to year. You can still hold a rookie draft so team’s can pick up the new talent coming out of college, but for the most part the rosters stay the same.
I just heard of this concept last year from LeagueSafe.com/KFAN’s Paul Charchian and crew, and I absolutely loved it. Here’s an example of how it works. You have a dynasty league with 10 players. Each player pays $100 each year. Half of the money ($500) is paid out to winners for that season and the other half is put aside. The next season the same thing happens, and the pot keeps growing. The money that is being saved is paid out when someone wins the league TWO years in a row. So if someone doesn’t win two years in a row until year 10, the pot will have grown to $5000. Not too shabby. Here’s the kicker; after someone wins the league two years in a row, the league ends. Obviously everyone can choose to start over, but there is a brand new draft. I hope to play in this kind of league soon, because frankly I think it sounds fantastic.
That’s all for now. There’s lots of other great ideas out there for your fantasy league, just do yourself a favor and always be open to change. You’ll most likely find yourself having more fun if you are.
Eric Cooper is an MLB and NFL writer for TJRSports. When not watching sports he enjoys spending time with his wife, son and dog. It's also getting to that time of the year when he spends more time on his fantasy work than his actual work, which isn't a bad thing. You can follow him on Twitter @Eric_TJRSports.