One of the reasons why I really admire our Fantasy Baseball analysts is because they have to be knowledgeable on all the mutations of their game.
In baseball there are mixed leagues and AL- and NL-only leagues, there are Rotisserie formats and Head-to-Head formats. Here in football land, we've sort of coasted on that. Sure, some leagues reward receptions and some are bigger than others but by and large the way we keep score for Fantasy Football is streamlined and the advice we offer can be digested easily that way.
But I think some Fantasy owners are getting bored with the whole seasonal snake draft and standard-scoring thing. Not that it's bad, don't get me wrong, but there are just so many more ways to doll up the Fantasy experience. Isn't the point of this game to have fun? Let's have more of it!
Below are some suggestions to changing how you and your leaguemates (they're not "friends" once the draft kicks off) play Fantasy Football. Commissioners, listen up!
Auctions over drafts
With a draft, you're wedged into specific picks and might not have a chance to get an elite player without the luck of a random order generator (or if you sucked last year). Or you might get the opportunity to take two players at a time while waiting for the rest of your league to pick up 20-plus players in between. In an auction, you have the chance to get anyone. There are also more "bargains" in an auction because owners inherently throw around their money early and leave good players to be had for a discount. If you're smart, you can build a better team via an auction than in a snake draft.
Auctions take longer than snake drafts, but putting a team together is basically half the fun of Fantasy Football anyway, so it shouldn't be considered a bad thing if you have to spend another hour tending to the construction of your roster. Auctions can be done online and in person.
Basic enhancement: Every owner gets 100 Fantasy dollars to spend on players and take turns nominating players for bid until every roster is full.
Moderate enhancement: Use real money instead of fake money. Owners must adhere to a salary floor and cap (just like NFL owners do) and spend somewhere in between. The money spent in the auction makes up the prize pool for the season.
Extreme enhancement: Auction off draft spots, then hold the corresponding draft to pick players. Basically you decide beforehand where and when you want to pick, then bid accordingly. The preparation and strategy for such a format would be a pain and it would take a while to do the auction and the draft, but it would be a very fun and potentially lucrative way to put your team together.
Win (or lose) twice in one week
Ever score enough to beat most of the other people in your league but fall short against the one guy in the league who went off for a bazillion points? Or, ever score the second-most points over the course of the season but not make the playoffs? In this concept you'll play your standard head-to-head matchup for one win but also claim a win if your score is in the top half of your league. A successful team will go 2-0 in a week with a win over one opponent and a top-half overall point total. Conversely, if you score very few points in a week and lose your head-to-head matchup, you go 0-2 for the week.
The best feature of this rule change is that good teams can lose their head-to-head matchup and still get a win for having a productive starting unit. Plus, it's conceivable that a team sitting at .500 with three weeks to play could make a playoff run. And more wins means fewer ties in the standings come the postseason. And if winning is fun, why not allow for more of it?
Basic enhancement: Everyone plays one matchup per week and aims for a high score with two wins at stake based on the above criteria.
Moderate enhancement: Extra wins and losses only come at a premium: Only the top two point getters land a bonus win and the bottom two point totalers get a loss dropped on them. Everyone in between settles for the one win or loss they get in their matchup.
Extreme enhancement: League awards bonus wins for the owner who scores the most points in a week and for the owner who wins by the largest margin. League also awards 'bonus' losses for the owner who scores the fewest points in a week and for the owner who loses by the largest margin.
Rotisserie Fantasy Football
With a hat tip to our podcast host Adam Aizer (you are listening to our helpful podcasts by now, right?!), this game changer rewards points based on your team's cumulative stats and not on the total number of Fantasy points your players gain.
Like Rotisserie, there are a number of categories owners compete to pick up the most stats in. Perhaps the most basic categories are: Passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards, turnovers, passing touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, receiving touchdowns, catches and field goals made. You still start a lineup like you normally would but it'll take all of your starter's stats to earn "wins" in each category every week. The more categories you win (by accumulating more of the statistic, or less in the case of turnovers), the better you do in your matchup. The team with the most victories gets a win for the week.
