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01 Aug 2005

Building a Better Fantasy League

Guest Column by Dan Lewis

The big news came across the wire five minutes past midnight on March 17th -- the report that made me jump out of my chair and yell "OH... YEAH!" like the Kool-Aid guy. No, you probably did not see it as a headline on ESPN.com or Yahoo! Sports. Unless you read the AP wire itself -- hi, my name is Dan, and I'm a dork -- you would have missed it.

Baltimore running back Chester Taylor signed a one-year, $3 million offer sheet with the Browns.

March 17th, 12:05 A.M. The first game of the NCAA men's basketball tournament was just over twelve hours away. Spring training was already in full swing. And here I was, excited over a back-up running back signing a contract -- no, a mere offer sheet -- with another team.

Your fantasy football league cannot claim to cause that.

Welcome to the next generation of fantasy football.

Life Is Just a Fantasy

Your league probably resembles the rules found on, say, Yahoo Sports. Twelve team league, 15-player rosters. You start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, and a defense. Your schedule is head-to-head, running from Week One until Week 14. The top four teams make the playoffs, with the Fantasy Super Bowl played in Week 16, with Week 17 idle.

Sure, you may have your peculiarities, be it 10 teams; four points for thrown touchdowns or a flat three for a field goal; you start only two wide receivers; top six teams make the playoffs; etc. But the gist of the rules is the same.

And most of them have to go.

Most. You should keep your scoring system. You probably expected me to advocate for using DVOA or DPAR in your fantasy league, adding a big slice of accuracy to an otherwise inaccurate game. Not happening. One of the great allures of fantasy football is the instant gratification one gets when his quarterback and wide receiver hook up for a touchdown. When Tom Brady hits Outsider fave Deion Branch for a score, I know that I just got a quick 12 points. Yahtzee! Break out a calculator to figure out how many DPAR points I got? Uhh ... no thanks.

A scoring system should be simple. Six points for a touchdown, fine. Four points for a TD tossed, fine. Want to penalize Ahman Green for fumbilitis? Whatever you fancy. Add in some bonus points for yards rushed, passes caught, yards from scrimmage, etc., that's fine too. Makes reading the box score fun.

So, keep your scoring system or tweak it if you would like. Just remember the primary goal of fantasy football -- have fun.

All your other rules go buh-bye.

First, let us develop a mantra. Make sure you repeat it five or six times. Ready?

This is not real.

Whenever you put in a rule because you want your game to parallel the one going on the field, you have violated the mantra. This game is fantasy football. It is, as my wife calls it, fake football, and she is right. F-a-k-e fake. Trying to make it consistent with reality is impossible and, more importantly, foolish. This is not real.

Therefore, the first rule to go is the head-to-head format.

The real problem with this sadly typical style is that the results -- a simply W or L -- do not reflect skill. When assembling your team, your goal is simply to amass as many points as possible. But when you use a head-to-head system, it changes; suddenly, the goal is to get at least one point more than the other guy.

True, this is how real football works -- a last second field goal to edge your opponent is as much a win as a 27-point blowout. But, remember our mantra! Yes, the NFL uses a head-to-head format, but in that universe, one has the ability to develop a team suited toward that format. You, the fantasy owner, cannot do that. No matter how hard you try, you cannot make your fantasy league into the real deal.

Even worse, by employing a head-to-head system, you add a significant degree of luck to your game. We have all been in the situation where our team puts up the second or third most points for the week -- but happens to face one of the few teams that put up slightly more. Meanwhile, some team that barely breaks 40 points wins because he was matched up against the Kyle Boller/Fred Taylor powerhouse.


There is another way. No, I'm not advocating for Rotisserie Football; if anything, that style causes the same problem that using a DPAR-based league would. But more importantly -- and as you will see later -- RotoFootball does not work well with the rest of my suggested framework.

Employ a fantasy point system. Add up the points like you would normally -- six for a TD, four for 100 yards passing, whatever. Whomever gets the most over a stated time period wins.

The "time period" thing -- that is a bit tricky..

The two obvious choices -- one week or the whole season -- both suffer from the same problem. After a few weeks, teams start to fall out of competition. Do you want the bad teams to lose interest after week nine? Hardly. I advocate strongly for a keeper league, but that simply replaces the dead-team problem with an obvious second one: talent dumps.

In any event, these problems are easily avoided by using a makeshift "quarter" system like my current league uses. Weeks 1 through 3 are the first quarter. Weeks 4-7 are the second, 8-10 the third, and 11 to 13 the fourth. Each quarter winner advances to a single elimination playoff. Yes, there is one four-week quarter, but that is unavoidable. (Because the NFL season is 17 weeks, and because my current league opts to reserve weeks 14-15 and 16-17 for the playoffs and league championship, respectively, we end up orphaned week, and append it to the second quarter.)

Say you have 10 teams in your league. All 10 would compete for the quarter 1 ("Q1") title. The winner would advance to the playoffs to face the Q2 winner. The other nine teams would have another three chances to advance to the playoffs. The nicest part is that, after week 10, the season starts anew. Even if a team was dead last for each of the first 10 weeks, it can rally in weeks 11 to 13 and qualify for the playoffs. What other rules system can claim that?

You may think this disadvantages the truly superior teams -- say, the Q1 winner. Hardly. He can win other quarters as well, to ease his path to a title. If he wins, say, quarters 1, 2, and 3, he effectively has earned two shots at the championship.

By removing the head-to-head nonsense, we reduce the luck factor. By starting anew four times in the same season, we give all teams a chance to compete even as the season is winding down. Finally, we reward the elite teams by easing their path to the chalice. These are the hallmarks of good rules design.

Start Me Up

At one point last year, Ron Dayne, officially speaking, "started" for the Giants. On their first play from scrimmage, he -- not Tiki Barber -- was in the backfield. Fictionalizing a bit -- okay, a lot -- let us postulate that Tim Carter was in and Amani Toomer was sitting next to Tiki on the bench; that Kurt Warner was in at QB; and that for some reason Jeremy Shockey was also sitting this one out.

After the first play, Tiki comes in. Amani's hammy feels better -- Carter goes back to three-receiver duties. On the first passing down, Shockey comes in for good. And when the Giants fall behind 17-0 after the first quarter, Coughlin gives the ball to Eli.

If this were a fantasy game, the Fantasy Giants starters -- Dayne, Warner, Carter, and whoever the blocking tight end is -- would put up a paltry score. Luckily for the Giants (not that it mattered in '04), they are not a fantasy team.

