4 Areas To Help Spice Up Your Fantasy Football League
When the fantasy football season comes around, those of us who run leagues want it to be the greatest experience for the owners in their league.
But year after year, the same old league and rules can be a drag. Draft day and the season are supposed to be fun but keeping people interested from August through January isn’t all that easy. Halfway through the season, there are usually a handful of teams who have got off to a slow start and next thing you know there are teams that are DOA as you head down the stretch of your season.
A friend of mine who runs a league I’m in does a great job of spicing things up year after year. He’s always changing rules and finding ways to keep things interesting and keep people engaged. While I try to do this myself in a league I run, it’s not always easy. You have to be motivated and put some time into it. That can be difficult when everyday life is there to get in the way.
But the good news is there are a lot of ideas I’ve been a part of that fantasy commissioners can use to keep people wanting more. And even if you don’t run a league, take some of these ideas to your commish. As a commish myself, I like the idea people care enough to want to make the league better, and I always have an open mind.
So let’s take a look at some ways to spice up your league:
Why not start with draft day? It’s the biggest day of the year for your league. It’s a time when everyone is 0-0 and has high hopes for a championship season.
I’ve said it in many other articles, but if you can make it work, your league should have a live draft. If everyone isn’t local, hold it on Zoom and at least do half the draft without a timer. Have a few drinks, and get some conversations going among league mates. Making a great pick or an awful pick and seeing everyone’s reaction is a big part of the fun. As the years go on, I get more and more turned off by your typical, online draft with a 60 or 90-second timer. I get that some leagues have to do it that way, but the more of these I do, the more I’m checking out before the draft starts.
You can make your live draft a party, a tailgate, or a cookout. Have whole families come and hang out. If not everyone in your league knows one another, it’s a great way for owners to get more familiar and may even make your league more active when it comes to trades. If you’re running a league, be sure to check out 4for4’s ways to make your live draft a better experience.
Leading up to the big day, you can even hold a draft lottery if your league is a redraft format. There are lots of ways to do this – pick out of a hat, use an online randomizer, ping pong balls, etc. You can do it on Zoom a couple of weeks leading up to the draft, or do it right before the draft.
Digging deeper into your live draft, why not think about making it a salary cap draft? I admit I don’t have a ton of experience in salary cap drafts. In fact, I’ve done more hockey fantasy drafts this way than I have football. But this type of draft is something different and something everyone should be able to get on board with as all the owners have a chance to bid on every player. They just have to pay the price. 4for4 has plenty of information on how to run or succeed in a salary cap draft.
Rosters and Scoring
After your draft is over, the focus turns to rosters and league scoring. There are tons of ways to change things up and make your league different from other, typical leagues.
Many leagues are going with tight-end premium scoring. Simply put, it’s just giving the TE position a little extra love when it comes to the scoring system. Some leagues will give TEs 1.5, or even two points for a reception, giving them a little bump and making them nearly as relevant as running backs and wide receivers. All this does is make the TE a deeper position to draft, and makes the studs even, well, studlier.
By now, just about every league that starts anew goes with the superflex rule, meaning, you can, but don’t have to, start a second quarterback week to week. That’s obviously a big deal and gives an advantage to those who prioritize the position in the draft. Many of my superflex leagues limit the numbers of QBs you can have on your roster to two. But that’s not a mandatory rule. However, limiting the number to two does offer some strategy as in QB bye weeks owners can either elect to play another position in the superflex or be forced to drop a QB and pick up another one. Do you stream the position and always play a QB in the superflex every week, or do you target two studs early and take your chances on bye weeks? Either way, making owners think about a strategy keeps everyone interested and it’s fun to see which one ends up more successful.
You can even add an additional flex position to your lineup. I play in a 20-team league that just starts five flex spots with a QB, kicker, and defense. But even typical 10- and 12-team leagues can simply add a flex spot to make those later-round picks in your draft more important as now you’re starting an extra play who may normally be on your bench.
