Unit One: Getting Started
Chapter Two – Rosters
Roster setup is one of the most important decisions you can make for your league. You really need to think through how many players you will have on the roster and how many players you will have start each week. Closely linked to these decisions is what scoring system you want to go with.
Roster size is something that needs to be very carefully evaluated. One thing to keep in mind, and a recurring theme throughout these articles is the idea that fantasy sports is about the effective management of resources. And luck, but you don’t have any real control over luck.
Drafting is, in my opinion, the single most fun thing about fantasy football. A draft, however probably only lasts one day, especially if it’s a live draft. Resource management going forward lasts all season long. Keeping in mind resource management, you want to enable teams to be able to react to changes over the season, and discourage hoarding of resources. We will look at overall roster sizes, but to determine overall roster sizes we need to first look at how many starters your league will have.
Starters (or starting players) are the players you decide to play each week. Deciding who to start each week is very important, you could have a team of starts on your team, but if they are inconsistent star players, starting the wrong guys on the wrong weeks could kill your chances of winning. We’ll talk more about week-to-week player management in Unit Two, for now, just keep in mind that the number of starters is a big decision.
We’ll break the roster down by positions. I can’t possibly cover every roster permutation here, or even most of them, there are so many possible combinations involving every position on the field. Rosters in fantasy football are like proposition bets on the Super Bowl, if it can be thought of, it’ll be tried. When we go through positions, we’ll list the positions and their mandatory minimums. You can decide to do whatever you want, my suggestions are here, but please be creative, you and the other people in your league have to live with the decisions you make here, so have fun, and use my opinions as a guideline.
Note: I assume that one player cannot be on more than one team when giving you this information. Some leagues do allow a player to be on more than one roster (especially large leagues), I am sure there are good reasons for this, but it goes against just about everything I, and Superman believe in (especially the American Way part). So, one player can only be on one team.
QB – It is possible to have more than one QB start each week, but why? There are only 32 starting QBs each week, and depending on the number of teams in your league, you’re asking for one team to hoard one fantasy football’s most valuable resource, starting QBs. One QB starter per week is enough.
RB – Running backs can make or break your team’s destiny, and how you decide to handle running back starters could determine how your draft goes. If you have Flex players (to be discussed later), I believe 1-2 starting RBs is a very good number to mandate. If you don’t have a flex player, I suggest the following guidelines, based on number of teams in your league:
8 – 2 or 3 RBs
10-12 –2 RBs
14 – 1 or 2 RBs
More than 14 – 1 RB
WR – Wide receivers are the great equalizer in fantasy football, and usually they represent the greatest number of players on a roster, starting or overall. I refer to them as the great equalizer, because WRs usually have the greatest swing in production from one week to the next, RBs and QBs are steadier, usually – and again WRs usually make up the greatest part of any roster.
Think about it, 32 starting QBs on any given week. 32 starting RBs, maybe some more given the dreaded Running Back By Committee, but there are normally about 64 starting WRs on any given week, 2 per team. A lot of teams use 3 WR sets quite often, and a team’s 3rd WR may be a viable fantasy starting option. I think whatever number you decide upon; having more starting WRs than RBs is a good rule of thumb for starting rosters.
8 – 4 WRs
10-12 –3 or 4 WRs
14 – 3 WRs
More than 14 – 2 WRs
TE – “To TE or not TE, that is the question…” Bill S.
Whether or not you make your teams start tight ends is another question to consider. My experience after 10 years of being involved with fantasy football is that most leagues do mandate a starting TE, but a lot don’t.
There are three main reasons I have seen to not mandate starting TEs for a league One is that there are so few TEs that are remotely consistent producers that having a very good TE is too big an advantage. Or that the league doesn’t want to waste a roster spot on a player that is likely to produce very little. Lastly-someone in the league simply dislikes TEs. Of these 3 arguments only the second two hold weight for me personally.
Remember, resource management; TEs are another type of resource, and risking more to get a great TE is an owner’s choice. If an owner wants to risk more capital (early draft picks or auction dollars) to get a great TE, that’s his choice. It may work, it may not – at least that owner did it his way. I believe that if you have less than 14 owners in a league, there’s no good reason to not have a TE start.
Again, you may choose to not mandate TEs. If so, count them and WRs in the same class (Receiver) and add one more required starter to the WR suggestions above. If you do mandate TEs, I suggest one TE starter, no matter how big your league.
FLEX – Flex players are perhaps the best roster enhancement to become popular over the last 10 years. Flex players are a starting player that can be one of a combination of players. Flex player options are usually a RB or WR; or RB/WR/TE. Allowing flex players lets owners give their teams real personalities. Owners should choose starting flex players based on their overall roster strengths. If an owner chooses to have his flex player(s) be receivers, he’ll forsake points for rushing, because his receivers are stronger.