Still, it seems silly that your fantasy team only gets points from its starters.

My guess is that the whole "name your starters" system is an anachronism. Once upon a time, six to 12 guys, probably armed with pen, paper, stats, and beer, decided "Hey, that whole fantasy baseball thing we're doing? Let's do it for football."

But applying one sport's framework to the other does not work. Tapping certain people as starters is pretty obvious if you are playing baseball, as reserves (with apologies to Dave Roberts) typically do not make much impact on the game. This is not true in football, as evidenced by three-receiver sets, the Minnesota Vikings backfield, and any quarterback in the Denny Green regime.

As historical error is not a good reason for your league to use a rule, get rid of it. Like the above section, there are a number of other ideas. I know of one league whose bench players earn points at a 50% discount compared to starters. Another allows you to use your bench for the purposes of breaking ties. But it is rare to see a league that does what, ideally, one should: ignore the "starter" nomenclature entirely.

There are practical reasons for doing this. In one keeper league last year, I inherited a team featuring (for lack of a better word) Jeff Garcia. Realizing he was a one-year solution, I drafted Carson Palmer. When Garcia went down, I luckily was unperturbed, having grabbed Kerry Collins earlier on.

But in earlier weeks, I was left with a Faustian choice. I could read my tea leaves, sacrifice a virgin, or break out the tarot cards, but choosing the right quarterback each week was impossible. Sure, I could go with what appeared to be the best matchup, but even that is unreliable. My best bet was to go with my gut and hope for the best.

This whole "matchup" shtick adds another layer of luck that skill games (such as, hey, fantasy football!) should avoid. So, do not employ it. Start virtually everyone.

At any given point in time, my long-standing keeper-league team has anywhere from two-thirds to four-fifths of its roster active. No, not all the players are eligible to earn points. It is much more elegant than that. On a weekly basis, my top scoring kicker and quarterback each start -- top scoring based on that week's results. My top two running backs and wide receivers also start. (Tight ends count as wide receivers and defenses are not used.) In the end, six players earn points for me.

Here is an example:

In the final week of our regular season, I had three kickers -- Phil Dawson, Lawrence Tynes, and Adam Vinatieri -- active. Dawson kicked a lone extra point, earning my team one point. Vinny had a much better game, to the tune of six points. But Tynes stole the show with a big fat 10.

As my league uses one slot for kicker, I earned ten points -- the ten by Tynes. Vinny's and Dawson's went to waste. Of course, the week before, it was Dawson who ended up as my "starter" (12 points to Vinny's 10 and Tynes' five); and one week before that, Vinny's nine bested Larry (seven) and Phil (one). Over a three-week period, I ended up with 31 points. Had I been forced to name starters, the most points I could have earned is that 31. But the fewest is a ridiculous seven. The swing there is immense and must be avoided.

One could argue that the odds of me getting only seven points is slim to none, as I would have almost certainly started Vinatieri each of the three weeks. True -- if forced to, I probably would have, and he would have earned a robust 25 points. But those of you who bask in this realization are missing the other big advantage of this system: In this league -- nine teams -- my third-string kicker actually has value. This goes against the conventional wisdom set by the run-of-the-mill leagues, wherein your top kicker is, by and large, a fungible asset. It is almost impossible to imagine a situation in the standard league format where you would be scrambling to draft a kicker; if anything, you would pick up a guy like Tynes or Dawson from the waiver wire. In my suggested format, every player counts.

Does Size Matter?

By now, you have probably figured out that our roster sizes are a bit bigger than you would expect. First, you know that lackluster fantasy players like Phil Dawson and Chester Taylor are on my roster. Second, you know that I activated three kickers for one kicker spot, and, extrapolating that three-to-one ratio for my six point-earning slots, I have to start around 18 players. (Actually, it's 20.) Finally, I said that I start the majority of my lineup -- as little as two-thirds -- so a good guess would be a roster size of about 27.

That's fine. We'll stick with it, even though my league actually has roster sizes averaging 29. Anywhere in that ballpark is fine. But aim big. Why?

To start, as a friend of mine said, rationalizing his day-too-early selection of Barry Bonds: "[Fantasy] baseball is better than football -- because one injury does not mean the end to my season." Under typical rules, he is right. Anyone who banked on Michael Vick in '03, only to lose him to a leg injury, knows the feeling of watching your season flush down the bowl. Countering that is reason enough for exceptionally deep rosters. But it is not the best reason.

The primary reason for such a deep roster is because there are a lot of fantasy-relevant players out there, especially when your peak performer is the one earning you points. Every starting quarterback is worthy of a roster spot. All 32 kickers are too. The Warrick Dunn/T.J. Duckett backfield becomes two players of value instead of the typical zero. Many teams have three (or more!) wide receivers worth taking. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that there are an absurd 200 players with value in this format, and that does not include prospects or backups (both of which tend to be owned, for good but different reasons).

What this does is make for a very active and interesting trade marketplace. Yes, it is just as difficult to trade a guy like Peyton Manning or LaDanian Tomlinson in this format as in the standard. (Then again, LT was traded before last year, so it can be done.) But in standard leagues, there are few opportunities to truly improve your team via trade -- giving up, say, Kevan Barlow all but requires getting a guy like Chris Brown in return. And that is not much of a deal.

Here is a list of some of the lesser players who were traded in my league last year:

Josh Reed, Keary Colbert, David Boston, Josh McCown, Rex Grossman, Drew Henson, Greg Jones, William Green, Matt Stover, Maurice Morris, Ernest Wilford, Dominic Rhodes, Eddie George, Troy Hambrick, and Justin Gage.

The majority of leagues out there would look at that list and wonder who those guys are and what they are doing on fantasy teams. We wonder what type of fantasy owner reacts that way -- good ones see a list like that and can understand that each of these players, at one point or another, rang of opportunity. This layer of complexity adds more skill to a game that thrives on it.

Token Drafts

No one in my league entered the season with Reuben Droughns on his roster. In a league this deep, the demand for him was high -- very high. How does one determine who gets him?

Because of how many players are already taken when one enters the season -- in our case, 175 players are already spoken for -- there are going to be few free agents worth taking throughout the year. With that in mind, we (mostly randomly) decided that each player should get four free-agent tokens that are good throughout the year: they are awarded after our pre-season draft (discussed later) and expire before the Super Bowl.

The tokens work as such: After the pre-season draft, any players still left unclaimed become free agents. Using the pre-season draft order, we run a free-agent draft. Any owner with at least one free-agent token can, when it is his turn to pick, spend a token and select a player. If an owner lacks a token or does not wish to select someone, he passes. When everyone has passed at least once, the draft ends. Between the draft and the beginning of the first quarter of our season, it is a free-for-all, which has thankfully not turned into chaos.

