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Commissioner’s Guide to Setting Up a Fantasy Football League

Before every fantasy season,
commissioners ponder the decrees that will govern their leagues.  This guide mentions just about any
meaningfully debatable league, scoring, and award/entry setting, detailing some
that I feel more strongly about, and how setting them correctly can perfect
your league.

  First, I should mention
that this guide assumes that the commissioner wants their fantasy league to be
fun and competitive, all the while reasonably ensuring that the best all-around
fantasy managers have the best chance to win in the end (as opposed to the
rookie of the league that rarely participates and just gets really lucky when
it counts).

  To help with this, think
about these four basic rules of thumb when choosing league, scoring, and
award/entry settings:


Choose settings that encourage league participation

Choose settings that eliminate the luck factor

Choose settings that make the league fun

Choose settings that are reasonably inline with tradition fantasy football settings

As you’ll see, a few of the below
settings should differ when depending on the managers of the league.

  As well, everything here applies both to
redraft and keeper leagues, and almost everything applies to IDP leagues.


Number of Teams –

Usually, this is either 10 or

  12 teams encourage more league
participation because managers have to dig deeper into the player pool for more
unknown players, resulting in a need for more overall research.

  As well, there is a bit less importance
placed on the draft because the late round picks in a 12 team league are less
likely to pan out than the late round picks in a 10 team league.

  Don’t get me wrong, the draft is still (and
should be) the most important aspect of fantasy football, but we all know there
is a decent amount of luck involved in a good draft (the factors out of your
control are endless, most notably injury).

De-emphasizing the draft a small bit reasonably rewards those managers
in-season who pay the most attention and study the hardest.

Head-to-Head Scoring or Points Only

– When deciding this, you need to
think about the best balance between 2) and 3).

If all managers in the league are friends on almost any level, you have
to go with Head-to-Head Scoring, and I don’t even need to explain why.

  There’s nothing like going mano e mano with
your friends each week.

  However, a
Points Only league eliminates a significant amount of the luck factor, with
only the most experienced, most talented, and most diligent managers having a
chance to win.

  It’s just no where near
as fun, and you have to have a balance between fun and eliminating the luck

  I’d only suggest Points Only in
leagues where none of the managers know each other or high-stakes, ultra-expert

However, you should reward managers
for having the most overall points at the end of the season (see Awards).

Roster Positions

– This is the most difficult one
for me, mostly because I want my leagues to promote 4), whether it is for
comparative conversation, or allowing fair trash-talking with managers of
different leagues, while at the same time wanting my leagues to be notable for
eliminating more luck factor than average leagues.

  There has to be a balance.

  If you only have 3 QBs, 5 RBs, 8 WRs, 10 FLEX
positions, you’ve definitely eliminated a lot of the luck factor (for similar
reasons given in the Number of Teams entry above), but it’s incredibly out of
line with the average league, drafts would last forever, and the time you’d
need to spend to eliminate all that luck factor is probably a lot more than you
can give to any one league.

To reasonably eliminate the luck
factor here, you obviously want more QBs, WRs, RBs, TEs, and FLEX positions
than Ks and DEFs.

  The reasons are
congruent with the reasons you don’t draft Ks and DEFs until the end of your

  Ks and DEFs (especially Ks) on a
seasonal basis are the most unpredictable (part of the luck factor) positions
in fantasy football.

  However, with some
in-season analysis and week-to-week matchup exploitation, some of that
unpredictability can be eliminated.

Although sometimes I wish I could, you can’t just eliminate Ks and DEFs

  In this case, tradition
needs to trump 1), 2), or 3).


But it’s not unreasonable to add an
extra RB/WR/FLEX position to the traditional combination of 5 RB/WR/FLEX
positions (the traditional combination is usually 2 RB, 3 WR or 2 RB, 2 WR, 1

  It’s just not…, well…., very

  It would definitely promote
2), especially if it’s another FLEX.

doubt many would argue that FLEX positions decrease the luck factor; the more
options available require more study and more room for error for managers, so
there should definitely be at least one FLEX position.

  The perfect balance lies in still having a
combination of 5 RB/WR/FLEX positions, but with two being FLEXs: 1 QB, 1 RB, 2
WRs, 2 FLEX, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF and 6 BN.

Aside from having the perfect balance between 2) and 4), another interesting
thing about this combination is that you can practically run any real,
conceivable football offense (wish-bone, run-and-shoot, etc.), with the
exception of 5 wides and no TE (which you could do if you made the changed the
TE to a WR/TE FLEX, but that’s too untraditional for me).

Draft Date –

In order to promote 2) with regards
to the draft date, always draft as close to the start of the first NFL regular
season game as possible.

  This allows the
most astute managers to do more studying and reduces the risk of unexpected
(unlucky) events occurring post-fantasy draft and preseason (i.e. your top pick
gets injured in a preseason, or gets arrested).

Can’t Cut List

– This has to be the worst possible
notion in fantasy football.

  The only
reason I can see why the list option was thought of is to prevent collusion or
unfairness/league desecration by disallowing managers to drop top players all
of a sudden for no good reason.

quite ridiculous though, since every year at any given time there are plenty of
top players not on that list.

 As well,
there should always be methods for the commissioner in place to disallow this
type of activity on the fly, no matter who provides your fantasy football
league service.

I remember participating in a league
where I had a season-ending injury to a top RB, and the provider goofed by
keeping him on the list for quite a while.

However, even one hour should not be acceptable in this case.

  A season-ending injury to a top player is bad
enough luck, but not being able to drop him because of this pointless option is
even worse.

Maximum Player Acquisitions/Trades –

This is a subject
of a lot of debate, and I’m not sure why.

Implementing a maximum (one that actually would have an impact on
anything) on these moves discourages league participation because managers are
less likely to make moves on average, which results in less fun (I’m going to
assume that 1) above will always cause 3)).

The classic argument for it is that managers have to think harder about
their decisions, and although that might have some validity, I don’t think its
importance trumps 1) and 3).

  In fact,
every fantasy move is important when you think about it.

  Anytime you drop a player, most default
league settings choose to put that player on a two day waiver (which I, as well
as most people, absolutely agree with), so you have to think hard about any
move, regardless of how many you can make.

Waiver Priority

– The waiver priority should not be
determined based on the current standings each week, but should be based on the
more traditional model where the last manager to make a successful waiver claim
goes to the bottom of the priority list.

This gives every manager equal fairness when it comes to the waiver
priority, regardless of rank.

penalize a manager just because they worked harder to be at the top of the

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