Fantasy Football Commissioner: How to Create a Win-First League

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As a fantasy commissioner, a lot rests on your shoulders. You’re expected to corral league mates into drafting on time, paying dues, and participating in your league at the highest level. Mainly, you’re responsible for making the league its absolute best.

While dealing with the people may be taxing, the hardest part of managing a league and its policies comes down to one question: How do you make winning the most advantageous outcome every week for every team?

It may seem like a silly question, but especially within keeper and dynasty leagues that have continuity from year-to-year, times will arise for a team to gain an advantage by losing on a consistent basis. Maybe losing the last 3 games of the season can secure the 1.01 in next year’s draft. Perhaps the difference in being the 5 or 6 seed sets a team up on the other side of the playoff bracket from the season’s favorite for the title. Or maybe a manager started the year on a 6-game losing streak and doesn’t see the hope for any playoff push. Whatever the reasoning, having even one team not doing their best to put together a winning lineup every week has a butterfly effect that can change the outcome of the league’s season(s) at the end of the day.

After more than a decade as a commissioner for multiple leagues, here are some policies I’ve found help promote a “win first” league.

Weekly Payouts

If you’re playing fantasy for the love of the game, this may not apply to you, but most home leagues have enough consistency within their managers to want to win a little money at the end of the year to go with their bragging rights. While the “winner take all” jackpot for the playoff winner is a classic premise, when you’re considering wanting to keep as many teams interested as possible, having a weekly payout can go a long way.

Instead of making a 12-team league with a $25 pay-in pay the winner the full $300, allocating $140 ($10/week) to be given once a week to the team with the highest point total in a given week can go a long way. For instance, two leagues I’ve commissioned for a combined 21 seasons with this implemented sees more than 75% of the league win something due to the weekly payout.

That means teams that completely miss the playoffs can still get their pay-in back even with that 3-11 regular season record. Being able to keep the attention of the worst teams in your leagues will go a long way to keep the validity of your league from start to finish.

Draft Lottery

The NBA may have best figured out how to stop tanking, or at least discourage the practice, with their lottery system to determine the top draft picks. The same could be said for your keeper or dynasty league too and if you are looking for luck and great tips the thermogenic fat burner for footballers and athletes.

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Instead of allowing teams to intentionally tank for the promise of having the 1.01 to start the next season, leaving the top picks up to the fantasy fates not only can discourage teams from betting the farm to build for the future, but adds a little pizazz to your league’s off-season schedule as well (draft lottery live stream anyone!?).

Lottery Percentages:
12th Place 25%
11th Place 19%
10th Place 17%
9th Place 15%
Quarterfinal 1 Loser 6%
Quarterfinal 2 Loser 6%
Quarterfinal 3 Loser 6%
Quarterfinal 4 Loser 6%

Given a 12-team league that has an 8-team playoff format, a lottery system can be constructed as seen above, with the non-playoff teams having a heavily weighted chance at getting a top-3 pick. Meanwhile, the 4 teams who lost their quarterfinal games will all have an equal 6% chance of pulling into the top spots. If you’re keeping score at home the #1 seed from the playoffs has a chance at getting the 1.01 in the next draft, but the cost would be losing in the playoffs and a chance at the title.

Over the 12 years we have implemented a lottery system to determine the top pick, only twice has the team with the highest odds actually gotten the top pick. Meanwhile, teams outside the top-4 odds are getting the 1.01 just as many times.

What you’ll see in leagues like this is teams are much less likely to completely tank the remainder of the season and begin preparing for the next since there is little certainty they’ll be able to secure a top pick.

Playoff Re-Seeding

A final measure that can be instituted goes back to the true NFL format of re-seeding the playoff teams after each round. Instead of a traditional bracket-style format, re-seeding each round of the playoffs forces the lowest remaining seed to take on the highest remaining seed next.

Not keeping true to the bracket means near the end of the regular season there’s no sense in a team trying to do anything other than positioning themselves as high as possible for the playoffs. In a traditional bracket-style playoff, teams who know they’re in the playoffs can try and position themselves on one side of the bracket, possibly away from a team they believe will be hard to beat in the early rounds. In a re-seeding format, you only gain an advantage by being the better team from the regular season.

This system does make the path harder for that 7-7 or 6-8 team that snuck into the playoffs to take home your league’s trophy at the end of the year. It isn’t picking on them, but shouldn’t their path be more difficult than the team who finished second in the regular season at 11-3?

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Create A “Commissioner’s Cup”

To piggyback on the re-seeding theory, we all know that the team with the best record rarely actually wins the playoffs. Between the two keeper leagues I’ve served as commissioner for a combined 21 years, there’s been just 1 number-1 seed to win the playoffs and only four number-2 seeds to win it. In fact, the top-seeded team has only even made the finals 29% of those seasons. We could attribute this to great parody and depth in the leagues, but it’s honestly just how the ball bounces sometimes.

This led to the idea of the Commissioner’s Cup.

Obviously, the league still rewards the winner of the playoffs with the highest and best reward of the season (typically 4x the buy-in if there’s money involved), but recognizing the team that managed to navigate a season full of injuries, timely waiver pick-ups, and still finish better in the 14-game span seems worth noting as well.

While it’s not the reason we play fantasy football, creating another incentive for even your top teams is important. Besides, we all need something to hang our hat on and brag about – even if it isn’t a full-on championship.


Implementing change to continue to give even the worst of teams a reason to come back week after week (and season after season) should be your main priority as a commissioner. In doing so, you are ensuring the integrity of your league is intact by maintaining active league members. There’s nothing worse than having those one or two teams that aren’t interested enough to keep playing and everyone knows are going to be easy W’s week to week. In reality, those teams will indirectly have a say as to who takes home the title at the end of the year.

Simply put: Give every league manager a reason to win every week and you’re improving your league.


Matthew says:

Could you explain the commissioner cup further please?

TheDas says:

I really like the Commissioner’s Cup idea. I think we will implement this in our startup. We are also doing random “awards”, such as: The Shame Award (the first person that let the timer run out without making a pick). They aren’t going to get anything physical, but it will be noted in the yearly write up. As for our way for avoiding tanking, we have opted to have a loser’s bracket, and the team that wins the loser’s bracket gets the 1.01… and the picks work backwards from there. We’ll see how this works. We are hoping it works as a preventative measure, as opposed to a punishment for teams that legitimately had bad luck.

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