The process repeats itself after every quarter, with the recently-completed quarter's results used as the draft order (worst to first). In Droughns' case, the team that finished last in Q1 selected him with the first pick in the subsequent free-agent draft -- and, being an expansion team with little chance of success in the current season, promptly traded him to the team that won that quarter for Dominic Rhodes (see above) and a draft pick.

Note that when adding a player to your roster, you do not cut someone -- roster sizes are fungible. There is simply no need -- in effect, you are dropping your token instead. (Yes, that means there is no maximum roster size -- in fact, rosters in my league ranged from 27-31 players at the close of last year.) Therefore, it follows that free-agent tokens are tradable commodities like anything else. Once again, we have the trend of making everything into a bargaining chip. He who can make the best deal is rewarded properly.

Keepin' it Real

As adding as many types of trading chips seems to be in vogue in this piece, it should surprise no one that I am a strong advocate for making any league into a keeper league. We already have the ability to trade current assets (players) and nearly-realized assets (free-agent tokens) -- it only makes sense that one should be able to deal away (or for) future assets as well. In this case, prospects and draft picks.

It goes without saying that keeper leagues are difficult to pull off -- mostly because you need a large number of dedicated owners. This format makes it somewhat easier, with credit going to the high number of players on each roster. First and foremost, this format cannot support 14 or even 12 owners -- the range seems to be eight to 10. So you do not end up seeking out a lot of guys to fill your spots, and even more importantly, the marginally interested need not apply. Secondly, because of the (at least heretofore) uniqueness of the format, and certainly the possibilities a 29-player keeper league opens up, attracting a new owner to replace a leaving one is not very difficult.

How to set up the keeper aspect is more the issue. In order to keep guys like Rex Grossman and even Dominic Rhodes relevant, one needs to ensure that a lot of the 30-man roster is carried over into the next year. In practice, we have found that about 70% seems right. The breakdown we use? We keep up to 22 players for the next season. We then have a three-plus round pre-season draft. Finally, we have the four free-agent tokens previously discussed. (That is where the number 29 comes from.)

If you cut down to fewer than 22, you get an extra pick at the end of the draft for every cut deeper than the 22nd. For example, before the 2000 season, I somehow managed to cut my roster to 17 players -- and received five picks at the end of the draft (eight rounds total). Whether or not you want to employ that rule is to taste -- in our experience, it works well; then again we have never tried the hard-line "cut to exactly 22" stance.

The draft order is determined by looking at each team's average finish in the year prior, with the playoff teams and eventual champion picking at the end. If one team (eight-team league) finishes in fifth, sixth, fifth, and eighth in quarters one through four, respectively, that team had an average finish of sixth. Assuming that was the worst score, that team would pick first in each round of the draft.

The draft itself occurs right before the regular season. Oftentimes, there are a few players who fell through the cracks the previous year and of course the recently cut talent (or lack thereof) is out there for the picking. But most importantly, this is the first time recently drafted (NFL draft) rookies are eligible for the league. You can picture some of the wild trades that occur because of this -- a subpar team that owns a high draft pick and has a guy like Curtis Martin. It could rebuild its QB corps by dealing Martin for another #1 and taking both Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers if the fates may have it. The amount of flexibility is incredible.

Meanwhile, Back to Chester

And with that, it starts all over again. We started this league as middle schoolers. In August, it enters its 12th year. In 1994, eight of us sat around and enclosed porch and drafted huge rosters -- 25 players apiece. Two of the original owners have left, but they were both replaced without much difficulty. One of those replacement owners also left; he was replaced with relative ease. Last year, we expanded to nine.

My team's Achilles' heel is its running game. Some teams have duos or trios of bonafide workhorses like Priest Holmes/Jamal Lewis/Ahman Green or Deuce McAllister/LT/Clinton Portis. My squad is headlined by Rudi Johnson with a supporting cast of Kevin Jones, Chris Brown, and, er, DeShaun Foster; my desire for a fifth potential starter is unmatched. So, when Chester Taylor -- my mid-season free-agent token acquisition -- was signed to an offer sheet on a team where maybe, just maybe, he would have a chance to start, well, you can understand why I was excited.

Don't you wish you were, too?

Dan Lewis is a Manhattan-based attorney and contributor to Pro Football Prospectus 2005.

Posted by: Guest on 01 Aug 2005

72 comments, Last at 09 Aug 2005, 4:20pm by BknGen


by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 12:27pm

If you print this article, right smack in the middle of page 4 is the word 'fungible'.

Other than that, I enjoyed it very much. Interesting idea.

by Ray (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 1:08pm

Sounds like fun. Too bad I don't have enough enthusiastic friends to give it a try.

by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 1:42pm

We get two uses of "fungible" here - last paragraphs of "Start Me Up" and "Token Drafts". It's a very nice word, but once was plenty.

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 1:49pm

It's a large article and wasn't written in one sitting. Plus, Word doesn't have a "find repeat uses of rare words" feature.


by ElAngelo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 1:51pm

A very neat idea, with only two major problems that I see:

(1) While it's correct in noting that you want to keep scoring easy because then you know what you're rooting for when you're watching a game, if you have a roster situation where you have next to no idea which players will, in the end, accumulate points for you, you're kinda back to square one.

(2) Anything that results in keeping 75% of your roster is a bit much I think; I would think you'd rather have owners make tough decisions each year, and give the draft some value. Mainly because the draft is the most fun part.

by Rhys (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 2:00pm

I think many people reading this site, including me (I typically lurk), might have Ray's problem. I for one wouldnt mind trying something like this online if I didn't have to organize it :P. (Though it'd probably have to be a no-money league, which might turn some people off).

by bartleby (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 2:00pm

Our fantasy website (CBS Sportsline) uses the head-to-head format. How can we get the online fantasy leagues to adapt to the rules in this article?

by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 2:26pm

Don't sweat it, Dan. My comment (and I'm sure #3 as well) were with tongue in cheek. 'Fungible' is a popular word on this site. Some of us wish it were not. That's all.

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:02pm

Re: 5
The first point is really a non-issue, for two reasons. One, you'll likely only have one to four games on TV on any given weekend. Therefore, you root for your players that you can watch. :) If you're following online, you can root for all of your players with ease. Trust me when I say this, because my Sundays basically consist of a click-fest from game to game.