I feel like we need an example of this. Consider this matchup from Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season using actual stats:
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|219 PaYds, 1 Pass TD, 1 TO, 172 RuYds, 1 RuTD, 12 Rec, 111 ReYds, 1 ReTD, 2/2 FGs||325 PaYds, 1 Pass TD, 2 TOs, 243 RuYds, 2 RuTDs, 17 Rec, 243 ReYds, 1 ReTD, 2/2 FGs|
Of course I pick a butt-kicking as an example. Team A wins in turnovers. Team B wins in pass yards, rush yards, rush touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards. They tie in pass touchdowns, receiving touchdowns and field goals made. For those ties, each team gets half of a point, making the final score Team A: 2.5, Team B: 6.5.
Again, this example doesn't do the suggestion justice because these lineups would result in lopsided dominance no matter the scoring system. The point of this is to use cumulative stats to determine who has the best Fantasy team in a given week.
From a strategic standpoint, this style also helps out the players who do some things well but don't put up stats in all areas. Think of running backs like Andre Brown and Mike Tolbert, or receivers like Anquan Boldin or Brian Hartline, guys who can put up some numbers to help in a couple of categories. They're more valuable here, making more players attractive on Draft Day.
Basic enhancement: Use Roto scoring with simple lineups of seven or eight individual players.
Moderate enhancement: Go deeper, use three running backs, four receivers, two tight ends and a kicker. Also add a category for defensive yards allowed and defensive points allowed and let defenses not only populate those stats but also help the turnover category.
Extreme enhancement: Use individual defensive players and reward category victories to the teams with most tackles, sacks and passes defensed as well as letting the defenders help out the turnover and touchdown categories. Starting rosters would be awfully deep.
Make lineup setting matter
This is a spinoff of the previous Rotisserie model, though more straight forward: You not only choose your starters but you rank them in any order you choose. Your opponent does the same. When the lineups are revealed, you get points based solely on the players who outperform the single player your rival owner sets against him. For instance, if Adrian Peterson is your No. 1 running back and your opponent starts Steven Jackson as his No. 1 running back, you would need Peterson to outperform Jackson to get a point. The more individual matchups you win, the more points you get toward a weekly victory.
Here's an example from Week 6 of the 201 NFL season using Fantasy points:
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Go figure, I pick another butt kicking as an example. But this is pretty plain to see that Team B wins because his players were better than their specific opponents. Stafford was two points better than Romo, so that's a win; Cruz was better than Andre, that's a win, and so on. Team B wins 7-1 for the weekly victory.
It's worth noting that Team B recognized Team A was going to start Lynch as his top back and put in Green-Ellis as his top back, saving Spiller's upside to win the matchup against Turner. But as a bonus he got the win with Green-Ellis anyway.
This is the kind of roster decision-making an owner has to make before finalizing a lineup. Not only are you responsible for starting the best players on your team, but now you have to start them in the right matchups!
Basic enhancement: Use a flex, meaning you could find yourself starting a running back versus a wide receiver.
Moderate enhancement: Go with multiples at every position (two quarterbacks, three running backs, three receivers, two tight ends, two kickers, two DSTs). That forces owners to make lineup decisions at every position. This might be best for leagues with 10 or fewer owners, otherwise the talent pool will get awfully shallow.
Extreme enhancement: Make every starting spot a flex. This means owners can start quarterbacks against running backs, or tight ends against running backs. So long as every owner starts the required amount of skill-position players, they can set them in any order they so choose. Kickers and defenses should be up against each other and shouldn't be part of this.
Stats on steroids
Regardless of what your league's lineup parameters are, there are stats Fantasy owners simply aren't using. Here are some I'd eyeball in an effort to change up what might be a stale scoring system.
