Interesting Twists for Standard Leagues

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by David Gonos, Special Contributor

Published, 6/12/14


Fantasy Football makes us all feel fuzzy inside, right? … Just me? Well, these days, most people who play Fantasy Football play in multiple leagues. You might as well, right? You do all the research for one league, you might as well take advantage of it by adding another league or two.


The problem is, of course, that most of the leagues are set up the same. To add a little fun to your extra leagues, try to get some of these interesting rules implemented (or start your own alternative league with nine or 11 buddies).


Before we get into the crazy rules you might want to implement, here are some ones you can do that won’t be too outlandish for your regular leagues.




Rather than just using the standard scheduling that your commissioner software spits out, try one or two of these alternatives.


·         Balancing for Parity: You can do this one of two ways.

o    Setting Up For Great Playoff Matchups: Set up your three divisions (for 12-team leagues) or two divisions (for 10-team leagues) so that the divisions have at least one team from four tiers from last year’s standings.

§  Div A: First place, fourth, seventh and 10th

§  Div B: Second place, fifth, eighth and 11th

§  Div C: Third place, sixth, ninth and 12th

o    Keeping Below-Average Owners Interested: If you are in a keeper or dynasty league, think about setting up the divisions so last year’s best teams face off in one division and the worst teams face off in another.


·         Set Up Regional Divisions: I like my owners to pick a city and mascot for their team names, so it actually does look like the NFL. Then you can set your schedule up regionally – either by the team’s city names, or by the real locations of each owner.


Voting and Prizes


Sure, there’s only one winner at the end of every season, but by voting for different awards and handing out some small prizes, the other owners can stay interested late in the season. Here are some tips for voting and prizes:


·         Do the voting at the end of the regular season, before a champion is crowned. You don’t want playoff results skewing the regular season voting, just like in other sports.

·         No owner is allowed to vote for himself or his own players.

·         Have owners choose three for each category: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

·         Awards to Vote On:

o    Fantasy MVP

o    Owner of the Year

o    Rookie of the Year

o    Draft Sleeper of the Year

o    Waiver Pickup of the Year

o    Bust of the Year (no prize for this one)

·         Prizes can include something as big as cash or mini-helmets of their favorite teams, or as little as $5 gift cards to fast-food joints, Amazon or iTunes gift certificates, or even little NFL toys they can put on their desks.


Weekly Newsletters: Think about writing a quick newsletter on Tuesday or Wednesday of every week. You can talk about a ton of different things, including the previous week’s big games, the best/worst players and lineup moves, make up some trash-talk quotes from some of the owners, etc. You can even ask a different owner to do a guest article once in a while to break things up. You’ll find that owners will appreciate the newsletters, and eventually start giving you fodder for it. Some of the most competitive fantasy leagues swear by a weekly newsletter.


Draft Alternatives: These options are just for figuring out the draft order.


·         Lottery from previous season’s results: Most leagues use a lottery system to figure out their draft order. But consider adding three pieces of paper (lottery balls) for the previous season’s worst team, so he/she has a better chance at the top pick. And two pieces of paper for the second-worst team. This is a nice way to incentivize an owner of a bad team to return the following season (on the downside, it can also incentivize “tanking.”)

·         Consolation bracket: To keep owners playing throughout the year, let the winner of the consolation bracket in your league pick #1 overall (or choose his or her pick, as in a…)

·         Draft Pick Draft: Do a lottery, but then allow the person that got the No. 1 to choose where they want to draft in the first round. Then the person with No. 2 will choose where they want to draft, and so on. Many times, a player that pulls the seventh spot might choose to draft 12th in Round 1, rather than seventh.


League Fees and Payouts Alternatives: Many leagues have a tough time with losing a couple owners every year, especially keeper leagues. One of the best ways I’ve found to keep them is to have owners pay 125% of the league fees each year. Then, in Year Four, you have a “Super Super Bowl,” where the payouts are doubled because you had four 25-percent installments paid each season.