Drop the Kicker and/or Defense
While this isn’t anything I’d do, it’s becoming more and more of a staple to just get rid of the kicker position. I’ve never liked the idea, but I’m approaching 50 and even though I’m open to changes, it just doesn’t seem right to get rid of the kicker. However, I will say most people don’t value kickers, and addressing the position can be more of a pain in the behind than it’s worth during the season. I admit, I tend to grab a kicker early at times, but for those who wait until last and stream, having to change their kicker week to week is annoying and a hassle. Getting rid of this position will at least put your league into the modern-day era.
FAAB Could Be Faabulous
One of the best decisions I’ve made as a commissioner was to move to a Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB). Simply put, instead of giving the worst team the first chance to pick up a potential stud free agent every week, having a FAAB system gives everyone a chance to acquire that player. Briefly explained, every team in your league gets a budget of 100, 200, or whatever you want it to be, to bid on free agents. The highest bidder every week gets the player.
Now maybe that will get frustrating to see a 6-0 team end up out-bidding everyone to pick up a guy who could be the next great starter in the league after an injury. But the thing to keep in mind is using FAAB does require some more strategy, and as I said above, you want your owners to think a little about the rules in your league. Adding FAAB is just another way to do that.
(If you’re new to fantasy football, FAAB is only used during the waiver period. So if you’re in a bind later in the week, your league would still allow you to pick up players without spending any of your FAAB budget.)
Everyone Likes Fun Stuff
Once your rules are in place, there are endless ideas of fun things you can do in your league. These are the little extra things that can really get people talking about your league.
Draft Your Divisions
This idea is probably better for keeper leagues. In a six-man keeper league I do, it’s pretty clear who the better-off teams are versus the lesser-off teams. So what this league does is allows the team which finished last in their division the previous year to essentially pick their division mates. Obviously, you want to pick the weaker teams first, but believe it or not, not everyone uses that strategy. It gets pretty interesting to see the order the teams go and can even offer a preview of your season. In the end, it’s just a little event that takes about 30 minutes over email to pull off but gets your league flowing before the draft takes place.
Name your Divisions
Another league allows the division winners to name their division for the current season. Again, this is something that takes just a few minutes but is something people will notice from August through January.
A couple of my leagues have moved to a league trophy the winner gets to keep until the following year. In each of these leagues, the trophy is rather nice and can even have extenders if the league stays around for a while. Another option is to set aside league money to give the winner a smaller trophy they can keep. No matter which one you choose, I can tell you I’m probably more excited to display a trophy than I am about the money. So I really like this idea.
Another newer idea is to award a trophy for last place. Several of my leagues now do this and 4for4 even offers some more in-depth ideas for your league if you want to as well. At the very least, it keeps people motivated to not finish last. The best idea I’ve seen that’s low-key is an “I Suck at Fantasy Football” license plate cover the loser is forced to put on their car for a year.
Outside of the winners and losers, you can always have awards for other teams. You can award the highest points, lowest points – anything you want. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend money as a commissioner. You can always just print something out and even have an award ceremony at the end of the year. By that point, you’re looking at January and in a lot of places, there isn’t a lot to do or look forward to after the fantasy season and the holidays are over. So, why not get your league mates together for an award ceremony.
Write a Blog
This one requires some effort on your part as a commissioner. But the good news is it can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. But writing a blog every week or so can really keep owners engaged in your league. In my blogs, I recap the previous week and then look at some key matchups for the current week. It can be as simple as that.
I also like to do a power poll, where I rank each of the teams based on my own opinions. Obviously, this can get a little edgy, so you should try to make sure this is all in fun. My poll has nothing to do with the current standings, of course. But it’s a great way to use some of your comedy skills, or maybe try to get under people’s skin a bit.
Other leagues have a “Big Dummy Award”, where it’s highlighted when a benched player costs an owner a game. I’ve also seen the “Double Up Award” when a team doubles the score of their opponent. The most important thing is to give people a closer glimpse into your league because not everyone follows every aspect.
The final thing I do in my blog is to point out the current playoff situation: who has the byes, who has maybe wrapped up a spot, who is on the bubble, who has a tough schedule down the stretch, and maybe even what they need to happen to make the playoffs. Again, it takes some work on the commissioner’s part, but it all generates interest in their league.
Hopefully, these tips will help you keep your fantasy league going for years to come, and most importantly, keep everyone wanting more.