Two, while I understand that you are not sure which of your players to root for, the answer is to root for all of them. Better yet, you don't hit that weird situation where you bench Carson Palmer in favor of Marc Bulger, only to see Palmer throw 400 yards and 3 TDs while Bulger is giving the opposing DBs tickets to Hawaii.

As for your second point, I hardly believe that you'd claim that the NFL draft is by any means boring. This league's draft works similarly -- all the top rookies get introduced to their new teams for the first time. Plus, there are always a half-dozen or so free agents who are available through the draft.

Re: 6
A member of our league built us a website. It'd be rather difficult to convince a large-scale provider to build one; however, if one were to do so, they could easily find another 7 owners from the site alone.

by JD (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:08pm

I'd be interested in joining a league like this as well and might be interested in doing some of the leg work getting it up and going

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:23pm

My complaints about this format:

- I prefer head-to-head, because in your format, you have your 20 players to root for each week, but essentially every other NFL player is going against you. It feels like you are being overwhelmed. In a head-to-head format, you only have 20 players scoring against you

- I like the idea of your best players scoring points, but you have removed the challenge/enjoyment of setting the weekly lineup, haven't you? That's part of the fun, to sit down and look at your players each week. Now your team "coasts" on it's own more.

I like the quarterly idea.

by kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:24pm

yeah, most of my friends are musicians and artists and don't understand my obsession with football, and my friends who are football fans are not the fantasy football sort. when i lived in CO i was in a keeper league, but i live in NE now and haven't found enough people to start a league.

i think this sort of league sounds like a good idea... it would at least be fun to try for a few seasons to see how it works out.

if anyone wants to get an online league like this one going, i'd be interested.

by NYCowboy (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:32pm

I've always wanted to be in a serious keeper league like this, but I don't have enough friends who also do. If we can get something started here, that would be great.

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:42pm

In general: If anyone does set up a website that can handle this league, I'll gladly take on another team :)

Re: 11
The #1 reasons why head-to-head is flawed is because of the feeling that you have to root against your opponent's players. That's entirely silly. The fact is that who they have is a non-issue, as you cannot prevent those players from scoring anyway (absent committing a felony). As for being overwhelmed, the fact is, no matter what format you use, it is indeed you against the world.

As for naming starters each week, I think that is a reminant of fantasy baseball that unfortunately carried over to our sport. It makes a lot of sense to start an OF who is going to play six games this week (and three in Colorado) over another guy who, while otherwise better, is playing five games. In the NFL, though, these things don't happen. Many pontificate over who to start, but generally, this is as much luck as it is something from a Harry Potter book. The amount of skill involved is nil.

by Stiller Fan in Cle (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:45pm

I somewhat agree with #11 about the fun of setting a weekly lineup. Having done both points and HtH leagues, I find a nice medium is having a lot of starting slots: 3QB's, 4 RB's and so on.

Also, the quarterly idea sounds interesting and possibly effective, but there's just something cool about the instant gratification of winning a head to head game, especially when playing with friends.

I really like the free agent token rule and have to say that this league would probably be best in determining the most skillful FF player.

by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 4:16pm

I don't understand this thing about not rooting against your opponents' players. You can't control them. You can't control your players, either or even your favorite team, but that doesn't stop you from rooting for them. I'd been thinking these past couple days that if I were to redo fantasy football, I'd make it more real, not less, by making people start one halfback/tailback and one fullback. The all-out assault on RBs that the early rounds of drafts have become have taken the fun out of drafting, IMO.

Man, I live for years like 1993, when Bett Favre's 18 TDs maed him #5 in QB passing TDs, Marcus Allen (12) and Ricky Watters (10) were the only RBs with double digit TD totals and having receivers like Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, and Andre Rison would have helped you more than the top RB.

by OmarBradley (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 4:30pm

This reminds me of a pee wee baseball game I watched this summer.
Each team batted 10 kids per inning, with no keeping score and no keeping track of outs.

No head to head? Why? Is it too painful to have the "better" team and lose?

Bench players are still bench players. I'm sorry if Carson Palmer threw for 400 yards on your bench. That's the breaks. That's life.

Sucking out the pain from Fantasy Football also sucks out most of the joy.
I'll keep my leage the way it is, thanks.

by PD (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 4:33pm

As per the roster sizes - I've been running a fantasy football league for years now with these rosters: (Starters) 2 QB, 3 RB, 4 WR, 1 TE, 1 DEF, 1 K. And 7 bench spots. In a 12-team league. This way, you're not dealing with a bunch of all-star teams. You can build your team a certain way - great QBs, strong RBs or WRs, but you can't really have it all. This rewards depth and knowledge.

However, I still can't resist using the head-to-head format. It's just more fun than the other options. And there's a lot more drama.

by Sean D. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 4:38pm

RE: 5

I really don't think keeping 75% of your roster takes the fun out of it. Because since its a keeper league there is still a rookie draft, which I find just as fun as the veteran draft.

Also, (not RE:5) I have to disagree with the idea of not trying to mimck real football. Personally I enjoy managing my team like a real football team. I encourage head to head matchups, similar roster sizes to NFL teams, practice squads, restricted and unrestricted free agency, a rookie draft, a salary cap and penalties for releasing players. All these things in my fantasy league have added to the fun and not subtracted from it.

by Ray (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 4:44pm

I've played the 'guess the weekly matchup' game enough times to have realized that it is pretty much random.

Last year I had a team with Favre and Brady as my QBs. Every week I'd pore over the defencive matchups to try and pick the QB most likely to score big. For the first half of the season I was wrong almost every week with Brady scoring big when I played Favre and vice versa.

I eventually just damned the torpedos and left Favre in for the rest of the season, because it didn't seem to matter how much pre-game effort I put into researching their opponents. It was just who had the hot hand that week, which is basically random.

Maybe you like your pleasure spiked with pain, Omar. Personally, I like to have my work rewarded and to have my results less influenced by luck.

by David Brude (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 4:50pm

Many good points were brought up in the article. Week 16 and 17 can become big problems due to great players sitting.

1. I like a combination of head-head, total points, and weekly point winners. Granted this divies up the total winnings quite bit but it satisifies a lot fo things.

1. Total points winner will reward the best team more often than not even with having to choose your lineup

2. Head-Head keeps some of the lesser teams involved and provides a bit more of a luck and drama element. What really starts to suck with head to head is if you are in multiple leagues. You can be rooting for and against the same players.

3. Weekly winner payouts. This helps keeps even the bottom dwellers in it at the end of the season

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 5:24pm

As for naming starters each week, I think that is a reminant of fantasy baseball that unfortunately carried over to our sport.

