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When fantasy football season rolls around, those of us who run leagues want it to be the greatest experience for their league managers.
But year after year, the same league and the same rules can start to fade. Draft day and the season are supposed to be fun, but keeping people interested from August to January isn’t always easy. Halfway through the season there are usually a handful of teams that have gotten off to a slow start and the next thing you know there are teams that aren’t as committed as you head towards the end 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 constantly changes the rules and finds ways to keep things interesting and people engaged. Although I try to do it myself in a league I manage, it can be a challenge. You have to be motivated and devote time to it. It can be difficult when everyday life is there to get in your way.
But the good news is that there are plenty of ideas that I’ve been involved in that fancy curators can use to make people want more. And even if you don’t run a league, bring some of these ideas to your commissioner. As a commissioner myself, I like the idea that people care enough to want to improve the league, and I always have an open mind.
So let’s take a look at some ways to spice up your league:
1. The draft
Why not start on draft day? It’s the biggest day of the year for your league. It’s a time when everyone is 0-0 down and has high hopes for a league season.
If you can make it work, your league should have a live draft. If not everyone is local, keep it on Zoom and do at least half of the draft without a timer. Have a few drinks and chat with your teammates. Making a good choice or a bad choice and seeing everyone’s reaction is a big part of the fun.
You can turn your live draft into a party, tailgate, or barbecue. Bring in whole families. If not everyone in your league knows each other, this is a great way for managers to familiarize themselves and can even make your league more active when it comes to trades.
Before the big day, you can even hold a draft lottery if your league is a draft format. There are many ways to do this – picking a hat, using an online randomizer, ping pong balls, etc. You can do it on Zoom a few weeks before the draft, or do it right before the draft.
As you go deeper into your live draft, why not consider turning it into a salary cap draft? I admit that I don’t have a ton of experience with salary cap projects. In fact, I made more fantasy drafts in hockey that way than in football. But this type of draft is something different and something everyone should be able to follow because all managers have a chance on any player in the roster. They just have to pay the highest salary. 4for4 has lots of information on how to run or successfully complete a salary cap project.
Apart from preliminary decisions, roster positions are also a way to turn things around and make your league different from others.
Right now, just about every restarting league follows the superflex rule, which means you can, but don’t have to, start a second quarterback week after week. This is obviously a big deal and gives an advantage to those who prioritize position in the draft. A lot of my superflex leagues limit the number of QBs you can have on your roster to two. But this is not a mandatory rule. However, limiting the number to two offers some strategy because in QB bye weeks managers can either choose to play another position in the superflex or be forced to drop one QB and take on another. Do you broadcast the position and still play a QB in the superflex every week, or do you target two stars early and take a chance on the bye weeks? Either way, getting managers thinking about a strategy keeps everyone interested and it’s fun to see which one ends up being the most successful.
You can even add an extra flex position to your lineup. I play in a 20-team league that’s just starting five flexible points with a QB, kicker, and defense. But even typical 10- and 12-team leagues can simply add a flex point to make those later-round picks more important in your draft, because you’re now starting an extra player who might normally be on your bench.
Drop the kicker and/or the defense
Although it’s not something I would do, getting rid of the kicker position is becoming more and more essential. I never liked the idea, but I’m approaching 50 and while I’m open to change, it just doesn’t seem right to get rid of the kicker. However, I will say that most people don’t like kickers, and tackling the position can be more of a pain than it’s worth during the season. I admit that I sometimes tend to take a kicker early, but for those who wait until the end and stream, having to change their kicker week can be a hassle.
3. FAB could be fabulous
One of the best decisions I made as commissioner was to switch to a free agent budget (FAB). Simply put, instead of giving the worst team the first chance to find a potential difference maker on the waiver wire each week, having a FAB system gives everyone a chance to acquire that player. In short, each team in your league is given a budget of 100, 200, or whatever you want, to tackle free agents. The highest bidder each week gets the player.
Now, it might get frustrating to see a 6-0 team end up spending more to pick up a guy who could be the league’s next big starter after injury. But the thing to keep in mind is that using FAB requires more strategy, and like I said above, you want your managers to think a bit about your league rules. Adding FAB is just another way to do it.
(If you’re new to fantasy football, FAB is only used during the waiver period. So if you’re deadlocked later in the week, your league will still allow you to sign players without spending your FAB. )
4. Everyone loves fun things
Once your rules are in place, there are endless ideas for fun things you can do in your league. It’s the little extra things that can really get people talking about your league.
Write your divisions
This idea is probably best for goalie leagues. In a six-goalie league that I do, it’s pretty clear who the better off teams are versus the worse off teams. So what this league does is allow the team that finished last in their division the previous year to essentially pick their divisional teammates. Obviously, you want to pick the weaker teams first, but believe it or not, not everyone uses this strategy. It becomes quite interesting to see the order of the teams and can even offer insight into your season. In the end, it’s just a small event that takes about 30 minutes via email to complete, but moves your league forward before the draft takes place.
Name your divisions
Another league allows division winners to name their division for the current season. Again, this is something that only takes a few minutes, but it’s something people will notice from August to January.
A few of my leagues have moved to a league trophy that the winner can keep until the following year. In each of these leagues, the trophy is pretty cool and can even have extenders if the league sticks around for a while. Another option is to set aside league money to give the winner a smaller trophy to keep. No matter which one you choose, I can tell you that I’m probably more excited about displaying a trophy than the money. So I really like this idea.
Another newer idea is to award a trophy for last place. Many of my leagues do this now and 4for4 even offers some more in-depth ideas for your league if you want too. At the very least, it keeps people motivated to not finish last. The best understated idea I’ve seen is an “I Suck at Fantasy Football” license plate cover that the loser is forced to put on their car for a year.
Apart from winners and losers, you can still have rewards for other teams. You can award the highest points, the lowest points – whatever you want. This does not necessarily mean that you have to spend money as a commissioner. You can always print something and even have an awards ceremony at the end of the year. At this point you are looking ahead to January and in many places there is not much to do or look forward to after the fantasy season and the holidays are over. So why not get your teammates together for an awards ceremony.
Hopefully these tips will help keep your fantasy league going for years to come and, more importantly, make everyone want more.
Scott Pagel is a sportswriter for Bethlehem Press and has covered Philadelphia Eagles training camp since 1997. Scott has been playing fantasy football since the 90s and contributing to 4for4 since 2005.
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