Has your fantasy football league grown sour? Bring it back to life
The guy who invented beer probably didn’t have to buy another beer in a bar for the rest of his life. But as great as beer was, people eventually realized that they needed some different types of beers to break up the monotony, so craft beers took the world by storm. That same thinking should be applied to your fantasy football leagues.
Being in just one fantasy football league these days is rare, but now you may be starting to get bored with a handful of the same types of leagues. We came up with some new ideas and rules either to add to your current league or to start with an entirely new league. It’s like we’re introducing 21 new flavors to your fantasy football craving!
This article appears in Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere
1. Have an owner waiting list? It’s time for relegation!
If you have a successful fantasy league already, with 10 or 12 reliable owners coming back year after year with a waiting list of people hoping to join the party, then maybe it’s time to expand. Rather than expand your main league, screwing up the integrity of the draft, expand by making a “minor” league of owners (even if it’s just a six-team league). The top two teams in that minor league move up to replace the bottom two teams in the majors the next year, like European soccer relegation. Have a Super Draft Day, with both leagues doing their drafts at the same time — but force the minor-leaguers to draft at the kiddie table!
2. Schedule double-headers twice per season
You might figure, like many of us, that a 13-week fantasy regular season is too small to really establish the six best teams. Schedule two weeks of double-headers (the week before bye weeks and the week after so everyone has full rosters), preferably against division rivals. You’ll add two games to the schedule, and you’ll have two “super” weeks of action.
3. Assign team captains who get a turbo boost
Don’t you wish you had a turbo button in life, like you do for “Madden”? Run faster, drive faster, work faster! Do it for your fantasy leagues, allowing each team to name a team captain each week, allowing that player’s score to be multiplied by 150 percent. You could also make a rule that you can’t name a player as captain more than twice in a season, making it more strategical. (That’s a word!)
4. Give your league a theme
Don’t be “just another fantasy league.” Stand out from all the others — by assigning a theme to it, like Seinfeld, Mafia movies or Saturday Night Live. Change the division names accordingly, along with the name of the league’s trophy and championship game, while also asking each owner to change his team name and logo to something theme-related. There’s just something extra fantastic about having your “Soup Nazis” beat “Kramerica Industries” in the Festivus Bowl.
5. Biggest injury busts earn sandwich picks
Baseball has “sandwich picks” that are awarded to teams that lose certain free agents. Use that same line of thinking to help the owner who suffered the worst injury bust last season (Keenan Allen?) and give him a bonus pick after Round 1 and before Round 2. Get the league to vote on the biggest injury bust at the end of each regular season.
6. Allow public counteroffers for trades
You don’t get any spicier than this addition — it’s the cayenne pepper of all rule changes! Once two teams come to an agreement on a trade, the commissioner notifies all the other owners, who will then have a 24-hour window to try to beat the offers. Once that trade is accepted, it goes up for counteroffers, too. This should eliminate bad trades and dumb vetoes.
7. Time for an auction/draft hybrid system
If you’ve never done a fantasy auction, you’re missing out. But then again, there’s just something about a draft that makes life worth living — along with family and buffalo wings, of course. Have a hybrid auction/draft, where you auction off 50 players, then teams can fill their rosters with a regular draft. It will take some adjusting to, especially until you figure out the right amount of auction money everyone starts with, but it can be twice the fun!
8. Add rivalry weeks to the schedule
Each team owner usually has one natural rival in the league, whether it’s two brothers, VP against VP, husband and wife, in-laws, neighbors, etc. Have them face off in Rivalry Week, where the winner gets to change the loser’s team name and logo for the entire week after their game. Good times!
9. Weight the draft lottery toward the have-nots in keeper leagues
A team with bad keepers has a real uphill battle year after year. That tends to make owners think twice about returning the next season, which is a pain for the commissioner. Just like the NBA Draft, award the worst teams from the previous season with extra names in the hat during the draft lottery, improving their chances for landing a top-three pick.
10. Eliminate luck by awarding extra wins
One of the biggest complaints about fantasy football is that it seems like luck has a huge say in the standings. Like when a team scores the second-most points of the week, but happens to be scheduled against the highest-scoring team, and they get a loss. If you award a second “win” to the teams that score in the top half of the league that week, then the best teams get two wins, the worst teams get two losses, and the “unlucky” teams split the difference with a win and a loss that week. It’s like when your tax refund comes in the day your car engine blows.