Allowing flex players really makes your league better. It’s that simple, allow flex players; and your owners have more choices, and choice is good; it’s what America and Burger King is all about. I suggest one or two flex players per starting roster. If you allow flex players, subtract one or two starters from your WR starters depending on how many flex players you allow.
K – Kickers will break an owner’s heart twice per season, guaranteed (unless their team goes undefeated, if so – time to find a reason to kick that owner out of the league). Once per season another team’s kicker will score a ton of points against an owner; and once per season an owner’s kicker will score next to nothing and cost that owner a game. It’s OK though; it all evens out at the end of the season, hopefully. Anyway, I don’t know why you wouldn’t have a kicker mandated as a starter, and I don’t know why you would mandate more than one kicker start per team.
D/ST – This stands for Defense/Special teams. This position consolidates all scoring for a NFL team’s defense or special teams. We’ll go in to this more next chapter, but this means getting points for sacks, fumbles, safeties, defensive touchdowns, etc. If you choose to not have IDPs (Individual Defensive Players), then you will probably want to have a D/ST position on your roster. Again, like K and TE, I suggest one D/ST no matter your league size.
IDPs – Per the above mention, this is an option where a league starts individual defensive players, and measures their stats for scores. Sacks, tackles, returns for touchdowns…all sorts of stuff. You can really go wild with IDP requirements on rosters. Unlike the offensive side of the ball, you are likely to get some statistics from all 11 players on the defensive side of the ball.
There are so many possible permutations for defensive scoring, I will barely touch the surface, but I’ll include a couple ideas here. As long as your league’s scoring system (website) supports your choices here, the sky really is the limit. These suggestions are regardless of league size.
Option One 2-4 IDPs, any position – Pretty basic here. Each team starts any defensive player and gets stats from those 2-4. This is a pretty good way to go for league’s experimenting with IDP for the first time.
Option Two 2 DL, 2 LB, 2 DB – This option requires some more active roster management from an owner and really expands your overall roster size, as we’ll discuss later. This option may be a happy medium for leagues that want to have a full offensive roster, some more challenges with IDPs and a draft that doesn’t take 7 hours (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Option Three 3-4 DL, 2-3 LB, 4-6 DB – A full complement of defensive players here. There are a lot of IDP only leagues, and often they go with this option. There’s a lot of challenges with this option, do you concentrate on sacks, fumbles and tackles? Then go with more DL. Concentrate on opportunity points such as fumbles recovered, interceptions and returns for touchdowns? Then go with 6 DB.
Total Rosters – So, we’ve covered a very few of the possible permutations for starting rosters in your fantasy league, hopefully what we covered is enough for you to get your imagination going. Fantasy sports management software has come a long way in the past couple of years, and any software worth its weight should be able to handle most of what you dream up.
How many players should you have on your roster total? Well, before we answer that, you need to think about a couple more things.
Will you have an Injured List, or ‘extra’ roster spots set aside for injured players? This means that an owner can carry an extra player or two given that a player on his roster is injured. This is an idea that was more popular a few years ago, compared to now. Many leagues just choose to carry a couple more roster spots than deal with protecting injured players. I suggest you do the same, managing ILs is too much of a hassle, in my opinion.
Also, will you impose roster rules on your owners, such as setting minimums and maximums per position? You can mandate that owners have no less than 2 or nor more than 4 QBs, for instance. Again, I advise against this (with one caveat below); this is simply another unnecessary hassle. If an owner wishes to load up on one position while leaving themselves weak at other positions, that’s their choice. Most fantasy management software does impose mins and maxes for position, if you don’t want to impose mins and maxes, just make the mins and maxes for the league software as small or big as possible.
So, setting overall roster size is pretty easy once you’ve taken into account all these factors. You want to allow owners to have enough players to cover their starting positions, without completely depleting the free agent pool. If you have a league with no IDPs, I suggest you double the number of starting players on your roster and add 0-2. So, if you have 9 starters, your overall roster size should be 18-20. Whether you choose 18,19 or 20 depends on how active you want your free agent market to be, and how long you want your draft. This is a pretty good rule of thumb for non-IDP leagues.
If you are in an IDP only league, I suggest you use the same rule of thumb. If you are in an IDP/Offensive player league; I believe you do need some more strict rules around roster management. I think it would be smart to set number of offensive players and also mandate the number of IDPs on your roster. You’re going to most likely have a very large roster size, nonetheless, and setting this simple rule will make roster management a little easier for owners and the commissioner. If you decide to do this, use the same rule of thumb above, per IDPs and offensive players.
If your league has some interesting roster rules, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with some of your variations.
In the next chapter, we review some of the myriad scoring rules…