I'm not sure what truly came first, fantasy football or fantasy baseball. The league I am in is an offshoot of a league that supposedly began in 1976. I even read an article (in Pro Football Weekly maybe) a few years ago saying that executives in the Jets and Raiders front offices were playing a rough equivalent of fantasy football in the 1960's.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 5:39pm

The all-out assault on RBs that the early rounds of drafts have become have taken the fun out of drafting, IMO.

I agree. We are starting a league this year and part of our new scoring system is an effort to try and make RB's less important. I think the top players at all positions should be roughly equal. (Some of our members don't understand why Jason Witten comes out as the 16th-best player in the league based on last year's stats.)

by MCS (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 5:49pm

As for naming starters each week, I think that is a reminant of fantasy baseball that unfortunately carried over to our sport. It makes a lot of sense to start an OF who is going to play six games this week (and three in Colorado) over another guy who, while otherwise better, is playing five games. In the NFL, though, these things don’t happen. Many pontificate over who to start, but generally, this is as much luck as it is something from a Harry Potter book. The amount of skill involved is nil.

On this site, the capability of teams and individual players is adjusted based based on the opponents he has faced. I believe they call it DVOA and DPAR. If strength of schedule is important when judging individual talent and skill, how is it not a factor in Fantasy Football?

I prefer head-to-head as well as setting starters.

by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 6:03pm

As Dan takes body blow after body blow I think that one thing is becoming perfectly clear:


However they play it, they are passionate about it and have their own thoughts about what makes it exciting/fun/competitive and don't want anybody messing with it.

God bless America. God bless Football. And God bless Dan Lewis.

by El Angelo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 6:11pm

My point about keeper lists earlier (#5) is really twofold:

(1) My buddy's in a league that allows for a huge keeper list, and he's got on his keeper squad Moss, Harrison, Trent Green, Vick, Edgerrin, Holmes, Domanick Davis, and Antonio Gates. Now frankly, it's going to be REALLY tough to beat him ever, unless you draft brilliantly. And that's what I'm afraid would happen if you let everyone keep 75% of their roster.

(2) While I love watching the games for fantasy reasons, obviously, by far and away, the draft itself is the best part of the season. For example, we spent a good three hours last year righfully breaking someone's chops for taking Quentin Griffin in the 3rd round. And while doing a rookie draft is fine and all, it lacks the wholeness and fun of a full (or near full) draft because you don't know the players and how they're going to turn out, and plus it's very very short.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 6:17pm

Mark me down as another who loves setting starters. People who complain that it's too much luck tend to be the people who lose a lot, or who claim that the later rounds of the draft are luck. Yes, there is some luck involved, but ultimately it's about putting yourself in the best position to succeed. Luck has its place in competition. If it weren't for luck, the best football team in the league would go undefeated every season.

I play the Sporting News' salary cap football game every year, and I think that's the most fun I have doing fantasy football. Instead of drafting players, they assign each player a dollar value and you assemble a roster under the salary cap. Every week you get to make 4 trades. Guys who everyone picks up see their dollar value increase, guys who everyone drops see their dollar value decrease, so through savvy management you can go from a $50 million cap to a $70 million cap pretty easily. Also, the entire game is based on picking the best weekly starters. I've been in a league now for 4 straight years, and it's always the same guys finishing at the top, so it's pretty obvious by now that setting starters has a lot more to do with skill than with luck.

I also love the fact that you can get anyone. Do you decide that you want Portis, Holmes, AND Tomlinson? That's fine, but you're going to have to cut costs somewhere else. Is Manning/Culpepper more your speed? Great, but you're going to have to start some bargain-basement WRs.

by Brooklyn Bills Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 6:30pm

Not a big fan of keeper leagues; the draft is the fun part. And being stuck with a bunch of bums year after year is no fun either. Also no fun if Manning, Culpepper and LT are out of circulation for their whole careers.

by Sean D. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 7:54pm

Re: 26

Rebuttal to the counterpoint. The way you deal with a team having many good keeper players is to have them cost more each year. In my league, players have salaries and there is a cap. When the league started salaries were handed out based on their avg. weekly score. Each year, all keeper players get an increase of 4% in salary. Any player that falls within a range of top players at his position (for RB its the top 18) gets a performance bonus based on where he ranks. For example if a RB was making $2.5 M he would get 4% increase to $2.6 M and then for being the top RB he would get an additional 8% increase for a total of $2.808 M. Also, if a players contract needs to be extended there is a percentage increase. If the players has one year left and you want to extend the contract for 3 more years, his salary increases by 25%. Eventually players become too expensive to re-sign.

by Pat F. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 8:11pm

I played Fantasy Football for a couple years and ended up quitting for precisely the reasons Dan mentioned: the head-to-head scoring, and the weekly lineups. A number of people like the current typical format, to whom I say "suit yourselves", but I for one have no desire at all to do that again. A (free) league using the rules Dan laid out sounds pretty interesting, IMO.

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 11:00pm

Re: 26

In a 12 team league, that team is rather dominant. In an 8 or 9 team league using the rules I describe, it is above average, but hardly invincible.

Re: 26 and 27

Keeping a lot of players allows you to truly develop your team. The draft is undeniably a fun part of fantasy football, but if you want to do that, you can sign up for four leagues on Yahoo, another few on Sportsline, etc. etc. You can become a rather good drafter overnight.

The thing is that at that point, and when you have a lot of good drafters, the league ends moments after the draft. Sure, one needs to stay abreast of the news and play the waiver wire, but beyond that, you're done. That seems silly, no?

Keeping few players creates a different problem. A team that is struggling all year cannot make a trade for the future, because they simply cannot carry any gains forward. Similarly, a team built for today cannot improve itself at the expense of its future because there is no way to mortgage the upcoming years.

My league's rules give an owner a unique opportunity to truly develop a team. Sure, it's slow, but therein lies the elegance. If, as #26 stated, another owner ends up with Green/Moss/Marvin/Priest/Edge etc., why should I be able to compete with him any time soon? Instead, I should have to build my team up over the course of a few seasons.

In the league this article is derived from, my team had been in last place in each year since 1997. A lot of it was because of some exceptionally poor drafting by me (Couch, Dayne, Leaf, you name it) and a lot of questionable trades. In fact, it wasn't until I started writing about football that I started becoming an even partially knowledgable fantasy football player.

