So in honor of the launch of the 2015 fantasy football preseason, here are some ideas to make your leagues even better this season.
Start a Keeper League
Fantasy football is the biggest reason I’ve been able to keep in touch with some of my good friends from high school. It’s because we’re in the 11th year of our keeper league. It keeps everybody involved for than one year and saves you the time of having to recruit people for a league every year. Consider starting one this year and allowing each team to keep up to a certain number of players from their roster next year. Other variations include not being able to keep a player that was drafted before the 5th round (you can determine the round), or giving up the pick you spent on that player to keep him next year. For example, I drafted Andrew Luck in the 4th round last year. I’m keeping him and will not have a 4th round pick this year.
Try a panel of three commissioners to create and enforce league rules and determine if trades are too lopsided. Majority vote among the commissioners is the ruling. All too often a league fails because some members perceive one commissioner having too much power. NFL.com and other sites allow you to change a setting to grant commissioner status to more than just the person that set up the league.
Deeper Starting Lineups
Feel like you are better than most teams in your league but always seem to have bad luck come playoff time? Add more starting lineup spots and reduce the number of bench spots. It forces managers to make tougher lineup decisions and decreases the ability of managers to stash players on their bench for the second half of the season. More than one flex position or three wide receivers is a great way to go for those that want to benefit from their fantasy knowledge.
Two Quarterback Leagues
Similar to the suggestion above, the quarterback position is deeper than maybe it has ever been in fantasy, due to how difficult it has become for defenses to defend receivers. Force the teams in your league to go 20 or 24 quarterbacks deep in the starting lineups (depending if you are a 10 or 12 team league) to see who really can draft well and find consistent QB2s.
Half Point PPR
This is my favorite scoring format. With the way the NFL is these days, standard scoring favors RBs too much and is indicative of how the game is being played in real life right now. Last year, LeSean McCoy outscored Calvin Johnson in standard scoring, despite averaging less than 4.3 ypc. That wasn’t the case though in ½ or full PPR. Receivers should be rewarded for receptions, but 1-point Points Per Reception (PPR) leagues favor the WRs a little too much, in my opinion. So, I love to split the different and award a half point for each reception. It also rewards running backs who are dual threats out of the backfield. It also makes a fun challenge to draft, since nobody can go by standard or PPR rankings.
Alternate Playoff Formats
Normal 4 and 6-team playoff formats are so vanilla, and if you’re doing an 8-team playoff, what the heck is the point of the regular season? Here are a few ideas. Make the regular season 12 weeks long and the 4-team playoff matches each two weeks long (semifinals weeks 13 and 14, finals weeks 15 and 16) to decrease the likelihood of bad luck. If you are in a 12-team league, have a 5 team playoff, with three divisions of four. If you win your division, you automatically get a bye to the week 15 semifinals. There will also be two wild card spots week 14, where the winner faces the top-seed. It rewards division champions. Lastly, make the playoffs like the real NFL playoffs, and re-seed after each round. The highest seed always plays the lowest available seed. It’s another way to reward a good regular season.
Custom & Balanced Schedules
This takes some time and can be a little tedious, but it makes for a fair regular season. The one thing I love about 14-team leagues is that it sets up perfectly for a 13-week regular season, where everybody plays each other once. If you are in a 10-team league, split into two divisions of five, and play everybody in your division twice. That creates 8 division matches and 5 intra-division matches. Again, a perfectly balanced schedule for the whole league! 12-team leagues get tough. In my keeper league, we do three divisions of four, you play everybody in your division twice, and all the other teams except one once. We use the previous year’s standings to determine that. So, the league champion doesn’t get to play the last place team the following year, etc. If you just do the default schedule, PLEASE make sure to change the primary tiebreaker to total points for the season. Head-to-head is not a fair primary tiebreaker in a league with an unbalanced schedule.
Fantasy Football is a week-to-week game. Consistency is the most important thing with your team and should be rewarded. However, I’ve seen too many cases where a team will have scored the most or second most points during the regular season but miss the playoffs. Try Hybrid Standings. Each team can get two wins each week: one for winning their match-up and one for the top-6 scoring teams from that week (if you are in a 12-team league, top-5 if you are in a 10-team league, etc.). If you lose 150-148 one week for example, it shouldn’t be a complete loss. That’s still a great week. Again, it’s another way to reward a good regular season and make sure the best teams did, in fact, make your playoffs.
The one thing that stinks about fantasy football is when most people lose interest in the league towards the end of the regular season when they are out of it. Commissioners need to combat that. Incentivize the consolation bracket. Some leagues award the #1 pick the following year to the team that wins the losers’ bracket. We all know the fun embarrassment that the loser of the consolation bracket must face if you watch the TV show “The League”.
The fact is kickers in fantasy are random from week-to-week. It seems unfair if you lose a match-up because your kicker’s team won 35-16, but your opponent had the other kicker from that game. With the next extra point rule this season, it also would really stink if people lost a match-up because of a missed extra point. Take out the kickers and add a flex to starting lineups. If you don’t want to go that radical, just make sure kickers are getting more points for kicking 50 yarders and losing points for missing FGs inside 40 yards.
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