Alternative Rules

These are some alternative rules you can consider adding to your standard leagues that would seriously spice them up.


·         Limited Keeper Leagues: Rather than have every player drafted be keeper eligible in coming seasons, limit keepers to players taken after a specific round. This rewards those that do well with sleeper picks, and it also replenishes the stars in your first few rounds every season. There are many different keeper rules out there, many of them very creative.

·         5-Year Contracts: You can also replenish your drafts with stars if you make it so owners can only keep players for a maximum of five years. Then they get tossed back into the draft.

·         Rookie Round: For limited keeper leagues, consider having one round that’s for rookies only, like around Round 10. You can also make it so that rookies are allowed to be selected in the first nine rounds, but they won’t be keeper eligible.

·         College Keepers: In order to keep the worst teams in your league interested late in every season, give the two worst teams an opportunity to draft a college player to have as a keeper for five years. They have to pick the two players before the Heisman Trophy presentation. This keeps them from waiting to see what the NFL Draft might look like, and which underclassmen will join the pros.

·         Owner’s Trade Challenge: If an owner doesn’t like a trade that went through, they can challenge it, which means the entire league has to vote on it. Once they use that challenge, they can’t do it again all season.

·         Rivalry Weeks and Punishments: For leagues with owners that all know each other, I like to set up rivalry weeks in the Fantasy schedule. Usually, do it the first week after the bye weeks are over, so everyone has a full set of players to start. Figure out six matchups between guys that might always have a beef with each other about something – or it could be brothers or workmates, husband and wife, guys that once dated the same girl, in-laws, whatever. The fun part is whichever team wins gets to do something to the loser. Obviously, that can get out of hand, so I like to set it up ahead of time. Our punishment is this: the winner gets to change the loser’s team name and team logo on the website for one week. It’s fun! … Unless you lose.

·         Doubleheaders: Another fun change you can make is having one week where you set up doubleheaders for every team. Again, do this when there are no bye weeks, or it will really ruin someone whose RB1 is on a bye. Also, if it’s done late in the season, it allows a team to get back in the playoff race with a big week.

·         Supplemental Drafts: Have a deeper regular draft, and allow no pickups or drops for the first two or three weeks of the season. Then have a supplemental draft (with multiple rounds if you want), where the worst teams get the high picks, and the best teams are on the bottom. Also, owners can trade these picks if they think they can get more value in a trade. You can even forego waivers altogether and just have supplemental drafts every four weeks.


Playoff Alternatives


·         Wildcard for Highest Scoring Non-Playoff Team: If you have six playoff teams in your league, then think about giving the last playoff spot to the highest scoring team didn’t win a division or have one of the top-five records in the league. This eliminates those “My team scored the most points in the league, but I lost a few games to people who got lucky” stories.

·         Toilet Bowl Tournament: Take the three worst teams in the league and have a “Toilet Bowl” playoffs tournament. The team with the worst record gets a bye, and the other two teams play each other in Week Fourteen or Fifteen. The lowest score of that game moves on to face the worst team for the Toilet Bowl championship. The loser has to buy drinks at the next draft, or they have to buy the winner’s trophy or something like that. This helps keep Fantasy owners interested late in the season.


Scoring Alternatives


·         Home Field Advantage: Once the playoffs start, give a three-point home field advantage to the higher seeds in each matchup until the league’s Super Bowl (neutral site). This rewards the higher seeds for having better records/more points.

·         Using a Head Coach: By drafting a head coach, you’ll get two points if their NFL team wins that week.

·         Use Winning Margin: You can give Fantasy points to NFL defenses to reward their winning margin. If a team wins by 10 points, then the defense gets an additional 10 points. If the team loses by 23 points, then the defense gets 23 points deducted from its fantasy score. The scoring can be refined (maybe use 0.1 points for every NFL point?), but you get the point (ha!).


There are dozens of little weird rules you can add to your site. Make it unique, without killing the spirit of the league. But more than anything – make it fun! Make your owners want to come back every season and talk about the league and their teams in the off-season.


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