In about two+ years, I've managed to improve my team signficantly. It's an actual accomplishment to do so in a league like this, because there is simply no easy way to do it. In short, it takes a lot of skill. That's how leagues _should_ operate.

by Countertorque (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 11:34pm

Dan Lewis, great article. This is a take on the game of Fantasy Football that I hadn't considered.

SeanD, can I find out more about how your league is run? I've been slowly working on trying something like that.

No one in particular, I think any game that lasts 4 months past it's critical decision point lacks good design. If I'm going to play Fantasy Football, I want to have some small chance of coming back from an 0-4 start and win the league. Otherwise, people start to lose interest and that detracts from everyone's enjoyment.

by John (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 1:31am

I'd like to see a league that runs Roto style for 14 weeks. The top 4 point scorers would then play h2h in Weeks 15 and 16 to determine a champion. I ran a keeper league in 2002. My team started the season 1-5-1, yet I was 4th in points scored at that juncture (12 team league). Then, I made a trade for Randy Moss and Michael Bennett (and Laveranues Coles really began to take off) and my team scored even more points and the luck of scheduling eased up on me and I finished the season 6-6-2. I finished in 7th place and just missed the 6 team playoffs. I finished 2nd or 3rd in regular season points scored. I was not happy.
So run the regular season on points and run a 4 team tourney in Weeks 15 and 16. The problem is how to keep the bad teams interested beyond Halloween.

(Yahoo college football pick 'em group- id- 401, pw- Spurrier)

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 3:48am

Instead of determining the number of keepers ahead of time, you might try assigning a cost to keeping, like draft picks or something.
Maybe choose a number, say 25, and then pick players to keep. The difference is the number of picks you get. If you and me had our own league, and I kept 24 players, while you kept only 16, then I would only have a first round pick, and you would have a first round pick and, essentially, 8 second round picks.

by Ivarsson, Sweden (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 7:19am

Hm, someone really needs to build a web interface for a "Dan Lewis rules" league, perhaps even with a salary cap option... I'll have a go, let's see if I can make it work ;)

by MKL (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 8:10am

Any info about a league where you can stick 3 kickers on your roster isn't that much help to most players. Might as well do a report about a league with 5 QBS or 7 RBs. How about a report on how to win in league with 8 WR or 3 DF/SP....

by Fungible (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 9:31am

fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible fungible

by El Angelo (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 10:19am

Re: 29---Yes, an auction and a cap works perfectly. It's just different from a draft, but it solves almost all the problems I've said perfectly

Re: 31---I fully appreciate and understand your point Dan, and it makes a lot of sense, it's just a different idea than I'm used to. Almost every league I've been in had a draft where everyone was in a room with a bunch of six-packs, breaking chops, and most these same guys got together each Sunday to watch football and revel in the competition. Anything shy of that is much less fun to me.

The other thing with making it tough to at least get a shot at winning each year through a large draft is that people will just quit. If you told me that I could join a league but wouldn't be competitive for 3 years, and had to *pay*, I wouldn't be bothered.

All that being said, I think this league is a great idea, and if somehow it was possible to get it off the ground, I'd be VERY interested in giving it a go.

by AnandaG (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 11:29am

I'm the 9th owner in Dan's league (last season was my first). It's a lot of fun. It does annoy me a little that Week 17 is used as part of the championship match, but given my roster I won't have to worry about that for awhile yet, heh heh.

This year's rookie draft is especially interesting to me because I've already traded for some later picks and now I'm trying to move down from the #10. (I've got my eye on a player at #1 overall, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess who, given my current QB lineup of -- warning, those with faint stomachs are advised to avert their eyes -- Quincy Carter, Matt Schaub, Kordell Stewart, Tim Hasselbeck, Tim Rattay, and Luke McCown.)

I have no running backs at all but upgrading that rogues' gallery at QB is my top priority this year. If all my young QB talent pans out I hope to compete for a title in 3-4 years.

by Mayhem (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 11:43am

Re: keeper rosters, and how to make them reflect the 'cost' of keeping prime players..

My keeper league has been around for a dozen years at least - although I joined in late.

We have a system that lets you keep 7 players into the next season - but, and this is a big but, they come with a draft value that increases over time, based on their original round that you drafted them in.

A player drafted in the 19th round 2003 is assigned a 19 (staying the same for 1 year, increasing thereafter) - and that takes your 19th round pick for 2004 should you make him a keeper. Round values are sliding, so 19-10 move up 5 a year (the 19th round pick becomes a 14th rounder, and you lose a 14th round pick to keep him in 2005).

From 10-5th rounds you gain 3 spots a year, and 5-1 you gain 1 a year (or whatever you like).

If your player goes into negative numbers, he starts taking up other slots as well. For example, LT is -4 or something for the lucky bastid that owns him.. but he'll give up his first round pick, AND his second round pick to get him. He'll make up the second round pick (if he had it available) in the 3rd. If not, he'll use it at the first open draft round he has.

There is a host of rules here that I rely on the coord to explain to me at the draft, but I think you get the gist. We do not allow the totaled value of keepers to drop below zero.

This makes for some uncomfortable decisions come release time, but it also frees up talent. And when a player is released back into the general pool pre-draft, his value just goes to whatever he is then drafted at.


by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 1:07pm

I have two long-term keeper leagues.

1. The Exit42 league -- you just keep one QB, one RB, one WR, one K/D, one "other". So my drafting Faulk/George in year one (1999) led to two titles in three years, but not much since.

2. The Sportsline league -- v. complicated. You can keep one QB, one RB, one WR, one "other", plus one player who played <4 fantasy gms and two who played in zero, though you forfeit draft picks for each of them you keep. Draft picks for the next year are tradeable as soon as the current year's draft is complete. I like it.

by Countertorque (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 1:14pm

Our keeper rules are simple. Each year, about now, the teams decide to keep from 0-3 players. Each player kept counts as that team's earliest draft pick. So, keep 1 and you lose your first round pick. Keep 3, and your first pick is in round 4. The first 3 rounds of the draft are all in reverse order of the previous season's final standings.

It seems to be pretty balanced. The teams that did badly last year usually just dump everyone, becuase they probably can get whoever they had back if they want them anyway. The teams that did well have to really weigh how good they think their players will be this year.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 1:17pm

Any info about a league where you can stick 3 kickers on your roster isn’t that much help to most players. Might as well do a report about a league with 5 QBS or 7 RBs. How about a report on how to win in league with 8 WR or 3 DF/SP….

The point of the article wasn't to give strategy tips, but to suggest a different way of approaching fantasy football. I think it succeeded very well.

