Upgrade Your League

Matthew Phillips - May 30th, 2018

According to a 2014 report from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, there are upwards of 33 million people playing fantasy football each year. But even with that many people (that’s approximately 10% of the population of the United States), the truth is, many fantasy football leagues are set up in the exact same way, with the exact same rules. While that’s great from a standardization perspective, it also shows a lack of innovation into this fast-growing activity.

How do you improve the way fantasy football leagues are “traditionally” implemented and run?

Here are some recommendations we came up with:


  1. Publish A League “Charter” With All Bylaws


There are few things more aggravating than hearing another “General Manager” (aka another member of the league) complain that they weren’t aware of a particular rule, and were screwed out of something because of said lack of awareness.

Unfortunately, this happens quite often in nearly every fantasy football league in existence.

While many platforms that host fantasy football leagues — ESPN, Yahoo Fantasy Sports, CBS Sportline, My Fantasy League, Reality Sports Online, etc. — will have a dedicated page for your league’s rules, if you’re in a league where there are a lot of custom rules that you’ve created on your own, that information won’t be as readily available, so people might be more inclined to complain about forgetting a particular rule or the details encompassed within it.

In order to nullify those “I didn’t know that was a rule” complaints, simply document all your league bylaws, and make this information readily available to everyone in your league. There are numerous ways you can accomplish this rather easily. The simplest way to do so is by creating a document on Google Drive, and sharing the link to this document. You can restrict the rights to this document to “view only,” so that someone can’t go in and change the rules to their liking.

If you’re not a fan of Google Drive (for whatever reason), you can simply upload and share a Word document via file sharing sites like Dropbox. If you’re really feeling intrepid and formal, you can even create a webpage with all this information, and host it on free web hosting platforms like WordPress.


2. Annual “Competition Committee” Meeting


If you run a fantasy league, you’ve undoubtedly dealt with that one person — or sometimes more — who’s always complaining about a particular rule, saying how the league would be so much better with one particular rule change, or coming up with all sorts of random ideas to implement into your league. So, why not give them a chance to put their proverbial money where their mouth is?

The NFL has an 11-person competition committee, who meets each year to discuss any current rules that may need to be amended, and/or propose new rules to add to the league. Why not do the same for your league?

Schedule a meeting for all the GM’s in your league (it could even be an hour or two before your league’s fantasy draft, in a worst case scenario) with the intention of discussing and implementing any rule changes to your league each year. Give them a few weeks’ notice prior to the meeting, and then let them bring their proposals to this meeting. From there, each GM will get the chance to state their proposal, and let the other GM’s in the league debate it.

After that, hold a vote. If you have the traditional 10-team league, institute a rule where if six GM’s vote “yes,” then the rule is accepted (note: we’ve seen some leagues where a proposal requires seven “yes” votes, constituting a “supermajority”).

This way, when that one squeaky wheel keeps saying “we should do this in our league,” you’re letting the rest of the league — as well as yourself — determine whether that’s actually a good idea or not.


3. Create A Lottery System For Your Draft Order


If you play in a league with the same General Managers each year (aka a Dynasty League), few things are more frustrating than watching someone who’s had a string of injuries and/or bad luck effectively “quit” for the rest of the year, or “tank” the rest of the year with the hopes of securing a top draft pick in next year’s fantasy draft.

For this situation, why not steal a page from the NBA’s rulebook, and implement a safeguard against taking, in the form of a “Draft Lottery?”

In the NBA, the teams who miss the playoffs are given a weighted chance to secure the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft, instead of automatically handing it to the team with the worst record. For instance, the team who finishes with the most losses in the NBA is given only a 25% chance to “win” the lottery and secure the top overall pick.

The NBA does this by placing 1,000 ping pong balls in a hopper (just like they do with the traditional lottery), and the winner is whoever’s ping pong ball is drawn. So, the team with the worst final record gets 250 ping pong balls in the hopper (25%), the team with the second-worst record gets 199 ping pong balls (they’re given a 19.9% chance), the team with the third-worst record gets 138 ping pong balls (13.8% chance), and so on.

For your league, come up with your own set of percentages based on a GM’s final regular season record, and then conduct a lottery drawing that way. We’ve seen leagues put 100 pieces of paper in a hat and draw names that way, and in other cases, we’ve seen people actually build a small computer program that simulates that drawing based on the weighted percentages of where each team finishes.

Regardless of how you do it, it’s a great way to prevent that one GM in your league from deliberately losing games this year, so that they can “reset” and come back stronger next year.


4. Implement A Fantasy Football “Farm System”


Borrowing an idea from another professional sports league (Major League Baseball), give General Manager’s the chance to create their own “farm system” for future talent? In baseball, a team’s “farm system” is effectively a group of prospects of whom they own the professional rights. Those players compete and develop in the minor leagues, and once their ready, the professional team who drafted them can add that prospect to their big league roster.


How do you apply this to fantasy football? It’s pretty simple, actually. At the end of your league’s fantasy football draft, you add one more round as a “farm system” or “supplemental” draft. In that round, GM’s can “draft” a player who’s still in college. Once a GM drafts that player, he automatically owns the rights to that player, such that when that player enters the NFL draft, the GM who previously drafted him automatically gets to add him to his team.


For example: after you conduct your fantasy draft for the 2018 NFL season, in the farm system round, you can draft the rights to someone like running back Bryce Love from Stanford University or running back Damien Harris from the University of Alabama. Those guys are still in college for the 2018 football season, but when they get to the NFL (likely in 2019), they’re automatically added to the team of the GM who selected them in the 2018 fantasy draft.


This is one of our favorite ideas to recreate for the purposes of fantasy football, because it forces the GM’s in your league to not only study what’s going on at the NFL level, but at the college football level as well.


5. Fantasy Draftlympics “The Only Way To Decide Your Draft Order”


The annual Fantasy draft is one of the highlights of the fantasy football season, so why not decide the draft order in a much more exciting way? If you want to keep your league involved throughout the offseason, and you are looking to rid the ancient system of drawing names or using an online randomizer, implement Fantasy Draftlympics.

This way lets you choose events such as NCAA Bracket, PGA Masters, NFL Draft Prediction, and numerous other events ahead of your annual fantasy draft. Our league has even made a field day out of it, competing in events like Corn hole, Madden tournament, Beer Pong, and a Poker tournament all in one day.

Decide how you want to score each event and then 1st place of each event would receive total Draftlympics points based on how many league mates you have. For example, you have 10 members in your league then first place of each event would receive 10 points, 2nd place would receive 9 points, and you continue until last place of each event receives only 1 point. Winner of total points after how many events your league decides to do, will then get to decide where they would like to draft. You then move to 2nd place to decide their draft pick, and so on.

You’d be surprised how involved everyone gets watching or participating in different sports that they may have never been interested in, prior to Fantasy Draftlympics.

Maybe you’re the commissioner of your fantasy football league (i.e, the person who’s running the league), and you’re looking for new ways to make your fantasy football league more interesting. Maybe you’re interested in starting a new fantasy football league, and you’re looking to differentiate your league in a way that you can recruit people to sign up for your league, and remain interested throughout the course of the season. Regardless, there are countless ways to improve the fantasy game we love so much.