Ways to Spice Up and Improve Your League

Jul 03, 2024
Ways to Spice Up and Improve Your League

If you run your own fantasy football league, this is probably the time of year when you realize the season is just around the corner.

Your top thoughts are probably about picking a draft day and making sure you have enough teams to fill the league.

But if you’ve run your league for a long time, and you have pretty much the same returning managers year after year, it may have crossed your mind that it’s time to spice things up to keep managers interested. The season runs from August until January, and that’s a long time to keep anyone interested in anything. The goal is to keep everyone engaged all year, whether their team starts 7-0 or 0-7.

It’s a daunting task, or it can at least feel that way.

The good news is there are tons of ideas out there to keep your league churning out champions for years to come and to keep everyone happy and dialed in while doing so.

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. Sometimes, we vote on things, and sometimes, we have no choice, but he’s found the right way to mix things in and out of the rules. 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.

So, let’s take a look at some ways to spice up your league:

The Draft

The draft is probably the easiest spot to change things up, and it’s a great place to start. After all, 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, have them go 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 an excellent 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 draft day, you can 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, 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.

Find the Right Managers

This seems pretty easy.

You want managers who are going to be engaged and want to play the fantasy football season from start to finish, no matter what their record. You don’t want someone who falls for a terrible trade to your league’s Evil Empire or disappears after starting 0-5. A few years ago, the commissioner of a league I’m in just kind of wiped out half of the managers and replaced those with a whole new set. These were his friends...

To this day, I never really asked how he was able to do this, or even why, but my conclusion was he wanted to get what he deemed to be his ideal set of managers. And to be honest, the league is stronger than ever.

Sometimes finding someone who never played fantasy football before isn’t necessarily someone to stay away from. I’ve found those managers really want to learn and get better and often stay connected from start to finish.

If your league is a bunch of old farts like mine, we’ve started to incorporate our kids. Last year, my kids joined the league I’ve run since the 1990s, and they were just 11 years old. They wanted to join about two years before I let them. Again, they study and research more than the adults in my league, so kids who are into it may be good options as well.

Overall, having good, responsible managers is half the battle when it comes to running a league.

Listen to those Managers

Once you have the right set of managers in place, a good commish will take into consideration any ideas they have for the future of the league. And, if you read this article and you don’t run your own league, suggesting any ideas you like to your commish may just make him happy.

As a commish, I’m always putting out there that I’m open to ideas to change things for the better, but it doesn’t mean you have to accept every idea you hear. In some leagues, it’s pretty obvious they are there to have fun on draft day, be competitive, and win, and maybe talk trash and not care what the rules are.

In the end, though, you at least want to give your owners the feeling they have a say in the rules, especially if you don't really know some of the managers as well as others.

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.

TE scoring

Many leagues are going with tightend 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, but can also work for re-draft 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 allow the team that 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 in which the teams go, and it 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. 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, or even the scores of other games.

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.

Do I See IDP?

I've never had any desire to play in fantasy leagues that used IDP (Individual Defensive Player(s)). And until last year, I never did. But I got talked into joining a dynasty league that featured IDPs. This particular league starts seven defensive players.

Talk about jumping right into the fire...

While I wasn't a big fan and feared I didn't know what I was doing, I quickly got addicted to scouting defensive players. So much so, I kind of neglected my offense a bit. But the good news is I built myself a pretty nice, young defense last season that I'm kind of excited about. And during this year's rookie draft, I was able to focus completely on offense.

I was always intimated by IDP, but you shouldn't be. 4for4 has plenty of IDP information, and our friends at Dynasty League Football have all the IDP information you need if you're in a dynasty league. It may not be for you and your league, but if you're looking for a change of pace, it could be an option.

The point of all this is, as stubborn as someone like me is, if I can get into IDP formats, anyone can. So maybe give it a try, it may just add some more juice to your league.

Make it a Keeper League

This could be a tough call because I find a lot of my leagues have mixed feelings about keepers. This may be a case where you really have to listen to the rest of your league when it comes to this decision.

I think having keepers is one of the biggest fears for managers who may not follow football closely, or just may be new to fantasy football, or may just worry about not having good players. The fear, I think, is not having keepers up to par with the rest of the league sets them back from the very start, even before the season begins. Some owners feel they have to go years rebuilding and not being in the money while still paying league fees. It’s a fine line, so you need managers who understand the process.

The good news is you can have a varying amount of keepers. Having a couple of keepers is probably the best way to go, at least to start. Keeping one or two players in a 10-team league should allow managers to come up with a similar set of keepers, talent-wise. It could even open the door to more league activity and trades. This could be just enough change to keep people interested in your league.

And as far as keepers go, you can always make rules to support the keeper rule. For instance, you can only keep players for a year or two before they have to go back into the draft. You can make it so no players taken in the first round or even the first two rounds can be kept any year. There are also ways to keep players based on where they were drafted the previous year, or, you have to lose a pick in order to keep a player. Personally, I like to reward good, late-round drafting or free-agent pickups during the season and allow those players to be kept.

Make it a Dynasty League

As you may have read above, a change to a dynasty league could add interest, but it would even be a tougher call to make vs. just keeping a couple of guys. For a dynasty league, it has to be something everyone is on board with for the long haul. And the fear of owners not having quality keepers is even more of a concern in a dynasty league. But if you're looking to keep your league engaged, a dynasty league could be a way to go. Or maybe you add it as a secondary league.

If you and your friends prefer just one fantasy league a year, then maybe a dynasty league isn't for your group; it's probably better suited for those who do multiple leagues a year.

But, a dynasty league will keep you more active more of the year. The NFL Draft is a huge deal, and then your rookie draft may take place a few weeks later. Having a draft in spring is a great jump start to the season, as by the time your rookie prep and draft are over, it's just about time for camps to get started. Dynasty leagues keep the football talk going just about all season. There's always a reason to talk about your league and discuss trades, or rookies, or draft order. You're either in contention or rebuilding, so there is always a reason to trade.

If you're looking for a year-round option, this could be your big move. Check out Dynasty League Football for everything dynasty-related.

Scheduling Changes

Doing some things with your schedule is also a way to improve your league. One thing I am against is a —now— Week 18 finals, or using Week 18, in any way as part of the finals (i.e. even a combined Week 17 and 18 final). One way to keep people interested all 18 weeks is to just set some money aside from league fees and offer money to the highest point-getter in Week 18. I’m in a few leagues that use Week 18 as a final, and while I never mind a challenge, this is a wild card that can really throw off fantasy lineups as NFL teams rest players for the playoffs.

Another idea is a rivalry week. In the two leagues I run, I like to group the standings with managers who may be closer to one another, maybe went to school together, or are related. For example, I have a father-son connection and a brother connection, and I like to keep them in the same division. In a 10-team league, they meet twice a season, and things can get interesting with public trash talk. It’s just another way to keep those in your league having fun, and it just makes your league better in the end.

As you can see, there are endless ideas to improve your league, and staying on top of things will keep people coming back for more. Once you have improved your league, you’ll want to keep those managers engaged as well, and I’ve written an article on how to do just that.

There are tons of ideas in this article and probably still many more we didn’t even get into. Hopefully there is something here you can use or even sparks an idea for a different direction.

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