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 1:27pm

Re: 42 (Each year, about now, the teams decide to keep from 0-3 players. Each player kept counts as that team’s earliest draft pick.)

One of the nice parts about keeper leagues is that a lackluster team can still improve -- but with an eye toward next year. I can't see how your system provides that advantage. That is, why would a bad team with one good player make that player available at the trade deadline? There is no way to compensate him.

by John Sharkey (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 2:24pm

Dan, I like the sound of that league a lot. Now, I just have to find someone to build a website...

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 2:39pm

In short, it takes a lot of skill. That’s how leagues _should_ operate.

I agree. The problem is in keeping players interested. I'm pretty hard-core, but it's hard to justify paying the yearly franchise fee knowing that you have little or no chance to compete. I'm hoping our new league is somewhere in the middle. We've decided that each team can basically freeze a starting lineup from year to year. That should be enough to keep a solid core, but also allow for a few good pick ups to turn the team around in a year or two.

Nowadays the NFL turns over so fast that any team should have a chance to compete with just a couple of players breaking out.

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 3:14pm

Building a website that can handle fantasy leagues is pretty easy; unless you need access to information such as player stats or players "cap values" that a small indendent website wouldnt have. Does NFL.com or ESPN.com (or anyone) let you take their stats? Another way is to just make a mirror league in Yahoo! to actually keep track of their points...

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 3:18pm

As to the whole luck thing, there should be luck involved, that's why it is fun, because everyone has a shot at winning, not just one, best, person. In anything, in real football, there is a substantial amount of luck involved. Like in poker, you see the same guys up top all the time, but they are the best at managing their luck. Same with setting your starters, same with picking your keepers, same with a rookie draft. Those things all have a large amount of luck involved, and the trick is to manage it. I think Dan is advocating more extensive management in FF.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 3:29pm

I'd encourage everyone here to check out The Sporting News's "Ultimate Fantasy Football" game. It really addresses the majority of the problems people are saying they have with fantasy football. Since there is no draft, you can have whoever you want on your team, because the rosters are... dare I say it?... rather fungible. Since it's a total points league, if you start off poorly, it is difficult to come back (as it should be), but by no means impossible. It also means that 16 amazing weeks and one poor week won't cost you the championship.

Since it's got a salary cap, you really have to do some deep research looking for some bargain picks so you can afford some studs, and since the cap value increases with player movement, you really have to pay attention to who is breaking out and who is going cold on a week to week basis. There's no drafting and then neglecting your roster for the rest of the season.

Anyway, I don't work for The Sporting News... honest. I just think they've created a really superior product that addresses pretty much all concerns that have been raised here rather splendidly.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 3:39pm

For the record, I'm not trying to bash the ideas or the article. I'm just discussing my views of the pros and cons.

by Pats on the Potomac (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 4:35pm

Yahoo FREE League for FO readers:
I’ve set up a free Yahoo league, 16 teams, head to head. I’ve fiddled with the scoring system a bit. Check it out:
I’m willing to take suggestions on rules changes, but if you really hate these rules, don’t sign up. The draft is Sun, Aug 13 at 6pm Eastern. Please don’t take a spot unless you can make the draft.
Grant Bosse
aka Pats on the Potomac

by Pats on the Potomac (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 4:39pm

League password is dvoa

by Jason (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 8:36pm

#17: At that point, the league becomes much more instructional, doesn't it? The whole point of fantasy football is competition. Totally different situations.

#18: Kind of like how I've been playing fantasy football ever since I started. Except we'd have standard-issue rosters (1 QB, 2 WR, 2 RB, 1 TE, 1 WR/RB, 1 K, 1 DEF, I think 6 bench spots) and 20 teams. At that point it does get a bit pointless to try and improve your team, as you'd be looking for, say, Chester Taylor while he was with the Ravens. (No, seriously, I remember someone starting him a couple of times in my main league last season.)

Everyone: And as for determining who's the best manager, can't you just invent a stat? I came up with Manager Efficiency, which is basically (Points scored)/(Best possible score with that roster). In the ginormous leagues that I'm used to, that's a better indication than how many points you end up scoring, in part due to luck, but also that there's just not enough meaningful players to go around.

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Tue, 08/02/2005 - 10:19pm

Re: 52

Manager Efficiency in an interesting idea. Maybe I'll try it this year in a standard Yahoo league I'm in. Of course, there are plenty of excuses -- outliers, foreseeability, etc.

Perhaps the better method is to post a team on a blog or somewhere, and allow readers to pick the starters. In theory, the so-called expert selectors will outpace the others easily.

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Wed, 08/03/2005 - 1:26am

Yahoo used to provide this stat (I think) where they gave you a compound record, what a players record would be if everyone had played everyone every week. Its not that hard to do yourself in Excel or whatever you prefer, and it is a good way to see who got screwed by the matchups in HtH. Doesn't make it any more fair though, I guess.

by AnandaG (not verified) :: Wed, 08/03/2005 - 10:04am

#51: I'm sure you'll have no trouble finding members, but I have to draw the line when a 50 yard FG is worth more than a passing touchdown. It just gives me the creeps. :)

by Adam (not verified) :: Wed, 08/03/2005 - 10:58am

Sportsline leagues do compute an owner efficiency rating just like that.

by Countertorque (not verified) :: Wed, 08/03/2005 - 6:31pm

RE:44 The goal of this particular league is to allow some continuity of players across seasons for nostalgic reasons. It's not intended to give last season's winner any competitive advantage for this season. So, yeah, I agree that trades that happen this season are not likely to help anyone get better next year. They could, if a team was especially clever at predicting the future. But, it's pretty unlikely.

But, I never understood trades in any conventional fantasy football league (meaning I'm leaving your league as an exception here). The only way a trade can make sense is if both teams have more starter level players than they can start at complementary positions. Any other kind of trade requires at least one of the traders to be an idiot.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 08/03/2005 - 7:35pm

Any other kind of trade requires at least one of the traders to be an idiot.

...or to cover problems with a bye situation.

...or different owners "guessing" differently on the future (in-season) performance of particular players.

...or owners wanting to acquire players they like.

by Bj&ouml;rn (not verified) :: Wed, 08/03/2005 - 9:50pm

... or when someone is injured (Anquan Boldin last year) and one owner (me) wants to shore up his runningbacks so he trades Boldin for someone who can actually produce. Before you ask, I had a really garbage draft in that league. (Boldin was a last round pick... just in case.)

by Sharkey (not verified) :: Wed, 08/03/2005 - 11:27pm

Dan, before you had a website for your league, did you just use paper/pencil to keep track of everything? A kind of spreadsheet or something? I've never done a fantasy league outside of Yahoo and the like, so I was wondering about a good way to run something specialized like this.