11. Vote on awards at end of the season
In Week 14, before the fantasy playoffs begin, have all your owners vote for a handful of awards each season, including Fantasy MVP, Rookie of the Year, Sleeper Pick of the Year, Free-Agent Pickup of the Year, Fantasy Bust, Worst Move of the Year, and most important, Fantasy Owner of the Year. This helps get everyone involved, and some non-playoff guys might even get an award or two. Teams can’t vote for themselves, though! Also, keep owner records, year after year, including the award winners and career win/loss records (overall and against specific owners). This is great for Draft Day bragging rights!
12. All vs. one scheduling
Wouldn’t the NFL be better if every team played every other team at least once? Obviously, it’s impossible for that to work, but that’s not the case in fantasy. Have each team face off against the other 11 teams in the league — every week! That will truly determine the six best teams that should be in the playoffs — which are then just Head-to-Head contests.
13. Make two college players keeper eligible
For keeper leagues, one way to keep the bad teams interested as the season wears down is to have the two worst teams choose a college football player as a possible keeper. This makes those owners who might bail have a reason to return, and it makes for some interesting picks. For instance, some great college keepers in recent years would have been Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. And some great busts would have been Justin Blackmon, Trent Richardson and Montee Ball. Two intriguing picks for your 2017 draft would be USC quarterback Sam Darnold and LSU running back Derrius Guice.
14. Week 3 free-agent drafts will change your life!
Rather than allow teams to make free-agent pickups in the first two weeks of the season, hold a special Week 3 Free-Agent Draft, with the worst team getting the first pick in each round. Just think over the past few seasons how players like Dak Prescott (2016), Justin Forsett (2014) and Odell Beckham Jr. (2014) would have helped push some 0–2 teams into contention. It’s a great reason to get the league together again, too.
15. Bonus TD awarded for best set of backups per game
Eliminate the frustration of having a player go off on your bench and not help your team. If your backup players score more points than your opponent’s backup players, then your final score that week gets a bonus six points tacked on. NFL teams use their backup players, so why shouldn’t you? It will change the makeup of your roster, too.
16. Invent interesting draft pick lottery ideas
Deciding the fantasy draft order might be the most important event outside of the actual fantasy draft, so why not make it a bigger deal than just pulling numbers out of a hat? Set up some competitions, like miniature golf or skee ball. Better yet, make the competitions a little more random and have everyone pick a NASCAR driver for an upcoming race, or a horse in the Belmont Stakes held in June. A favorite I’ve heard recently is putting draft pick numbers on the bottom of cups, shuffling them around and having owners play beer pong to decide their draft pick’s fate.
17. Draft your draft picks
You could also make the draft lottery a little more strategic. Have owners draft where in the first round they’d like to draft. Their lottery number is the order in which they pick their picks. It’s always interesting to see at which point someone prefers the 12th or 11th pick over the seventh, eighth or ninth picks.
18. Week 17 becomes DFS Pro Bowl Week!
Since Week 17 is generally regarded as a throwaway week in fantasy — much like how the Pro Bowl is viewed in the real NFL — why not have a DFS Pro Bowl Week, inviting your entire league to play a Daily Fantasy tournament for that final Sunday. Take advantage of those backups to the stars that sit for the NFL Playoffs! Maybe even give each team the option of locking in one player from their year-long fantasy team that no one else can use that week.
19. Give kickers the boot
Until you’ve played in a league that has already eliminated the kicker position from lineups, you’ll never realize how nice it is to not have to deal with a kicker on a bye week when six NFL teams are on byes.
20. Award highest-scoring non-playoff team
Rather than just have the six teams with the best records make the playoffs, award teams with the top five records, but then save that sixth spot for the highest-scoring team outside of those top five. It could still be the team with the sixth-best record, but this is a way to make sure a great team with a tough schedule doesn’t get screwed.
21. Hold a Super-Duper Bowl every 4 years
Each season, have teams put in an extra 25 percent of the entry fee, which then goes into a pool that pays out to the champion four years from now — in the Super-Duper Bowl! This is especially great for keeper leagues, which then adds some strategy on which players they hold over aiming for a Year-4 double payout!