• Pass completions
• Completion percentage
• Completion percentage with a minimum of 10-plus pass attempts
• First downs by pass, run or catch (three separate categories)
• Quarterbacks penalized for getting sacked
• Rushing attempts
There are also rush and receiving averages you could check out, but those stats might be useless if you're already counting catches and yards. The first down stats are an interesting one to pick in lieu of a point-per-reception since most catches go for first downs as it is and running backs pick up a fair share of first downs over the course of a game.
There's also a very important stat commissioners have dropped the ball on for decades: Wins! If a player you own is on a winning NFL team, you pick up some bonus points. Why not have a five-point bonus just for players on winning NFL squads? One of the biggest complaints from Fantasy detractors is that actual NFL wins and losses don't matter in Fantasy Football. Well, now they can.
And, as always, you could create bonuses for long touchdowns, be it on the ground or through the air. Those are more random and hard to predict ... which is why they're fun for Fantasy.
K/DST as one unit
If you're bored with kickers, lump them in with DSTs. It saves a roster spot and it makes choosing a DST more intriguing, if not vitally important to get correct. If a kicker nails three field goals and some extra points and you add those stats to a good defensive unit, you'll total more points than pretty much everyone in a standard league. Likewise, if you start a K/DST that's on the wrong end of a shutout, you're in big trouble.
Most league sites don't have the option to combine the two, so it will take honesty from every owner to add/drop the appropriate kickers that play with their DST(s). Maybe there's a penalty for the unsavory owner who hogs a kicker that belongs with someone else's DST.
This one's a little wild but if you wrap your head around it you might love it: Draft a roster full of players you like and start them all. Get credit for them all. No one sits.
By going this route a league would have to adopt some serious roster requirements. Quarterbacks score more points than any other skill position and a team that drafts five starters would have a nice advantage. Scoring adjustments could always be made to combat this -- make passing touchdowns worth three or devalue passing yards. DSTs also are capable of putting up a bunch of points and are in short supply, so by forcing owners to max out at two DSTs could help level the playing field some. Ditto that for kickers, though kickers don't always put up difference-making points.
The supply of running backs, receivers and especially tight ends should make the back-half of drafts more interesting if you can start your entire team. I imagine drafts might go quite differently if you knew you started everyone.
Of course, what do owners do when the byes kick in? Adds quite a wrinkle, doesn't it?
Keeper and dynasty leagues
I would be wrong not to include something on long-term formats in here as a way to change up the typical year-to-year Fantasy experience. If you're already playing in the same league with the same people year after year, upping the stakes in terms of rules and commitment to players makes for a much more fulfilling Fantasy experience.
If you need any proof of that, consider the dynasty or keeper league owner who spent a late-round pick on Tom Brady back in 2000 and has had him rostered ever since. It goes without saying that draft picks are wasted or used wisely on young talent much sooner in these formats than in standard leagues. You'll see Montee Ball as a second-round pick in long-term leagues.
First, the difference between a "keeper" league and a "dynasty" league is that you only keep so many players in a keeper league. In a dynasty league, everyone is kept.
Keeper leagues have bylaws that establish the parameters of what it "costs" to keep a player. Some leagues force you to forfeit a high pick for each player you hold on to. Some leagues require owners to give up a draft pick equal to or slightly better than the round you initially drafted a player. Some leagues let owners keep players for no compensation. It varies from league to league, but the point is that the best players are usually undraftable from season to season, making drafting a tougher challenge with an emphasis on landing great talent as the rounds click by.
Dynasty leagues also vary when it comes to the fine print. Some dynasty leagues keep it simple and let owners decide when to let players go. Others institute a salary cap that owners must stick to being under with each player having a league salary based either on his original value when won at auction or the stats he's produced. I was once told player values were determined by the average of our auction values in our rankings -- talk about pressure!
This ties in nicely with our very first league-changing recommendation: If you decide to start-up a dynasty league, roll with an auction. Once an owner wins a player at auction he has a day to sign him to a contract for that amount for so many years. But it counts against the cap for every year the owner signs him to. This brings me to my last point on dynasty leagues: Running them is hard work!
Editor's note: Trying any of these ideas in your leagues this fall? Email us at email@example.com and let us know what you tried and how it worked out.