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Thu, 08/04/2005 - 9:02am

Yep, we used pencil and paper. We were always a bit more technologically inclined than most, so we were computerized quickly, though.

If someone wanted to do it this year, do this:

Go to Yahoo sports and set up a custom league. Change the following settings:
* Teams to 8, potentially 10 (read below)
* Type of scoring to Points Only (VERY IMPORTANT)
* Can't cut list to none
* Trade protests to none
* Trade deadline to none
* Trades reviewed by commissioner
* No waivers (not that it matters, just to be safe)
* Waived players automatically become free agents (ditto)

For positional breakdown, get rid of defenses. Good football leagues don't use them. :) (Also, you should treat TEs as if they were regular WRs.)

Unfortunately, Yahoo limits roster sizes to 25. If you want deeper rosters than that -- as I would -- you can create two dummy teams to act as placeholders for the overflow. This gives you an additional 4.25 players per team, which should be fine. (My league has artificially set the de facto roster size to average 29 players per team.) You probably don't need these teams, though, because you are only going to use the Yahoo part to get the scores that active players put up, and no team should/can have that many players active.

Change scoring rules to taste.

After that, set up your own cheapo website on Geocities or whatever the free hosting du jour site is today. Put up all the rosters there and everyone's active 75%. Each week, go to the Yahoo league and use it to see which players on which teams would start as given in the system I described in the article. From this, determine starters. This should take no more than 5 minutes per team.

Copy the information to your league's website. If this is not the first week of the quarter/playoffs, add it to the previous week. If this is the last week of the q/p, declare a winner.

Outside of entering in the results of starting rosters each quarter (which is not all that cumbersome), the commitment should be no more than about an hour a week. You can make it go faster if you divide up the labor -- for example, have each team score his own players and that of another owner, to be doubly sure that no errors occured.

by Sharkey (not verified) :: Thu, 08/04/2005 - 12:51pm

That makes sense. Last question: what type of rules govern how many active and inactive players each team has? You said it was anywhere from 2/3 to 4/5, but if there isn't any real limit, why not have your entire roster active?

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Thu, 08/04/2005 - 4:29pm

You don't want your entire roster active because otherwise there is too much of an incentive to collect players. You don't want a league where a bad team can reasonably trade away a star for a bunch of below average players, thinking that his best bet to win is quantity, not quality.

Also, it keeps the league owners active.

by BknGen (not verified) :: Thu, 08/04/2005 - 6:31pm

I'm curious - does anyone's league besides mine use individual defensive players? Instead of team defenses, we use 7 starters, and count sacks, forced fumbles and recoveries as 25 yards, INTs at 50, and tackles at 5. (5 yards is a bit much for a tackle, but we made up that number in high school when we started the league and no one really wants to change it now.) Then we subtract from the other team's offensive total (we also only use yards on offense). Every 80 yards is a TD.

So far, I've never come across a league that does this, but I love it. It adds a whole 'nother dimension to the game, and to the draft. Does anyone else out there draft players on D, and if so, what's your scoring system like?

by Sharkey (not verified) :: Thu, 08/04/2005 - 9:46pm

I'm in a league this year that uses defensive players as an alternative to team Ds. It should be interesting... We only start 3 guys, to keep it simple. We've tinkered with how to score them a few times...

Right now we are at tackles being worth .75 points and assists at .5, which I think are pretty weird numbers, personally. A sack is 5 points and a pick is 4, which favors sack artists way to much.

Forced fumbles and recoveries are 2 points each, a safety is 5, a touchdown is 8, a pass defended is 1.5, and a blocked kick is 3.

Like I said, we're still working out some kinks.

Dan, would you say something like 4 or 5 players minimum on the inactive list is a reasonable number?

by Dan Lewis (not verified) :: Thu, 08/04/2005 - 10:37pm

We use 20 players active and the rest inactive. That usually means anywhere from three to 12 inactive players, depending on the team and the time of year. (12 is very rare.)

by Sean D. (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2005 - 2:23pm

RE: 65
You should read the comments section of the fantasy draft open discussion if you are interested in leagues with IDPs (Individual Defensive Players). In my league I start 11 defensive players, which you can set up as one of 3 formations: 4 DBs, 4 LBs and 3 DLs, or 5 DBs, 2 LBs, 4 DLs, or 4 DBs, 3 LBs, and 4 DLs. Points are based off of tackles (2 for a solo, 1 for an assist), sacks (DL gets more points , 16, than for a sack than an LB, 10, than a DB, 8. And 1/2 pts for a half sack), passes defended (4 for DB, 3 for LB, 2 for DL), forced fumbles (2), fumble recovery (6), interception (6), return yardage (10%), def. TD (6), and safety (2). The league is run through esfsports.com.

by BknGen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2005 - 3:11pm

Different point values for sacks by position? Interesting. But a bit too complex for my tastes. We have four stats on defense, and we fought long and hard over whether to include fumbles, only because we wanted to keep things streamlined. Still, good to hear other people do use IDPs - it's one of the reasons I love the league I'm in.

by Dylan T (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2005 - 4:17pm

This is a very interesting article the author went a very different way then the origins of fantasy sport were intended. Fantasy baseball was invented to mimic the game as closely as possible so that you had the chance to GM your own team there are many who still stick to this ideal and strive to make it as realistic as possible the idea here in the football world is to create a new game all its own that uses football stats interesting but not really my cup of tea.

by Jeff J. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2005 - 4:52pm

Thanks for an interesting article. I'm in a keeper league--up to 2 players--and we also run the team salary cap. That changes things quite a bit because players kept their value of when you traded/drafted them, not as they are valued for the year you now have them. So Marshall Faulk was a monster two years ago but his high "salary" was a huge burden on my squad compared to his diminished productivity.

I like the 50% points for the bench players idea, as well as the upthread post about keeping players instead of draft picks. I like that alot.

I think I'd miss the H2H competition, so I'll pass on the 4 quarters/big team ideas. Good writeup, though.

by BknGen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/09/2005 - 4:20pm

Yeah, H2H isn't worth giving up, nor is a 15-game schedule. I love the fact that, twice a year I play my best friend from high school and that our rivalry has been going on longer than Jags-Titans. That's not worth abandoning because it 'adds a significant degree of luck to the game'. Luck is a huge part of sports, and it should be for fantasy sports as well.