The following are thoughts on how to best run a fantasy football league, although your mileage may vary. We’ve come a long way since I first started playing (in a three-team league!) back in 1995 when I calculated scoring by hand once the USA Today newspaper arrived on Tuesdays (Mark Brunell was very instructive in learning how important running QBs are in fantasy).
After hearing some of your least favorite league settings, the following are my ideal:
In general, more roster spots in fantasy leagues produce the more deserving winner, and the Superflex has become a necessary addition in football as a typically loaded quarterback position has become deeper than ever. In 1QB formats, it’s too easy to wait until the later rounds before addressing the position. In a competitive draft I did over the weekend, I waited until Round 14 to take a QB and still came away with three(!) top-15 QBs on my board. Without a Superflex, less strategy is involved, and it hinders the ability to identify sleepers at a quarterback position that’s legitimately the most important in all of sports. I like Jarrett Stidham more than most this year in fantasy, but he could outperform his ADP (average draft position) by a significant margin, and it wouldn’t matter in 1QB leagues.
START TWO TIGHT ENDS
This won’t be for everyone, and this is a new phenomenon, but the current tight end landscape is absolutely loaded with young talent possessing a ton of upside, so requiring your league to start two suddenly makes a ton of sense (another solution is to increase the PPR scoring for TEs only). If you’re worried about too many roster spots …
I’m relatively indifferent here, but given the randomness, they should probably be eliminated, and if they must be used, score field goals fractionally (a new addition on Yahoo Fantasy this year).
SALARY CAP OVER REGULAR DRAFT
There are only two types of fantasy players: Those who believe salary cap drafts are better than regular snake drafts and those who’ve never tried a salary cap draft. Their superiority becomes especially true in football, which has smaller roster spots with elite players who disproportionately contribute at the top. Live, in-person salary cap drafts are the best, but if you must draft for football, try third-round reversal (3RR), which is when the snake order is reversed after the first two rounds. I’d also suggest implementing a Kentucky Derby Style (KDS) system when it comes to determining order. Also, in an effort to keep eliminated teams from checking out, my home league punishes whoever finishes at the bottom of the standings with the last KDS preference the following draft season.
Part of the reason fantasy football is the most popular is the head-to-head nature in which fun wins out over fairness. There really is no reason for divisions (there will always be an imperfect balance in schedules), and this is absolutely a must — the final playoff spot (at minimum) should always be awarded to the overall points leader (who’s not a #1-5 seed); points scored should be every tiebreaker as well.
Moreover, the higher seeds should be able to choose their opponent as a “home-field advantage,” which in turn opens up the added bonus of potential trash talking. Truly the fairest way to determine a champion is the NFFC method that carries over a team’s weekly scoring average from the first 13 weeks and then adds point totals from Weeks 14-16.
Some sort of waiver format is a must in fantasy football, as free agency has to be shutdown Sundays at game time until after Monday Night Football. Using FAAB (free agent acquisition budget) is the far preferable method, with $1,000 better than $100.
In 2001, there was a Luis Gonzalez-for-Johnny Damon trade vetoed in my home fantasy baseball league, as we were worried the person getting Gonzo was being ripped off thanks to a fluky April. It turns out that trade really was atrociously lopsided, only for the other side, as Gonzalez finished batting .325 with 57 homers, 128 runs scored, and 142 RBI, while Damon hit nine homers and posted a .687 OPS during his lone year in Oakland. I vowed then never to veto a trade I believed to be in good faith ever again, and as Late Round QB points out, you should find a new league anyway if you suspect collusion. And obviously, in most big money leagues (especially those with an overall prize), trades simply aren’t allowed.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
I’m sure there are deeper IDP (individual defensive player) leagues out there that are great, but most require so few starters, they are just as easy (if not easier) to ignore at draft tables as team defenses (D/ST). I’d also argue IDP requires less strategy, as playing matchups isn’t as important, and from a fun standpoint, it’s also more difficult to watch individual players than it is an entire defensive unit.
There’s an easy solution to make team defenses more important and therefore enhance your fantasy playing experience, and that’s to add Yardage Against in scoring (in the smallest ranges possible) just like Points Scored Against. This will quietly make D/ST far more important (they will go earlier in drafts, and more will be necessarily hoarded) and introduces another layer of roster management as well as more strategy (matchups really matter).
If there’s one takeaway (aside from adding a Superflex) from this entire column, it’s to make fantasy defenses more important by adding Yardage Against in your scoring.
I can take-or-leave six points for passing TDs, as this does little else than devalue some running QBs. The most important aspect when it comes to scoring is to make sure it’s fractional, as every yard should count. I’ve always split the difference and used 0.5 PPR, as while I understand getting a point for a catch that goes zero yards makes no sense, non-PPR scoring overvalues touchdowns (which has its own problems), and fantasy sports simply aren’t a good representation of real value in many ways, including the vast majority of baseball categories (BA, RBI, SBs, ERA, Wins, Saves, etc).